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Italian Conjunctions

Italian Part of Speech Connects Two Words, Sentences, or Phrases

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Italian conjunctions are invariable words that combine two or more words in a sentence or two or more clauses in a phrase. They can be of two types: coordinating conjunctions (congiunzioni coordinative) and subordinating conjunctions (congiunzioni subordinative).

Conjunctions transform into one sentence two or more phrases, and play a key role in the organization and articulation of speech. For example, the phrase: devo andare a Parigi e a Londra per lavoro is the result of a syntactic transformation of two phrases:

devo andare a Parigi per lavoro
devo andare a Londra per lavoro

which, joined by means of the conjunction e, become: devo andare a Parigi per lavoro e devo andare a Londra per lavoro

which becomes, with the merging of identical elements:

devo andare a Parigi e a Londra per lavoro

Italian Conjunction Types
Depending on the syntactic function they perform in the sentence, there are two types of conjunctions:

congiunzioni coordinative: join clauses or parts of syntactically equivalent clauses

congiunzioni subordinative: combine one dependent clause with another (known as the principle or independent clause), and therefore modify, complete, or clarify the meaning.

A coordinating conjunction is, for example, the e in the preceding sentence: devo andare a Parigi e a Londra per lavoro, where the elements brought together by the conjunction (a Parigi e a Londra) are equivalent from a syntactic point of view: both represent the complement of movement in a particular direction. In practice, "coordination" means to combine two syntactically homogeneous terms: two attributes of the same noun (una strada lunga e diritta), two subjects of the same verb (Sergio e Claudio scrivono), two verbs with the same subject (Sergio legge e scrive) two subordinate clauses of the same principal (verrò domani, se ci siete e non disturbo) and so on.

Examples of subordinating conjunctions are perché, quando, and se in the phrases: non esco perché piove; non esco quando piove; non esco se piove.

Here the main clause non esco is on a different level with respect to the subordinates perché / quando / se piove: the latter add a determinant (causal, termporal, conditional), and act like a "complement" to the main clause. What is clear, then, is the similarity between the subordinating conjunctions and the prepositions: the causal clause perché piove, introduced by the conjunction perché, is equivalent to a complement of cause per la pioggia, introduced by the preposition per.

[NOTE: Some linguists have proposed unifying the classes of conjunction and preposition under the name of giuntori (items that have the function of joining or connecting two parts, at any level) or segnali funzionali (elements whose value is to indicate the type of link between two parts).]

Putting aside questions about the sufficiency of the traditional classification system, the parts of speech in question can be classified as conjunctions when the prevailing function is linking two clauses, and as adverbs when the prevailing function is modification of a part.

Consider the following statement:

Sandra era una ragazza molto orgogliosa, che non sopportava di fare brutte figure. Quel giorno, però, non aveva potuto prepararsi come avrebbe voluto.
Sandra was a very proud girl, who could not tolerate a bad impression. That day, however, she was not able to get herself ready the way she wanted.

In this case, the conjunction però does not connect two clauses or two parts of a sentence, but two diverse phrases, whose relationship would not otherwise be clear. Conjunctions, therefore, can be considered connecting factors, a means of coupling and cohesion (also at the textual level).

Italian Conjunction Forms
With respect to their linguistic form, conjunctions are divided into:

  • semplici (simple), if they are formed by a single word such as: e, o, anche, ma, come, che,
  • composte (compound), if they are formed by two or more words joined together such as: eppure (e pure), oppure (o pure), neanche (ne anche), sebbene (se bene), allorché (allora che), nondimeno (non di meno), perché (per ché), perciò (per ciò), poiché (poi ché)
  • locuzioni congiuntive (subjunctive idioms), if they are comprised of multiple words written separately, such as: per il fatto che, di modo che, dal momento che, per la qual cosa, anche se, dal momento che, ogni volta che

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