Essere versus stare


Does anyone have some good rules about when to use each of these verbs? I've searched google but couldn't find anything very definitive. I'd be grateful for any help you can provide. Many thanks,

September 22, 2014


The use of “essere” and “stare” isn’t easy to explain. Also because the Italian language is always changing and the differences become more vague. There are also some regionalism regarding the two verbs.

But I try:

Essere can be:

  • 1) auxiliary

Sono andata a casa.

  • 2) to exist, to stay, to be

Penso dunque sono. Sono qua. Sono un professore

stare can be:

  • 1) to stay, to remain

Sto a casa.

  • 2) stare + gerund (to be doing something)

Sto parlando al telefono = I am talking on the phone

  • 3) stare per + infinitive (to be about to do something)

Sto per partire = I am going to leave

  • 4) stare a + infinitive (to keep/to remain doing something; this usage is colloquial):

Sto a lavorare = I am at work

The aspect that has to be discussed is the translation stay/be.


Il bicchiere è sul tavolo o Il bicchiere sta sul tavolo?

If it’s an object (building/thing etc.) you have to use “stare” if you are speaking about its habitual place (I bicchieri stanno nella credenza = the glasses are in the cupboard) and “essere” for the place where the object is right now located: I bicchieri sono sul tavolo. But nowadays this distinction isn't really so exactly defined.


Also here “essere” indicates the actual position/location and “stare” the place where they have their seat/they are living.

  • Sono felice di essere qua = I am happy to be right now here.

  • Sono felice di stare qua = I am happy to stay (to live) here.

(essere is used if the stay is only a short one and stare if it’s a longer stay (in English you would use normally remain) Often in Italian the word stare is used when the stay in a location is an important part of the sentence: Non vorrei più stare in casa, me ne vado a fare una passeggiata.

To describe a characteristic the word “essere” is used.

Le patate sono ancora verdi. Sono biondo. Sono alta. Sono di Roma. Sono un professore etc.

(With “stare” there are only expression with bene, male, meglio, peggio if you are talking about somebody’s health, his "emotional STATE": sto bene, lui sta peggio)

Nowadays the words are often used interchangeable, but the usage is colloquial and has to be avoided (according to the Treccani) :

Maria sta a Roma in questo momento (better: si trova)

Sto arrabbiato (better: sono arrabbiato)

Ci sta un capello nella minestra (Better: c’è)

September 22, 2014

Many thanks

September 22, 2014

Question here. Wouldn't "Sonno arrabbiato" be more in the sense of "I am an angry person"? While "Sto arrabbiato" more like "I'm angry" (in this moment, because of something)?

October 21, 2017

Stare is used before a gerund, essere is for anything else.

September 22, 2014

This is not exactly true - you can say stai bene?, for example.

February 20, 2015
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