Not that I go around collecting favorite forms of grammar or anything, but I really love this tense.
IF I had a list of favorite grammar forms in Italian, this would be in the top 3.
Mostly because it’s used so much that it starts to become a part of the way you think in Italian.
It levels you up. Boosts your confidence. Makes you smile like a cheeseball because you’re finally understanding all of this beautiful nonsense.
In the podcast, I constantly refer to the past tense (il passato prossimo), so you could get a sneak peek before I properly served it up.
Luckily for you, there’s a pretty simple structure for using it that comes in two paths, with about 3 steps to follow each
Yay for simplicity!
FIRST PATH – Using AVERE to express the past
1.) The verb ‘avere’ means ‘to have’. It changes in form like this:
2.) Form the past tense using “avere” and the verb.
One of these forms will be the first part of creating the past tense.
The second part will be the verb that you want to express happened in the past.
So, if you want to say ‘I read’ – You would take
– ‘I’ form of Avere – Ho +
– Past tense of leggere – Letto =
– Ho letto – I read
I know. Grammar math is so much fun.
As you might have noticed, ‘leggere – to read’ changed over to ‘letto’.
Each verb has its own past tense form. Luckily, many of them are standard and easy to form.
Not so luckily, many of them are irregular.
(But really, life would be so boring if everything was standard and easy.)
– ‘We’ form of Avere – Abbiamo +
– Past tense of comprare (to buy) – comprato =
– Abbiamo comprato – We bought
3.) Forming the past tense of the verb in the past
If the verb ends in:
-are –> -ato (dare –> dato)
-ere –> -uto (temere –> temuto)
-ire –> ito (finire –> finito)
*We’ll chat about irregular forms later, but for now, here are the most important ones to be aware of:
– Bere – to drink –> bevuto
– Dire – to say –> detto
– Fare – to do/make –> fatto
– Leggere – to read –> letto
– Scrivere – to write –> scritto
– Vedere – to see –> visto
– Venire – to come –> venuto
SECOND PATH – Using ESSERE to express the past
Here’s where it can get a little wonky.
There are certain verbs that use ESSERE instead of AVERE.
These verbs tend to be ones that express movement
– Andare – to go
– Salire – to go up
– Tornare – to return
– Uscire – to go out
– Partire – to leave
– Diventare – to become
This is not a hard and fast rule though.
For example, the verb “rimanere – to remain” takes “essere”, as in “Sono rimasto/a a casa. – I remained at home.”
Let’s get into how you use it.
1.) Essere means ‘to be’.
Here is how you conjugate ESSERE in case you have forgotten:
2.) Change the verb to its past tense form, also called the past participle.
Same rule applies here.
If the verb ends in:
– -are –> -ato (andare –> andato)
– -ere –> -uto (temere –> temuto)
– -ire –> ito (partire –> partito)
But there’s a caveat!
The ending of the verb has to agree with the subject!
Haven’t learned about singular/plural and masculine/feminine forms yet? Go here to learn more.
So, here are some grammar math examples:
– ‘I’ form of Essere – Sono +
– Past form of Andare (to go) – Andata (I’m a girl. That’s why it ends in -a.) =
– Sono andata – I went
– ‘They’ form of Essere – Sono +
– Past form of Andare (to go) – Andati (Because there are a mix of many people, so it ends in -i.) =
– Sono andati – They went
– ‘He’ form of Essere – È +
– Past form of Andare (to go) – Andato (Because we’re talking about a guy, so it ends in -o.) =
– È andato – He went
3.) There are irregular verbs here, too!
Here is a list of the most important ones to know:
– Scendere (to go down) – sceso
– Nascere (to be born) – nato
– Morire (to die) – morto
So, if I was asking my friend (a girl) where she was born, I would ask:
– Dove sei nata? – Where were you born?
The ending of ‘nato’ changes to ‘nata’ because she is a girl.
There you have it.
Two frameworks for creating the past tense (passato prossimo) in Italian!
Any questions about this?
Drop ’em in the comments below.
Want to learn more irregular verbs like Avere and Essere? Read about them here.