Si impersonale

Some rules are generally known, and sometimes there are procedures to follow. Let's pretend you want to learn how to make pizza. You will likely look for a recipe and (if it is a good one!) you will have to read it in Italian. There are several ways to explain processes, or give indications in Italian, and one of these is the use of the impersonal si.


When do we use it? This structure comes really handy when you have to explain general rules or, as you've already read, procedures such as recipes. To give you a clear idea of what we are talking about, let's consider two different situations:

n°1 You have friends for dinner and after several months of studying Italian you want to show off a bit and make an authentic Italian pizza! You don't really trust bbc recipes and you decide to call one of your long distance relative from Italy. You start off with some small talks, but then you manage to get to the point and say :

Voglio preparare una pizza! Mi aiuti?
Certo! Allora si versa la farina in un contentitore, si aggiungono il sale e il lievito e dopo si versa l'acqua....

n°2 You got a job in Italy to teach English in a school. It's the first day with your new students but they seem not to care about what you are teaching and they are just looking at their phones. What to do? You remember that the principal told you about the school rules and not using phones in the classroom was right there! You are ready, you clap your hands and looking at them you just say in Italian :

Non si usa il telefono in classe!

The structure

The syntactic structure of this expression si fairly straight forward, you will simply need to use the particle 'si', followed by a Presente Indicativo verb in its 3rd person form (singular or plural). e.g. Si mangia, si beve, si dorme, si balla, etc.


SI + Present Tense (3rd Person)

The variable regards the use of the singular or plural form and that depends completely on the object you are referring to. Let's consider a recipe:

You are preparing a cake and you have to add an egg to the flour. An egg, in Italian, would be 'un uovo' and it is definitely a singular noun, therefore you would use the singular form that is : si aggiunge un uovo;

if you are making a frittata and you need to use four eggs you will have 'quattro uova', in this case the verb would follow the plural form : si usano quattro uova.


Now, whether the pizza you made was a complete disaster or your students kept looking at their phones the important thing is that you understood and explained rules and procedures in Italian! If you enjoyed this article consider joining our summer courses and follow us on Instagram to get our latest news and language tips!


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