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I came across the following text in an Italian course: 'Ti ho lasciato qualche messaggio. Non li hai visti?'

I don't understand where the word 'visti' comes from. I don't see it in any conjugation tables. Why is it not 'visto'?

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    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 9:21

1 Answer 1

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This is due to the rules regarding the agreement of the past participle. I went into more details in this answer, but since it is in Italian let me summarize them in English for you.

Essentially, in brief (these rules apply to all compound tenses in Italian, i.e. those formed with an auxiliary verb + the past participle):

  • When the auxiliary verb is essere, the past participle agrees in gender and number with the subject

  • When the auxiliary verb is avere and there is a pronominal direct object (i.e. one of the particles lo, la, le, li or ne playing the role of the direct object and placed before the verb), the participle agrees in gender and number with the direct object

  • In all other cases the past participle is at the masculine singular form.

In the sentence Non li hai visti?, we are in the second case above (the pronominal direct object li placed before the verb) and so the past participle visto changes to agree with the masculine plural li, becoming visti.

If the object were not pronominal, e.g. in the sentence Non hai visto i messaggi?, there is no agreement and the participle is, correctly, at the masculine singular form.

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