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

Learn how to use "c'è" and "ci sono"

View of Rome, Italy at sunset
View of Rome, Italy at sunset. silviomedeiros / Getty Images

If you stop and listen to yourself speak English, you’ll notice that you repeat the same kind of structures again and again. Most notably, you’ll hear a lot of “there is” and “there are” when starting sentences. Since it is such a frequently used structure, it’s one that’s essential to know in Italian.

So how do you say “there is” and “there are” in Italian?

Below you’ll find the translations for both phrases along with examples to help you understand how to use it in everyday conversation.

Let’s Discuss the Present

  • C’è (from ci è) = There is

  • Ci sono = There are

Here are some examples of these phrases being used in the present tense.

Esempi (c’è):

  • Non c’è fretta. - There is no hurry.

  • C’è un bell’uomo là che ti aspetta. - There is a handsome man waiting for you there.

  • Scusi, c’è Silvia? - Excuse me, is Silvia there?

  • C’è una parola difficile in questa frase. - There's a difficult word in this sentence.

  • C’è qualcosa che non va. - There is something not right (in this situation).

  • C’è una gelateria qui in zona che è buonissima. - There is an ice cream shop in this neighborhood that is so delicious.

  • C’è una ragazza qua che non mi piace per niente. - There is a girl who I don’t like at all.

It’s likely that you’ve heard the popular expression “che c’è?”, which is the Italian equivalent of “what’s up?”. Literally, it can be translated as “what is there?”.

  • You: Che c’è tesoro? - What’s up honey?

  • Friend: Niente, perchè? - Nothing, why are you asking me?

  • You: Ti vedo un pò triste. - You look a bit sad.

Esempi (ci sono):

  • Ci sono molti italiani a New York. - There are many Italians in New York.

  • Ci sono troppi gusti buonissimi, quindi non posso scegliere! - There are too many good flavors, so I can’t choose!

  • Non ci sono molti ristoranti cinesi qua. - There are not many Chinese restaurants here.

  • Uah! Ci sono tanti libri italiani in questa biblioteca. Sono al settimo cielo! - Wow! There are so many Italians book in this library. I’m in seventh heaven!

  • 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; there is, there are), which is used when you point at or draw attention to something or someone (singular or plural).

  • Eccoci! - Here we are!

  • Eccoti i documenti che avevi richiesto. - Here are the documents you requested.

What About the Past?

If you want to say “there was” or “there were”, you’re most likely going to need to use either the passato prossimo tense or l’imperfetto. Knowing which one to choose is a topic for a different day (and one that makes Italian language students want to pull their hair out), so instead we’ll just focus on what these phrases would look like in both forms.

Esempi: Il passato prossimo (c’è stato/a)

  • C’è stata molta confusione. - There was a lot of confusion/chaos.

  • C’è stato un grande concerto allo stadio. - There was a great concert at the stadium.

  • Ci sono stati molti esempi produttivi. - There were lots of good examples.

Notice here that the ending of “stato” has to agree with the subject of the sentence, so if “parola” is feminine and it’s the subject, then “stato” has to end in an “a”.

Esempi: Il passato prossimo (ci sono stati/e)

  • Ci sono state troppe guste buonissime, quindi non potevo scegliere! - There were too many good flavors, so I couldn’t choose!

  • Ci sono stati tanti libri italiani in quella biblioteca. Sono stato/a al settimo cielo! - There were so many Italians book in that library. I was in seventh heaven!

  • Quando ho studiato l’italiano, non ci sono state molte scuole per imparare la lingua. - When I studied Italian, there were not many schools for learning the language.

Notice here that the ending of “stato” has to agree with the subject of the sentence, so if “libri” is masculine and it’s the subject, then “stato” has to end in “i”.

Esempi: l’imperfetto (c'era)

  • Quel giorno, non c’era fretta. - That day, there was no hurry.

  • Quando ero piccola qui c’era una gelateria buonissima. - When I was a little girl, there was a delicious ice cream shop in this neighborhood.

  • Intorno a noi, c’era un bel panorama della campagna di Orvieto. - Around us, there was a beautiful view of the countryside of Orvieto.

Esempi: l’imperfetto (c'erano)

  • Da bambino, non c’erano molti ristoranti cinesi qua. - When I was a little boy, there weren’t many Chinese restaurants here.

  • Un giorno facevo una passeggiata e ho visto che c’erano molti cani randagi. - One day I was taking a walk I saw that there were a lot of stray dogs.

  • C’erano un paio di studenti che hanno imparato più velocemente rispetto agli altri. - There were a couple of students that learned faster than the other students.

Other forms you may see are:

Il congiuntivo presente (the present subjunctive) - ci sia and ci siano

  • Spero che ci sia bel tempo. - I hope it’s going to be sunny.

Il congiuntivo imperfetto (the imperfect subjunctive) - ci fosse and ci fossero

Dubito che ci siano molte persone al teatro. - I doubt there will be lots of people at the theater.