Italian Impersonal Form

In the previous lessons we learned about comparatives and superlatives and how to compare things, as well as articles, nouns, adjectives, pronouns and adverbs. Now we move on the impersonal form, which is used to express general actions that are common to everyone.

La Forma Impersonale | (Impersonal Form)

Whenever we want to express general actions that are common to everyone, we can use the impersonal form. In Italian, all verbs have the impersonal forms – both transitive and intransitive ones. Bases on the context, we can use the following constructions.
  • si or uno + verb in 3rd person singular
For Example:
  • A Natale si mangia il panettone – (For Christmas you eat panettone)
  • Sul tram si viaggia o seduti o in piedi – (On the tram you ride sitting down or standing up)
  • A scuola si studiano tante materie diverse – (In school you study many different subjects)
  • In biblioteca uno parla a bassa voce – (In the library one speaks quietly)
  • A Venezia uno viaggia con la barca – (In Venice one travels by boat)
When we talk about the weather, we always use the impersonal form of the verb in 3rd person singular.
  • Domani diluvia, è meglio stare a casa – (Tomorrow it will pour, it’s better to stay home)
  • Oggi non nevica, ma piove – (Today it’s not snowing, but it’s raining)
  • In montagna fa freddo – (It’s cold on the mountain)
  • Fa freddo o fa caldo in primavera a Torino? – (Is it cold or hot in Turin in the spring?)
  • Martedì farà bello, possiamo andare in bici – (Tuesday will be nice, we can ride the bike)
  • Sabato prossime farà brutto – (Next Saturday will be bad weather)
  • Oggi c’è veramente caldo – (Today it’s really hot)
When using verbs like essere (to be), restare (to remain), sembrare (to seem), diventare (to become), we normally use a plural adjective. Si + essere/restare/sembrare/diventare (3rd singular person) + plural adjective
  • Quando si è stanchi, bisogna riposarsi – (When you are tired, you must rest)
  • Si resta esterrefatti dopo avere visto i fuochi d’artificio – (You remain awestruck after looking at fireworks)
  • Si sembra impazienti quando si è affamati – (You look impatient when you’re hungry)
  • Se ci si allena tanto, si diventa forti – (If you train a lot, you become strong)
Note that when using uno the singular adjective is using instead of the plural one.
  • Uno è stanco dopo aver corso una maratona – (One is tired after running a marathon)
  • Uno diventa matto se non dorme mai – (One becomes mad if one never sleeps)

Forma Impersonale Verbi Riflessivi | (Reflexive Verbs Impersonal Form)

When we use a reflexive verb with the impersonal form it changes slightly. Just like the regular form, we have two constructions.
  • Ci or uno + si + verb in 3rd person singular
For Example:
  • Allenarsi → ci si allena / uno si allena
    • Uno si allena per migliorarsi – (One trains to get better)
  • Alzarsi → ci si alza/ uno si alza
    • Ci si alza tutti insieme da tavola – (You get up form the table together)
  • Vestirsi → ci si veste/ uno si veste
    • Ai funerali ci si veste di nero – (At funerals you dress in black)
Keep in mind that the two forms are equivalent and the phrase will have the same meaning with both constructions.
  • La domenica sera ci si prepara per la settimana che viene = La domenica sera uno si prepara per la settimana che viene – (Sunday night one prepares for the coming week)

Forma Impersonale al Passato Prossimo | (Past Perfect Impersonal Form)

When using the impersonal form with the past perfect, it is important to know the auxiliary – essere or avere – the verb uses. This in fact will allow us to create the impersonal form correctly.

  • Si + è + Past Participle

With verbs that use avere as auxiliary (transitive verbs):

Infinite Form

Impersonal Form

Past Perfect Impersonal Form
leggeresi leggesi è letto
mangiaresi mangiasi è mangiato
scriveresi scrivesi è scritto
For Example:
  • Si è lettpoco sull’argomento – (Little was read on the topic)
  • Si è mangiatun sacco durante cena – (A lot was eaten during dinner)
  • Si è scritto molto su Giulio Cesare – (A lot was written on Julius Cesar)

With verbs that use essere as auxiliary (reflexive verbs, verbs of movement, verbs of state or change):

Infinite Form

Impersonal Form

Past Perfect Impersonal Form
andaresi vasi è andati/e
diventaresi diventasi è diventati/e
alzarsi (reflexive)ci si alzaci si è alzati/e

Don’t forget that when using verbs with essere auxiliary, the verbs need to agree with the subject, therefore they can be singular, plural, feminine or masculine.

For Example:
  • Si è andati/e per bar – ([We] had gone around bars)
  • Si è diventati/e esperti/e dopo il corso – ([We] had become experts after the course)
  • Ci si è alzati/e presto – ([We] had gotten up early)

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