What Is The Passato Remoto In Italian?
Passato remoto is one of the past tenses in Italian.
As we know the most used past tense in Italian is the passato prossimo but Italian past tenses are way more than one. Here we will learn how the passato remoto is used in Italian.
In English the passato remoto refers to the simple past tense.
Parlai con Vito – I talked to Vito
Il nonno giocai con i bambini – I played with the kids
When Do I Use The Passato Remoto In Italian?
Passato Remoto in Italian is generally used in the following situations:
To express the historical past
Albert Einstein vinse il Premio Nobel nel 1921
Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921
Dante Alighieri, autore de La Divina Commedia, nacque a Firenze nel 1265
Dante Alighieri, author of La Divina Commedia, was born in Florence in 1265
Roma distrusse Cartagine dopo un lungo assedio
Rome destroyed Carthage after a long siege
To talk about an action that happened and ended in the past
Quando iniziò la Seconda Guerra Mondiale i miei nonni erano molto piccoli
When the Second World War began, my grandparents were very young
In literature such as novels, books or fairy tales
La principessa Aurora si svegliò dopo essere stata baciata dal principe Filippo
Princess Aurora woke up after being kissed by Prince Philip
Regional Use Of The Passato Remoto In Italian
In the written language it is a stylistic choice to use the passato remoto instead of the passato prossimo.
While in the spoken language the passato remoto can be employed to express emotional distance from what we say or can simply be a regional use.
The passato remoto is more commonly used in Southern Italy, especially in Sicily where it could be even used to talk about recents events, and some central regions, like Tuscany, then in Northern Italy (here replaced by the passato prossimo).
In Southern Italy
Quando andai a trovare mia nonna mi disse che era malata.
When I visited my grandmother, she told me she was sick.
In Northern Italy
Quando sono andato a trovare mia nonna mi ha detto che era malata.
When I visited my grandmother, she told me she was sick.
How Do I Conjugate The Passato Remoto In Italian?
There are three types of passato remoto verbs: regular verbs, irregular verbs and partially irregular verbs.
This type of verb has specific endings that can vary among the three main verb classes (- are, – ere and –ire). To form regular verbs, remove the infinitive ending (- are, – ere or –ire) and add endings of the remote past to the root word. Here are some common regular verbs in the passato remoto:
|amare – to love
|temere – to be afraid
|mentire – to lie
- In literature or old grammar books, instead of lui/lei (he/she) or loro (they) you can also find alternative pronouns like egli/ella or essi/esse. They are not used anymore, except in formal or literary contexts
- As you can see, for –ere verbs there are two choices for the first person singular (temei or temetti), the third person singular (temette or temé) and the third person plural (temerono or temettero). You can find either of these two options in writing.
Egli amò solo una donna nella sua vita: sua moglie! – He just loved a woman in his life: his wife!
Temei/ temetti di non superare il test perchè avevo studiato poco il giorno precedente – I was afraid of failing the test because I had studied very little the day before
Mia sorella mentì e costrinse anche me a mentire – My sister lied and she made me lie too.
Unfortunately, there are no rules to form the passato remoto of irregular verbs. The only things you can do are: learning them by heart or writing down the conjugation of those most used (such as essere, bere, dare, dire, fare, stare).
|essere – to be
|bere – to drink
|dare – to give
|dire – to say
|fare – to do
|stare – to stay
Alessandro Manzoni fu il più importante scrittore italiano dell’Ottocento –Alessandro Manzoni was the most important Italian novelist of the 19th century
Bevve un bicchiere di vino e poi andò a letto – She drank a glass of wine and then went to bed
Quando lo vide gli diede un bacio – When she saw him, she gave him a kiss
Mi dissero che sarebbero partiti per le vacanze estive il 5 agosto – They told me they would leave for summer holidays on 5th August
I dottori fecero del loro meglio per salvarlo – Doctors did their best to save him
Stette a Cordoba più a lungo del previsto – He stayed in Cordoba longer than planned
Partially Irregular Verbs
This category of verbs presents a combination of regular and irregular forms. In these verbs the first and third person singular and third plural are irregular, while the second person singular and the first and second plural are regular.
Also in this case there are no formation rules. Anyway, you may consider the ending of the root in the infinitive:
1. If the root ends with M, R, V, GG, RR, T, you will use two SS to form the first and second person singular and third plural (such as scriv-ere – to write) →
|scrivere – to write
2. If the root ends with double RR, you use only one S or RS to form the first and second person singular and third plural (such as corr-ere – to run) →
|correre – to run
3. If the root ends with N, V or ND, you will use an S to form the first and second person singular and third plural (such as prend-ere – to take) →
|prendere – to take
4. If the root ends with D, you can have use only an S at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as chied-ere – to ask) →
|chiedere – to ask
5. if the root ends with C or SC, you will have use CQU at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as tac-ere – to keep quiet) →
|tacere – to keep quiet
6. if the root ends with NG, you will find use NS at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as piang-ere – to cry) →
|piangere – to cry
7. If the root ends with GL, you can have use only LS at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as cogl-iere – to pick) →
|cogliere – to pick
8. If the root ends with RG, you will have use RS at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as porg-ere – to hand out) →
|porgere – to hand out
More Verbs In the Passato Remoto
The verb conosc-ere (to know): although the root ends with SC, you will find OBB at in the first and second person singular and third plural →
|conoscere – to know
Some verbs double the consonant of the root at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as cad-ere – to fall) →
|cadere – to fall
Other verbs change their root completely at in the first and second person singular and third plural (such as sapere – to know) →
|sapere – to know
The Verb Avere In The Passato Remoto
Also avere (to have) is considered a partially irregular verb and has its own forms form at in the first and second person singular and third plural →
|avere – to have
Now you are finally able to recognize the passato remoto in literary works, documentaries or when listening to a conversation in South Italy!
As we saw, the use of this particular verbal time is not so too difficult… the real problem is its formation! Well, you should know the same Italian people often have some problems forming it. This could be comforting in a certain way for you! So, don’t worry if you sometimes make mistakes!
You will probably never use this tense when speaking to an Italian. In any case, it is useful to learn it because you could find it in Italian literature or novels, as we already said.
Even if it is gradually disappearing, there are often some exercises where the knowledge of passato remoto is required in exams to acquire Italian linguistic certification.
To gain some confidence with this tense, I suggest you to read Italian classic novels or tales.
If you want to check the correct formation of the verbs in the remote past, please consult one of the verb conjugators online, such as Il Coniugatore. With Il Coniugatore, you can insert the infinitive form of the verb and then look for the conjugation of passato remoto along with all the other Italian tenses.