Italian essere conjugation lesson

Master The Italian Essere Conjugation & Learn To Use This Fundamental Italian Verb

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As one of the most important verbs in the Italian language, essere (to be) is a fundamental building block of speech. Taught early on even to native Italian school children, essere and avere (to have) form the basis for learning verbs and grammar. Mastering essere conjugation unlocks the ability to describe oneself, others, locations, feelings, and states of being – critical components of communication.



Italian Essere Conjugation For Beginners

If you’ve read my other Italian verb lessons, you know I like to divide verb conjugation into two parts. 

First, I start by showing you the simpler and most commonly used tenses. Then, toward the end of the article, I will give you the full conjugation chart for you to revise the tenses you learned already, as well as learn the more complex ones. 

This way, you don’t get overwhelmed. Make sure to save the article, so you can come back to it.

Let’s start with the easier tenses.

PS: For now, focuses on memorising these. Then, you’ll find an entire section with examples for each of these tenses.


essere presente example

Essere Presente (I am)

Io sono
Tu sei
Lui/lei/esso è


Noi siamo
Voi siete
Loro sono

Translation: I am am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are.


Essere Imperfetto (Imperfect)

Io ero
Tu eri
Lui/lei/esso era


Noi eravamo
Voi eravate
Essi erano

Translation: I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, you were, they were.


Essere Passato Prossimo (Present Perfect)

Io sono stato/a
Tu sei stato/a
Lui/lei/esso è stato/a


Noi siamo stati
Voi siete stati
Loro sono stati

Translation: I have been, you have been, he/she/it has been, we have been, you have been, they have been.

PS: Note how the ending of the past participle changes depending on whether the pronoun and the verb is singular, plural, masculine or feminine.


essere futuro semplice example

Essere Futuro Semplice (Future Tense)

Io sarò
Tu sarai
Lui/lei/esso sarà


Noi saremo
Voi sarete
Loro saranno

Translation: I will be, you will be, he/she/it will be, we will be, you will be, they will be.


Essere Infinito (Infinitive)

Present:
Essere (to be)


Past:
Essere stato (to have been)


Essere Participio Passato (Past Participle)

Stato (been)


Scroll to the bottom for the full conjugation chart, including the more complex tenses.



Verb Essere Grammar Overview

Essere is an irregular verb because its conjugation doesn’t follow the rules, and changes both through the tenses and moods.

To be in Italian is also an intransitive verb, which is a verb that contains the full action and one that doesn’t require another part of the phrase to explain it.

Do this to quickly understand what type of verb you are dealing with.

A transitive verb answers the questions of who or what (chi? Che cosa?) while an intransitive verb doesn’t. 

For example:

Io mangio una mela (I eat an apple)
The verb mangiare answers the che cosa (what) question.
It’s a transitive verb.


Domani vado al mare (Tomorrow I am going to the sea).
The verb andare doesn’t answer the who or what questions.
It’s an intransitive verb.


Essere Meaning

Essere means to be in Italian. 

Depending on what follows after it, the verb can be used to say your name, your profession, nationality, or location, describe a quality or characteristic, as well as an action or a situation.

Examples:

Io sono Alessia (I am Alessia)
Io sono Italiana (I am Italian)
Io sono un dottore (I am a doctor)
Io sono riservato (I am reserved)
Io sono in banca (I am at the bank)


Essere Pronunciation

The best way to practice the pronunciation of the Italian verb essere is to learn to pronounce the conjugation of the most used tenses.

Listen to me and practice along.

Italian essere pronunciation


Italian VerbSpellingPronunciation (For an English Speaker)
Esserees-se-reEH-sseh-reh (with rolled “r”)
Italian essere spelling


Essere Main Uses

The main use of the verb essere is to express existence and condition. As we saw earlier, it can also be used to describe yourself, someone, something, a place, or a situation.

The verb essere also serves a more complex function in Italian grammar. Like the verb avere, it is used as an auxiliary verb to create compound tenses such as the passato prossimo.

