Present Tense

Presente in Italian

Couple getting coffee
 Thomas Barwick/Getty Images 

The Italian present tense (presente) is happening right now. It's a simple tense—that is, the verb form consists of one word only. The present tense of a regular Italian verb is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the appropriate endings to the resulting stem.

The present tense is used extensively in Italian and can be translated into English in several ways, depending on the intended meaning.

  • The present tense is used to state a fact that is always true.

L'acqua bolle a 100 gradi.
Water boils at 100 degress (centrigrade)

  • The present tense is used to express an ongoing action in the present.

Il signor Rossi lavora a casa oggi.
Mr. Rossi is working at home today.

  • The present tense is used to express a habitual (regular, repeated) action in the present.

Prendi un caffè ogni giorno?
Do you have a cup of coffee every day?
Vanno sempre in discoteca il sabato.
They always go dancing on Saturday.

  • The present tense is often used to express what will happen in the future. If another element in the sentence refers to the future, the present tense can be used.

Torni a casa domani?
"Will you go back home tomorrow?"
—No, sto qui fino a venerdì.
No, I will stay here until Friday.

  • The presents tense is used to express an action that begins in the past and continues in the present. This corresponds to the English construction has/have been ___ing.

    —Da quando Lei lavora qui?
    "How long have you been working here?"
    Lavoro qui da tre anni.
    "I have been working here for three years."
    —Da quanto tempo sei malato?
    "How long have you been sick?"
    Sono malato da tre giorni.
    "I've been sick for three days."

    • The present tense is used to express a past action, usually for dramatic effect; this is called the historic, or narrative, present.

      Cristoforo Colombo attraverso l'Oceano Atlantico nel 1492.
      Christopher Columbus crosses the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
      L'Italia diventa una nazione nel 1861. Dieci anni dopo Roma diventa la capitale del nuovo paese.
      Italy becomes a nation in 1861. Ten years later Rome becomes the capital of the new country.

      • Italian often uses the present tense of stare plus a gerund to express the equivalent of the present progressive, or present continuous, tense in English. This construction emphasizes the ongoing nature of the action.

      Pina sta leggendo il giornale.
      Pina is reading the newspaper.

      Andare is used instead of stare to indicate a gradual increase or decrease. While the use of stare + gerund is restricted to the present and imperfect (and sometimes future) tenses, andare can be used in all tenses.

      La qualità del prodotto andò migliorando di anno in anno.
      Product quality got better every year.