[almost] Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Andare* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

The Italian language is definitely not democratic. You've got mascunilist choices when you use the plural form for groups and some verbs that are more important than others. One of these verbs is 'andare', an almost omnipresent feature in Italian conversations.

The verb 'andare' is commonly translated as 'to go' but its use can vary and express a huge assortment of actions and meaning. Try to consider expressions such as

'come va?', 'vai via!', or 'non mi va'

From a grammatical perspective, we've got two 'va' - present tense (indicativo) 3rd singular person - and 'vai' - imperative 2nd person singular; one question, one positive statement, and a negative one.

The meaning

The first sentence ('come va?') is a general question - In English, a good translation would be 'how is it going?' - but the literary meaning of movement contained in the verb it's not actually used, just as in English it is more of an abstraction of the concept - 'how's it going with your life, mate? - . With 'Vai via!' the situation is completely different, you are shouting to someone, and you want that movement. The idea, or even better the command, expressed by the verb foreseen an actual movement of the person you are talking to - get out of here! -. In the third expression, the verb andare seems to be completely off, if you think of it a possible translation would be 'I don't feel like it...', but why?

As with many other elements in languages we don't have any certainty about the evolution of this verb but we can make some hypotheses. Looking at its etymology, one of the most plausible options would be 'adeo' (Lat.), an ancient Latin verb that expressed the idea of movement. Between the meanings of 'adeo' we can find, in the passive use, the idea of accessibility to a place and with a bit of fantasy we might consider that 'non mi va' could be a modern mutation of something like 'this option is not accessible to me, therefore I don't feel like!'.


This lovely verb that belongs to the first coniugazione (-are), is also irregular, it goes from 'andare' (infinitive) to 'vado' (1st person singular Presente Indicativo) to 'andiamo' (1st person plural Presente indicativo). While this might seem highly confusing there's a consistency in its irregularity :

Looking at the whole coniugazione of the present tense (indicativo) you will notice that the root of the verb 'and -' is used in the 1st and 2nd person plural (noi / voi) but it changes completely in the others.

This behaviour is similar to other verbs that you already know, think, for instance, of the verb 'sapere' ('to know') and you will see that the coniugazione will follow the same pattern. If you are wondering why the root of verb changes from 'and-' to 'vad- / va ' it's probably because at the beginning the verb 'adeo' was used at the same time of another Latin verb 'vado', at some point in the history, these two verbs with the same meaning crossed their paths and they became what we know today as the verb 'andare'

Once again, languages do act unpredictably but generally, they have reasons to do so!

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