sto v sonno


Is there a rule to understand when sto v sonno is used?

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Hi vrobertc,

Sto and sono (beware the double consonants: sonno means sleep! :D ) are conjugations, respectively, of the verb stare (to stay, to remain) and essere (to be).

While they usage may seem erratic in Italian, there are a few cases where choosing between the two is an easy task.

Stare is always used to describe one's health:
Sto bene. I am fine. Sono bene.
Sto malissimo! I'm feeling really bad! Sono malissimo!
BUT: Sono stanco, sono ansioso, sono malato, sono depresso, sono felice...
Tired, anxious, ill, depressed and happy are adjectives that describe one's mood or "state of being", and for these we use essere as you also do in English.

A few cases are totally irregular:
I am thirsty. I am hungry.
Ho sete. Ho fame.
Or, less commonly used: Sono assetato. Sono affamato.
Assetato and affamato are states of being, as for the other examples I mentioned above.

Essere is used as a synonym for "soggiornare" in sentences like:
Sono in hotel. I'm in a hotel. (imagine that a friend asked you where you're staying during the holidays)
Soggiornare hints at a long period of time. You'll live in this hotel for a while.

Stare can also be used, but it has a different nuance of meaning:
Sto in hotel. I'm in the hotel. (imagine that the same friend asked you where you are at the moment)
You are in the hotel now, but maybe you'll leave shortly. You can, however, also use Sono in hotel: they are both accepted!

Sometimes stare is used as a synonym of rimanere (to remain). Consider these examples:
Sono a casa.
Sto a casa.
The first means "I am at home", plain and simple. The second one, however, could be an answer to a question or an invitation to go out.
- Vieni alla festa stasera? Will you come to the party tonight?
No, sto a casa. No, I'll remain / stay at home.

Stare is used to describe actions that are just about to happen. In this case, the construction "stare per" is used:
Sto per andare a fare la spesa. Ti serve qualcosa?
I am about to go shopping. Do you need anything?
Sono per andare a fare la spesa. Essere cannot be used here.

Here are a few other examples:
Sto zitto. I am silent. (I remain silent)
Sto/sono immobile. I remain motionless.
Sta' fermo! Hold still! (Remain still!) Sta' is the contraction of stai, which is both a present form (you are/stay) and an imperative form.
BUT: Sono fermo. Sto fermo. Both of these are acceptable. The difference between the two is that stare emphasizes the action of keeping still. It's a very subtle difference, you could use them as synonyms.

You also use stare for pointing at the usual location of an object.
Le penne stanno nel portapenne. The pens are in the pen holder.
When you point at an unusual location for those pens, essere is the way to go:
Dove sono le penne? Le penne sono sul divano. Where are the pens? The pens are on the sofa.

Oh, and let's not forget the gerund!
Sto camminando. I am walking. Sono camminando.
Essere is banned here!

As you can see, their use, if we exclude a few cases, is very (and I mean very) erratic. The best way to use them naturally is to keep reading, listening to natives and exercising a lot.

I'm afraid I wrote a poem, but this topic is huge! I hope I helped!


Molto disponibile! Grazie per aiutarci!

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Grazie per aiutarci il tuo aiuto!

Prego! :)


Complicated, but I guess you pick it up from listening to Italians!


Wow. This is an awesome post. I've just learned way more than I thought. I especially like the examples given between when each, sto and sono are used. The difference between "health" and "state of being" really helps, AND now understanding the difference between the two when referring to hotel stays. Where I am currently vs. where I'm staying for the duration.

Benissimo! Grazie!

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