We have now seen both the passato prossimo (present perfect or conversational past), as well as the imperfetto (imperfect past or descriptive past). These past tenses have specific uses, expressing different, nuanced past events. As such, they cannot be used interchangeably. Following is a list of rules governing their respective uses.
- The passato prossimo is used to express an action which began and was subsequently completed at a definite time in the past. The action may have lasted a long time or a short time, and it may have taken place more than once, but the action has terminated in the present. The passato prossimo answers the question: What happened?