Italian verbs Avere & Essere

The two most frequently used verbs in Italian are essere (to be) and avere (to have).

Because of their importance, you get a post’s worth of practice dedicated to these two verbs.

The Italian verbs Essere & Avere are irregular in Italian, as in other languages.

The verbs essere and avere are normally used as the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ are used in English.

Essere is usually followed by an adjective or a noun:

Siete studenti? [noun] (Are you students?)
Daniela è medico. [noun] (Daniela is a doctor.)
Marco è simpatico [adjective] (Marco is nice)
Gli amici di Mark sono italiani. [adjective] (Mark’s friends are Italian.)

Avere is usually followed by a noun (or a noun with an adjective):

Hai il libro di matematica? (Have you got the math book?)
Non ho tempo
. (I haven’t time.)
Hanno una casa grande.
(They have a big house.)
Paolo e io abbiamo una macchina.
(Paolo and I have got a car.)

Try this exercise to test your grammar.


Use verb essere to:

Describe someone or something:

Il tuo amico è molto simpatico (your friend is very nice)

State your country of origin or hometown.

John è inglese (John is English)

Anna è di Roma (Anna is from Rome)

Indicate your occupation or profession:

Io e Laura siamo insegnanti (I and Laura are teachers)

Indicate where a person or object is:

Il portafoglio è nella borsa (The wallet is in the bag)

Describe physical or psychological conditions

Mio figlio è raffreddato (My son has a cold)

With the meaning of “being there” – Esserci

“Essere + ci” denotes the presence of something or someone in a particular location.

⚠️ c’è / ci sono

The verb essere is used in the expressions c’è (there is) followed by a singular noun, and ci sono (there are) followed by a plural noun:

c’è + singular noun: Sul divano c’è un cuscino. (There is a pillow on the sofa.)

ci sono + plural noun: In Italia ci sono molti musei. (There are several museums in Italy.)

The verb “esserci” in some cases takes the meaning of “existing”

Non ci sono problemi (There are no problems)


Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Consider the items in your home; using the terms on the question, determine whether to use c’è or ci sono.

Use verb avere to:

Declare ownership:

Carlo ha una barca a vela. (Carlo has a sailboat.)

Indicate the age of a person:

Quanti anni hai? Ho 25 anni (How old are you? I’m 25)

Describe physical or psychological conditions

Mio figlio ha il raffreddore (My son has a cold)

Indicate the meaning of having time to do something

The verb avere, followed by a noun, is also used in idiomatic expressions that correlate to English idioms that use ‘to be’ followed by an adjective or an adverbial phrase:

  • avere caldo to be hot
  • avere fame to be hungry
  • avere freddo to be cold
  • avere paura to be afraid
  • avere ragione to be right
  • avere sete to be thirsty
  • avere sonno to be sleepy
  • avere torto to be wrong
  • avere fretta to be in a hurry


Abbiamo fame. (We are hungry.)
Avete ragione!
(You’re right!)
Carla ha fretta.
(Carla is in a hurry.)
(Lei) ha sete, Signora Maria?
(Are you thirsty Mrs Maria?)
Non hai freddo, Valeria? (Aren’t you cold, Valeria?)


Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Indicativo presente di essere e avere


io sono

tu sei

lui/lei è

noi siamo

voi site

loro sono


io ho

tu hai

lui/lei ha

noi abbiamo

voi avete

loro hanno

(io) Sono francese

(lui) E’ italiano

(tu) Hai l’indirizzo di Livia?

As seen by the examples, it is not necessary to use the subject pronoun.
The verb forms are different for different person

“sei” can only be the second person singular – tu – (you),

The only case of equal forms is that of “sono” are (first person singular – Io – and third person plural – loro), but the context eliminates any doubt:

Sono stanco (I am tired) (singular – me)

Sono stanchi (They are tired) (plural – them).

The pronoun is only required for emphasis, or to mark a contrast:

Io sono medico e lui è insegnante. (I’m a doctor and he’s a teacher.)

More examples with verb essere

Sono medico. (I’m a doctor.)
Siamo cugini. (We are cousins.)
Siete stranieri. (You are foreigners.)
Paola e Anna sono alte. (Paola and Anna are tall.)
Claudio è mio fratello. (Claudio is my brother.)

More examples with verb avere

Ho un cellulare. (I’ve got a mobile phone.)
Hai il mio indirizzo (You have my address.)
Hanno un esame (They have an exam)
Giulia ha una chitarra (Giulia has a guitar)

👉 The verbs ESSERE and AVERE are also very important because they are auxiliary verbs.

In Italian there is a choice of two auxiliaries, avere and essere: whether to use avere or essere is not usually a free choice.

Learn more

What’s next?

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free resources:

How to use E’ and C’E’ in Italian


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