Italian verbs with a double auxiliary
What is the difference between ho cambiato and è cambiato?
- HO CAMBIATO APPARTAMENTO
- IL CLIMA E’ CAMBIATO
If you have an eye for details, you have already noticed that the verb cambiare can be used with two different auxiliaries (or helping verbs). Just like in the example above.
In fact, in the first phrase, the verb cambiare uses the verb avere. In the second one, it uses the verb essere.
Now, you might want to know if there is any difference between ho cambiato and è cambiato. Or if there is any difference between ha finito and è finito.
There is. Verbs like cambiare or finire can use both auxiliary depending on its function.
And, they are not the only ones. In Italian, several verbs use both the auxiliaries essere and avere depending on whether they are used in a transitive or intransitive way.
ITALIAN TRANSITIVE AND INTRANSITIVE VERBS
The use of an auxiliary or another is not random. So, how do you pick up the correct auxiliary? It’s easier than you think.
If the action expressed by the verb is transitive, it means that the correct auxiliary to use is avere. Transitive verbs always use the auxiliary avere.
A transitive verb is a verb followed by an object: this means that verb has repercussions on the object (something or someone).
- Ho cambiato appartamento – I changed apartment
Cambiare here is a transitive verb in this sentence, as the verb cambiare has repercussions on the appartamento (object).
Then, when does the auxiliary essere has to be used?
The answer is when the verb of our sentence is intransitive.
An intransitive verb performs an action that has no repercussions on the object. Namely, there is not an object in the sentence.
- Il clima è cambiato – the climate has changed
As you can see in this very sentence, there is no object. To make it easier to understand, there is no possible answer to the question what?
All the Italian verbs taking a double auxiliary (or helping verbs) can be transitive and intransitive.
List of the most common Italian verbs taking a double auxiliary
- Cambiare – to change
- Finire – to finish
- Iniziare – to start
- Cominciare – to start
- Terminare – to finish
- Aumentare – to increase
- Diminuire – to diminish
- Salire – to climb, to go up, to get on
- Scendere – to go down, to get off
- Migliorare – to improve
- Peggiorare – to worsen
Examples of Italian verbs taking a double auxiliary used as transitive verbs
- Ho finito il libro – I finished the book
- Ho cominciato un corso – I started a course
- Ho salito le scale – I climbed the stairs
- Ho migliorato il mio italiano – I improved my Italian
Examples of Italian verbs that take a double auxiliary used as intransitive verbs
- Il film è finito – The film is over
- Il corso di italiano è cominciato ieri – the Italian course started yesterday
- Sono salito sull’aereo – I got on the plane
- Il clima è migliorato – the climate improved
ITALIAN VERBS TO TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER
On the last note, there is a particular category of Italian verbs that can use both auxiliaries without distinction. Those are the verbs used to talk about the weather.
Nevicare – to snow
Ha nevicato – è nevicato
Piovere – to rain
Ha piovuto – è piovuto
Grandinare – to hail
Ha grandinato – è grandinato
Tuonare – to thunder
Ha tuonato – è tuonato
Be aware that the verbs expressing weather conditions in Italian are only used in the third person singular. That’s why they are called “impersonal verbs.”