Advice sought on using the present tense of a verb to explain a past event

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Advice sought on using the present tense of a verb to explain a past event

Post by CiaoTutti » Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:31 pm

I had two main questions:

1) Simple grammar question: As I study more and more about the past tenses, some sources state that you can "get away" with using the present tense of a verb to explain a past tense, provided you add a qualifier related to time: i.e. ieri, stasera, etc. to put that sentence in the past. Is this true?

Per essempio:

"Lei ha fatto gli spaghetti?" - Did you make(cook) the spaghetti? (I think I wrote this correctly)
but would it be correct to say either:
"Lei fa gli spaghetti stasera/ieri?" , "Lei cuoca gli spaghetti stasera/ieri?" (using stasera/ieri to denote that it is past?)
or would
"Lei cuoca gli spaghetti?" work as well? (but I would think that would that be - "Are you cooking the spaghetti?" - Present tense)

Ci sono molti modi diversi parlare una frase in L'italiano. (Feel free to correct this sentence as well as any others, as I am a beginner).
I'm all about learning from my mistakes, so don't feel bad for correcting them!

2) Also, another source I had read went on to inform me that for 99% of the time, Italians use the passato prossimo. Is this true as well?

Grazie Mille!
Last edited by calum on Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: original title too vague

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Re: Advice sought on using the present tense of a verb to explain a past event

Post by Geoff » Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:17 am

I have not heard of using the present tense in a past context but that doesn't mean you can't. A native speaker is needed to adjudicate on this one.

As far as the passato prossimo versus the passato remoto is concerned, it depends on the region. My understanding is that the passato remoto is used, where appropriate, in Tuscany and the South but not so much elsewhere.

For your sentence "Ci sono molti modi diversi parlare una frase in L'italiano." I would say "Ci sono molti modi diversi per parlare una frase in italiano." Although grammatically correct, I wouldn't use parlare either. I prefer, say, formulare.

Dylan Thomas
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Re: Advice sought on using the present tense of a verb to explain a past event

Post by Dylan Thomas » Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:54 pm

It would be interesting to know what sources you’re referring to.

(1) “Lei ha fatto/cucinato/preparato gli spaghetti?”
This is correct, but you should leave the subject out. We don’t usually use subject pronouns.

(2) “Lei fa/cucina/prepara gli spaghetti stasera?”
This is correct (as to the subject pronoun, see above), but it’s present tense with a future meaning. In English it would be,
“Are you cooking/making the spaghetti tonight?”
But: it’s true that “stasera” may also refer to the past. Let’s suppose it’s midnight. I’m in bed chatting with my wife. She asks me, “Did you have fun at the cinema tonight?” = “Ti sei divertito al cinema stasera?” She’s obviously referring to a past point in time, say, from 9:00 to 11:00.

(3) “Lei fa/cucina/prepara gli spaghetti ieri’”
This is wrong. The adverb of time “ieri” always needs a past tense (in this case we usually use the “passato prossimo”):
“Ha fatto/cucinato/preparato gli spaghetti ieri?”

(4) “Lei cuoca gli spaghetti?”
The verb is wrong. “Cuoca” is a noun (“cook/chef”).
“(Lei) cucina gli spaghetti?”
but this sentence would mean, “Can you cook the spaghetti?”/”Are you able to cook the spaghetti?”

(5) “Ci sono molti modi diversi per formulare una frase”. (also, di formulare)
Jeoff’s suggestion is perfect. I would say, “Ci sono molti modi” or “Ci sono diversi modi” (I would avoid putting together “molti” and “diversi”.)
“Per parlare una frase” does not make any sense in Italian, though.

(6) Passato prossimo versus passato remoto. I agree with what Geoff wrote.

[CiaoTutti, Geoff, Peter… feel free to correct me. I too am learning from my mistakes.]


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