table of content chapter 1818.2.1 sequence of tenses - introductory verb in a present tense

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chapter 18: sequence of tenses

  18.2.1 sequence of tenses in Italian if the introductory verb is in a present tense
 

Even in the case that the introductory verb is in a present tense (presente, futuro, condizionale I) the actions / events have to be aligned in the right order on the timeline, but in this case there is no change required. Let's explain it with an example. On Monday John breaks his leg, on Thursday Maria fears that John broke his leg and on Thursday as well Roberto thinks / tells what Maria fears.

Roberto says / thinks on Thursday:

Maria fears that John broke his leg.

In this case John an Maria are in the same period of time, Thursday, and so no adaption of the tenses is necessary. The time when Maria fears that John broke his leg is the anchor for the action in the subordinate clause, but that doesn't make any difference because Roberto is in the same period. If we change the situation an adaption of the tenses is necessary. If Roberto thinks / tells on Friday what Maria thought on Thursday an adaption of the tenses is needed.

Roberto says / thinks on Friday:

Maria feared that John had broken his leg.

In this case, in other words if the introductory verb is in the past, the person who imgagined / told an action or event is not in the same period of time as the person who images / tells what the other person imagined / told and therefore an adaption of the tenses is needed in order to respect the alignment of the events / actions on the timeline.

The events / actions can happen before, at the same time or after they had been imagined / told. We will see, if the compare the two table that there is no difference between reported speech and the sequence of tences in general. What you find explained in grammar books in the chapter direct speech is only a special case of the sequence of tenses.

The event / action happens in the present and is told in the present
Lui dice: "Compro il pane."
  Lui dice che compra il pane.
  He says: "Ich kaufe Brot."
  He says that he buys bread.
The event / action happened in the past and is told in the present
Lui dice:"Ho comprato il pane."
  Lui dice che ha comprato il pane.
  He says:"I have bought bread."
  He says that he has bought bread.
The event / action will happen in the future and is told in the present
  Lui dice: "Comprerò il pane."
  Lui dice che comprerà il pane.
  He says: "I am going to buy bread."
  He says that he is going to buy bread.

As it is shown by these examples an adaptation of the tenses is not needed, when the introductory verb is in a present tense. The only thing to be eventually changed is the person / number of the verb, the adverbs and pronouns.

It is crucial to see that someone imagines / tells what someone else imagines or thinks and that in the case that the introductory verb that describes the way something is told / imagined (to tell, to speak, to report, to inform, to believe etc.) is in a present tense both (the person who tells something and the person who tells what the other person tells) are in the same period of time and therefore there is no adaptation of the tenses needed.

It is exactly the same thing in the case that the introductory verb describes some kind of imagination (to hope, to think, to believe, etc.). The only problem we have in this case is the fact that some verbs which describe an imagination requires the congiuntivo. We are going to talk about that later.

The event / action happens in the present and is imagined in the present
Mario: So che Andrea non viene.
  Lui (Mario) sa che Andrea non viene.
  Mario: I know, that Andrea doesn' t come.
  He knows, that Andrea doesn' t come.
The event / action happened in the past and is imagined in the present
  Mario: So che Andrea non è venuto.*
  Lui (Mario) sa che Andrea non è venuto.
  Mario: I know that Andrea didn' t come.
  He knows, that Andrea didn' t come.
The event / action will happen in the future and is imagined in the present
Mario: So che Andrea non verrà.
  Lui (Mario) sa che Andrea non verrà.
  Mario:I know that Andrea is not going to come.
  He knows, that Andrea is not going to come.

* Andrea in Italian is a masculine name. Therefore, it is venuto and not venuta.

We will talk about that later again. But the situation changes, if the introductory verb is in the past. If Mario got informed in the past that Andrea wouldn't come the verb that describes the type of imagination is in the past. The report of the imagination and the imagination itself doesn't occur in this case at the same moment and therefore the tenses have to be adapted.

Mario thought in the past
  Mario: So che Andrea non verrà.
Enrique tells, what Mario has thought in the past
  Lui sapeva che Andrea non sarebbe venuto.

The tenses need to be adapted. The anchor is the time where Mario thought it and from his perspective the action is going to happen in the future (view from the past). A future from the past is described with the condizionale II (sarebbe venuto). (This as well is a big difference between Italian and Spanisch / French.) An action that is going to happen in the future from a point of view of the past is described in the CONDIZIONALE II and NOT in the CONDIZIONALE I. We will talk about that again later.
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