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Past perfect subjunctive (trapassato congiuntivo)

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What is the trapassato congiuntivo in Italian? 

The past perfect subjunctive (or trapassato congiuntivo) is the the last tense of the subjunctive mood in Italian.

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Where and how to use the past perfect subjunctive in Italian

The trapassato congiuntivo appears in the same contexts in which both other subjunctive tenses appear.

Indeed, it is used in independent and dependent (i.e. final, concessive, conditional, relative and temporal) clauses to convey:

  • doubtshypotheseswishes and orders;
  • objective or personal considerations about something.
Sembrava dubitare che Giovanni fosse andato alla festa.She seemed to suspect that Giovanni hadn't ever gone to the party.
Se tu fossi stato più attento, non avresti fatto nessun incidente.If you had been more careful, you would have never had any accident.
Sebbene tu non avessi detto nulla, qualcuno ha dubitato di te.Even though you haven't said anything, someone suspected you.


If clause (periodo ipotetico) in Italian with past perfect subjunctive

As it's worth for the imperfect tense of the subjunctive, the past perfect's main function is to convey hypothetical messages.

When Italian speakers use the past perfect subjunctive, they want to express hypothesis referring to a past event.

Conversely to the imperfect subjunctive, if you use the past perfect subjunctive you are going to suppose that an unreal and nearly impossible event will happen.


How to use the past perfect subjunctive in the Italian hypothetical clauses

The most important thing to remember to form the periodo ipotetico is that: if the main clause has a past conditional verb, the dependent clause will have the past perfect subjunctive.

Let's see some examples:

Dependent clause (protasis): trapassato congiuntivoMain clause (apodosis): condizionale passato
Se ella non fosse stata spaventata, (If she hadn't been scared)sarebbe stata contenta. (she would have been very pleased)
Se noi non avessimo parlato di lui, (If we hadn't talked about him)probabilmente non sarebbe successo nulla. (probably nothing would ever happened)


enlightened The hypothetical sentences of irreality (with past tenses) must be always expressed by the conditional mood in the main clause and the subjunctive in the dependent clause.


How to conjugate the past perfect subjunctive in Italian

The congiuntivo trapassato follows the same complex structure of the congiuntivo passato.

Hence, it is formed using the imperfect subjunctive of the auxiliary (essere or avere) with the past participle of the specific verb.

Let's see some example for the three conjugations.


Regular verbs in Italian past perfect subjunctive

Verbs of -are conjugation

Incontrare (to meet)
 AuxiliaryPast ParticipleExampleTranslation
(Che) ioavessiincontratoSe io non la avessi mai incontrata, sarei rimasta sola.If I had never met her, I would probably have been lonely.
(Che) tuavessiincontratoNon ero sicuro che tu lo avessi incontrato veramente.I wasn't sure you had really met him.
(Che) egli / ellaavesseincontratoSe ella non ci avesse incontrato, sarebbe tornata a casa a piedi.If she hadn't met us, she probably would have walked home.
(Che) noiavessimoincontratoNonostante ti avessimo incontrato pochi giorni fa, non ti abbiamo riconosciuto.Even though we have met some days ago, we didn't recognize you.
(Che) voiavesteincontratoSe non lo aveste incontrato, chissà cosa sarebbe successo.If you had never met him, who knows what would have happened.
(Che) essi / esseavesseroincontratoSebbene loro avessero incontrato ​quel ragazzo alla festa, non ne ricordavano il nome.Even though they had met that boy at the party, they weren't able to recall his name.


Verbs of -ere conjugation

Credere (to believe)
 AuxiliaryPast ParticipleExampleTranslation
(Che) ioavessicredutoSe io ti avessi creduto, non so cosa sarebbe accaduto.If I had believed you, I don't know what would have happened.
(Che) tuavessi credutoAvevo dubitato che tu mi avessi creduto.I suspected you hadn't believed me.
(Che) egli / ellaavessecredutoSebbene tu le avessi creduto, era ancora triste.Even though you had believed her, she was still sad. 
(Che) noiavessimocredutoPensavano che noi ci avessimo creduto.They though we had believed it.
(Che) voiaveste credutoCosa sarebbe successo se voi ci aveste creduto?What would have happened if you had believed that?
(Che) essi / esseavesserocredutoSe essi avessero scoperto quello che noi avevamo fatto, saremmo finiti nei guai.

If they found out what we have done, we would have got in trouble.


Verbs of -ire conjugation

Sentire (to hear)
 AuxiliaryPast ParticipleExampleTranslation
(Che) ioavessisentitoNon sapevi che io ti avessi sentito arrivare?Didn't you know I have heard you coming?
(Che) tuavessisentitoNon sapevo che tu mi avessi sentito arrivare.I didn't know you had heard me coming.
(Che) egli / ellaavessesentitoNon eravamo sicuri che ella ci avesse sentito arrivare.We weren't sure that she had heard us coming.
(Che) noiavessimosentitoSi chiedeva se noi l'avessimo sentita arrivare.She was wondering if we had heard her coming.
(Che) voiavestesentitoCome facevamo a sapere se voi ci aveste sentito arrivare?How could we know if you had heard us coming?
(Che) essi / esseavesserosentitoNon avevo idea di quando mi avessero sentito arrivare.I haven't understood when they had heard me coming.


