Past of “potere”, “volere”, “dovere”: Italian grammar lesson 52

Summary

Dive into the heart of Italian grammar! This guide demystifies the passato prossimo, teaching you to wield the past participle like a native. You’ll master the art of recounting past events with flair, using essere and avere with ease. 🇮🇹✨

  • Passato Prossimo 101: Get the lowdown on forming the passato prossimo, Italy’s go-to past tense, by pairing essere or avere with the past participle. It’s a game-changer! 🚀
  • Cracking the Past Participle Code: Learn to chop off those -are, -ere, and -ire endings and slap on -ato, -uto, or -ito for instant past participle magic. Abracadabra! ✨
  • Modal Verb Mastery: Even the trickiest Italian verbs bow down to regular past participles. Volere, potere, and dovere? Just add -uto and you’re golden. 🏆
  • Compound Tense Concoctions: Mix and match essere or avere with that trusty past participle for a cocktail of compound tenses. It’s like a grammar bartender’s dream. 🍸
  • Gender Bender: Remember, with essere, past participles play dress-up to match the subject’s gender and number. With avere, they’re one-size-fits-all. 👗👔
  • Conjugation Station: Practice makes perfect! Conjugate volere, potere, and dovere in various tenses to flex those grammar muscles. 💪

My thoughts

In Italian, we have different tenses for talking about the past. The most widely used is the passato prossimo, which can be used both as an equivalent of the English simple past or the present perfect.

This tense is very easy to form, you just need to use the present tense of the verb essere (to be) or avere (to have) and the past participle of the verbs you are conjugating.

What is the past participle?

The participio passato in Italian is very important, and knowing how to form it will be essential for using compound tenses, which are verb tenses made up of the verb essere (to be) or avere (to have) followed by a past participle.

Regular past participles can be formed by dropping the endings areere, –ire from the infinitive form of the verb (infinito) and adding the suffixesato, –uto, or –ito.

Here are some examples:

  • imparare (to learn)
  •  imparato (learned)

Ho imparato l’italiano da piccola.

I learned Italian when I was a child.

  • credere (to believe)
  • creduto (believed)

Non gli ho creduto.

I did not believed them.

  • finire (to finish)
  • finito (finished)

Hai finito di cucinare?

Have you finished cooking?

How to use the past participle with potere, volere, and dovere?

Many Italian verbs have an irregular past participle. However, you’re in luck, as volere, potere, and dovere have a regular past participle even if they have irregular conjugations in the present.

Thus, we will have:

  • Volere: voluto

Ho voluto dirtelo personalmente.

I wanted to tell you in person.

  • Potere: potuto

Non ho potuto finire tutto.

I was not able to finish all of it.

  • Dovere: dovuto 

Avresti dovuto dirmelo prima.

You should have told me earlier.

How to form compound tenses with potere, volere, and dovere?

As we already mentioned, the past participle form of verbs is used in Italian in all compound tenses.

This is quite handy, as to form them you will only need to know the conjugations of essere and avere  and just add the same past participle to all of them.

Note that these verbs are auxiliary verbs, so they are followed by another verb in the infinitive. Depending on the verb that follows, they can either take essere or avere in the compound tense.

So, if you say:

  • sono andato (I went) you will use esseresono voluto, potuto, dovuto andare.

While if you say:

  • ho mangiato (I ate), you will use avere: ho voluto, potuto, dovuto mangiare. 

If you use the verb essere, make sure you remember to change the ending of the past participle to match the gender and number of the subject.

With the verb avere, on the other hand, the past participle always stays the same.

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Let’s see some conjugations:

Passato prossimo of  volere (simple past or present perfect)

presente avere/essere  participio passato
Io ho/sono voluto/a
Tu hai/sei voluto/a
Lui / Lei ha/è voluto/a
Noi abbiamo/siamo voluto/i/e
Voi avete/siete voluto/i/e
Loro, Loro hanno/sono voluto/i/e

Trapassato prossimo of potere (past perfect)

imperfetto avere/essere  participio passato
Io avevo/ero potuto/a
Tu avevi/eri potuto/a
Lui / Lei aveva/era potuto/a
Noi avevamo/eravamo potuto/i/e
Voi avevate/eravate potuto/i/e
Loro, Loro avevano/erano potuto/i/e

Condizionale passato of dovere (past conditional)

condizionale avere/essere participio passato
Io avrei/sarei potuto/a
Tu avresti/saresti potuto/a
Lui / Lei avrebbe/sarebbe potuto/a
Noi avremmo/saremmo potuto/i/e
Voi avreste/sareste potuto/i/e
Loro, Loro avrebbero/sarebbero potuto/i/e

What is the past participle?

It's a past tense formed by dropping the endings -are, -ere, -ire from the infinitive form of the verb and adding the suffixes -ato, -uto, or -ito.

How to use the past participle with "potere", "volere", and "dovere"?

They have a regular past participle: "potuto", "voluto" and "dovuto".

How to form compound tenses with "potere", "volere", and "dovere"?

You only need to know the conjugations of essere and avere  and just add the same past participle to all of them. Note that these verbs are auxiliary verbs, so they are followed by another verb in the infinitive.

Italian word of the day
passeggiata
Example
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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