It's been a while since we looked at a verb tense, and there are still a few left to cover. We've already covered the workings of il passato prossimo, for things in the recent past. Today, we're going to cover il passato remoto, the Italian verb tense used to describe things that happened long ago.
Il passato remoto
When describing an action that happened in the distant past, the passato remoto is used. It is really a simple past tense, meaning that it is formed by simply conjugating endings and not by adding any clauses. In Italian, though, it is used to denote a passage of much time, which is an interesting twist. It is also a perfective verb form, meaning that it is used to describe completed actions, not ongoing actions.
The endings are different for -are, -ere, and -ire verbs, but they all follow the same pattern. They are as follows:
Another way to look at it
If you remember il futuro semplice, you remember that the endings were just a way of creating a stress shift in the words. But that's not the case with il passato remoto.
Here, the point is a change of endings. Just as it was with il congiuntivo presente, once you learned the correct endings for a verb, the altered endings will immediately stand out. But unlike the subjunctive, we're not swapping from -are to -ere forms. These are new endings.
They'll be easy to spot when you're reading, and they'll probably stand out enough when you hear them in speach, but in order to start using these endings, you're just going to have to learn them. It's not hard, there are really just six of them, plus the changing vowel. If you've come this far, learning these endings is no big deal.