Italian Language/Trapassato prossimo

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Question
Dear Maria,
I am struggling with the difference between Passato prossimo and trapassato prossimo:
Passato prossimo deals with "have had"
Trapassato Pros. deals with.  "Had  had"
It is the "HAD HAD" that I'm not sure of.  What exactly does that mean.
I know that Passato prossimo refers to a more recent action in the past and trapassato occurs before the Passato prossimo but sometimes there is a subtle difference.  It is difficult to sort out and is there a method or pattern I can look for to determine the difference.
Ho avuto:  I have had
Avevo avuto:  I had had.   
Please give me some sentence examples and how to see the difference.  
Thank you in advance for your help.  Really appreciate it!

Answer
Dear Christine,

the difference between the Passato Prossimo ( Present perfect tense, for example  “Ho avuto”  meaning “I have had”) and  the Trapassato Prossimo (Past perfect tense, for example  “Avevo  avuto”  meaning “I had had”) is that the Passato Prossimo refers to a more recent action in the past, as you say, whereas the Trapassato Prossimo  indicates an action that occurred before a certain time in the past and has definitely been completed.

For example, in “Per fortuna, ho avuto il tempo di parlarti, prima che tu partissi“ (Luckily, I have had the time to speak to you...) the Passato Prossimo  “ho avuto” indicates an action that has happened in the past, but not long before another time or event.

On the contrary, in “Per fortuna, avevo avuto il tempo di parlarti, prima che tu partissi” (Luckily, I'd had the time to speak to you ...)  the Trapassato Prossimo indicates an action that has been  completed  at some point in the past before something else happened.

In short, we use the Passato Prossimo to denote an action which has a little connection with the present time, whereas we use the Trapassato Prossimo to denote an action which has no connection with the present time, for this action is definitely completed.

As you can see, the Passato Prossimo  is formed by using the “presente”  of the auxiliary verb “avere” or “essere”  plus the past participle as in “Ho avuto”, “Ho mangiato”, “Sono andato”, “Sei andato”, etc., while the Trapassato Prossimo is composed of the “imperfetto”of the auxiliary verb “avere” or “essere”  plus the past participle as in “Avevo avuto”, “Avevo mangiato”, Ero andato”, “Eri andato”, “Erano partiti”, etc.

See the following examples that hopefully could help you:

-”Ho già visto quel film” ("I have already seen that film".Recent action in the past)vs.  ”Avevo già visto quel film”(”I had already seen that film". The action definitely finished)

-“Ho già mangiato” (“I have already eaten”.Recent action in the past) vs. “Avevo già mangiato” (“I had already eaten”. The action is definitely finished)

-“Ho avuto paura” (Recent action in the past) vs. “Avevo avuto paura” (Action definitely finished)

-“Ho avuto il tempo di parlarti”(Recent action in the past) vs. “Avevo avuto il tempo di parlarti”(Action definitely finished)

-“Ti ho detto di fare i compiti”(Recent action in the past) vs.”Ti avevo detto di fare i compiti”(Action definitely finished)

-“Ha smesso di fumare”(Recent action in the past) vs. “Aveva smesso di fumare”(Action definitely finished)

-“Ha deciso di andarsene”(Recent action in the past) vs.”Aveva deciso di andarsene”(Action definitely finished)

-“Marco ha letto il giornale”(Recent action in the past) vs.”Marco aveva letto il giornale”(Action definitely finished)

-“Sono partita troppo presto da casa”(Recent action in the past) vs.”Ero partita troppo presto da casa”(Action definitely finished)

-“Sono stata di recente a Roma” (Recent action in the past)
-“Ho fatto un bel viaggio in Francia” (Recent action in the past)
-“Siamo andati a far visita a dei nostri amici” (Recent action in the past)
-“Quando hai letto quel libro?” (Recent action in the past)

-“Tempo fa ero stata a Parigi per la prima volta”( The action is definitely finished)
-“Ricordi quando eravamo andati in vacanza in Toscana?”( The action is definitely finished)
-“Prima di venire in Italia avevi già studiato l'Italiano?”( The action is definitely finished)
-“Quando arrivai in stazione, il treno era già partito” (The action is definitely finished)

To sum up, you must use the Passato Prossimo when you want to  denote an action which has a little connection with the present time, whereas you must  use the Trapassato Prossimo  when you want to denote an action which has no connection with the present time, for its action is definitely completed.

Hope this can be helpful to you, especially thanks to the above-mentioned examples. Feel free however to ask me again.

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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