The Italian Gerund Mode – Il Modo Gerundio

The Gerund is an indefinite mode used to express an idea of contemporaneity between two actions, or a process seen in relation with a second one.

The Present Gerund – Il Gerundio Presente

The Present Gerund it is formed by taking off the ending of the verb and replacing it with -ANDO for -ARE verbs, or -ENDO for -ERE or -IRE verbs:

AMARE → AMANDO

CRESCERE → CRESCENDO

SENTIRE → SENTENDO

  • Amando Dario, mi sono sentita finalmente felice (= mentre amavo) / Loving Dario, I finally felt happy.
  • Crescendo, ho imparato ad ascoltare di più gli altri (= mentre crescevo) / Growing up, I learned to listen more to others.
  • Si addormentò, sentendo il rumore della pioggia (= mentre sentiva) / He fell asleep, hearing the sound of the rain.

There are some irregular verbs which use their first person singular in the Present Indicative to form the Gerund:

BERE (to drink) → BEVO → BEVENDO

FARE (to make/do) → FACCIO → FACENDO

DIRE (to say) → DICO → DICENDO

  • Mentre stavamo bevendo un aperitivo, abbiamo visto Luca / While we were drinking an aperitivo, we saw Luca
  • Stavo facendo l’esercizio e non ho capito cosa mi stavi dicendo / I was doing the exercise and I didn’t understand what you were saying to me.

The Past Gerund – Il Gerundio Passato

The Past Gerund it is formed by “ESSERE” or “AVERE” at the Present Gerund + Past Participle of the verb:

AMARE AVENDO AMATO

CRESCERE ESSENDO CRESCIUTO

SENTIRE AVENDO SENTITO

  • Avendo amato molti uomini, veniva giudicata negativamente / Having loved many men, she was judged negatively
  • Essendo cresciuto in città, non aveva mai visto una mucca! / Having grown up in the city, he had never seen a cow!
  • Avendo sentito dell’incidente, corse in ospedale / Having heard of the accident, he ran to the hospital

The Present Progressive – Il Presente Progressivo

The Present Progressive is used to talk about an action happening at the same time we are speaking, like the English Present Continuous.

It is formed with the present tense of the verb “STARE” +  GERUND.

STARE GERUNDIO
Io sto
Tu stai mangiando (-are)
Lui/lei/Lei sta leggendo (-ere)
Noi stiamo partendo (-ire)
Voi state
Loro stanno
  • Dov’è Lucia? Sta bevendo un aperitivo con Marta / Where’s Lucia? She’s drinking an aperitif with Marta
  • Cosa stai dicendo? Non riesco a sentirti, la musica è troppo alta / What are you saying? I can’t hear you, the music is too loud.
  • Sbrigati! L’autobus sta partendo / Hurry up! The bus is leaving

 

Other use of the verb “STARE”:

“STARE PER”+ Infinitive expresses an action which is about to happen, or the English equivalent “to be about to”:

  • La lezione sta per finire, mancano solo 5 minuti / The lesson is about to finish, there are only 5 minutes left
  • Prendi l’ombrello, sta per piovereBring the umbrella, it’s about to rain
  • Se vuoi parlare con Paolo chiamalo subito, sta per uscireIf you want to talk to Paolo call him now, he’s about to go out.

The Imperfect Progressive – L’Imperfetto Progressivo

The Imperfect Progressive tense is used to express actions that were in progress at some point in the past.
It is formed with “STARE” in Imperfect tense + GERUND.

STARE GERUNDIO
Io stavo
Tu stavi mangiando (-are)
Lui/lei/Lei stava leggendo (-ere)
Noi stavamo partendo (-ire)
Voi stavate
Loro stavano

Be careful: the Imperfect Progressive is not used to express habitual actions in the past, as these can only be expressed by the Imperfect Indicative:

  • Quando ero piccola mi piaceva il gelato / When I was younger I liked ice cream
  • Quando vivevo a Rimini mi alzavo tardi e poi andavo al mare / When I lived in Rimini I got up late and then went to the sea
  • Nel 2008 andavo in palestra tutti i pomeriggi / In 2008 I went to the gym every afternoon

 

 We can use the Imperfect Indicative or the Imperfect Progressive form with the same meaning when we want to express an action in progress in the past:

  • Mentre Francesca stava mangiando/mangiava  la pizza, Luca stava ascoltando/ascoltava la musica
    While Francesca was eating/ate the pizza, Luca was listening/listened to music
  • Mentre Carlo stava leggendo/leggeva, Marta e Luisa stavano chiacchierando/ chiacchieravano
    While Carlo was reading/read, Marta and Luisa were chatting/chatted.
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