Italian Language Blog

Using The Passato Prossimo In Italian – Part 2 Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 in Grammar

In part 1 we looked at how to construct the passato prossimo (present perfect) in its simplest form. Today we’re going to find out what happens when a direct object is replaced by a direct object pronoun in the past tense. Read on and all will be explained.

Let’s begin with an example and an analysis:

Example 1: ‘The dog has eaten all the biscuits!’
From our verb list we find the verb mangiare (to eat). Now we find the past participle, mangiato, and in brackets the relevant auxiliary verb, which for mangiare is avere.
Hence our Italian sentence is: ‘Il cane ha mangiato tutti i biscotti!’

Here’s that sentence broken down into its main grammatical components:
Il cane (subject) ha mangiato (present perfect of the verb mangiare) tutti i biscotti (direct object)

Now let’s see what happens when the direct object is omitted and replaced by the direct object pronoun (it/them):
Question: Dove sono i biscotti? = Where are the biscuits?
Answer: Il cane (subject) li (direct object pronoun) ha mangiati tutti = The dog has eaten them all

Here are a couple more examples:

Example 2: ‘We left the car at the station’. = ‘Abbiamo lasciato la macchina alla stazione’.
Once again we’re going to replace the direct object (la macchina) with the relevant direct object pronoun, in this case la (it)
Question: Dov’è la macchina? = Where’s the car?
Answer: L’abbiamo lasciata alla stazione = We left it at the station

One more example then we’ll define the underlying principle behind this type of construction.

Example 3: ‘I shut the cat in the house’ = ‘Ho chiuso il gatto in casa’.
Here, the direct object is il gatto. So let’s replace him (meow!) with his direct object pronoun lo (it):
Question: Dov’è il gatto? (Where is the cat?)
Answer: L’ho chiuso in casa (I’ve shut him in the house)

No, please don’t replace me with a direct object pronoun! I promise I won’t mess the garden up again. Photo of Smokie the cat by Geoff

If we study the above examples carefully we can see a pattern in the choice of direct object pronoun and past participle. Here’s how it works:
Both the direct object pronoun and the past participle must agree in number and gender with the direct object that they replace.

In example 1. the masculine plural direct object i biscotti is replaced by the masculine plural direct object pronoun li (them) and uses the masculine plural past participle mangiati
In example 2. the feminine singular direct object la macchina is replaced by the  feminine singular direct object pronoun la (it) and uses the feminine singular past participle lasciata
In example 3. the masculine singular direct object il gatto is replaced by the masculine singular direct object pronoun lo (it) and uses the masculine singular past participle chiuso

N.B. Don’t be confused by the fact that in examples 2 and 3 the direct object pronouns la and lo are apostrophised. Hence la becomes l’ (l’abbiamo lasciata) and lo becomes l’ (l’ho chiuso)

Now try a few for yourself:

a. direct object: le ragazze (the girls)
Question: Cos’è successo alle ragazze? (What’s happened to the girls?)
Answer: _______ alla stazione (I took them to the station)

b. direct object: la torre di Pisa (the tower of Pisa)
Question: Hai mai visto la torre di Pisa? (Have you ever seen the tower of Pisa?)
Answer: No, non __ mai _______ (Non, I’ve never seen it)

c. direct object: le uova (the eggs)
Question: Che fine hanno fatto le uova? (What’s become of the eggs?)
Answer: _______ in frigo (I put them in the fridge)

d. direct object: il decespugliatore (the strimmer/brush-cutter)
Question: Hai usato il nuovo decespugliatore? Have you used the new strimmer/brush-cutter?)
Answer: Sì, _______ la settimana scorsa (Yes, I used it last week)

If you’re feeling brave, leave you answers in the comments section so that we can help you out.

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  1. Leslie di Zurigo:

    Just one point of clarification, please? As I understand it, we don’t use the apostrophe when the direct object pronoun is plural. So the answer to your “a” would be “Le ho prendate alla stazione,” rather than “L’ho prendate alla stazione.” Corretto?

    • Geoff:

      @Leslie di Zurigo Ciao Leslie di Zurigo, you’re almost correct. It should be le ho portate alla stazione.
      Prendere can mean take, but it has the sense of collecting, picking up, or taking something away. For example ho preso una manciata di ciliegie (I picked up/collected a handful of cherries).
      The verb you need is portare, which (confusingly) means both to bring and to take.

      Alla prossima, Geoff 🙂

  2. Heather:

    Le ho prese alla stazione
    No,non la mai vista.
    Le ho messe in frigo.
    Sì,l’ho usato la settimana scorso.

  3. Rosalind:

    1) le ho portate alla stazione
    2) non l’ho mai vista
    3) le ho messe in frigo
    4) sì, l’ho usato…

    Molto divertente la battuta di Smokie!

  4. Alicia:

    Le ho portate alla stazione.
    No, non l’ho mai vista.
    Le ho messe nel frigo.
    Si, l’ho usato la settimana scorsa.

    • Geoff:

      @Alicia Complimenti Alicia!

      A presto, Geoff .-)

  5. Carolyn:

    I agree with Rosalind’s answers except for #1
    I would use:
    Le ho prese alla stazione.

    We were just practicing this in italian class. Great review!

    • Geoff:

      @Carolyn Ciao Carolyn, confusingly portare means both to bring and to take.
      Prendere could be used with the meaning of ‘to collect’, but not ‘to take to’. For example: ‘sono andato/a a prenderle alla stazione’ (I went to collect them/pick them up from the station)

      Come va la vita lì a Seattle, tutto bene?

      A presto, Geoff 🙂


    a) Le ho portate alla stazione.
    b) No, non la mai ho vista.
    c) Li ho messi in frigo.
    d) Si, l’ho usato la settimana scorsa.

    • Geoff:

      @MARIA POSILOVIC Ciao Maria, good try!

      The correct answers are:
      1. le ho portate alla stazione.
      2. No, non l’ho mai vista. Note the position of ‘ho’
      3. le ho messe in frigo. Eggs are irregular: l’uovo (singular) le uova (plural)
      4. Sì, l’ho usato la settimana scorsa.

      A presto, Geoff 🙂

  7. Kate:

    Ciao Geoff,
    Thanks for the very helpful posts. I just wanted to point out a potentially confusing typo in your N.B. paragraph: it should read l’abbiamo lasciatA, no?
    Buona serata a voi in Italia!

    • Geoff:

      @Kate Ciao Kate, thanks for pointing that out, it’s amazing how these mistakes slip through even when both Serena and myself proofread the articles several times. Anyhow, it is now corrected to l’abbiamo lasciata.

      Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  8. Josephine Fucile:

    1. le ho portate alla stazione.
    2. No, non l’ho mai vista.
    3. le ho messe in frigo.
    4. Sì, l’ho usato la settimana scorsa.

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