So I’m trying to teach myself more Italian than I learnt last time I went to Italy in 2001. I know enough rudiments that it’s time to start learning some verbs systematically. I originally posted these first two on Google+, but thought I’d transfer them here for longer term posterity. I’ll continue here rather than there. Without further ado:
Verb of the day 1: essere (to be).
The most common and important verb of all, both in English and Italian. Interestingly, I believe it’s the most irregular verb of all in English. Compare:
to walk – to be
I walk – I am
you walk – you are
he/she/it walks – he/she/it is
we walk – we are
you (plural) walk – you (plural) are
they walk – they are
I walked – I was
you walked – you were
he/she/it walked – he/she/it was
we walked – we were
you (pl.) walked – you (pl.) were
they walked – they were
In Italian, essere is also irregular, but does partly follow the basic pattern for verb conjugation endings:
to be – essere
I am – (io) sono
you are (informal) – (tu) sei
he/she/it is, you are (polite) – (lui,lui,Lei) è
we are – (noi) siamo
you are (pl. inf.) – (voi) siete
they are, you are (pl. pol.) – (loro,Loro) sono
I am human. Sono umano.
I pretty much know this verb already, but I thought I’d start at the beginning.
Verb of the day 2: stare (to be)
Yep, Italian has two verbs that mean (almost) the same thing! Or rather, it has two verbs that do different parts of the job that the multi-tasking “to be” does in English.
Essere (and its conjugations) is generally used for things with a degree of permanence, such as characteristics of people or objects:
Sono umano. – I am human.
Il libro è rosso. – The book is red.
Stare is used for temporary states, such as feelings or actions.
Sto bene. – I am well.
Sto cercando la stazione. – I am looking for the station.
to be – stare
I am – (io) sto
you are (inf.) – (tu) stai
he/she/it is, you are (pol.) – (lui/lei/Lei) sta
we are – (noi) stiamo
you are (pl. inf.) – (voi) state
they are, you are (pol.) – stanno
A common usage that many English speakers may have heard is in the question Come stai? – “How are you”? Though this is the informal form of the question, which should only be used with people you know well. The polite form, for strangers, is Come sta?