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Absolute past tense (passato remoto) in Italian

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The passato remoto is a simple tense that belongs to the indicative mood.

Definition and usage of the absolute past in Italian (passato remoto)

The passato remoto is used to refer to an action that took place and was concluded in the distant past. It has no links to the present, neither chronologically nor psychologically.


  • L'Italia vinse in suo primo mondiale di calcio nel 1934 (Italy won its first Football World Cup in 1934)
  • La Prima Guerra Mondiale iniziò nel 1914 (The First World War began in 1914)

enlightenedNowadays the passato remoto is not frequently used. Its use depends on the geographic area of the speaker.
In the South of Italy, people may use the passato remoto to refer to events that took place in the recent past.
In the North of Italy people may use the passato prossimo to refer to events that took place in the distant past.

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Marker words that indicate the passato remoto

Here is a list of marker words that can be found with the passato remoto.


  • Dieci anni fa visitai la Finlandia (Ten years ago I visited Finland)
  • Da piccolo mi ruppi una spalla (When I was a child I broke my shoulder)
Da piccolo/quando ero piccoloWhen I was little/a child
1/5/10 anni fa1/5/10 years ago
L'anno scorsoLast year
Molto tempo faA long time ago
Nel 1300/1500/1900In 1300/1500/1900


Conjugation of the passato remoto

The passato remoto is formed as follows:

Conjugation of regular verbs in the passato remoto

The passato remoto is formed by adding a certain ending to the root of the verb.
The endings depend on the conjugation the verb belongs to.

Verbs that belong to the -are conjugation

These verbs add the endings -ai, -asti, -ò, -ammo, -aste, -arono to the root of the verb.

Example amare (to love)

IoamaiIo amai quel libroI loved that book
TuamastiTu amsti quel libroYou loved that book
Egli/EllaamòEgli amò quel libroHe lived that book
NoiamammoNoi amammo quel libroWe loved that book
VoiamasteVoi amaste quel libroYou loved that book
Essi/EsseamaronoEssi amarono quel libroThey loved that book


Verbs that belong to the -ere conjugation

These verbs add the endings -ei/etti, -esti, -é/ette, -emmo, -este, -erono/ettero to the root of the verb.

Example temere (to fear)

Iotemei/etti*Io temei/temetti di aver perso le chiaviI feared I had lost my keys
TutemestiTu temesti di aver perso le chiaviYou feared you had lost your keys
Egli/Ellatemé/ette*Egli temé/temette di aver perso le chiaviHe feared he had lost his keys
NoitememmoNoi tememmo di aver perso le chiaviWe feared we had lost our keys
VoitemesteVoi temeste di aver perso le chiaviYou feared you had lost your keys
Essi/Essetemerono/ettero*Essi temerono/temettero di aver perso le chiaviThey feared they had lost their keys


enlightened*Some verbs such as temere (to fear), battere (to beat), ricevere (to receive) have both a regular conjugation and an alternative one. So both the following sentences are correct:
e.g. Io ricevei una mail (I received an e-mail)
Io ricevetti una mail (I received an e-mail)


Verbs that belong to the -ire conjugation

These verbs add the endings -ii, -isti, -ì, -immo, -iste, -irono to the root of the verb.

Example servire (to serve)

IoserviiIo servii i pasti al ristoranteI served meals in the restaurant
TuservistiTu servisti i pasti al ristoranteYou served meals in the restaurant
Egli/EllaservìEgli servì i pasti al ristoranteHe served meals in the restaurant
NoiservimmoNoi servimmo i pasti al ristoranteWe served meals in the restaurant
VoiservisteVoi serviste i pasti al ristoranteYou served meals in the restaurant
Essi/EsseservironoEssi servirono i pasti al ristoranteThey served meals in the restaurant


Conjugation of irregular verbs in the passato remoto

Irregular verbs in the passato remoto are numerous and they mainly belong to the -ere conjugation.
These verbs have to be studied by heart, but there are a few tips and rules that can help you to learn these verbs:

  1. In order to conjugate some of these verbs it is important to know the participio passato (past participle).
  2. The conjugation of the verbs usually changes for the first and third person singular (io and egli/ella) and for the third person plural (essi/esse).
  3. The conjugation for the second person singular (tu), the first and second person plural (noi and voi) is the same as the one of regular verbs.
  4. As already stated in the previous attention box, remember that some verbs add an alternative conjugation to the regular one.
  5. Verbs whose infinitive ends with -gliere (togliere - to remove/to take off), -ndere (scendere - to get off/to descend) and -gere or -ggere (spargere - to spread, leggere - to read) usually form the passato remoto adding the ending -si at the first person singular (io). See the conjugation of scendere as an example.
  6. Some verbs such as bere (to drink) and tenere (to keep) double the last consonant of the verb root. See the conjugation of bere as an example. 

Example scendere (to get off/to descend)

The participio passato of scendere is SCESO.

 Passato remotoExampleTranslation
IoscesiIo scesi dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazzaWhen I got to the square, I got off the bus
TuscendestiTu scendesti dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazzaWhen you got to the square, you got off the bus
Egli/EllasceseEgli scese dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazzaWhen he got to the square, he got off the bus
NoiscendemmoNoi scendemmo dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazzaWhen we got to the square, we got off the bus
VoiscendesteVoi scendeste dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazzaWhen you got to the square, we got off the bus
Essi/EssesceseroEssi scesero dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazzaWhen they got to the square, they got off the bus


Here you can find a list of the main irregular verbs:

 Bere (to drink)Chiedere (to ask)Chiudere (to close)Correre (to run)Cuocere (to cook)Crescere (to grow)Dipingere (to paint)Nascere (to bear/ to be born)Rompere (to break)Venire (to come)


Auxiliary verbs: essere/avere

Auxiliary verbs are irregular verbs so their conjugation has to be studied by heart.

 Essere (to be)Avere (to have)


Now try our exercises to test your knowledge!


  1. Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the passato remoto
  2. Choose the correct tense: passato prossimo or passato remoto

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the passato remoto

Choose the correct tense: passato prossimo or passato remoto

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