a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Learning Italian and blogging about it

Posted on the May 12th, 2009

No one is going to shoot me because I don’t understand how to use the Italian imperfect verb form.

This was my comment to the worried face looking back at me from the bathroom mirror a couple of weeks ago, as I tried to ease a minor anxiety attack after laboring through a homework assignment.

But today in class, grazie a Dio, we’re enjoying a brief respite from wrestling with the criminally high number of verb forms in the Italian language. Today we’re being pummeled by the pronouns. As I sit around a conference-size table with a half dozen other students from various countries across the globe, I’m feeling more or less relaxed. Finally, it seems to me, I’m making some headway with the usually vertigo-inducing  pronouns.

Not so, however, for a couple of my co-students. They’re struggling and I recognize the symptoms — a kind of numbed mumbling coming from their dry lips as all they think they’ve learned about Italian to this point now whirls bumper-car crazy in their brains. Oh, I know this condition well. I’ve been there myself. And I’ve not a doubt in the world I’ll be there again.

So today for these two unfortunates, no matter how many times our teacher repeats the grammatical admonition that the second person singular (tu) in the imperative negative always is formed by placing non before the infinitive, they stare back at him through glazed eyes. And they repeat, ever again, the wrong conjugation. Eventually, they will get it, eventually it will click. But not today.

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