A reminder on the use of auxiliaries, ie the verbs (essere, avere) that you need to make compound verbs (aux. + past participle, eg:

è arrivata tardi = she has arrived late;

abbiamo mangiato molte mele = we have eaten many apples.

As in everything to do with Italian grammar, there are general rules to guide you.

Transitive verbs (ie those that take a direct object, such as vedere and aspettare) require the auxiliary avere. Ex.:

abbiamo visto la manifestazione in piazza = we have seen the demonstration in the square;

Gina ha aspettato suo fratello fino a tardi = Gina has waited for her brother till late

Reflexive verbs (ie those in which the action falls on the subject) require the auxiliary essere. Ex.:

mi sono alzata alle 9.00 = I got up at 9am [the infinitive is alzarsi = to get up];

ci siamo addormentati a mezzanotte = we went to sleep at midnight [addormentarsi = to go to sleep/fall asleep]

Verbs of movement (eg arrivare, partire, andare, venire, entrare, uscire, passare, rimanere) take the auxiliary essere. Ex.:

il postino non è ancora passato = the postman has not yet come by;

 la nonna è venuta a vedere il bebé = the grandmother has come to see the baby;

sono entrati in casa senza togliersi le scarpe = they came in the house without taking their shoes off

Some verbs can have a transitive and a reflexive form so the auxiliary changes as per the general rule above. A couple of examples to illustrate this:

Maria ha fermato (transitive verb) la macchina della polizia perché aveva bisogno di assistenza = Mary stopped the police car because she needed help;

 ci siamo fermati (reflexive verb) alla frontiera per il controllo del passaporto = we stopped at the border for passport control;

vedendosi in difficoltà, la pattuglia ha cambiato (transitive verb) tattica = finding [literally, seeing] itself in trouble, the patrol changed tactics;

ci siamo cambiati (reflexive verb) in fretta per andare ad un altro evento – we changed quickly to go to another event

Note the many meanings/uses of the verb cambiare. As in the example above, you can change (clothes), in which case you use the reflexive cambiarsi eg:

oggi mi sono cambiata tre volte perché ho sudato tanto a causa dell’umidità = today I changed three times because I perspired a lot due to the humidity);

You can change gears in a manual car in which case it’s transitive eg:

ho cambiato marcia in salita = I changed gear going uphill;

You can change as a person in which case you need the aux. essere eg:

Fiona è cambiata dopo la grave malattia: ora si prende la vita tranquillamente invece di essere sempre stressata = Fiona has changed a lot after her serious illness: now she takes life as it comes instead of always being stressed

Yvette Alberti