Passato Remoto – Quiz & Audio

The Passato Remoto is an Italian past tense of the Indicativo

We use the Passato Remoto for describing actions in the past. Remoto means far in the past,

not connected to the present
Scrivi 3 situazioni in cui si può usare il passato remotox

The Passato Remoto is a perfect tense, meaning that it only describes complete, finished actions or situations. Similarly to the Passato Prossimo, the Passato Remoto can work together with the imperfetto and describe a complete action in the past over a situation (imperfetto).

  • Quando ero bambino, una volta andai in vacanza in Grecia.

There is a lively discussion about the Passato Remoto and its position of “endangered species” of the Italian language. As a matter of fact, compared to just a few decades ago, the passato remoto is rapidly declining in both spoken and written Italian. It is perceived as too formal and overly complex, especially in Northern Italy.

The Passato Prossimo on the other hand is more immediate, easier than the Passato Remoto. It’s perfect for television and other media. The news, movies, radio and mass media relying on the spoken language prefer the Passato Prossimo. Newspapers usually describe recent events, so they often see the Passato Remoto as an old tool.

Still, many novels are written with the Passato Remoto, which is perfect for an articulate narration.

The Passato Remoto is very elegant and personally I like it. Being a Northern Italian though, I have to admit that I lived comfortably without using the Passato Remoto  for most of my adult life.

In northern Italian dialects, the substrate on which the local Italian language was built, there is no Passato Remoto. That’s why Northern Italians don’t use it. In many dialects of Southern Italy, the Passato Remoto is the preferred past tense and people use it daily.

When we (people from Milan) use the Passato Prossimo for actions far in the past, sometimes we pick the wrong tense:

  • Mio nonno ha combattuto la guerra. —> Mio nonno combatté la guerra.

Conversely, Sicilians and other Southern Italians use the Passato Remoto to say something like:

  • Ieri andai al mercato. —> Ieri sono andato al mercato.

That’s wrong too.

I believe that Tuscans, and generally people living in Central Italy, use the Passato Prossimo and Remoto in a very balanced fashion. I heard from friends in Napoli that the use of the Passato Remoto in town is not as heavy as in Sicily or Calabria.

This is all to say that, although in steep decline, the Passato Remoto isn’t dead. It is still spoken in large parts of Central and Southern Italy and it’s very common in books. Do you have to learn it? The short answer is yes, simply because you will come across the Passato Remoto along the way and because it’s a beautiful, rich way to express past events in Italian.

Let’s start from the basics.

Passato Remoto dei Verbi Regolari

ioballaivendei (vendetti)dormii
lui / leiballòvendé (vendette)dormì
loroballaronovenderono ( vendettero)dormirono

Please notice how –ere verbs have two possible conjugations with the Passato Remoto. Both are correct.


Passato Remoto di Essere & Avere


  • io fui
  • tu fosti
  • lui / lei fu
  • noi fummo
  • voi foste
  • loro furono


  • io ebbi
  • tu avesti
  • lui / lei ebbe
  • noi avemmo
  • voi aveste 
  • loro ebbero

The Passato Remoto is the most irregular tense in Italian. Irregular verbs are mostly of the -ere conjugation. This is possibly one of the most valid reasons why people prefer to use the Passato Prossimo.

The following, is a very basic list of irregular verbs. You can start here and build up some vocabulary.

Passato Remoto dei Verbi Irregolari

 iotului / leinoivoiloro
DARE 1diedidestidiededemmodestediedero
DARE 2dettidestidettedemmodestedettero

Thanks for reading. Please solve the quiz and listen to the correct pronunciation in the answer. If you want to try a class on Skype or Zoom, complete the quiz.

Alla prossima.


Andrea del Sarto  – Ritratto maschile – 1528

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Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals.

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