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imperfetto vs. passato prossimo

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by TiffanyC, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. TiffanyC Junior Member

    United States / English
    Per favore qualcuno puo spiegarmi?!
    Can someone please explain it to me?!
     
  2. mimitabby

    mimitabby Senior Member

    seattle
    usa, english
    imperfetto

    I used to talk to him every day
    li parlavo ogni giorno

    passato prossimo

    i spoke to him yesterday
    gli ho parlato ieri


    ho ragione, amici italiani?
     
  3. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    I have spoken to him? Gli ho parlato ieri
    I would speak to him every day - gli parlavo ogni giorno

    Am I right?
     
  4. mimitabby

    mimitabby Senior Member

    seattle
    usa, english
    Silvia, you used would, that's conditional isn't it?
     
  5. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    "Would" in this case carries the meaning of something "I used to do" like, "I would speak to him/I used to speak to him every day," rather than the usual "would" meaning future possibility, which of course is the conditional.
     
  6. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    Is it? In that case?

    When I was a child, I would go to my grandma in the summer... :confused:
     
  7. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    Thanks lsp!
     
  8. TiffanyC Junior Member

    United States / English
    How about the sentence: "I thought about him yesterday"

    How would that be translated?

    Because "Ho pensato a lui ieri" might mean a specific time, but what if it was more like daydreaming where you constantly think of something throughout the day? "Pensavo a lui ieri." but what is more appropriate?
     
  9. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    Great question, I want to try my luck before the experts arrive. I was thinking about him, when the phone rang... Pensavo a lui quando ha squillato il telefono. The thinking was the more ongoing action.

    If the action is brief you would say "Ho pensato a lui..."
     
  10. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    Ieri ho pensato a lui or ho pensato a lui ieri (we are not able to know if it was for an instant or all day long).

    Pensavo a lui ieri e poi mi è venuta in mente una cosa (I was thinking of him yesterday...and then something happens).

    Or even, if I say: stavo pensando... perchè non andiamo al mare? (I was thinking...why don't we go to the seaside? I was wondering, what about going to the seaside?) and I've just thought of it, right now.

    As you can see there might be a thousand nuances to it.
     
  11. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    lsp, sono esterrefatta!!! Mi hai letto nel pensiero! ;)
     
  12. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    these simultaneous posts are maddening!!!!!! :)
     
  13. mimitabby

    mimitabby Senior Member

    seattle
    usa, english
    this is perfect.... a perfect definition
    :)
    :) :tick: :thumbsup:
     
  14. titini Senior Member

    Hungary Hungarian
    Hello

    Could you tell me which tense to use (imperfetto or passato prossimo) in
    Sabbato scorso era / è stato il mio onomastico, ma non l’abbiamo festeggiato che lunedi sera perché nel fine settimana mia madre non era / è stata a casa? I'd use the passato prossimo in the first case and the imperfetto in the second. What do you think?

    Kriszta
     
  15. amorelli Junior Member

    Non ricordo qual'è quale (imperfetto o passato prossimo), ma credo che il primo dovrebbe essere (should be?) "era" e il secondo dovrebbe essere "è stato". Ma, non sono un nativo, così aspetta per essere certo.

    I don't remember which is which (imperfect or past participle, but i believe the first should be "era" and the second should be "è stato". But, I'm not a native, so wait to be sure.
     
  16. BlueWolf

    BlueWolf Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    As general rule you have to use the imperfetto for long action in the past (like the English was done or used to do) and the passato prossimo for immadiate actions (like did). The same rule is to apply with the verb essere, and even if the English uses almost always "was/were", since generally it means "was/were for long time", it is more often translated with the imperfetto than with the passato prossimo in Italian.

    Sabbato scorso era :tick: / è stato il mio onomastico (all the Saturday, not just for a second), ma non l’abbiamo festeggiato che lunedì sera perché nel fine settimana mia madre non era :tick: / è stata a casa (same)?
     
  17. DAH

    DAH Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    USA/California--English
    Sabato scorso era il mio onomastico . . . perche' nel fine settimana mia madre non e' stata a casa.

