13.5 Participio passato and past participle part 1

We have already seen that the infinitive forms in English and Italian are used in a similar way, but not in the same way. The Italian gerundio corresponds to the present participle in English, the Italian infinitivo to the English gerund or in some cases to the English infinitive. The present participle exists in Italian as well, but is irrelevant from a practical point of view because it is not a productive system any more, it is not possible to form a present participle from any verb. In theory the participio presente could be used as an adjective as in English (the walking man) but in practice this is only possible if the participio presente is part of the Italian vocabulary, in other words, if you can find it in a dictionnary, and is therefore considered as a simple adjective.

The case of the participio passato is different. There is nearly no difference between the past participle in English and the Italian participio passato. Both of them are passiv and both of them can be used as an adjective because the participio passato has a feminine and a masculine form and a plural and a singular, can match therefore in gender and number to the noun it refers to.

L' opinione pubblicata non è necessariamente l' opinione pubblica.
  The published opinion is not necessarily the public opinion.
(The opinion which has been published is not necessarily the public opinion.)

Normally the past participle is subsumed under the infinite forms. If we take a closer look at it we see that this is not completely justified because the participio passato is well defined in gender and number. In the sentence above the subject of the past participle / participio pasato, opinione, (the goal of the action, but not the executor because the past participle / participio passato is passive) is feminine and singular and therefore not infinite at all.

The only infinite and undefined characteristic is the tense. The tense depends, like in any other infinite forms, from the tense of the finite verb. If the finite verb is used in a tense of the past, the participio passato corresponds to a trapassato prossimo.

L' opinione pubblicata non era necessariamente l' opinione pubblica.
  The published opinion is not necessarily the public opinion.
(The opinion which had been published was not necessarily the public opinion.)

We have already seen that normally the infinitivo and the gerundio / present participle share the subject with the finite verb. To that rule there are some exceptions. The direct object of the finite verb for example can be the object of the infinite verb (I saw her eating an apple). The past participle can be considered as a simple adjective and has very often his own subject.

Finito il lavoro è andato a casa.
  After having finished the work he went home.

The finito has its own subject, it is not the one who goes home who is finished, but the work. A participle which has his own subject is called an absolute participle.

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