Io non sapevo che avevi una sorella.

[details=“English Translation”]I didn’t know you had a sister.[/details] I want to use “avessi” here and so do Google Translate and Deepl. Is 'avevi" the correct tense, incorrect, or can either be used?

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As explained to me just recently “avevi” would be correct here because you are talking about yourself and what YOU actually know. So “avessi” would be incorrect.

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I guess I will never master the subjunctive completely.

My feeling is that sometimes the grammar rules take precedence over the situation and/or the intention of the speaker - I remember our discussion here about Italians making compliments in the subjunctive .

But sometimes it is the other way round. I also would have expected “non sapere, che = subjunctive”. but here “logic” seems to top the grammar rule.

It makes it difficult, because in the end I want to speak by gut feeling and need “triggers” telling me, when to use the subjunctive.

I would also use “avevi” as the sorella situation is ongoing.

Yes - it’s quite baffling for English speakers. This rule made sense for me because you don’t doubt what you know. You wouldn’t say “I might not know if you have a sister.”


In dipendenza da verbi che esprimono giudizio o percezione (e sapere esprime, si potrebbe dire, un po’ tutt’e due queste dinamiche), va adoperato l’indicativo: “io sapevo che lui lavorava”; se invece il verbo è preceduto dalla negazione (secondo esempio) è possibile adoperare sia il congiuntivo (lavorasse) sia l’indicativo (lavorava).

Tradition prefers the congiuntivo but modern usage frequently defaults back to the indicativo. Exactly the same is going on in French.