Indicativo is an Italian grammatical mood, indicating real situations (hence the name…). The English equivalent of Indicativo is the realis mood, where the speaker expresses “a known state of affairs”.
In this regards, indicativo has a proper and unique character, making it different from the other Italian moods (condizionale, congiuntivo, imperativo, infinito, participio and gerundio) Indicativo’s tenses are by far the most used in daily situations, that’s why we call them the pillars of the Italian language. All indicativo tenses are described individually in other posts, check them out!
CLICK ON THE + SIGNS to see the details. English translations of Italian Indicativo examples are literal, to let you understand the structure of an Italian sentence, therefore may be incorrect in proper English.
Indicativo has four simple tenses.
Presente is used to describe actions…
- happening now (adesso mangio una mela – I eat an apple now)
- going to happen in the near future (domani mangio una mela – I eat an apple tomorrow)
- Used also to describe routine actions (mangio sempre una mela a pranzo – I always eat an apple for lunch)
Imperfetto is used to describe …
- routine actions in the past (quando ero piccolo leggevo tanto – when I was a kid I used to read a lot)
- unfinished or undefined actions in the past (ieri sera guardavo la televisione – yesterday evening I was watching TV)
- in subordinate sentences with passato prossimo (mentre guardavo la tivù, Maria ha telefonato – while i was watching tv, Maria called)
There is no imperfetto in Germanic languages, English included, so translations might sound incomplete or misleading. Just focus on the imperfetto as a new thing when you study it.
passato remoto, is used to describe…
- a finished and remote action in the past
- a past action with no connections with present
The passato remoto is rapidly declining in spoken Italian, due to the competition with passato prossimo, mostly used in Northern Italy. Nonetheless, passato remoto is widely used in Southern Italy, in books and television, and, most important, many Italians use it daily. The lazy statement that studying the passato remoto, even promoted by some schools, is a waste of time, is wrong.
futuro semplice, is used to describe…
- actions in the future (la settimana prossima comprerò una bicicletta – next week i will buy a bicycle).
- express a doubt (questo orologio costerà 1000 euro – this watch may cost 1000 euro).
Indicativo has four compound tenses
passato prossimo is used to describe…
- events happened in the near past.
- as opposed to imperfetto, events already finished
Passato prossimo is formed by the junction of the present form of essere (to be) or avere (to have) and the participio passato (past participle). It has the function of the English simple past and the structure of the Present perfect (which uses only to have as an auxiliary verb, ). The Passato Prossino tense is preferred over the Passato Remoto in spoken language.
So, for example i can say
- Ieri sono andato al cinema (yesterday I went to the movies)
- Ho mangiato una mela a colazione (I ate an apple for breakfast)
Passato prossimo is often preferred over the passato remoto in spoken language even if theoretically incorrect. So I can say…
- dieci anni fa sono andato a Londra instead of dieci anni fa andai a Londra
trapassato prossimo is used…
- in combination with another past tense, such as imperfetto or passato prossimo or with another trapassato prossimo.
It’s formed by the union of imperfetto of essere or avere + participio passato
futuro anteriore is used…
- for describing future events as complete before they happen.
- for expressing strong possibilities
We can say…
- L’anno prossimo a maggio avrò finito l’università (next year in may i will be done with University)
- Maria sarà andata al cinema (Maria may have gone to the movies)
It’s formed by the union of futuro semplice of essere or avere + participio passato
trapassato remoto is used…
- for describing future events as complete before other past events described using the passato remoto
It’s formed by the union of passato remoto of essere or avere + participio passato
It’s an obslolete tense in spoken language but still in use in some southern Italian regions, in media and literature.
Please take some time and solve the quick quiz below. It will help you to remember today’s learnings. We hope to see you soon at one of our online Italian language lessons. Our teachers wait for you!