The Italian Gerund Form Explained
There are two ways to use the gerundio in Italian. It can be used by itself or in combination with the verb “stare.” In the letter, it expresses the continuous tenses.
The gerund is made by the combination of the stems of the infinite verbs and the endings –ando (for the – are verbs) and -endo (for the -ere and -ire verbs).
The gerund is a pretty regular tense. There are only a few irregular conjugations in the gerund.
- Dire → dicendo
- Fare → facendo
- Bere → bevendo
The Gerund WITH “stare”
The gerund with the verb stare is used to make the continuous tenses, of which there are two. The present and past continuous.
The 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 lavoro – I am going to work
- Sto parlando con Maria – I am speaking with Maria
The Past Continuous
The past continuous describes an action that happened at the time of speaking, and it is expressed with the imperfect tense of the verb stare + gerund verb.
- Stavo andando al lavoro – I was going to work
- Stavo parlando con Maria – I was speaking with Maria
The Gerund WITHOUT “stare”
Even though you might be more familiar with the use of the gerund with stare, the Italian gerundio can also be used by itself with different meanings. Generally, it is used to say WHY and HOW something happens or happened.
- Studiando molto, è riuscita ad entrare in quell’università – Because I studied a lot, she was able to get into that school
- Non avendo molto tempo, prenderò un taxi per l’aeroporto – Because 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 mese – Because I run every day, I lost 3 kg in a month
- Vivendo in Italia per due mesi, ho migliorato la mia pronuncia – By living in Italian for two months, I improved my Italian pronunciation
- The gerund never changes its form or agrees with the gender of the subject of the sentence.
- The gerund does not always translate the -ing form in English to Italian.
- 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) / studiano, hanno imparato (loro)
The Compound Gerund
In Italian, there is a past gerund or compound gerund (il gerundio composto). The Italian compound gerund is formed with the present gerund of the auxiliaries avere (avendo), essere (essendo), and the past participle.
The past gerund is used when the described action happened in the past.
- Avendo mangiato troppo ieri sera, ha deciso di saltare il pranzo oggi – Since I ate too much last night, he decided to skip the lunch today
- Avendo viaggiato per molti anni in Brasile, adesso parla perfettamente portoghese – Because of travelling for many years in Brazil, she speaks a perfect Portuguese today
Other uses of the gerund form in Italian
THE GERUND WITH “PUR”
When the gerund present or past is used with the conjugation pur (pur avendo, pur essendo, pur mangiando), it means “even though“
- Pur facendo un dieta ferrea, non riesco a dimagrire – Even though I am eating a strict diet, I can’t lose weight
- Pur avendo studiato ogni giorno, non ho passato l’esame – Even though I studied every single day, I failed the exam
THE GERUND IN THE “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, superarai l’esame = se studierai, supererai l’esame – If you study, you will pass the exam.
THE GERUND WITH “ANDARE”
There is another structure where the gerund is used with the verb andare, for example
- Il numero di casi di Covid-19 va diminuendo – The number of Covid-19 cased is progressively decreasing
- Il tasso di nascita in Italia va aumentando – The Italian birth rate is progressively increasing
This structure expresses the progressive development of an action.
The 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.
- 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).
- 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)
The gerund and the pronouns
In the present continuous form, the pronouns can be placed before the verb or joined at the verb’s end. The first construction is more common and 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 I have some white hair
Use it or lose it. Here are some links to practice your gerund with exercises
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