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How to Talk About the Future in Italian: A Guide to the Futuro Anteriore 

 December 4, 2019

By  Jessica Maggi

Although English has a future perfect tense, it is rarely used. For this reason, most English speakers who decide to learn Italian are a little intimidated by the Italian future perfect tense (futuro anteriore).

It is nothing to fear, though, and its rules are pretty straightforward. In this lesson, we will show you how to form, use and understand the futuro anteriore. Let’s get started!

How to use the futuro anteriore

In standard Italian, the futuro anteriore, also called futuro composto, refers to an action which will have already finished before another action occurs in the future. 

For example:

Dopo che avrai finito i compiti, potrai andare a giocare al parco – After you will have finished your homework, you can go play in the park

The above describes a future action (going playing in the park) occurring after an earlier future action has been completed (finishing the homework). 

Here is another example:

Appena avrò guardato questo DVD, te lo presterò volentieri – As soon as I have watched this DVD, I will gladly lend it to you 

As you can see, the Italian futuro anteriore refers to an action which will be over before another future event (generally introduced by the futuro semplice) takes place. 

The futuro anteriore is also used in ways that might appear a bit stranger to native English-speaking learners. It can be used to:
  • express uncertainty or doubt about whether something happened or not:

Avranno capito che stavo scherzando? – Do you think they understood that I was joking? (I am wondering if they understood that I was joking, there is no intent to talk about the future in this sentence)

  • make a deduction or hypothesis about something that happened in the past:

Le luci sono accese, Rebecca si sarà dimenticata di spegnerle – The lights are on, Rebecca must have forgotten to turn them off

Melissa non ha passato l’esame di inglese, non avrà studiato abbastanza – Melissa didn’t pass the English test, she mustn’t have studied enough

As you might have noticed, in this case the futuro anteriore corresponds to “must have” in English.

The Italian future perfect tense is also to be used to talk about what will have happened by a point in time in the future.

Domani a quest’ora Emma sarà già arrivata a Montego Bay – By this time tomorrow Emma will have already arrived in Montego Bay

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How to construct the futuro anteriore

As you saw above, the futuro anteriore is a compound tense, which means that it requires an auxiliary verb. 

As with the passato prossimo and trapassato prossimo, you will use the past participle of the verb describing the action preceded by avere (to have) and essere (to be), but this time those auxiliary verbs will be in the future simple tense. 

The conjugations of the auxiliary verbs “avere” and “essere” are as follow:

Avere (to have)

Io avrò

Tu avrai 

Lui/lei avrà

Noi avremo

Voi avrete

Loro avranno

Essere (to be)

Io sarò 

Tu sarai 

Lui/lei sarà 

Noi saremo 

Voi sarete 

Loro saranno

To make the past participle of regular verbs you just have to remove the infinitive ending -are, -ere or -ire and add the correct ending. Just follow this simple rule:

  • the past participle ending of verbs that belong to the -are conjugation is -ato: giocare>giocato, urtare>urtato, sospirare>sospirato;
  • the past participle ending of verbs that belong to the -ere conjugation is -uto: provvedere>provveduto, sedere>seduto, compiere>compiuto;
  • the past participle ending of verbs that belong to the -ire conjugation is -ito: percepire>percepito, intuire>intuito, schernire>schernito.

Regular verbs form the future perfect tense as follows:

  • First-conjugation verbs

Giocare (to play)

Io avrò giocatoI will have played
Tu avrai giocatoYou will have played
Lui/lei avrà giocatoHe/she/it will have played
Noi avremo giocatoWe will have played
Voi avrete giocatoY’all will have played
Loro avranno giocatoThey will have played
  • Second-conjugation verbs

Credere (to believe)

Io avrò credutoI will have believed
Tu avrai credutoYou will have believed
Lui/lei avrà credutoHe/she/it will have believed
Noi avremo credutoWe will have believed
Voi avrete credutoY’all will have believed
Loro avranno credutoThey will have believed
  • Third-conjugation verbs

