The Italian Past Participle Posted by Geoff on Mar 26, 2018 in Grammar
How does the Italian past participle (il participio passato) work when used with the verbs essere (to be) and avere (to have)? Let’s find out.
The Past Participle With Essere:
When we use the past participle with essere it has to agree with the subject in gender and number. This means that the ending of the past participle needs to change to:
o if the subject is masculine singular
i if the subject is masculine plural
a if the subject is feminine singular
e if the subject is feminine plural
Here are some examples which illustrate how this works. In this case we’ll use the verb andare (to go):
Paolo è andato a sciare = Paolo went skiing (masculine singular)
l’anno scorso i ragazzi sono andati in Spagna = last year the boys went to Spain (masculine plural)
ieri Lucia è andata al mercato = Lucia went to the market yesterday (feminine singular)
Serena e Annalisa sono andate a teatro= Serena and Annalisa went to the theatre (feminine plural)
Here are some more examples, this time with the reflexive verb vestirsi (to dress oneself/get dressed):
Paolo si è vestito = Paolo got dressed (masculine singular)
i ragazzi si sono vestiti = the boys got dressed (masculine plural)
Lucia si è vestita = Lucia got dressed (feminine singular)
Maria e Giovanna si sono vestite = Maria and Giovanna got dressed (feminine plural)
The Past Participle With Avere:
When used with avere, the past participle always ends with the masculine singular o except where the verb is preceded by the direct object pronoun it, him, her, or them.
Firstly let’s look at some examples without the direct object pronoun:
Paolo ha comprato un paio di sci = Paolo bought a pair of skis
Lucia ha comprato le verdure = Lucia bought the vegetables
l’anno scorso abbiamo visitato la Spagna = last year we visited Spain
ieri Maria e Giovanna hanno visto l’ultimo film di Verdone = Maria e Giovanna saw Verdone’s latest film yesterday
Now here’s the past participle with the direct object pronoun. You’ll notice that the past participle agrees in gender and number with the direct object which I’ve highlighted in blue.
Question: Hai visto l’ultimo film di Verdone? = Have you seen Verdone’s latest film? (masculine singular)
Reply: Si l’ho visto ieri = Yes, I saw it yesterday – N.B. here, l’ho is an abrreviation of lo ho
Question: Dove hai comprato gli sci? = Where did you buy the skis? (masculine plural)
Reply: Li ho comprati a Milano = I bought them in Milano
Question: Hai mai visitato la Spagna? = Have you ever visited Spain? (feminine singular)
Reply: Si l’ho visitata l’anno scorso = yes I visited it last year – N.B. here, l’ho is an abbreviation of la ho
Question: Dove hai comprato le verdure? = Where did you buy the vegetables? (feminine plural)
Reply: Le ho comprate al mercato = I bought them from the market
N.B. when we use ne to mean ‘of it‘ or ‘of them’ we follow the same rules as above.
Question: Quanto pane hai comprato? = How much bread have you bought? (masculine singular)
Reply: Ne ho comprato un kilo = I’ve bought a kilo of it
Question: Quanti libri hai dato a Giorgio? = How many books did you give to Giorgio (masculine plural)
Reply: Gliene ho dati tre = I gave him three of them
Question: Quanta farina hai comprato? = How much flour did you buy? (feminine singular)
Reply: Ne ho comprata un chilo = I bought a kilo of it
Question: Quante fette di torta hai mangiato? = How many slices of cake have you eaten? (feminine plural)
Reply: Ne ho mangiate due = I’ve eaten two of them
You may also find the following two blogs useful: transitive and intransitive verbs and Tricky little words: Ne
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Not quite on the participle — but readers might enjoy — are BOUND to enjoy— the video on “Il congiuntivo” by Lorenzo Baglioni at
@Tom Dawkes Grazie tante Tom, se l’avessi già visto l’avrei condiviso nel mio articolo! 😉
Saluti da Geoff 🙂
With question hai mai visitato la Spagna?
Is it more correct as response to use ce (there referring to la Spagna) before l’ ho visitata ?
Response being Si, ce l’ ho visitata la Spagna
@DI Salve DI,
The correct response is that given in the article: “Si l’ho visitata l’anno scorso”.
Ce l’ho has nothing to do with this construction, but you may be thinking of ce used in the following way: Q. “il cellulare ce l’hai?” (Have you got your cell phone?) A. “sì, ce l’ho” (Yes, I’ve got it).
Ce + lo – la – li – le + avere is a construct used to express possession.
Perhaps you’re getting confused with ‘ci’ (there)?
If you want to use ‘ci’ in the reply to the question “hai mai visitato la Spagna?” you can say “sì, ci sono stato/a l’anno scorso” (yes, I went there last year). N.B. You would not use both ‘ci’ and ‘la Spagna’ together in the same sentence (just as in English).
Hope that’s clear?
I’ll write an article on this use of ce + lo – la – li – le + avere soon, va bene?
A presto, Geoff
How nice, it’s the same as in French.