In a translation exercise for «forty years passed» the correct answer is

quarant'anni sono passati

but if I understand correctly, the past participle for passare is passato and it doesn't need to be conjugated. So why passati instead of passato?

  • that is very clarifying. grazie mille
    – jxhyc
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 5:08

1 Answer 1


The exercise is correct: when making the composite tenses of intransitive verbs having essere as their auxiliary verb, the participle has to agree with the subject.

So, for instance:
* È passato un anno.
* È passata una settimana.
* Sono passati tre anni.
* Sono passate tre settimane.

* Luigi è andato a casa.
* Maria è andata a casa.
* I due amici sono andati a casa.
* Le due amiche sono andate a casa.

With transitive verbs using avere as their auxiliary, the situation is different: the participle definitely doesn't agree with the subject, and is in general in the masculine singular, but under some conditions it agrees with the object.

* Luigi (or Maria, or I due amici, or Le due amiche) ha/hanno mangiato la bistecca.

* L'ha mangiato Luigi (talking about a masculine singular pesce).
* L'ha mangiata Luigi (talking about a feminine singular bistecca).
* Li ha mangiati Luigi (talking about masculine plural pesci).
* Le ha mangiate Luigi (talking about feminine plural bistecche).

  • 3
    The concordance in the case of avere is typically used when the direct object precedes the verb; more generally, when the number or gender are determined by something that precedes the verb: ne ha mangiati due (speaking, say, of cioccolatini).
    – egreg
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 9:50

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