Agire (to act)

Io avrò agitoI will have acted
Tu avrai agitoYou will have acted
Lui/lei avrà agitoHe/she/it will have acted
Noi avremo agitoWe will have acted
Voi avrete agitoY’all will have acted
Loro avranno agitoThey will have acted

There are some irregular verbs in the past participle, which need to be memorized. Here is a list of common irregular past participle:

Accendere (to turn on)acceso
Aprire (to open)aperto
Bere (to drink)bevuto
Chiedere (to ask)chiesto
Chiudere (to close)chiuso
Correggere (to correct)corretto
Cuocere (to cook)cotto
Dipingere (to paint)dipinto
Dire (to say)detto
Discutere (to discuss)discusso
Dividere (to divide)diviso
Fare (to do)fatto
Leggere (to read)letto
Morire (to die)morto
Perdere (to lose)perso
Permettere (to allow)permesso
Piangere (to cry)pianto
Porre (to put, to set)posto
Prendere (to take)preso
Promettere (to promise)promesso
Rispondere (to reply)risposto
Rompere (to break)rotto
Scegliere (to choose)scelto
Scrivere (to write)scritto
Soffrire (to suffer)sofferto
Succedere (to happen)successo
Tradurre (to translate)tradotto
Vedere (to see)visto
Venire (to come)venuto
Vincere (to win)vinto
Vivere (to live)vissuto
Volgere (to turn)volto

How to choose the auxiliary verb?

Choose the same auxiliary verb as you would for the passato prossimo and trapassato prossimo, depending on the verb expressing the meaning of the sentence.

Using auxiliary verb avere

Most transitive verbs, like mangiare (to eat), usare (to use), provocare (to provoke), vedere (to look) and dire (to say), take “avere” as their auxiliary verb. 

Alessio ti avrà anche provocato, ma non ci sono scusanti per come ti sei comportato – Alessio may have provoked you, but there are no excuses for how you have behaved 

Remember that, though intransitive, dormire (to sleep), rispondere (to answer), viaggiare (to travel) and vivere (to live) will be paired with the auxiliary verb avere.

Avrò dormito sì e no tre ore in tutto – I must have slept no more than three hours in all

Using auxiliary verb essere

You have to use the auxiliary verb “essere” with:

  • all reflexive verbs, like vestirsi (to get dressed), addormentarsi (to fall asleep), alzarsi (to get up), annoiarsi (to get bored), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), chiamarsi (to be called), chiedersi (to wonder), divertirsi (to enjoy oneself), fermarsi (to stop), perdersi (to get lost), preoccuparsi (to worry), prepararsi (to get ready), ricordarsi (to remember) and svegliarsi (to wake up);
  • most intransitive verbs, especially those related to mobility, like andare (to go), arrivare (to arrive), partire (to leave), tornare (to return) and uscire (to go out);
  • verbs that express lack of movement, like restare (to remain) and stare (to stay);
  • verbs that refer to a state of being, like essere (to be);
  • verbs that refer to processes of change, like nascere (to be born) and morire (to die).

Some of the verbs that take “essere” as their auxiliary verb are:

Accadereto occur
Andareto go
Arrivareto arrive
Cadereto fall, to drop
Costareto cost
Crescereto grow
Diventareto become
Durareto last
Entrareto enter
Morireto die
Nascereto be born
Partireto leave, to depart
Restareto remain
Stareto stay
Succedereto happen
Tornareto come back, to return
Uscireto go out, to exit
Venireto come

As with the passato prossimo and trapassato prossimo, when you use the auxiliary verb “essere,” the past participle must agree with the subject in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural).

Tua cugina Arianna sarà stata felicissima quando ha ottenuto la promozione – Your cousin Arianna must have been very happy when she got the promotion

Saranno state le dieci quando Benedetta è tornata – It must have been 10pm when Benedetta returned

Which phrases are typically used with the futuro anteriore?

