French & Italian Comparative Tutorial III: Learn Two Languages Simultaneously
 


Verbs: Present & Past Tenses

In both languages, there are three types of verbs grouped according to the last letters of the infinitive. In French, there are -er, -re, and -ir verbs; while in Italian, there are -are, -ere, and -ire verbs. The following chart uses aimer/amare (to love); vendre/vendere (to sell); and finir/finire (to finish) as examples for all regular verbs in the present and imperfect tenses. (There is another simple past tense, the preterite, but it is rarely used in modern spoken French or Italian).

 
French
Italian
 
aimer
vendre
finir
 
amare
vendere
finire
Present Tense
aime vends finis   amo vendo finisco
aimes vends finis   ami vendi finisci
aime vend finit   ama vende finisce
aimons vendons finissons   amiamo vendiamo finiamo
aimez vendez finissez   amate vendete finite
aiment vendent finissent   amano vendono finiscono
 
Imperfect Tense
aimais vendais finissais   amavo vendevo finivo
aimais vendais finissais   amavi vendevi finivi
aimait vendait finissait   amava vendeva finiva
aimions vendions finissions   amavamo vendevamo finivamo
aimiez vendiez finissiez   amavate vendevate finivate
aimaient vendaient finissaient   amavano vendevano finivano

Not all French verbs that end in -ir or all Italian verbs that end in -ire use the above endings. Some -ir / -ire verbs have slightly different endings in the present tense. In French, verbs such as partir, dormir, sortir (to leave, to sleep, to go out) are conjugated thus: for the singular forms, take off the last three letters, and add -s, -s, -t; for the plural forms, take off the last two letters, and add -ons, -ez, -ent. For example, je pars, tu pars, il part, nous partons, vous partez, ils partent. In Italian, verbs such as partire, dormire, aprire (to leave, to sleep, to open) are conjugated without the -isc- before the regular endings. For example, parto, parti, parte, partiamo, partite, partono.

Regular Verbs

to like, love aimer amare to sell vendre vendere
to sing chanter cantare to wait for attendre aspettare
to look for chercher cercare to listen écouter ascoltare
to begin commencer cominciare to lose perdre perdere
to study étudier studiare to answer répondre (à) rispondere (a)
to close fermer chiudere to go down descendre scendere
to live habiter abitare to live vivre vivere
to play jouer giocare to understand comprendre capire
to eat manger mangiare to finish finir finire
to show montrer mostrare to choose choisir scegliere
to speak parler parlare to punish punir punire
to think penser pensare to fill remplir riempire
to work travailler lavorare to obey obéir (à) ubbidire (a)
to find trouver trovare to succeed réussir riuscire
to jump sauter saltare to cure, heal guérir guarire

Spelling Changes in the Present Tense

There are a few spelling changes in regular verbs in the present tense. These changes are made to reflect the pronunciation of the conjugated verb.

In French, verbs that end in -ger will use -geons as the first person singular form (nous mangeons); while verbs that end in -cer will use -çons as the first person singular form (nous commençons). Verbs that end in -yer change the y to i in all forms except nous and vous (j'essaie, tu essaies, nous essayons). Some verbs add an accent grave to the letter e to all forms except nous and vous (j'achète, il achète, vous achetez). Some verbs double the consonant before the verb endings in all forms except nous and vous (tu appelle, elle appelle, vous appelez).

In Italian, verbs ending in -care and -gare add an h before the -i of the second person singular and first person plural forms (tu and noi). Verbs ending in -ciare and -giare do not add an extra -i before the tu and noi forms.


Irregular Imperfect Verbs

In French, there is only one verb in the imperfect that is irregular, être. It uses the stem ét- and the regular imperfect endings.

être
étais étions
étais étiez
était étaient

In Italian, the stem of essere becomes er- for io, tu, lui/lei and loro, and it does not take the v, while the stem for noi and voi is era- and it does take the v. The stems for bere, dire and fare are derived from the old Latin infinitives, and are beve-, dice-, and face-. They also take the regular endings of the imperfect.

essere
bere
dire
fare
ero eravamo bevevo bevevamo dicevo dicevamo facevo facevamo
eri eravate bevevi bevevate dicevi dicevate facevi facevate
era erano beveva bevevano diceva dicevano faceva facevano

Pronominal Verbs

Pronominal verbs are conjugated like regular verbs, but have an extra pronoun before them that agrees with the subject of the verb. Most of these verbs indicate a reflexive action - that reflects back on the subject. You can translate the pronouns as myself, yourself, etc. but we rarely use these words in English. Some other verbs indicate a reciprocal action, translated by each other in English.

