I suspect it's an idiom. So the English 'Where were we?' used when we were doing something, and got interrupted, and got back to it, so it's asking what was the point at which we stopped or stayed. It's a figurative phrase. And it's in the dictionary as such. Sometimes these are things you encounter and just have to learn and remember because while it might not be a literal translation, it is what people who are native in that language use.
Look at the bottom of the first definition
This is my way to try to make sense of this sentence.
Dove = where
eravamo = we were (imperfetto di essere)
The italian imperfetto is used for
1. past repeated or habitual actions
2. past interrupted actions
3. past background information
I think in this case "eravamo", the imperfect of essere (~ we were), is used to signal the interruption ~ we were (doing/saying/discussing something) when . . .
Dove eravamo = Where were we when . . .
rimasti = we remained/were retained/withheld (passato prossimo di rimanere in plural)
Where, were we when, we were retained?
~ Where were we when we were interrupted?
~ Where were we?
. . if that makes sense to anyone more than myself?
That's helpful in answering the question of why it's said in this way in Italian (i.e. with "rimasti") but it doesn't answer the question of whether or not one can simply use "dove eravamo" to say the same thing. The original question from Altair0315 was whether rimasti is necessary in order to say this. I had that same question, and I still do. Anybody know if it's acceptable in Italian to simply use "dove eravamo" to say where were we? Thanks.
I think that the difference between the two is that by using the trapassato prossimo, which is used for an action before another event in the past, we are getting the sense of "where were we before we were interrupted (which is the usual context for use of this expression judging by the Reverso Context examples in the link below), whereas dove eravamo does not bother with the technicality of placing the query in time in relation to another event in the past.
Yes, - but is that used in the same context?
Dove eravamo? ~ Where we were?
- It's probably acceptable English, - but I don't think it's an acceptable way to phrase this . . ?
If you have been interrupted, and want to get back on track, I think in English you would say "Where were we?" and in Italian "Dove eravamo rimasti?"
It couldn't be anything other than an idiom. Literally "Where were we staying/where did we stay" becomes "Where were we/Where did we leave off". That's a text-book example of how "idiom" functions. There's logic to it, but the leap to the essence of the meaning is not apparent.
"Era" can be translated to "had," but it gets confusing. "Era" is simple past tense of "è" in general "era" means "was." "Era fantastico." means "It was fantastic."
But in circumstances where a verb takes essere (instead of avere) to form its perfect tenses, then "era" becomes "S/he had" or "It had" "Era venuto qui" means "He had come here." With reflexive verbs, you use essere, so "He had woken himself up" is "Si era svegliato."