We’ll look into its auxiliary function later on in this article.



To Be In Italian Examples

With all this knowledge in mind, it’s now time to practice with realistic examples.

I am in Italian Examples

You should know that I am translates to Io sono in Italian. We learned the conjugation of the present tense at the beginning of this lesson.

Io sono Marco. (I am Marc)
Io sono Cinese. (I am Chinese)
Io sono affamato. (I am hungry)
Sono andato al supermercato. (I have been to the supermarket)
Io sono in macchina. (I am in the car)
Io sono felice. (I am happy)


You are in Italian Examples

Tu sei is how Italians say you are. It’s the second person of the present tense conjugation.

It’s important to note that in Italian, we have a singular and a plural for the second person.

You are (singular) – Tu sei
You are (plural) – Voi siete


Let’s look at examples for both.

(Tu) sei Francese? (Are you French?; you can omit the tu to ask that question.)
Sei molto carina oggi. (You are looking very nice today.)
Sei stata in montagna? (Have you been to the mountains?)

Siete una bella coppia. (You make a beautiful couple.)
Siete molto stanchi. (You (plural) are very tired.)
Siete andati al cinema? (Have you (plural) been to the cinema?)


he is in Italian example

He is in Italian Examples

Lui è and lei è (she is) are the third person of the present tense of the verb to be in Italian.

The examples below will apply to both, with the only difference being that some parts of the sentence might need to take a feminine ending.

Lui è molto educato. / Lei è molto educata. (He/she is very well mannered.)
Lui è al bar con gli amici. / Lei è al bar con gli amici. (He/she is at the bar with friends).

You can easily replace lui and lei with the name of a man or a woman you are talking about in the third person.


We are in Italian

We are translates to noi siamo in Italian. It’s the second person plural of the present tense.

(Noi) siamo innamorati. (We are in love; you could say that without the noi.)
Siamo partiti per il weekend. (We’ve left for the weekend.)


They are in Italian

In Italian, this form translates to loro sono, and it’s the third person plural of the present tense conjugation of the verb essere.

Loro sono molto simpatici. (They are really nice.)
Loro sono venuti ieri sera. (They came yesterday.)


Is in Italian Examples

Is in Italian can also be used with it to refer to things like the weather, the restaurant, or the car.

Il cane è assetato. (The dog is thirsty).
Oggi, il tempo è molto strano. (Today, the weather is really strange.)
Quel ristorante è diventato il mio preferito. (That restaurant has become my favorite.)
La macchina è nel parcheggio. (The car is in the parking lot.)


Are in Italian Examples

The same holds for loro sono in Italian. You can also use it to describe or talk about a thing, an animal, a place, a concept, or a situation.

Gli aeroporti Italiani sono sempre affollati ultimamente. (Italian airports are always busy lately.)
I gatti del vicino sono dolcissimi. (The neighbor’s cats are really sweet.)


Was in Italian Examples

Another tense you’ll be using a lot when speaking in Italian is the past tense, especially when it comes to the verb essere. Let’s look at some examples for the first person, io ero.

(Io) ero in bagno quando hai chiamato. (I was in the bathroom when you called; in this case, you can omit the io in Italian.)
Ieri ero proprio arrabbiato con te. (Yesterday, I was really angry with you.)



example of essere passato prossimo

Italian Essere Auxiliary Verb

As I briefly told you earlier, the Italian essere is used as an auxiliary verb, to create compound tenses with another verb. This is the same for the verb avere.

Since verbs can either take one or the other – essere or avere – how do you know which one to use with a specific verb?

You follow this rule.

Auxiliary Verb Rule
If the action verb is transitive or can answer the question what?, then you need to use avere as the auxiliary.

When a verb can’t answer those questions, it’s called intransitive, and it takes the auxiliary essere. Reflexive verbs always take the auxiliary essere in Italian. Read about them here.

