Infinitive: essere
Gerund: essendo
Present Participle: essente (raro)
Past Participle: stato/a


ESSERE has several meanings. Read the following sentences:

  • Vieni a trovarmi, sono a casa. → SONO means: mi trovo, sto.
  • Penso dunque sono→ SONO means: esisto.
  • Quel cane è pericoloso. → È, followed by a qualifier, means a way of being.
  • Sedetevi! È arrivata l’insegnante. → È is AUXILIARY VERB, that’s it helps the verb ARRIVARE to form the past tense.
  • Sono subito da te! → Sono means: arrivo.


Third-persons singular is always written with the stress mark (È); it helps to recognise the verb TO BE  from the conjunction (E): a word links other words or sentences.

Maria è sposata con Andrea. (verb)
Maria e Andrea sono sposati. (conjunction)

Il leone è un animale feroce. (verb)
Il leone e l’elefante vivono in Africa. (conjunction)

presente imperfetto passato remoto futuro semplice
lui, lei, Lei
passato prossimo trapassato prossimo trapassato remoto futuro anteriore
lui, lei, Lei
sono stato/a
sei stato/a
è stato/a
siamo stati/e
siete stati/e
sono stati/e
ero stato/a
eri stato/a
era stato/a
eravamo stati/e
eravate stati/e
erano stati/e
fui stato/a
fosti stato/a
fu stato/a
fummo stati/e
foste stati/e
furono stati/e
sarò stato/a
sarai stato/a
sarà stato/a
saremo stati/e
sarete stati/e
saranno stati/e
presente imperfetto passato trapassato
lui, lei, Lei
sia stato/a
sia stato/a
sia stato/a
siamo stati/e
siate stati/e
siano stati/e
fossi stato/a
fossi stato/a
fosse stato/a
fossimo stati/e
foste stati/e
fossero stati/e
presente passato
lui, lei, Lei
sarei stato/a
saresti stato/a
sarebbe stato/a
saremmo stati/e
sareste stati/e
sarebbero stati/e
(lui, lei, Lei)


 Maria Scalici

Indicativo Presente

Present indicative tense is used when the action:indicativo

1) is taking place habitually;

2) is taking place at the moment of speaking;

3) has a future meaning.

Essere (to be) and avere (to have) are two special verbs in Italian that have their own conjugation, and will be essential when using Italian in the past tense.
Italian regular verbs are the easiest to conjugate, since they follow a specific pattern. Three groups of regular verbs exist: -are verbs, -ere verbs and -ire verbs.
-Ire verbs can be a tad tricky, since there are some variations in the endings.

-Are verbs are regular verbs that have the ending -are. To conjugate, remove the -are and add the appropriate endings. In this example, we will use the verb cantare (to sing):

io cant- o

tu cant- i

lui/lei cant- a

noi cant- iamo

voi cant- ate

loro cant- ano

The same process is done for -ere verbs, like the verb vedere (to see):

io ved- o

tu ved- i

lui/lei ved- e

noi ved- iamo

voi ved- ete

loro ved- ono

Notice the endings for -are verbs and -ere verbs are similar, except for the changes on the third person singular, second person plural and third person plural. This pattern continues with some of the -ire verbs, like sentire (to hear):

io sent- o

tu sent- i

lui/lei sent- e

noi sent- iamo

voi sent- ite

loro sent- ono


However, other -ire verbs, like finire (to finish) follow a different ending pattern:

io fin- isc- o

tu fin- isc- i

lui/lei fin- isc- e

noi fin- iamo

voi fin- ite

loro fin- isc- ono

Common -ire verbs that are conjugated like sentire include aprire (to open), coprire (to cover), divertirsi (to enjoy oneself), dormire (to sleep), offrire (to offer), partire (to leave), seguire (to follow), servire (to serve/need), soffrire (to suffer) and vestire (to dress).

Common -ire verbs that are conjugated like finire include capire (to understand), colpire (to hit), costruire (to build), fornire (to supply), guarire (to get better), preferire (to prefer), pulire (to clean), sostituire (to substitute), spedire (to send) and unire (to join).

