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  5. "Stare" vs "Essere" in Italian


"Stare" vs "Essere" in Italian

For me it was pretty hard to differentiate the meaning of those two verbs, because they look pretty similar. So I found this short article, which was really helpful.


If you have something to add to this one, please do so, that would be really appreciated!

June 1, 2013



I read the article, but I'm still confused on when to use stare or essere when expressing location. What's the difference? Thank you.


"stare" is for a state, usually temporary. In the example of the chair and kitchen given in the article, if we're mentioning a chair that belongs in the kitchen, and we're describing the house we will say "La sedia è in cucina" but if you are looking for a chair right now and it's usually in the saloon, and you ask someone where is it he will say "La sedia sta in cucina". That's the main idea. Of course there are many subtleties. This differentiation appears also in spanish but sometimes a form which is very clear-cut in one language is the other way around in the other..


Hello GilGaribi, I am not sure what you are referring to here when you mention French, but what I am sure of : we (French native here) only have one verb for "to be", which is "être". Hope this helps someone.


I stand corrected. Edited it out.


Thank you for your help!


That is incorrect. In Standard Italian:

  • La sedia è in cucina = The chair is in the kitchen right now.
  • La sedia sta in cucina = The chair is usually in the kitchen.

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEyosoHp8w0

I'd avoid comparing Italian essere/stare and Spanish/Portuguese ser/estar because they are used differently in several contexts.


@GilGaribi That was the explanation I needed for it to all make sense. Thank you. 4 years later and your post is still helping. You should be proud. Allow me to happily pay you royalties.


the sense is similar to ser and estar in Spanish, but the use of Stare in Italian is much narrower and stricter. Stare is also related to the English words "stand" and stay." It might be helpful to think of that sense as well when using stare. I'm very new to Italian, but it seems that with the exception of its use as a helping verb in the present progressive tense, "to be" is virtually always rendered with a form of essere. This is quite different from Spanish.


Hi! I'm native of spanish, but i'm taking the lessons in english for training. I think can be useful to know the point of view of somebody that speaks a language that actually has both verbs. "stare" in spanish is "estar" and usually makes reference to be in some PLACE (here, there...) or beeing in certain WAY (happy, sad...), and the " Essere" in spanish is "ser" and that usually makes reference to be something or somebody (beeing a teacher, a person, a mother...). I hope those examples are ok (and sorry for my horrible english)... greetings from Chile!


Sorry this is not quite right. The assumption that 'essere' and 'stare' behave like 'ser' and 'estar' is a common misconception that Spanish speakers fall into. These verbs actually behave in quite different ways. Stare is not used for either place or emotion. 'Sto felice' is not correct Italian, nor would you ever say "sto in farmacia" unless you were planning to sleep there.


Rafforza has it right. Just because "stare" sounds like "estar" does not mean it works like it! Quite the contrary! In Italian stare is used much less than essere. Basically, use it for the idiomatic sentences "sto/stai/sta/stiamo/state/stanno bene (o male), and for the formation of the progressive ("sto leggendo." = I am reading).

You should also understand that it can be used to indicate where something is, but that is just for comprehension... because you can always use essere to indicate location when you are talking. Forget about temporary vs. permanent, events vs. objects, conditions vs. quality and all that other stuff you needed to learn for ser vs. estar.


thanks for confirming what i thought. greetings from california. i have studied italian a long time ago and a little spanish more recently , and am fluent in french. this helps. grazie mille!


Just to clarify for those who already learned Spanish. The use of "essere" and "stare" is not the same as in Spanish with the verbs "ser" and "estar". In some cases the uses may look similar, but in many cases it's pretty different. I suggest whoever already know Spanish to be particularly careful about how to use "essere" and "stare" in Italian.


This! I speak Spanish, Italian and Sicilian. And the usages are very different between the three. It's definitely nice to understand the concept from the other romance languages but definitely don't transpose them!


That's incorrect. essere/stare are only used identically to ser/estar in some contexts.


stare can also mean to fit. So i miei libri non stanno nella valigia (my books won't fit in the suitcase). é troppo grande. Non ci sta nella macchina (it's too big. It will not fit in the car)


That's interesting. In English we are likely to say, 'It won't go in the car.' or it won't go in the suitcase.


Are there major differences between the uses of stare and essere in Italian and estar and ser in Spanish?



In Standard Italian, "stare":

  • is used with adverbs to express current physical/psychological state. Ex: Sto bene/male
  • expresses where someone stays for some time, spends the night or lives. Exs: State a casa questa sera? Ha traslocato qualche mese fa, ora sta in centro.
  • expresses usual location of a object. Ex: Le chiavi stanno sul tavolo.
  • is used to build the continuous present tense. Ex: Sto leggendo un libro.
  • is used in orders. Ex: Stai zitto!
  • is used in some fixed expressions, such as "stare insieme" (= to be together)

"essere" is used for the rest. For instance:

  • permanent qualities. Exs: Maria è bella. Lui è il mio avvocato.
  • temporary location of an object/person. Ex: La chiave è qui.
  • temporary/permanent health/sickness with adjectives. Exs: Io sono malatto oggi. Io sono sano.
  • temporary/permanent emotion/attitude with adjectives. Exs: Io sono felice/zitto oggi. Io sono felice/zitto. In some cases, "stare" may also be used for temporary emotion/attitude (eg. "io sto felice oggi" is OK, but "io sto innamorato" is not).

In Southern Italy, "essere" is replaced by "stare" in some usages.


Here’s a very good video that explains the difference and the reasons for confusion. https://youtu.be/bfKrIKAcBY4

Apparently the reasons for confusion have to do with Italian dialects structure carrying over to Italian. This is particularly the case with permanent vs temporary confusion like Spanish.

In standard Italian essere is to be whereas stare means to stay (normally). The exceptions are: Stare attento (be attentive) Stare zitto (be silent) Stare buono (to be well as in “come stai”.).


Learning the basic meaning of "essere" as "to be" and the basic meaning of "stare" as "to stay" and then learn the differences is a valid learning approach. Unfortunately, the Italian teacher in that video makes the popular comparison of essere/stare with ser/estar in Spanish, which IMHO is very confusing for Spanish speakers.

Small correction: "Be silent!" (order/request) is indeed "Stare zitto!". However, in Standard Italian, "I am silent" is "Io sono zitto" (temporary or permanent attitude). In this particular example with "zitto", "stare" may also be used for the temporary attitude (especially in Southern Italy).


Grazie! As I was reviewing this lesson I came across "sta" and did not know what it was. It was not until after I checked my answer that I realized it was from the other form of "to be". Just as I was wondering when to use the two "to be" verbs I found this. Grazie mille!


Thank you...this needs to be noted natively when first educating on "stare"

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