We’ve already looked at plenty of examples where the verb essere acts as the auxiliary. Here they are again for your reference:

  1. Sono andato al supermercato. (I have been to the supermarket)
  2. Sei stata in montagna? (Have you been to the mountains?)
  3. Siete andati al cinema? (Have you (plural) been to the cinema?)
  4. Siamo partiti per il weekend. (We’ve left for the weekend.)
  5. Loro sono venuti ieri sera. (They came yesterday.)

If you still have doubts, you can refer to this list with all the verbs that take the auxiliary essere.



Other Uses of Essere In Italian

This is a little more complex, so if you are a beginner, you may either skip this or keep it in mind without worrying too much about it.

In Italian Analisi Logica (an exercise used to dissect the sentence into parts and analyze the function of each), the verb essere connects two parts of a phrase. In those cases, the verb takes the form of what in Italian we call “predicato nominale” and “predicato verbale”.

When the verb essere connects the subject of the phrase to a noun or an adjective that refers to the subject, we have a predicato nominale.

Example: Marco è  un padre esemplare.

The predicato verbale on the other hand is formed when the verb is connected to another part of the dialogue that serves to explain one of these things about the subject – what is the subject doing, how is the subject, where is the subject.

Example: Marco è sul treno.



there is and there are in Italian example

Esserci – There is & There Are in Italian

The verb essere can take the particle ci to mean to be in a location. Ci refers to a location, or here or there.

Examples:

Ci sei? (Are you there?)
Ci sono quasi. (I am almost there; which can mean he’s more there mentally – maybe he’s still trying to get it, or physically – meaning he’s almost arrived.)
Ci siamo già stati. (We’ve already been there).
Ci sono i bambini? (Are the kids there?)


Esserci Conjugation – Present Tense

Ci sono – I am here/there/in the location
Ci sei – you are here/there/in the location
C’è – it’s here/there/in the location

Ci siamo – we are here/there/in the location
Ci siete – you are here/there/in the location
Ci sono – they are here/there/in the location


Esserci Conjugation – Past Tense

C’ero – I was there
C’eri – You were there
C’era – He/she/it was there

C’eravamo – We were there
C’eravate – You were there
C’erano – They were there


Esserci In the Future

Ci sarò – I will be there
Ci sarai – You will be there
Ci sarà – He/she/it will be there

Ci saremo – We will be there
Ci sarete – You will be there
Ci saranno – They will be there



I Am In Italian Doesn’t Always Translate To Essere

I am sure you know that you can’t always translate English to Italian literally. The same holds for the verb essere. There are some instances where the verb to be changes to another verb in Italian.

I am hungry – Ho fame

I am hungry is the most common example I can give you. In Italian, we say ho fame, although we can also say Io sono affamato. The first, which is the most common way to say it, takes the verb avere (to have), while the second takes essere.


Other Examples That Take To be in English & To have in Italian

Ho sete – I am thirsty. 
Ho freddo – I am cold. 
Ho caldo – I am hot. 
Ho sonno – I am sleepy.
Ho fretta – I am in a hurry. 
Ho paura – I am afraid. 
Ho ragione – I am right. 
Ho torto – I am wrong.
Ho fiducia – I am confident.

You can see that all the above examples refer to a feeling. 


Examples where the verb essere changes to another verb in English.

Sono d’accordo – I agree. 
Sono contrario/a – I disagree. 



essere vs stare example

Essere Vs Stare

The main reason why many people confuse these two verbs is that they share the same past participle – stato.

Let me help you understand the difference between the two. The easiest way is to start with the examples.

Sono felice. (I am happy)
Sto bene. (I am fine)

In the above examples, essere is used to describe a feeling while stare is used to describe a state.


Sono a casa. (I am at home)
Sto tornando a casa. (I am coming back home)

In the above examples, essere is used to describe a location while stare is describing an action in progress.


Sei occupato? (Are you busy?)
Come stai messo? (How are you? Referring to plans and work rather than health)

The above examples mean the same. However, the first one refers to this moment in time while the second is more general and can refer to the day but also the period.


