Home Language HacksItalian ITALIAN MODAL VERBS: How to Cheat Your Way to Fluency in Italian

ITALIAN MODAL VERBS: How to Cheat Your Way to Fluency in Italian

Want to speak Italian faster? Steal this secret formula to unlock your Italian with just 3 Italian modal verbs

by Michele
0 comment
Italian Modal Verbs - How to use Dovere, Potere, Volere
The Intrepid Guide contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I will earn a commission which helps reduce the ever-increasing costs of keeping this site active. Thank you for your support.

I get it! You’re impatient to learn Italian fast. You want to start speaking now and not spend years with your head buried in a dictionary or textbook. I’ve taught you about the top most common Italian verbs and how to conjugate Italian verbs. But, while I broke everything down into simple steps, it’s only natural that it will take you some time and lots of practice to become quicker and more confident.

But, what if I told you there was a shortcut!

Do you want an even quicker way to construct sentences in Italian without remembering how to conjugate all those regular and irregular verbs?

In this guide I’ll teach you the one thing that will have you speaking more and conjugating less!

Before we get started, make sure you download your FREE cheat-sheet for this lesson which includes all the rules and examples you’ll see here. Just enter your email below and I’ll sent it to you straight away. Before you go, test yourself with the multiple-choice quiz at the end of this lesson.

Keep practising!
Get my Italian Modal Verbs Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide on how to cheat your way to fluency with Italian modal verbs. Includes example sentences. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

Cominciamo! (Let’s begin!)

How to use Italian Modal Verbs: DOVERE, POTERE & VOLERE

This is where the magic happens! By following this method you’ll be able to speak Italian sooner than you thought! All you need to do is learn how to conjugate three very powerful and versatile verbs. These are called modal verbs.

The Formula

Italian Modal Verbs - How to use modal verbs - The FormulaModal verbs in Italian allow you to construct a sentence by placing an infinitive verb after any one of the three modal verbs. This means you won’t have to worry about remembering how to conjugate hundreds of different verbs. Amazing, right?

The formula looks like this: Conjugated Modal Verb + Infinitive Verb

Modal Verbs in Italian

Italian Modal Verbs - 3 modal verbs in Italian - Dovere, Potere, VolereThe three modal verbs are:

  • potere – can, be able to, may
  • volere – to want, to want to
  • dovere must, have to, owe

All three modal verbs have irregularities so you will need to learn them individually, but once you do, you’ll be able to form all sorts of sentences on your own!

Let’s give it a try! Let’s look at how to conjugate these modal verbs in the present tense.

How to conjugate potere

Italian Modal Verbs - How to conjugate PotereThe conjugation of potere to be able to’, ‘can’, ‘may’ is:

  • io posso – I can
  • tu puoi – you can
  • Lei/lui/lei può – You (formal)/he/she can
  • noi possiamo – we can
  • voi potete – you can
  • loro possono – they can

How to use potere

By using the modal verb formula Conjugated Modal Verb + Infinitive Verb you can create the following sentences.

  • Puoi venire al cinema stasera? – Can you come to the cinema tonight?
  • No, non posso venire / No, non possoNo, I can’t come / No, I can’t

Notice how the person in question is not expressing the idea that they don’t want to go to the cinema but instead that they are unable to.

Potere can also be used to politely ask a question:

  • Posso avere un bicchiere d’acqua, per favore? – May I have a glass of water, please?
  • Mi puoi aiutare? – Could you help me?

Notice how in these cases potere means may or could.

Furthermore, potere can also be used to ask permission.

When pointing to a seat you can simply ask: Posso? (May I?) meaning ‘May I please sit here?’

  • Posso usare la tua macchina stasera? – May I use your car tonight?
  • Le possiamo offrire qualcosa da bere? – May we offer you [formal] something to drink?

See how much you can say with just this one tense alone? Let’s keep going!

How to conjugate volere

Italian Modal Verbs - How to conjugate Volere

Volere means ‘want’, or ‘want to’ and is conjugated as follows:

  • io voglio – I want
  • tu vuoi – you want
  • Lei/lui/lei vuole – You (formal)/he/she want(s)
  • noi vogliamo – we want
  • voi volete – you want
  • loro vogliono – they want

How to use volere

Volere can be used on its own as either a question or declaration. Here are some examples:

  • Voglio un caffè – I want a coffee
  • Volete un cornetto? – Do you want a croissant?

Or it can be followed by an infinitive to express a desire:

  • Voglio andare in spiaggia! – I want to go to the beach!
  • Vogliamo vivere su un’isola – We want to live on an island

How to conjugate dovere

Italian Modal Verbs - How to conjugate DovereLast but not least we have the verb dovere meaningto have to’, ‘ought to’, or ‘must’. It can also mean ‘to owe’. This verb is conjugated as follows:

  • io devo – I must
  • tu devi – you must
  • Lei/lui/lei deve – You (formal)/he/she must
  • noi dobbiamo – we must
  • voi dovete – you must
  • loro devono – they must

How to use dovere

The verb dovere can be used on its own to express a sense of owing something to someone, for example:

  • Ti devo un caffè – I owe you a coffee
  • Luca mi deve dei soldi – Luca owes me money

Alternatively, by using the verb restituire (give back, pay back, return) you can say:

  • Luca mi deve restituire dei soldi – Luca must pay me back the money

In order to express a requirement such as ‘must’ and ‘have to’, dovere is followed by the infinitive verb.

