Italian Past Participle

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Compound tenses such as the passato prossimo are formed with the present indicative of the auxiliary verb avere or essere and the past participle (participio passato). The past participle of regular verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending -are, -ere, or -ire and adding the appropriate final ending: -ato, -uto, or -ito (see tables below).

Using Auxiliary Verb Avere

The appropriate tense of avere or essere (called the auxiliary or helping verbs) and the past participle of the target verb forms the verb phrase.

Avere is used in a myriad of grammatical and linguistic situations. Learning the many conjugations and uses of the verb is crucial to the study of the Italian language.

In general, transitive verbs are conjugated with avere. Transitive verbs express an action that carries over from the subject to the direct object: The teacher explains the lesson.

The past participle is invariable when the passato prossimo is constructed with avere.

Oggi Anna non lavora perchè ha lavorato ieri.
Today Anna isn't working because she worked yesterday.

The others worked yesterday too.
Anche gli altri hanno lavorato ieri.

When the past participle of a verb conjugated with avere is preceded by the third person direct object pronouns lo, la, le, or li, the past participle agrees with the preceding direct object pronoun in gender and number.

Avere is an irregular verb (un verbo irregolare); it does not follow a predictable pattern of conjugation.

Using Auxiliary Verb Essere

When using essere, the past participle always agrees in gender and number with the subject of the verb. It can, therefore, have four endings: -o, -a, -i, -e. In many cases intransitive verbs (those that cannot take a direct object), especially those expressing motion, are conjugated with the auxiliary verb essere.

The verb essere is also conjugated with itself as the auxiliary verb.

Some of the most common verbs that form compound tenses with essere include:

  • andare —to go
  • arrivare—to arrive
  • cadere—to fall, to drop
  • costare—to cost
  • crescere—to grow
  • diventare—to become
  • durare—to last, to continue
  • entrare—to enter
  • morire—to die
  • nascere—to be born
  • partire—to leave, to depart
  • restare—to stay, to remain
  • tornare—to return
  • uscire—to exit
  • venire—to come

REGULAR PAST PARTICIPLES OF -ARE VERBS

INFINITIVE FORM—PAST PARTICIPLE
camminare (to walk)—camminato
imparare (to learn)—imparato
lavare (to wash)—lavato
telefonare (to telephone)—telefonato

REGULAR PAST PARTICIPLES OF -ERE VERBS

INFINITIVE FORM—PAST PARTICIPLE
credere (to believe)—creduto
sapere (to know)—saputo
tenere (to keep)—tenuto

REGULAR PAST PARTICIPLES OF -IRE VERBS

INFINITIVE FORM—PAST PARTICIPLE
capire (to understand)—capito
finire (to finish)—finito
(to accept)—gradito
sentire (to feel, to smell)—sentito

Below are examples of the passato prossimo with conjugated forms of the verb avere.

PASSATO PROSSIMO WITH REGULAR VERBS

PERSONIMPARARE (TO LEARN)CREDERE (TO BELIEVE)CAPIRE (TO UNDERSTAND)
(io)ho imparatoho credutoho capito
(tu)hai imparatohai credutohai capito
(lui, lei, Lei)ha imparatoha credutoha capito
(noi)abbiamo imparatoabbiamo credutoabbiamo capito
(voi)avete imparatoavete credutoavete capito
(loro, Loro)hanno imparatohanno credutohanno capito
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Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Past Participle." ThoughtCo, Mar. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/italian-past-participle-2011705. Filippo, Michael San. (2017, March 29). Italian Past Participle. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-past-participle-2011705 Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Past Participle." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-past-participle-2011705 (accessed December 17, 2017).