In studying the passato remoto one notes immediately the variation on the 2nd conjugation (-ere stem) verbs in the io, lui/lei, loro forms. For example a verb like credere is conjugated:

credei / credetti, credesti, credè / credette, credemmo, credeste, crederono / credettero

Why does this occur? Is one form favored more than another based on the time period in which it is written or is there another reason?

  • That happens only for a few verbs. The majority have only one form (although it can very well be irregular). – persson Mar 26 '15 at 17:29
  • 1
    When double forms exist, they are completely identical from the grammatical point of view. You can use the one or the other depending on your taste. In the case of the verb credere, the second one is probably a bit more modern ("credetti", "credette", "credettero"). I do not know exactly the origin of two different forms, probably they are different evolution paths from Latin. Keep in mind that passato remoto is not much in use nowadays (it is mostly used for telling tales). – Giovanni Mascellani Mar 26 '15 at 22:01
  • 1
    @giornasce: Most of what you say is correct, but as for passato remoto not being much in use, it depends on different parts of Italy. In Northern Italy passato prossimo is almost exclusively used, in the South passato remoto sometimes encroaches on the prossimo's area, while in parts of Central Italy (mostly Tuscany) they live side by side, passato remoto for ancient and completed events (Prokofiev morì nel 1953) and passato prossimo for events still current (ho sposato Maria nel 2005). – DaG Mar 27 '15 at 1:38
  • Speaking of which is the most common form, here in Central Italy I've personally almost never heard "credei"/"credè"/"crederono" within colloquial speeches ("credei" and "credè" both also sound kind of weird to my ears), while I recall such terms to be used more commonly in licterature, so I think that either the most common form for each person varies based on localization or the former for each is just a more archaic version of the same word. – kos Apr 4 '15 at 18:44

One of the reasons for this, among others, is the merging of 2nd (-ēre) and 3rd (-ĕre) Latin conjugations into the 2nd Italian conjugation. As you may know, 2nd Latin conjugation has the long "e", while 3rd has the short "e". You can still notice this in Italian when you compare "crédere" (notice the accent) and "tenére".

Notice how "credere" is a 3rd conjugation verb in Latin (with short "e", sounding just like its Italian counterpart), and its perfect form is "credidi" (1st person singular). "Credidit" and "crediderunt" are, in turn, 3rd person singular and plural. You can see, (especially from "crediderunt", and following the common rules of shifting from Latin to Italian), that "credetti", "credette" and "credettero" are more or less direct descendants of their Latin counterparts.

Now notice how, for example, sedere (2nd Latin conjugation, long "e") is "sederunt" on 3rd person plural (perfect). This, following the same rules, becomes "sederono". Still, just like "credettero" has its "crederono" form, "sederono" has its "sedettero" form.

The merging of the two conjugation into one probably gave birth to double forms like these. To further confuse things, many 2nd conjugation Latin verbs changed their ending and shifted to 3rd Italian conjugation "-ire"; "-are" became the "dominant" conjugation and there has been a tendency to conjugate most verbs following the rules of the first conjugation (you can see that "credei", "credè" and "crederono" follow the pattern of the most common 1st conjugation regular verbs, compare with "mangiai", "mangiò", "mangiarono").

As a side note, I'm Italian and "credei" sounds so strange to me... don't use it.

| improve this answer | |
  • It's interesting you bring up the reduplicated 'credidi' form as a reason for the shift to credetti. I wonder if we could look at other reduplicated 3rd principal parts for this: dedi, for example also follows this pattern. – gbutters Apr 11 '15 at 1:32

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.