If Clause – Type 1: Italian Grammar Lesson 39

Key Takeaways

Learn the secrets of Italian “if clauses” and master the art of hypotheticals! Dive into the world of conditions and consequences with our easy guide to crafting realistic scenarios in Italian. ✨

  • Basic Meaning: The conjunction se means “if” or “whether”, and it introduces conditional clauses in Italian.
  • Example Sentences: Explore examples like Se piove, non usciremo (If it rains, we won’t go out) to understand its usage.
  • First Type If-Clauses: These clauses express realistic hypotheses and have four combinations: present indicative, future indicative, and imperative.
  • Combination Examples: Examples include Se non capisci, te lo spiego (If you don’t understand, I will explain it to you) and Se vai al supermercato, comprami la pasta (If you go to the supermarket, buy me some pasta).
  • Other Uses: Se combined with no forms sennò or altrimenti, meaning “otherwise,” as in Prendi appunti, sennò ti dimentichi! (Take notes, otherwise you will forget!).

Quick facts

What is an if clause in language?

An if clause indicates a condition and is usually followed by a phrase that refers to a consequence.

How does an if clause function in English?

It consists of a condition (if clause) and a consequence. For example, "If it rains, people don't go to the beach."

How do you say "if" in Italian?

In Italian, "if" is translated to "se."

What are the four combinations for realistic hypotheses in Italian?

The combinations are: Se + present indicative + present indicative, Se + present indicative + future indicative, Se + future indicative + future indicative, and Se + present tense + imperative.

How is the structure "Se + present indicative + future indicative" used?

It indicates a condition that, if met, will lead to a future consequence. E.g., "Se non studio, non passerò l'esame" (If I don't study, I won't pass the exam).

Can you give an example of "Se + future indicative + future indicative"?

Yes, "Se non verrà, non le parlerò più" (If she doesn't come, I won't speak to her again).

What's an example of "Se + present tense + imperative"?

"Se vai al supermercato, comprami la pasta" (If you go to the supermarket, buy me some pasta).

What does the word "altrimenti" mean in Italian?

"Altrimenti" means "else" or "otherwise" and is often used with "se."

How do you form a simple if clause in Italian?

Use "se" followed by the present indicative for the condition and either present or future indicative for the consequence.

Why is it important to choose the right if clause combination?

The right combination reflects the likelihood of the event happening, whether it’s in the present, future, or has a high probability.

My Thoughts

“Se” in Italian

As simple as it is, se means if or whether. It is an Italian conjunction that is used to introduce conditional clauses. These are sentences that express scenarios where the outcome is dependent on the condition specified by “se”. Here are a few examples of how “se” is used in Italian:

Se piove, non usciremo.

If it rains, we won’t go out.

Se avessi tempo, leggerei un libro.

If I had time, I would read a book.

Voglio sapere se mi chiamerai oggi.

I want to know whether you will call me today.

Just like in English, there are many different types of if clauses. Specifically, in Italian there also are second type if-clauses and third type if-clauses.

In this article I will discuss the first type if-clauses, which is the easiest one and refers to realistic hypotheses.

Se non lavori, non guadagni soldi.

If Clauses in Italian

As I mentioned before, first type if-clauses are used to express realistic hypotheses. This means they are used to talk about either something that’s happening in the present, something that will surely happen soon, or something that has a high chance of happening.

There are four different combinations of first type if-clauses in Italian:

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1. Se + present indicative + present indicative

Se non capisci, te lo spiego.

If you don’t understand, I will explain it to you.

2. Se + present indicative + future indicative

Se non studio, non passerò l’esame.

If I don’t study, I won’t pass the exam.

3. Se + future indicative + future indicative

Se non verrà, non le parlerò piu.

If she doesn’t come, I won’t speak to her again.

4. Se + present tense + imperative

Se vai al supermercato, comprami la pasta.

If you go to the supermarket, buy me some pasta.

Se chiami, risponderò.

Practice with Quizlet

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

Se: Another Use

Se is often used together with no resulting in the unique form sennò, which can be translated into “otherwise”. A synonym of sennò in Italian is altrimenti.

Prendi appunti, sennò/altrimenti ti dimentichi!

Take notes, otherwise you will forget!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


What is the "se" rule in Italian?

In Italian, the word "se" is used in place of "if" to indicate a hypothetical situation. This short word is easy to spot in conversation and provides a useful means of expressing conditionality.

What is the if clause in Italian?

In Italian, the "If clauses" are referred to as Periodo Ipotetico. There are three different types of "If clauses": Type 1, which refers to reality; Type 2, which refers to possibility; and Type 3, which refers to impossibility.

Italian word of the day
Non capivo più niente dal sonno.
I was so tired that I couldn’t think.
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