Italian and English gerund are different. Let’s see some examples and a quiz.
STARE + GERUNDIO
Laura is watching TV. That’s pretty much how one would describe this action in English, using the present progressive. Italian is different in this respect. We can use the simple present or the combination STARE + GERUNDIO.
The use of progressive tenses in Italian is very limited compared to English. We generally use the presente or imperfetto of stare and the gerund for building the present and past progressive.
While I was having breakfast, Marco called.
In Italian, I can say “mentre facevo…” or “mentre stavo facendo …” without changing the meaning of the sentence.
In English, one can use the present progressive to describe an action in the near future. Not in Italian.
In this case we can use the simple presente or the futuro. “Sto andando a cena con un’amica…” means only right now, in this precise moment.
Another significant difference is with the verb vivere / abitare:
We do not say “Sto vivendo / abitando a Londra”. However, “Luigi sta vivendo un momento difficile” means that he’s going through difficult times. Vivendo here is more like experiencing.
On a completely different level, we do not use the stare + gerundio to mean that “We’ve been doing … / We had been doing …” something, for or since some time.
There’s no “been / stato” here in Italian. As a native Italian speaker, when I have to use these structures in English, I find it very challenging. Italians use a simple present in combination with “da”, or the imperfetto / stavo + gerundio for the past instead.
Last note about the passive voice combined with the continuous tense as “… is being”. For example:
In Italian we can’t say “è stando / sta stando”, it doesn’t make any sense. We may opt for the use of the verb venire instead of essere and maybe clarify that this is happening now, adesso. The easiest solution is to avoid the passive and the progressive together and say “Stanno verniciando la mia stanza”.
That’s it for today. Please solve the quiz and, if you wish, book a free Skype lesson with me. Alla prossima.
Painting: Francesco Hayez – La meditazione – 1848