Tutorial Transcript

Hi everyone and welcome back to my channel! To day we are talking about how to choose the auxiliary of "servile" verbs (aka helper or modal verbs), but we have to explain what servile verbs are in Italian and which ones they are! Now, the "servile" verbs in Italian are dovere potere volere sapere. They are called "servile" because they serve the verb that follows them. They give a specific meaning. Thus, they have the effect of changing the meaning of the verb in infinitive form that follows them. Let's look at an example. Let's take the verb "to swim", we'll conjugate it in the present indicative, "I swim". Perfect. The action of swimming; I swim. If I add the servile verbs, I swim or the action of swimming takes on different shades of meaning. If I say: I can swim, I have to swim, I want to swim. I know how to swim, any one of these four sentences expresses a different meaning. That of possibility with the verb "potere". That of obligation with the verb "dovere". That of desire with the verb "volere" and that of ability with the verb "sapere". We can use the "servile" verbs on their own too, so I can say: I can, I want, I have to, I know. But they are more frequently used in conjunction with a verb in its infinitive form. In the present tense and in general, "servile" verbs don't pose any problems, we conjugate them like normal verbs. The problem, "il problema (masc.)" arises when on the other hand we use these "servile" verbs in composite tenses. Why? Because with compound tenses, the verbs "essere" and "avere" come into play (to be and to have). And so the question is: which one must I choose? To choose the auxiliary in a compound tense in which there's a "servile" verb, I mustn't look at the "servile" verb, I have to look at the verb in its infinitive form. Because the infinitive verb is the key to understanding which auxiliary to use. If I say "I was able to go", why do I use "essere" as the auxiliary? Because the verb in its infinitive form is "andare", and "andare" is an intransitive verb of movement and it's most correct to therefore use "essere" as the auxiliary. Let's now do an example with "guardare", which usually needs "avere". "I had to watch". "L'Accademia della Crusca" helps us in this because, what does L'Accademia della Crusca" say? So I'll quote verbatim, I'll read the article to which I'll leave you the link in the video's description. "If one chooses the auxiliary of the verb modified by the "servile" verb, one can never go wrong." Example: "ha dovuto mangiare" (had to eat), like "ha mangiato" (has eaten --> avere as aux.); "è dovuto partire" (had to leave), like "è partito" (has left --> essere as aux.). So, if we choose the auxliary based on the verb in its infinitive form, we will never go wrong. OK, so if there's an intransitive verb that needs "essere", we use "essere". If there's a transitive verb that needs "avere", we use "avere". The only exception is the verb "essere". If the verb in its infinitive form is "essere", we are obligated to use the verb "avere" as auxiliary. I'll give you some examples: "ho voluto essere gentile" (I wanted to be nice --> avere as aux.) "ho saputo essere gentile"(I knew how to be nice --> avere as aux.) when the verb "essere" is the verb in its infinitive form, for the auxliary verb we are obligated to use "avere". In the spoken language you will hear some constructions that don't follow the rules that we have just explained, because you could hear someone say "ho potuto andare" instead of "sono pototo o son potuta andare"; it's an accepted construction, but the fact is that just because it's accepted doesn't mean it's correct. "L'Accademia della Crusca" in fact also says that "ho potuto andare" is accepted but is not at all correct, like I was telling you before. Always follow the rules, follow the reasoning: intransitive verb --> essere, transitive verb --> avere and you'll never go wrong! So I'll leave you the link in the description of the video so that you can go and read this comment of the "Accademia della Crusca" and if you go to read this comment you'll also notice that it talks about another important element: That in which a pronominal form is presented in the construction. If the pronoun comes before the "servile" verb, then we use the auxiliary "essere", for example: "I wasn't able to get away" (e.g. take leave from work), "non mi sono potuto assentare" (w/ essere as aux.). If on the other hand the pronoun is placed after the "servile" verb, then we use "avere" as auxiliary: (same meaning, but pronoun is attached to the verb --> assentarmi). "no ho potuto assentarmi" (w/ avere as aux.) "Assentarsi" is a reflexive verb, it's for this reason that we have a pronominal form in the construction. Let's do another example: "Svegliarsi", since maybe you're more familiar with this verb. "I wanted to get up early" (w/ essere as aux.), the reflexive pronoun comes before the "servile" verb. "ho voluto svegliarmi presto" (same meaning, but pronoun is attached to the verb --> avere as aux.") I put the reflexive pronoun after the "servile" verb. I personally prefer to use the sentence with "essere" as auxiliary, specifically because reflexive verbs in compound tenses need "essere" as an auxiliary. OK, that's a thing to reflect upon, but I don't want to bite off more than we can chew ("put too much meat on the fire"). That's why I'll stop here for today. And of course if you have any questions, always leave them in the comments here below. I hope my explanation is clear enough. And thanks again for having watched this video and we'll see each other in the next one. See you soon, bye!