How to say there is/there are in Italian: c’è and ci sono

The English expressions “there is” and “there are” are very common. In the same way, the Italian equivalent expressions c’è and ci sono are used very frequently, often at the beginning of sentences. These expressions are relatively easy to master and very useful, since they are used a lot in everyday conversation.

As far as their meaning is concerned, c’è and ci sono indicate the presence of people, animals, or object in a specific place. The logic is very similar to the use of there is / there are in English. For example:

Il gatto è sul tavolo → C’è un gatto sul tavolo.

The cat is on the table → There is a cat on the table.

C’è was originally ci è, but the high frequency of use lead to the more concise and easier to pronounce form c’è. This often happens in Italian when one word ends with a vowel and the following one starts with a vowel. The apostrophe between c and è is used to indicate the omission of the letter “i” in ci.

C’è/ci sono: Conjugation

One of the reasons why the expressions c’è and ci sono are relatively easy to master for Italian learners is that for each different tense, only two forms of the verb essere are used: the third person singular and the third person plural conjugation. The third person singular form (c’è for the present indicative) is used when the subject is a singular noun, the third person plural form (ci sono for the present indicative) is used when the subject is a plural noun. Here are the most common indicative tenses and the corresponding conjugations:

  Presente Imperfetto Passato prossimo Futuro semplice
Singular C’è C’era C’è stato Ci sarà
Plural Ci sono C’erano Ci sono stati/e Ci saranno

 

C’è/Ci sono: Examples

Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the expression c’è/ci sono for different tenses:

  • Presente (present tense): c’è / ci sono

Oggi c’è il sole.

Today it’s sunny (= There is the sun today)

Ci sono mele in frigo?

Are there any apples in the fridge?

  • Imperfetto (past tense): c’era / c’erano

Venti anni fa qui c’era un campo di girasoli invece di questo palazzo.

There used to be a sunflower field here twenty years ago, instead of this building.

In hotel non c’erano asciugamani.

There were no towels in the hotel.

  • Passato prossimo (past tense): c’e stato / ci sono stati/e

C’è stato molto rumore.

There was a lot of noise.

Ci sono stati problemi ieri a lavoro?

Were there any problems at work yesterday?

Dopo la lezione ci sono state molte domande.

There were many questions after the class.

  • Futuro semplice (future tense): ci sarà / ci saranno

Domani ci sarà una conferenza sul riscaldamento globale.

Tomorrow there will be a conference on global warming.

Stasera ci saranno molte persone al ristorante.

There will be many people at the restaurant tonight.

Audio lessons to practice there is/are (c’è/ci sono)

To practice “there is/are” (c’è/ci sono), take Lesson 32 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.


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