myself me mi
yourself te ti
himself/herself/itself se si
ourselves nous ci
yourselves vous vi
themselves se si

Reflexive verbs

to break (arm, leg, etc.) se casser rompersi to fall asleep s'endormir addormentarsi
to hurry se dépêcher sbrigarsi to get dressed s'habiller vestirsi
to relax se détendre rilassarsi to get married se marier sposarsi
to rest se reposer riposarsi to get up se lever alzarsi
to get along s'entendre avec intendersi con to have a good time s'amuser divertirsi
to train/practice s'entraîner allenarsi to remember to se souvenir de ricordarsi di
to be interested in s'intéresser à interessarsi di to shave (the face) se raser farsi la barba
to be bored s'ennuyer annoiarsi to stop (oneself) s'arrêter fermarsi
to be called s'appeler chiamarsi to wake up se réveiller svegliarsi
to complain about se plaindre lamentarsi di to wash up se laver lavarsi

Notice in French that the reflexive pronoun precedes the infinitive, whereas in Italian, it is connected to the end of the infinitive.

When conjugating verbs, the reflexive pronoun is always placed before the conjugated verb in both languages. However, in sentences where the pronominal verb remains in the infinitive, the reflexive pronoun must agree with the subject of the main verb in the sentence.

Nous nous levons à 8h chaque matin. / Ci alziamo alla 8 ogni mattina. We get up at 8 am every morning.
Il s'appelle Michael. / Si chiama Michael. He's called Michael.
Vous allez vous amuser ce soir. / Andate a divertirvi stasera. You're going to have fun tonight.


Etre sur le point de / Stare per + infinitive

If you want to express to be about to do something, French uses être sur le point de + infinitive and Italian uses stare per + infinitive. You can use these expressions in the present and imperfect, just as in English.

J'étais sur le point de réussir. / Stavo per riuscire. I was about to succeed.
On est sur le point de manger. / Stiamo per mangiare. We're about to eat.
Vous êtes sur le point de finir. / State per finire. You are about to finish.


Etre en train de / Stare + gerund

To translate that an action is currently happening (the progressive form in English: be + gerund), French uses the phrase être en train de + infinitive, while Italian uses stare + gerund. Remember that être and stare can be conjugated in other tenses besides the present or imperfect. To form the gerund in Italian, just replace the verb endings: -are becomes -ando, -ere becomes -endo, and -ire also becomes -endo. There are three irregular forms: fare - facendo, dire - dicendo, bere - bevendo.

Je suis en train de lire. / Sto leggendo. I am reading. / I'm busy reading. / I'm in the middle of reading.
Il était en train de parler. / Stava parlando. He was talking.
Elles sont en train de partir. / Stanno partendo. They are leaving.


On / Si

To translate you, we, they, the people (in general, abstract terms), French uses on + 3rd person singular conjugation whereas Italian uses si + 3rd person conjugation (which agrees with the subject for number). However, on in French is a regular subject pronoun while si is not in Italian. It is actually a reflexive pronoun normally used with pronominal verbs. But this should not cause many problems as you rarely use the subject pronouns in Italian anyway. The subject for the Italian expression is placed after the verb and the verb agrees with it - singular or plural.

En France, on boit beaucoup de café. / In Francia, si beve molto caffè. In France, they drink a lot of coffee. / In France, a lot of coffee is drunk.
En Italie, on mange beaucoup de glaces. / In Italia, si mangiano molti gelati.
In Italy, they eat a lot of ice cream. / In Italy, a lot of ice cream is eaten.

French uses this same construction (reflexive pronoun + 3rd person conjugation) for the impersonal form and as a subsitute for the passive mood. For example, in the French Le pain s'achète à la boulangerie the verb is constructed the same as in the Italian Al panificio si compra il pane. It's just the word order that is slightly different. Both sentences mean Bread is bought at the bakery, but the French construction is not used as often because active expressions with on are more common: On achète le pain à la boulangerie.


Plaire / Piacere

Because the verbs aimer and amare means to like and to love, it would be better to use the verbs plaire and piacere when talking about things that you like. The construction of these verbs can be confusing though because the word order is different from English. In French, the word order is subject + indirect pronoun + plaire. In Italian, the word order is indirect pronoun + piacere + subject. You can think of these verbs as meaning to please rather than to like. Note that the verbs are only conjugated for third person singular and plural, because they agree with the subjects, and not the indirect pronouns.

