Essere and stare: Italian grammar lesson 30


Key Takeaways

Unlock the secrets of Italian verbs “essere” and “stare” with our guide! Learn when to use each verb to perfectly express feelings, location, ongoing actions, and more. Say goodbye to confusion and hello to speaking like a native! 🇮🇹🔑

  • Expressing Traits: Use essere when describing someone’s characteristics. Remember, adjectives must match the subject’s gender and number. Example: Lei è alta (She is tall).
  • Describing Conditions: Essere is your go-to for an object’s state or quality. Is your pen blue? Ask with essere: La penna è blu? (Is the pen blue?).
  • Nationality and Identity: Talk about someone’s origin or beliefs using essere. It’s simple and straightforward: Mio fratello è buddista (My brother is Buddhist).
  • Location, Location, Location: Where in the world are you? Use essere to tell: Io sono a Roma (I am in Rome). It’s essential for stating locations!
  • Feeling Fine?: Ask or state how someone is feeling with stare plus an adverb. Feeling good? Say: Sto bene (I’m well). It’s all about the current state!
  • What’s Happening Now: For actions in progress, pair stare with a gerund. Watching TV? Sto guardando la TV (I’m watching TV). It’s the Italian way to “be doing” something.
  • Imminent Actions: Anticipating something? Use stare to express actions about to happen. Think it’s going to rain? Sta per piovere (It’s about to rain). Stay prepared!

Quick facts

How do you express personality traits in Italian?

Use "essere" with an adjective that matches the subject's gender and number.

When describing someone's nationality or ethnicity, which verb is used?

"Essere" is used to describe nationality, religion, ethnicity, ideology, origin, and identity.

How can you ask about someone's feelings in Italian?

Use "stare" with an adverb like bene, male, or meglio to ask or express feelings.

What verb do you use to describe temporary states of health?

Use "stare" to describe temporary states of health and well-being.

How do you form the present continuous in Italian?

Combine "stare" with a gerund ending in -ndo, similar to English -ing forms.

Which verb indicates the location of a person or object?

Use "essere" to express the location of someone or something.

Can "stare" be used to express imminent actions?

Yes, use "stare" to indicate actions or events about to happen.

What should you remember about adjectives in Italian?

Adjectives must agree with the subject in gender and number when using "essere."

How do you describe physical characteristics in Italian?

Use "essere" with appropriate adjectives to describe physical traits.

How can you ask someone how they are doing?

Use "Come stai?" to ask someone how they are feeling.

My Thoughts

Essere or stare?

Before we go into more details, let’s quickly review the conjugation of both verbs:

  • essere: io sono, tu sei, lui/lei è, noi siamo, voi siete, loro sono.
  • stare: io sto, tu stai, lui/lei sta, noi stiamo, voi state, loro stanno.

For now, just have a look at some sentences and see if you can tell the difference:

Laura è molto intelligente.

Laura is very intelligent.

Loro sono spagnole.

They are Spanish.

Mia mamma non sta bene.

My mum is not feeling well.

Sto facendo i compiti.

I’m doing my homework.

How to use essere + an adjective?

1. Essere can be used to express someone’s feelings, personality, and physical characteristics.

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This is why we need an adjective that, as you might already know, must agree with the subject regarding gender and number.

Perché sei triste?

Why are you sad? 

Maria e Letizia sono molto alte.

Maria and Letizia are very tall.

Mia sorella è molto furba.

My sister is very cunning.

2. Essere can also be used to describe something’s condition or quality.

Il computer è nuovo.

The computer is new.

Quella penna è blu?

Is that pen blue?

3. Essere can also be used to talk about someone’s nationality, religion, ethnicity, ideology, origin, and identity.

Mio papà è turco.

My dad is Turkish.

Karim è arabo.

Karim is an Arab.

How to use essere an a location?

Essere can also be used to express where someone or something is.

Sei in Argentina?

Are you in Argentina?

Io sono a Barcellona.

I’m in Barcellona.

How to use stare + an adverb?

Stare is used to ask or express how someone is feeling. In the latter case, it is followed by an adverb like bene, male, meglio, etc.

A: Come stai?
A: How are you?

B: Sto molto meglio, grazie.
B: I’m much better, thanks.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

How to use stare + gerund?

We also use stare to form the present continuous. Stare is followed by a gerund, a word that ends in -ndo (the equivalent of   -ing words in English) like mangiando, correndo, leggendo, etc.

A: Cosa state facendo?
A: What are you doing?

B: Io sto guardando la TV e Marco sta cucinando.
B: I’m watching TV and Marco is cooking.

Stare can also be used to express the imminence of an action or event, as in it’s about to rain.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

When to use "stare" in Italian?

The verb "stare" serves various purposes, including indicating that one is staying at a particular place, giving directives on behavior, expressing a temporary physical or psychological state, introducing an imminent action, and describing an ongoing action at the present moment.

What is the difference between "essere" and "stare" Italian?

"Essere" is typically used to indicate a quality or make a statement, while "stare" implies voluntariness in the action being described.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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5 Responses

  1. In the audio lesson, sentence 5 English version there is an error. In English money is not plural. Therefor “Is money…
    Sorry my email is not working so I can’t send to support staff.

  2. Stare can also be used to express the imminence of an action or event, as in “it’s about to rain”.

    How is the expression formed in this case? Sta piovendo means it’s raining (already). Thanks!

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