Let’s learn the passato remoto in Italian! The passato remoto is a past tense. But how and when is it used?
The Passato Remoto in Italian
To form the passato remoto you must cut off the ending -are, -ere or -ire. This will give you the so-called verb stem. Then you have to add the corresponding passato remoto ending. Each verb class has its own endings. The verb group -ere also has alternate forms for some persons.
VERB STEM + PASSATO REMOTO ENDING
*Alternative forms: etti, ette, ettero
Passato remoto is similar to passato prossimo
The passato remoto is a past tense. Basically, the passato remoto and the passato prossimo express the same thing, namely both describe completed actions in the past (and thus both differ from the imperfetto).
|Sono andato in Italia in treno. = Andai in Italia in treno.||I went to Italy by train.|
What then is the difference between Passato Remoto and Passato Prossimo?
Theoretically, the passato remoto describes events that are in a distant past (e.g. 10 anni fa andai a Roma 10 years ago I went to Rome), while the passato prossimo describes events of the near past (e.g. ieri sono andato a Roma Yesterday I went to Rome). Whether the past is distant or near is subjective.
Moreover, the passato remoto must not have any reference to the present, while the passato prossimo may (e.g. oggi a pranzo ho mangiato troppo e ora sono sazio Today at lunch I’ve eaten too much and now I’m full).
However, this theoretical difference is not so relevant nowadays. What is important to know is that the passato remoto is used instead of passato prossimo in the following two cases:
1. In southern Italy
Geographically, passato remoto is popularly used also in spoken language in southern Italy.
2. In books
The passato remoto is very often used in literature, for example in novels or even in children’s books. When the action takes place in the past, the passato remoto is usually used together with the imperfetto (to return to the theory above, actions in books often take place in an indeterminate, distant past and have no relation to the present).
This means that in speech you normally use passato prossimo and imperfetto, while in books you tend to have passato remoto and imperfetto. As said, passato remoto and passato prossimo describe practically the same thing: completed events in the past.
|È andato in un ristorante che era molto caro.||Andò in un ristorante che era molto caro.||He went to a restaurant that was very expensive.|
Is Passato Remoto important to learn?
You don’t need to be able to use Passato Remoto actively when you speak, but you should be able to recognize Passato Remoto passively. When you speak, you don’t need Passato Remoto. Most Italians never use it, and even in the South you can communicate with Passato Prossimo. But if you want to read a book in Italian, you will most likely encounter the passato remoto. Then you should recognize the verbs correctly!
Important verbs in passato remoto
The following is a list of important verbs in passato remoto that you can often find while reading. Attention: Many verbs in passato remoto are irregular!
|essere||to be||fui, fosti, fu, fummo, foste, furono|
|avere||to have||ebbi, avesti, ebbe, avemmo, aveste, ebbero|
|andare||to go||andai, andasti, andò, andammo, andaste, andarono|
|venire||to come||venni, venisti, venne, venimmo, veniste, vennero|
|dare||to give||diedi / detti, desti, diede / dette, demmo, deste, diedero / dettero|
|dire||to say||dissi, dicesti, disse, dicemmo, diceste, dissero|
|chiedere||to ask||chiesi, chiedesti, chiese, chiedemmo, chiedeste, chiesero|
|vedere||to see||vidi, vedesti, vide, vedemmo, vedeste, videro|
|scrivere||to write||scrissi, scrivesti, scrisse, scrivemmo, scriveste, scrissero|
|fare||to do, make||feci, facesti, fece, facemmo, faceste, fecero|
|sapere||to know||seppi, sapesti, seppe, sapemmo, sapeste, seppero|
|stare||to stay||stetti, stesti, stette, stemmo, steste, stettero|
|nascere||to be born||nacqui, nascesti, nacque, nascemmo, nasceste, nacquero|
|morire||to die||morii, moristi, morì, morimmo, moriste, morirono|
> Go to the Trainer Verbi Passato Remoto
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