     
  18. mdrocca Junior Member

    United Kingdom English
    Ciao tutti,

    I am still confused as to when to use Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo. Here is a paragraph where I had to either insert imperfetto or passato prossimo (in bold). I understand that impefetto is used to describe weather and continuous actions in the past and that it precedes words such as sempre and mentre joins two imperfects together.

    L’estate scorsa la mia famiglia ed io (siamo andati) a Venezia. (Siamo rimasti) due settimane in un albergo centrale della città. Ogni giorno siamo andati ad un museo diverso – quanti quadri (abbiamo visto)!! (Abbiamo mangiato) specialità venete, come il risotto nero, ma confesso che il pesce non mi piaceva molto! Mio madre ed io (facevamo) shopping, mentre mia sorella e mio padre (visitavano) il Palazzo dei Dogi. (Pioveva) due giorni, ma gli altri giorni (splendeva) il sole. La sera (andavamo) sempre a teatro e (abbiamo sentito) un bel concerto alla Fenice.

    Many thanks,

    Michelle.
     
  19. Saoul

    Saoul Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Michelle, good job. The only mistake I see is with "Pioveva". The rest is quite perfect.
     
  20. mdrocca Junior Member

    United Kingdom English
    Thank you Saoul. You have made my day..
     
  21. Saoul

    Saoul Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Oh you have made it by yourself actually. :D
    You're absolutely welcome, anyway.
     
  22. Akire72

    Akire72 Senior Member

    Florence, Italy
    Italian - Italy


    Bravissima!!!

    Il tuo testo non è sbagliato, voglio darti solo un'dea di come l'avrebbe scritto un nativo:

    L’estate scorsa la mia famiglia ed io (siamo andati) a Venezia. (Siamo stati) due settimane in un albergo centrale della città. Ogni giorno siamo andati ad un museo diverso – quanti quadri (abbiamo visto)!! (Abbiamo mangiato) specialità venete, come il risotto nero, ma confesso che il pesce non mi è piaciuto molto! Mentre mia sorella e mio padre (visitavano) il Palazzo dei Dogi, mia madre ed io (abbiamo fatto) shopping, . (C'è stato) quasi sempre il sole, (ha piovuto solo) due giorni. La sera (andavamo) sempre a teatro e (abbiamo assistito a) un bel concerto alla Fenice.
     
  23. mdrocca Junior Member

    United Kingdom English
    Thank you Akire72, but surely as a Florentine you would use the Passato Remoto.. ;-) I'm joking...

     
  24. Akire72

    Akire72 Senior Member

    Florence, Italy
    Italian - Italy
    If that would be colloquial, yes, absolutely :D We also generally say

    "L'altra settimana andai a Roma" :D

    I will let you off a Florentine translation of your text ;)
     
  25. mdrocca Junior Member

    United Kingdom English
    Grazie mille Akire72, Sei molto gentile... salvami dalla peggiore della morte :D

     
  26. Akire72

    Akire72 Senior Member

    Florence, Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Is my last sentence correct? I don't use "let off" construction often... :D
     
  27. mdrocca Junior Member

    United Kingdom English
    Yes its perfectly correct.. and thank you for correcting mine...

    Michelle.

     
  28. bellaLT Junior Member

    english
    In the same vein, could someone help me with the verb tense of this sentence:

    Dovevano/Ho dovuto aspettare un’ora, ma mentre aspettavano hanno fatto progetti per la loro giornata in città.

    I understand the trapassato form, but Im just having difficulty deciding between imperfetto and passato prossimo. I generally understand the reasoning behind each verb tense but I have trouble distinguishing between them sometimes when the context isn't perfectly clear to me.
     
  29. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Ciao, bellaLT. Thanks for locating an exisiting thread about this topic. It is a confusing one for many students of Italian, so you are not alone. :)

    First off, if the subject is "they", the choice should be between Dovevano and Hanno dovuto (3rd person plural) rather than\d Ho dovuto (1st person singular).

    Given that the action occurred over the course of an hour, my first inclination would be to opt for imperfetto here. But somehow it sounds wrong. I would go with
    Hanno dovuto aspettare un'ora, ma mentre aspettavano hanno fatto progetti per la loro giornata in città.

