It was - passato prossimo, imperfetto

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by GaryD, Apr 25, 2006.

  1. GaryD

    GaryD Senior Member

    Devon UK
    English/land
    Grateful for some assistance (again) with the past tenses of essere. In a previous post I had translated 'it was fantastic' as 'era fantistaco' which clapec corrected to 'è stato fantastico' I assumed that this was because it was obvious from the context I was referring to a single event in the past now completed meriting the use of the Perfect tense. However, I have noticed some other posts and some of my learning material that 'era' was used in similar circumstances (as in I saw a film last night it was very good' - 'ho visto un film ieri sera, era multo buono') so (with apologies to George Santanaya) on the basis that he who fails to understand the past tense is condemned to repeat their errors I would be grateful for any clarification. Is ‘è stato’ always the correct form for ‘it was’ when referring to a completed past action or is era an acceptable substitute when context makes it clear (again, with apologies to Wm Shakespeare) ‘è stato o era, questo è la domanda’:confused:

    GaryD
     
  2. ru_disa

    ru_disa Senior Member

    Tricky one...
    The English "it was" can in fact be translated as both "è stato" (passato prossimo) and "era" (imperfetto). Actually, you can also translate it as "fu" (passato remoto). In spoken language the passato remoto is now almost only used in the south, but - beying the perfectly jolly good tense that it is - is normally used in litterature.
    As for the imperfetto, you can occasionally unse it instead of passato prossimo (eg. "how was the movie?" - "com'era il film?"). I realize that i can't quite point out a precice rule here... let's wait for someone with a better grip on grammar than mine... i'm curious...
     
  3. shamblesuk

    shamblesuk Senior Member

    London
    England, English
    'ho visto un film ieri sera, era molto buono'

    Split this into two sections:

    I saw the film - the act has happened and it was a one off, you started to watch it and watched it to the end
    It was very good - from start to finish it was generally good, and there were different points in time that it was generally good, so here you could use the continuous past

    I was told to think of time as a line. If the incident happened at one point in the past in the line, use the perfect tense. If it happened over a number of points (with gaps) or for one continous length of time along the line, use the imperfect.

    That's why essere and avere often utilise the imperfect because something might 'be' or 'have' something for more than one point in time, whereas the likelihood of 'throwing' something is likely to happen just once (unless you are a darts player).
     
  4. disegno

    disegno Senior Member

    San Francisco
    United States English
    To me, using imperfetto in this sentence can imply that you watched the film and thought it was pretty good yesterday, but after thinking it over today you have decided that it wasn't that great afterall. It implies that your opinion has changed. But, if you say "è stato un buon film" your opinion hasn't changed and you still think it is a good film today.
     
  5. ru_disa

    ru_disa Senior Member

    Actually that's not necessarily true. You can say "era un bel film" to say that the movie was good. In fact, "è stato un buon/bel film" sounds a bit awkward to me (not that it is incorrect, but...)
     
  6. disegno

    disegno Senior Member

    San Francisco
    United States English
    This is a difficult tense to understand...I am still working on it! I was once corrected by my friend when I said after meeting her mother...."Era un piacere conoscere tua madre ieri". Mi ha detto che dovrei dire "È stato un piacere conoscere mia madre"...because the first sentence implies that I don't think it is a pleasure anymore.
     
  7. GaryD

    GaryD Senior Member

    Devon UK
    English/land
    I was given that analogy when I studied Latin and I'm relatively happy that it seems to work most of the time but where do you draw the line - or more precisely how short does the line become before considered a point. You illustrated the film as being a line but what about something shorter - an episode of the Simpsons, an advertisement in between shows. Would it mean if you had gone to see the Mona Lisa and had spent all afternoon looking at it that it would qualify for an 'era' but if you glanced at it in a magazine you would use 'è stato' - :confused: :confused:
    GaryD
     
  8. DAH

    DAH Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    USA/California--English
    :idea: If a past action took place once, or repeated a specific number of times, or was performed within a definite time period, the passato prossimo is used.

    :arrow: If the past action was habitual, was repeated an unspecified number of times or was done for an indefinite period (no known beginning or end), the imperfetto is used. Imperfetto is also used to describe circumstances surrounding a past action or event, time, weather, physical appearance or environment, age, feelings, mental impressions, attitudes, etc.

    Ciao, 5th Edition, by C. Federici & C. Riga, published by Thomson, Heinle, 2003
     
  9. GaryD

    GaryD Senior Member

    Devon UK
    English/land
    Do you think mental impressions include my feeling of how the movie was, which would justify the use of the imperfetto?
    GaryD
     
  10. DAH

    DAH Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    USA/California--English
    In English even with informal writing the first person singular pronoun "I" is always capitalized.
     

Share This Page