How to say “must” (dovere): Italian grammar lesson 23

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Key Takeaways

Unlock the secrets of the Italian verb dovere! Dive into this guide to master expressing necessity, obligation, and even debts in Italian with ease. Get ready to speak like a native! 🇮🇹🔑

  • Irregular Verb Alert: Dovere is the Italian maverick that doesn’t play by the rules. Forget the usual patterns; this verb is all about its own unique forms. 🚫📐
  • Modal Verb Magic: Pair dovere with an infinitive to express what you must do. It’s the Robin to your Batman, giving your sentences superpowers of necessity and duty. 🦸‍♂️🦸‍♀️
  • Present Tense Power: Conjugate with confidence! From “io devo” to “loro devono,” get the present tense down pat and command what needs to be done, pronto! ✅🎯
  • Past Tense Pro: Tackle the past with “ho dovuto” and friends. Whether you had to dance in the rain or needed to eat that second gelato, say it like it happened yesterday. 🍦⏮️
  • Debt Declarations: When it’s about euros, not errands, dovere means “to owe.” Keep friendships and finances clear by knowing when you’re talking cash, not chores. 💶🤝

Quick facts

What Italian verb means "must" or "to have to"?

The verb "dovere" translates to "must" or "to have to" in Italian.

How is "dovere" conjugated in the present tense for "io"?

In the present tense, "dovere" is conjugated as "io devo."

What is the past tense conjugation of "dovere" for "loro"?

In the past tense (passato prossimo), "dovere" for "loro" is "hanno dovuto."

Can "dovere" express necessity in Italian?

Yes, "dovere" can express necessity, indicating a need to perform an action.

How does "dovere" function as a modal verb?

As a modal verb, "dovere" helps another verb by indicating duty or necessity.

What is a unique usage of "dovere" apart from duty and necessity?

"Dovere" can also mean "to owe" when followed by a noun.

Is "dovere" a regular or irregular verb?

"Dovere" is an irregular verb with multiple forms for each tense.

Give an example sentence using "dovere" to express duty.

"Devo lavorare anche di domenica" translates to "I must work even on Sundays."

How would you say "I owe you 10 euros" in Italian?

You would say "Ti devo 10 euro per la cena."

What is the infinitive tense of "dovere" used with?

"Dovere" as a modal verb is followed by another verb in the infinitive tense.

My Thoughts

How to say must in Italian: dovere

The English verbs “must” and “to have to” are often translated in Italian with dovere.

As with other frequently used verbs, dovere is an irregular verb, meaning that it does not follow the same pattern as other second conjugation verbs and presents many different forms for each tense.

Dovere is also a modal verb (or so-called helper verb) and is followed by a verb in the infinitive tense.

Modal verbs are also called helper verbs because their function is to “help” another verb by communicating intention, possibility, need, or ability.

Dovere has two primary meanings:

  • It expresses duty
  • It expresses a necessity

Learn more about Italian verb conjugation.

Dovere: conjugation

Here’s the conjugation of the present tense of the Italian verb dovere:

  • io devo
  • tu devi
  • lei/lui deve
  • noi dobbiamo
  • voi dovete
  • loro devono

And this is how to conjugate the past tense (passato prossimo) of dovere:

  • io ho dovuto
  • tu hai dovuto
  • lei/lui ha dovuto
  • noi abbiamo dovuto
  • voi avete dovuto
  • loro hanno dovuto

Dovere: Examples

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

  • To express duty (the obligation to perform the action introduced by the verb)

Devo lavorare anche di domenica.

I must work even on Sundays.

I bambini al di sotto dei 12 anni devono essere accompagnati da un adulto.

Kids below 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Oggi devo fare la spesa.

Today I have to buy groceries.

Sono dovuta uscire di casa alle 6 di mattina per andare a lavoro.

I had to leave the house at 6 in the morning to go to work.

Devo dirti una cosa.

I have to tell you something.

  • To express a necessity (the need to perform the action introduced by the verb)

Per fare la pasta alla carbonara dobbiamo usare le uova.

We need to use eggs in order to make pasta with carbonara sauce.

Devi spendere almeno 50 euro per avere la spedizione gratuita.

You need to spend at least 50 euros in order to have free shipping.

Se vuoi trasferirti in Italia, devi imparare l’italiano.

If you want to move to Italy, you need to learn Italian.

Other uses of dovere: to owe

Dovere is also used as a non-modal verb, meaning that it is not followed by another verb but a noun.

In this case, it does not mean “must”, “need,” or “to have to”. Instead, it means “to owe”.

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Let’s look at some examples:

Ti devo 10 euro per la cena.

I owe you 10 euros for the dinner.

Giorgia mi deve una spiegazione!

Giorgia owes me an explanation!

Practice with Quizlet

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

Must in Italian: dovere

Dovere is an irregular verb, which means that it has multiple forms for each tense and does not follow the same pattern as other verbs.

Dovere in Italian, can mean either duty (the responsibility to carry out the action suggested by the verb) or a necessity (to tell you something).

Dovere can also be used as a non-modal verb. It does not mean “must,” “need,” or “must have” in this context, but it means “to owe,”

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How do you use dovere?

Dovere is a word we use frequently in Italian. You can casually use it to express the need to, have to, or necessity of doing something.

What does the verb dovere mean in Italian?

Dovere is a verb that can mean "to have to," "to be obligated to," and "must" in its literal sense. Depending on how it is conjugated, it can also mean "should" and "be supposed to."

Is dovere a modal verb?

Dovere is also a modal verb that is followed by an infinitive verb.

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

  1. Sorry, another question.. When does one drop the e as in Dev’essere vs deve essere? Both forms are used in the audio lesson.

    Is it simply a matter of preference? I remember that the dev’essere was an impersonal sentence: Dev’essere caro, eh? And the time there was no elision, the sentence referred to a person: deve essere.

    1. No need to be sorry for asking questions!
      Yes, it is a matter of preference only. Whether it refers to a person or impersonal sentence does not play a role!

  2. Sono dovuta uscire di casa alle 6 di mattina per andare a lavoro.

    I had to leave the house at 6 in the morning to go to work.

    I am curious about this above example I cut and pasted from My Thoughts. Why is Sono used? I thought it would be “Ho dovuto uscire di casa ……” because dovere is conjugated with avere.

    1. Ciao Carolyn,
      your question is very interesting! Actually, there is a linguistic debate that has been going on for many years about this topic. As a rule of thumb, when you are conjugating a modal verb (dovere, potere, volere, sapere) you have to look at the verb they precede in order to choose the auxiliary verb. In this case, “uscire” requires “essere”, therefore “sono dovuta uscire” is correct. I hope this helps you, do not hesitate to ask other questions!

  3. Is the verb “dovere” exclusively followed by another verb in the infinitive tense when it is used as a modal verb in Italian?

    1. Ciao Anna! Great question. While “dovere” is often followed by a verb in the infinitive when used as a modal verb, it can also be followed by a noun when it means “to owe”. So, it’s not exclusively followed by another verb. Isn’t Italian grammar fun? Feel free to ask more questions if you have any!

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