As you already know if you’re studying Italian, verbs are not the easiest thing in the language of the Belpaese, especially if your mother tongue is English. There are three different regular conjugations, about 30 must-know irregular verbs and a specific form for every person.
But if we know our readers, we are sure that you’re one of those learners that are excited by linguistic challenges. Especially when they are as important as learning the conjugation of “to be” in Italian, aka the verb “essere”!
The verb “essere”
The verb “essere” is, together with “avere” (“to have”), one of the two auxiliary verbs in Italian. This means that they’re used both independently and as “helpers” of any other verb to form specific tenses.
Needless to say, the conjugation of “essere” in Italian is irregular, and you’ll have to learn it by heart in order to communicate every possible nuance of your being to your Italian friends, family and acquaintances. But oh it’s so worth it!
So, enough with the presentations, let’s really get to know the conjugation of “to be” in Italian!
Italian verb “to be” conjugation chart
Here you have the entire conjugation of “essere” in Italian. Don’t forget to bookmark this page to be able to come back for any doubt!
But before we start, let’s remember one little rule concerning Italian verbs: unlike in English or French, in Italian when the subject of a verb is not explicitly stated you’re not supposed to replace it with a pronoun.
Easier done than said:
- Sono in ritardo.
- Sei interista o milanista?
Are you an Inter or Milan supporter?
- Dov’erano le forbici? Erano nel cassetto.
Where were the scissors? They were in the drawer.
As you can see, the pronouns are missing in all three examples whenever the subject was implicit. You can, though, use a pronoun when the subject can be misinterpreted or to add emphasis.
The “presente” is the most basic tense and the first one you must learn.
|Io sono||I am|
|Tu sei||You are|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) è||He/She is|
|Noi siamo||We are|
|Voi siete||You are|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) sono||They are|
- Sei la mia migliore amica.
You’re my best friend.
- Marco è proprio un bel ragazzo.
Marco really is a good-looking guy.
Present perfect or “passato prossimo” is a very important tense, commonly used to describe an action that has taken place in the past but whose consequences are still relevant today, so the past action feels somehow “close” even if it ended. Let’s see the conjugation of to be in Italian in the “passato prossimo” tense.
|Io sono stato/a||I have been|
|Tu sei stato/a||You have been|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) è stato/a||He/She has been|
|Noi siamo stati/e||We have been|
|Voi siete stati/e||You have been|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) sono stati/e||They have been|
- Sono stato a Venezia tre volte.
I’ve been to Venice three times.
- La Sig.ra Rossi è stata la mia insegnante.
Mrs Rossi was my teacher.
The imperfect (“imperfetto”) tense is used whenever we want to talk about an action we used to do in the past, not something that happened once or a certain number of times.
|Io ero||I was|
|Tu eri||You were|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) era||He/She was|
|Noi eravamo||We were|
|Voi eravate||You were|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) erano||They were|
- Da bambino ero molto vivace.
As a child I was very lively.
- Eravate a casa ieri?
Were you at home yesterday?
A tense used when narrating past events, to describe an action that’s happened before the main one.
|Io ero stato/a||I had been|
|Tu eri stato/a||You had been|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) era stato/a||He/She had been|
|Noi eravamo stati/e||We had been|
|Voi eravate stati/e||You had been|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) erano stati/e||They had been|
- Ho visitato Venezia nel 2021, ma ci ero già stato nel 2003.
I visited Venice in 2021, but I had already been there in 2003.
- I miei due cani erano stati maltrattati dal precedente padrone.
My two dogs had been mistreated by their previous owner.
A tense whose name literally translates into “remote past”, the “passato remoto” is mostly used in literature and rarely in spoken language. It’s mandatory to know it, though, if you want to read Italian novels and short stories!
Note: by adding the past participle “stato” - or feminine “stata”, and plural “stati” and “state” - you can form the very uncommon tense “trapassato remoto”.
|Io fui||I was|
|Tu fosti||You were|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) fu||He/She was|
|Noi fummo||We were|
|Voi foste||You were|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) furono||They were|
- Fu mio nonno a costruire questa casa.
It was my grandfather who built this house.
- I Romani furono feroci conquistatori.
The Romans were ferocious conquerors.
“Sarà quel che sarà”, goes a famous ‘80s song. But even if you embrace the most fatalistic attitude, you must know the conjugation of the future tense of “essere” in Italian!
Hint: the future tense is often used in Italian to express a doubt or a supposition.
|Io sarò||I will be|
|Tu sarai||You will be|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sarà||He/She will be|
|Noi saremo||We will be|
|Voi sarete||You will be|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) saranno||They will be|
- Sarò sempre al tuo fianco.
I’ll always be on your side.
