To be about to

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Although the direct translation of stare is “to stay,” over the centuries stare has also taken on the meaning of “to be” with regard to one’s health. The verb stare is often used in other ways as well. For instance, with the addition of the preposition per, the “stare  per” combination conveys the meaning “to be about to.”

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. The stare conjugation table has been modified from our first blog about stare to reflect the different meaning with the addition of the preposition per after the verb.


Stare perto be about to 


I am about to
tu stai
you (familiar) are about to


you (polite) are about to

she/he is about to

noi stiamo per we are about to
voi state
you all are about to
loro stanno

they are about to



Once we have stareconjugated to reflect the speaker, the rest is easy! Simply follow the conjugated form of stare with per and then the infinitive form of the verb that describes
what you are “about to” do.



What are some things we may be “about to” do during the course of the day?  The actions of going to or returning from a place are very common.  For instance, if I were “about to” go to the store to pick up some wine for dinner, and want to inform a family member, the line may go something like this:

Sto per andare a comprare una bottiglia di vino. Preferisci rosso o bianco?
I am about to go to buy a bottle of wine. Do you prefer red or white?

Or, maybe your friend is putting on his coat, as if he were about to leave a gathering. Instead, you would like him to stay. You may say something like this (using the familiar command form of stare):

Stai per partire? È troppo presto! Resta qui un ora di più con me!
Are you about to leave?  It’s very early! Stay here an hour longer with me!

We can continue in this manner with the other verbs of “coming and going”  like arrivare (to arrive), venire (to come), entrare (to enter), tornare (to return), or rientrare (to come back). If we are about to go walking or driving around town, we can use the phrase stare per girare.

There are many other daily activities that come to mind where stare per may be useful.  We are often “about to” say (dire) something important, or “about to” ask (chiedere/domandare) or answer (rispondere) a question. We may be “about to”  write (scrivere), send (mandare), or read (leggere) an important text or email.

We may be “about to” change (diventare) something we are currently doing. After hearing sad news, we may be about to cry (stare per mettersi a piangere).

At night, we may be “about to” fall asleep (addormentarsi) and in the morning, “about to” get up (alzarsi).

These commonly used verb combinations given above have been listed in the table below. How many more can you think of?


Stare per andare
Stare per girare
Stare per partire
About to go
About to go around (town)
About to leave
Stare per venire
Stare per arrivare
Stare per entrare
About to come
About to arrive
About to enter
Stare per tornare
Stare per rientrare
About to return
About to come back
Stare per dire About to say
Stare per chiedere
Stare per domandare
About to ask
Stare per rispondere About to answer
Stare per scivere About to write
Stare per mandare About to send
Stare per leggere About to read
Stare per diventare About to become
Stare per mettersi a piangere About to cry
Stare per addormentarsi About to fall asleep
Stare per alzarsi About to get up


Now that we know how to say what we are about to do in the present, let’s go one a step further and talk about the past tense. In fact, many of the phrases listed in the last section are more commonly used in the past tense during a normal conversation.

For instance, the phrase, “I was about to say…” is often used when one speaker has interrupted another. “I was about to answer…!” might be used if one feels pressured into saying something too quickly. Or, is one is telling a story about an unfortunate event that has happened to a friend, this story might involve the sentence, “He/she was about to cry…”


In these cases, we have to conjugate stare in the past tense.
The imperfetto conjugation is given below.
The rest of the sentence structure remains the same!


Stare imperfetto per was about to


I was about to
tu stavi
you (familiar) were about to


you (polite) were about to

she/he was about to

noi stavamo per we were about to
voi stavate per you all were about to
loro stavano per

they were about to


Stavo per dire la stessa cosa!
I was about to say the same thing!

Stavo per rispondere, ma non mi hai dato il tempo!
I was about to answer, but you didn’t give me time!

Stava per mettersi a piangere quando le ho detto che nonna è in ospitale.
She was about to cry when I told her that grandma is in the hospital.



Another important use for the verb stare is to convey the idea that one is doing something right now.  Stare plus the gerund of an action verb creates the present progressive form. In English, the present progressive is the “ing” form of a verb  —  I am going, coming, doing, etc.

In Italian, the present progressive tense is used sparingly; it is reserved for a happening that is going on at the exact same time as the conversation. In short, where in English we commonly say “I am going,” to mean we will leave anywhere from a second later to sometime in the near future,  in Italian, a simple, “Io vado,” will suffice. To stress that he or she is leaving momentarily, an Italian might instead use stare say, “Sto andando,”** but either tense is correct.


To form the present progressive tense, simply conjugate stare to reflect the speaker.
Then add the gerund of the action verb that is to follow.


It is fairly simple to create a gerund to create the present progressive tense in Italian. Drop the -are, -ere, and -ire verb endings to create the stem. Then add ando to the stem of the -are verbs and -endo to the stem of the -ere and -ire verbs. Most gerunds are regular, which generally makes for easy conjugation, although, of course, there are some exceptions!

Let’s take  a few of our example sentences one step further, from being “about to” do something, to actually doing it “right away.” Notice how the different use of stare changes the meaning of each sentence!

Sto andando a comprare una bottiglia di vino. 
I am going (right now) to buy a bottle of wine. 

Il treno per Roma sta partendo!
The train for Rome is leaving (right now)!

Stavo dicendo la stessa cosa!
I was (just) saying the same thing!

Stavo rispondendo, ma mi hai interrotto!
I was answering, but you interrupted me!


A couple more points…

*Another common way to convey you are leaving right away is with the phrase, “Me ne vado,” from the verb andarsene, but this is a topic for another blog!

*Instead of saying, “Sto arrivando,” for “I’m coming right now,” Italians commonly say, “Arrivo!” 



Remember how to use the Italian verb combination stare per in conversation
and 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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