Using the imperfect subjunctive

The imperfect subjunctive is used mainly in the following circumstances: 

  • After verbs of opinion, desire or feeling, such as pensare (to think), credere (to believe), desiderare (to want), sperare (to hope), temere (to fear), etc., conjugated in the imperfect or the passato prossimo (perfect tense).

Pensavo pensare, imperfetto che andassi andare, congiuntivo imperfetto al cinema.

I thought that you were going to the movies.

Ho desiderato desiderare, passato prossimo che vedessi vedere, congiuntivo imperfetto Giacomo ieri sera.

I wanted you to see Giacomo last night, literally, “I wanted that you see…”.

  • With se (if) to imagine a hypothetical scenario.

Se non piovesse piovere, congiuntivo imperfetto, andremmo andare, condizionale presente al parco.

If it were not raining, we would go to the park.

Se Betty avesse avere, congiuntivo imperfetto 100 anni, sarebbe essere, condizionale presente ancora viva.

If Betty were 100 years old, she would still be alive, literally, “if Betty had 100 years,…”.

  • After a verb in the present or past conditional in the main part of the sentence, to express a wish or, with a negative conditional, to express something that happened differently than expected.

Vorrei volere, condizionale presente che vedessi vedere, congiuntivo imperfetto il film con me. 

I'd like you to watch the movie with me, literally, “I'd like that you see…”.

Avrei voluto volere, condizionale passato che andassi andare, congiuntivo imperfetto a trovare mia zia.

I would have liked you to go visit my aunt, literally, “I would have liked that you go…”.

Non avrei mai immaginato immaginare, condizionale passato che avessi avere, congiuntivo imperfetto 40 anni.

I would never have imagined that you were 40 years old, literally, “…that you had 40 years”.

  • After a phrase in the past tense + affinché (so that) to talk about an objective.

Betty ha riunito riunire, passato prossimo tutti affinché potesse potere, congiuntivo imperfetto parlare del suo piano.

Betty gathered everyone together so that she could talk about her plan.

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