How to use ESSERE and AVERE in Italian!

ESSERE or AVERE? This is the question! In this video-lesson you are going to learn when to use these two Italian verbs!


If you are not sure when to use “essere” and when to use “avere”, don’t miss this explanation! 


Imagine that you have just met someone and you need to introduce yourself…

1) Use the verb “essere“:

  • to say someone’s name → Io sono Maria. Lui è Davide, il mio fidanzato. [I am  Maria. He is David, my boyfriend]
  • to express nationalities → Io sono italiana. Loro sono americani. [I am Italian. They are American]
  • to indicate professions  → Tu sei medico e tuo fratello è ingegnere, giusto? [You are a doctor and your brother is an engineer, right?]

2) Use the verb “avere“:

  • to say someone’s age → Carlo ha 38 anni, mentre tu hai 29 anni. [Carlo is 38 years old, while you are 29 years old]


Imagine that you have to describe your best friend or your dream house… How should you do?

1) Use the verb “essere“:

  • before adjectives to describe someone or something  → Marco è bellissimo. / Queste scuse sono pessime! [Marco is handsome / These excuses are awful!]

2) Use the verb “avere“:

  • before nouns to describe someone or something  → Paolo ha gli occhi azzurri. / Davide e suo fratello hanno i capelli biondi. [Paolo has blue eyes / Davide and his brother have blonde hair]


Imagine that you have to express what you feel…

1) Use the verb “essere“:

  • to express emotive reactions, emotions, feelings  → Siamo tristi per quello che è successo. / E‘ sempre felice di vederla. [We are sad for what has happened / S/he is always happy to see her]

2) Use the verb “avere“:

  • to express physical sensations and needs → Ho fame! / Ho sonno! / Ho sete! [I am hungry! / I am sleepy! / I am thirsty!]


Imagine that you want to replace a verb…

1) Use the verb “essere“:

  • to replace the verb “trovarsi” (to stay in a place) → Io sono a casa, Michele è a Parigi. [I am at home, Michele is in Paris]

2) Use the verb “avere“:

  • to replace the verb “possedere→ Ha una bellissima casa. / I coniugi De Santis hanno un cane di nome Po. [I have a wonderful house / The De Santis’ family has a dog called Po]

But do you know when to use “essere” and “avere” as auxiliaries? Let’s find it out together! 

We use “essere” as auxiliary:

  • of itself → Sono stato a Roma ieri. [I went to Rome yesterday]
  • with verbs of movement (andare, venire, partire, tornare, arrivare) → Sono andata al supermercato questa mattina. / Mario è partito poco fa. [I went to the supermarket this morning / Mario left a few minutes ago]
  • with verbs of state (nascere, morire, ingrassare, dimagrire, rimanere, stare) → Dante Alighieri è nato a Firenze. / Siamo ingrassati a causa delle prelibatezze della nonna! [Dante Alighieri was born in Florence / We put on weight because of my grandmother’s delicious food!]
  • with reflexive verbs → Mi sono svegliata alle 7 stamattina. [I woke up at 7 a.m.]
  • with impersonal verbs → E’ successa una cosa fantastica! [Something fantastic has happened!]

We use “avere” as auxiliary in all other cases!

For example:

Ho mangiato un tiramisù delizioso in quel bar. [I’ve eaten a delicious tiramisu in that bar]

Davide ha avuto una promozione al lavoro. [Davide has had a promotion at work]

Abbiamo fatto una gita a Matera lo scorso weekend. [We took a trip to Matera last weekend]

Leonardo da Vinci ha dipinto La Gioconda. [Leonardo da Vinci painted the Gioconda]

Avete mandato l’e-mail al professore? [Have you sent the email to the professor?]


The verbs correre, passeggiare, nuotare, camminare, pattinare… require the auxiliary “avere”, although they imply a sort of movement!

For example:

Ieri ho corso tutto il giorno! [Yesterday I ran all day]

Abbiamo passeggiato lungo via Condotti. [We walked down via Condotti]

Sembrate stanchi: avete camminato molto? [You guys look tired: have you walked a lot?]

Now that you know how to use ESSERE and AVERE, learn how to use the verb BISOGNARE!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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