AFAIK "What do you think you were doing" could be expressed using either infinitive (more usual) or subjunctive forms in Italian. Would those be:

  • Che cosa credi di stare facendo ?
  • Cosa credi che stessi facendo ?

I am particulary in doubt if the infinitive form should use "stare facendo" or "fare".

  • In my experience it is more likely that the second phrase means "what do you think that I were doing" Oct 2, 2019 at 6:01
  • 1
    "Cosa credevi di fare?” would be the standard way. No “progressive form”.
    – egreg
    Oct 2, 2019 at 6:47
  • Is it correct to use the "imperfetto" tense for a present event? The English sentence uses "think" in the present tense because the event of thinking occurs now, not in the past. Oct 2, 2019 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


The sentence cosa credi che stessi facendo? would be interpreted like what do you think I was doing?

Adding the subject pronoun would sound very heavy and “unitalian”: *cosa credi che tu stessi facendo?, because a direct clause sharing the subject with the main proposition should have the verb at the infinitive (di + infinitive). The progressive form with the past infinitive is not used, nor it is used with the “passato remoto”.

It's quite possible that in informal speech the question could be cosa credi che stavi facendo? (there is some recent influence from English with respect to progressive forms), but the standard form is cosa credevi di fare?

Note that the usage of progressive forms differs between Italian and English; don't always try and keep English progressive forms.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.