Essere – to be

Essere - Italian verb to be
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Italian Verb to Be

Essere is one of two Italian verbs that can mean "to be."* It’s the most common verb in the Italian language, used to describe many aspects of being:

1) Names and professions

Sono Laura.   I’m Laura.
Quest'uomo è un medico. This man is a doctor.

2) Nationality, origin

Sono tedesco. I’m German.
Siete di Venezia? Are you from Venice?

3) Relationships, ownership

È mio fratello. He’s my brother.
Dov’é la tua macchina?   Where is your car?

4) Descriptions (physical, mental, material)

Sono alti.   They are tall.
Francesca è intelligente.   Francesca is smart.
Questo cuscino è di velluto.   This cushion is (made of) velvet.

5) Feelings

Siamo malati.   We’re sick.
Sei stanco?   Are you tired?

6) Time and date

Sono le 15:00.   It’s 3 pm.
È il 10 settembre.   It’s September 10.

7) "To exist"

Essere o non essere, questo è il dilemma.   To be or not to be, that is the question.
Non c’è dubbio.   There is (exists) no doubt.

8) Compound tenses

Essere is also used to form compound tenses – lesson coming soon.

Essere present tense conjugations

io sono    noi siamo
tu sei voi siete
lui, lei è loro sono

 Note that the io and loro conjugations are identical. Since Italian is pro-drop, you have to rely on context to let you know who the subject is, but this is rarely a problem as it’s usually obvious. If you’re concerned that it’s not, you can use the subject pronoun to make sure there’s no confusion.

* The other is stare. We’ll compare the two in detail in a future lesson.

 Related lessons

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Essere - to be, to exist