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Auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs, because they help form compound conjugations, meaning compound tenses like the passato prossimo as well as compound moods like the past subjunctive.
The key thing to remember about compound conjugations is that there are two verbs:
- Auxiliary verb, whose conjugation determines the tense or mood
- Main verb, which is always in the form of the past participle
|Ho mangiato.||I have eaten, I ate.||passato prossimo|
|Avevo mangiato.||I had eaten.||pluperfect|
|Avrò mangiato.||I will have eaten.||future perfect|
Italian has two auxiliary verbs. Avere is the auxiliary for the majority of Italian verbs, but there are quite a few verbs which require essere as the auxiliary. Whichever verb it is, the auxiliary is consistent for all compound conjugations: avere verbs always take avere as their auxiliary verb for all compound tenses and moods, while essere verbs always take essere.
All transitive verbs (verbs that can take a direct object) require avere as their auxiliary verb (whether or not there is actually a direct object in the sentence). Some common transitive verbs:
|dire||to say, tell|
|fare||to do, make|
Avere is also needed with some intransitive verbs. Many of these have to do with communication and making noise:
|bussare||to knock on|
Others with sports and activities:
And some are just miscellaneous:
|badare||to take care of|
|funzionare||to function, work|
Verbs that require essere as the auxiliary can be divided into themes:
1. All pronominal verbs
|addormentarsi||to fall asleep|
|divertirsi||to have fun|
|sedersi||to sit down|
|vestirsi||to get dressed|
2. Verbs of movement and stillness
|scendere||to descend / go downstairs|
3. Verbs of change
|nascere||to be born|
Traditionally, impersonal verbs required the auxiliary essere, but nowadays avere is commonly and correctly used as well.
|annottare||to get dark|
Essere verbs require agreement in all compound tenses – lesson coming soon.
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Ciao! I’m Laura K Lawless, creator, writer, editor, and CLO (Chief Lawless Officer) of this free online Italian learning site. Lawless Italian is an official Lawless Languages site.