How to Say 'There Is' and 'There Are' in Italian

Learn how to use 'c'è' and 'ci sono'

Businessman in overcoat next to river, smiling
C’è un bell’uomo là che ti aspetta. - There is a handsome man waiting for you there.

Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

There are, in Italian, a great many things that work differently from English. You should take solace, then, in the rare cases of identicalness, such as "there is" and "there are," translated to c'è and ci sono, used in exactly the same manner and with the same frequency as they are in English.

Why c'è and ci sono? Very simply, because the pronoun ci means "there." The rest you know from conjugating the verb essere.

C'è in the Present

Here are some examples of how c'è is used in the present:

  • Non c’è fretta. There is no hurry.
  • Non c'è problema. No problem.
  • Non c'è bisogno. There is no need.
  • C’è un bell’uomo che ti aspetta. There is a handsome man waiting for you.
  • Scusi, c’è Silvia? No, non c'è. Excuse me, is Silvia there? No, she's not.
  • Non c'è il professore oggi. The professor is not here today.
  • C’è una parola difficile in questa frase. There's a difficult word in this sentence.
  • Non c'è nessuno in piazza. There is no one in the piazza.
  • C’è qualcosa che non va. There is something not right (in this situation).
  • C’è una gelateria in zona? Sì, ce n'è una buonissima dietro l'angolo. Is there is an ice cream shop in this neighborhood? Yes, there is a great one around the corner.
  • C’è una ragazza che non mi piace per niente. There is a girl I don’t like at all.

And, of course, you have heard the ubiquitous Italian expression, Che c’è? which translates to the English, "What's going on?" or, "What's wrong?" It is most often used when you perceive something being the matter.

  • Che c'è, Flavia? Ti vedo un po' triste. What's wrong, Flavia? You look a bit sad.

Ci Sono in the Present

  • Non ci sono problemi. No problem.
  • Ci sono molti italiani a New York. There are many Italians in New York.
  • Ci sono Carla e Franco? Sì, ci sono. Are Carla and Franco there? Yes, they are.
  • Ci sono dei gatti sulla scala. There are some cats on the stairwell.
  • Non ci sono professori a scuola oggi. There are no teachers at school today.
  • Non ci sono molti ristoranti cinesi qua. There are not many Chinese restaurants here.
  • Ci sono tanti libri italiani in questa biblioteca. There are many Italian books in this library.
  • Sul tavolo ci sono due bottiglie di vino che ho comprato ieri sera. On the table there are two bottles of wine that I bought last night.

C’è and ci sono should not be confused with ecco (here is, here are), which is used when you see, unveil, find, or deliver something or someone.

  • Ecco la Giovanna! Here is Giovanna!
  • Ecco la torta! Here is the cake!
  • Eccoci! Here we are!
  • Eccoti i documenti che avevi richiesto. Here are the documents you requested.

C'era and C'erano: Other Tenses

If you want to say "there were," or "there would have been," or "there would be," you follow the conjugation of the verb essere as you know it, still paying attention to whether the subject is singular or plural. In a compound tense, since this is with essere, your participio passato is going to adjust to the gender and number of your subject:

  • Ci sono stati molti turisti qui recentemente. There were many tourists here recently.

Of course, remember your rules for using the congiuntivo presente  or the congiuntivo imperfetto, or whatever tense you are working with.

Here are some examples in various tenses:

Imperfetto Indicativo:

Non c'era nessuno. There was no one there.

Non c'era bisogno. There was no need.

A quel tempo c'erano molti italiani a New York. At that time there were many Italians in New York.

C'era la neve per terra quando arrivammo. There was snow on the ground when we arrived.

Passato Prossimo Indicativo:

Allo stadio ci sono stati molti ottimi concerti. At the stadium there have been many excellent concerts.

Ci sono state molte difficoltà nel suo percorso. There have been many difficulties in her path.

C'è stato un terremoto. There has been an earthquake.

C'è stata una rapina. There was a robbery.

Futuro:

Dopo mezzanotte al bar non ci sarà più nessuno. There will be no one at the bar after midnight.

Non ci saranno difficoltà. There will be no difficulties.

Congiuntivo:

Dubito che ci sia molta gente al teatro. I doubt there will be many people at the theater.

Penso che ci sia stato bel tempo tutta l'estate. I think there has been good weather all summer.

Non credo che ci siano stati problemi. I don't think there have been any problems.

Avevo dubitato che ci fosse tanta gente al teatro. I had doubted there would be so many people at the theater.

Condizionale:

Non ci sarebbero dei gatti sulle scale se non ci fossero i topi. There would be no cats on the stairs if there were no mice.

Non ci sarebbero stati problemi se tu fossi venuto con noi. There would have been no problems had you come with us.