Le football me plaît. Mi piace il calcio. I like soccer.
Le ski te plaît. Ti piace lo sci. You like skiing.
Les pommes lui plaisent. Gli / Le piacciono le mele. He / she likes apples.
Le sport nous plaît. Ci piace lo sport. We like sports.
Les films vous plaisent. Vi piacciono i film. You like films.
La natation leur plaît. A loro piace il nuoto. They like swimming.

Verbs: Imperative

The imperative is the command form of the verb. The subject (you) is implied and doesn't need to be expressed. You can also use the we form of verbs to express Let's... The imperative conjugations are very similar to the present tense conjugations in both languages.

Imperatives in French are slightly easier to form. The you singular form is identical to the tu conjugations, except -er verbs drop the -s. The you singular formal / you plural and we forms are identical to the vous and nous conjugations. To form the negative of an imperative, just place ne before the verb and pas after. For pronominal verbs, the affirmative imperative is formed connecting the reflexive pronoun to the verb with a hyphen (te becomes toi in imperatives). To form the negative pronominal imperative, the reflexive pronoun is once again placed before the verb and ne is placed before the pronoun and verb, and pas is placed after the verb.

Reste là. Stay there.
Finis ton travail. Finish your work.
Ecoutez le professeur. Listen to the teacher.
Commençons. Let's begin.
Ne fume pas. Don't smoke.
Ne parlez pas. Don't speak.
Dépêche-toi. Hurry.
Ne vous levez pas. Don't get up.

Italian imperatives are not quite as similar to the present tense conjugations. The you singular form is -a for -are verbs and -i for -ere/-ire verbs. The you singular formal (the Lei form) is the opposite: -i for -are verbs and -a for -ere/-ire verbs. The you plural and we forms are identical to the voi and noi conjugations (just as in French). To make a command negative, just add non before the verb; except for you singular imperatives, where you use non + the infinitive. Pronominal verbs form the imperative by placing the reflexive pronoun after the verb, and they are written together as one word. Negative imperatives for pronominal verbs just add non before the verb; except for you singular pronominal verbs, which use non + the infinitive. However, the reflexive pronoun attached to this infinitive must still agree with the subject, so it will be -ti and not -si.

Resta lì. Stay there.
Finisci il tuo lavoro. Finish your work.
Ascoltate il professore. Listen to the teacher.
Cominciamo. Let's begin.
Non fumare. Don't smoke.
Non parlate. Don't speak.
Sbrigati. Hurry.
Non alzatevi. Don't get up.

 
French Irregular Imperatives
Italian Irregular Imperatives
  être avoir savoir   andare venire fare dare dire essere avere stare
you singular sois aie sache   va' vieni fa' da' di' sii abbi sta'
you sing. formal soyez ayez sachez   vada venga faccia dia dica sia abbia stia
you plural soyez ayez sachez   andate venite fate date dite siate abbiate state
Let's… soyons ayons sachons   andiamo veniamo facciamo diamo diciamo siamo abbiamo stiamo

In Italian, dare is to give and dire is to tell.


Verbs: Present Perfect / Past Perfect Tenses

The perfect tenses in French and Italian are formed with to have or to be as auxiliary verbs and a past participle. (In English, to have is always the auxiliary verb.) To have or to be are in the present tense for the present perfect, and in the imperfect tense for the past perfect. The majority of verbs will use to have as the auxiliary verb; however, all prononimal/reflexive verbs in both languages use to be as the auxiliary. To form the past participle of a verb, use the following endings:

  French Italian
-er / -are -ato
-ir / -ire -i -ito
-re / -ere -u -uto

Verbs using to have (avoir/avere) as an auxiliary
Verbs that can take a direct object use to have as an auxiliary. Word order is simply present/imperfect form of have + past participle. In the negative, word order becomes ne + present/imperfect of have + pas + past participle for French, and non + present/imperfect of have + past participle for Italian. There is no agreement with the past participle in gender or number unless there is a preceding direct object. Follow the same rules for agreement as you do with nouns and adjectives: add -e for feminine and -s for plural in French; change -o to -a for feminine, -o to -i for masculine plural, and -o to -e for feminine plural in Italian.

  French Italian English
Positive Tu as mangé la pomme. Hai mangiato la mela. You ate the apple.
Negative Tu n'as pas mangé la pomme. Non hai mangiato la mela. You didn't eat the apple.
Preceding Direct Object Tu ne l'as pas mangée. Non la hai mangiata. You didn't eat it.

