On any given day, the most commonly talked about activity is where one is going. We make plans, we go, we return, we talk about our activities along the way, and then we talk about where we went once again at the end of the day!
To talk about where one has to go on a certain day seems easy at first. We learn about the Italian verb “to go,” which is andare, in every beginning course in Italian. The Italian verb andare is a bit tricky to use, though, so let’s go through a few pointers.
The first thing to know about the verb andare is that it has an irregular conjugation in the present tense for every speaker except noi and voi. So each form of this verb needs to be memorized. I’ve reprinted the conjugation of andare below. Try to say each verb conjugation aloud and listen to how it sounds. The syllables that should be emphasized are underlined in order to help with pronunciation.
Andare – To Go Present Tense
|you (familiar) go
you (polite) go
|you all go
After we learn how to conjugate the verb andare in the present tense, some attention should be paid to the meaning of the conjugated forms of this verb. Io vado, for instance, can be translated into English as: “I go,” “I do go,” and for the near future, “I am going,” or “I am going to go.” Remember, though, that the subject pronoun “io” will be left out of the sentence in usual Italian conversation. In effect, the simple, one word sentence, “Vado,” when spoken will let someone know the speakers intent to leave, and encompass all the translations given above!
There is a way to say, “I am going,” in Italian if you want to emphasize that you are leaving right at the very moment in which you are speaking: “Sto andando.” But, unlike English speakers, who always seem to use the -ing form of the verb — going, coming, arriving, returning, etc… — in Italian the -ing form of any verb (technically the present progressive tense with the gerund) is less commonly used than the simple present tense. Again, a simple, “Vado,” will usually suffice to let someone know you are going somewhere right now.
Another way to say, “I am going!” that will emphasize your intention to go somewhere is to put the Italian subject pronoun io after the verb vado. “Vado io,” means something like: “I will go,” with the emphasis on the “I.” This sentence structure implies that everyone else nearby can sit back and relax, as the person speaking will go to take care of whatever needs to be done. Maybe the doorbell has just rung and the family is gathered in the living room to watch a movie. The person who decides to get up and answer the door may say, “Vado io,” to signal their intent to take care of things. This verb/subject pronoun inversion works with other Italian verbs as well to signal intent, and in particular is used with “Prendo io,” for “I will take it,” when offering to carry a bag or suitcase for someone. There is also the common expression, “Ci penso io,” which has the meaning, “I’ll take care of it,”* and implies, “You can count on me.”
Finally, if you are going away from a place where you are with other people, and want to signify your intent to leave, use the Italian verb andarsene, and say, “Me ne vado.” This line can be translated simply as, “I’m leaving (this place),” or more strongly as, “I am getting out of here!” You will impress your friends with this phrase even without knowing all the details of this complex verb!
Let’s also take a look at the third person plural form of andare, which is andiamo. Without going through the conjugations for the Italian command verb forms, it should be noted that “Andiamo!” when said with emphasis or written with an exclamation point means, “Let’s go!”
Let’s summarize the important forms of the verb andare in a table:
|I go, I do go, I am going. (near future)
Me ne vado.
I am leaving (this place).
I am going (right now).
|I am going (to take care of it).
|Ci penso io.*
|I’ll take care of it.
*Of course, “Io penso” means “I think.”
Once we have learned to conjugate the Italian verb andare, and how to signal intent or encourage others to join us using this verb, are we ready to talk about where we are going to? Not quite yet…
Because the Italian verb andare must be linked to the place with are going or to another verb with the word “a,” which in this case can be translated as “to.” There is a fairly long list of verbs that follow this rule. In this blog, we will also discuss one additional Italian verb that follows this rule, the verb venire, which means “to come.” Venire is another irregular verb in the present tense, except for the noi and voi forms, and the conjugation for venire is given in the table below. Try to say each verb conjugation aloud and listen to how it sounds. The stressed syllables have been underlined to help with pronunciation.
Venire – To Come Present Tense
|you (familiar) come
|you all come
Two important phrases to remember that use the “rule of the linking a” are “andare a trovare” (“to go to visit”) and “venire a trovare” (“to come to visit”). These phrases are used when visiting a person. The verb visitare (to visit) can be used when you want to speak about a place you are visiting.
