(passato prossimo) Let me see if I have this straight now

If a completed action took place in the past then you use the passato prossimo (present perfect).
Here are some English examples:

  • I gave it to you yesterday.
  • We went to the museum last week.
  • She drank too much wine at the party.
  • He finished the job early.
  • They saw the Ponte Vecchio in Florence during their trip.

All of these examples state a simple narrative fact—“what happened” (in the past).

Using the Passato Prossimo means choosing (and, often, memorizing) the correct auxiliary verb and have that precede the correct form of the verb infinitive.
As with most things related to Italian grammar, this isn’t as straight forward as those two parts, above, initially seem.

The correct auxiliary verb is either avere or essere, completely dependent on which verb that follows.
This is where practice and memorization come into play.

To chose the verb infinitive, you also need to add the following endings to the infinitive root form:

  • (most) ARE verbs use Auxiliary + Infinitive root+ ATO
  • (most) ERE verbs use Auxiliary + Infinitive root+ UTO
  • (most) IRE verbs use Auxiliary + Infinitive root + ITO
  • Irregular verbs use Auxiliary + Infinitive root + (variously) ISTO or ESTO, or ESSO, or ETTO....

Here are those same five English sentences now translated to Italian:

  • Ti l’ho dato ieri. (To you I gave it yesterday). Uses “avere” (ho) and “ato” (the verb is DARE)
  • Siamo andati al museo la scorsa settimana. Uses “essere” (siamo), so quantity/ gender must match (root + “ati”); (the verb is ANDARE)
  • Lei ha bevuto troppo vino alla festa. Uses “avere” and an irregular root + “uto” (the verb is BERE)
  • Lui ha finito il lavoro presto. Uses “avere” and “ito” (the verb is FINIRE)
  • Hanno visto il Ponte Vecchio a Firenze durante il loro viaggio. Uses “avere” with an irregular root + “isto” (the verb is “VEDERE”)

Examples of some of the other irregular verb infinitive root forms are CHIESTO (chiedere), CHIUSO (chiudere), SUCCESSO or SUCCEDUTO (succedere), FATTO (fare), DETTO (dire), LETTO (leggere), and RIMASTO (rimanere), just to name a few.

October 13, 2015


That is an excellent post. One thing I would add is that most (BUT NOT ALL) verbs that go with “essere” are verbs of motion, like so...

andare, arrivare, cadere, entrare, partire, salire, scendere, tornare, uscire, venire.

I find this a helpful rule of thumb.

Secondly the past participle of verbs associated with “essere” should agree with the number and gender of the subject.

October 13, 2015

EXCEPT Successo... ARGH! Anybody know why it is that successo does NOT agree?

August 29, 2017

Everything you said is right, but if I may correct just two small things,"te l'ho dato ieri" and "durante" are the correct expressions.

October 13, 2015

For the auxiliary verb, as a general rule, you use "essere" with verbs of motion and stasis (sono andato al mare, sono rimasto a casa).

You also always use "essere" with all reflexive verbs (mi sono lavato, mi sono alzato) and the impersonal form (for example "dopo che si è studiato, ci si può rilassare - after one has studied, one can relax").

For the rest you use "avere".

October 17, 2015

What a terrific overview - so clearly laid out. Thank you my friend and here are 5 ingots.

October 23, 2015
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