Comparison of Italian and Spanish

Compound Tenses

In Italian, the compound tenses are formed by taking the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb avere (to have) or essere (to be), followed by the past participle. Most verbs take avere, but all reflexive verbs and most intransitive verbs take essere. When essere is used, the ending of the past participle must agree with the gender and number of the subject.

Spanish is much simpler. There is a single auxiliary verb, haber, and there is no agreement necessary.

Italian also has the so-called 'preceding direct object pronoun' rule. That is, the ending of the past participle must agree with a direct object pronoun if that pronoun precedes the verb. For example, 'I have seen it' becomes L'ho vista, if 'it' refers to something feminine. Spanish does not have this rule, so the sentence becomes simply La he visto.

Here are the five compound tenses, in the same order as their simple counterparts:

Perfect:

(In English, 'I have eaten' and so on.) Formed by present tense of auxiliary + past participle.
Examples: ho mangiato/he comido, sei andata/has ido, si sono alzati/se han levantado.

Pluperfect:

(In English, 'I had eaten' and so on.) Formed by imperfect tense of auxiliary + past participle.
Examples: avevo mangiato/había comido, eri andata/habías ido, si erano alzati/se habían levantado.

Past anterior:

No real equivalent in English. Used for remote past and rarely used. Formed by simple past tense of auxiliary + past participle.
Examples: ebbi mangiato/hube comido, fosti andata/hubiste ido, si furono alzati/se hubieran levantado.

Future perfect:

(In English, 'I will have eaten' and so on.) Formed by future tense of auxiliary + past participle.
Examples: avrò mangiato/habré comido, sarai andata/habrás ido, si saranno alzati/se habrán levantado.

Conditional perfect:

(In English, 'I would have eaten' and so on.) Formed by conditional tense of auxiliary + past participle.
Examples: avrei mangiato/habría comido, saresti andata/habrías ido, si sarebbero alzati/se habrían levantado.

Created October 2006 by Adam N. Letchford.