Past tense (passato prossimo)

The passato prossimo in Italian is a compound tense – meaning it is formed using two verbs. (Compare this to a simple tense like the passato remoto which is made from a single verb.)

Simply put, the passato prossimo is used to talk about events that happened in the past. It is formed by combining a form of the present tense of the verbs avere or essere and a past participle.

Consider the example below:

ho parlato means I spoke

The example ho parlato means I spoke. You may recognize that the ho form of avere is used, meaning that the io subject is acting and that parlato is formed from parlare, the verb to speak in Italian.

To learn & practice the formation of the passato prossimo in Italian, watch the following video:

When to use the auxiliary verb essere

To learn & practice when to use essere as an auxiliary verb, watch the following video:

Complete the following exercise to learn & study which verbs use the auxiliary essere in the passato prossimo. Write 'essere' or 'avere' for each verb:

Irregular past participles

To learn & practice when to use irregular past participles, watch the following video:

Click the button below to reveal a list of common irregular past participles:

Verb (Meaning) Past Participle
accendere (to turn on) acceso
aprire (to open) aperto
bere (to drink) bevuto
chiedere (to ask) chiesto
chiudere (to close) chiuso
conoscere (to know, usually in the past: met) conosciuto
correre (to run) corso
dire (to say) detto
decidere (to decide) deciso
essere (to be) stato
fare (to do, make) fatto
giungere (to arrive) giunto
leggere (to read) letto
mettere (to put, place) messo
nascere (to be born) nato
offrire (to offer) offerto
perdere (to lose) perso
prendere (to take) preso
produrre (to produce) prodotto
rendere (to give back, produce) reso
rimanere (to remain) rimasto
rispondere (to respond) risposto
rompere (to break) rotto
scegliere (to choose) scelto
scendere (to descend, go down) sceso
scrivere (to write) scritto
spegnere (to turn off) spento
spendere (to spend) speso
succedere (to happen) successo
tradurre (to translate) tradotto
vedere (to see) visto
venire (to come) venuto
vincere (to win) vinto
vivere (to live) vissuto

Complete the following exercise to study common irregular past participles. Write the irregular participle for each verb:

Passato prossimo with reflexive verbs

Click on the button below to review a list of the most common reflexive verbs:

abituarsito get used to
accorgersi (di)to become aware (of)
addormentarsito fall asleep
alzarsito get up
annoiarsito get bored
arrabbiarsito get angry
asciugarsito dry oneself
chiamarsito be named
coprirsito cover oneself
divertirsito have fun
farsi il bagnoto take a bath
farsi la barbato shave
farsi maleto hurt oneself
girarsito turn oneself
innamorarsi (di)to fall in love (with)
lamentarsito complain
laurearsito graduate
lavarsito wash oneself
lavarsi i capellito wash one's hair
lavarsi i dentito brush one's teeth
mettersito put on (clothing)
mettersi a + infinitiveto begin to, to start to
muoversito move oneself
pettinarsito comb one's hair
preoccuparsito worry
prepararsi (per)to get ready (for)
radersito shave
ricordarsito remember
rilassarsito to relax
riposarsito rest
sbagliarsito be mistaken
sbrigarsito hurry
sciogliersito melt
sposarsi (con)to to get married (to s.o.)
svegliarsito wake up
trasferirsito move (place of residence)
trovarsito fall asleep
truccarsito put on makeup
vergognarsito be ashamed
vestirsito dress oneself

One of the advantages of rendering reflexive verbs in the past tense is that the auxiliary verb is always essere and thus a decision between avere & essere is not necessary. Watch the following video for more information on the formation of the passato prossimo with reflexive verbs:

If you feel fairly comfortable with reflexive verbs, you should study the following deck of cards about what somebody does before going to work. Be sure to adjust the settings so you are prompted by the picture first:

Passato prossimo with reciprocal verbs

Building off of knowledge of reflexive verbs, one can easily transition to reciprocal verbs. These verbs only occur in the plural because, as the name implies, the actions of the verbs are always directed toward another person. They are often translated with "each other", as in abbracciarsi: they hug each other.

Complete the following exercise to learn & study common reciprocal verbs. Write the reciprocal verb each picture represents:

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