The perfect tense

The passato prossimo (perfect tense) is a past tense: it literally means “the near past”. It is used with time expressions such as ieri (yesterday), questa settimana (this week), questo mese (this month), quest'anno (this year), poco fa (recently), appena (just), già (already), ancora (yet), una volta (once), due/tre volte (two/three times), etc.

Ieri ho incontrato Lucia al supermercato.

I met (literally, “I have met”) Lucia at the supermarket yesterday.

Sono già stato a Parigi.

I have been to Paris before.

The passato prossimo perfect tense is formed using the present form of the verb essere (to be) essere, presente or avere (to have) avere, presente, which we refer to as the “auxiliary” verbs, + the past participle of the main verb.

Noi siamo cresciuti nella stessa città.

We grew up (literally, “we are grown up”) in the same town.

Tu hai mangiato un gelato al cioccolato.

You have eaten a chocolate ice cream.

The way we form the past participle of a regular verb depends on its ending in the infinitive. Here are some examples:

Verbi in -are: -atoVerbi in -ere: -utoVerbi in -ire: -ito
Mangiare → lui ha mangiatoCredere → lui ha credutoFinire → lui ha finito
Andare → lui è andatoCrescere → lui è cresciutoPartire → lui è partito

Luigi ha finito le uova nel frigorifero.

Luigi has finished the eggs in the fridge.

Noi siamo andati al cinema alle otto.

We went to the cinema at eight.

Note: when using the verb essere, the past participle must agree with the subject.

Chiara è andata in vacanza a Capri.

Chiara has gone on holiday to Capri (the feminine singular -a ending on the past participle andata corresponds to Chiara, whom we'd call lei: “she”).

Mario è andato in vacanza a Sanremo.

Mario has gone on holiday to Sanremo (the masculine singular -o ending on the past participle andato corresponds to Mario, whom we'd call lui: “he”).

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