The Devoto-Oli 2017 dictionary (online version) presents the following puzzle: the verb "avere" is listed as transitive, but the conjugations it gives for avere do not include the passive. Why not, since the general rule is that transitive verbs have passive uses? Perhaps because, in practice, avere is (almost) never used in the passive? Or some other reason?

  • 4
    I think I've never heard the verb "avere" used in passive mode; usually express the idea using the passive form of "possedere" or the active form of "appartenere". The only occurrence of "essere" + "avuto" that comes to my mind is the use in the impersonal form: "nel terzo trimestre si è avuto un aumento del 2% del PIL" ("in the third quarter there was a 2% growth of the GDP") – secan Apr 24 at 17:33
  • [1/2] The passive form is used to convey some action (in a broad sense) done to the grammatical subject (the "logical" object). IMO, this is the reason why "avere" (and maybe other verbs) cannot be used passively. "Avere" conveys an abstract relationship between subject and object, that of ownership, belonging, etc, not an action. "Possedere" implies a somewhat more active ownership, so it's acceptable to use it in passive sentences. However, no native speaker would say "L'auto bianca è posseduta da Mario": it would sound awkward, but not as wrong as *"...è avuta da Mario". – The Footprint Apr 25 at 9:52
  • [2/2] Luckily, possessives like "sua" or "di Mario" come to our aid. Also note that, in @secan's example, "si è avuto un aumento del PIL", there is an implicit and undefined logical subject, so that the sentence is perceived as "[indefinito] ha avuto un aumento del PIL". – The Footprint Apr 25 at 9:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.