Expressing feelings, Part 2

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Italian homes with grass, trees, and a park bench out front.

The verb stare has an interesting history. Although the direct translation of stare is “to stay,” over the centuries, stare has also taken on the meaning of “to be” with respect to one’s general health.

Stare is an are verb that has an irregular root in the tu and loro forms. In the table below, the regular conjugations of stare are given in green and the irregular forms in brown, in order to make them easier to recognize. Stare is a verb that will truly be used every day, so each conjugation should be committed to memory.

Stareto stay (to be) 


sto I stay/(am)
tu stai you (familiar) stay/(are)


sta you (polite) stay/(are)

she/he stays/is

noi stiamo we stay/(are)
voi state you all stay/(are)
loro stanno

they stay/(are)


As most of us learn early on in our Italian studies, the familiar greeting, “How are you?” originates with the verb stare.

“Come stai?” is used with family and friends and “Come sta?” with acquaintances.

Let’s use our conjugations in the table above and describe in general if we are feeling well (bene) or badly/sick (male).  


Stare beneto feel well

io sto bene I am well
tu stai bene you (familiar) are well


sta bene you (polite) are well

she/he is well

noi stiamo bene we are well
voi state bene you all are well
loro stanno bene they are well


Stare maleto feel badly/sick

io sto male I feel badly I am sick
tu stai male you (familiar) feel badly you (familiar) are sick


sta male you (polite) feel badly

she/he feels badly

you (polite) are sick

she/he is sick

noi stiamo male we feel badly we are sick
voi state male you all feel badly you all are sick
loro stanno male they feel badly they are sick


If you would like to change-up your answer a bit, and be more descriptive about how you feel, of course there are many other options than simply “well” or “badly.” The phrases listed in the table below describe general feelings, from the best to the worst.

Note that not all of the replies to “Come stai?” or “Come sta?” use stare.

If you really want to speak like a native Italian, choose one of the “-issimo” endings for your reply, which are very common in spoken Italian today. Or, choose “non c’è male,” which many superstitious members of my family use so as not to be too happy about things and bring on bad luck!

Also, it should be mentioned that in informal situations, it is very common to substitute “Come va?” or “How’s it going?” for “Come stai?”  In this case, a simple answer would be,“Va bene,” for “It’s going well/fine.” 


Come stai?
Come sta?
How are you? Familiar/Polite
Sto benissimo! I am feeling great!
I am really well!
The best ever!
Sto molto bene. I am very well.
Sto bene. I am well/fine.
Così, così. So, so.
Non c’è male. Not so badly.
Sto male. I am feeling badly/sick.
Sto molto male. I am feeling very badly.
I am very sick.
Sto malissimo! I am very feeling very badly.
I am really sick!
I am feeling the worst ever!
Come va? How’s it going?
Va bene. It’s going well/fine/good/OK.


To take this one step further, there is an important a part of the ritual of Italian greetings that should be followed. After stating how you feel,  you should add a quick thanks and an inquiry into the the health of another.

For instance, “Sto bene, grazie. E tu?” or “E Lei?” for “I am well, thank you. And you?  How are you?”

Or, if you know an individual’s family, it is considered polite to ask about them: “E la famiglia, come sta?” “And how is the family?



We can also use stare in  many common expressions to tell someone else how we would like them to feel or even how to behave. In Italian, when we direct someone to do something, we must use the command form of a verb. For our purposes here, we will only discuss the familiar command forms of stare, which will be the same as the present tense tu and voi forms we have just reviewed. A negative command is given in the infinitive form in both Italian and English.

We can use stare to ask someone to remain calm (calmo), to be still (fermo), to be careful (attento) or to be silent (zitto). Remember to change the ending of each adjective to reflect the gender of the person who is being addressed.

A command is usually clear from the tone of voice when any language is spoken. In written Italian and sometimes in English, a command is generally followed by an exclamation point.


Stare calmo(a)(i,e)! to be calm/to remain calm
Stare fermo(a)(i,e)! to stay still/to keep still
Stare zitto(a)(i,e)! to be silent/to be quiet
Stare attento(a)(i,e)! to be careful/watchful/pay attention


Some example sentences are given below.  How many more can you think of from your daily life?
If you’d like, leave some examples in the comment section.


Annina, stai calma! Non piangere più!
Little Ann, calm down!  Don’t cry any more.

Non muoverti! Stai fermo, Giovanni!
Don’t move (yourself)! Stay still, John!

Sono le undici di sera. Stai zitto! I miei genitori stanno dormendo.
It is 11 o’clock at night.  Be quiet! My parents are sleeping.

State attenti quando scendete dal treno!
Be careful when you all get off the train!


By the way…


In order to ask someone to keep quiet in a rude way, or as we would say in English, “Shut up!” you can use the Italian expression,“Chiudi il becco!”

And if you want to use the expression “shut up” to mean, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” or “You don’t say!” there are several interjections to choose from in Italian: “Ma dai!” “Non mi dire!” or “Ma non mi dire!”


Remember how to use stare to describe
how you feel in Italian.

 I guarantee
you will use this verb every day!

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at

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