How do I know when to use 'avere' or 'essere' to form the present perfect tense in Italian?

First of all let's remind ourselves that the present perfect is used to describe actions or events that have taken place recently or some time ago. It is formed by using the present tense of the verb 'avere' or 'essere' and the past participle of the verb. Whether you use 'avere' or 'essere' depends mainly on if the verb is transitive or intransitive. A verb is transitive if it has a direct object, in order words, we can ask the question 'what?' or 'who?'E.g. Il bambino ha mangiato il gelato. What? --> Il gelatoAbbiamo incontrato Anna. Who? --> AnnaAs you can see when a verb is transitive we use 'avere'. This means that when a word is intransitive (it does not have a direct object) we use 'essere'. E.g. Il treno è partito un’ora fa. Le vacanze sono cominciate ieri. Note: Unlike when using 'avere', here we must make sure the ending of the past participle matches in gender and number!

Answered by Sarah M. Italian tutor


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