Italian Gerund: A Simple Guide

In Italian, the gerundio can be used in two ways. It can be used on its own or in combination with the verb stare. The gerundio is formed by combining the stems of infinitive verbs with the endings –ando (for “are” verbs) and –endo (for “ere” and “ire” verbs). The gerund is a mostly regular verb, with only four irregular forms (see below).

Regular forms 

  • Amare → amando 
  • Avere → avendo
  • Finire → finendo

Irregular Forms 

  • Dire → dicendo
  • Fare → facendo
  • Bere → bevendo
  • Essere -→ essendo

The progressive forms of the gerund 

The gerund with the verb stare is used to make the continuous tenses, of which there are two. The present and past continuous

1. Present Continuous

The present continuous describes an action that happens at the time of speaking, and it’s expressed with the present tense of the verb stare + gerund verb.

Sto andando al lavoroI am going to work (implied: right now)
Sto parlando con MariaI am speaking with Maria (implied: right now)

2. Past Continuous 

The past continuous describes ongoing actions that were happening in the past at a specific point or duration of time. It stresses the continuity of the action. It’s expressed with the imperfect tense of the verb stare + gerund verb.

Stavo andando al lavoroI was going to work
Stavo parlando con MariaI was speaking with Maria

Gerund without “stare”

While you may be more familiar with the use of the gerundio in combination with the verb ‘stare,’ it’s important to note that the Italian gerundio can also be used independently, conveying different meanings. When used on its own, the gerundio is generally employed to explain the reasons or manner in which something happens or happened, similar to the English construction ‘by + ing form’.”

Examples:

Studiando molto, è riuscita ad entrare in quell’universitàBecause I studied a lot, she was able to get into that school.
Non avendo molto tempo, prenderò un taxi per l’aeroportoBecause I don’t have a lot of time, I will take a taxi to the airport.
Correndo ogni giorno, ho perso 3 kg in un meseBecause I run every day, I lost 3 kg in a month.
Vivendo in Italia per due mesi, ho migliorato la mia pronunciaBy living in Italy for two months, I improved my Italian pronunciation.
Mastering the Gerund in Italian: Three Key Insights You Need to Know
  1. The gerund never changes its form or agrees with the gender of the subject of the sentence.
  2. The gerund does not always translate the -ing form in English to Italian.
  3. The gerund has no subject. The subject is made explicit by the other actions in the sentences. For example: studiando, ho imparato (io) / studiando, abbiamo imparato (noi) / studiando, hanno imparato (loro).

Gerund in English vs. the Gerund in Italian

Even though the Italian gerund shares similarities with the English gerund, there are some significant differences between them.

  1. In English, the -ing form can follow another verb, like in: he started playing. In Italian, it can’t be. You should use a construction with a preposition and the infinitive in Italian, like in: lui ha iniziato a giocare (he started to play).
  2. In English, the -ing form is often used as a noun, like in: eating healthy is important. In Italian, you can’t use the gerund as a noun. Instead, you should you the infinitive: mangiare sano è importante (to eat healthily, is important) 

Compound Gerund  (or Past Gerund)

“In Italian, there exists a past gerund or compound gerund called ‘il gerundio composto.’ The Italian compound gerund is formed by combining the present gerund of the auxiliary verbs ‘avere’ (avendo) and ‘essere’ (essendo) with the past participle.

EssereEssendo andato/a
CredereAvendo creduto
DormireAvendo dormito

The past gerund is used when the described action happened in the past.

Avendo mangiato troppo ieri sera, ha deciso di saltare il pranzo oggiSince I ate too much last night, he decided to skip lunch today.
Avendo viaggiato per molti anni in Brasile, adesso parla perfettamente portogheseBecause of traveling for many years in Brazil, she speaks perfect Portuguese today.

Other Uses of the Gerund Form in Italian

Gerund with ‘pur’

When the gerund present (e.g. andando) or past (essendo andando) is used with the conjugation pur (e.g. pur avendo, pur essendo, pur mangiando), it means “even though

Pur facendo una dieta ferrea, non riesco a dimagrireEven though I am eating a strict diet, I can’t lose weight.
Pur avendo studiato ogni giorno, non ho passato l’esameEven though I studied every single day, I failed the exam.

Gerund in an ‘if clause’

Sometimes the gerund can be used to replace the “if clause” in Italian. It’s not very common, but it’s one of the many options for using the Italian gerundio

Studiando, supererei l’esameIf you study, you will pass the exam.

Gerund with ‘andare’

There is another pattern where the gerund is used with the verb “andare”, for example:

Il tasso di nascita in Italia va diminuendoThe Italian birth rate is progressively decreasing.

This structure expresses the progressive development of an action.

Gerund and Pronouns

In the present continuous form, pronouns can be placed before the verb or attached at the end of the verb. The first construction is more commonly used and sounds more natural.

  • Mi sto lavando i denti – I am brushing my teeth 

When the gerund is used alone, the pronoun is attached to the end of the verb.

  • Guardandomi allo specchio, mi sono resa conto di avere qualche capello bianco – While looking at myself in the mirror, I realized that I have a few gray hairs.

Exercices 

Use it or lose it. Here are some links to practice your gerund with exercises.

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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