The Italian past participle
The Italian past participle is the equivalent of “played”, “cleaned”, “done”, “gone”, “seen”, etc., as in the example below:
Ho appena visto tuo fratello.
I have just seen your brother.
However, it doesn’t always translate like that, as you can see below:
La scorsa settimana siamo andati a teatro.
Last week we went to the theater.
If you’re learning Italian, you probably already encountered the Italian past participle many times but didn’t realize it, unless you were already familiar with it.
In fact, when we talk about the past in Italian, we use it all the time.
Let’s find out more about the Italian past participle!
How to use the Italian past participle
The past participle needs to go together with one of the two Italian auxiliary verbs: essere or avere.
Have a look at the examples below to understand better:
Ho mangiato troppo.
I have eaten too much.
Sono stata in Italia.
I have been to Italy.
We couldn’t have said “mangiato troppo” or “stata in Italia” on their own because it would have looked incomplete.
It’s the same in English. Would you say “I eaten too much” or “I been to Italy”?
This is because, on its own, the past participle doesn’t make much sense.
For this reason, it is considered an unfinished verb mode, which means it doesn’t give us much information about the person who did the action.
How to form the Italian past participle of regular verbs
The past participles of regular verbs are formed as follows:
- Past participles of -are verbs end in -ato
- Past participles of -ere verbs end in -uto
- Past participles of -ire verbs end in -ito
Here are some examples:
- Ballare (to dance): ballato
- Camminare (to walk): camminato
- Lavorare (to work): lavorato
- Mangiare (to eat): mangiato
- Avere (to have): avuto
- Cadere (to fall): caduto
- Credere (to believe): creduto
- Sapere (to know): saputo
- Capire (to understand): capito
- Dormire (to sleep): dormito
- Finire (to finish): finito
- Sentire (to feel): sentito
How to form the Italian past participle of irregular verbs
There are some verbs that have irregular past participles.
In this case, you just need to memorize them. You could write them down or make up a game to practice them.
Here are some of them:
- Aprire (to open): aperto
- Essere (to be): stato
- Conoscere (to know/meet): conosciuto
- Fare (to do): fatto
- Dire (to say): detto
- Chiedere (to ask): chiesto
- Leggere (to read): letto
- Mettere (to put): messo
- Perdere (to lose): perso
- Rompere (to break): rotto
- Ridere (to laugh): riso
- Scrivere (to write): scritto
- Vedere (to see): visto
- Venire (to come): venuto
- Vivere (to live): vissuto
Verb tenses formed with the Italian past participle
As we already mentioned, the past participle goes together with the conjugated form of either avere or essere in this order:
- Corresponding conjugated form of avere/essere + past participle
The verbs tenses that are formed with the Italian past participle are the following:
- Passato prossimo (present perfect)
Construction: present tense of avere/essere + past participle
Cosa hai fatto?
What have you done?
- Trapassato prossimo (past perfect)
Construction: imperfect tense of avere/essere + past participle
Non ero mai stata in Italia.
I had never been to Italy.
- Condizionale passato (past conditional)
Construction: present conditional tense of avere/essere + past participle
Mi sarebbe piaciuto fare più foto, ma purtroppo avevo il cellulare scarico.
I would have liked to take more pictures, but unfortunately, my mobile phone was out of battery.
- Congiuntivo passato (past subjunctive)
Construction: present subjunctive tense of avere/essere + past participle
Non credo che Mario mi abbia detto la verità.
I don’t think Mario told me the truth.
- Congiuntivo trapassato(past perfect subjunctive)
Construction: imperfect subjunctive tense of avere/essere + past participle
Avevo paura che non avessero risolto quel problema.
I was afraid they hadn’t resolved that problem.
The Italian past participle: essere or avere?
You might wonder when we use essere and when we use avere.
All foreigners learning Italian ask themselves the same question.
Here’s the answer!
We use avere with most Italian verbs, like mangiare (to eat), ballare (to dance), dormire (to sleep).
We use essere 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 infinitive with the verb essere, the past participle agrees in number and gender with the noun it refers to, like in the example below:
Sono andatia casa presto.
They went back home early.
As you can see, we said tornati (and not tornato or tornate) since we’re referring to “they”.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Other uses of the Italian past participle
Past participles are not only used in verbal constructions but also for other purposes.
They can be used as nouns, like in the example below:
Entrare nell’appartamento di uno sconosciuto è un reato.
Getting into a stranger’s apartment is a crime.
In this example, sconosciuto, the past participle of sconoscere (to not know), is used as a noun.
They can also be used as adjectives:
Ha comprato una macchina rubata.
He bought a stolen car.
Here, rubato, the past participle of rubare (to steal), is used as an adjective.
However, these uses of the Italian past participle are not very common.
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