Italian Past Perfect Subjunctive Tense

Congiuntivo Trapassato in Italian

Stylish mature woman writing in notebook outside church, Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy

Innocenti / Getty Images

To complete the fourth of subjunctive-tense verb forms, there's the congiuntivo trapassato (referred to as the past perfect subjunctive in English), which is a compound tense. Form this tense with the congiuntivo imperfetto of the auxiliary verb avere or essere and the past participle of the acting verb.

Forming the Compound Tense

The compound tenses (i tempi composti) are verb tenses that consist of two words, such as the passato prossimo (present perfect). Both the verbs essere and avere act as helping verbs in compound tense formations. For example: io sono stato (I was) and ho avuto (I had).

Auxiliary Verb Avere

In general, transitive verbs (verbs that carry over an action from the subject to the direct object) are conjugated with avere as in the following example:

  • Il pilota ha pilotato l'aeroplano. (The pilot flew the plane.)

When the passato prossimo is constructed with avere, the past participle does not change according to gender or number:

  • Io ho parlato con Giorgio ieri pomeriggio. (I spoke to George yesterday afternoon.)
  • Noi abbiamo comprato molte cose. (We bought many things.)

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. The past participle may agree with the direct object pronouns mi, ti, ci, and vi when these precede the verb, but the agreement is not mandatory.

  • Ho bevuto la birra. (I drank the beer.)
  • L'ho bevuta. (I drank it.)
  • Ho comprato il sale e il pepe. (I bought the salt and pepper.)
  • Li ho comprati. (I bought them.)
  • Ci hanno visto/visti. (They saw us.)

In negative sentences, non is placed before the auxiliary verb:

  • Molti non hanno pagato. (Many didn't pay.)
  • No, non ho ordinato una pizza. (No, I didn't order a pizza.)

Auxiliary Verb Essere

When essere is used, the past participle always agrees in gender and number with the subject of the verb, so you have four endings to choose from: -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.

Here are a few examples of the trapassato congiuntivo:

  • Speravo che avessero capito. (I was hoping they had understood.)
  • Avevo paura che non avessero risolto quel problema. (I was afraid they hadn't resolved that problem.)
  • Vorrebbero che io raccontassi una storia. (They would like me to tell a story.)
  • Non volevo che tu lo facessi così presto. (I didn't want you to do it as soon.)

Trapassato Congiuntivo of the Verbs Avere and Essere

che io avessi avuto fossi stato(-a)
che tu avessi avuto fossi stato(-a)
che lui/lei/Lei avesse avuto fosse stato(-a)
che noi avessimo avuto fossimo stati(-e)
che voi aveste avuto foste stati(-e)
che loro/Loro avessero avuto fossero stati(-e)
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Past Perfect Subjunctive Tense." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Filippo, Michael San. (2023, April 5). Italian Past Perfect Subjunctive Tense. Retrieved from Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Past Perfect Subjunctive Tense." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).