Appendix E – Il passato remoto

What is it?

Like the passato prossimo, the passato remoto expresses completed actions in the past. As its name suggests, it tends to be used to refer to events in the distant past and is often used in literature and historical accounts. It is less common in speech, though it is used, particularly in southern Italy, in place of the passato prossimo. For the purposes of our course and this book, students can start to recognize it and comprehend it within the context of reading, but memorizing and using the forms is less important at this point in your study of Italian.

io cantai cadei/cadetti capii
tu cantasti cadesti capisti
lui/lei/Lei cantò cadè/cadette capì
noi cantammo cademmo capimmo
voi cantaste cadeste capiste
loro cantarono caderono/cadettero capirono

Notice that, as in the passato prossimo-ere verbs tend to be irregular. In fact, many of the irregular verbs in the passato remoto follow the pattern you can see in the verb cadere above: that is to say, the irregular forms are the io, lui/lei and loro forms. These are known as 1-3-3 verbs. If you know the first person form, you can deduce the others. Some examples include:

lessi scrissi vidi
leggesti scrivesti vedesti
lesse scrisse vide
leggemmo scrivemmo vedemmo
leggeste scriveste vedeste
lessero scrissero videro

Other examples include: avere (ebbi), mettere (misi), nascere (nacqui), perdere (persi), prendere (presi), rispondere (risposi), sapere (seppi), and venire (venni). 

Other commonly used verbs are completely irregular in the passato remoto:

fui bevvi feci diedi/detti
fosti bevesti facesti desti
fu bevve fece diede/dette
fummo bevemmo facemmo demmo
foste beveste faceste deste
furono bevvero fecero diedero/dettero


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Tutt* a tavola! Volume 2 by Stacy Giufre and Melina Masterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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