Conjugations of the verb -essere (to be) – Compound Tenses

The most common conjugations of the verb essere (To be) – Compound Tenses

Compound Tenses with essere

Essere can also be used as an auxiliary or helping verb to form compound tenses, that are verb tenses that consist of two words. This is a little bit more complicated than the most common conjugations of essere that we have already studied, but you do not need to panic. Moreover, some of these compound tenses already exist in English! Compound tenses are one of the most used conjugation of the verb essere, and it is crucial to understand how they work.

1. Passato prossimo (Past Tense)

To form a sentence in passato prossimo, you just need to use essere (present form) with your target verb in its part participle (participio passato) form.

Compound tenses with intransitive verbs (those that cannot take a direct object) + verb essere are surely ones of the most used conjugations of the Italian grammar. However, the verb essere can also be conjugated with itself as an auxiliary verb. Remember that the past participle always agrees with the gender and the number of the subject of the verb.

For example:

  • Mario è stato fortunato (Mario got lucky – masculine, singular)
  • Maria è stata fortunata (Maria got lucky – feminine, singular)
  • I ragazzi sono stati fortunatI (The guys got lucky – masculine, plural)
  • Le ragazze sono state fortunate (The girls got lucky – feminine, plural)

Passato prossimo is usually translated with the Simple Past tense in English, and sometimes the auxiliary verb used is different!

For example:

  • Loro sono andati a Firenze (They went to Florence)
  • Sono stato impegnato (I have been busy)
  • Ci siamo divertiti molto (We had a lot of fun)

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2. Trapassato prossimo (Past Tense)

Verb essere (imperfetto tense) + any participio passato

For example:

  • Eravamo andati a casa (We had gone home)
  • Ero stato a casa tutto il weekend (I had been at home the whole weekend)

3. Futuro anteriore (Future Perfect tense)

Verb essere (futuro semplice) + any participio passato

We use this verb tense to express an action in the future that happens before something else. Moreover, it can be used to talk about something you are unsure about, but that may happen in the future or that has already happened in the past.

For example:

  • Giulia non era in casa, sarà stata molto impegnata (Giulia was not at home, she must have been very busy)
  • Appena ci saremo sposati, compreremo una casa nuova (As soon as we are married, we will buy a new house)


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