What is a conjunction?

Before you can learn all the secrets of Italian conjunctions, you must first learn some boring grammar.

In every language, conjunctions are used to join words, nouns, sentences and ideas. They are used as connectors, since they establish hierarchical interrelations between the elements of your speech. For example, just by changing the conjunction you can express conditions, causes, and even relationships of time.

Let’s take a look at these two sentences:

  • Sei stanco perché lavori troppo. (You are tired because you work too much.)
  • Sei stanco, tuttavia lavori troppo. (You are tired. Nevertheless, you work too much.)

As you can see, while the first sentence expresses a cause between two different conditions, the second one introduces a concession. We only changed one word. Yet, we got two different meanings.


Types of Italian Conjunctions

There are two different types of Italian conjunctions, based on their role within sentences. Furthermore, there are several subgroups of conjugations, based on the logical connection they establish between different clauses.

Coordinating conjunctions

These conjunctions (known in Italian as congiunzioni coordinative/coordinanti) combine two independent clauses. Since these sentences are always of equal value, they could stand on their own and maintain their full meaning.

  • Siamo andati a Milano. Non abbiamo visitato il Duomo. (We went to Milan. We didn’t visit the Duomo.)
  • Siamo andati a Milano e non abbiamo visitato il Duomo. (We went to Milan, and we didn’t visit the Duomo.)
  • Siamo andati a Milano, ma non abbiamo visitato il Duomo. (We went to Milan, but we didn’t visit the Duomo.)

On the other hand, coordinating conjunctions can also join independent parts of the speech, such as adjectives, adverbs or complements.

Subordinating conjunctions

As the name suggests, these conjunctions (known in Italian as congiunzioni subordinative/subordinanti) create a link between the main sentence and its subordinate clause(s). Their role is to clarify the meaning of the subordinate sentence, which otherwise would be incomplete and could not stand on its own.

  • Non esco. Ho sonno. (I’m not going out. I’m sleepy.)
  • Non esco perché ho sonno. (I’m not going out because I am sleepy.)
  • Non esco quando ho sonno. (I don’t go out when I’m sleepy.)

Study Tip: As you can notice, the majority of these conjunctions requires the use of the subjunctive tense in the subordinate clause.

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