How to use senza che in Italian

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How to use senza che subjunctive
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How to say “without someone doing” in Italian

In order to understand today’s lesson, have a look at the sentence below:

  • She walked past without them noticing her.

As you can see in the example above, in English we used the following structure:

  • without + noun/pronoun (=them) + verb in -ing (=noticing)

Here’s the Italian translation:

  • È passata davanti a loro senza che la vedessero.

Here, senza che + verb is the equivalent of the English structure we gave you above.

In today’s post, we’re going to see how to say without someone doing something” in Italian.

In other words, you’re going to learn how to use senza che in Italian.

How to use senza che in Italian

Senza che + subjunctive

Read the following sentence:

Devi fare domanda senza che lui lo sappia.

You should apply without him knowing.

You might not have noticed it, but sappia is in the present subjunctive.

So, here’s the complete structure:

  • senza che + (pronoun/noun) + subjunctive

Now, the subjunctive can either be present (if we’re talking about an event in the present or the future) or imperfect (if we’re talking about an event in the past):

  • senza che + (pronoun/noun) + present subjunctive: for present or future events

Anna vuole uscire senza che Marco lo sappia.

Anna wants to go out without Marco knowing.

  • senza che + (pronoun/noun) + imperfect subjunctive: for past events

Anna voleva uscire senza che Marco lo sapesse.

Anna wanted to go out without Marco knowing.

Thus, the following structure…

  • senza che + (pronoun/noun) + present or imperfect subjunctive

…is the equivalent of…

  • without + pronoun/noun+ verb in -ing (like “doing”, “reading”, etc.)

Here’s one more example for you to understand better:

Dimmelo senza che lei ci ascolti.

Tell me without her listening.

What does senza che mean in Italian

Why do we say senza che + subjunctive

You might be wondering why we don’t just say “senza” and that’s it.

It’s not because we like to make things complicated.

There’s always a reason and here it is:

  • We use senza che + subjunctive only when the subjects of the two connected clauses are different.

Let’s have a look at the sentence we saw above one more time:

Dimmelo senza che lei ci ascolti.

Tell me without her listening.

As you can see, we have two subjects: one is tu (=you, as in you tell me) and the other one is lei (=her, as in her listening).

Since we have two different subjects, we must use this structure with the subjunctive.

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If you don’t know or don’t remember how to form the present subjunctive or the imperfect subjunctive, read the following section. If you do, then skip to the following section.

Senza che meaning in Italian

Italian subjunctive: present and imperfect

In order to form the present of the subjunctive of regular verbs in Italian, you basically have to keep the root of the verb in the present of the indicative (parl-, ved-, part- if we take the roots of the verbs below) and add the correct endings, which are in bold in the table below:

parlare vedere partire
io parli veda parta
tu parli veda parta
lui/lei parli veda parta
noi parliamo vediamo partiamo
voi parliate vediate partiate
loro parlino vedano partano

Here’s the present subjunctive of three of the most common irregular verbs:

  • essere (to be): io sia, tu sia, lui/lei sia, noi siamo, voi siate, loro siano 
  • avere (to have): io abbia, tu abbia, lui/lei abbia, noi abbiamo, voi abbiate, loro abbiano
  • fare (to do): io faccia, tu faccia, lui/lei faccia, noi facciamo, voi facciate, loro facciano

As for the Italian imperfect subjunctive, most of the verbs are regular. In order to form the imperfect subjunctive in Italian, you have to remove -are, -ere, and -ire from the infinitive (the base form of the verb) and add the correct endings, which are in bold in the table below:

parlare vedere partire
io parlassi vedessi partissi
tu parlassi vedessi partissi
lui/lei parlasse vedesse partisse
noi parlassimo vedessimo partissimo
voi parlaste vedeste partiste
loro parlassero vedessero partissero

Here’s the imperfect subjunctive of two of the most common irregular verbs:

  • essere (to be): io fossi, tu fossi, lui/lei fosse, noi fossimo, voi foste, loro fossero 
  • fare (to do): io facessi, tu facessi, lui/lei facesse, noi facessimo, voi faceste, loro facessero

Senza che subjunctive

Examples with senza che + subjunctive

Let’s now focus on some examples with senza che + either the present or imperfect subjunctive.

Possiamo seguirli senza che ci vedano.

We can follow them without them following us.

Non posso mandare e-mail senza che lui lo sappia.

I can’t send emails without him knowing.

Non possiamo affrontare il problema senza che voi parliate.

We can’t deal with this problem without you speaking.

È partita senza che io lo sapessi.

She left without me realizing it.

È andato via se che gli altri lo salutassero.

He left without the others saying goodbye to him.

Mi avete rimproverato senza che io potessi giustificarmi.

You blamed me without me being able to justify myself.

Liz ha chiuso la porta senza che loro se ne accorgessero.

Liz closed the door without them realizing it.

Hanno pagato senza che io gli chiedessi.

They paid without me asking them.

without someone doing something in Italian

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