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Il Congiuntivo Part 3 – Passato Posted by on Oct 10, 2009 in Grammar

In part 1 of this series on the congiuntivo I explained how to use it in the present tense, il congiuntivo presente. Part 2 consisted of a list of the most common irregular verbs and their present tense conjugations. This included the two verbs essere (to be), and avere (to have) which are essential to the construction of the Congiuntivo Passato (Perfect Subjunctive). In order to construct the perfect subjunctive you simply use the present subjunctive of the auxiliary verbs essere and avere, followed by the past participle of the main verb. Here are a couple of examples that illustrate how the perfect subjunctive is constructed:

Andare (to go), this uses the auxiliary verb essere

Io sia andato/a, tu sia andato/a, lui sia andato, lei sia andata, noi siamo andati/e, voi siate andati/e, loro siano andati/e

Finire (to finish), this uses the auxiliary verb avere

Io abbia finito, tu abbia finito, lui/lei abbia finito, noi abbiamo finito, voi abbiate finito, loro abbiano finito

In order to know whether to use ‘essere’ or ‘avere’ you will need to understand the rules that apply for the ‘passato prossimo’ (present perfect). You can refresh your memory by looking at my article about transitive and intransitive verbs.

 

The Congiuntivo Passato is normally used…

1. to say what you think, wish or hope about something in the past. It comes after the conjunction che (that) following verbs such as sperare (to hope), credere (to believe), pensare (to think), dubitare (to doubt) used in the present tense. Here are some examples: speriamo che non abbia piovuto (let’s hope it hasn’t rained); Lucia pensa che Maria sia partita ieri per le vacanze (Lucia thinks that Maria left yesterday for her holidays); mi stupisco che tu sia rimasto ancora (I’m surprised that you remained longer); ho paura che Carlo non ce l’abbia fatta a superare l’esame (I’m worried that Carlo wasn’t able to pass the exam).

N.B. the congiuntivo passato is not used after the verb volere (to want)!

2. to talk about the past after impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as sembra che (it seems that), si dice che (it is said that), e.g. sembra che Giorgio abbia cambiato lavoro (it seems that Giorgio has changed job); si dice che questa sia stata una buona annata per i pomodori (this is said to have been a good year for the tomatoes).

3. to talk about the past after impersonal constructions such as è facile / difficile che (it’s likely / unlikely that), è meglio che (it’s better that), è un peccato che (it’s a pity that), non è giusto che (it’s unfair that), e.g. È un peccato che tu non sia potuta venire (it’s a pity that you weren’t able to come); non è giusto che sia sempre stato io a lavare i piatti (it’s unfair that it was always me that had to wash the dishes); è meglio che siate venuti ieri pomeriggio (it’s better that you [plural] came yesterday afternoon).

4. following conjunctions built with che, to express a possibility or a condition that should have happened in the past, such as a meno che (unless), nel caso che (in case), a condizione che (on condition that), purché (provided that), benché (even though/although). Here are some examples: gli zucchini sono morti benché li abbia innaffiati tutti i giorni (the zucchini plants have died even though I watered them every day); Giorgio dovrebbe essere arrivato a casa ormai, a meno che il treno non abbia tardato (Giorgio should be at home by now, unless the train was late).

 

Coming soon Il Congiuntivo Imperfetto!

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Comments:

  1. Josey:

    Hi there,
    what happened to part 2…or was this just a type-o???

    Thanks,

    Josey

  2. Josey:

    Grazie mille Geoff,
    bravissimo lavoro 🙂

  3. Seda:

    Veramente un lavoro bravo… Grazie e complimenti 🙂

  4. Cara:

    Hi Serena, Thanks for your postings! They helped me a lot! Here, I would like to know if I have to use the imperfetto tense with this: se io fossi tu… But do Italians use this expression anyway?

    • Geoff:

      @Cara Ciao Cara, Serena’s not here right now so I’ll answer on her behalf. I imagine that the English expression that you want to use is “if I were you”, correct?
      In Italian we say “se fossi in te”, e.g. “se fossi in te porterei l’ombrello” (“if I were you I’d take an umbrella”)

      Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  5. Toby:

    Ciao e grazie mille per il buonissimo blog!
    Could you please explain why you used passato instead of imperfetto in this sentence: “non è giusto che sia sempre stato io a lavare i piatti (it’s unfair that it was always me that had to wash the dishes)”

    Also could you use dovere in the sentence (dovesse lavare i piatti)?

    • Serena:

      @Toby Salve Toby!
      No, you can’t use the imperfect subjunctive in this sentence because, as I explained at the beginning, we use the passato to talk about the past after impersonal constructions such as è facile / difficile che (it’s likely / unlikely that), è meglio che (it’s better that), è un peccato che (it’s a pity that), non è giusto che (it’s unfair that), e.g. “non è giusto che sia sempre stato io a lavare i piatti (it’s unfair that it was always me that had to wash the dishes)”

      If you want to you use the verb dovere you need to change the sentence completely, e.g. non è giusto che io abbia sempre dovuto lavare i piatti. However, this is not a nice construction.

      Saluti da Serena

  6. Alex:

    I was wondering, for your last example where you have written “a meno che il treno non abbia tardato.” Wouldn’t this mean “unless the train had not been delayed”? I would think it should be “a meno che il treno abbia tardato” to signify “unless the train had been delayed”. Can you exlain to me why this is?

    • Serena:

      @Alex Salve Alex!
      This is a very confusing usage of ‘non’ for most foreigners. The ‘non‘ in this case is a false negative which in English is not translated. It’s called a ‘pleonastic non’. We’ll right a post on this topic soon.
      Saluti da Serena

  7. romulus:

    Serena……….I am anxiously awaiting your write up on the ‘IL CONGIUNTIVO
    IMPERFETTO’ ……

    On your write up: ‘congiuntivo imperfetto’ , kindly comment: on the following:
    It is important to note a general rule about
    the utilization of the ‘Presente Congiuntivo’ and
    ‘il congiuntivo imperfetto’………….

    It is my understanding that, whenever the
    ‘Presente Indicativo’ and the ‘Futuro’ are used
    in the first part of a sentence, the ‘Presente
    Congiuntivo’ is used……..example: Io voglio
    (presente indicative) che tu venga (presente
    congiuntivo) a casa mia……etc…

    Whereas, whenever the ‘Passato’ (Io fu’),
    ‘L’impefetto’ (Io ero) and the ‘Condizionale’
    (Io vorrei) are used the ‘Il Congiuntivo imperfetto’
    Is used…….using same sentence………..
    Io vorrei (condizionale) che tu venissi (imperfetto
    congiuntivo’ a casa via……etc…..etc…..

    Is this rule constantly applicable? grazie…Romulus

    .

    • Serena:

      @romulus Salve Romulus!
      You wrote: It is my understanding that, whenever the ‘Presente Indicativo’ and the ‘Futuro’ are used in the first part of a sentence, the ‘Presente
      Congiuntivo’ is used……..example: Io voglio (presente indicative) che tu venga (presente congiuntivo) a casa mia……etc…
      This is right only if the consequence is in the present or future, e.g. “spero che il treno arrivi in orario” = “I hope the train arrives on time”.
      But when the consequence has already happened the present tense is followed by a past subjunctive, e.g. “spero che il treno sia arrivato in orario” = I hope the train arrived on time”.

      Allora, this sort of rules are too generic, therefore I don’t use them in my blog because they can be measliding.

      As for the Imperfetto, here’s the link: https://blogs.transparent.com/italian/il-congiuntivo-part-4-%e2%80%93-imperfetto/

      Saluti da Serena


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