TOP 10 Italian Mistakes – #8 – PRONOUNCING VERBS (Present Tense)

By Manu Venditti | Advanced

Nov 01

Italian Verbs: Pronouncing them right! (Present Tense)

One of the essential aspects of being able to speak Italian correctly is being able to conjugate verbs right.
You probably are doing that right, but are you pronouncing those verbs correctly?

Many English speakers don’t, usually when it comes to the Present Tense of verbs with LORO (they) as the subject.

The standard endings for regular verbs for the LORO subject (in the present tense) are:
– ANO (for -ARE verbs)
– ONO (for -ERE and -IRE verbs)
A common mistake when pronouncing these verbs is to stress the ending (Ano or Ono).
This is ALWAYS incorrect.

For example:
LORO PARLANO ITALIANO (they speak Italian)

The stress is NOT on “parlAno” but on “pArlano”

LORO GIOCANO A CALCIO (they play soccer)

The stress is NOT on “giocAno” but on “giOcano”.

LORO NON STUDIANO MOLTO (they are not studying much)
Stress is on “stUdiano”

LORO NON PRENDONO NIENTE (they are not ordering anything)
Stress is on “prEndono”


RULE: The stress for regular verbs in the present tense for the LORO subject is NEVER on the ending. It’s somewhere before.


So where is the stress?

For short verbs this is fairly easy.

If the stress is NOT on the ending, then it’s got to be on the other syllable!

PARLANO -> PARLANO
GIOCANO -> GIOCANO
STUDIANO -> STUDIANO
PRENDONO -> PRENDONO

For long verbs, it’s a bit tricky. In most cases you have to have heard a native Italian pronounce it before you can get it right.

But there is a trick! 

If you know (or can guess) how to pronounce the IO version of the verb (with “I” as the subject), then you can confidently guess the LORO version.

The LORO version stresses the same syllable as the IO version. 

And the IO version is usually more “instinctive” to guess!


For example, the verb TELEFONARE (to telephone) ends up being quite long when conjugated in the LORO version:

LORO TELEFONANO

Five syllables!! Which one do you stress?

Well, you know now that you will NEVER stress the ANO part of the verb.
But you are still left with 3 syllables: TE – TE – FO

Can you say “I telephone” correctly?
Maybe you can! Try!

IO TELEFONO -> the stress is on the LE -> TELEFONO

The LORO version will also stress the LE -> LORO TELEFONANO

There are 3 more syllables after the one we stressed!
This means that the only way to pronounce this correctly and at the right speed is for you to speed up and kinda mumble the end of the verb!


Try my Pronunciation course: “Speak Italian Like an Italiano”


Let’s try the verb DESIDERARE (to desire).

LORO DESIDERANO

We don’t stress the ANO part of the verb, so we are left with 3 syllables: DE – SI – DE

Can you say “I desire” correctly?

IO DESIDERO -> the stress is on the SI -> DESIDERO

The LORO version will also stress the SI -> LORO DESIDERANO

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