6.5 Formation of the past participle and the present participle

In English as well as in Italian we have two participles: the present participle /participio presente (the reading man) and the past participle / participio passato (the written letter). The present participle, which only exists in theory in Italian, has an active meaning, (the reading man => the man reads), while the past participle has a passive meaning, the subject of the past participle is the goal of the action described by the past participle, but not the agent of the  action (the written letter => The letter has been written BY someone). The past participle is used to form the compound tenses. About the use of the present participle we must speak once again, it is a very powerful construction in English, in other words it can be used to substitute for example a relative clause, but more or less powerless in Italian, where some functions of the present participle have been assumed by the gerund / gerundio.

Past participle

past participle used to form the compound sentences: I have bought a car.
past participle as an attribute: The stolen car.
  Present participle
  The stealing managers are successfull.

About the present participle we are going to discuss again in chapter 13.

Once again we have to distinguish between the words which end on -are, -ere, -ire.

Verbs on -are        
verb stem ending past participle translation
  parlare parl ato parlato spoken
  comprare compr comprato bought
  fumare fum fumato smoked
  Verbs on -ere
  vendere vend uto venduto sold
  credere cred creduto believed
  Verbs on -ire
  finire fin ito finito finished
  partire part partito gone
  uscire usc uscito left

No we can create little sentences in the passato prossimo.

Intransitive verbs
Io sono partito => I have gone.
  Tu sei andato => You have gone.
  Noi siamo venuti => We have come.
  Transitive verbs
  Lui ha comprato => He has bought.
  Voi avete creduto => You have believed.
  Loro hanno capito => The have understood.

If you look at the examples above you are going to see that the endings of the intransitive verbs, those conjugated with essere, is not always the same. (partito / venuti). If you think about it you will agree that there is no big difference, from a grammatical point of view, between these two sentences.

Lui è andato. (He has gone.)
Lui è felice. (He is happy.)

From a grammatical point of view andato and felice are predicative pronouns connected to the subject through a copula verb. We already know that an adjective (whether used as an attribute 'the red house' or as a predicative pronoun 'the house is red' agrees in gender and number with the noun it refers to) agrees with the noun. It is quite obvious so that a past participle agrees with the noun as well and that happens. If the verb is conjugated with essere the past participle have to agree with the subject of the sentence.

Intransitive verbs, flection of the past participle
L' uomo è partito.
  The man has gone.
  La donna è partita.
  The woman has gone.
  Gli uomini sono partiti.
  The men are gone.
  Le donne sono partite.
  The women have gone.

Everything very logical until know. Less logical, but non the less compulsory is the accordance between the past participle and the direct object if this is put before the past participle.

Non l' ho vista da dieci anni
  I haven' t seen her for ten years.

If we look at the sentence above, we see something strange. The past participle ends on 'a' and is conjugated with avere. Following the basic rules, it should end with an 'o' (visto) because verbs which are conjugated with avere always end on 'o'. The reason is the direct object, singular / feminine, put in front of the past participle. As we already said, that is perhaps not very logical, but non the less compulsory. The past participle must agree with the direct object, if this direct object is put in front of the past participle.

no accordance: Non ho visto Maria.
accordance: Maria, non l' ho vista.

In detail things are much more complicated as we see later, but for the moment that' s enough.

Other examples
Questi uomini, non li ho mai visti.
no: Questi uomini, non li ho mai visto.
I never have seen these men.
  Queste donne, non le ho mai viste.
no: Queste donne, non le ho mai visto.
I never hav seen these women.
  Questa ragazza, non l'ho mai vista.
no: Questa ragazza, non l'ho mai visto.
I never have seen this girl.

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