HO DOVUTO vs DOVEVO
Dover and other verbs whose meaning changes between the imperfetto and passato prossimo
If you ended up on this page, it’s because you wonder if there is any difference between the use of ho dovuto and dovere or ho voluto and volevo, sapevo or ho saputo.
There is a fine but important difference between the use of some verbs with the imperfetto and passato prossimo.
Most of these verbs whose meaning changes depending on the type of past tense we use, are modal verbs, that is to say, volere (to want), potere (can), dovere (to have to) sapere (to know how to do sthg).
💡the general rule say that…
- Using the imperfetto with the modal verbs denote an intuition that didn’t become an action
- Using the passato prossimo with the modal verbs indicate certainty and says that action took place
DOVEVO / HO DOVUTO
- Dovevo andare in banca → this sentence denotes the purpose of going to the bank, yet we don’t know whether the person went or not.
- Sono dovuta andare in banca (stamattina) → the person went to the bank
VOLEVO / HO VOLUTO
- Non volevo andare a lavoro→ we don’t know whether the person went to work or not
- Ho voluto comprare una macchina nuova→ the person bought a car
- Volevo comprare una macchina nuova → we don’t know whether the person bought the car
- Volevo chiamarti ieri sera (I wanted to call you last night) – means that I had the intention of calling you, but we don’t know whether I did it or not.
- Ho voluto chiamarti ieri sera perché — means I called you, why…
“VOLEVO” in polite request
A special mention goes to volere
Infact, volere in the imperfetto is also used to make a kind request
- Volevo chiederti un’informazione → I wanted to ask you something
- Volevo chiederti un favore → I wanted to ask you a favor
POTEVO / HO POTUTO
- Stanotte non potevo dormire → it was hard for the person to sleep, we don’t know whether the person managed to sleep or not
- Stanotte ho potuto dormire → I could not sleep, I did not sleep
SAPEVO / HO SAPUTO
Sapere in the imperfect means “essere a conoscenza di qualcosa = to be aware of something”.
- Sapevi che Marta ha avuto un bambino → Did you know Marta had a baby?
- Non sapevo che fossi sposato → I didn’t know you were married
Sapere in the passato prossimo means to learn something from someone else
- Hai saputo che Lucia ha avuto un figlio → Someone told me Lucia had a baby
CONOSCEVO / HO CONOSCIUTO
Although it’s not a modal verb, another verb that changes its meaning is the verb conoscere.
Conoscere in the imperfetto means to know someone
- Conosco mio marito da 20 anni → I have known my husband for 20 years
Conoscere in the passato prossimo means to get to know someone
- Ho conosciuto mio marito a una partita di calcio → I met my husband at soccer match