Italian irregular verbs are verbs that do not fit into regular conjugation endings. We will go over the conjugation of the most common irregular verbs in Italian. Students should memorize these conjugations:

POTERE (can)

io posso

tu puoi

lui/lei può

noi possiamo

voi potete

loro possono


PIACERE (to like)

io piaccio

tu piaci


noi piacciamo

voi piacete

loro piacciono


FARE (to do, to make)

io faccio

tu fai

lui/lei fa

noi facciamo

voi fate

loro fanno


VOLERE (to want)

io voglio

tu vuoi

lui/lei vuole

noi vogliamo

voi volete

loro vogliono


BERE (to drink)

io bevo

tu bevi

lui/lei beve

noi beviamo

voi bevete

loro bevono


DARE (to give)

io do

tu dai


noi diamo

voi date

loro danno


DOVERE (must)

io devo

tu devi

lui/lei deve

noi dobbiamo

voi dovete

loro devono

ANDARE (to go)

io vado

tu vai

lui/lei va

noi andiamo

voi andate

loro vanno

DIRE (to say)

io dico

tu dici

lui/lei dice

noi diciamo

voi dite

loro dicono

SAPERE (to know)

io so

tu sai

lui/lei sa

noi sappiamo

voi sapete

loro sanno

STARE (to stay)

io sto

tu stai

lui/lei sta

noi stiamo

voi state

loro stanno


USCIRE (to go out)

io esco

tu esci

lui/lei esce

noi usciamo

voi uscite

loro escono

Maria Scalici


All Italian nouns have either a masculine or a feminine gender. Gender is a purely grammatical term. Nouns referring to human beings or animals sometimes have the same grammatical gender as their natural gender, but not always:

una giraffa (giraffe) is always feminine
un ippopotamo (hippopotamus) is always masculine

In order to provide the missing half, we have to say:

una giraffa maschio (a male giraffe)
un ippopotamo femmina (a female hippopotamus)

Some animals – as in English – have two distinct names for the male and the female of the species:

un leone (lion), una leonessa (lioness)
un gallo (cock), una gallina (hen)

Some, but not all, professional and other titles may have a distinct form for the feminine. Nouns whose masculine form ends in -e have a feminine form ending either in -a or in -essa:

cameriere cameriera (waiter/waitress)
infermiere infermiera (nurse)
padrone padrona (master/mistress)
studente studentessa (student)
principe principessa (prince/princess)
conte contessa (count/countess)
barone baronessa (baron/baroness)

Most nouns with masculine form ending in -tore have a feminine form ending in -trice:

attore attrice (actor/actress)
autore autrice (author)
direttore direttrice (director, manager)
imperatore imperatrice (emperor/empress)
pittore pittrice (painter)
scrittore scrittrice (writer)
senatore senatrice (senator)

Note the following masculine nouns with feminine equivalent in -essa:

dottore dottoressa (doctor)
professore professoressa (teacher)

The gender and number determine the ending of the noun. These patterns of endings are called inflexions. Italian nouns can be divided into several different groups, according to their patterns of inflexion. The three most common patterns are:









Masculine or femenine



→ Note: Nouns in the third group (-e) have the same ending whatever the gender.



MASCULINE Tavolo Table Tavoli Tables
Albero Tree Alberi Trees
Sbaglio Mistake Sbagli Mistakes
Ragazzo Boy Ragazzi Boys
FEMENINE Donna Woman Donne Women
Parola Word Parole Words
Scuola School Scuole Schools
Ragazza Girl Ragazze Girls
MASCULINE Padre Father Padri Fathers
Studente Student Studenti Students
Bicchiere Glass Bicchieri Glasses
FEMENINE Madre Mother Madri mothers
Occasione Occasion Occasioni Occasions
Chiave Key Chiavi Keys

→ Note: In the plural, nouns ending in -co, -go; -ca, -ga; -cia, -gia present variations in their endings.

Maria Scalici

Coniugazione: tempi, persona e numero

There are three verb CONJUGATIONS (“coniugazione”) in Italian,
identified by the endings of the infinitives:

First Conjugation -are amare to love
Second Conjugation -ere prendere to take
Third Conjugation -ire dormire to slee

There are four SIMPLE TENSES:

PRESENT: Amo I love
FUTURE: Amerò I will love
IMPERFECT: Amavo I used to love
SIMPLE PAST: Amai I loved

There are four COMPOUND TENSES:

PRESENT PERFECT: Ho parlato I have spoken, I spoke
Sono arrivato I have arrived, I arrived
FUTURE PERFECT: Avrò parlato I will have spoken
Sarò arrivato I will have arrived
PLUPERFECT: Avevo parlato I had spoken
 – Ero arrivato I had arrived
PAST ANTERIOR: Ebbi parlato I had spoken
 – Fui arrivato I had arrived


There are four verbal moods or modes (“modi“):

INDICATIVE (stating a fact):  Parlo italiano <I speak Italian>

SUBJUNCTIVE (expressing an attitude):  Credo lei parli italiano <I think she speaks Italian>

CONDITIONAL (indicating a possibility):  Gli studenti parlerebbero italiano, se potesser <The students would speak Italian if they could>

IMPERATIVE (giving a command):  Parla italiano! <Speak Italian!>

The conjugated forms of verbs agree with the person and number of the subject.  There are two NUMBERS (singular and plural) and three PERSONS.  First person is the speaker; second person is the one spoken to; third person is the one spoken about.

