Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Are you in a fog about the Italian subjunctive?

In a fog about the Italian subjunctive?

You're not alone. Just witness the scene above featuring the great comic actor Paolo Villaggio in his role as the hapless, oppressed bookkeper Fantozzi.

Fantozzi and a higher-ranked employee in his firm are playing tennis. His opponent says: "Batti?" Meaning, your serve (literally, "beat!") The socially insecure Fantozzi asks him if he's using the informal "tu" with him (which would be offensive.) His worthy opponent assures him that it's the formal subjunctive of battere (which it's not- it should be batta.) So the game can go on.

So where does this leave you with the subjunctive, if even the native speakers get their mutande (panties) in a twist about it?

Don't listen to the people who tell you that the subjunctive is out and you don't need to care about it. On the other hand, don't obsess about it because even Italians themselves are sometimes (literally) in a fog.