- Laura sarà alla tua festa?
Will Laura be at your party?
Now, let’s move even forward in the future with the future perfect. As in English, it describes an action that will be completed in the future. As the future tense, it’s also used in Italian to express doubt or a supposition.
|Io sarò stato/a||I will have been|
|Tu sarai stato/a||You will have been|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sarà stato/a||He/She will have been|
|Noi saremo stati/e||We will have been|
|Voi sarete stati/e||You will have been|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) saranno stati/e||They will have been|
- Quando sarai stato a Roma, saprai quanto è bella.
When you've been in Rome, you’ll know how beautiful it is.
- Mario non era alla festa, sarà stato impegnato.
Mario wasn’t at the party, he must have been busy.
The conditional tense is used to express something that only happens when a condition is met. It’s also used to ask something gently or to express a desire. It exists in present and past tense.
|Io sarei||I would be|
|Tu saresti||You would be|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sarebbe||He/She would be|
|Noi saremmo||We would be|
|Voi sareste||You would be|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) sarebbero||They would be|
- Lo sarei disponibile, se lei me lo chiedesse.
I would be available, if she asked me.
- Sarebbero davvero una bella coppia.
They would really be a nice couple.
|Io sarei stato/a||I would have been|
|Tu saresti stato/a||You would have been|
|Egli/Ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sarebbe stato/a||He/She would have been|
|Noi saremmo stati/e||We would have been|
|Voi sareste stati/e||You would have been|
|Essi/Esse (Loro in spoken language) sarebbero stati/e||They would have been|
- Saresti stata tanto buona con me, se non avessi conosciuto mia madre?
Would you have been so good to me, if you hadn’t met my mother?
- Saremmo stati meglio in una stanza più grande.
We would have been better in a bigger room.
One of the trickiest Italian tenses of all, the subjunctive or “congiuntivo” is used any time you want to express doubt, uncertainty, possibility, invitation or an hypothesis. It includes no less than four different tenses.
Used when the main sentence is in present tense.
|Che io sia||-|
|Che tu sia||-|
|Che egli/ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sia||-|
|Che noi siamo||-|
|Che voi siate||-|
|Che essi/esse (Loro in spoken language) siano||-|
- Sono felice che tu sia qui.
I’m happy you’re here.
- Spero che siate felici insieme.
I hope you’re happy together.
Used when the main sentence is in present tense, but the subordinate clause refers to a past action.
|Che io sia stato||-|
|Che tu sia stato||-|
|Che egli/ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) sia stata||-|
|Che noi siamo stati||-|
|Che voi siate stati||-|
|Che essi/esse (Loro in spoken language) siano stati||-|
- È incredibile che sia stato tanto stupido.
I can’t believe that I’ve been that stupid.
- Mia mamma è contenta che siamo stati con lei tutto il weekend.
My mother is happy that we’ve been with her all weekend.
Imperfect subjunctive is used after a principal sentence expressing insecurity or an hypothesis in past tense.
|Che io fossi||-|
|Che tu fossi||-|
|Che egli/ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) fosse||-|
|Che noi fossimo||-|
|Che voi foste||-|
|Che essi/esse (Loro in spoken language) fossero||-|
- Non credevo che Palermo fosse così bella.
I didn’t think Palermo was so beautiful.
- Pensavate che fossi stupido?
Did you think I was stupid?
Could the Italian language deprive all its students of the past perfect subjunctive? Of course not! This tense is used to describe a fact that might have happened (but it didn’t!) before a past action, but always in the past. Clear and simple, right?
|Che io fossi stato/a||-|
|Che tu fossi stato/a||-|
|Che egli/ella (Lui/Lei in spoken language) fosse stato/a||-|
|Che noi fossimo stati/e||-|
|Che voi foste stati/e||-|
|Che essi/esse (Loro in spoken language) fossero stati/e||-|
- Se fossi stato più attento, non sarei caduto.
If I had been more careful, I wouldn’t have fallen.
- Se voi foste stati con lei, si sarebbe divertita di più.
If you had been with her, she would have had more fun.
Now, let’s leave the realm of what could have been, and enter a state where there’s no room for uncertainty.
- Sii felice!
- Siate fieri di voi!
Be proud of yourselves!
Last but not least, the important gerund.
|Past: essendo stato||Having been|
- Essendo domenica, i negozi sono chiusi.
Being it Sunday, the shops are closed.
- Essendo stato due anni in Francia, parlo il francese
Having been two years in France, I speak French.
Study Italian at your pace and have fun!
Verb marathons like this one do provide crucial notions, but are not the most fun way to learn a language. Choose the best Italian courses for your needs and preferences, and learn at your pace while enjoying every lesson!