Past participle gender agreement

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by AndrewK, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. AndrewK Senior Member


    I've learnt that if a woman is speaking, she would say "Mia mamma mi ha chiamata e mi ha detta che...." but when searching for the phrase "mi ha detta" in Google, I find only 15.000 results, compared to "mi ha detto", which received over 600.000 results.

    Clearly there can't be 40 times more men writing on the internet? Or do Italian women tend to use the suffix "o" even when they themselves are the object?

    Grazie molto in anticipo :)

  2. Montesacro Senior Member

    You can either say "mia madre mi(direct object) ha chiamato" or "mia madre mi(direct object) ha chiamata", but you can only say "mia madre mi(indirect object) ha detto".
    It's got to do with grammar rules: the past participle can take on the suffix relative to the grammar gender of the direct object.
  3. gabrigabri

    gabrigabri Senior Member

    Italian, Italy (Torino)

    Hi, I'm not sure (15 000 results!!), but I think that "mi ha detta" is 100% wrong.
    Though I used to think, that also "la ragazza che hai vista" is wrong, but here I learnt that it is ok.
  4. AndrewK Senior Member

    I can't believe this! I found only 25 results searching for the phrase "La donna che hai vistO", but over a thousand for "La donna che hai vistA"!

    Do most Italians really say "che hai vistA" even when there is no feminine article in front of the verb?

    Thanks for all the help up until now ;)

  5. AndrewK Senior Member

    No, excuse me, I just found out that "La donna che hai vistA" is taken from the Holy Bible, that's why there were so many results on it.

    But anyhow, did you learn why it is okay to write this phrase like this, gabrigabri?
  6. Stiannu

    Stiannu Senior Member

    Torino (Turin), Italy
    Italy, Italian
    Because the old rule was that: if the direct object of a transitive verb is put before this verb, then the verb must be declined accordingly to this object.
    Ho visto la donna (the object is after); lei è la donna che ho vista (the object is represented by the relative pronoun che, so it's before).
    Ho colto le rose. Queste sono le rose che ho colte.
    This rule sounds too old-fashioned today; it's still grammatically correct (my teachers at school didn't expect us to use it, but they informed us of its existence), but nobody use these forms anymore. Today, nearly everyone says la donna che ho visto and le rose che ho colto.

    BUT the rule is still used for personal pronouns, like in li abbiamo visti, ci hai delusi, ti ho ricordata, etc.
    To tell the truth, I thought in these cases this was the only correct form, but in post n. 2, Montesacro said that both forms are possible (li abbiamo visto, ci hai deluso, ti ho ricordato to a female). Mmmm... I'm not sure.

    Anyway, pay attention, because the atonal pronouns like mi, ti, ci and vi can have two different functions: they can serve as direct objects for transitive verbs (mi=me; ti=te; ci=noi; vi=voi; and in this case, the verb is declined accordingly); or, they can serve as indirect objects for intransitive verbs (mi=a me; ti=a te; ci=a noi; vi=a voi; and in this case, the verb is NOT declined).
    This explains the first question in this thread. Chiamare needs a direct object (she called me) but dire needs an indirect object (she said to me).
    [Last clue - don't read if you already feel too confused: dire can occasionally be a transitive verb and need a direct object, with the meaning of to define, to describe, or to name. So, mi ha detta... could be possible (but incomplete) with the meaning of she named me..., she defined me as... Anyway, a very rare and old-fashioned use :)
    In fact, putting the sentence "mi ha detta" on Google, all you can find is just mistakes made by someone who should have written "mi ha detto", except maybe a transcription of an ancient comedy where old Italian allowed this form...]
  7. AndrewK Senior Member

    Haha I see :) A little bit more clever now! Though I would have liked to know how and why both forms with the personal pronouns are possible, when one of the first things you learn in Italian grammar is that the verb changes form according to the personal pronoun in front of it!

    Thank you so much Stiannu; your help was excellent!

  8. anghiarese Senior Member

    US- English
    I was taught in beginning Italian that the past participle was invariable with avere in the passato prossimo and only changed to agree when essere was the auxiliary verb. I should have known that was too simple!
  9. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    There's a thread about this in Solo Italiano. Agreement is compulsory with lo, la, li, le and optional with mi, ti, ci, vi:

    C'è un unico caso in cui il participio va concordato obbligatoriamente con l'oggetto. Ciò avviene quando il complemento oggetto è costituito dai pronomi atoni "lo", "la", "li": "Mi hai portato i libri? Sì, te li ho portati". Con le particelle "mi", "ti", "ci", "vi" in funzione di complemento oggetto l'obbligo di concordanza è facoltativo. E' ugualmente corretto dire, parlando di una ragazza, "ti ho visto" come "ti ho vista".
    (Giorgio De Rienzo, Scioglilingua, Corriere della Sera)
  10. Montesacro Senior Member

    I specifically commented on the examples provided by AndrewK: Mi ha detto/detta and Mi ha chiamato/chiamata.

