Essere (to be) conjugation forms: the present tense

Together with avere, essere is one of the two most common and important verbs in the Italian language. We use it all the time, so we’ve prepared this post for you to learn the essere conjugation forms and to start getting familiarized with them.
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The verb essere conjugation
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When to use Essere in Italian

Essere, o non essere, questo è il dilemma.”

Do you recognize that phrase?

It’s the translation of what Hamlet said: “To be or not to be, that is the question”.

Before we go into more detail, it’s important that you know when we use the verb essere in Italian:

  • To describe someone/something
  • To talk about someone’s origin/nationality
  • To indicate possession

Let’s get started!

How to use the verb essere

Why learning the auxiliary verb Essere

Learning the essere conjugated form is essential if you want to learn Italian because it is the most common verb.

Essere is an auxiliary verb, meaning it can be used to form other verb tenses.

Because Essere is an irregular verb, you’ll have to memorise all of its forms.

But don’t worry—once you understand how compound tenses are formed, you’ll be halfway there.

Let’s look at the irregular conjugations of the verb essere and how it’s used in everyday Italian phrases.

irregular conjugation

The essere’s finite moods

In Italian, there are four moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, and imperative.

Conjugation in the Indicative Mood

The indicative mood is composed of eight tenses: four simple tenses, and four compound tenses. It is used to express certainty that an action happened or that it will happen.

Essere conjugation: the present tense

As mentioned before Essere follows an irregular conjugation, – this means that you can’t apply the rules of regular verbs when conjugating essere, but you need to learn it by heart.

Let’s first see how we conjugate the irregular verb essere in the present tense:

Io sono I am
Tu sei You are
Lui/lei è He, she is
Noi siamo We are
Voi siete You are
Loro sono They are

Essere conjugation

In Italian, unlike in English, we don’t always use a personal pronoun (io (I), tu (you), etc.) with a verb.

We don’t need it because the verb itself indicates who we’re referring to.

If we do use it, we sound like a textbook.


A: Sei inglese?
B: Are you English?

A: No, sono scozzese.
B: No, I’m Scottish.

Learn more about Italian verb conjugation.

How to use the verb essere in Italian

Practice with Quizlet

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

When to use essere?

As we said, we use essere a lot.

In fact, we probably say it hundreds of times a day, like English speakers use the verb “to be” without realizing it.

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Isn’t it true? 😉

For general descriptions

We use essere to describe people, objects, and places.

When we describe something or someone we usually talk about their characteristics, like color, personality, age, shape, size, etc.

This is why, in this case, we usually use the verb to be followed by an adjective, like in the examples below:

Mia sorella è simpatica.

My sister is fun.

Quel fiore è rosa.

That flower is pink.

To indicate city of origin

When we want to say which city a person or object is from, we use the following structure essere + di. For example:

Io sono di Milano.

I am from Milan.

Il dottore è di Bologna.

The doctor is from Bologna.

To indicate nationality

When we want to talk about the country of origin of someone or something, we use essere + nationality. For example:

Luca è francese.

Luca is French.

A: Di dove sei?
B: Sono tedesco.

A: Where are you from?
B: I’m German.

To indicate possession.

We use the verb essere to talk about possessions.

Here are two examples:

Questo è il cane di Lucia.

That is Lucia’s dog.

Questa è la mia borsa.

This is my bag.

For more practice, check out the free preview of the first 10 lessons of the course.

Check also the Irregular Past Tense of the verb essere and the difference between Essere and Stare.

Verb essere conjugation

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!


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4 Responses

    1. Sì, esatto! Ma “americana”, non “Americana” (a piccola, non A grande).

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