"Loro erano vissuti insieme."
Translation:They had lived together.
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The dictionary says the main auxiliary is essere, and in some meanings avere; honestly, I feel that they're more or less interchangeable, as long as the usage agrees with the standard rules, i.e. when used transitively you must use avere ("ha vissuto una lunga vita").
Thanks! That's great. Funnily enough, I checked the conjugator tool on wordreference and it said that avere was the main auxiliary. Go figure! (How would you say that in Italian by the way?) What dictionary are you referring to? As you mention it, where is a good place to find the "standard rules" for avere vs essere? Ta
I'm not sure what I'd choose, actually. I checked on http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/vivere/; as for rules, a search on google turned up whole books :O However on http://www.joyfulit.it/2012/01/auxiliary-verbs-in-italian/ there is a short enough explanation of the rules I was referring to: basically it's always avere with transitive verbs and always essere with reflexive verbs (which can't be the case for vivere). It doesn't address those who accept both like vivere and piovere, or the usage of venire as passive auxiliary, but it gives a good enough overview.
It is grammatically correct to say "erano vissuti" when the verb is intransitive (as an example I can think of "feelings that had been lived together by two people") but in this sentence without context, any Italian native speaker would assume that the verb is transitive because the subject is omitted (so that a native speaker would understand that "two people had lived together"). The result is that it just sounds wrong.
This site suggests that they're interchangeable now: http://grammatica.impariamoitaliano.com/2018/06/qual-e-lausiliare-del-verbo-vivere.html
But traditionally, you only use "avere" when "vivere" is transitive (see the examples in the link). In English, I think we would often translate this use of "vivere" as "to live through" something.