    But I can't explain very clearly why that sounds best to me. Hopefully some native-speakers will chime in soon. ;)

    Elisabetta
     
  30. gabrigabri

    gabrigabri Senior Member

    奥地利
    Italian, Italy (Torino)
    I think that both can be correct...
    Sabato scorso è stato/era il mio... mia madre non era a casa. Non è stata a casa doesn't sound good to me. But, for example, "È stata male" does!
     
  31. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Can anyone address BellaLT's new question in Post #5? :)

    Grazie,
    Elisabetta
     
  32. pane13 Senior Member

    english/united states
    I never understood what the difference was between e` stata or era.

    for example one could say: e` stata una bella giornata but at the same time one can also say era una bella giornata. I'm sure to a native there is a slight difference in the understanding of the two can anyone explain???
    when would you use e` stata and when would you use era!?!
     
  33. Pirlo

    Pirlo Senior Member

    Australia
    English
    Hi,
    Era is of the imperfect tense, which essentially means a past tense with an the imperfect status which is used to describe an continuous action. To my knowledge, the imperfect tense of essere is used only in events that occured over quite a time ago, and are complete.

    E' stato is present perfect tense, which is used to express an action completed in the present, so rather than saying "It was" we're saying "It had been" even though in English, it's acceptable to say "It was" to express either tense in this manner.

    For example:
    E' stato una bella giornata
    It's been a beautiful day! This action is in the present, and has only recently occured.

    Era una bella giornata
    It was a beautiful day! The action is complete, and in the past.

    I hope this helps, I may be incorrect, so please wait for somebody with a better explanation, or that can validate mine.

    Regards,
    Pirlo
     
  34. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    Quite correct! Good!
    Aniway, you can use the imperfect tense to describe people too, for example:
    Aveva gli occhi verdi
    Or to show a routine in the past.
    For example: l'anno scorso andavamo spesso in piscina
    You can often find the imperfect tense to tell something in books, in the past.
    P.S. Happy new year!!!;)
    Becky
     
  35. Pirlo

    Pirlo Senior Member

    Australia
    English
    Hi Becky,
    Thanks for the corrections! That's what I intentionally wanted to write, somehow, it didn't result in that when I typed it out! Is my example okay otherwise? Happy New Year! 34 minutes left in Australia!

    Regards,
    Pirlo
     
  36. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    Yes, it is...:)
     
  37. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Becky, when you said you use it to describe people, can you also use it to describe things? like an outing?
    Also, why isn't the present tense used, if you want to say "She has green eyes", why aveva? (unless they'd died or something)
     
  38. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    I'm sorry:eek: , I didn't specify that you use it to describe people, in the past.
    Becouse you can't say "ebbe occhi verdi", because she has still green eyes.
    About things, like outing, dipends if it happens recently or long time ago.
    For example:
    Fu una gita bellissima
    Era una gita bellissima
    I hope that I explain better, now.
     
  39. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah I see. Thanks
     
  40. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    My pleasure...;)
     
  41. SweetSoulSister Senior Member

    American English
    Hi Becky, Hi Alex! :)
    In English we also use the past when we are describing people in the past, dead or alive :D.
    Police officer: Describe the criminal, please/
    Witness: He was pretty tall, he had green eyes, and a blue shirt, and he ran in that direction...
     
  42. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    Right! it's the same in italian...
     
  43. mateintwo Senior Member

    Sweden, Former resident USA
    Another question regarding tense to use in Italian.
    Person A points to a house and says to B:
    • Famous person YYY lived in that house for 5 years
    • Famous person YYY lived in that house 1915 to 1923
    • Famous person YYY lived in that house until his death a month ago
    • Famous person YYY lived in that house when he suddenly died last week
    I assume “passato remoto - visse” would be the best tense but am I right in assuming “viveva” would also be correct in all 4 cases? La famosa persona YYY viveva in quella casa per 5 anni/dal 1915 al 1923/ finchè la sua morte un mese fa/ quando improvisamente e’ morto una settimana fa
    And would it make a difference if the famous person only lived in the house for let's say 3 months.
     
  44. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Oh, I was thinking more of, like pub scene and someone goes "describe your friend Jenny" and I'd say "She's got brown hair, green eyes, she has a little nose", stuff like that.
     
