If you’ve learnt a foreign language before, the thought of learning Italian future tenses can feel daunting, since many languages have complicated, exhausting rules on talking about something two weeks from now.
Luckily, Italian isn’t one of them. The Italian future tenses do come with some memorising and some exceptions. But those are few and almost entirely logical. So once you can remember the cases where different rules apply, the rest will be a piece of cake.
To get right to it: there are two kinds of future. There's the simple future which, as its name suggests, is simply used when something is in the future. Then there is the future perfect, which is a tiny bit more complex. This is the I-will-have-done type of future.
The good news is that you can make yourself understood perfectly well in Italian without the future perfect. So it can be skipped if you’re not feeling ready for it. You can always come back to it later when you’re more comfortable with the first future tense.
As you'll see, you can get started with the Italian future tenses quickly as the rules are straightforward for the most part. So by the end of this post, you'll be all set to talk about upcoming events and make future plans with your Italian buddies!
By the way, if you're getting started in Italian and want to make progress fast without the grammar headaches, I recommend Italian Uncovered, my story-based beginner course that will teach you the essentials of Italian through a page-turning tale.
Now, the three verb conjugations in Italian are: -are, -ere and -ire. All basic forms of verbs end on one of these three letter combinations:
While in English, when you want to say that you’ll be doing something in the future, you’d put words like “will” or “shall” in front of a verb, in Italian, you change the ending of the word.
For example, in the future:
To make the future of regular verbs that end in either -are or -ere, you just take the stem of the word, basically the part before the -are or -ere, and add one of these instead:
Like in the case of:
prendere (to take)
You’ll say, when talking about yourself in the future:
*this is a pasta dish with a sauce made of raw eggs, parmigiano or pecorino, guanciale or pancetta, and pepper. It does not ever contain cream in Italy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you want to say to your friend that he or she will take something, or ask them if they will, prendere will end -erai:
In the case of “he” or “she”, or the formal “you” that’s missing from the English language, the word will end in -erà, like this:
Here, too, this will be the form for a question, as well, provided of course that you are asking a third person. If you and a group of people (or even just one more person, really) are telling someone else that you’ll take something, the verb will end in -eremo:
If instead you want to tell, or to ask a group if they’ll take something, the end will be -erete, as in:
*Voi can be used as a formal You, just like Lei. This is something like thou/thee in old English.
And finally, if you want to tell someone that a group will take something, it’ll be -eranno:
*A bus can also, especially in the north of Italy, be referred to as pullman, which is a brand of busses. So it’s like Hoover for a vacuum cleaner.
One thing to note is that the final e at the end of verbs that end in -ere often disappears, so that potere (meaning “to be able” in its verb form — as a noun it means “power” or, more similarly, “ability”) becomes:
To make the future of verbs that end in -ire, you take the part before that and substitute one of these endings:
Let’s take partire (to leave) as the example:
Some verbs don’t have a vowel before the r of the future ending.
The endings for those words will be: -rò, -rai, -rà, -remo, -rete, -ranno, so all the time but for the letter “i” missing in the beginning.
This will be the case with words like with andare, dire or fare.
Let’s look at the case of andare:
Verbs that end in -care and -gare, such as pagare (to pay) cercare (to seek), and spiegare (to explain) add an h before the future ending in the future. Like here:
Verbs that end in -ciare and -giare, for example, parcheggiare (to park[a car]), cominciare (to begin), mangiare (to eat) and viaggiare (to travel) drop the letter “i” from the stem when in the future tense.
And then, there’s the main catch: some verbs are irregular. But you might be used to some of these from their present time forms, and there are irregular verbs in English as well: “to be” becomes I am, you are, she is, they will be…
There aren’t too many of these in Italian, and even the irregular ones aren’t all that difficult to get your head around. Many verbs are only “irregular” in that they simply skip over the vowel before the r in the end.
But then, some are a tiny bit more challenging. Like in the example above, essere, (to be) or io sono (I am) which is already quite a jump from its original form, becomes:
Tu sei turns into:
In the third person, “he/she is” is transformed into:
Sometimes, verbs are irregular due to a pesky little double r. This is the case with tenere (to hold or keep), venire (to come) and volere (to want), among others.
Let’s look at the case of tenere, which can be used as a template for the other words:
tenere (to hold, to keep):
These are the main irregular verbs that you’ll come across when first starting out.
The other future tense to worry about in Italian is the future perfect.
This talks about a future that will be in the past, or less complicatedly, it says that something will have happened.
It is not difficult to get your head around if you’re familiar with the past tense:
*you may have seen avremmo spelled with two m’s — this means would have instead of will have.
This tense can be used in a speculative way, as well:
*You could, and people sometimes do, say “he’ll have moved somewhere” English and mean the same thing.
You can always substitute sentences like this for the easy present tense version, as in forse ha cambiato casa, or “maybe he has moved” and achieve the same result.
In Italian, you can also use the future tense to talk about things that aren’t in the future.
To express that you’re guessing at something, for example, such as:
Meaning “she must be around twenty.”
Meaning “it should be around 100 miles.”
You could also ask the question:
And mean “Where could he/she/it be?”
And someone could answer:
Also, you can speculate about the reason for something, like this:
But thankfully, you can also do a lot of talking about the future in Italian without actually using the future tense.
To give you an example:
(you could also say it this way: domani andrò a ballare)
meaning “on Friday I’ll go to town”. More formally, you’d say venerdi farò un giro in città.
In English, you can say “the holiday starts tomorrow” just the same. But in Italian, you can use it in more cases, such as when ordering.
You wouldn’t, in English, say “I take a coffee” while in Italian, prendo un espresso is perfectly correct, and using the future tense here would even sound odd.
Unlike in English, though, it’s customary to use the future tense when the word when, quando, comes up in Italian.
So “I will call you when I am by/near your house” becomes:
But, in informal language like talking to a friend, you can use the present just as much, and “ti chiamo quando sono sotto casa tua” is perfectly fine to do if the context is clear.
Note that also unlike in English, both parts of a correct Italian sentence can be in the future tense.
Let's take the previous example:
All of these “workarounds” may sound like they are meant for people who don’t speak Italian fluently. But that’s not he case at all – Italians themselves will avoid using the future tenses where possible, especially in casual conversation.
One such common alternative is the use of the word dopo or “later”:
So the future isn’t a necessity. But it is an important part of being able to express yourself clearly and comfortably. And isn't that what we all want at the end of the day?
Although it can be a bit daunting when you're faced with all these different conjugations and exceptions, the Italian future tenses aren't all that tricky. So it's time to get your nose out of the grammar books and into real life.
In fact, the best thing you can do now is get plenty of exposure to Italian through reading Italian books or listening to Italian podcasts or watching Italian movies. That way, you'll get to see the Italian future tenses in action. And before you know it, they'll become second nature.
That's how I learned Italian in 3 months while living in London. Instead of stressing out about grammar and spending all my time with my head in a textbook, I focused on making daily contact with the language through interesting content: blog posts, podcasts, books. Whatever interested me and whatever I could get my hands on.
And that's the method I also teach in Italian Uncovered where you learn Italian through reading a compelling story designed for beginners. You start with the story and immersing yourself in the language.
And then, as you read through it, you learn the essential grammar and vocabulary you need to reach a conversational level in the language. So if you're sick of grammar exercises and vocabulary lists, make sure you check out Italian Uncovered here.
Right then, over to you. Let me know in the comments below – are you feeling more confident about using the Italian future tenses now? Are there any other aspects of Italian grammar you find difficult?