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  6.3 Conjugation of the modal verbs

All the verbs we have seen until now were main verbs, they describe an action. The verb 'to speak' for instance for instance is a main verb. About someone who speaks we know that he doesn't open his mouth to respire like a fish, but to inform us about the results of the activity of his brain. Modal verbs don't describe an action, but the circumstances in which an action is executed.

He has to read the book. => He has no alternative, because there is an institution powerfull enough to constrain him.
He want to read the book. => Nobody compels him to read the book, he wants to read the book.

It is obvious that the circumstances in which the action is executed are different in these sentences. There are differences in the use of the modal verbs between English and Italian, but for the moment we are not interested in analysing them, we are going to do that later. For the moment we only want to know, how to conjugate them. All modal verbs are very irregular in Italian.

potere => can
posso I can
puoi you can
p he can
p she can
possiamo we can
potete you can
possono they can

volere => want
voglio I want
vuoi you want
vuole he want
vuole she want
vogliamo we want
volete you want
vogliono they want

dovere => must
devo I must
devi you must
deve he must
deve she must
dobbiamo we must
dovete you must
devono they must

Io devo leggere il libro.
I have to read the book.
Tu puoi scrivere la lettera.
You can write the letter.
Lui vuole bere una birra.
He wants to drink a beer.
Voi potete andare a casa.
You can go home.
Loro devono lavorare.
They have to work.
Loro vogliono dormire.
They want to sleep.
Voi potete andare a dormire.
You can go to sleep.

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