Easy Learning Italian

The gerund - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

What is a gerund?
In English the gerund is a verb form ending in –ing which is used to make continuous tenses, for example, What are you doing? It can also be used as a noun or an adjective, for example, I love swimming; a skating rink.

1  Using the gerund

  • In Italian the gerund is a verb form ending in –ando or –endo. It is used to make continuous tenses.
Sto lavorando.I’m working.
Cosa stai facendo?What are you doing?
  • The gerund follows the present tense of stare to make the present continuous.
Sto scrivendo una lettera.I’m writing a letter.
Stai cercando lavoro?Are you looking for a job?
  • The gerund follows the imperfect tense of stare to make the past continuous.
Il bambino stava piangendo.The little boy was crying.
Stavo lavando i piatti.I was washing the dishes.
  • Note that the Italian past participle is sometimes used where the gerund is used in English: essere disteso means to be lying; essere seduto means to be sitting and essere appoggiato means to be leaning.
Era disteso sul divano.He was lying on the sofa.
Era seduta accanto a me.She was sitting next to me.
La scala era appoggiata al muro.The ladder was leaning against the wall.
  • The gerund can be used by itself:
  • to say when something happened
Entrando ho sentito odore di pesce.When I came in I could smell fish.
Ripensandoci, credo che non fosse colpa sua. Thinking about it, I don’t reckon it was his fault.
  • to say why something happened
Sentendomi male sono andato a letto.Because I felt ill I went to bed.
Vedendolo solo, è venuta a parlargli.Seeing that he was on his own she came to speak to him.
  • to say in what circumstances something could happen
Volendo, potremmo comprarne un altro. If we wanted to, we could buy another one.
TipThe gerund never changes its form to agree with the subject of the sentence.

2  How to make the gerund

  • To make the gerund of –are verbs, take off the –are ending of the infinitive to get the stem, and add –ando.
InfinitiveStemGerundMeaning
lavorarelavor-lavorandoworking
andareand-andandogoing
dared-dandogiving
starest-standobeing
  • Note that the only –are verb that does not follow this rule is fare, and verbs made of fare with a prefix, such as rifare (meaning to do again) and disfare (meaning to undo). The gerund of fare is facendo.
  • To make the gerund of –ere and –ire verbs, take off the –ere or –ire ending of the infinitive to get the stem, and add –endo.
InfinitiveStemGerundMeaning
crederecred-credendobelieving
essereess-essendobeing
doveredov-dovendohaving to
finirefin-finendofinishing
dormiredorm-dormendosleeping
  • Note that the only –ire verb that does not follow this rule is dire (and verbs made of dire with a prefix, such as disdire (meaning to cancel) and contraddire (meaning to contradict). The gerund of dire is dicendo.

3  When not to use the gerund

  • In English the –ing form can follow other verbs, for example, She started crying;
    He insisted on paying; They continued working
    .
  • In Italian the gerund is not used in this way. A construction with a preposition and the infinitive is used instead.
Ha cominciato a ridere.She started laughing.
Hai finito di mangiare?Have you finished eating?
  • In English we often use –ing forms as nouns, for example, driving, skating, cleaning.
  • In Italian you cannot use the –ando and –endo forms like this. When talking about activities and interests you use nouns, such as il giardinaggio (meaning gardening), la pulizia (meaning cleaning) and il fumo (meaning smoking).
A mia madre piace molto il giardinaggio.My mother loves gardening.
Facciamo un po’ di pulizia.Let’s do a bit of cleaning.
Il fumo fa male.Smoking is bad for you.
  • In English you can put an -ing noun in front of another noun, for example, skating rink.
  • In Italian you can never put one noun in front of another noun .
  • Often you link two words together with a preposition:
calzoncini da bagnoswimming trunks
una borsa per la spesaa shopping bag
un istruttore di guidaa driving instructor
  • Sometimes there is one word in Italian for two English words:
la patentethe driving licence
una piscinaa swimming pool
TipWhen you want to translate this kind of English two-word combination it’s a good idea to look it up in a dictionary.

4  Where to put pronouns used with the gerund

  • Pronouns are usually joined onto the end of the gerund.
Vedendoli è scoppiata in lacrime.When she saw them she burst into tears.
Ascoltandolo mi sono addormentato. Listening to him, I fell asleep.
Incontrandosi per caso sono andati al bar.Meeting each other by chance, they went to a café.
  • When the gerund is part of a continuous tense the pronoun can either come before stare or be joined onto the gerund.
Ti sto parlando ORI’m talking to you.
Sto parlandoti.
Si sta vestendo ORHe’s getting dressed.
Sta vestendosi.
Me lo stavano mostrando ORThey were showing me it.
Stavano mostrandomelo.
Key points
  • Use the gerund in continuous tenses with stare, and by itself to say when or why something happened.
  • -ing forms in English are not always translated by the gerund.

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