  45. Nicholas the Italian Senior Member

    Belluno
    Italian
    Non chiedermi perché... :)

    Edit:
    Allora, a grandi linee mi sembra che l'imperfetto si usi quando c'è qualcosa ambientato nel passato, con una durata prolungata (azione persistente o reiterata) e non determinata.
    [Si può dire "was living" in inglese?]
    In termini più umani:
    Mario viveva qui (ora non vive più qui, una volta sì; quando, per quanto? boh)
    Mario è vissuto qui dal ... al ... (il periodo è determinato)
    Mario è vissuto qui per ... anni (idem)
    Mario viveva qui nel 1940 (quando era il 1940, Mario era qui => Mario was living here in 1940 - nessun periodo specificato)
    Mario è vissuto qui nel 1940 (Mario era qui esattamente nel 1940, né prima né dopo => Mario lived here in 1940 - periodo specificato)
    Mario viveva qui durante la guerra (when the war was taking place, Mario was living here)
    Mario è vissuto qui durante la guerra (during the war Mario lived here)
    Mario aveva i capelli lunghi (considerazione generale, non si sa quando o per quanto tempo)
    Mario ha avuto i capelli lunghi per un po' (poi se li è tagliati)
    Il treno è partito alle 7:00 (si sta parlando di un evento preciso; "partire" è un'azione "istantanea", non "persistente")
    Il treno partiva sempre alle 7:00 (tutti i giorni, in modo abituale, reiteratamente)

    Due note:
    - nel linguaggio burocratico spesso si usa l'imperfetto al posto del passato prossimo ("il rapinatore entrava dal retro, minacciava il titolare, prendeva i gioielli e fuggiva...");
    - anche se non è specificato un periodo preciso, a volte si può usare il passato prossimo per indicare che comunque si è trattato di un periodo limitato ("Manzoni è vissuto qui" [per un periodo] - ma non "il ladro ha avuto gli occhi verdi" [presumibilmente li ha sempre avuti e sempre li avrà verdi]).

    Spero sia vagamente più chiaro, sennò chiedete a qualcuno che conosce la grammatica.
     
  46. pane13 Senior Member

    english/united states
    Wow you are all so great! I am so glad I found this site! I am learning so much!

    Since we are on the subject of the imperfect tense and the past I have another question: I understand the difference/usage of dovevo and ho dovuto but I have trouble with the usage of ho voluto/volevo and ho potuto/potevo? Can anyone explain the different meanings.
     
  47. Pirlo

    Pirlo Senior Member

    Australia
    English
    Hi, I'm glad you like the forum, it's a great resource! I suggest you make a new thread, as it is generally easier and cleaner for people to read and reply to.

    I think basically, the auxilary verb variant (Ho voluto, etc) indicates an action that is complete, where-as I think the latter is an on-going action (Volevo, Potevo, etc). Wait for other people's opinnions.

    Regards,
    Pirlo
     
  48. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    Yes, mainly the meaning is that.

    P.S. Potere, volere e dovere sono verbi servili. I verbi servili hanno funzione di "aiutare" altri infiniti.
    Es. Giuseppe ha potuto dormire
    Giuseppe è voluto venire
    Giuseppe ha dovuto lavorare

    Bye Becky:D
     
  49. Panpan

    Panpan Senior Member

    Sawbridgeworth, UK
    England, English
    Would you please help me check that my understanding of this is correct;

    È stato (it has been), can only be used for completed ('perfected') actions in the past.
    However a very similar structure is used in English to describe actions that started in the past, and are still going on in the present;

    'I have been waiting here for 10 minutes' in English means I started waiting here 10 minutes ago, and I am still waiting here.

    The sentance looks as though it should translate as 'sono stato aspetare qui da 10 minuti', however as I understand it, this would mean that you once waited in that place for 10 minutes, but the waiting action is now completed.

    Is that right?
    Many thanks

    Panpan
     
  50. Becky405

    Becky405 Junior Member

    Yes, it's correct. However to say that you started waiting here 10 minutes ago, and you still waiting here...you must say "sto aspettando da 10 minuti" or "aspetto da 10 minuti".

    Becky;)
     

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