Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I Saw…

Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the fourth in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!  just click HERE.

Another of our “commonly used phrases,” that will help us talk more easily is
 “What I saw…”

leading into

“I saw him,” “I saw her,” or “I saw it.”


 See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference book Just the Grammar on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


What I Saw…

in Italian

The past tense for “I saw,” a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo past tense form, which is “ho visto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English form “I have seen.”  

Because the phrase “I saw” is frequently used in everyday conversation, we should commit the Italian verb “ho visto” to memory. We can then “build” on this simple, easy-to-remember verb to help us remember other more complex phrases.

A very common question/answer situation arises around “whom” we “have seen.” How many times in a family situation does one ask, Did you see/Have you seen…?” The subject in the question is now the familiar “you,” so the Italian phrase will change to “Hai visto…?”

Ho visto… I saw/I have seen…
Hai visto…? Did you see/Have you seen…?

The simple answer to the question “Did you see Peter?” is, of course, “I saw Peter.” But in conversation, we don’t like to repeat the same word over and over again. To make our conversation more interesting and flow more smoothly, we would more likely respond “I saw him” instead. We could also ask, “Did you see the movie?” and answer, “Yes, I saw it.”

In Italian, “lo” is the word for him or masculine it, and “la” is the word for her or feminine it. These direct object pronouns are placed before the verb in Italian, instead of after the verb, as we do in English, to make the sentences, “I saw him,” “I saw her,” or “I saw it.”


Grammar alert!*

(If you don’t like grammar rules, just skip to the end of the blog post, where we will summarize the important phrases to remember.)

To follow, I will show how to combine the Italian past tense verbs using avere with a direct object pronoun when we are talking about other people. There are three rules of grammar to follow that I have listed here from our Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar book.

(1) The direct object pronoun is placed before the passato prossimo compound verb.
(2) The third person singular direct object pronouns (lo and la)
usually drop their vowel before the letter h in conversation.
(3) The last vowel of the past participle must agree in gender and number
with the object that it refers to when using the third person singular and plural.

So to ask and answer the question, “Have you seen Peter?” “Yes, I’ve seen him,” just follow rules (1) and (2) below.

Hai visto Pietro?   Have (you) seen Peter?
Lo ho visto. Rule (1) I saw him.
Lho visto. Rule (2) I saw him.

So far, so good. The words “L’ho” flow easily together and are spoken as one word, short and sweet. However, if we were looking for Caterina, we would need to also change the ending of the past participle of the verb to agree with the feminine direct object pronoun ending, which we have just dropped! So our phrase would instead be “L’ho vista” for “I saw her.” We have to follow rules (1), (2), and (3) to make one short sentence!

Hai visto Caterina?   Have (you) seen Kathy?
La ho vista. Rules (1) and (3) I saw her.
Lho vista. Rule (2) I saw her.

And, finally, for the plural forms, when referring to two males or a male and a female, we need to use the direct object li and the letter i for the past participle. If we should see two females, we would use the direct object le and the letter e for the past participle. These examples below follow rules (1) and (3).

Hai visto Pietro e Michele?   Have (you) seen Peter and Michael?
Li ho visti. Rules (1) and (3) I saw them.
Hai visto Caterina e Francesca?   Have you seen Kathy and Frances?
Le ho viste. Rules (1) and (3) I saw them.


Not a fan of grammar?

You don’t have to be! Let’s summarize the phrases used most often to describe what or who I saw.

Ho visto… I saw/I have seen…  
Hai visto…? Did you see/Have you seen…?  
L’ho visto. I saw him. I saw it.
L’ha vista. I saw her. I saw it.
Li ho visti. I saw them. (all male or male+female group)  
Le ho viste. I saw them. (all female group)  

Remember these phrases, and I guarantee you will use them every day!

*For those who like grammar, this passato prossimo verb is derived from
 avere (to have) + the past participle of the action verb vedere (to see).

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

Available on and Learn Travel

2 thoughts on “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I Saw…

  1. Can you explain why the avere compound must agree (m/f) (s/p) using a past participle? I thought that was an essere rule.


    1. Good question. This is an essere rule and also a rule for avere but only in the singular past tense when eliding with “it” as in: L’ha fatta. = She did it. More info on this in Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Verbs book. Links in the blog.


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