The Italian compound gerund
In Italian there is a past gerund (or compound gerund) which is the equivalent of the English “having eaten”, “having done”, “having lived”, “having gone”, etc.
However, it does not always translate like that.
The past gerund is a verbal mood and is not very common but if you’re here, it is because you’re wondering why and how to use it.
We use the Italian past gerund to explain why something happened in the past, like in the example below:
Essendomi alzato tardi, non ho avuto tempo di fare colazione.
Having gotten up late, I didn’t have time to have breakfast.
Since I got up late, I didn’t have time to have breakfast.
As you can see, we can translate it with “having gotten up late”, but this basically means “because/since I got up late”.
Let’s find out more about the Italian past gerund!
How to form the Italian past gerund?
We use the Italian past gerund in two ways:
- Present gerund of avere (avendo) + past participle
- Present gerund of avere (essendo) + past participle
So, you basically have to remember the words avendo and essendo, and the past participles.
The past gerund: avendo or essendo?
We use avendo with most Italian verbs.
We use essendo with the following verbs:
- Verbs of movement (i.e.: andare – to go; venire – to come)
- Reflexive verbs (i.e.: svegliarsi – to wake up; lavarsi – to wash oneself)
- Verbs that indicate the state of something/someone (i.e.: essere – to be; stare – to be/feel)
When we use the past gerund with the verb essere, the past participle agrees in number and gender with the noun it refers to, like in the example below:
Essendo andata in vacanza, ora mi sento molto meglio.
Since I went on holiday, now I feel much better.
As you can see the person “talking” said andata (and not andato or andate, since the person talking is a woman).
The past gerund: past participles
In case you don’t know or don’t remember, the past participles of regular verbs are conjugated as follows:
- Verbs ending in -are take -ato (i.e.: mangiare-->mangiato, ballare–> ballato)
- Verbs ending in -ere take -uto (i.e.: cadere–> caduto, avere–> avuto)
- Verbs ending in -ire take -ito (i.e.: capire–> capito, dormire–> dormito)
There are some irregular past participles. Here are some of them:
- Essere (to be): stato
- Fare (to do): fatto
- Dire(to say): detto
- Chiedere (to ask): chiesto
- Leggere (to read): letto
- Mettere (to put): messo
- Vedere(to see): visto
- Vivere (to live): vissuto
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
The Italian past gerund: examples
Let’s now have a look at some examples with the Italian past gerund:
Avendo vissuto un anno a Roma, parla italiano perfettamente.
Having lived in Rome for a year, he speaks Italian perfectly.
Avendo studiato tutto il pomeriggio, siamo andati a dormire presto.
Since we studied the whole afternoon, we went to sleep early.
Avendo saputo come sono andate le cose, Giovanni ha preso una decisione.
Having found out how things went, Giovanni made a decision.
Essendo partiti presto, sono riusciti ad arrivare in tempo.
Since they left early, they managed to get there on time.
Essendo stato già tre volte a Palermo, l’anno prossimo andrò a Napoli.
Since I’ve already been three times to Palermo, next year I’ll go to Naples.
Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!