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Bisogna: Italian grammar lesson 73

To practice this grammar topic, take Lesson 73 of Ripeti Con Me!
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There are means ways to mean “need” in Italian.

The simplest is bisogna. But, is it so simple?

What does Bisogna mean?

Bisogna is a simple way to talk about what needs doing.

For example, your roommate might say:

Bisogna comprare il pane.

One needs to buy bread.

Bisogna is a remnant of the verb bisognare, which is no longer used except in its impersonal form.

Bisogna: Explained

One of the ways to express the meaning of “need” or “be necessary” in Italian is to use the verb “bisognare”.

This verb is exclusively used as an impersonal verb (meaning that it does not need a grammatical subject), and therefore only the singular third person is used.

The most common form, bisogna is the third person singular for the present tense (presente indicativo) of the verb “bisognare”.

Other tenses are used too (only in the third person singular). However, only simple tenses (tenses for which the verb is only one word) exist, such as:

  • Present (presente indicativo): bisogna

Bisogna fare silenzio al cinema durante il film.

It is necessary to be quiet in the cinema during the movie.

  • Simple future (futuro semplice): bisognerà

Questo parcheggio adesso è gratis, ma da giugno bisognerà pagare 1 euro all’ora.

Parking here is free now but starting from June people will need to pay 1 euro per hour for parking.

  • Imperfetto: bisognava

Prima della diffusione dei telefonini, bisognava ricordarsi molti numeri di telefono a memoria.

Before mobile phones became common, you needed to remember several phone numbers by heart.

Non sono sicuro. Bisognerebbe chiedere al manager.

I’m not sure. You would need to ask the manager.

Bisogna: How to use

Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the verb bisogna.

  • To express a need or an obligation for some action to be performed when there is no subject (it refers to a general rule or something that applies to everyone).
    In this case, bisogna is followed by a verb in the infinitive form:

Bisogna fare silenzio al cinema durante il film.

It is necessary to be quiet in the cinema during the movie.

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Bisogna essere molto pazienti con i bambini.

You need to be patient when dealing with kids.

Bisogna abituarsi alle nuove circostanze.

It is necessary to get used to the new circumstances.

  • To express a need or an obligation for some action to be performed when a subject is determined.
    In this case, bisogna is followed by che + subjunctive

Bisogna che gli studenti si impegnino di più.

It is necessary that the students work harder.

Bisogna che tu te ne vada subito.

It is necessary that you leave immediately / You need to leave immediately.

Bisogna che Luca si abitui alle nuove circostanze.

Luca needs to get used to the new circumstances.

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2 Responses

  1. According to word.reference.com, all the 3rd person forms are listed except the imperative, but I imagine their use might be extremely rare.

    1. Yes! For the 3rd person, you use the infamous subjunctive. 🙂
      It’s covered in the advanced lessons.

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