I can barely recall this example sentence that I saw a long time ago:

Lei è la ragazza più bella che io conosca. (Not conosco)

It was used to demonstrate the wide use of subjunctive in Italian. The above sentence would be written in French as que je connais (indicative) or in Spanish as que conozco (also indicative).

I just saw this sentence on ThoughtCo as well:

Il razzismo era il peggior problema che ci fosse. (Again, not c'era)

Both sentences have a superlative expression in their main clauses, which drives me into thinking that the use of subjunctive in the subordinate clause is a special grammar rule in Italian.

Am I right? What are the details about this very usage of subjunctive in Italian?

2 Answers 2


According to the book Nuovo Contatto C1. Corso di lingua e civiltà italiana per stranieri (Loescher Editore, Torino) by R. Bozzone Costa, M. Piantoni, E. Scaramelli and C. Ghezzi:

L'uso del congiuntivo nelle frasi relative è frequente:

  • quando il nome a cui si referisce il pronome relativo che è indeterminato: Cerco un cane che abbia il pelo morbido.
  • quando il nome a cui si referisce il pronome relativo che è seguito da un superlativo relativo: Questa è la storia più romantica che abbia mai sentito.
  • con aggettivi con valore restrittivo come unico, solo, ultimo: Mio fratello è l'unica persona che rispetti le mie idee.

That is, the use of subjunctive is frequent (according to the book it's not always used, but it's quite frequent) in a relative clause when the name to which relative pronoun che is referring is followed by a relative superlative as in your examples and as in the sentence of the second point of the above citation.

  • 1
    It should be noted that, when the sentence expresses a state of fact or a strong personal opinion, the indicative is often used: È la più bella ragazza che conosco would not sound strange at all, although disliked by purists. This has of course to do with the decline of the subjunctive mood. With past tenses the subjunctive is still mandatory, at least in “controlled language”.
    – egreg
    Feb 27, 2019 at 22:14

The subjunctive is used after "che" when expressing personal opinions rather than facts.

Sources: e.g.



  • 4
    Could you explain this with some more detail? I don't understand why "che io conosca" or "che ci fosse" are the expression of a personal opinion: you know or you don't know that girl, or there was or there wasn't a problem, it doesn't seem to me a matter of opinion.
    – Charo
    Feb 27, 2019 at 14:00
  • 3
    The subjunctive mood is indeed used in the context you have mentioned. However, I think it would have been more useful to the OP if you'd have quoted part of your second link which actually refers to the OP's question (point 3, Congiuntivo in alcune proposizioni relative)
    – Easymode44
    Feb 27, 2019 at 14:23
  • @Charo: but it is a matter of opinion (rather than a fact) that she was "la ragazza più bella" or that racism was "il peggior problema" Feb 27, 2019 at 16:25
  • 4
    @user3664452 Consider, e.g., Il Burj Khalifa è il grattacielo più alto che ci sia. Here the subjunctive is mandatory, but it's not an opinion, rather an objective fact. I wish that subjunctive rules were as easy as "use it if uncertain/matter of opinion" but reality is more complex. In this case, subjunctive is always used in relative clauses following a superlativo relativo, independently of the subjectivity of the content.
    – Denis Nardin
    Feb 27, 2019 at 16:38

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