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Stare: Another Way of Being

In one of Daniela’s recent lessons, she covers an important modo di dire (figure of speech): stare per (to be about to).

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Sto per cadere (I'm about to fall).

 

But let’s also take a closer look at the verb stare (to be). It’s so similar to essere (to be) and translates much the same way, but if we think of the word “state,” as in “the state of things,” so close in spelling to stare, it might help us see what this verb is about.

 

The state can be physical—how someone looks:

Anche tu, stai proprio bene. -Grazie... però tu hai un volto molto riposato e...

You look really good, too. -Thanks... but you have a very rested face [you look rested] and...

Captions 3-4, Anna e Marika - Villa Torlonia - La Casina delle Civette

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Come sto con questo vestito?
How do I look in this dress?

 

It can be about how someone feels—about their state of health or happiness.

Come stai? How are you?
Sto bene (I’m good, I’m fine, I’m well, cured, healed).
Sta male. (He/she is ill, distraught, overtired, etc.)

 

Stare is often used in command forms that translate as “to be.”

Stai attento. Bene, bravo, bravo!

Be watchful [be careful]. Good, brilliant, brilliant!

Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 6

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Lara, io... -Stai zitta, non dire niente.

Lara, I... -Be quiet, don't say a thing.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 13

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We use stare for other commands like:

Stai tranquillo (be in a state of tranquillity [don’t worry])
Stai fermo (be still)
Stai qui (stay here)

 

We also use stare to construct the presente progressivo (present continuous/progressive) in Italian. We conjugate the verb stare and follow it with the gerundio (gerund) of the verb of our choosing.

Stiamo cercando di risalire al proprietario attraverso il numero del telaio.

We're trying to trace the owner through the chassis serial number.

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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'Sto [questo] posto mi sta distruggendo.

This place is destroying me.

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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Although Italian tenses don’t always correspond to English ones as we would expect, the present progressive is an important tense in Italian. Marika explains it here.

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Practice:

 

Stare is an ever-present, very important verb to be familiar with. When you get up in the morning, think about how you feel, how you look, what you’re doing at the moment, and what you are about to do. You can use stare for all these considerations. Here’s an example to get you started.

 

Ho dormito bene, quindi sto abbastanza bene, ma di sicuro non sto bene con i capelli così in disordine. Sto pensando alla mia colazione. Sto per mangiare gli ultimi biscotti, quindi ne dovrò comprare degli altri. Tutti questi biscotti mi stanno facendo ingrassare.

I slept well, so I feel all right, but for sure I don’t look good with my hair so messy. I’m thinkingabout my breakfast. I’m about to eat up the last cookies, so I will have to buy more of them. All these cookies are making me gain weight.

Vocabulary

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