Essere (Italian grammar 1)

Learn the Italian grammar of essere with rules, examples, and links to practice.

2019/06/08

Stefano Lodola

By Stefano Lodola

“Essere, o non essere, questo è il dilemma”, says Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Italian. Here’s how to conjugate the irregular verb “essere”.

Essere: conjugation, present tense

Singular:

  • 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, the use of personal pronouns like io (I), tu (you) etc. with verbs is not required. On the contrary, it makes you sound like a textbook. You don’t need that because the  verb itself indicates who it is referring to.

Examples:

  1. Sei americano?
    Are you American?
  2. No, sono canadese.
    No, I’m Canadian.

Basic uses of essere

Essere is used with di name of a city to indicate city of origin (the city someone is from). To indicate country of origin, an adjective of nationality is generally used: He is from France + He is French = È francese.

  1. Di dove sei?
  2. Io sono di Chicago
 

Essere + di + proper name is used to indicate possession. No apostrophe s is used in Italian to indicate possession: It is Stefano’s = It is of Stefano’s = È di Stefano.

To find out who the owner of something is, ask Di chi è singular or Di chi sono plural.

  1. Di chi è questo gatto?

Free Italian lesson with essere

Try this free preview of an audio lesson to practice essere.

These sentences with essere are taken from Lesson 1 of my Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!”. 

Find more simple notes to understand Italian grammar and exercises to master it.

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