Italian Past Tense

Verbs: Italian Past Tense

Tempo Passato : Italian Past Tense

Italian uses two past tenses to describe actions that happened in the past, L’imperfetto (the imperfect tense) and Passato Prossimo (the perfect tense).

L’IMPERFETTO

This tense is used to describe actions that continued in the past over a period of time or occurred multiple times. In Italian this tense is formed by a single verb while in English it is formed by two verbs, an auxiliary verb and an past participle.

Ascoltavo la radio. I was listening to the radio.

Pensavo a te. I was thinking about you.

Guidavo la macchina quando ho sentito la scuilla del cellulare. I was driving a car when I heard cell phone ring.

The majority of the verbs have regular forms in Imperfetto with only few verbs being irregular.

REGULAR VERBS

The tense is formed by each verb group –are, -ere, -ire adding standard endings to the stem.

 

Studiare

to study

Mangiare

to eat

Partire

to leave

Io

Studiavo

Mangiavo

Partivo

Tu

Studiavi

Mangiavi

Partivi

Lui/Lei

Studiava

Mangiava

Partiva

Noi

Studiavamo

Mangiavamo

Partivamo

Voi

Studiavate

Mangiavate

Partivate

Loro

Studiavano

Mangiavano

Partivano

 

IRREGULAR VERBS

There are only few verbs which have irregular forms in the Imperfetto. Memorizing them is the best study approach. Please pay special attention to the verb essere – to be as it is a frequently used verb.

ESSERE

To be

Fare

To make

Dire

To tell

Bere

To drink

Porre

To put /place

Verbs ending in durre

ero

facevo

dicevo

bevevo

ponevo

-ducevo

eri

facevi

dicevi

bevevi

ponevi

-ducevi

era

faceva

diceva

beveva

poneva

-duceva

eravamo

facevamo

dicevamo

bevevamo

ponevamo

-ducevamo

eravate

facevate

dicevate

bevevate

ponevate

-ducevate

erano

facevano

dicevano

bevevano

ponevano

-ducevano

 

Last column represents all verbs ending in –durre like produrre and ridurre. All these verbs follow pattern as shown in the last column in table above.

PASSATO PROSSIMO

This tense is used to describe an action that happened at a particular point in the past. In Italian this tense is formed by an auxiliary verb and a past participle of the main verb, while in English it is formed by one verb.

Ho ricevuto la telefonata. I received a phone call.

Ho studiato la matematica. I studied math.

Ho parlato con il mio amico. I talked to my friend.

Past participle of the verb is formed by adding standard endings to the stems.

Infinitive

Infinito

Past Participle

Particilio Passato

parlare

andare

parlato

andato

vedere

sedere

veduto

seduto

finire

pulire

finito

pulito

 

Both avere and essere are used as the auxiliary verbs. The choice between the two verbs is made based on the past participle of the verb. Past participle can be formed by either transitive or intransitive verb.

TRANSITIVE VERBS

Transitive verbs include all verbs with the exception of motion and reflexive verbs. Transitive verbs use avere as auxiliary verbs. Listed below are some examples of the transitive verbs are:

Infinitive

infinito

Meaning

significa

Auxiliary Verb

Verbo ausiliario

Past Participle

Participio passato

aprire

to open

ho

aperto

mettere

to put

ho

messo

prendere

to take

ho

preso

rispondere

to answer

ho

risposto

smettere

to stop

ho

smesso

vivere

to live

ho

vissuto

 

Ho ricevuto il messagio. I received a message.

Ho parlato con il professore. I talked to a professor.

INTRANSITIVE VERBS

Intransitive verbs include all motion and reflexive verbs. Intransitive verbs require essere as the auxiliary verb and the past participle agrees with the subject of the verb.

Infinitive

infinito

Meaning

significa

Auxiliary Verb

Verbo ausiliario

Past Participle

Participio passato

andare

to go

sono

andato/andata

partire

to leave

siete

partiti

salire

to get into

sono

Saliti/salite

scendere

to get out of

Sei

sceso/scesa

venire

to come

siamo

venuti

 

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