Sono qui. (I am here)
Sto qui. (I stay here)

Again, both examples can mean the same thing, but the first doesn’t imply that the person is going to remain there. While the second implies a longer period.

Think about the differences between to be and to stay in English. The same applies to Italian. If we want to summarize, to be focuses on the moment in time while staying implies a duration of time.

Important to know: Essere and stare might have different meanings but other than sharing the same past participle, they also share identical compound tenses.


Stare Conjugation First Person

Io sto (present indicative)
Io stavo (imperfect indicative)
Io starò (future indicative)

Io sono stato (present perfect indicative)
Io ero stato (past perfect indicative)
Io sarò stato (future perfect indicative)

Io starei (conditional)
Io stessi (subjunctive)
Io sarei stato (conditional perfect)
Io stia (present subjunctive)

You can see how all the compound tenses above (present, past, future, and conditional perfect) are identical to those of the verb essere.

Read the full Stare lesson with conjugation here.



Full Italian Essere Conjugation Chart  

Below you’ll find the tenses we already saw earlier plus all the others, including the following moods – subjunctive, the conditional, imperative, and gerund. Learn each at your own pace.

Italian Essere Conjugation Chart Large
Full Essere Conjugation Chart



Essere Italian Test

Test yourself with these fill-in the blank exercises.

  1. Presente: Maria ___________ italiana. (Maria is Italian.)
  2. Passato Prossimo: Io ___________ a Roma l’anno scorso. (I was in Rome last year.)
  3. Futuro Semplice: Domani tu ___________ felice. (Tomorrow you will be happy.)
  4. Presente: Gli studenti ___________ stanchi dopo la lezione. (The students are tired after the lesson.)
  5. Passato Prossimo: Noi non ___________ in vacanza la scorsa estate. (We were not on vacation last summer.)
  6. Futuro Semplice: Fra dieci anni voi ___________ medici. (In ten years you will be doctors.)


{Answers: è, sono stato, sarai, sono, siamo stati, sarete}



Final Thoughts On The Italian Verb To Be

In summary, fluently conjugating and applying essere allows you to discuss existence, identity, emotions, locations, and actions.

Remember that learning Italian is not a race. Take your time to master the easier and more commonly used present, past, and future tenses first. Then, return to the comprehensive conjugation chart to learn the more complex ones.

When you are ready to continue building your Italian verbal skills proceed to these key lessons:

Italian Verb Stare

Italian Verb Avere

Italian Are Verbs

Italian Reflexive Verbs



Essere FAQ

What does the verb Essere mean?

Essere means “to be” in Italian.

What are the 6 forms of Essere? 

The 6 main forms of Essere are the different conjugations of essere for each respective pronoun: sono, sei, è, siamo, siete, sono.

How do you use essere and avere?

Essere and avere are used on their own as well as auxiliary verbs to form compound tenses in Italian. Essere is used with verbs of motion and state of being, while avere is used with transitive verbs.

How do you tell if a verb takes Essere or Avere? 

Intransitive and reflexive verbs take essere as their auxiliary verb in compound tenses, while transitive verbs take avere.

What is an example of Essere in a sentence?

“Io sono italiana” (I am Italian)

What is the irregular verb Essere in Italian?

Essere is an irregular verb in Italian that does not follow standard conjugation patterns.

What verbs require Essere in Italian?

Verbs like andare, venire, nascere, morire, arrivare use essere as their auxiliary verb. Here’s a rule to quickly recognize which auxiliary to use – if the verb can answer the question who or what it takes avere, if it can’t use essere.

What is the perfect tense in Italian Essere?  

The passato prossimo is the compound perfect tense formed with either avere or essere as the auxiliary verb along with the past participle.

What is the difference between essere and stare in Italian?

“Essere” refers to a permanent state of being while “stare” refers to a temporary state or location. 

How do you say I’m from Italy?

“Sono italiano/a” or “Provengo dall’ Italia”

What does Io Sono mean? 

“Io sono” means “I am” in Italian.

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