Italian Simple Past 101 – Learn This Italian Verb Tense by Singing a Beautiful Song

Learn Italian simple past, listening to Mina singing “La canzone di Marinella” (Marinella’s song), written by the singer song-writer Fabrizio De Andrè:

La canzone di Marinella (Marinella’s Song)

Questa di Marinella è la storia vera
This is the true story of Marinella,
che scivolò; nel fiume a primavera,
who slipped into the river in spring,
ma il vento che la vide così bella
but the wind that saw her so beautiful,
dal fiume la portò sopra a una stella.
from the river carried her on a star.

Sola senza il ricordo di un dolore,
Alone without sorrowful memories,
vivevi senza il sogno di un amore,
you lived without the dream of love,
ma un re senza corona e senza scorta,
but a king, without crown and without escort,
bussò tre volte un giorno alla sua porta.
once knocked three times at your door.
Bianco come la luna è il suo cappello,
White as moon is his hat,
come l’amore rosso il suo mantello,
like the love his cloak is red,
tu lo seguisti senza una ragione,
you followed him without a reason,
come un ragazzo segue un aquilone.
like a child follows a kite.
E c’era il sole e avevi gli occhi belli,
And there was the sun and you had beautiful eyes
lui ti baciò le labbra ed i capelli,
he kissed your lips and your hair,
c’era la luna e avevi gli occhi stanchi,
there was the moon and you had tired eyes,
lui pose la mano sui tuoi fianchi.
he laid his hands on your hips.
Furono baci furono sorrisi,
And there were kisses and there were smiles,
poi furono soltanto i fiordalisi
then there were only the cornflowers,
che videro con gli occhi delle stelle
which saw with the eyes of the stars
fremere al vento e ai baci la tua pelle.
your skin quivering with the wind and the kisses.Dicono poi che, mentre ritornavi,
Finally, they tell that, while you were coming back,
nel fiume chissà come scivolavi
into the river, who knows how you slipped
e lui, che non ti volle creder morta,
and he, who didn’t want to believe you were dead,
bussò cent’anni ancora alla tua porta.
knocked one hundred more years at your door.
Questa è la tua canzone Marinella
This is your song, Marinella,
che sei volata in cielo su una stella
who flew in the sky on a star,
e, come tutte le più belle cose,
and, like all the most beautiful things,
vivesti solo un giorno, come le rose
you lived just one day, like the roses…


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E, come tutte le più belle cose,
and, like all the most beautiful things,
vivesti solo un giorno, come le rose
you lived just one day, like the roses…

The Simple Past Tense in the Song

The “passato remoto” (meaning “remote past”) expresses an action that happened quite a long time ago ad now is over. It can be translated to English with the simple past tense, as in the song:

Lei scivolò; nel fiume: she slipped into the river.

Il vento che la vide così bella: the wind that saw her so beautiful

Tu lo seguisti senza una ragione: you followed him without a reason

Here are the conjugations of the Italian simple past of these 3 verbs:

First Conj. Second Conj. Third Conj.
Person scivol-are (to slip) ved-ere (to see) segu-ire (to follow)
io (I) scivolai vidi seguii
tu (you) scivolasti vedesti seguisti
lui, egli (he) scivolò vide seguì
lei, ella (she) scivolò vide seguì
esso (it) scivolò vide seguì
noi (we) scivolammo vedemmo seguimmo
voi (you) scivolaste vedeste seguiste
loro, essi (they) scivolarono videro seguirono

As you can see the 1st conjugation of the Italian simple past even if it is not very easy, is definitely less difficult than the second one: you have to add the following desinences to the verb root:

-ai   -asti,   -ò,   -ammo,   -aste,   -arono

So, for example, with a different verb root, as with the verb “bussare” (to knock) in the song:

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bussò tre volte un giorno alla sua porta.
once knocked three times at your door.

We will have the following conjugation:

io buss-ai tu buss-asti lei/lui buss-ò
noi buss-ammo voi buss-aste loro buss-arono

Here’s the simple past of the verb “baciare” (to kiss):

Lui ti baciò le labbra ed i capelli: he kissed your lips and your hair

io baci-ai tu baci-asti lei/lui baci-ò
noi baci-ammo voi baci-aste loro baci-arono

Lui pose la mano sui tuoi fianchi: he laid his hands on your hips.

The Italian Simple Past Vs. the Imperfect Tense

The Italian simple past tense almost acts in opposition to imperfect tense, which is used to refer to actions in the past that occurred repeatedly or over an extended period of time:

Vivevi senza il sogno di un amore: you lived without the dream of a love

Mentre ritornavi: while you were coming back,

Here’s a table showing the italian simple past for the verbs that ends with -are, -ere, -ire.

The Italian Simple Past – the 3 Conjugations

First Conj. Second Conj. Third Conj.
Person am-are
(to love)
to believe
dorm-ire (to sleep)
io (I) amai credetti dormii
tu (you) amasti credesti dormisti
lui, egli (he) amò credette dormì
lei, ella (she) amò credette dormì
esso (it) amò credette dormì
noi (we) amammo credemmo dormimmo
voi (you) amaste credeste dormiste
loro, essi (they) amarono credettero dormirono
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