Irregular verbs in Italian past perfect subjunctive (trapassato congiuntivo)

Italian language has a lot of irregular verbs that don't follow any inflectional pattern or any grammatical rule. This type of verbs has some particular forms that must be learned by heart.

Most irregular verbs in Italian are from the -ere conjugation.

Concerning the past perfect subjunctive, as we have seen for past subjunctive, we are mostly interested in the past participle irregular forms.


 Fare (to do)Vedere (to see)Scegliere (to choose)Leggere (to read)Porre (to put)Rimanere (to stay)Perdere (to loose)Prendere (to take)Chiedere (to ask)Apparire (to appear)Dire (to say)Aprire (to open)
(Che) ioavessi fattoavessi vistoavessi sceltoavessi lettoavessi postofossi* rimasto/aavessi persoavessi presoavessi chiestofossi* apparso/aavessi dettoavessi aperto
(Che) tuavessi fattoavessi vistoavessi sceltoavessi lettoavessi postofossi* rimasto/aavessi persoavessi presoavessi chiestofossi* apparso/aavessi dettoavessi aperto
(Che) egli / ellaavesse fattoavesse vistoavesse sceltoavesse lettoavesse postofosse* rimasto/aavesse persoavesse presoavesse chiestofosse* apparso/aavesse dettoavesse aperto
(Che) noiavessimo fattoavessimo vistoavessimo sceltoavessimo lettoavessimo postofossimo* rimasti/eavessimo persoavessimo presoavessimo chiestofossimo* apparsi/eavessimo dettoavessimo aperto
(Che) voiaveste fattoaveste vistoaveste sceltoaveste lettoaveste postofoste* rimasti/eaveste persoaveste presoaveste chiestofoste* apparsi/eaveste dettoaveste aperto
(Che) essi / esseavessero fattoavessero vistoabbiano sceltoabbiano lettoabbiano postosiano rimasti/eabbiano persoabbiano presoabbiano chiestosiano* apparsi/eabbiano dettoabbiano aperto


enlightenedRemember! All the transitive verbs in Italian use essere as auxiliary; all the intransitive ones use avere.


The congiuntivo trapassato of transitive and intransitive verbs

As we said before, transitive verbs are followed by an object and their auxiliary verb is avere.

  • Non ero sicura che voi aveste fatto i compiti. (I weren't sure you have done your homework)

Intransitive verbs cannot be followed by an object and their auxiliary verb is essere.

  • Gli è dispiaciuto che loro non fossero rimasti con noi. (He felt sorry that they haven't stayed with us)


Some exceptions

As we have seen for the congiuntivo passato, some verbs (e.g. correresalirescendere) can be both transitive and intransitive and have both essere and avere.

 Correre (to run)Salire (to go up, to get in)Scendere (to go down, to descend)
(Che) ioavessi corso - fossi corso/aavessi salito - fossi salito/aavessi sceso - fossi sceso/a
(Che) tuavessi corso - fossi corso/aavessi salito - fossi salito/aavessi sceso - fossi sceso/a
(Che) egli / ellaavesse corso - fosse corso/aavesse salito - fosse salito/a

avesse sceso - fosse sceso/a

(Che) noiavessimo corso - fossimo corsi/eavessimo salito - fossimo saliti/eavessimo sceso - fossimo scesi/e
(Che) voiaveste corso - foste corsi/eaveste salito - foste saliti/eaveste sceso - foste scesi/e
(Che) essi / esseavessero corso - fossero corsi/eavessero salito - fossero saliti/eavessero sceso - fossero scesi/e


enlightenedThese verbs use avere when the focus of the sentence is on the action. The use of essere occurs when the focus is on the destination, the purpose or the aim of the action.
e.g. Pensavo che Luca avesse corso il rischio di perdere la partita. (I thought that Luca had run the risk of loosing the game)
       Pensavo che Luca fosse corso in suo aiuto. (I thought that Luca had rushed to her aid)


Auxiliary verbs in Italian past perfect subjunctive: che io fossi stato / che io avessi avuto

Below, you will find the trapassato congiuntivo of essere and of avere.

 Essere (to be)Avere (to have)
(Che) iofossi stato/aavessi avuto
(Che) tufossi stato/aavessi avuto
(Che) egli / ellafosse stato/aavesse avuto
(Che) noifossimo stati/eavessimo avuto
(Che) voifoste stati/eaveste avuto
(Che) essi / essefossero stati/eavessero avuto



  1. Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the trapassato congiuntivo in Italian
  2. Choose the correct form for the passato congiuntivo of the following verbs

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the trapassato congiuntivo in Italian

Choose the correct form for the passato congiuntivo of the following verbs

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