Using the subjunctive to express probability

We can use the following phrases to express probability. They are all followed by the subjunctive:

  • Può essere / può darsi (it may be) + che (that)

Può essere che lui sia già arrivato a casa. arrivare, congiuntivo passato

It may be that he has already arrived home.

Può darsi che Francesco ti abbia già chiamato. chiamare, congiuntivo passato

Perhaps Francesco has already called you.

  • Si pensa (it is thought) / si immagina (it is supposed) + che (that), which is impersonal; or a conjugated form of pensare (to think) / immaginare (to suppose) + che (that), if we want to specify who is doing the thinking. Note that we would most naturally translate the impersonal si into English using a specific personal pronoun.

Si pensa che loro giochino a calcio ora. giocare, congiuntivo presente

I suppose they are playing soccer now (literally: “It is thought that they are playing soccer now”).

Immaginiamo che voi siate stanchi. essere, congiuntivo presente

We imagine you are tired.

  • Certain expressions such as: è presumibile che (it's likely that) or non è detto che… (it's not a given that…).

È presumibile che Mario atterri questa sera. atterrare, congiuntivo presente

It's likely that Mario will land this evening.

Non è detto che Lucia compri la casa in montagna. comprare, congiuntivo presente

Lucia isn't necessarily buying the house in the mountains.

Note: these expressions can also be followed by the future tense, but only when referring to something that will happen in the future.

Si pensa che Alberto prenoterà le vacanze a giugno. prenotare, futuro

We reckon that Alberto will book the vacation in June (literally: “It is thought that Alberto will book…”).

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