Difference between STARE and ESSERE

Now it’s time to explain the differences between essere and stare. Essere means “to be” or “to exist”, while stare usually means “to stay” but can be used where English idiomatics use “to be”. The rules are summarized here:

Essere is used to indicate more permanent aspects of people or things, such as -

  1. Identity – Io sono Carla. (“I am Carla”)
  2. Profession – Egli è un professore. (“He is a professor.”)
  3. Origin – Noi siamo di Milano. (“We are from Milan.”)
  4. Religious or political affiliation – Tu sei cattolico? (“You are Catholic?”)
  5. Time of day or date – Sono le otto. (“It is 8 o’clock.”)
  6. Possession – La casa è di Giovanna. (“It is Giovanna’s house.”)
  7. Nationality – Sono Italiano. (“I am from Italy.”)
  8. Physical aspects or characteristics of something – Le sedie sono verdi. (“The chairs are green.”)
  9. Essential qualities of something or someone – Sono vecchio. Sei antipatico. (“I am old. You are unpleasant.”)
  10. Location – La sedia è in cucina. (“The chair is in the kitchen.”), but also, more rarely – La sedia sta in cucina. (“The chair is in the kitchen.”)
  11. Condition or emotion that is subject to change – Sono malato. (“I am sick.”)
  12. Personal observations or reactions, how something “seems” or “feels” – La cucina è pulita. (“The kitchen is/ seems clean.”).

Stare is used to indicate precise locations, in idioms and as auxiliary, such as -

  1. Idiomatic sentences – Sto bene. (“I am well.”)
  2. Idiomatic sentences – Sto male. (“I feel bad.”)
  3. Location – La sedia sta in cucina. (“The chair is in the kitchen.”)
  4. Continuous tense – Sto correndo. (“I am running.”).

The above lists of when to use essere and stare have to be memorized – using them incorrectly means you will be less likely to be understood, and people will definitely know you are not a native speaker. The same goes for the conjugations of essere and stare. Every Italian verb has a conjugation, and memorizing them just goes along with learning the language.

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8 thoughts on “Difference between STARE and ESSERE

  1. Can you really say that “essere” is for permanent conditions and “stare” for temporary? Look at all of your examples, and you’ll see that it isn’t that simple. You can also say “sono qua/qui” “I am here” even though it isn’t a permanent condition. Unfortunately, so many instructors of Romance languages use this “simple” rule, but it isn’t really true. Thank you anyway.

    • Thanks so much for your interasting comment.
      First of all it’s a post for beginners, it means that in every language, not only the Italian one, students need simple but true rules. Then at an advanced level, they can learn how to manage the exceptions.
      Second, I can really assert that “essere” is for permanent condition and “stare” for temporary. Io sono qui means “I’m here till you watch at me” so express a permanent condition (“permanent” doesn’t mean “till the end of the world”), Io sto qui means “I’m here, but in few minutes I’ll be in another place, no matter if you’ll watch at me or not”, so temporary.
      Thanks for your comment anyway and please, do not forget that Romance instructors do not exist, no one can teach perfectly a language, but tutors can help to understand better it with simple rules and tips.

  2. I agree with Memoria’s comment.

    I am Spanish and I’m living from 3 months in Italy, and when I was just arrived I had lot of troubles to understand the difference on using Essere/Stare.

    The example you wrote above is quite proper for the Spanish language; there we use always “Estar” for temporary actions and “Ser” for permanent situations. So in spanish it´s easier to understand them, but for learning the Italian way, I seriously reccomend to memorize each action with its respective auxiliar verb.

    Thanks anyway for the help.

  3. Ciao Serena,, A pleasure to find a blog for italian.. I am italoAmerican and studied in Perugia many years ago. I retain a lot but want to remember more.
    I read you above lesson on stare and essere” and comfortable using the verbs. One question.. when you used example..:( la sedia sta in cucina ).. isn’t it more proper to write: ( la sedia sta nella cucina )? I was taught to always use articles before nouns.. Giacomo/Jim

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