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Italian Passato Remoto Posted by on Jun 13, 2020 in Culture, Grammar

Ciao a tutti!

Last week when you read the story La lepre e la tartaruga, you may have noticed a different verb tense, the passato remoto, the remote past.

The passato remoto is typically a narrative past tense that is used to recount historical events or actions in the distant (remote) past. It is also commonly used in the South of Italy, in both speaking and writing. Otherwise, you will come across the passato remoto in literature, newspapers, and fables like the one we read together.

Let’s take a look at some regular are, ere, ire, and isc verbs in the passato remoto below so you can begin to see the pattern:

Parlare
(to speak)
Vendere
(to sell)
Dormire
(to sleep)
Finire
(to finish)
io parlai vendetti/-ei dormii finii
tu parlasti vendesti dormisti finisti
lui, lei, Lei parlò vendette/-è dormì finì
noi  parlammo vendemmo dormimmo finimmo
voi parlaste vendeste dormiste finiste
loro parlarono vendettero/
erono
dormirono finirono

*Notice the accented letters. When pronouncing, it’s important to emphasize the letter on which there is an accent. Otherwise, you will be saying the wrong tense.

Parlo – I speak (present tense)

ParlòHe spoke (passato remoto)

Now let’s look at some partially irregular verbs in the passato remoto:

avere

(to have)

leggere

(to read)

mettere

(to place)

nascere

(to be born)

sapere

(to know)

scrivere

(to write)

io ebbi lessi misi nacqui seppi scrissi
tu avesti leggesti mettesti nascesti sapesti scrivesti
lui/lei ebbe lesse mise nacque seppe scrisse
noi avemmo leggemmo mettemmo nascemmo sapemmo scrivemmo
voi aveste leggeste metteste nasceste sapeste scriveste
loro ebbero lessero misero nacquero seppero scrissero

*You will notice the tu, noi, and voi forms are regular.

*Venire (to come) is also irregular = venni/venisti/venne/venimmo/veniste/vennero

And finally here are some totally irregular verbs:

bere

(to drink)

dare

(to give)

dire

(to say)

essere

(to be)

fare

(to do, make)

stare

(to stay)

io bevvi diedi dissi fui feci stetti
tu bevesti desti dicesti fosti facesti stesti
lui/lei bevve diede disse fu fece stette
noi bevemmo demmo dicemmo fummo facemmo stemmo
voi beveste deste diceste foste faceste steste
loro bevvero diedero dissero fossero facessero stettero

So when should you use passato remoto? There is much debate- especially because the North and South of Italy use the tense differently. Mostly it will be important to recognize the passato remoto when reading. Some grammarians like to say that if the action is completely done with no implications on current events, then you can go passato remoto, especially when speaking if you are in the South. Otherwise, stick to this tense to talk about significantly old historical events, and avoid using it in conversation in the North.

Here are some exercises to practice the passato remoto! Translate these sentences and comment them below:

Dante was born in the 13th century.

The Roman Empire was vast.

We wrote many stories.

They spoke Latin.

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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italophone and Francophone.


Comments:

  1. Amir:

    Il Dante fu nato nel tredicesimo secolo.
    L’impero romano fu grandissimo.
    Noi scrivemmo tante storie.
    Loro parlarono il latino.

    Tante grazie prof.ssa Bridgette! È stato molto utile. Non smettete mai a scrivere su argomenti interessanti.
    Buon fine settimana.
    A presto,
    Amir


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