In Italian, the present perfect tense (il passato prossimo) consists of the present of one of two auxiliary verbs (avere or essere) plus the past participle. When auxiliary essere is used, it is translated by the appropriate form of the verb “to have.”
ho parlato sono stato (-a)
hai parlato sei stato (-a)
ha parlato è stato (-a)
abbiamo parlato siamo stati (-e)
avete parlato siete stati (-e)
hanno parlato sono stati (-e)
The present perfect has three possible translations. Thus, ho parlato may mean “I have spoken,” “I spoke,” or “I did speak,” depending on the context.
When essere is used as the auxiliary verb, the past participle must agree in gender and number (ex. Maria è stata in Italia. – Maria has been to Italy.). When avere is used as the auxiliary verb, it generally does not change, unless there is a preceding direct object pronoun, in which case the past participle agrees with the pronoun in gender and number (ex. Ho visto Stefania. – I saw Stefania. |vs| L’ho vista. – I saw her.)
Venire (to come) and rimanere (to remain) are sometimes used as auxiliaries in the simple tenses to create a passive construction, instead of essere. Andare (to go) is similarly used but often implies duty or obligation.
Examples with venire:
I ladri vennero arrestati. – The thieves were arrested.
Quando vengono cambiati? – When are they changed?
Venivano controllati ogni sei mesi. – They were checked every six months.
Verrà criticato da tutti. – He’ll be criticized by everyone.
Il segreto verrebbe scoperto. – The secret would be discovered.
Examples with rimanere:
Rimase sorpresa. – She was surprised.
È rimasto ferito in un incidente stradale. – He was injured in a car accident.
È rimasta stupefatta dalla scena. – She was amazed by the scene.
Examples with andare:
Il fucile non va toccato. – The gun must not (is not to) be touched.
Le leggi vanno rispettate. – The laws must be respected.
I compiti vanno fatti. – The homework must be done.
La bambina va portata a casa di sua mamma. – The child must be taken home to her mother.
Le porte vanno chiuse alle ore 19:00. – The doors must be closed at 7 p.m.
The majority of verbs in Italian (all transitive verbs) use avere as the auxiliary verb. Transitive verbs are verbs that take a direct object.
The auxiliary verb essere is used when conjugating:
- the verb essere;
- all reflexive verbs;
- almost all intransitive verbs denoting motion or change of condition (andare, stare, entrare, arrivare, partire, diventare, divenire, nascere, morire, etc.); and
- a few impersonal verbs such as piovere (to rain) and nevicare (to snow). (Note: these two verbs may equally be conjugated with avere, with no change in meaning.)
even if, even though
he belonged (3d.sing. impf. subj., appartenere)
being (pres. part., essere)
|le ha dato
s/he gave to her… (le=to her)
to sound, to fathom
to look at oneself (cf. specchio, mirror)