Adverbs of time: Italian grammar lesson 35


Key Takeaways

Unlock the secrets of Italian timing with our guide on adverbs of time! Learn how to use sempre, mai, ancora, and appena to master past and present tenses like a native. 🇮🇹⏰

  • Adverbs of time spice up your Italian by pinpointing when something happens. They’re your best pals for storytelling!
  • Remember, sempre (always) and mai (never) cozy up right after the verb in present tense. They’re like the cheese on your pizza – essential!
  • When it’s passato prossimo time, sempre and mai sandwich themselves between essere or stare and the past participle. Think of it as the Italian verb sandwich!
  • Got something that’s still happening? Ancora is your go-to. It’s like saying, “Hold up, I’m not done yet!”
  • For actions that haven’t happened just yet, pair non with ancora. It’s the polite way to say, “Wait for it…!”
  • When something’s already done and dusted, già is your word. It’s like a victory lap for completed tasks!
  • And for those moments that have just happened, appena is your knight in shining armor. It’s the mic drop of adverbs of time.

Quick facts

What position do "sempre" and "mai" take in the present tense?

"Sempre" and "mai" follow the verb in the present tense, unlike in English where they precede the verb.

How are "sempre" and "mai" placed in the passato prossimo?

They go between the auxiliary verb ("essere" or "stare") and the past participle, e.g., "ho sempre mangiato" and "non ho mai visto".

What is a common usage pattern for "mai" in negative sentences?

"Mai" is typically preceded by the word "non" in negative sentences to mean "never," e.g., "non viene mai".

How are "ancora" and "nonancora" typically used?

"Ancora" is for ongoing actions in the present; "non ancora" is for actions that haven't happened yet, used with passato prossimo.

Where is "ancora" placed in a present tense sentence?

"Ancora" typically follows the verb in present tense sentences, e.g., "ho ancora fame".

How is "non ancora" utilized in passato prossimo?

"Non ancora" is used between the auxiliary verb and the past participle to indicate something hasn't happened yet, e.g., "non abbiamo ancora mangiato".

When is "già" used, and what does it indicate?

"Già" is used with the passato prossimo to indicate something has already happened, e.g., "sei già stata in Spagna?".

How does "appena" function in a sentence?

"Appena" is used with passato prossimo to indicate an action that has just happened, e.g., "ho appena finito".

Can you illustrate "sempre" in an everyday context?

Yes, for example, "Noi mangiamo sempre prima delle 20," meaning "We always eat before 8 pm."

How is "mai" used to describe a habitual absence?

In habitual contexts, "mai" describes a recurring absence, e.g., "Laura non viene mai in vacanza con noi," meaning "Laura never comes on holiday with us."

My Thoughts

What are adverbs of time?

Let’s have a look at some sentences and try to spot them.

Non ho ancora fatto la spesa.

I haven’t done the groceries yet.

Loro vanno sempre al mare d’estate.

They always go to the beach in the summer.

Ho appena visto tua mamma.

I’ve just seen your mum.

How to use always and never?

These two adverbs are very common and are opposites:

  • Sempre: always
  • Mai: never

One important thing to remember is that both sempre and mai go after the verb in the present tense, unlike in English.

However, they go between the auxiliary verb essere or stare  and the past participle with the passato prossimo (like io ho mangiato, lui ha visto).

Also, mai is usually preceded by another negative word: non. Have a look at the examples below and pay attention to what we just said:

Noi mangiamo sempre prima delle 20.

We always eat before 8 pm.

Laura non viene mai in vacanza con noi.

Laura never comes on holiday with us.

Non sono mai andata in Russia.

I’ve never been to Russia.

Loro ci hanno sempre detto la verità.

They’ve always told us the truth.

How to use still and already?

These two adverbs of time are also opposites.

  • Ancora: still
  • Non…ancora: not…yet
  • Già: already

Ancora is usually used to talk about things that are still happening, so in this case, we use it with the present tense.

We can also use ancora with the passato prossimo and it goes between the auxiliary verb essere or stare and the past participle.

In this case, it is used for something that hasn’t happened yet, and this is why it is proceeded by the negative word non. Già is also used with the passato prossimo.

It is used in positive sentences for something that has already happened. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Ancora: for something that is still happening (present tense).
  • Non…ancora: for something that hasn’t happened yet (passato prossimo).
  • Già: for something that has already happened (passato prossimo).
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As you can probably tell, they behave very similarly to their English equivalents. Here are some examples:

Io ho ancora fame.

I’m still hungry.

Noi non abbiamo ancora mangiato.

We haven’t eaten yet.

Sei già stata in Spagna?

Have you already been to Spain?

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

How to use just?

And there there’s appena which means just, as in a very short time ago.

  • Appena: just.

It is used with the passato prossimo since it refers to something that has just happened.

Let’s have a look at some sentences:

Ho appena finito di lavorare.

I’ve just finished working.

Hanno appena chiuso.

They’ve just closed.

Mia sorella è appena andata via.

My sister has just left.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

What are adverbs in Italian?

Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to add meaning to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They serve a similar purpose as in English, providing clarification, qualification, or quantification.

What are adverbs of time?

Adverbs of time provide information regarding the timing of an action. They are not affected by conjugation and remain in the same form regardless of the context. Additionally, adverbs of time can inform us when an action occurred, how long it lasted, and how often it took place.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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2 Responses

  1. Curious if ‘appena’ and ‘giusto’ might be interchangeable in the context of ‘just’….. Ho appena comprato una macchina. Ho giusto comprato una macchina.

    1. Ciao Donald!

      Appena has several meanings depending on the sentence and the context.

      1. It means “recently” and is used with compound verbs between the auxiliary and the past participle. An example: Ho appena bevuto una tazza di caffè.

      2. It means “when” or “in the moment which” and is followed by a verb in the indicative mood. For example: Appena finisco di registrare questo video, vado a fare la spesa!
      In this case a non can be added before appena and the sentence does not change meaning.

      3. It means “only”. For example: Dopo che avrò fatto la spesa, mi saranno rimasti appena pochi spiccioli…

      4. It can be used instead of “with difficulty”, “slightly”, or “very little”. For example: Stamattina c’era così tanta nebbia che riuscivo appena a camminare!

      5. If it is before time or place adverbs it means “immediately” or “right now”. For example: Il bar è appena dietro l’angolo.

      While giusto can be used as an adjective and adverb but only as an adverb it can be a synonym of appena.

      Please let me know if I solved your doubt or if you have more questions about these words.

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