As the translation of "how do you write your name", I find it hard to wrap my head around using the third person conjugation. Can I say "come si scrivi il tuo nome" instead? I would appreciate the reasoning behind it, or simply a confirmation: it's just idiomatic?

  • 2
    I suggest you check your dictionary. The verb is scrivere and the present indicative for the third singular person is scrive, that is Come si scrive il tuo nome?. italian-verbs.com/verbi-italiani/coniugazione.php?id=9917
    – user519
    Sep 19 '15 at 7:24
  • 1
    You can also find an Italian verb conjugator here: wordreference.com/conj/ITverbs.aspx?v=scrivere
    – Charo
    Sep 19 '15 at 9:54
  • 2
    @jxhyc I would kindly ask you to edit your post and correct spelling mistakes. There are no verbs "screvere" or "crevere" in Italian, the verb is "ScrIvere". It would be also great, if you could use a spell checker, when writing new questions. It would help the community at Italian.SE to understand your questions better and would show your appreciation of the Italian language. Thanks in advance.
    – I.M.
    Sep 19 '15 at 12:13

If I understand correctly, you ask why this phrase uses the third person conjugation instead of the second person conjugation even when you address someone directly. The answer is simple: because the subject in this phrase is not the person, whom you ask, it's the name.

Come si scrive il tuo nome? literally means How is your name written?
(or, totally ungrammatical in English, but slightly closer to the Italian structure and, maybe, easier for you to understand: How your name writes itself?)
The subject of this sentence is "your name" and the verb, accordingly, requires the third person conjugation.

Can you say it using the second person conjugation (that is, Come (tu) scrivi il tuo nome?)? Usually, no. Italian is more impersonal than English (and many other languages), so we don't ask a person "How do you - you in particular - write your name?" We ask how the name is written, by anybody, on any occasion.

In some rare situations, you could hear "you" used as a subject, but it, probably, would be a situation, when a person is asked to spell (out) their name. So, when it's not enough just to know how the name is usually written, you'd like to know it letter-by-letter. But the sentence structure would be different (because it would require either the imperative mood or a modal verb, expressing a polite request) and the verb would be different as well, so you'd use something like "compitare" instead of "scrivere":

Puoi compitare il tuo nome, per favore?, meaning Can you spell (out) your name, please?

  • @Charo, thanks for the edit, but singular they is corrrect.
    – I.M.
    Sep 20 '15 at 10:59
  • Sorry for my unnecessary correction! At least I have learnt some English!
    – Charo
    Sep 20 '15 at 11:19
  • @jxhyc Just a small addition: while "puoi compitare il tuo nome?" is correct, it's a very seldom used form (compitare is a very seldom used verb, which I'd even argue a lot of people are unaware of). You are far more likely to use/find the form, which borrows from the English language, "puoi fare lo spelling del tuo nome?" Sep 21 '15 at 9:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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