Perfect tense or past historic?

The passato remoto (past historic) is mostly used:

  • to talk about an action which began and ended in the very distant past.

La prima guerra mondiale terminò nel 1918 terminare, passato remoto.

The First World War ended in 1918.

  • to talk about a completed past action with a precise duration.

Rimasero ai Caraibi per tre settimane per il loro viaggio di nozze rimanere, passato remoto.

They stayed in the Carribean for three weeks for their honeymoon.

  • with expressions to do with time, like nel 1925 (in 1925), nell’antichità (in ancient times), molto tempo fa (a long time ago), etc.

Nel 1925 nacque la televisione nascere, passato remoto.

Television was born in 1925.

  • in writing, especially in formal contexts.

Il dirigente comunicò la decisione agli impiegati comunicare, passato remoto.

The manager informed the employees of the decision.

The passato prossimo (perfect tense) is mostly used:

  • to refer to an action which happened in the past and is still ongoing.

Ho iniziato un corso di chitarra la settimana scorsa iniziare, passato prossimo.

I started a guitar class last week.

  • to refer to a past action which has consequences in the present.

Sono tornato dall’allenamento poco fa tornare, passato prossimo.

I came back from training not long ago.

  • with expressions like la settimana scorsa (last week), appena (just), pochi giorni fa (a few days ago), oggi (today), etc.

Ho appena ricevuto una telefonata importante dal mio capo ricevere, passato prossimo.

I just got an important call from my boss.

  • in speech in any context, and often to replace the past historic.

Tre anni fa sono andato a Parigi / Tre anni fa andai a Parigi andare, passato prossimo.

Three years ago I went to Paris.

Note: in northern and central Italy, the perfect tense is often used rather than the past historic, while in the south the past historic is more common.

Nel 2010 abbiamo visitato Pompei. (passato prossimo)

We visited Pompei in 2010 (perfect tense)

Nel 2010 visitammo Pompei. (passato remoto)

We visited Pompei in 2010 (past historic)

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