For Italians: How Much Time Will It Take?

Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Last week on the Conversational Italian! Facebook group, we talked about how to use the phrase ci vuole,” which means, “it takes time.”

This is a complicated Italian phrase for an English speaker to learn how to use, because in this case, we must conjugate the pronominal verb, volerci, which means “to be necessary,” or “to take,” meaning the time or effort it takes one to do something.  The conjugation of  volerci is only in the third person singular and plural, similar to the verb piacere, which is a bit complicated.  But of course, it is a very verb to know if one truly wants to converse in Italian, because we commonly talk about how much time something takes us to do!

Below is an excerpt from my blog for advanced students of Italian that contains materials Italian teachers may want to use as well. I am hoping to soon compile these blog posts into an Italian course, but for now, stay tuned to for an essay each month on important topics we all need to learn to become more fluent in Italian.

If you want to read more about beginning and intermediate Italian, of course, my textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers is available for delivery from and Learn Travel The rights to purchase the book in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be purchased at Learn Travel


How to Conjugate Volerci for Phrases Describing Time

To describe the general passage of time that it takes to do something, an English speaker will often say, “It takes time.” Here is the method that must be followed to translate this phrase into Italian: in Italian, the pronominal particle “ci” is always used to begin the phrase, and the verb “volere” is then conjugated to reflect the amount of time taken, in either the third person singular or plural. In effect, we are conjugating the verb volerci (to be necessary/to take). This is similar to how we conjugate the verb piacere, only with piacere, the reference is to what we like, rather than to how much time something takes.

So when saying, “It takes time,” the word “time” is considered one segment of time, and the third person singular form of volere, which is “vuole,” is used.

If the time “it” takes is one minute, one hour, one month, or one year—that is, if the reference is to one time segment, again, use “vuole.”

If the time “it” takes is more than one of each time segment (plural), the third person plural form of volere, which is “vogliono,” is used.

Ci vuole tempo. It takes time.
Ci vuole un minuto. Ci vogliono due minuti. It takes one minute/two minutes.
Ci vuole un’ora. Ci vogliono due ore. It takes one hour/two hours.
Ci vuole un giorno. Ci vogliono due giorni. It takes one day/two days.
Ci vuole un mese. Ci vogliono due mesi. It takes one month/two months.
Ci vuole un anno. Ci vogliono due anni. It takes one year/two years.
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