There are two main auxiliary verbs in Italian that are used to create compound tenses: “avere” and “essere.”
In this article, you’ll learn some common verbs taking both auxiliary AVERE and ESSERE in the Italian Language.
Try this exercise to test your grammar.
It is necessary to know whether a verb is transitive or intransitive in order to choose the auxiliary of compound tenses. The choice between avere and essere as the auxiliary verb is not straightforward in Italian.
All transitive verbs take avere.
All reflexive verbs take essere.
⚠️ The problem lies with intransitive verbs.
Some take avere, some take essere, and some can take either.
The choice between avere and essere as the auxiliary verb – Transitive or Intransitive Verbs
To decide whether a verb is transitive, check whether it can answer the question “chi?” (who) or “che cosa?” (what?).
If you can answer this question, the verb is transitive. If, on the other hand, the verb answers different questions such as when, where, how much, and so on, the verb is intransitive. (with exceptions).
We can say that:
If the subject takes an object, the verb is transitive and takes avere.
If the subject cannot take an object, then it is intransitive takes essere.
LEARN MORE: 🔗 VERBI TRANSITIVI E INTRANSITIVI (intransitive and transitive verbs)
Verbs that take either avere and essere
While the basic meaning of these verbs remains the same, they take
📌 avere as the auxiliary when used transitively
📌 essere when used intransitively.
Examples of Common Verbs taking auxiliary AVERE and ESSERE.
COMINCIARE (to begin)
Used intransitively: Il film è cominciato tardi.
Used transitively: Maria ha cominciato il libro nuovo
PASSARE (move, go)
Used intransitively: L’estate è passata in fretta
Used transitively: Mario ha passato l’estate al mare
CAMBIARE (change, replace)
Used intransitively: Il tempo è cambiato.
Used transitively: Carlo ha cambiato lavoro
FINIRE (finish, stop)
Used intransitively: Il film è finito alle 10
Used transitively: Ho finito la scuola
Verbs conveying weather conditions, such as
📌 piovere (to rain),
📌 nevicare (to snow), and
📌 grandinare (to hail)
can take both essere o avere without differences.
You see them only in the third-person singular without any subject.
Common Verbs taking auxiliary AVERE and ESSERE:
- salire (to climb up)
- scendere (to climb down)
- cominciare/iniziare (to begin)
- continuare (to continue)
- finire /terminare (to end)
- seguire (to chease)
- vivere (to live)
- invecchiare (to age)
- migliorare (to improve)
- peggiorare (to worsen)
- cambiare (to change)
- crescere (to grow)
- girare (to turn)
- passare/trascorrere (to pass)
- guarire (to cure/get better)
- correre (to run)
- saltare (to jump)
- volare (to fly)
- durare (to last)
- cuocere (to cook)
Understanding which auxiliary verb to use with certain verbs is an important aspect of learning Italian. By familiarizing yourself with the common verbs that take “avere” or “essere”, you can better understand and communicate in the language.
Do this exercise to test your grammar again.
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