1ST PERSON:  io canto  – I sing noi cantiamo  – we sing
2ND PERSON:  tu canti  – you sing voi cantate  – you sing
3RD PERSON:  lei canta  – she sings loro cantano  – they sing

Verbi attivi, passivi e riflessivi

Voice describes the relationship of the verb action with its subject and object. The different voices or relationships are:

  • Active voice

Normally the grammatical subject of the verb is the doer of the action or the main theme of the event, in which case the verb is active:

Andrea guarda Maria.

Andrew watches Mary.

Il tecnico ripara il computer.

The technician repairs the computer.

  • Passive voice

But sometimes the person or object on the receiving end of the action is the grammatical subject, and in this case the verb is passive:

Maria è guardata da Andrea.

Mary is watched by Andrew.

Il computer  è riparato dal tecnico.

The computer is repaired by the technician.

In the second example, the agent of the action is clearly the technician (the one who repairs the computer), but the grammatical subject of the passive verb is the computer.

  • Reflexive and pronominal voice

A verb form is reflexive when its subject and object are the same:

Andrea si guarda allo specchio.

Andrew looks at himself in the mirror.

There are other verb forms that are not strictly speaking reflexive but are similar in form.

The passive of Italian verbs is formed by the use of the past participle and the auxiliary essere, using the same tense as the corresponding active form.

The passive can also be formed using venire or andare as auxiliary instead of essere or by using the pronoun si and the third person of the verb.

Only transitive verbs can have a passive form.

Passive sentences (sentences based on a passive verb) are used when we want to focus on the action itself or the object of an action, rather than on the agent of an action.

Reflexive verbs are active verb forms accompanied by a reflexive pronoun:

Andrea sta lavando la macchina.

Andrew is washing the car.

Andrea si sta lavando.

Andrew is washing himself.

In the first example above, the direct object of the action of washing is the car. It is separate from the person who is doing it (the subject of the action). In the second example, the subject and the object of the action are the same person (Andrea). This is the reflexive form, in which the reflexive pronoun refers to the person carrying out the action, but at the same time is also the object of it.

There are a few Italian verbs that are always (or almost always) used with a reflexive pronoun, because of the ‘psychological’ and subjective meaning they convey, for example:

accorgersi: to realise, to be aware

arrabbiarsi: to get angry

divertirsi: to have fun

innamorarsi: to fall in love

pentirsi: to regret, repent

vergognarsi: to be ashamed

 Maria Scalici


Prepositions are short words which express conditions, directions, specifications, such as: of, over, to, from, etc.

Prepositions are those little words that mark places in space or time. When prepositions are used together with definite articles, the preposition and the article are sometimes condensed into a single word. When they are not followed (and bound) to articles, they are called “simple prepositions“.

Simple prepositions  are words that aren’t followed by articles. They are:

di (d’) → of

a → to

da → from, by, since

in → in

con → with

tra, fra → between

su → on

per → for

Di means “of”, indicating possession, or “from” (to be from).

Un bicchiere di vino  »  a glass of wine

Una casa di legno  »  a house of wood

Il computer di Andrea»  Andrea’s computer (literally: “the book of Andrea”)

La madre di Anna  »  Anna’s mother

Io sono di Siracusa»  I am from Syracuse

I miei amici sono di Catania»  my friends are from Catane

A means “to” (indirect object and movement) or “in”, indicating location (cities and places).

When preposition “a” is followed by another word starting with a vowel, for phonetic reasons it changes to “ad”.

Presto il libro a Giovanni»  I lend the book to John

Venderò la bicicletta a Laura»  I will sell the bycicle to Laura

Gira a destra a destra  »  Turn to the right (→ note:  in Italian the two directions have no article)

Tornerò a New York  »  I will return to New York

Siamo sdraiati a letto  »  We are lying  in bed

Tu vivi a Roma   »  You live in Rome

Da means “since”, “from” (to come from), “by” (passive) and it’s used with location referring to people.

