Italian verbs are one of the areas that language learners usually consider difficult. Generally they think that the complexity lies on the fact that in Italian the suffix of verbs changes according to the person – Io corro = I run; tu corri = you run; lei corre = she runs.
In reality, Italian is full of regular verbs, so once you’ve understood the general rule, you can conjugate many verbs without difficulties.
In other cases, students are confused about Italian verbs usage. In particular, I’ve received some emails requesting me to explain the difference between the Italian verbs essere and stare.
It’s not surprising that some students have difficulties to understand when to use essere and when to use stare, since both these Italian verbs can mean to be.
So, today, I’m gonna try to explain when to use essere and in the next week when to use stare.
Are you ready? Let’s start:
Essere is used to express:
1. Identity, nationality and profession
Example: Io sono Carla. Sono italiana e sono un’insegnante (I’m Carla. I’m Italian and I’m a teacher).
Example: Lavoriamo a Perugia ma siamo di Milano (“We work in Perugia but we are from Milan”).
3. Physical appearance, and characteristics of something or someone
Mirco è alto (Mirco is tall).
Il divano è molto lungo (The sofa is very long).
Sei davvero divertente (You’re really funny).
Example: Le chiavi sono in quel cassetto (The keys are in that drawer).
5. Religious and political affiliation
Example: Ajar è induista (Ajar is Hindu).
6. The Time and date
Sono le cinque (It is 5 o’clock).
E’ l’8 di febbraio (It’s February the 8th).
Example: L’auto rossa è di Lucia (The red cari s Lucia’s).
8. A temporary condition and emotion
Sono malato (I am sick).
Sono arrabbiato (I’m angry).
9. Opinions and personal observations
Example: Quel maglione è sporco (That sweater is dirty).
10. It’s used as auxiliary in passive sentences
Example: Il libro è stato letto per la prima volta nella biblioteca nazionale (The book has been read for the first time at the National library).
11. It’s used as auxiliary in the past tense of reflexive verbs
Example: Mi sono pettinata e sono uscita (I brushed my hair and I went out).
12. It’s used as an auxiliary in the past tense of verbs like andare, venire, stare, tornare, etc.
Example: Ieri Giacomo è andato al cinema (Yesterday Giacomo went to the cinema).
If you need to master or revise basic Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar A1-A2.
Do you want to master all the Italian verb tenses? Have a look at my book Sos Italian verbs.
Essere and Stare
Both these Italian verbs verbs are used to
a. Express a location
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
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).
I hope this article has helped you to learn when to use the verb essere.
In the next week I’m going to explain when to use the verb stare.
Original image by PublicDomainPictures