Modal verbs: Volere, Potere, Dovere, Sapere
February 29, 2016
Unfortunately not all verbs in Italian are regular. Some have a different conjugation. This is true for the modal verbs ‘volere’, ‘potere’, ‘dovere’ and ‘sapere’.
These verbs are usually followed by another verb in the infinitive.
Volere – to want
ex: Volete mangiare al ristorante con noi? (Do you want to eat at the restaurant with us?)
Potere – can / be allowed to
ex: Lucia può uscire con me domani (Lucia can/is allowed to go out with me tomorrow)
Dovere – must / have to
ex: Gli studenti devono studiare molto a casa (Students must /have to study a lot at home)
Sapere – to know (to know how to do something)
ex: Io so nuotare, e tu? (I can/know how to swim, and you?)
Sometimes it's difficult to know when to use ‘potere’ or ‘sapere’. The distinction is based on physical ability, or on the distinction between permission and knowledge:
Puoi telefonare al ristorante per prenotare? (Can you call the restaurant to book?)
Puoi dormire da me domani? (Can you sleep over at my place tomorrow?)
Sai giocare a tennis? (Can you play tennis?)
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