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Passato Prossimo: essere or avere?

When building the passato prossimo in Italian, when you should take essere and when avere? In this article you’ll learn when to use essere and when avere. It’s not very complicated. Passato Prossimo essere or avere? That is the question here!

Passato Prossimo essere or avere?

Verbs with an object: AVERE

Basically, verbs with an object have the auxiliary verb avere, that is, if you can ask what? or who?. Verbs with an object are called transitive verbs.

Emma ha mangiato (what?) una pizza.Emma ate a pizza.
Fiona ha visto (whom?) un ragazzo.Fiona saw a boy.

Verbs without an object: ESSERE / AVERE

Verbs without an object, called intransitive verbs, can have avere or essere.

Romeo ha dormito (what? whom?) sul letto.Romeo slept on the bed.
Bruno è andato (what? whom?) al supermercato.Bruno went to the supermarket.

Now let’s see exactly in which cases we should use essere.

ESSERE

1. Reflexive Verbs

All reflexive verbs have essere.

Fiona si è lavataFiona washed herself.
Ci siamo divertiti molto.We had a great time.
Stamattina Bruno si è svegliato tardi.Bruno woke up late this morning.

Need a little refresher? Review the reflexive verbs.

2. Verbs of change

Verbs that express a change have essere, like nascere to be born, morire to die, ingrassare to gain weight, dimagrire to lose weight, diventare to become.

Mia nonna è nata nel 1901.My grandmother was born in 1901.
Mia sorella è dimagrita, invece io sono ingrassata di due chili!My sister has lost weight, while I have gained two pounds!

3. Verbs of state

Verbs that express a state have essere, such as essere to be, stare to be/stay, restare/rimanere to stay/remain.

Settimana scorsa sono stato a Milano.I was in Milan last week.
Sono rimasto/restato a casa perché non sto bene.I stayed home because I’m not well.

4. Verbs of motion

Verbs of motion, usually from one place to another, have essere, too, such as andare to go, venire to come, arrivare to arrive, partire to depart/leave, tornare to return, entrare to enter/go in, uscire to exit/go out.

Ieri sono andata in centro con le mie amiche per fare shopping.Yesterday I went downtown with my friends to go shopping.
Sono uscito dall’ufficio alle sei e poi sono tornato a casa.I left the office at 6:00 and then went home.

Exception

Some verbs of motion that are more descriptive of the way you move, such as camminare to walk, sciare to ski, nuotare to swim, passeggiare to stroll, pattinare to ice/roller skate, and also viaggiare to travel, have AVERE.

Ho camminato fino alla fine della spiaggia.I walked to the end of the beach.
Abbiamo nuotato nel mare.We swam in the sea.
I miei genitori hanno viaggiato molto negli ultimi anni. My parents have traveled extensively in recent years.

5. Piacere

The verb piacere to like has essere. Pay attention to the subject! È / sono and the ending (o/a/i/e) refer to what you like.

Ho assaggiato il pesce, ma non mi è piaciuto. I tasted the fish, but didn’t like it.
Questi libri mi sono piaciuti molto.I really enjoyed these books.
Ti è piaciuta la festa?Did you enjoy the party?
Nonna, ti sono piaciute le rose che ti ho regalato? Grandma, did you like the roses I gave you?

6. Costare and durare

The verbs costare to cost und durare to last have essere as well.

La giacca è costata 100€.The jacket cost 100€.
Il film è durato quasi tre ore! The movie was almost three hours long!

List of verbs with essere / avere

Impara di più sul Passato Prossimo

The Passato Prossimo: General rule here
List of irregular verbs in Passato Prossimo + Trainer here
Verb list with Essere / Avere here
Trainer Verbi Passato Prossimo here

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