Download Auxiliary verbs in compound tenses in Italian

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Italian and German auxiliary verbs conjugate with themselves, i.e. the verbs avere
and haben are conjugated with the auxiliary verbs avere and haben while essere
and sein are conjugated with the auxiliary verbs essere and sein, as the following
examples show:
(1) Ho avuto un incidente and Ich habe einen Verkehrsunfall gehabt ‘I had
an accident’,
(2) Ieri sono stato a Varsavia and Gestern, bin ich in Warschau gewesen ‘Yesterday I was in Warsaw’.
There are no exceptions to this rule which is connected with another basic rule of
auxiliary verb choice in both languages. According to this rule, transitive verbs
in both languages take the auxiliary verb avere/haben ‘to have’ while intransitive
verbs take the verb essere/sein ‘to be’ (cfr. Storni 1994:93 – 94 and Dreyer/Schmitt
2000:63). Among the examples1 we can cite:
(3) Ho letto un libro ‘I read a book’
in which a direct object is present, but the sentence
(4) Ho già mangiato ‘I have already eaten’
is correct, too, even if no direct object is given. The same rule is present in German: according to Duden (1995:120), Helbig/Buscha (2001:123) and Hall/Scheiner (1999:8), transitive verbs conjugate with haben even if a direct object is not
(5) Sie hat einen Brief geschrieben ‘She wrote a letter’ and Sie hat geschrieben ‘She wrote’,
(6) Die Mutter hat gegessen ‘The mother ate’.
At this point we should reflect on this rule. It has been stated before that transitive
verbs, the ones which are usually followed by a direct object, take the verb avere/
haben ‘to have’. It is worth mentioning that in other languages, like French and
English, the same auxiliary verb is used to create forms of compound tenses. An
interesting explanation is provided by Mańczyk (2002:91– 92) who argues that
what was done by somebody somehow belongs to this person, which is why the
If we mention grammar books and then give examples, it means that these examples come from
these reference books. If no source is indicated, examples are our own.
Studia Linguistica 34, 2015
© for this edition by CNS
SL_34-05-Karczewska.indd 64
2016-04-28 09:02:39