Italian grammar – Difference between essere and stare

Italian grammar is considered rather difficult by the majority of learners. This is because different languages have Italian grammar – Difference between essere and stareusually different structures – even the ones that are very similar like French and Italian.

In the last article, I talked about the difference between essere and stare, a topic of the Italian grammar that creates a lot of confusion among learners.
In that article, I mainly focused on the verb essere. Today, instead, I’m going to explain when to use stare.

STARE

Stare is generally used to indicate:

1.    Precise location

Example: Le chiavi stanno nel cassetto (The keys are in the drawer).

2.    Idiomatic sentences

Examples:
Sto bene (I am well).
Quella gonna ti sta davvero bene (That skirt suits you very well).

3.    An order or an exhortation:

Examples:
Stai zitto! (Shut up!).
Stai tranquillo! (Stay calm!).

4.    A position

Example: Stare seduti a lungo non fa bene alla salute (Sitting for a long periods is not good for your health).

5.    A synonym of to fit

Example: La macchina è piena di valigie, io non ci sto, dove dovrei sedermi? (The car is full of suitcases, I can’t fit in, where shoud I sit?).

6.    That someone is available for something or agree with someone

Example:
 + Organizziamo una festa a sorpresa per Paolo? (Shall we plan a birthday surprise party for Paolo?)
Sì, io ci sto (I’m in).

7.    Stare + infinitive
This combination of verbs means “to be on the point of/just about to”

Example: Stavo per venire alla festa ma poi Marco mi ha chiamata e sono dovuta andare all’ospedale (I was about to come to the party, but then Marco called and I had to go to the hospital).

8.    Stare + gerund
This combination of verbs indicates an action the speaker is carrying while s/he is talking.
    
Example: Non posso uscire adesso. Sto studiando italiano (I can’t go out now. I’m studying Italian).

Sos Italian grammar A1-A2If you need to master or revise basic Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar A1-A2.

ESSERE AND STARE

Both these Italian verbs verbs are used to

a.    Express a location

Examples:
Le chiavi sono nel cassetto (Keys are in the drawer).
Le chiavi stanno nel cassetto (Keys are in the drawer).

b.    Replace the Italian verbs restare and rimanere (to stay, to remain) – in certain situations

Examples:
Non posso venire. Oggi alle 10.00 sono al ristorante (I can’t come. Today at 10 I’ll be at the restaurant).
Non posso venire. Oggi alle 10.00 sto al ristorante (I can’t come. Today at 10 I’ll be at the restaurant).

SUMMARIZING TABLE

ESSERE STARE
Identity, nationality, profession X
Origin X
Physical appearance X
Characteristics of something/someone X
Location X X
Religious/political affiliation X
Time and date X
Possession X
Physical/psychological conditions X X
Opinions and personal observations X
Auxiliary in Passive sentences X
Auxiliary in the past tense of reflexive verbs X
Replace restare and rimanere X X
Idiomatic sentences X X
Orders or exhortations X
Means “just about to” X
Used in the present and past continuous X
Someone’s availability X
Someone agree with someone else/something X
Synonym of enter X

I hope I have helped you understand a little bit more this topic of the Italian grammar. If you want to know if you can use stare and essere correctly, why don’t you test yourself with this exercise?


Credits

Original image by Kapa65

7 Comments:

  1. Pingback: Italian verbs – Difference between essere and stare -

  2. Thanks.. The table is particularly useful. I have been struggling with these two verbs for some time

  3. Thank you. I have been learning Italian for 15 years. Various teachers have given part-answers. These examples totally clarify the usage.

  4. I am still a bit confused. In the table both verbs are applicable to locations. If I want to say “I am home”, would it then be correct to say:
    A) Sono a casa
    or
    B) Sto a casa

    • Hello Gnotke, I can understand your confusion. The short answer is yes, both answers can be used. In my opinion, option a, “sono a casa” is standard, while option b “sto a casa” is a little bit more familiar/regional. If you want to read a little bit more about the difference between essere and stare when they concern locations, L’Accademia della Crusca tried to explain some of the differences in an article. Just remember, though, that the article refers to standard Italian, not to regionalisms. Here’s the link for you: http://forum.accademiadellacrusca.it/forum_12/interventi/5219.shtml.html If you still have some doubts, do not hesitate to contact me again.

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