Introducing the Past Perfect
If students think they have learned all the past tenses in Italian, tell them they have just started! Explain that just like there is a future perfect tense in Italian, there is also a past perfect tense. The past perfect tense in Italian is used to talk about an event that takes place before another one. The structure of the past perfect is essere or avere in the imperfect, followed by the second verb in the past participle. Since the format is very similar to the future perfect tense lesson, you can use the same exercises to review the past participle.
Explain that a sentence with the past perfect can be formed two ways. When the sentence refers to a timeline of two events, the second clause uses the passato prossimo or passato remoto. To show students how this type of sentence works, write an example on the board, such as:
Cristoforo era già partito quando Matteo arrivò alla casa. (Christopher had already left when Matthew got to the house).
Point out that the imperfect can also be used in the second phrase, but it usually indicates that it was an ongoing action in the past (just like when the imperfect is used). Write another example on the board, like:
Ogni sera quando Matteo arrivava a casa, Mama aveva già preparato da mangiare. (When Matthew got home every evening, Mom had already prepared the meal.)
Make sure students can tell the differences between the two types of past perfect tense sentences. If any problems arise, make a note to cover that issue more in-depth.