Here is a list of marker words that are usually used with the futuro anteriore in Italian:

  • Appena – As soon as

Partiremo appena Giorgio ci avrà chiamato – We will leave as soon as Giorgio will have called us

  • Quando – When

Quando avrai compiuto 18 anni, avrai il diritto al voto – When you will have turned 18, you will be eligible to vote

  • Entro… – By…

Massimiliano si sarà laureato entro la fine dell’anno – Massimiliano will have graduated by the end of this year

  • Tra… – In…

Tra una settimana Vittorio avrà già trovato un’altra ragazza – In a week Vittorio will have a new girlfriend already

  • Probabilmente – Probably

Probabilmente avrai pensato che fossi impazzita – You must have thought I had lost my mind

  • Dopo che – After

Dopo che avrò finito gli studi, mi trasferirò negli Stati Uniti – When I will have finished my studies, I will move to the United States

  • Anche se – Even if

Anche se il bambino avrà già imparato a dormire da solo, avrà comunque bisogno di sentirsi protetto – Even if your baby will have already learned to sleep alone, he will still need to feel protected

  • Chissà – Who knows

Chissà quanto vi sarete divertiti a Las Vegas! – You must have had so much fun in Las Vegas!

How do futuro anteriore and futuro semplice work together?

As mentioned previously, the Italian future perfect tense and the simple future tense are often used together in the same sentence. 

In this type of construction, the future event expressed by the futuro anteriore is going to happen before the action you are referring to with the futuro semplice

Quando avrai finito il risotto, ti porterò il dolce – When you will have finished your risotto, I will give you dessert

Non appena avrò finito di fare le pulizie, verrò a trovarti – As soon as I will have finished cleaning, I will come and see you

As you can see, the futuro anteriore describes a future event that is in the past from the perspective of a later future event. In other words, it is a “past future event.”

The futuro anteriore in spoken Italian 

Most native Italian speakers tend to use other workarounds to avoid using the futuro anteriore, especially in casual, informal conversation.

Common alternatives are:

  • “dopo” + past infinitive:

Ti daremo conferma dopo che avremo verificato che c’è ancora disponibilità / Ti daremo conferma dopo aver verificato che c’è ancora disponibilità – We will confirm once we have verified that there is still availability

  • “forse” + passato prossimo

Non ho più visto Daniela, probabilmente si sarà trasferita / Non ho più visto Daniela, forse si è trasferita – I haven’t seen Daniela anymore, she must have moved

To sum up...

  • In Italian, the futuro anteriore is used to describe an action that will happen in the future before another future action.

Dopo che avrà finito la scuola, Melania andrà a vivere a Dublino – When Melania will have finished high school, she will move to Dublin

  • It is used to describe actions that are expected to happen before a time of reference in the future.

Domani a quest’ora la sentenza sarà già stata emessa – By this time tomorrow the sentence will have already been pronounced

  • It is used to express a hypothesis or a doubt about the past.

Armando non è andato al lavoro ieri, sarà stato malato – Armando didn’t go to work yesterday, he must have been ill

  • It is also used to convey probability.

Quella moto sarà costata una fortuna – That motorbike must have cost an arm and a leg

  • It is formed by using the appropriate auxiliary verb avere (to have) or essere (to be) in the future simple tense followed by the past participle of the verb describing the action.

Practice as much as you can until you get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect!

 FUN AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO LEARN ITALIAN

  • 10 entertaining short stories about everyday themes
  • Practice reading and listening with 90+ minutes of audio 
  • Learn 1,000+ new Italian vocabulary effortlessly!

Jessica Maggi


Jessica is a native Italian speaker, a passionate linguist and a proud Grammar nerd. She has a lifelong passion for English and studied Linguistic and Cultural Mediation at the University of Milan. She currently works as a freelance translator and copywriter.

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