(from Duolingo)

Unlike the imperfetto, which refers to continuous or habitual actions in the past, the passato remoto is a tense that indicates a single action that was completed a long time ago. This tense presents lots of irregularities, and some verbs even have multiple correct conjugations.

In fact, even native speakers find this tense a bit difficult sometimes, and that’s probably why in the spoken language the passato remoto is often replaced by the passato prossimo (ho mangiato, ho bevuto…), which is easier and far more regular. Oddly enough, in southern Italy the exact opposite tends to happen: for some reason many southerners often prefer to use the passato remoto, even when talking about recent events.

So, why learn the passato remoto?

  • Just because many native speakers try to avoid it, it doesn’t mean they never use it! Some verbs in particular are very common and very easy to learn.
  • It’s without a doubt the most common tense in Italian literature, where events usually take place at some indefinite point in time, or in the distant past from the narrator’s point of view.
  • It will definitely take your Italian skills to the next level!

Here’s an example with three different past tenses:

  • Lui mi diede un consiglio. [passato remoto] = He gave me advice. Once, a long time ago.
  • Lui mi ha dato un consiglio. [passato prossimo] = He gave me advice. Once, maybe recently.
  • Lui mi dava consigli. [imperfetto] = He gave me advice, for a period of time. / He used to give me advice.
io parlai ricevi/etti partii
tu parlasti ricevesti partisti
lui,lei parlò ricevé/ette partì
noi parlammo ricevemmo partimmo
voi parlaste riceveste partiste
loro parlarono riceverono/ettero partirono

io fui ebbi dissi
tu fosti avesti dicesti
lui,lei fu ebbe disse
noi fummo avemmo dicemmo
voi foste aveste diceste
loro furono ebbero dissero

TIP: You might be wondering, “how should I learn all those other irregular forms outside of Duolingo?” The same way native speakers do: through exposure, and mostly through reading! Luckily, many irregular verbs share the same patterns.

(by DuoItalian)

Here are the basic rules on changing the infinitive endings to form the passato remoto:

-ARE Verbs
Drop the infinitive ending and add these endings to the root: -ai, -asti, , -ammo, -aste, -arono

-ERE Verbs
Drop the infinitive ending and add these endings to the root: -ei, -esti, , -emmo, -este, -erono

-IRE Verbs
Drop the infinitive ending and add these endings to the root: -ii, -isti, , -immo, -iste, -irono

TIP: Many regular -ere verbs have an alternative form in the first person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms (as seen in the Duolingo examples above).

Here are a few more commonly used irregular verb conjugations for the passato remoto:

io feci stetti diedi
tu facesti stesti desti
lui,lei fece stette diede
noi facemmo stemmo demmo
voi faceste steste deste
loro fecero stettero diedero

… and a few of which only SOME of the conjugations are irregular (seen in RED):

io vissi scrissi tenni
tu vivesti scrivesti tenesti
lui,lei visse scrisse tenne
noi vivemmo scrivemmo tenemmo
voi viveste scriveste teneste
loro vissero scrissero tennero

(from Duolingo)
fuiI was
fostiyou were
fuhe was
fummowe were
fosteyou (all) were
furonothey were
venniI came
venistiyou came
vennehe came
venimmowe came
venisteyou (all) came
vennerothey came
feciI did, made
facestiyou did, made
fecehe did, made
facemmowe did, made
facesteyou (all) did, made
fecerothey did, made
parlaiI talked
parlastiyou talked
parlòhe talked
parlammowe talked
parlasteyou (all) talked
parlaronothey talked
ricevettiI received
ricevestiyou received
ricevettehe received
ricevemmowe received
ricevesteyou (all) received
ricevetterothey received
partiiI departed
partistiyou departed
partìhe departed
partimmowe departed
partisteyou (all) departed
partironothey departed
volliI wanted
volestiyou wanted
vollehe wanted
volemmowe wanted
volesteyou (all) wanted
vollerothey wanted
poteiI could
potemmowe could
ebbiI had
avestiyou had
ebbehe had
avemmowe had
avesteyou (all) had
ebberothey had
andaiI went
andastiyou went
he wenthe went
andammowe went
andasteyou (all) went
andaronothey went
destiyou gave
trovaiI found
trovammowe found
vidiI saw
viderothey saw
dissiI said
misiI put
mettestiyou put
misehe put
mettemmowe put
mettesteyou (all) put
miserothey put
preserothey took
arrivaiI arrived
pensaronothey thought
chiesiI asked
chiedestiyou asked
chiesehe asked
chiedemmowe asked
chiedesteyou (all) asked
chieserothey asked
credemmowe believed
credetterothey believed
capiiI understood
capimmowe understood
diventòhe became
tennehe kept
tenemmowe kept
lasciaiI left
decidestiyou decided
decisehe decided
aspettaiI waited
morìhe died
moriiI died
guardaiI watched
apriiI opened
aprìhe opened
seguìhe followed
offriiI offered
cambiaronothey changed
giocammowe played
finìhe finished
lessiI read
leggestiyou read
scrivestiyou wrote
scrissehe wrote
successeit happened
costruìhe built
perdestiyou lost
persehe lost
provòhe tried


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