Imperfect of “potere”, “volere”, “dovere”: Italian grammar lesson 106


Dive into the heart of Italian with this guide! Learn how potere, volere, and dovere can unlock different shades of desire, ability, and obligation in the past with the imperfetto tense. 🇮🇹✨

  • Expressing Wishes: Get nostalgic with volere in the imperfetto and talk about all those past desires and dreams. Perfect for reminiscing about that Italian summer love! 💭🍕
  • Possibilities of the Past: Use potere to revisit what could have been. It’s like a time machine for all the coulda, woulda, shouldas in your life. 🕒🔙
  • Necessities Back Then: With dovere, you can reflect on past responsibilities and duties. It’s like telling your younger self, “You had one job!” 📚👈
  • Conjugation is Key: Master the imperfetto forms of these verbs to sound like a true Italian. It’s not just about the spaghetti, folks. 🍝📖
  • Setting the Scene: Paint a vivid picture of the past with the imperfetto tense. It’s like being the director of your own Italian film. 🎬🎨
  • Describing Habits: Chat about your old habits effortlessly. Whether it was sipping espresso daily or missing the bus every morning, the imperfetto has got you covered. ☕🚌
  • Continued Actions: Ever wonder how to say “I was doing” in Italian? The imperfetto tense is your go-to for all those long, drawn-out stories. 📚🕰️

My thoughts

What does potere, volere and dovere express in Italian?

There are some verbs that are special in Italian because they can be followed by other verbs.

This is the case of volere (to want to), potere (can or to be able to), and dovere (to have to).

These verbs respectively express a wish, a possibility, or a necessity.

Here are some examples:

Vogliamo mangiare la pizza.

We want to eat pizza.

Possiamo venire con voi?

Can we come with you?

Dovete andare a casa.

You have to go home.

We can use these verbs in the present, past, and future tenses.

In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn about the imperfetto of volere, potere and sapere: volevo, potevo, sapevo.

What is the imperfect tense?

The imperfetto is a tense that we use to talk about the past.

For instance, we use it to describe the way people, objects, or places were in the past, like in the example below.

La piazza prima era molto piccola.

Before, the square was very small.

We also use it to describe situations and factual conditions or to describe states of mind or health in the past.

Laura non stava molto bene ieri.

Laura wasn’t very well yesterday.

We can also use it to describe what used to happen, such as habits and repeated actions in the past.

Noi andavamo sempre in Messico d’estate.

We would always go to Mexico in the summer.

Finally, we use the imperfetto to express a continued and prolonged action that happened in the past.

Cosa dicevi ieri su mio fratello?

What were you saying yesterday about my brother?

How to conjugate volere in imperfetto?

Let’s have a look at the conjugation of volere in the imperfetto:

Italian Translation
Io volevo I wanted
Tu volevi You wanted
Lui/Lei voleva He/She wanted
Noi volevamo We wanted
Voi volevate You wanted
Loro volevano They wanted
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And here are some sentences:

La scorsa estate io volevo andare al mare.

Last summer, I wanted to go to the beach.

Cosa volevi dirmi ieri?

What did you want to tell me yesterday?

How to conjugate potere in imperfetto?

Now let’s have a look at the conjugation of potere in the imperfetto:

Italian Translation
Io potevo I could
Tu potevi You could
Lui/Lei poteva He/She could
Noi potevamo We could
Voi potevate You could
Loro potevano They could

And here we have some examples:

Da piccoli, non potevamo uscire con i nostri amici.

When we were little, we couldn’t go out with our friends.

L’anno scorso potevo lavorare da casa.

Last year, I could work from home.

How to conjugate dovere in imperfetto?

At last, but not least, here’s the conjugation of the verb dovere in the imperfetto:

Italian Translation
Io dovevo I had to
Tu dovevi You had to
Lui/Lei doveva He/She had to
Noi dovevamo We had to
Voi dovevate You had to
Loro dovevano They had to

And here’re some examples:

Cosa dovevate dirci ieri?

What did you have to tell us yesterday?

Angelo doveva pulire la casa e non l’ha fatto.

Angelo had to clean the house, but he didn’t do it.

What is the imperfect?

Is the tense we used to talk about the past. It can be to describe the way someone or something was; to describe situations or factual conditions; to describe habits; and to express prolonged actions.

What does volere mean?

"Volere" is an Italian verb that means "to want" or "to wish."

What does potere mean?

"Potere" is an Italian verb that means "can" or "to be able to."

What does dovere mean?

"Dovere" is an Italian verb that means "must," "to have to," or "should." It's a modal verb that is used to express obligation, necessity, or duty.

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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