Subject pronouns and the verb to be
These are the subject pronouns in Italian:
io (I) noi (we)
tu (you, singular) voi ( you, plural)
lui, lei, Lei (he, she, You formal) loro (they)
Consider the conjugation of the verb essere. The subject pronouns are usually optional because the verb endings indicate who is doing the action:
(io) sono (noi) siamo
(tu) sei (voi) siete
(lui, lei, Lei) è (loro) sono
- Lucia è italiana.
- Noi non siamo di Torino.
In Italian, everything – people, animals, objects, places, concepts – is marked grammatically by gender as either feminine or masculine. And adjectives must agree in gender with the things they describe. These grammatical constructs impact the ways Italians talk about gender identities, and make linguistic non-binary solutions more difficult to achieve than in English. Some examples:
- There is no equivalent to the non-binary use of they/them/their that we now have in English. At present, there are no non-binary pronouns in common usage in Italian.
- Some people choose to write * or @ to avoid indicating a binary gender. For example: bell* instead of the masculine singular bello or the feminine singular bella. However, at present this idea has seen very limited usage. A major shortcoming of this solution is that it only works for written language, since there is no way to pronounce a * or a @.
Languages are ever evolving. Until Italian speakers develop workable linguistic options for non-binary identities, each speaker chooses a grammatical gender for themselves: masculine or feminine.
Italians use the verb stare, not essere, to talk about how they are doing. Consider the examples:
- Come stai? – Bene, grazie. [How are you? – Fine, thanks.]
- Come sta, Signora Bellino? – Non molto bene. [How are you, Mrs. Bellino? – Not too well.]
(io) sto (noi) stiamo
(tu) stai (voi) state
(lui, lei, Lei) sta (loro) stanno