Verbs of the day 1 & 2

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?

One Response to “Verbs of the day 1 & 2”

  1. TomW says:

    As far as I can tell, “essere” seems to be the direct descendent of the (irregular) Latin verb “sum”, and “stare” descended from the Latin “sto”. However, in French, they merged the forms of “to be” to create the very irregular “etre”. (You can go through the conjugation of that verb and pick out which descended from “sum”, and which from “sto”).
    So, it could always be worse :-)

Leave a Reply