Italian: Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous tense in Italian The present simple tense in Italian can mean both ”I do” and “I am doing”. But there is also a present continuous or progressive form, equivalent to English “I am ….ing”: To form this tense you use: the present tense of stare [not essere] sto stai sta stiamo state stanno plus the present participle, sometimes called the gerund. Grammaticians argue about the term “gerund” so we will call it the present participle. You form it like this: – are verbs camminare –-> camminando – ere verbs vendere –-> vendendo – ire verbs finire –-> finendo There are some irregular forms: fare [to do / make] – facendo dire [to say] – dicendo bere [to drink] – bevendo The present participle does not agree [ie., there are no feminine or plural forms]. We use this tense to express what someone is in the process of doing at this moment: Cosa stai facendo? – What are you doing? Sto lavorando – I’m working Sta dormendo – He is sleeping Stiamo finendo ora ! – We’re finishing now! Note that we cannot use this tense to express the future in the way that we use the present continuous in English. [“ I’m holidaying in France next year.”] This tense is used less than the present continuous in English and if you are in doubt, we advise you to use the present simple tense. But you will hear people use this form. Now you try: Put the verbs in brackets into the present participle form: ria sta [scrivere] ____________ una lettera. Stiamo [guardare] ____________ il telegiornale. Sto [aspettare] ____________ il treno. Cosa stai [leggere] ____________? I ragazzi stanno [partire] ____________ ora. Now put the correct form of the present tense of stare in the gaps: Giovanni ______ mangiando. Io ____ finendo il lavoro. I bambini ______ dormendo. Cosa _______ facendo, ragazzi? Dove _____ andando, Maria? [tu form]

Il gerundio (the gerund) refers to the use of a verb in its –ing form. For example ‘I am writing’, I was thinking, he is talking, etc. In Italian il gerundio (the gerund) is characterised by the following endings:

Verbs ending in –are = ando  e.g. mangiando (eating) from the verb mangiare (to eat)

Verbs ending in –ere and –ire = endo e.g. cuocendo (cooking) from the verb cuocere (to cook), pulendo (cleaning) from the verb pulire (to clean).

Now let’s look at the most common uses of il gerundio in Italian:

1. Presente Continuato (Present Continuous)

The gerund is used with the present tense of verb stare (to be/to stay) to form the present continuous:

stiamo mangiando = we are eating

Giovanni sta riposando = Giovanni is resting

cosa state facendo? = what are you doing? (you plural)

stai lavorando? = are you working? (you singular, informal)

sto pulendo le finestre = I’m cleaning the windows

le patate stanno cuocendo = the potatoes are cooking

N.B. The present continuous is not considered an official Italian tense, and when I was a child we were not allowed to use it in writing, we had to use the simple present instead. Nowadays the present continuous is interchangeable with the simple present to describe what is happening in this exact moment, e.g.:

cosa state facendo or cosa fate? = what are you doing? (literally: what do you do?)

stai lavorando? or lavori? = are you working? (literally: you work?)

sto pulendo le finestre or pulisco le finestre = I’m cleaning the windows (literally: I clean the windows)

Note that this tense form is used less frequently in Italian than in English. It’s normal to hear the simple present used instead of the progressive form we’re studying here. For example: “Vado, ciao!” (“I’m going, bye!”) rather than “Sto andando, ciao!”, which would sound rather fussy. Nevertheless, the progressive present form is used to specify/emphasise that an action that is taking place at the time of speaking, for example: Lisa sta leggendo. I bambini stanno giocando. Sto facendo la fila. The tense form is constructed using the verb ‘stare’ as an auxiliary, along with the present participle (gerundio) form of the base verb. ‘Stare’ conjugates like this: io sto tu stai lui/lei sta noi stiamo voi state loro stanno And what about the present participle? No worries. As in English, it’s easy. Verbs ending in -are form the present participle by adding the suffix -ando to the root of the verb. For example: lavorare-lavorando giocare-giocando guidare-guidando Verbs ending in -ere/-ire form the present participle by adding the suffix -endo to the root of the verb, as in these examples: leggere-leggendo tenere-tenendo venire-venendo dormire-dormendo The following three verbs are the only irregular ones: fare-facendo dire-dicendo bere-bevendo]]>

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