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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Marika here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Italian questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Why don’t I always need to conjugate the verb in a subordinate clause?
Sometimes Italian seems simpler than English because it can have an infinitive verb, whereas English has a conjugated form.
For example:
Lui sa di avere ragione.
“He knows he is right.”
Why is avere not conjugated? What are the rules that regulate this?
The sentence in the example above can be divided into two clauses:
Lui sa di, meaning “he knows that,” is the main clause. Avere ragione, literally “to be right,” is the subordinate clause. In English it’s translated as “he is right.” This is a special kind of subordinate clause called implicit.
Implicit subordinate clauses feature a non-finite mood verb, which means “not conjugable verb.” Infinitive is the most used in Italian.
If the subject of the main clause and of the subordinate is the same, the infinitive can replace clauses beginning with che. Sounds complicated? Look at these examples.
Non sono sicura che partirò. (“I’m not sure I will leave.”)
You can say: Non sono sicura di partire.
Mario sa che è bravo in matematica. (“Mario knows he’s good at math.”)
You can say: Mario sa di essere bravo in matematica.
When the subject in the two sentences is the same, and the first verb is a “thinking verb,” your only option is to use the infinitive in the second sentence. So, if you want to say “I hope I will leave,” you have to say:
Spero di partire NOT Spero che io parta.
The second one is too wordy and sounds unnatural.
However, if the subjects are different, you must use the subjunctive:
Spero che Laura parta.
“I hope Laura will leave.”


Pretty simple, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
A presto! “See you soon!”