Essere in Italian
“Essere, o non essere, questo è il dilemma.”
Do you recognize that phrase?
It’s the translation of what Hamlet said: “To be or not to be, that is the question”.
Together with avere, essere is one of the two most common and important verbs in the Italian language.
We use it all the time, so we’ve prepared this short post for you to start getting familiarized with it.
Before we go into more detail, it’s important that you know when we use the verb essere in Italian:
- To describe someone/something
- To talk about someone’s origin/nationality
- To indicate possession
Let’s get started!
Essere: conjugation, present tense
Let’s first see how we conjugate the irregular verb essere in the present tense:
|Io sono||I am|
|Tu sei||You are|
|Lui/lei è||He, she is|
|Noi siamo||We are|
|Voi siete||You are|
|Loro sono||They are|
In Italian, unlike in English, we don’t always use a personal pronoun (io (I), tu (you), etc.) with a verb.
We don’t need it because the verb itself indicates who we’re referring to.
If we do use it, we sound like a textbook.
A: Sei inglese?
B: Are you English?
A: No, sono scozzese.
B: No, I’m Scottish.
Learn more about Italian verb conjugation.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
When to use essere?
As we said, we use essere a lot.
In fact, we probably say it hundreds of times a day, like English speakers use the verb “to be” without realizing it.
Isn’t it true? 😉
For general descriptions
We use essere to describe people, objects, and places.
When we describe something or someone we usually talk about their characteristics, like color, personality, age, shape, size, etc.
This is why, in this case, we usually use the verb to be followed by an adjective, like in the examples below:
Mia sorella è simpatica.
My sister is fun.
Quel fiore è rosa.
That flower is pink.
To indicate city of origin
When we want to say which city a person or object is from, we use the following structure essere + di. For example:
Io sono di Milano.
I am from Milan.
Il dottore è di Bologna.
The doctor is from Bologna.
To indicate nationality
When we want to talk about the country of origin of someone or something, we use essere + nationality. For example:
Luca è francese.
Luca is French.
A: Di dove sei?
B: Sono tedesco.
A: Where are you from?
B: I’m German.
To indicate possession.
We use the verb essere to talk about possessions.
Here are two examples:
Questo è il cane di Lucia.
That is Lucia’s dog.
Questa è la mia borsa.
This is my bag.
For more practice, check out the free preview of the first 10 lessons of the course.