The present continuous tense

Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:03

Words by Pat Eggleton

We have seen that the present simple tense in Italian can mean both ”I do” and “I am doing”. But there is also a present continuous or progressive form, equivalent to English “I am ….ing”:

To form this tense you use:

the present tense of stare [not essere]



the present participle, sometimes called the gerund. Grammaticians argue about the term “gerund” so we will call it the present participle. You form it like this:

- are verbs
camminare –-> camminando

- ere verbs
vendere –-> vendendo

- ire verbs
finire –-> finendo

There are some irregular forms:

fare [to do / make] - facendo
dire [to say] – dicendo
bere [to drink] - bevendo

The present participle does not agree [ie., there are no feminine or plural forms].

We use this tense to express what someone is in the process of doing at this moment:

Cosa stai facendo? - What are you doing?
Sto lavorando – I'm working
Sta dormendo – He is sleeping
Stiamo finendo ora ! - We're finishing now!

Note that we cannot use this tense to express the future in the way that we use the present continuous in English. [“ I'm holidaying in France next year.”]

This tense is used less than the present continuous in English and if you are in doubt, we advise you to use the present simple tense. But you will hear people use this form.

Now you try: Put the verbs in brackets into the present participle form:

Maria sta [scrivere] ____________ una lettera.
Stiamo [guardare] ____________ il telegiornale.
Sto [aspettare] ____________ il treno.
Cosa stai [leggere] ____________?
I ragazzi stanno [partire] ____________ ora.

Now put the correct form of the present tense of stare in the gaps:

Giovanni ______ mangiando.
Io ____ finendo il lavoro.
I bambini ______ dormendo.
Cosa _______ facendo, ragazzi?
Dove _____ andando, Maria? [tu form]