Vivo a Catania da 30 anni   »  I’ve lived in Catane for 30 years

Vengo da Siracusa»  I come from Syracuse

Questo corso è stato fatto da Maria»  This course was made by Maria

Sono da Davide   »  I’m at Davide’s

In usually means “in”.

Vivo in una bella città   »  I live in a beautiful city.

Ho delle caramelle in tasca   »  I have some candies in my pocket

Attraverseremo il fiume in barca   »  we will cross the river by boat

Con means “with”.

Sono con te  »  I’m with you

Ho comprato il libro con pochi soldi   »  I bought the book with little money

Andrea era con sua sorella   » Andrew was with his sister

Su means “on(to)”, “over”.

I libri sono su una scrivania   »  The books are on a desk.

L’aereo vola su Roma»  The plane flies over Rome

Per  can translate English for, to, by, or even as, according to the different use.

Questo regalo è per te   »  This present is for you

Ho un biglietto per il teatro   »  I have a ticket for the theatre

Tra-fra mean “between” or “in” followed by a time expression.

Vengo a casa tra(fra) due minuti  »  I’d come home in two minutes

L’autobus passerà fra(tra) due ore  »  The bus will pass in two hours

L’albero fra(tra) le due case è alto   »  The tree between the two houses is tall

Maria Scalici

Transitive and Intransitive verbs

The actions that we express by using verbs can be completed with an object. There may be a direct object as in:

Silvana scrive una lettera      Silvana writes a letter
Cerchiamo una macchina nuova     We look for a new car

Here the action of the verb can be completed by answering the question “what?” (che cosa?). The direct object of the verb is the noun that can answer this question without the use of a preposition (in this case una lettera and una macchina):

Che cosa scrive Silvana? What is Silvana writing?
Silvana scrive una lettera Silvana is writing a letter

Che cosa cerchiamo? What are we looking for?
Cerchiamo una macchina. We’re looking for a new car.

If we can ask and answer the question che cosa?, the verb is transitive, and it will use the auxiliary avere in compound tenses:

Silvana ha scritto una lettera      Silvana wrote a letter
Abbiamo cercato una macchina nuova     We looked for a new car

But some Italian verbs cannot be completed by a direct object and the question che cosa? would not make sense; these are intransitive verbs and they normally use essere as the auxiliary:

Andiamo a scuola alle 8.00. We go to the school at 8.00.
Il volo per Roma parte alle 6.00. The flight to Rome leaves at 6.00.
Siamo andate in ufficio alle 9.00. We went to the office at 9.00.
Il treno per Roma è partito alle 6.00. The train to Rome left at 6.00.

Here some examples of English phrases that cannot be translated directly into Italian, since the verbs camminare, volare, guidare and viaggiare are not generally used transitively:

I’m going to walk the dog.
I’m Sharon. Fly me!
Can you drive me home?
Travel the world with Airmiles!

Some verbs can be used both transitively (with a direct object) and intransitively (without a direct object), for example aumentare, cambiare, cominciare, crescere, diminuire, finire and passare. In the following examples, the subjects of these actions – beginning and finishing – are people and the verbs have direct objects (‘the medical visits’, ‘the holidays’):

Il dottore comincia le visite alle 10.00.
The doctor begins the medical visits at 10.00.
Finiamo le vacanze in agosto.
We finish our holidays in August.

In the next two examples , the same verbs (this time with ‘the medical visits’ and ‘the holidays’ as subject) cannot have a direct object:

Le visite mediche cominciano alle 10.00.
The medical visits begins at 10.00.
Le vacanze finiscono in agosto.
The holidays finish in August.

→ When used transitively, verbs such as correre ‘to run’, saltare ‘to jump’, vivere ‘to live’ take avere:

Hanno corso per 10 km
They ran for about 10 km

Oggi ho saltato la lezione
Today I skipped the lesson

Ho vissuto un’esperienza indimenticabile
I have lived an unforgettable experience

Generally Italian transitive verbs use the auxiliary avere, while intransitive verbs use the auxiliary essere in the compound tenses. However, there are quite a few verbs that use the auxiliary avere even when used intransitively. Here are the most common:

camminare – to walk
piangere – to cry
dormire – to sleep
riposare – to rest
giocare – to play
viaggiare – to travel
passeggiare – to walk

 Maria Scalici

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