Learn the Italian Imperfect Tense

Page content

The imperfect form in Italian, imperfetto, is an important tense, as it is used to describe events that happened in the past. The imperfect tense is used for three different occasions:

1. An on-going action in the past that is interrupted by another event

Example: Mentre finivo il libro, è arrivata la mia amica. (While I was finishing the book, my friend arrived)

2. A repeated action in the past

Example: Quando ero piccolo, andavo spesso al mare. (When I was young, I went to the sea often)

3. Two or more events that happened simultaneously in the past

Example: Mentre lavoravo, Matteo dormiva. (While I was working, Matthew was sleeping)

Regular Verbs

Just like the present indicative form and passato prossimo, regular verbs follow the same conjugation based on the ending. Let’s go over each of the conjugations:

-are verbs: cantare (to sing)

(io) cantavo

(tu) cantavi

(lui,lei) cantava

(noi) cantavamo

(voi) cantavate

(loro) cantavano

-ere verbs: vedere (to see)

(io) vedevo

(tu) vedevi

(lui, lei) vedeva

(noi) vedevamo

(voi) vedevate

(loro) vedevano

-ire verbs: sentire (to hear)

(io) sentivo

(tu) sentivi

(lui, lei) sentiva

(noi) sentivamo

(voi) sentivate

(loro) sentivano

Recall from previous lessons that Italian has two -ire verbs. However, in the imperfect tense, the formation and endings are exactly the same.

Essere and Avere

In the imperfect, avere follows regular conjugation. Essere is irregular with the stem er-. Let’s go over the conjugations for these two verbs:


(io) ero

(tu) eri

(lui, lei) era

(noi) eravamo

(voi) eravate

(loro) erano


(io) avevo

(tu) avevi

(lui, lei) aveva

(noi) avevamo

(voi) avevate

(loro) avevano

Irregular Verbs

There are other verbs in Italian that have irregular verb formations in the imperfect tense. While the endings are similar to other imperfect endings, the stem used is not as easy to form (compared to regular verbs, where the stem is formed by removing -are, -ere, or -ire.) Let’s go over some of the most common irregular verbs in the imperfect form:

Bere (to drink)

(io) bevevo

(tu) bevevi

(lui, lei) beveva

(noi) bevevamo

(voi) bevevate

(loro) bevevano

Dire (to say)

(io) dicevo

(tu) dic_**evi**_

(lui, lei) dic_**eva**_

(noi) dic_**evamo**_

(voi) dic_**evate**_

(loro) dic_**evano**_

Fare (to do, to make)

(io) facevo

(tu) facevi

(lui, lei) faceva

(noi) facevamo

(voi) facevate

(loro) facevano

Porre (to put, to place)

(io) ponevo

(tu) ponevi

(lui, lei) poneva

(noi) ponevamo

(voi) ponevate

(loro) ponevano

Tradurre (to translate)

(io) traducevo

(tu) traducevi

(lui, lei) tranduceva

(noi) tranducevamo

(voi) tranducevate

(loro) tranducevano

Trarre (to pull, to draw)

(io) traevo

(tu) traevi

(lui, lei) traeva

(noi) traevamo

(voi) traevate

(loro) traevano


  • Mezzadri, Marco. Essential Italian. Guerra Edizioni, 2004