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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)
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.