The Italian Trapassato Prossimo

Weilà weilà raga! Let's talk about the Italian Trapassato Prossimo - a very highly requested topic. I like to think of this tense as the older cousin of the Passato Prossimo. We use this tense whenever we want talk about something that happened before something else in the past (in other words, when something "had happened". With had being the key word). In English, we have the Past Perfect tense which acts in the same way.

Like with the Passato Prossimo, we will be using Avere and Essere as helping/auxiliary verbs in the Trapassato Prossimo. The only difference is that we will be conjugating them in the Imperfect Tense. If you need help knowing which verbs take Essere and which take Avere, click here to read the post on that topic.

Avere - to have (conjugated in the Imperfect Tense)

  • io avevo - I had
  • tu avevi - you had
  • lui/lei aveva - he/she had
  • noi avevamo - we had
  • voi avevate - you all had
  • loro avevano - they had

Essere - to be (conjugated in the Imperfect Tense)

  • io ero - I was
  • tu eri - you were
  • lui/lei era - he/she was
  • noi eravamo - we were
  • voi eravate - you all were
  • loro erano - they were

Keep in mind that all of our main verbs (the ones after the helping verb) will be in their Participio Passato (Past Participle) form. This happens all the time when we're dealing with compound verb tenses. Here's a reminder of the Participio Passato forms: -ARE verbs end in -ATO, -ERE verbs end in -UTO, and -IRE verbs end in -ITO. Unless of course you're dealing with Irregular Verbs in which case they're different.

Let's now take a look at some verb conjugations in the Trapassato Prossimo.

Mangiare - to eat (regular -ARE verb)

  • io avevo mangiato - I had eaten
  • tu avevi mangiato - you had eaten
  • lui/lei aveva mangiato - he/she had eaten
  • noi avevamo mangiato - we had eaten
  • voi avevate mangiato - you all had eaten
  • loro avevano mangiato - they had eaten

Here are a few phrases with Mangiare used in the Trapassato Prossimo:

Avevo molta fame perché non avevo mangiato nulla per tutta la giornata  - I was very hungry because I hadn't eaten anything all day

Avevamo mangiato la cena prima del tuo arrivo - We had eaten dinner before your arrival 

I'd now like to show you an Irregular verb, let's take a look at Fare, who's Participio Passato form is Fatto.

Fare - to do/to make (Irregular -ARE verb)

  • io avevo fatto - I had done
  • tu avevi fatto - you had done
  • lui/lei aveva fatto - he/she had done
  • noi avevamo fatto - we had done
  • voi avevate fatto - you all had done
  • loro avevano fatto - they had done


Avevano fatto molto per noi quella volta - They had done a lot for us that time

Avevo fatto i miei compiti prima di venire qui - I had done my homework before/prior to coming here

Here's now at Andare, which takes Essere as the helping verb.

Andare - to go (regular -ARE verb)

  • io ero andato/a - I had gone
  • tu eri andato/a - you had gone
  • lui/lei era andato/a - he/she had gone
  • noi eravamo andati/e - we had gone
  • voi eravate andati/e - you all had gone
  • loro erano andati/e - they had gone 


No, ero andato prima a Milano - No, I had gone first to Milan

Esatto, lei era andata al mercato dopo di te - Exactly, she had gone to the market after you

Let's now move into an -ERE verb:

Vendere - to sell (regular verb -ERE verb)

  • io avevo venduto - I had sold
  • tu avevi venduto - you had sold
  • lui/lei aveva venduto - he/she had sold
  • noi avevamo venduto - we had sold
  • voi avevate venduto - you all had sold
  • loro avevano venduto - they had sold


Lui aveva venduto la macchina prima dell'evento - He had sold the car before the event

Fino a ieri, non avevano venduto i libri di Italiano - Until yesterday, they hadn't sold books in Italian

And finally let's look at an -IRE verb:

Dormire - to sleep (regular -IRE verb)

  • io avevo dormito - I had slept
  • tu avevi dormito - you had slept
  • lui/lei aveva dormito - he/she had slept
  • noi avevamo dormito - we had slept
  • voi avevate dormito - you all had slept
  • loro avevano dormito - they had slept


Non aveva dormito bene, quindi era stanco questa mattina - He/she was very tired because he/she hadn't slept well last night (you'd know whether you were referring to a guy or a girl depending on context)