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Another way to be happy

In a  previous lesson, we talked about the verb stare and how, although it does mean "to be," it's more about the state of things than just "being."


One way Italians use the verb stare is when they talk about how they feel. They use the adverb bene (well, fine) or male (bad) after it. 


Physical well-being

This can be specific to a physical state of being. I can say:

sto male (I feel sick) because I just ate something that disagreed with me in a serious way.


Often, in order to be clear, we express it using a negative, so I might say:

 non sto bene (I don't feel good / I don't feel well).


Alternatively, I can say:

sto poco bene (I don't feel very good).


Mental-emotional states of being

But we also use stare bene or stare male when talking about situations, places, relationships, and more.


It can be short-term: We're sitting around a crowded table and my host wonders if I have enough room. I might answer:

Sto bene (I'm fine).


It can be long-term, for example, about where I live:

Sto bene (I like living where I'm living / I'm happy living here).


If I am happy with someone I am in a relationship with, I might say:


 Sto bene insieme a mio marito (I am happy with my husband — we get along).

Nel mio matrimonio, ci so bene (I'm happily married).

Stiamo bene insieme (we're happy together — we get along).


But if I am unhappy in a relationship. I might say:

Ci sto male (I am not happy in this situation / with this person).


We recently had a question from a learner about a conversation between Domenico Modugno and his girlfriend Franca in the TV movie about Modugno. Franca loves him, but knows what he is like (he might stray or be too impulsive) and that in the long run, she might not be happy being married to him. It might make her unhappy.


She says:

Temo che se accettassi di stare con te, sì, forse sarebbe bello, ma mi farebbe anche star male.

I'm afraid that if I accepted being with you, yes, it might be great, but it would make me unhappy.

Captions 12-14, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 25

 Play Caption


So stare bene isn't necessarily about true happiness or love, but about well-being, being content, or being in a healthy relationship. 

The noun that goes with stare bene is benessere (well-being or wellness).



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