Could both "essere" and "stare" be used with feelings (eg happy, calm) and attitudes (eg silent)?

It seems to me that yes. On the one hand, "stare" is used in sentences in imperative mood, ordering/suggesting a change of feeling/attitude. On the other hand, "essere" is used in statements, describing a current/permanent feeling/attitude. Examples:

Stai calmo/zitto/felice! = Be calm/silent/happy! (requests a change of mood)

Sei calmo/zitto/felice = You are calm/silent/happy (current/permanent state)

Is that right?

I am especially not sure about "essere" always being used with statements with feelings/attitudes. https://langsandlit.tumblr.com/post/161368437468/essere-we-use-essere-to-express says that "essere" is used with permanent state and "stare" with current state in this case, but I do not know if that is standard Italian.

  • «"essere" is used with permanent state and "stare" with current state in this case, but I do not know if that is standard Italian»: it is only in a limited range of situations. If anything, as an explanation it looks more similar to what happens in Spanish with ser and estar. Is that correct, @Charo?
    – DaG
    Aug 23, 2019 at 8:03
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    I think it's a difficult question because one says, for instance, "sto male", but "sono stanca", "sono innamorata", "sono preoccupata"...
    – Charo
    Aug 23, 2019 at 8:35
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    As a very broad rule of the thumb, you'd be rarely wrong by using essere, while stare is far more delicate and used idiomatically. Many of the examples of stare in the blog post you quote, correct as they are, would tolerate essere as well (Saro è tranquillo anche quando è solo and so on), while “the way someone is feeling or behaving right at that moment” only in particular, almost fixed, cases can be expressed with stare (see Charo's examples: you say sono stanca, sono innamorata..., while it would be incorrect, or very local, to say sto innamorata etc.).
    – DaG
    Aug 23, 2019 at 9:07
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    I think it would be a good idea to have a look at dictionary entry "stare" to see in which kind of expressions one uses "stare" instead of "essere".
    – Charo
    Aug 23, 2019 at 9:18
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    I have seen online Italian teachers say that the Italian verbs "stare/essere" work as the Spanish verbs "estar/ser" and it is a very unfortunate and confusing comparison. Aug 23, 2019 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Both "essere" and "stare" can be used with feelings;

however, it depends on the feeling / attitude;



  • Stai calmo! - ok
  • Stai zitto! - ok
  • Stai felice! - it can sound like a joke (you can't order to be instantly happy); it's better "Sii felice!" (literally be happy!) - this confirms that "stare" is more tied to the current instant
  • Stai bene! - can be used, to say "come on, try to be fine!" - "bene" is adverb, not adjective)


  • Sii calmo! - ok - sounds kinder than "Stai calmo!"
  • Sii zitto! - never heard
  • Sii felice! - perfect
  • Sii bene! - error



  • Tu stai calmo. (in this moment, I can see that "you are calm.")
  • Tu stai zitto. (in this moment, I can see that "you are silent.")
  • Tu stai felice. (in this moment, I can see that "you are happy")
  • Tu stai bene. (in this moment, I can see that "you are fine")


  • Tu sei calmo. - ok - you are calm in this period or in this moment or by nature
  • Tu sei zitto. - mmh - I would say "Tu sei in silenzio."
  • Tu sei felice. - ok - you are happy in this period or in this moment or by nature
  • Tu sei bene. - error
  • Welcome to Italian.SE and thanks for your contribution!
    – Charo
    Jul 5, 2020 at 15:09
  • I wouldn't want to suggest a polytical interpretation... but in this analysis I fell I miss "Stai sereno"
    – N74
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:14

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