The Italian Gerundio – Basic Review and Quiz

Gerundio is an Italian “indefinite” mood

This is a very basic post about the Italian Gerund. If your level is intermediate to advanced, you may want to have a look at this post in Italian.

Also, today we are NOT going through the progressive use of the gerundio (to be doing something or stare + gerundio) which is a particular structure of the Italian gerund.

Ok, we can start.

The gerundio has two tenses: semplice (simple) and composto (compound).

Gerundio Semplice (Presente)


The Gerundio semplice is a simple tense, without conjugations, it does not change and can be applied to all the personal pronouns expressed by the main clause. There is a relevant difference between the English gerund and the Italian gerundio, so be careful.

Gerundio, together with Infinito and Participio, is a mood, a form of a verb that we use for building a so called “frase subordinata implicita”:

Subordinata: the gerundio is always in a dependent clause, near to a main clause. It can’t live by itself, it does not make complete sense when used alone;  

Implicita: the Italian gerundio has no conjugations, no subject. It just refers to the situation and subject described in the main clause.

The most common use of the gerundio is defined as temporale, describing simultaneous or consecutive events.

  • Mangio guardando la televisione.
  • Mangerete guardando la televisione.
  • Mangiavamo guardando la televisione.

The gerundio acts together with the main clause. It can be set in the present, in the future or in the past and it takes the subject of the main clause. The Gerundio Semplice is often called Gerundio Presente, but this label can be misleading, since the gerundio just refers to the main clause. It’s not a present tense.

The gerundio semplice helps to extend the meaning of a stronger independent sentence (main clause) following four distinct functions (five including the above mentioned gerundio temporale):

1. Gerundio modale: it desctibes HOW something is achieved in the main clause. For example:

  • Luigi studia l’inglese guardando i film in tivù.
  • Stefano legge un libro mettendo gli occhiali.
  • Carla ha percorso dieci chilometri camminando.

2. Gerundio causale describes WHY, the cause of an action happening in the main clause. For example:

  • Avendo pochi soldi non ho comprato casa.
  • Essendo allergico ai funghi Sergio non ha mangiato il risotto.
  • Non amando il teatro, ho regalato i miei biglietti a Giovanna.

3. Gerundio ipotetico: it represents something that could happen and satisfy the result expressed by the main clause. For example:

  • Rinunciando alle vacanze potrei risparmiare dei soldi.
  • Arriveresti in ritardo perdendo questo treno.
  • Mangiando meno pane perderai peso.

4. Gerundio concessivo: it says despite what circumstances we have obtain the opposite result expressed in the main clause. For example:

  • Pur mangiando poco, Clara non dimagrisce.
  • Pur lavorando molto non riesco a risparmiare.
  • Pur essendo brutta, Giada piace a tanti uomini

Please note that pur or pure in this case means “despite, although, even though…”.

Gerundio Composto (Passato)


The Gerundio composto is a compound tense, with the gerundio of essere or avere = essendo or avendo and the participio passato (…ato, …uto, …ito) of a verb.

The gerundio composto describes pre-existing conditions when the main clause takes place. For example:

  • Avendo finito di mangiare, ho già cominciato a lavare i piatti.
  • Essendo tornato prima dal lavoro, andrò al supermercato.

This is the main use of the gerundio composto, defined asd Temporale. In both cases, the gerundio exists before the event described in the main clause.

As it happens with the gerundio semplice, we can define other four functions of gerundio composto. It’s worth having a second look.

1. Gerundio Modale

  • Luigi ha imparato l’inglese  avendo guardato dei film in tivù.
  • Stefano ha finito di leggere il libro  avendo indossato sempre gli occhiali.
  • Carla è arrivata fin qui avendo camminato.

In the modale type, the same concept can often be achieved using the gerundio semplice.

2. Gerundio Causale

  • Avendo avuto pochi soldi non ho comprato casa.
  • Essendo stato malato non ho potuto studiare.
  • Non avendo capito le tue istruzioni, non ho lavorato bene.

In this case, the cause is clearly set before the consequence.

3. Gerundio Ipotetico

  • Avendo letto i giornali avrei conosciuto le notizie di ieri.
  • Avendo incontrato Luigi avrei potuto parlargli.
  • Avendo ascoltato quella canzone ti avrei detto se mi piace o no.

This is a good substitute of the congiuntivo. Very handy.

4. Gerundio Concessivo

  • Pur avendo mangiato poco, Clara non è dimagrita.
  • Pur avendo lavorato molto non riesco a risparmiare.
  • Pur essendo stato povero, Mario ora è molto ricco.

Although, despite… = pur + gerundio

Lastly, but very important, the gerundio can merge with pronouns (direct, indirect, reflexive, ci & ne) in a single word:

  • Mangiando molto pane, sono ingrassato —> mangiandone molto…
  • Conoscendo Mario, non arriverà in orario —> conoscendolo

More examples in the quiz!

So, why is the gerundio so important? Look at the sentences:

  • Arrivando in orario, avresti visto l’inizio del film.
  • Se fossi arrivata in orario, avresti visto l’inizio del film.

The first sentence with the Gerundio expresses the same concept of the second but it’s much easier. We avoid conjugations, the use of the same subject, the use of the congiuntivo. In the first one, the subject is implicit (implicito), in the second it is explicit (esplicito) and we need to change the verb and genders where needed.

The Gerund is a very useful tool that Italians use to simplify sentences. You should learn it and use it to achieve the same goal.

Thanks for reading. Please solve the quiz.

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The Italian Gerundio

Basic Quiz


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Giovanni Bellini – Giovane donna nuda allo specchio – 1515 ca

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Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals. I do not use social media.

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