Overwhelmed by Italian tenses and moods

Hi, everyone. I need some pointers and encouragement! I’m on day 18 of learning Italian. I know every language has things that are difficult about it. With Italian it appears the hardest thing is wrapping your head around the use of the subjunctive, conditional, and various past tenses. I just finished #45 of the mini stories and my head is about to explode. I can’t make sense of all of these random conjugations in conditional, subjunctive, and random past tenses that are all over the place with almost no patterns.

I keep telling myself what I think Steve would say: “Keep reading! It will become more clear over time!” In your experience, does it slowly become more clear over time as you read and listen more? I’m trying to trust that it will and just trust the extensive reading Lingq process, which I absolutely fully believe in as Lingq brought me to fluency in German despite all the difficulties with grammar in German. Any other pointers, tips, or encouragement at this point would be greatly appreciated.

I am loving Italian aside from this, the one part that makes zero sense to me at the moment.

My instinct would be to take it easy for a bit if you’re feeling overwhelmed by any particular area of a language. I’m sure that Italian has it’s difficult parts, but just remember that you’re only 18 days in. You’re just starting your journey and your brain needs time. It needs so much time, but it will make sense of things. Just keep reading and listening, but maybe change to something more enjoyable for yourself? Maybe check out some Italian music or something and just don’t worry about the grammar at all for a week? I think that the mini stories can be a fantastic tool, but don’t make it your chore to finish them before moving onto something else. You can always revisit them after dabbling in some exploration. Also, you can always review more grammar, but I personally find it most effective to do once I already have an inkling of what the grammar means. You know, after you have read and heard it so many times? :smiley:

Find something to enjoy, take a break from whatever seems to be frustrating you (conditional/subjunctive?) :stuck_out_tongue: and most importantly, remember that your brain needs exposure and time. I bet you’re doing just fine!

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I agree with iMeoWi. Conjugations and the like are tricky: because they’re nicely laid out in tables, we feel that we should “get them” immediately. On the other hand, we don’t feel that we should know all the vocabulay after a couple of weeks. It’s clearly impossible, so we relax and accept that it’ll take time to master and it is absolutely normal not to understand most words. At the end of the day, conjugations are just words. It’ll take time for you to master them and the key is the same: consistent exposure and paying attention. Make peace with the fact that your understanding will be incomplete for a long time.
One thing that may help you is to lingq whole sentences where the conjugations appear and review them from time to time. Don’t overdo it. Just lingq a few nice sentences now and then and tag them as “sentences” or whatever and filter them on the vocabulary page so you can review them when you have thee time.

Steve is right - keep pushing forward while reviewing previous lessons and the wax will indeed start to melt from your ears.

I’m halfway through the mini stories for Korean, and I can assure you the confusion is much, much worse: utterly alien grammar and constructions, different alphabet, difficult pronunciation. One of the most valuable skills you can develop as a language learner is a tolerance for ambiguity. First you will just get the gist, then some commonly repeated words will start to stick, then common structures slowly start to gel. Without this tolerance, Korean would seem an impossibly difficult task, but it doesn’t bother me because forgetting and relearning, as well as being confused are all conditions of the process.

It will get better. You’ve done this for German and Chinese and so you have more experience than probably most on this site. Keep forging ahead!

(Also if nothing else helps, remember that Steve has done this very recently for both Persian and Arabic, languages I can’t even fathom learning right now: https://twitter.com/lingosteve/status/1285663768744271878 Take particular note of the play count for each of the lessons in the screenshot.)


ah the challenge of romance languages i don’t know italian but i know the same thing happens with spanish the seemingly endless verb conjugations and exceptions to the rules
to your question yes it does become clearer over time you will start to develop a feeling for certain constructions like the subjunctive through context from reading and listening

I have never learnt any Italian but in generell I think the Michel Thomas courses are excellent to get a fast grip on tenses and overall grammar. Also with only 18 days under your belt you are still a complete beginner. Be nice to yourself. You cant be expected to understand every or even most of the grammar constructions you encounter. Just soldier on

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Hi Ellery,

Spanish is my native language, but I’m also high-intermediate in Italian. If you have any specific doubts that I could help you with, I’d be happy to. You can write the doubts on my wall if you want, or here.

Based on what you say and the languages you already know, my guess is the biggest problem might be the subjunctive. On Duolingo’s forum someone posted a very nice guide for this, perhaps it might help you:

Forum - Duolingo

This Youtube channel could also help you with the subjunctive mood:

Tutto sul congiuntivo italiano! - Italian subjunctive - subjuntivo italiano - subjonctif italien - YouTube

Exceptions to the rules in Spanish? Wow, Spanish is pretty regular. Italian, however, seems to be even more irregular than French.
Going through a basic course or grammar might help, I know it did for me.

Hi Ellery - I can empathize with your frustration! I have had similar experiences as a beginner in Polish with all its irregularities and seemingly needless complexities.

As regards Italian, it is important to be aware that the use of the indicative, conditional and subjunctive moods in Italian is not random!! It is systematic and purposeful, and the verb endings follow elegant patterns: Italian conjugation - Wikipedia

The different verb forms that you have encountered in the texts you’ve read so far are all there for a reason. The reasons may not be manifest at the moment because you’re only 18 days into your journey. This is all a natural part of the process. With continued massive exposure to written and spoken Italian the fog will lift and what initially seemed alien and baffling will increasingly feel natural and instinctive.

Buon proseguimento

give it time lol

LOL. I’ve been studying Italian for six years and am C1. The other day I asked my teacher, via Skype, about a sentence, saying I was still working on clarifying the use of the imperfect. My teacher said, “you’ll always be working on the imperfect,” In other words it takes a vast exposure to the language to get the hang of it. I don’t know whether to marvel at your ambition to learn so quickly or to warn you to slow down. But I can advise you to relax and enjoy. You’re on a great journey.

Keep reading but read easier stuff. Chunk the complex stuff as a whole phrase or even a sentence rather than worrying about them for now.