Try to listen for the “linking a” when these phrases come up in conversation, and soon it will become natural for you, also, to say these phrases correctly.
Let’s see how our two verbs, andare and venire, can be used in a typical conversation at the breakfast table between a mother her and daughter or son.
Mothers commonly ask their family during breakfast:
|Dove vai oggi?
|Where will you go today?
Some answers family members may give:
|Vado a scuola alle otto.
|I am going to school at 8 AM.
|Vado al lavoro.
|I am going to work.
|Vado a lavorare.
|I am going to work.
|Vado a trovare nonna a casa sua.
|I am going to visit Grandma at her house.
|Vado a trovarla.
|I am going to visit her.
Or, a mother may want to remind her family that today Grandma or other relatives of the family are coming to visit them by saying:
|Oggi, nonna venga a trovarci.
|Today, nonna comes to visit us.
|Oggi, i cugini vengono a trovarci.
|Today, the cousins come to visit us.
You will notice in the examples above that the direct object pronouns la and ci are given in red, as they are attached to the end of the infinitive verb trovare. There are many more instances of relatives and friends that we may want to go to visit or who may come to visit us at home. How many more can you think of?
Of course, once we have left the house to “go somewhere” we will want to express that we will return. Others may also greet us on our return. Several other Italian verbs that can be used in this situation are: arrivare, tornare, and rientrare.
Arrivare means “to arrive” and sounds very formal to the English speaker’s ears. We almost never say, “I have arrived.” But arrivare and its first person conjugation arrivo, which means “I arrive” are commonly used in conversational Italian today when one wants to describe that he/she will soon “get to” somewhere. And, as also mentioned in our last blog, “Let’s email in Italian,” arrivare and arrivo are used to talk about whether an email message has “arrived” into one’s inbox.
To come back home is to “rientrare a casa.” To wish someone, “Welcome back!” simply use the past participle of the verb tornare, which means “to return,” and a shortened from of bene, for “Ben tornato!”
Some examples of how arrivo, arrivare, tornare, and rientrare can be used are given in the table below:
|I am coming!
|I am coming!
|Controlla la mail in arrivo!
|Check the email in your inbox.
|He/She/It is coming!
|They are here. / They have arrived.
Ecco che arrivano!
|Here they come now!
Here they come now!
|Quando io rientro a casa, lo chiamo.
|When I get home, I will call him.
|Ben tornato! Ben tornata!
Ben tornati! Ben tornate!
|Welcome back! (masc. / fem. singular)
Welcome back! (masc./ fem. plural)
At the end of the day, after we have left our home and then returned, we will likely want to update our family on our activities. Now we will need to use the verbs andare and venire in the past tense!
For a one time event that has happened during the day, the Italian passato prossimo form of the past tense will be the tense to choose. And for the verbs of direction andare and venire, we will need to use essere in the present tense as the helping verb with the past participles andato(a,i,e) and venuto(a,i,e).
Remember that with the passato prossimo form of the past tense, the past participles have endings that change to match the gender and number of the speaker, as notated above in parentheses after the masculine “o” endings used for andato and venuto.
Let’s try out how to use andare and venire in the past tense with two very common sentences we almost always say at the end of the day: I/we went… and I/we came… See the table below for these examples.
|Io sono andato(a) a scuola.
|I went to school. (masc. / fem. singular)
|Noi siamo andati(e) a lavorare.
|We went to work. (masc. / fem. plural)
|Io sono venuto(a) a casa
alle sei di sera.
|I came home at 6 PM.
(masc. / fem. singular)
|Noi siamo venuti(e) a casa
alle sei di sera.
|We came home at 6 PM.
(masc. / fem. plural)
There are many, many more, examples of where we all go each day, and how and when we come home, of course! How many more can you think of? To become more familiar with the past tense, try keeping a journal. Take a few moments each day to write a sentence or two about where you went and what you did.
Remember how to talk about where you are going in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!