Absolute past tense (passato remoto) in Italian
The passato remoto is a simple tense that belongs to the indicative mood.
- 1.Definition and usage of the absolute past in Italian (passato remoto)
- 1.1.Marker words that indicate the passato remoto
- 2.Conjugation of the passato remoto
- 2.1.Conjugation of regular verbs in the passato remoto
- 2.1.1.Verbs that belong to the -are conjugation
- 2.1.2.Verbs that belong to the -ere conjugation
- 2.1.3.Verbs that belong to the -ire conjugation
- 2.2.Conjugation of irregular verbs in the passato remoto
- 3.Auxiliary verbs: essere/avere
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)
Nowadays 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.
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 piccolo||When I was little/a child|
|1/5/10 anni fa||1/5/10 years ago|
|L'anno scorso||Last year|
|Molto tempo fa||A long time ago|
|Nel 1300/1500/1900||In 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)
|Io||am||ai||Io amai quel libro||I loved that book|
|Tu||am||asti||Tu amsti quel libro||You loved that book|
|Egli/Ella||am||ò||Egli amò quel libro||He lived that book|
|Noi||am||ammo||Noi amammo quel libro||We loved that book|
|Voi||am||aste||Voi amaste quel libro||You loved that book|
|Essi/Esse||am||arono||Essi amarono quel libro||They 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)
|Io||tem||ei/etti*||Io temei/temetti di aver perso le chiavi||I feared I had lost my keys|
|Tu||tem||esti||Tu temesti di aver perso le chiavi||You feared you had lost your keys|
|Egli/Ella||tem||é/ette*||Egli temé/temette di aver perso le chiavi||He feared he had lost his keys|
|Noi||tem||emmo||Noi tememmo di aver perso le chiavi||We feared we had lost our keys|
|Voi||tem||este||Voi temeste di aver perso le chiavi||You feared you had lost your keys|
|Essi/Esse||tem||erono/ettero*||Essi temerono/temettero di aver perso le chiavi||They feared they had lost their keys|
*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)
|Io||serv||ii||Io servii i pasti al ristorante||I served meals in the restaurant|
|Tu||serv||isti||Tu servisti i pasti al ristorante||You served meals in the restaurant|
|Egli/Ella||serv||ì||Egli servì i pasti al ristorante||He served meals in the restaurant|
|Noi||serv||immo||Noi servimmo i pasti al ristorante||We served meals in the restaurant|
|Voi||serv||iste||Voi serviste i pasti al ristorante||You served meals in the restaurant|
|Essi/Esse||serv||irono||Essi servirono i pasti al ristorante||They 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:
- In order to conjugate some of these verbs it is important to know the participio passato (past participle).
- 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).
- 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.
- As already stated in the previous attention box, remember that some verbs add an alternative conjugation to the regular one.
- 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.
- 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.
|Io||scesi||Io scesi dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazza||When I got to the square, I got off the bus|
|Tu||scendesti||Tu scendesti dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazza||When you got to the square, you got off the bus|
|Egli/Ella||scese||Egli scese dal pullman una volta arrivato in piazza||When he got to the square, he got off the bus|
|Noi||scendemmo||Noi scendemmo dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazza||When we got to the square, we got off the bus|
|Voi||scendeste||Voi scendeste dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazza||When you got to the square, we got off the bus|
|Essi/Esse||scesero||Essi scesero dal pullman una volta arrivati in piazza||When 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)|
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