Per quanto tempo hai vissuto lì? - Can I say:

Per quanto tempo hai vissuto lì? - Can I say: “Per quanto tempo SEI vissuto lì”?
I’ve heard that when it comes to the past, we use AVERE for sentences related to objects and for places, like in this example above, we could use ESSERE.

I think not. Anyway it’s not usual at all. I’ve never heard it.

The rule you’ve heard is not right. It’s not a simple thing and, in general, you must learn which verbs are used with avere or essere on a case by case basis.
We can say the following in general:
a) Reflexive verbs are conjugated with “essere”, that’s a general rule
b) Transitive verbs are conjugated with “avere”
c) There’s a (rather strong but not general) tendency for intransitive verbs denoting state (especially permanent, finished state) and movement to be conjugated with essere: essere itself, andare, venire, nascere, morire, … But never “vivere”, as far as I know.
Again, other cases must be memorized individually. Some verbs can be conjugated both ways, sometimes with a different nuance ni meaning.

auxiliary verbs “avere and essere” are used to clarify the meaning of other verbs, but they can also be yourself and have their own meaning example:
io ho un orologio (avere)
io sono felice (essere)

“avere” is used with transitive verbs (verbs that do pass the action from the subject to the object), for example:
Mark wrote a letter.
a letter was written by Marco.
instead with intransitive verbs can not, for example:
the dog barks.

“essere” is used to:

  • verbs of motion, (io sono andato, io sono partito…)
  • with verbs that indicate action suffered by subject, (io sono nato, io sono cresciuto)
    But with walk and travel using “avere” (Io ho camminato, Io ho viaggiato)

your question " per quanto tempo sei vissuto lì? " is grammatically correct , but we usually say, " per quanto tempo hai vissuto lì?" look at these examples:

  • io sono vissuto a Milano venti anni prima di trasferirmi a Londra.

  • ho vissuto una vita bella prima di andare in pensione.

In the first case the function of the verb " vissuto " ( here intransitive ) requires the auxiliary " essere " with the object mediated by the preposition " a" , which clarifies the character,

In the second example has rather transitive function , characterized by the absence of the preposition and the exchange rate of the auxiliary ( here " avere " ) , which provides a different character.
sorry the argument is a bit complex.

Thanks for this huge reply. It helps a bit, but I’m afraid I will forget about it sooner than I finish writing this post… I better focus on learning by listening and reading + speaking and leave these grammar issues for later or just learn them as a byproduct of listening and reading a lot. Sooner or later I will memorize these phrases and examples :slight_smile:

Exactly, that’s the point. Remember that some verbs are conjugated with “essere”, some with “avere”, some with both. Then go on to read+listen a lot. You’ll end up getting a feeling of what goes with what. You can go back and read some theory later on if you want some clarification but that’s not what will help you learn this.

One way for you to think about this is that in Italian
a) Some pasts are formed the “English way”, have + invariable participle
I have slept, they have slept: Ho dormito, hanno dormito, …
b) Some are formed the “slavic” way: subject + participle which changes according to gender, number, … Only you need an explicit “to be” verb in between
Sono arrivato, sono arrivata, siamo arrivati, …

Thanks again!