Learn Italian and Describe Your Needs!

In the last few weeks in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group, we have been practicing how to use the phrase “Ho bisogno di,” which means “I need…” in Italian. This phrase is very useful in some situations, but in others, it is necessary to use the word “voglio” instead to express the same meaning.

Special thanks to Facebook group members Grace, Sandro, Rita, and Andu for providing some excellent examples and for reminding me that the phrase “Mi serve…” also means “I need…” This last phrase is very often used in Italy, and I have just heard this phrase twice on the latest Detective Montalbano episode I watched.

It is amazing how easy it is to hear phrases in Italian during normal conversation once we know them! Try it yourself and see how often you can hear these common phrases in Italian movies, TV series, or RAI.

Read on below from this excerpt published on July 17, 2016, on the LearnTravelItalian.com blog to find out how to talk about what you need in Italian! Read the entire post for more on the subjunctive mode. Listen for the examples and try some from our group. Join our group if you like at Conversational Italian!

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How to Use the Phrase “Avere bisogno di…” in Italian

Before we go on to discuss more complex uses of the phrases in the table below, here are a few words about the very popular phrase “ho bisogno di…,” which means “I need…” Any student of Italian no doubt has come across this phrase many times in general conversation and has needed to use it themselves to express what they want.

While I was learning how to use the subjunctive mode properly, I took the opportunity to learn how to use “ho bisogno di” properly as well. After many question-and-answer sessions with native Italian speakers, here is what I’ve found out about the different uses of this phrase in English and Italian.

First, use of the phrase “ho bisogno di” is limited to describing a need one has for a person, a thing, something, or a physical need. Remember to conjugate the verb avere used in this phrase (“ho” is the io form of avere) if someone else besides you needs something, of course! Leave out the word “di,” which means “of” in this phrase if it is used at the end of the sentence.

The phrases “Mi serve…” and “Mi servono…” can also mean, “I need…” and are often used in the negative sense. (This verb conjugates similar to piacere – see below.)

If a person needs to do something, but it is also necessary that he does it—if he has to do it—then the verb dovere is used. See some examples in the table below:

avere bisogno di… to have need of…  
   
…a person Ho bisogno di… te.
   
…a thing/ something Ho bisogno di… una macchina nuova.
  Ho bisogno di… prendere una vacanza.
   
…a physical need Ho bisogno di… riposare.
   
Mi serve…

Mi servono….

I need… Mi serve 1 millione di euro.

Mi servono tante cose.

   
   
dovere for what you have to do

(and need to do)

Devo cucinare il pranzo ogni sera.

 

When we come to more complex sentences and now must express what the subject would like another person to do, the phrase “ho bisogno di” is not used. In other words, if I want someone to do something, I must use the verb voglio with the subjunctive, as in “Voglio che tu…”  This was an important point for me to learn, because in English I am constantly asking my children or family to do things by saying, “I need you to…”

For instance, take the sentence “I need you to take care of the cats when I am on vacation.” I am not sure if the phrase “I need you to…” is used commonly in other parts of the America, but it has become habitually used in the Northeast and Midwest. The Italian translation would be “Voglio che tu ti prenda cura dei gatti quando io sono in vacanza.” So to use the phrase “ho bisogno di,” we must really learn how to think in Italian!

Enjoy some more examples for how to use our phrases to express a need or want in Italian, and then create your own!

 

Ho bisogno di un grande abbraccio! I need a big hug!
Abbracci e baci sono due cose che ho bisogno! Hugs and kisses are two things that I need!
Non mi serve niente. I don’t need anything.
Non mi serve nient’altro. I don’t need anything else.
Mi serve di più caffè. I need more coffee.
Devo andare al mercato. I need to/have to go to the (outdoor) market.

Non abbiamo  bisogno di giorni migliori,

ma di persone che rendono migliori i nostri giorni!

We don’t need to have better days; instead, we need people who make our days better!

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