  • Dobbiamo andare all’aeroporto – We have to go to the airport
  • Dovete studiareYou must study

Dovere can also express an obligation such as:

  • Devi rispettare le leggi – You must respect/abide by the laws

Or to give advice or suggestions:

  • Per dimagrire devi fare esercizio fisico – In order to lose weight you have to do physical exercise

Italian Modal Verbs - Conjugated in present tense

Creating Negative Sentences with modal verbs in italian

Italian Modal Verbs - How to create negative sentencesTo create a negation in a sentence we place non (don’t) at the start of the sentence. For example:

  • Non voglio discutereI don’t want to argue
  • Non possiamo venireWe can’t come
  • Non dovete aspettareYou don’t have to wait

By using potere, volere, and dovere, you can now ask other people if they are able, willing or have to do something.

As you can see, modal verbs can help you form sentences quickly as they don’t require you to learn the conjugations for every Italian verb.This means you can start speaking sooner and enjoy using the beautiful Italian language. You can use these verbs to talk to your partner, relatives and even order your meal during your next trip to Italy.

You can also combine these verbs with the most useful and common Italian verbs. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Modal verb (1st person singular)   Verb (infinitive) Translation
+ parlare to speak, to talk
finire to finish, to stop
partire to depart, to leave
andare to go
lavorare to work
giocare to play
venire to come
comprare to buy
mangiare to eat
leggere to read

Here are some example sentences using these Italian modal verbs:


  • Può portare questo per me? (Can you carry this for me?)
  • Vuole andare a Firenze domani? (Do you want to go to Florence tomorrow?)
  • Deve partire? Mi dispiace. (Do you have to leave? I’m sorry.)


  • Puoi finire questo per me? (Can you finish this for me?)
  • Vuoi comprare questo? (Do you want to buy this?)
  • Devi andare a Roma? (Do you have to go to Rome?)

To keep practicing, don’t forget to download your free cheat-sheet for this lesson.

Don’t stop your learning here! Start using these modal verbs with Italian question words. This is powerful stuff!

If you found this lesson powerful, then you’ll love Intrepid Italian, my series of online self-paced video courses that break down everything you need to know about Italian using my 80/20 method. Visit IntrepidItalian.com for more details.

Keep practising!
Get my Italian Modal Verbs Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide on how to cheat your way to fluency with Italian modal verbs. Includes example sentences. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

How well do you know your Italian modal verbs? Take the quiz!

Before leaving, here’s a quiz for you to actively practice what you’ve learned so far. It might seem tricky at first, but with a proper study method and the right amount of practice, knowing how to master these powerful modal verbs in Italian will be un gioco da ragazzi (a no-brainer)!

Choose the most appropriate verb to complete the sentence.

Intrepid Italian - Learn with my 80/20 methodAre you a beginner or an intermediate Italian learner? Got a trip coming up or want to communicate with your Italian partner or relatives in Italian? Learn Italian with my unique 80/20 method

Registrations are now open to join Intrepid Italian, my new series of online video courses that use my unique 80/20 method. You’ll go from a shy, confused beginner to a proficient and confident intermediate speaker, with me as your trusty guide.

You’ll finally be able to connect with your Italian partner, speak to your relatives and enjoy authentic travel experiences in Italy that you’ve always dreamed of, and so much more.

As a native English speaker who learned Italian as an adult, I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and lack the confidence to speak. I know what it’s like to start from scratch and to even go back to absolute basics and learn what a verb is!

Intrepid Italian was created with YOU in mind. I use my working knowledge of the English language to help you get into the ‘Italian mindset’ so you can avoid the common pitfalls and errors English speakers make – because I made them once too! I break everything down in such a way that it ‘clicks’ and just makes sense.

No matter what your level is, there is an Intrepid Italian course for you, including:

You can join 1, 2, or all 3 courses, it’s entirely up to you. The best part is that you have lifetime access so you learn anytime, anywhere and on any device.

As your guide, I walk you through each lesson, step-by-step, using my unique 80/20 method. My approach is different from traditional methods because I teach you the most important 20% of the language right from the beginning so you can start to speak straight away.

Each course includes video lessons, audio exercises, downloadable worksheets, bonus guides, a private support community, and lifetime access all designed to streamline your learning while having fun.

It even comes with my famous “Celebrate with a Spritz Guarantee”. After 30 days of using Intrepid Italian, if you don’t want to celebrate your new-found Italian skills with an Aperol Spritz, you don’t have to pay a penny! Cheers! 🥂
Join Intrepid Italian here and start learning today!
Ci vediamo lì! (See you there!)

Learning Italian? Check out these Italian language guides

Like it? Pin it for later!

Italian Modal Verbs - Cheat your way to fluency (Plus PDF Cheat-Sheet & Quiz)

Over to you!

Which of these verbs did you find the most useful? What else would you add? Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media @intrepidguide or @intrepiditalianto start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Like what you see? Subscribe using the form below to have all of my posts delivered directly to your email.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.