Verbs using to be (être/essere) as an auxiliary
Verbs that cannot take a direct object (i.e. intransitive verbs), as well as all pronominal verbs, generally use to be as an auxiliary. Word order is present/imperfect form of be + past participle for intransitive verbs and reflexive pronoun + present/imperfect form of be + past participle for prononimal verbs. In the negative, word order becomes ne + reflexive pronoun + present/imperfect of be + pas + past participle for French, and non + reflexive pronoun + present/imperfect of be + past participle for Italian. The past participle must agree in gender and number with the subject for all verbs using to be as an auxiliary.

  French Italian English
Positive Elle est allée à la poste. E andata alla posta. She went to the post office.
Negative Elle n'est pas allée à la poste. Non è andata alla posta. She didn't go to the post office.
Positive Pronominal Nous nous sommes lavé(e)s. Ci siamo lavati/e. We washed ourselves.
Negative Pronominal Nous ne nous sommes pas lavé(e)s. Non ci siamo lavati/e. We didn't wash ourselves.

The verbs that require to be (être) as an auxiliary in French are: aller-to go, sortir-to go out, venir-to come, mourir-to die, arriver-to arrive, partir-to leave, devenir-to become, monter-to go up, entrer-to enter, tomber-to fall, revenir-to come back, rester-to stay, rentrer-to return home, retourner-to return, naître-to be born, passer-to go by (pass), descendre-to go down. Only a few of these verbs have irregular past participles: venir-venu, devenir-devenu, revenir-revenu, mourir-mort, and naître-né. And five of these verbs (monter, descendre, sortir, rentrer, and passer) can sometimes be conjugated with avoir if they are followed by a direct object.

Some verbs that require to be (essere) as an auxiliary in Italian are: arrivare-to arrive, andare-to go, uscire-to go out, entrare-to enter, costare-to cost, venire-to come, essere-to be, partire-to leave, stare-to stay/be, sparire-to disappear, tornare-to come back, nascere-to be born, morire-to die. Five of these verbs have irregular past participles: venire-venuto, essere-stato, stare-stato, nascere-nato, and morire-morto.

Note that avoir and être both use avoir as an auxiliary in French, but that avere uses avere and essere uses essere as an auxiliary in Italian! And remember that the past participle agrees with a preceding direct object when the auxiliary is to have; but the past participle agrees with the subject when the auxiliary is to be.


Venir de / Appena

To express that something has just happened, use a form of venir + de + infinitive in French, and a form of the correct auxiliary verb + appena + past participle in Italian.

Le train vient de partir. / Il treno è appena partito. The train just left.


House & Furniture

English French Italian English French Italian
alarm clock le réveil la sveglia hook le crochet l'uncino
armchair le fauteuil la poltrona house la maison la casa
ashtray le cendrier il portacenere iron (flat) le fer á repasser il ferro da stiro
attic le grenier la soffitta kerosene le pétrole il petrolio
balcony le balcon il balcone key la clef la chiave
basement le sous-sol il sottosuolo kitchen la cuisine la cucina
basket la corbeille la cesta ladder l'échelle (f) la scala
bathroom le bain il bagno lamp la lampe la lampada
bathtub la baignoire la vasca da bagno lawn la pelouse il prato
batteries la pile le pile light bulb l'ampoule la lampadina
bed le lit il letto living room le living il soggiorno
bedroom la chambre la camera lock la serrure la serratura
bell (door) la sonnette il campanello mailbox la boîte á lettres la cassetta postale
blanket la couverture la coperta matches les allumettes i fiammiferi
blinds le store la persiana mattress le matelas il materasso
bookcase le bibliothèque la libreria microwave oven le four á micro-ondes il forno microonde
box la boître la scatola mirror le miroir lo specchio
broom le balai la scopa oven le four il fornello
bucket le seau il secchio pantry le garde-manger la dispensa
camcorder la caméra la telecamera picture le tableau il quadro
camera l'appareil-photo (m) la macchina fotografica pillow l'oreiller (m) il cuscino
candle la bougie la candela pipe la pipe la pipa
carpet le tapis il tappeto pipe (water) le tuyau il condotto
cassette la cassette la cassetta poker le tisonnier l'attizzatoio
CD player la lecteur de CD il lettore CD radio le radio la radio
ceiling le plafond il soffito record le disque il disco
chair la chaise la sedia refrigerator le réfrigerateur il frigorifero
chimney la cheminée il camino roof le toit il tetto
cigar le cigare il sigaro room la pièce la stanza
cigarette la cigarette la sigaretta rug le tapis il tappeto
clock la pendule l'orologio sheet le drap il lenzuolo
closet le placard l'armadio shelf l'étagère lo scaffale
compact disc le CD il compact disc shovel la pelle la pala
computer l'ordinateur (m) il computer shower la douche la doccia
corner le coin l'angolo sideboard le buffet la credenza
cupboard l'armoire (f) l'armadio sink l'évier il lavandino
curtain le rideau la cortina / tenda sink (bathroom) le lavabo il lavandino
cushion le coussin il cuscino sitting room le salon il salotto
desk le bureau la scrivania smoke la fumée il fumo
dining room la salle á manger la sala da pranzo sofa le canapé il sofà
door la porte la porta stairs l'escalier (m) la scala
drawer le tiroir il cassetto steps les marches lo scalino
dresser la commode il comò story l'étage (m) il piano
driveway l'allée il viale d'accesso stove le poêle la stufa
DVD player le lecteur de DVD il lettore DVD study le cabinet de travail lo studio
fence le portail / clôture lo steccato switch le commutateur l'interruttore
film la pellicule il rullino table la table la tavola
fire le feu il fuoco tap (faucet) le robinet il rubinetto
flame la flamme la fiamma telephone le téléphone il telefono
flashlight la lampe de poche la pila tascabile television la télévision il televisore
flat l'appartement (m) l'appartamento toaster le grille-pain il tostapane
floor la plancher il pavimento toilet (WC) le cabinet il gabinetto
floor (levels) l'étage (m) il piano towel la serviette la salvietta
flower la fleur il fiore vacuum cleaner l'aspirateur (m) l'aspiratore (m)
freezer la congélateur il congelatore vase le vase il vaso
front walk la promenade la passeggiata VCR la magnétoscope il videoregistratore
furniture les meubles (m) i mobili wall (house) le mur il muro
garage le garage il garage wall (room) la paroi la parete
garden le jardin il giardino window la fenêtre la finestra
ground floor le rez-de-chaussée il pianterreno yard le jardin il giardino
hearth la cheminée il caminetto      

