The congiuntivo passato is the past tense of the subjunctive mood in Italian.
Italian speakers tend to use the past subjunctive in the same contexts of the congiuntivo presente. That is:
Furthermore, the past subjunctive appears in the same clauses (i.e. che, final, concessive, temporal and conditional clauses) where also the present subjunctive is frequently used.
|Che sia già arrivata?||Has she already arrived?|
|Credo che abbiano avuto un contrattempo.||I guess they had an unforeseen difficulty.|
|Sebbene abbiano avuto tempo, non hanno fatto i compiti.||Even though they had time, they didn't do their homeworks.|
|Nonostante voi ci abbiate pensato, avete fatto comunque la scelta sbagliata.||Although you've thought about it, you made the wrong choice anyway.|
The past subjunctive usually appears in the dependent clause. In this case, its presence depends on what tense is used in the main clause.
The congiuntivo passato follows an important rule called consecutio temporum: the clauses must present an agreement of tenses between their verbs.
|Main clause: indicativo presente||Dependent clause: present subjunctive / past subjunctive|
|Io immagino (I guess)||che tu prenda il mio caricatore. (that you would take my charger) - contemporaneity|
|Io immagino (I guess)|
che tu abbia preso il mio caricatore. (that you took my charger) - anteriority
The past subjunctive follows the same structure of the present perfect in the indicative mood.
Hence, it is formed using the presente congiuntivo of the auxiliary (essere or avere) with the past participle of the specific verb.
Let's see some example for the three conjugations.
|(Che) io||abbia||portato||Pensano che io abbia portato la torta.||They think I brought the cake.|
|(Che) tu||abbia||portato||Credo che tu abbia portato la torta.||I think you brought the cake.|
|(Che) egli / ella||abbia||portato||Sono sicura che egli abbia portato la torta.||I am sure that he brought the cake.|
|(Che) noi||abbiamo||portato||Temono che noi non abbiamo portato la torta.||They're afraid we didn't bring the cake.|
|(Che) voi||abbiate||portato||Mi chiedo se voi abbiate portato la torta.||I am asking myself if they brought the cake.|
|(Che) essi / esse||abbiano||portato||Ella non sa se loro abbiano portato la torta.||She doesn't know if they brought the cake.|
|(Che) io||abbia||creduto||Pensi veramente che io ci abbia creduto?||Do you really think that I believed it?|
|(Che) tu||abbia||creduto||Sono davvero sicuro che tu ci abbia creduto.||I am really sure that you believed that.|
|(Che) egli / ella||abbia||creduto||Odiano il fatto che ella ci abbia creduto.||They hate that she believed that.|
|(Che) noi||abbiamo||creduto||Non saprei dirti se ci abbiamo veramente creduto.||I can't tell if we really believed it.|
|(Che) voi||abbiate||creduto||Chissà che non ci abbiate creduto!||Maybe you believed that!|
|(Che) essi / esse||abbiano||creduto||Vorrei sapere se ci abbiano creduto o meno.||I would like to know if they believed that or not.|
|(Che) io||abbia||sentito||Non sei sicuro che io abbia sentito quel rumore?||Aren't you sure I heard that noise?|
|(Che) tu||abbia||sentito||Nonostante tu abbia sentito quel rumore, non c'è nessuno in casa.||Even though you heard that noise, nobody is home.|
|(Che) egli / ella||abbia||sentito||Non c'è dubbio che ella abbia sentito uno strano rumore.||It's undeniable she heard a strange noise.|
|(Che) noi||abbiamo||sentito||Mi chiedo se abbiamo veramente sentito quel rumore.||I'm wondering if we have really heard that noise.|
|(Che) voi||abbiate||sentito||Ma siamo sicuri che voi abbiate sentito quello strano rumore?||Are we sure you have heard that strange noise?|
|(Che) essi / esse||abbiano||sentito||Temo che esse abbiano sentito qualche strano rumore.||I'm afraid they have heard some strange noise.|
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 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) io||abbia fatto||abbia visto||abbia scelto||abbia letto||abbia posto||sia* rimasto/a||abbia perso||abbia preso||abbia chiesto||sia* apparso/a||abbia detto||abbia aperto|
|(Che) tu||abbia fatto||abbia visto||abbia scelto||abbia letto||abbia posto||sia* rimasto/a||abbia perso||abbia preso||abbia chiesto||sia* apparso/a||abbia detto||abbia aperto|
|(Che) egli / ella||abbia fatto||abbia visto||abbia scelto||abbia letto||abbia posto||sia* rimasto/a||abbia perso||abbia preso||abbia chiesto||sia* apparso/a||abbia detto||abbia aperto|
|(Che) noi||abbiamo fatto||abbiamo visto||abbiamo scelto||abbiamo letto||abbiamo posto||siamo* rimasti/e||abbiamo perso||abbiamo preso||abbiamo chiesto||siamo* apparsi/e||abbiamo detto||abbiamo aperto|
|(Che) voi||abbiate fatto||abbiate visto||abbiate scelto||abbiate letto||abbiate posto||siate* rimasti/e||abbiate perso||abbiate preso||abbiate chiesto||siate* apparsi/e||abbiate detto||abbiate aperto|
|(Che) essi / esse||abbiano fatto||abbiano visto||abbiano scelto||abbiano letto||abbiano posto||siano rimasti/e||abbiano perso||abbiano preso||abbiano chiesto||siano* apparsi/e||abbiano detto||abbiano aperto|
* Remember! All the transitive verbs in Italian use essere as auxiliary; all the intransitive ones use avere.
As we said before, transitive verbs are followed by an object and their auxiliary verb is avere.
Non sono sicura che voi abbiate fatto i compiti. (I am not sure you did your homework)
Intransitive verbs cannot be followed by an object and their auxiliary verb is essere.
Some verbs (e.g. correre, salire, scendere) 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) io||abbia corso - sia corso/a||abbia salito - sia salito/a||abbia sceso - sia sceso/a|
|(Che) tu||abbia corso - sia corso/a||abbia salito - sia salito/a||abbia sceso - sia sceso/a|
|(Che) egli / ella||abbia corso - sia corso/a||abbia salito - sia salito/a|
abbia sceso - sia sceso/a
|(Che) noi||abbiamo corso - siamo corsi/e||abbiamo salito - siamo saliti/e||abbiamo sceso - siamo scesi/e|
|(Che) voi||abbiate corso - siamo corsi/e||abbiate salito - siamo saliti/e||abbiate sceso - siamo scesi/e|
|(Che) essi / esse||abbiano corso - siano corsi/e||abbiano salito - siano saliti/e||abbiano sceso - siano scesi/e|
These verbs have avere when the focus of the sentence is on the action. They have essere when the focus is on the destination, the purpose or the aim of the action.
e.g. Penso che Luca abbia corso il rischio di perdere la partita. (I think that Luca ran the risk of loosing the game)
Penso che Luca sia corso in suo aiuto. (I think that Luca rushed to his aid)
Below, you will find the past subjunctive of essere and of avere.
|Essere (to be)||Avere (to have)|
|(Che) io||sia stato/a||abbia avuto|
|(Che) tu||sia stato/a||abbia avuto|
|(Che) egli / ella||sia stato/a||abbia avuto|
|(Che) noi||siamo stati/e||abbiamo avuto|
|(Che) voi||siate stati/e||abbiate avuto|
|(Che) essi / esse||siano stati/e||abbiano avuto|
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