In English, the past tense is a simple tense meaning it is only made up of a single verb. For example: I spoke . In Italian however, the past is a compound tense meaning that it is made up of an auxilary verb and a past partciple. So in Italian you wouldn’t say “I spoke” but rather ‘I have spoken (io ho parlato ). Here is how you do it:
First we need to learn th verb “avere” which means “to have”
avere in the present tense
Io Ho = I have
Tu Hai = you (informal) have
Lui Ha = he or she has or it can mean you (formal) have
Noi Abbiamo = we have
Voi Avete = you (plural/informal) have
Loro Hanno = they have or you (plural/formal) have
Now we need to learn how to form a past particple
To form a past partciple, start from the infinitve form of the verb. Infinitives end in either “are” “ere” or “ire”
If the infinitive ends in “are” then you cut off the “are” and add the letters “ato” parlare —> parl —> parlato = spoken
If the infinitive ends in “ere” then you cut off the “ere” and add the letters “uto” vedere —> ved —> veduto = seen
Id the infinitive ends in “ire” then you cut off the “ire” and add the letters “ito” finire —> fin —> finito = finished
OK, now we know how to conjugate the verb avere and how to form a past particple. Let’s put it all together and make some sentences.
The formula is Avere in the present tense (see above) + the past particple
For example: To translate “I spoke” into Italian we go to the “I” form of the verb avere (which is “ho”) and then we form our past partciple (parlare (to speak) —> parl —> parlato)we put them together and come up with:
Ho parlato = I spoke or I have spoken.
Let’s try another one:
“They” form of avere = hanno
vedere (to see) —> ved —> veduto ( grammatically correct anyway a more colloquial expression is hanno visto )
Hanno veduto = they saw.
Now you can try some of these on your own ( answers at the end of the page ):
we ate (mangiare = to eat) For this one go to the “we” form of the verb avere above and then make your past particple
I finished (finire = to finish)
they sang (cantare = to sing)
He saw (vedere = to see)
You plural/formal swam (nuotare = to swim)
Please note that there are many many verbs that have irregular past participles so the above rules will not always work in all cases.
By Giacomo DePasquale
Put the verbs in the brakets in the Past Tense:
- I visited Italy last year. = ……….. l’Italia l’anno scorso. (visitare)
- I had a strange dream. = ……… un sogno strano. (avere)
- We have finished.= …….. finito. (have)
- They spent two weeks in Sicily. = ………. due settimane in Sicilia. ( trascorrere)
- We ate a delicious pizza.= ……….. una pizza deliziosa. (mangiare)
- Marco drank too much. = Marco ……. troppo. ( bere)
- They paid the bill. = ……il conto (pagare)
- I slept so well. = Io……. così bene. (dormire)
- I closed the door and opened the windows. = ……… la porta e ho …… le finestre. ( chiudere, aprire)
ANSWERS: Ho visitato, ho avuto, trascorsero, mangiammo, ha bevuto, pagarono, ho dormito, ho chiuso, ho aperto.