Talking about past actions is very important in every language. Italians use many different tenses to talk about past events. In this article, you’re going to learn the Italian past tense passato prossimo.
Knowing passato prossimo is very useful since it’s one of the most used past tenses in Italian.
Let’s start learning when and how passato prossimo is used in Italian.
The Italian past tense passato prossimo is used to:
• Indicate events happened in the past but that have still effects on the present. These events can have a temporal or an emotional closeness to the speaker
a) Perché non provi a sciare? Due anni fa mi sono rotto una gamba (emotional)
Why don’t you try skiing? Because I’ve broken my leg two years ago
b) Sono appena tornato dal lavoro (temporal)
I just got home from work
• Indicate a temporary action or an action that is not carried out as a habit
Ex: Oggi ho corso per 10 km
I run 10 km today
• Indicate a physical, emotional or mental change
Ex: Dopo aver dato l’esame mi sono sentita molto più rilassata
After having taken the exam I felt much more relaxed
Forming the Italian past tense passato prossimo is very easy. You just need to combine either the verb to be or the verb to have with past participle.
Present tense of To Be or To Have + Past participle
The difficult part is to learn when to use the verb to be and when to use the verb to have because even if there are certain rules there are also many exceptions.
In most cases to have is the auxiliary to be used. To be is generally used with reflexive and passive verbs and with some intransitive verbs – i.e. nascere, partire, arrivare, rientrare, entrare, andare ecc.
Here some examples:
PAST PARTICIPLE AGREEMENT AND POSITION
The past participle generally follows the auxiliaries and agrees with the subject.
Ex: Marica è partita
Marica has left
• The past participle is used with to have or with impersonal verbs it remains unchanged:
Ex: Ho appena mangiato una mela
I’ve just eaten an apple
Ex: E’ nevicato molto qui
There has been a lot of snow here
• The past participle is used with the pronouns lo, la, li, le, ne, it agrees with them:
Ex: Li ha visti mentre scappavano
He saw them while they were running away
• Finally, if the Italian past tense passato prossimo is formed with the verb to have and is preceeded by a direct object pronoun in the 1st or 2nd person singular or plural – mi, ti, ci, vi – it can or cannot agree in gender and number with the pronoun. The choice is up to you:
Ex: Gina ha visto noi -> Gina ci ha visti /viste
Gina ci ha visto
Gina saw us
If you need to master or revise basic Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar A1-A2.
And now let’s practice passato prossimo. Try to answer the following question:
Cos’hai fatto nel fine settimana?
Original image by stux