    As for mia mamma: prescriptive grammars label it as unquestionably wrong. As I have already written actual usage in the north deviates from the norm...:)
  11. anghiarese Senior Member

    US- English
    I looked in my text and the past participle agreement with avere with DO pronouns is indeed breifly covered. I can see where "l'ho", "l'hai" etc. could introduce needless ambiguity so it makes sense really.
  12. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    Ciao a tutti,

    A phrase in another thread reminded me of a grammar question I often think of and never remember to ask when I'm online. :D

    I know that the past participles of verbs conjugated with "avere" inflect for gender when you use object pronouns, since lo, la, le, and li all contract to l' with avere.

    I broke the handle.
    Ho rotto la maniglia.
    I broke it. (meaning the handle)
    L'ho rotta. (la maniglia)

    My question is, for the first sentence, is it wrong or just awkward to say:
    Ho rotta la maniglia.

    I'm sorry if this has been asked before. I couldn't find narrow enough search terms to find a previous thread, and my grammar book doesn't specify it.

    Grazie mille
  13. Alan7075

    Alan7075 Senior Member

    It is wrong and awkward.
    Either "ho rotto la..." or "la ho rotta (l'ho rotta)".

    Ciao Ciao
  14. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    Thank you very much Alan! That was my suspicion, but I wanted to make sure.

    Ciao :)
  15. rosi63 Senior Member

    northern Italy
    Italy Italian
    I broke the handle.
    Ho rotto la maniglia.
    I broke it. (meaning the handle)
    L'ho rotta. (la maniglia)

    My question is, for the first sentence, is it wrong or just awkward to say:
    Ho rotta la maniglia.

    What a difficult question for a native speaker, who knows the sentence is wrong but can't really explain why...:)... I think that's for the "complemento oggetto" (direct object): if it comes before the verb, you inflect for gender, if it comes after, you don't.
  16. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    Grazie anche a te Rosi!

    (Gender can be very confusing sometimes to English speakers, since our language doesn't have it!)
  17. Alan7075

    Alan7075 Senior Member

    If you only knew how many suspicions I have, you'd start screaming :D

    You're most welcome :)

    Ciao Ciao
  18. Angel.Aura

    Angel.Aura del Mod, solo L'aura

    Roma, Italia
    There's also an interesting thread in the Italian Only Forum: here.
  19. Broca's Area Junior Member

    Italian / Italy
    Ho rotta la maniglia is an archaism, therefore you'll find this construction only in old-fashioned texts.
  20. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    Thank you very much for finding this thread for me Angel! It answers more questions than I ever thought to ask!

    Ciao :)

    (Thanks to everyone who answered. I understand much better now.)
  21. federicoft Senior Member

    Just to add that you can find the gender agreement of past participle also in present-day literary or poetic texts, or when the author wants his character to appear somewhat snobbish or stylishly. It is very rarely used in oral Italian though.

    E.g. - Corsi verso il mare, mi gettai nell'acqua gemendo sulle vacanze che avremmo potuto avere, e che non avremmo avute.

    (Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse, transl. by Ruggero Sandanieli).
    I think the purpose here is to depict the way a snobby girl from an upper-class family would speak.
  22. Angel.Aura

    Angel.Aura del Mod, solo L'aura

    Roma, Italia
    Ciao SL,
    you're very welcome! ;)
  23. Swordskid Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    I was told in another thread I opened that you would say:

    "Mi sono messa le scarpe"

    When the speaker is a woman, but also:

    "Me le sono messe"

    Which I found really surprising. Does this happen with all the structures of this kind?
    Also, what would happen in this cases?

    Mi sono detto molte cose. (man)
    Mi sono detta molte cose. (woman?)
    Me le sono dette. ??

    Would this be correct?

    Also, what happens when the verb is "fare" and is followed by an infinitive?

    Mi ha fatto uscire.
    Mi ha fatta uscire? (for a woman)

    Thank you very much in advance.
  24. EtienneLeroux New Member

    Prague, Czech Republic
    Czech Republic, Czech
    Buongiorno a tutti! Vorrei dire: Something has been added to my schedule.

    a) Qualcosa è stata aggiunta al mio programma.
    b) Qualcosa è stato aggiunto al mio programma.

    Qualcosa è femminile (come cosa)?

  25. King Crimson

    King Crimson Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    "Qualcosa" è un pronome di genere indefinito (o neutro se vuoi, v. qui) ma "concorda per lo più come maschile", pertanto nel tuo caso direi che è valida l'opzione b).

    P.S. sul tema delle concordanze nel forum "Solo italiano" c'è un elenco sterminato di lunghe discussioni, nel caso volessi approfondire l'argomento.;)
  26. Pat (√2)

    Pat (√2) Senior Member

    E' stato aggiunto qualcosa al mio programma :)
  27. EtienneLeroux New Member

    Prague, Czech Republic
    Czech Republic, Czech
    Ti ringrazio, √2 !

    Si po dire "Non ho fame grande, prendo solo qualcosa picola"? In questo sarrebe qualcosa femminile?

    (So, che si dice anche "qualcosa di piccolo")
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  28. Connie Eyeland

    Connie Eyeland Senior Member

    Brescia (Italia)
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013

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