table of content chapter 1818.3 The introductory verb requires the congiuntivo

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chapter 18: sequence of tenses

  18.3 The introductory verb requires the congiuntivo
 

If you speak Spanish you have to pay attention now because there are important differences between Spanish and Italian.

1) A future from the point of view of the past is expressed in Spanish with the condizionale I, but in Italian with the condizionale II.

El dijo que ella vendría.
Lui disse che lei sarebbe venuta.
He said that she would come.

2) But that's not the only difference. If the introductory verb requires the subjuntivo / subjonctif there is no difference in Spanish and French between simultanity and posteriority. In both cases the imperfetto di congiuntivo is used (imperfecto de subjuntivo / imparfait subjonctif).

El creía / creyó que ella viniera.
He believed that she would come.

(I someone wants to make a distinction, something that actually nobody does in Spanish, a construction with estar + gerundio is possible, but this is only a theoretical option.

El creía / creyó que ella estaba viniendo.
He believed that she was coming.)

In Italian we use the congiuntivo imperfetto for the simultanity.

Lui credeva / credette che lei venisse.
He believes that she came / was coming.

But if we want to describe an action / event in the future (a future seen from a point of view of the past) we can use the condizionale II as well. In this case, we have even a change of the mood. Instead of a congiuntivo we use a condizionale.

Lui credeva / credette che lei sarebbe venuta.

He believed that she would come.

3) We have already said that in French the passé composé is only a tense of the past if the passé simple is not used any more and the passé composé has assumed the functions of the passato remoto. That's NOT like that in Italian. The passato prossimo is considered always a tense of the past in the context of the sequence of tenses whether the passato remoto is used or not. About the rules to apply in this context we will discuss in the next chapters.

congiuntivo presente becomes congiuntivo imperfetto
  congiuntivo imperfetto remains congiuntivo imperfetto
  congiuntivo passato prossimo becomes congiuntivo trapassato prossimo

The fact that the introductory verb requires the congiuntivo doesn't change the logic behind. We have Maria who believes / believed (credere / to believe requires the CONGIUNTIVO in Italian and NOT the indicativo as in Spanish and French) something and Andrea reports / reported what Maria believes / believed. There is no difference between an introductory verb which requires the indicativo and a verb which requires the congiuntivo. In both cases the chronicle order is to be respected. Once again we have to distinguish between two situations.

Andrea I: Andrea tells in the present what Maria believed.

Andrea II: Andrea told in the past what Maria believed.

anteriority
Maria: Lui non è venuto.
  Andrea I: Maria crede che lui non sia venuto.
  Andrea I: Maria believes that he has not come.
  Andrea II: Maria credeva che lui non fosse venuto.
  Andrea II: Maria believed that he had not come.
simultanity
  Maria: Credo che lui non venga.
  Andrea I: Maria crede che lui non venga.
  Andrea I: Maria believes that he doesn' t come.
  Andrea II: Maria credeva che lui non venisse.
  Andrea II: Maria believed that he didn' t come.  
posteriority
  Maria: Credo che lui non verrà.
  Andrea I: Maria crede che lui non verrà.
  Andrea I: Maria believes that he will not come.
  Andrea II: Maria credeva che lui non sarebbe venuto.
  Andrea II: Maria believed that he would not come.

If you ever have thought about the sequence of tenses in Spanish or French you have already realized that neither in French nor in Spanish there is a difference between simultanity and posteriority if the introductory verb requires the subjunctive. In Italian you CAN use the congiuntivo in both cases, simultanity and posteriority, but if it is important to stress on the posteriority you can use the futuro I / condizionnale II as well.

introductory verb in the present: simultanity / posteriority
  Maria crede che lui non venga / verrà.
  introductory verb in the past: simultanity / posteriority
  Maria credeva che lui non venisse / sarebbe venuto.

In the reported speech as well as in the sequence of tenses the actions / events has to be presented in the right chronological order. If you see that an event moves one stage backwards if the introductory verb is in a past tense you understand that the tenses must be changed. To understand that is helpful. In grammar books you find in general a lot of rules which are be to be learned by heart. Perhaps it is easier to understand the reason of these rules. If you understand why and when the tenses must be modified you don't need to learn all these rules.

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