Buildings & Materials

English French Italian English French Italian
airport l'aéroport l'aeroporto port le port il porto
bakery la boulangerie la panetteria prison la prison la prigione
bank le banc la banca restaurant le restaurant il ristorante
bar le bar il bar road le chemin / la route il cammino / la via
barn le grange il granaio school l'école la scuola
barracks la caserne la caserma sidewalk le trottoir il marciapiede
bench le banc la panchina square la place la piazza
bridge le pont il ponte stable l'écurie (f) la stalla
bookstore le librairie la libreria stadium le stade lo stadio
building le bâtiment l'edificio stop sign le stop lo stop
butcher's la boucherie la macelleria store le magasin il negozio
castle le château il castello street la rue la strada
cathedral la cathédrale il duomo suburb la banlieue il sobborgo
cemetery le cimetière il cimitero theater le théâtre il teatro
church l'église la chiesa tower la tour la torre
cinema le cinéma il cinema town la ville la città
consulate le consulat il consolato town hall la mairie il municipio
corner le coin l'angolo traffic light le feu de circulation il semaforo
courtyard la cour il cortile university l'université l'università (f)
crosswalk le passage pour piétons il passaggio pedonale village le village il villaggio
dock le bassin il bacino alloy l'alliage (m) la lega
dry cleaner's le pressing la tintoria brass le laiton l'ottone (m)
embassy l'ambassade (f) l'ambasciata brick la brique il mattone
factory l'usine (f) la fabbrica cement le ciment il cemento
farm la ferme la fattoria chalk la craie la creta
fire hydrant la bouche à incendie l'idrante clay l'argile (f) l'argilla
fountain la fontaine la fontana coal le charbon il carbone
garage le garage il garage concrete le béton il calcestruzzo
grocery store l'épicerie la drogheria copper le cuivre il rame
hospital l'hôpital (m) l'ospedale (m) cork le liège il sughero
hotel l'hotel l'albergo (m) glass le verre il vetro
house la maison la casa gold l'or (m) l'oro
hut la hutte la capanna iron le fer il ferro
inn l'auberge (f) l'osteria lead le plomb il piombo
lane / alley la ruelle il vicolo leather le cuir il cuoio
library la bibliothèque la biblioteca lime la chaux la calce
market le marché il mercato marble le marbre il marmo
ministry le ministère il ministero mercury le mercure il mercurio
monument le monument il monumento metal le métal il metallo
museum le musée il museo rubber le caoutchouc la gomma
palace le palais il palazzo silver l'argent (m) l'argento
path le sentier il sentiero steel l'acier (m) l'acciaio
pavement le trottoir il marciapiede stone la pierre la pietra
pharmacy la pharmacie la farmacia tar le goudron il catrame
pier la jetée il molo tin l'étain (m) lo stagno
police station le commisariat il commissariato wood le bois il legno

Go on to French & Italian IV


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