Menu
Search

Talking About The Past Posted by on Aug 20, 2012 in Grammar

Here’s a brief description of a morning walk. It highlights some grammatical points which will help you when talking about things that happened in the past. Each sentence is translated into English, and for the text in blue we have given a grammatical explanation. Words in red are links to old posts.

1. Oggi ci siamo svegliati un po’ tardi, perciò abbiamo deciso che sarebbe stato meglio fare una passeggiata breve prima che facesse troppo caldo.

We woke up a bit late today, so we decided that it would be better to go for a short walk before it got too hot.

ci siamo svegliati = we woke up: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural, masculine, of the reflexive verb svegliarsi. The passato prossimo of reflexive verbs is always constructed with the auxiliary verb essere.

abbiamo deciso = we decided: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural of the verb decidere. The passato prossimo of transitive verbs is always constructed with the auxiliary verb avere.

sarebbe stato = it would be: Past Conditional, third person singular of the verb essere. Whereas in English you say ‘it would be’ in Italian we say ‘it would have been’.

facesse = it got: Imperfect Subjunctive, third person singular of the verb fare. Prima che is always followed by the subjunctive, either present when talking about the present or the future, or imperfect when talking about the past. When talking about the weather we often use the verb fare with the meaning of ‘to be’.

2. Da casa nostra ci sono diverse possibilità, e abbiamo scelto  il giro più ombreggiato.

From our house there are various possibilities, and we chose the shadiest route

abbiamo scelto = we chose: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural of the verb scegliere, a transitive verb.

3. È sempre stata una delle nostre passeggiate preferite quando non ce la sentiamo di fare troppo sforzo.

It’s always been one of our favourite walks when we don’t feel like making too much effort.

È sempre stata = It’s always been: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), third person singular of the verb essere. It’s in the feminine form because refers to una passeggiata (a walk).

 

4. Infatti già alle nove del mattino faceva un caldo da morire, e quando siamo arrivati giù al fiume eravamo contentissimi perché lì fa sempre bello fresco.

In fact, it was already terribly hot at nine in the morning, and when we arrived down at the river we were really  pleased because it’s always lovely and fresh.

faceva = it was: Imperfect tense, third person singular of the verb fare. We use the imperfect tense because the heat is an on-going factor, not an action.

siamo arrivati = we arrived: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural, masculine, of the verb arrivare, which, like many (but not all!) verbs of movement, is constructed with the auxiliary essere.

eravamo = we were: Imperfect tense, first person plural of the verb essere. In the past we normally use the imperfect tense to express feelings and emotions, e.g. eravamo contentissimi.

5. In questa maniera ci siamo illusi di aver fatto un po’ di esercizio. Dopo la passeggiata, siamo tornati a fare i pigri, che è l’unica cosa che si può fare in questo caldo torrido.

In this way we fooled ourselves that we’d done a bit of exercise. After the walk we went back to being lazy again, which is the only thing you can do in this torrid heat.

ci siamo illusi = we fooled ourselves: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural, masculine, of the reflexive verb illudersi.

aver fatto = to have done: Past infinitive of the verb fare. As both actions of illudersi (fooling oneself) and fare un po’ di esercizio (doing a bit of exercise) are done by the same person, in this case noi (we), in Italian we use the construction di + infinito, e.g. ci siamo illusi di aver fatto un po’ di esercizio.

siamo tornati = we went back: Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect), first person plural, masculine, of the verb of movement tornare.

Tags: , ,
Keep learning Italian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

Comments:

  1. Joan Engelhaupt:

    I’m curious as to why you say “aver fatto” instead of “avere fatto”. I’d appreciate your explanation.

    • Serena:

      @Joan Engelhaupt Salve Joan!
      Well, I wrote “aver fatto” automatically out of habit, but I don’t know the technical reason behind it. However, I had a look in my grammar book, and I found this explanation, which is very complicated, I must admit, but here it is:
      “Sono parecchie le parole polisillabe che possono avere il troncamento della vocale finale (per lo più ‘e’), ma a condizione che prima di questa ci sia una liquida (l, r) o una nasale (m, n). Per esempio: signor professore, amor mio, fior di latte, mal di mare, fil di ferro. Così pure la forma dell’infinito presente di tutti i vrbi: far bene, dir male, voler vedere, aver fatto, ecc.”

      Saluti da Serena

  2. Debbie:

    I thought that after using unico in a sentence the subjunctive was meant to be used?

    • Geoff:

      @Debbie Salve Debbie!
      I reread the sentence: “che è l’unica cosa che si può fare in questo caldo torrido.” and I felt that it sounded better without the subjunctive, so I did a bit of research to find out whether it was correct or not, and this is what I found out:

      1. “Ci sono però casi in cui l’uso del congiuntivo non è obbligatorio e la grammatica italiana prevede la possibilità che venga sostituito con l’indicativo:-In espressioni comparative, superlative, indefinite: Ugo è l’unico che sia venuto / Ugo è l’unico che è venuto.”

      2. This is a grammar question I found on the Corriere della Sera: “Non affermo che il petrolio sia l’unico fattore che determina (perché non il modo congiuntivo?) la ferma volontà di Bush…”, and this was the reply of the expert: “Nel caso che lei propone sarebbe auspicabile un congiuntivo, perché l’espressione conserva un valore di eventualità”. What strikes me in this answer is the fact that the use of the subjunctive is due to its “valore di eventualità” (probability value), not to the presence of “l’unico”.

      Finally, here is a quote from an article about Dante that I found in the Enciclopedia Treccani, the official Italian encyclopaedia: “L’unico caso in cui la locuzione congiuntiva ha senz’altro valore concessivo, e il significato di ” benché “, Si trova in Vn XII 7…”

      Per concludere: 1. the use of the subjunctive is not obligatory after “l’unico” 2. The subjunctive is preferred when you want to express possibility, probability, etc. My sentence, on the other hand, did not suggest that “essere pigri” was an option, but a fact.

      Sono stata chiara?

      Saluti da Serena

  3. Elaine:

    Why do you use “la” in the sentence in #3 “…quando non ce la sentiamo di fare troppo sforzo”? I understand the overall meaning but can’t see what the “la” refers to.
    Could you do a blog on the use of “la” in phrases like “prendersela” maybe?

    • Serena:

      @Elaine Salve Elaine, in the sentence “quando non ce la sentiamo di fare troppo sforzo” the pronoun ‘la’ doesn’t have any meaning. It’s part of the reflexive verb “sentirsela” = “to feel like”. There’s a whole series of verbs, called ‘verbi pronominali’, which are constructed with a pronoun, in this case ‘la’, which gives a particular meaning to the verb. Some more examples are: prendersela (to blame, to pick on), cavarsela (to get away with), etc. I’ll soon write a blog on this topic. Promised!

      Saluti da Serena


Leave a comment: