Mastering Subordinate Clauses in Italian Grammar

Subordinate clauses are an essential part of Italian grammar, helping to create complex and nuanced sentences that showcase the language’s depth and versatility. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of subordinate clauses in Italian grammar, including their types, functions, and how to use them effectively in your writing and speech.

Table of Contents

What are Subordinate Clauses?

In Italian grammar, a subordinate clause is a dependent clause that adds additional information to a main or independent clause. It cannot stand alone as a complete sentence and must be connected to the main clause through the use of conjunctions or other connectors. Subordinate clauses provide essential context, clarification, or explanation to the main clause, enriching the overall meaning of the sentence.

Types of Subordinate Clauses in Italian

Subordinate clauses in Italian grammar can be classified into three main categories, based on their function within the sentence: noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverbial clauses.

Noun Clauses

Noun clauses function as nouns within a sentence and can act as subjects, direct objects, or objects of a preposition. They are often introduced by the conjunctions che (that), se (if), or qual (what).


  • Il fatto che non sia venuto mi sorprende. (The fact that he didn’t come surprises me.)
  • Non so se verrà alla festa. (I don’t know if he will come to the party.)

Adjective Clauses

Also known as relative clauses, adjective clauses describe or modify a noun or pronoun. They are typically introduced by relative pronouns such as che (who, which, that), cui (whom, which), il quale (who, which), or chi (who).


  • L’uomo che vediamo là è mio zio. (The man whom we see there is my uncle.)
  • La città in cui vivo è molto bella. (The city in which I live is very beautiful.)

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial clauses function as adverbs by providing additional information about the verb, adjective, or other adverb in the main clause. They can indicate time, cause, purpose, condition, concession, or comparison. Common conjunctions used to introduce adverbial clauses include quando (when), perché (because), affinché (so that), se (if), anche se (even if), and mentre (while).


  • Vado al supermercato quando ho bisogno di cibo. (I go to the supermarket when I need food.)
  • Studia molto perché vuole passare l’esame. (He studies a lot because he wants to pass the exam.)

Connectors for Italian Subordinate Clauses

Connectors play a crucial role in linking subordinate clauses to the main clause. They include conjunctions, relative pronouns, and other connecting words that help create a logical and coherent relationship between the clauses. Some common connectors in Italian subordinate clauses are:

  • che (that, who, which)
  • se (if)
  • quando (when)
  • dove (where)
  • perché (because)
  • affinché (so that)
  • prima che (before)
  • finché (as long as, until)

Formation and Structure of Subordinate Clauses

To form a subordinate clause in Italian, you need to follow these general steps:

  1. Identify the function of the clause (noun, adjective, or adverbial).
  2. Choose the appropriate connector for the clause.
  3. Ensure that the verb in the subordinate clause agrees with the subject and follows the correct tense and mood (indicative, subjunctive, conditional, etc.).
  4. Place the subordinate clause within the sentence, either before or after the main clause, depending on the intended meaning and emphasis.

Examples of Subordinate Clauses in Italian

Here are some examples of subordinate clauses in Italian, demonstrating their various functions and structures:

  • Noun clause: Spero che tu stia bene. (I hope that you are well.)
  • Adjective clause: La torta che hai preparato era deliziosa. (The cake that you prepared was delicious.)
  • Adverbial clause: Se piove, rimarremo a casa. (If it rains, we will stay home.)

Common Mistakes with Subordinate Clauses

When using subordinate clauses in Italian, it’s important to avoid some common mistakes:

  • Incorrectly choosing the connector: Make sure to select the appropriate connector based on the function of the subordinate clause and the relationship between the clauses.
  • Mismatched verb forms: Ensure that the verb in the subordinate clause agrees with the subject and follows the required tense and mood.
  • Misplacing the subordinate clause: The placement of the subordinate clause within the sentence can impact the meaning and emphasis, so be mindful of the intended context.


Mastering subordinate clauses in Italian grammar is essential for creating rich and complex sentences that accurately convey your intended meaning. By understanding their types, functions, and structures, you can effectively use subordinate clauses to enhance your writing and speech in Italian. Remember to choose the appropriate connectors, match verb forms, and place the subordinate clauses correctly to create clear and coherent sentences.

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