Non sapevo che + subjunctive: Italian grammar lesson 211

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Summary

Dive into the nuances of Italian grammar with our guide on using “Non sapevo che” followed by the subjunctive mood. Perfect your conversational skills and impress locals with your impeccable Italian!

  • Subjunctive Mood Basics: Refresh your memory on the congiuntivo presente and congiuntivo passato to nail the structure of expressing doubt or uncertainty in Italian.
  • Imperfect Indicative: Pair Non + sapere in the imperfect indicative with che + subjunctive to convey past unawareness of a fact or situation.
  • Conjugation Reminder: Don’t forget the conjugation of sapere in the indicative imperfect. It’s crucial for constructing sentences that express past ignorance.
  • Real-life Examples: See how Italians use this structure in everyday conversation. It’s a game-changer for sounding like a native speaker!
  • Common Mistakes: Even Italians slip up, often using the indicative imperfect instead of the subjunctive. But remember, for formal writing, stick to the rules!
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Non sapevo che + subjunctive

Here we are again with the subjunctive.

You can check the previous lessons if you need to review something about the congiuntivo presente and the congiuntivo passato.

Let’s have a look at some examples for you to understand what we mean:

Oh ciao! Non sapevo che fosti a casa.

Oh hi! I didn’t know you were home.

Lucia non sapeva che tu fossi italiano.

Lucia didn’t know you were Italian.

Non sapevo che congiuntivo Italian

What is the structure of non sapevo che + subjunctive?

If we want to say we didn’t know about something, we use the following structure: Non + sapere in imperfect indicative + che + subject + verb in imperfect subjunctive.

As you can see, there’s a parallelism between the first and the second verb.

If we use the verb sapere in the imperfetto, it makes sense to use the second verb in the imperfetto too.

However, the second imperfetto is a congiuntivo, since one of the purposes of the congiuntivo is to express doubts or uncertainties.

By the way, here’s the conjugation of the verb sapere in the indicativo imperfetto in case you don’t remember:

Io sapevo
Tu sapevi
Lei / Lui sapeva
Noi sapevamo
Voi sapevate
Loro sapevano

Non sapevo che subjunctive Italian

Non sapevo che + congiuntivo: examples

Before we have a look at some more examples, let’s concentrate on just one:

Non sapevo che facessi sport!

I didn’t know you did sports!

In this sentence, the person who’s talking didn’t know in the past the other person used to practice sports in the present, but now they do know.

As you can see in the translation, it’s the same in English.

We wouldn’t say “I didn’t know you do sport!” because it just sounds weird.

We use the past (did) even if we’re talking about the present.

Now that you know this, you’re ready to look at other examples:

Non sapevo che Maria e Paolo stessero insieme.

I didn’t know Maria and Paolo were together.

Non sapevamo che volesse cambiare casa.

We didn’t know she wanted to move house.

Non sapevano che foste amici.

They didn’t know you were friends.

Non sapevo che stessi così male.

I didn’t know you were feeling so bad.

Non sapere imperfetto congiuntivo Italian

Non sapevo che + indicativo imperfetto is correct?

You will probably hear Italians using the indicativo imperfetto instead of the congiuntivo imperfetto.

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This is because the congiuntivo can be difficult to conjugate even for Italians, which means you don’t have to worry if you make mistakes when you’re still learning.

For example, instead of sentence A, many Italians might say sentence B:

A: Non sapevano che foste amici.
B: Non sapevano che eravate amici.

This is because, in spoken Italian, it is accepted to use the indicativo imperfetto after non sapevo che.

However, in theory, it is incorrect, so if you’re writing a formal text, like an essay, make sure to use the congiuntivo.

Sapere with congiuntivo Italian

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FAQs on Non sapevo che + subjunctive: Italian grammar lesson 211

What is the structure of non sapevo che + subjunctive?

Non + sapere in indicativo imperfetto + che + subject + verb incongiuntivo imperfetto.

Non sapevo che + indicativo imperfetto is correct?

In spoken Italian, it is accepted to use the indicativo imperfetto after non sapevo che. However, in theory, it is incorrect, so if you’re writing a formal text, like an essay, make sure to use the congiuntivo.

Italian word of the day
lunga
Example
È una giornata lunga.
It’s a long day.
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