How to use Italian passato remoto

How to use Italian passato remoto

Sometimes students have troubles understanding when and how to use the different tenses the Italian language has.

This is often because the use of Italian tenses can be different from the use the same tenses have in their native language or even because some Italian tenses do not exist in their native language.

As you might already know, in Italian there are different tenses you can use to talk about the past. You can talk about the past using passato prossimo, you can talk about the past using imperfetto, and you can also talk about the past using passato remoto.

The problem is that the use of each of these three tenses is usually different. So, mastering them can mean to talk like a real Italian.

In this articleI’ll focus on one of these tenses:  Italian passato remoto.


As already mentioned, Italian passato remoto indicates a past event. In particular, passato remoto indicates an event that the speaker feels as unrelated to the present time either chronologically or psychologically.

Lei abitò a Ravenna fino al 1880, poi si trasferì a Madrid
She lived in Ravenna until 1880, then she moved to Madrid

Leonardo da Vinci nacque in Toscana nel 1452
Leonardo da Vinci was born in Tuscany in 1452

For this reason, Italian passato remoto is especially used to talk about historical facts or in literature.

In some parts of Italy, especially in Southern regions and in some central regions like Tuscany, passato remoto is also used in everyday life.

Quando parlai con lei mi disse che stava bene
When I talked to her she said she was good

By contrast, in Northern Italy the use of passato remoto in everyday life has been completely replaced by the use of passato prossimo.

Quando ho parlato con lei mi ha detto che stava bene
When I talked to her she said she was good


The formation of Italian passato remoto is different for regular and irregular verbs.

For this tense, the verbs of the first and third conjugation are generally regular, while the verbs of the second conjugation are usually irregular.


To form passato remoto of regular verbs you just replace the suffixes -are, -ere, -ire with one of the following suffixes:

I spoke
Parlare -> parlare -> parl + ai -> parlai

We received
Ricevere -> ricevere -> ricev + emmo -> ricevemmo

They finished
Finire -> finire -> fin + irono -> finirono


There are no formation rules to form the passato remoto of irregular verbs. So, these verbs have to be learnt by heart.

In the table below, you can see the conjugation of the irregular verbs essere and avere.

Intermediate Italian grammar


I really hope I’ve helped you understand when and how to use Italian passato remoto. If you have any doubt, feel free to contact me.

If you need to master or revise intermediate Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar B1-B2.


Original image by 44833

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