formation of the passato remoto

We have already said that in nowadays Italian the passato remoto is desappearing. In the north of Italy it is rarely used. That's simplifies the situation from a didactical point of view because actually you are only confronted with two tenses, the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. The trapassato prossimo doesn't count really because there is no difference between the trapassato prossimo and the English past perfect. Those who speak Spanish know that the tense system can become weired, if three tenses have to be taken into account. At the other side there are some very good reasons to learn the passato remoto as well.

-The tense system you find in Italian literature corresponds to the Spanish tense system, where the indefinido (passato remoto) blossoms. At least you must be able to recognize it passively, reading or hearing. - The passato remoto is still used in the south of Italy. In some regions you have even a reversed situation. The passato prossimo is substituted by the passato remoto. - It is a crucial error to think that there is a one to one relation in the English tenses compared to the Italian tenses. That's completely wrong as we already said. It helps to understand how the Italian tense system has developed to the nowadays system. If you understand that the passato prossimo has assumed the functions of the passato prossimo it is very easy to understand as well that there is no one to one relationship between the Italian tenses and the English tenses. - It is useful to understand the general criteria which apply for the different tenses because these criteria apply for many languages. (And of course for Spanish.) So once again a short summary of the tense system in classical Italian. By classical Italian we mean the time system you find in literature. the imperfetto is used - for actions whose beginning and end are irrelevant or unknown: => When I saw him the last time he worked in Rome. ( I dont't know, if he is still doing it). => Quando lo vidi l' ultima volta lavorava a Roma. - for state in the past (to tell the truth: In this case the beginning and the end are irrelevant). => It was a cold winter evening, when he arrived. => Era una sera fredda d' inverno quando arrivò. - for two parallel actions => He smokes a cigarette, while she was reading the newspaper. => Fumava una cigaretta mentre lei leggeva il giornale. - to describe an action interrupted buy another action =>He was reading the newspaper, when the accident happened. =>Leggeva il giornale, quande avvenne l' incidente.

the passato remoto is used

- for finished actions in a finished period of the past
=>The bomb exploded and nothing remains of the house.
=>La bomba esplose e non rimanò niente de la casa.

- for a chain of events
=> He smoke cigarette, loaded the revolver and killed himself.
=> Fumò una cigaretta, caricò il revolver e si suicidò.

- for the action which interrupted another ongoing action or is inserted in that action
=> She was thinking of him when he suddenly appeared at the door.
=> Stava pensando a lui quando di colpo quando di colpo apparì nella porta.

the passato prossimo is used when there is a relationship to the present of the speaker

- the speaker is in the same period of time in which has happened the action
=>Today I have my car washed.
=> Oggi ho fatto lavare la mia maccina.
- the consequences of an action are still perceptible in the present of the speaker
=> I have already written him an email, he should know it.
=> Gli ho scritto già un email, dovrebbe saperlo.

Let' s show how to form it. The passato remoto is the most complicated tense concerning his formation, because there a lot of irregular forms. But as if we already said, it is enough to recognize it unless you don' t want to speak Italian like Alessandro Manzoni o Cesare Pavese, something very hard to do, it is enough to recognize these forms if you hear or read them.

verbs on -are
Infinitiv English radical ending  
  mangiare (to eat) mangi ai
  andare (to go ) and
  portare (to bring) port
  comprare (to buy) compr
  abitare (to live) abit
  cercare (to look for) cerc
  tornare (to turn around) torn
  lavare (lavare) lav
  impiegare (to employ) impieg
  verbs on -ere        
  Infinitiv English radical ending  
  dovere (must) dov ei (-etti)
  potere (can) pot é (-ette)
  vendere (sell) vend este

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