Imperfect (imperfetto) in Italian
- 1.Definition and usage of the imperfect tense in Italian (imperfetto)
- 1.1.When to use the imperfetto
- 1.2.Marker words that indicate the imperfetto
- 2.Conjugation of the imperfect tense in Italian
- 2.1.Conjugation of regular verbs in the imperfect tense in Italian
- 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 imperfect tense in Italian
- 3.Auxiliary verbs: essere/avere
Definition and usage of the imperfect tense in Italian (imperfetto)
The imperfect tense (imperfetto) in Italian belongs to the indicative mood.
Imperfetto refers to a continued action that lasted an indefinite time in the past.
- Mentre nuotava, ha visto un pesce (While he was swimming, he saw a fish)
- Luigi era un bambino molto timido (Luigi was a very shy child)
When to use the imperfetto
The imperfetto is also used in the following situations:
- to describe a habit in the past (imperfetto iterativo)
- to emphasise a continued action (imperfetto descrittivo)
- to narrate stories (imperfetto narrativo)
- to request something politely (imperfetto attenuativo)
Marker words that indicate the imperfetto
The following words can help you to understand that you have to use the imperfetto.
- Da piccolo andavo sempre a letto alle 21 (When I was a child I used to go to bed at 9 pm.)
- Mentre camminavo, sono inciampato (While I was walking, I stumbled)
|Da piccolo/Quando ero piccolo||When I was a child|
|Quando avevo 5/10/20 anni||When I was 5/10/20 years old|
Conjugation of the imperfect tense in Italian
The imperfetto is formed by adding certain endings to the root of the verb.
Conjugation of regular verbs in the imperfect tense in Italian
All regular verbs form the imperfetto based on the conjugation they belong to.
Verbs that belong to the -are conjugation
These verbs add the endings -avo, -avi, -ava, -avamo, -avate, - avano to the root of the verb.
Example mangiare (to eat)
|Io||Mangi||avo||Io mangiavo tre biscotti tutti i giorni||I used to eat three biscuits ever day|
|Tu||Mangi||avi||Tu mangiavi tre biscotti tutti i giorni||You used to eat three biscuits every day|
|Egli/Ella||Mangi||ava||Egli mangiava tre biscotti tutti i giorni||He used to eat three biscuits every day|
|Noi||Mangi||avamo||Noi mangiavamo tre biscotti tutti i giorni||We used to eat three biscuits every day|
|Voi||Mangi||avate||Voi mangiavate tre biscotti tutti i giorni||You used to eat three biscuits every day|
|Essi/Esse||Mangi||avano||Essi mangiavano tre biscotti tutti i giorni||They used to eat three biscuits every day|
Verbs that belong to the -ere conjugation
Such verbs add the endings -evo, -evi, -eva, -evamo, -evate, -evano to the verb root.
Example scrivere (to write)
|Io||Scriv||evo||Io scrivevo una lettera||I wrote a letter|
|Tu||Scriv||evi||Tu scrivevi una lettera||You wrote a letter|
|Egli/Ella||Scriv||eva||Egli scriveva una lettera||He wrote a letter|
|Noi||Scriv||evamo||Noi scrivevamo una lettera||We wrote a letter|
|Voi||Scriv||evate||Voi scrivevate una lettera||You wrote a letter|
|Essi/Esse||Scriv||evano||Essi scrivevano una lettera||They wrote a letter|
Verbs that belong to the -ire conjugation
These verbs add the endings -ivo, -ivi, -iva, -ivamo, -ivate, -ivano to the verb root.
Example mentire (to lie)
|Io||Ment||ivo||Da piccolo io mentivo sempre||When I was a child I always lied|
|Tu||Ment||ivi||Da piccolo tu mentivi sempre||When you were a child you always lied|
|Egli/Ella||Ment||iva||Da piccolo egli mentiva sempre||When he was a child he always lied|
|Noi||Ment||ivamo||Da piccoli noi mentivamo sempre||When we were children we always lied|
|Voi||Ment||ivate||Da piccoli voi mentivate sempre||When you were children you always lied|
|Essi/Esse||Ment||ivano||Da piccolo essi mentivano sempre||When they were children they always lied|
Conjugation of irregular verbs in the imperfect tense in Italian
There are few irregular verbs in the imperfetto.
Since they do not follow particular grammatical rules, you have to study their conjugation by heart.
Here is a list of the main irregular verbs:
|Fare (to do)||Dire (to say)||Bere (to drink)|
Auxiliary verbs: essere/avere
Essere is an irregular verb in the imperfetto, while avere is a regular one.
Here you can find their conjugation:
|Essere (to be)||Avere (to have)|
- Tu eri un bambino molto vivace (You were a lively child)
- Voi avevate tre giorni per portare a termine il vostro compito (You had three days to complete your task)
Now why don't you test your knowledge on the imperfetto with our exercises!
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