Difference Between Stare and Essere

Stare vs Essere

The usage and the context in which they are used make the difference between stare and essere. Stare and Essere are words in Italian that are both used to mean ‘to be’ in certain contexts. Generally, stare means ‘to stay’ while essere means ‘to be’ or ‘to exist.’ The word stare gains the meaning ‘to be’ when English idiomatic expressions are used. There are subtle differences in usage as well as the contexts in which one or the other is to be used. This makes it confusing for people learning Italian, as despite the fact that Stare and Essere are more often than not used interchangeably, they still have differences that will be highlighted in this article.

What does Essere mean?

Essere is used in cases where it means ‘to exist’ or ‘to be.’ It is prudent to remember that essere is used in cases where permanent aspects about objects and people are being talked. For example, it is better to use essere where one’s identity is being described or told. Similarly, when it comes to origins, profession, religion, date and time, physical characteristics, location, qualities, etc, essere is to be used and not stare. Here are some examples where you can use the word essere.

I am Russian.

I am Martin.

We are from New York.

It is seven o’clock.

The desk is red.

She is kind.

In the first sentence, we are speaking about a person’s nationality. In the second sentence, we are speaking about someone’s identity; name. In the third sentence, we are speaking about the place of origin of some people. The fourth sentence, speaks about time. The fifth sentence speaks about the physical aspects or the characteristics of something. Here, we are speaking about the color of the desk. Then, in the last sentence, we are speaking about essential qualities of someone. In all of these situations, the verb essere has to be used.

Essere is used in all cases where the verb is to be used as a helper (auxiliary verb). It is also used with past tenses of reflexive and intransitive verbs.

Difference Between Stare and Essere

You have to use essere in the sentence ‘The desk is red’

What does Stare mean?

In general, it is safe to say that stare stands for ‘to stay.’ However, though essere is the word that carries the meaning ‘to be,’ even stare can be used to mean ‘to be,’ making it really confusing for non-natives. There are rules that help people learning Italian to be careful in choosing between stare and essere. Some of these important rules are described below.

Talking about stare, it is more commonly used in idiomatic sentences and as an auxiliary verb. It is also used to indicate exact locations and when talking in the continuous tense. However, it is better memorizing these usages of the words as otherwise there is every chance of making a mistake for a non-native. Here are some examples of the sentences that use stare.

The basket is in the kitchen.

I feel good.

She is well.

They are running.

In the first sentence, the sentence speaks about an exact location. In the second and third sentences, we are giving idiomatic expressions. In the last sentence, we can see the continuous tense. So, all these occasions require the use of stare.

When greeting a person or asking about his health, it is stare that is preferred over essere. Even if inquiring about someone else’s health, you have to use stare. Even the person responding to this enquiry will have to make use of stare and not essere.

Stare vs Essere

You have to use stare in the sentence ‘The basket is in the kitchen’

What is the difference between Stare and Essere?

• Meaning:

• Stare means ‘to stay.’ Sometimes, it means ‘to be’ too.

• Essere means ‘to be’ or ‘to exist.’

• Usage:

• Stare is used,

• in idiomatic sentences

• when talking about exact locations

• as an auxiliary verb

• when using continuous tense

• Essere is used when it comes to,

• identity, origins, profession, or religion

• date and time, location

• physical characteristics, qualities

• Regional Preferences:

• There are also regional preferences in Italy where in some regions it is Stare that is preferred while there are also regions where Essere is used more often.

These are the differences between stare and essere. Keep in mind the places where each word is used. That way you will be able to use the correct word in the correct context.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Antique Red children’s desk and chair by Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Traditional Japanese Kitchen via Wikicommons (Public Domain)