Essere (to be), is conjugated as follows:
Io sono (I am)
Tu sei (you are)
Lei è (you are - polite form)
Lui è (he/it is)
Lei è (she/it is)
Noi siamo (we are)
Voi siete (you are plural)
Loro sono (they are)
Simple enough! But it can be tricky knowing exactly who "is." That's because of a convention in Italian that's not used in English. Often, the pronoun that's the subject of essere is assumed or implied:
Caption 3, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3Play Caption
È pieno di posti liberi.
It's full of free seats.
Caption 55, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3Play Caption
Context is very important in understanding these constructions. Consider the answers to the next two questions – they look the same, but their meaning is quite different:
Dove sei? (Where are you?)
Sono a casa. (I am at home.)
Dove sono i bambini? (Where are the children?)
Sono a casa. (They’re at home.)
In fact, if the context of "the children" has already been established, the question can be:
Dove sono? (Where are they?)
Feeling lost? You may be tempted to ask yourself Dove sono? right now. That's because it also means "Where am I?" How do you find your way through these abbreviated, pronoun-less constructions? Pay attention to the context! Sometimes the ambiguity can be a source of humor. At the end of one of the Psicoivip episodes, Minivip is talking to his doctor about his dream and trying to understand something about himself:
E questo cosa significa? Che, che sono...
And what does this mean? That, that I'm...
-Sono ottanta euro, prego.
-That's eighty euros, please.
Captions 63-64, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3Play Caption
The doctor finishes his sentence with a completely different subject in mind, using the seemingly identical form of essere: sono. In this case he is speaking in the third person plural to refer to the euros, which though expressed in the singular (euro always remains the same), are plural in this case, since there are eighty of them:
Che, che sono... -Sono ottanta euro, prego.
That, that I'm... -That's eighty euros, please.
Caption 64, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3Play Caption
While watching new videos, make sure to click on any word whose meaning you aren't totally sure of. You'll see the definition appear to the right of the caption, and the word will be added to your own personalized flashcard list for later review. It's a great way to watch yourself improve!