While English verbs make no distinction in how long ago an event occurred, the same is not true in Italian. The compound passato prossimo (present perfect) tense is used when discussing events that have occurred in the recent past. The Italian passato remote, on the other hand, is a simple verb tense used for discussing events that have occurred in the distant past. Because it refers to events that happened long ago, the passato remote is often used when writing but rarely when speaking.
Conjugating the Passato Remote
To conjugate the passato remote of a regular verb, drop the ending from the verb’s infinitive and replace it with the appropriate first, second, or third conjugation verb ending. Note that many –ERE verbs which are regular in the present tense have irregular forms in the first person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms of the passato remote. Also note that –ERE verbs have two possible versions in the first person singular, third person singular, and third person plural. These versions are equally correct and essentially interchangeable. Below are examples of regular –ARE, –ERE, and –IRE verbs in the passato remote.
|io||parlai||vendei / vendetti||capii|
|lui/lei||parlò||vendé / vendette||capí|
|loro||parlarono||venderono / vendettero||capirono|
Avere and Essere
As in other tenses, the auxiliary verbs avere (to have, to own, or to wear) and essere (to be) are irregular in the passato remote. Here are their conjugations in this tense.