I have heard on a video of a popular Italian learning channel on YouTube that "essere" is used for the current location of objects and "stare" is used for the usual location of objects. Example:

  • Dove sono le chiavi? (= Where are the keys? )
  • Dove stanno le chiavi? (= Where are the keys usually? )

However, I have also been told that there is no difference in essere/stare in this context in Standard Italian and thus the explanation in the video is incorrect. Is that right? If so, is that difference mentioned in the video a regionalism? From where?

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    Alan, I don't want to appear condescending, but your learning method will improve a lot when you'll get an actual grammar book (in Italian if your Italian is good enough) and an actual vocabulary (a monolingual one if your Italian is good enough), rather than browsing random learning tools and videos on the 'net. – DaG Sep 9 '19 at 16:16
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    A good piece of advice from @DaG, IMHO. – Easymode44 Sep 16 '19 at 10:28
  • @DaG I assume you meant a good monolingual dictionary, such as Treccani. My Italian is not good enough to understand Treccani yet, although I can if I look up a lot of vocabulary in a dictionary. Although I undoubtedly value it as a grammar/vocabulary reference, its insistence on high register language and literary examples make it harder to use by non natives speakers. Anyway, I don't think Treccani answers the question presented here. – Alan Evangelista Sep 16 '19 at 11:01
  • Yes, my bad, I meant “dictionary” (I was misled by the fact that one of the meanings of vocabolario in Italian is “dictionary”). My suggestion stands, but of course feel free to ask all the questions you deem necessary. – DaG Sep 16 '19 at 11:36
  • @DaG I don't want to appear rude, but saying that you do not want to appear condescending does not make you less condenscending. You came here, gave an unrelated tip that looks like a Copy&Paste, and did not answer the seemingly "easy" question, in both of your comments. This is not only unhelpful, as it is a disservice to those trying to have their questions answered, such as the OP, me, and all other people that came and will come here looking for an answer. So, yeah. Congratulations on getting one vote up in your comment with an useless advice in this context. – Vinícius Queiroz Apr 17 at 20:13

I finally found comprehensive answers to this question. The difference between essere and stare for location actually exist in the "official" (standard/supra-regional) Italian language.

tl;dr. For location:

  • Stare -> Longer time, more persistent, usual place (think as in "Stay")

  • Essere -> At that moment, more ephemeral (think as in "is, right now")

However, in other cases that are not related to location, these connotations might differ [2, 3, 4], as in the examples below:

  • To comment that "he is tall", you'd say "Lui è alto", for example, even though being tall is quite persistent, IMO;
  • And to say things in the Gerund tense, that "he is walking", for example, we would say "Lui sta camminando".

Lastly, using stare interchangeably with essere is a colloquialism that comes from the southern region of Italy [1].

Excerpt from Duolingo's forum [1], which is based on another reference:


The habit of substituting stare for essere is of southern origin; this strong regional character must be avoided in official and formal uses. With family and friends, instead, you can stay (stare) more relaxed.


The following considerations are valid for the national language, not for regional Italian (in which variable uses apply).

In the sense of "being in a given place", referring to objects, there is a nuance between the two verbs: essere expresses the location with reference to the moment of enunciation, while stare denotes the usual location; compare these two sentences:

(1) The scissors are (sono) in the first drawer to the right of the sink [where they are now, not necessarily always]. (2) The scissors are (stanno) in the drawer to the right of the sink [where they are normally placed]. NB. THIS IS DUO'S USAGE HERE.

Referring to people, the verb stare, in modern neutral use - different, in part, from past uses - generally has the sense of "staying", "residing", or indicates the posture, or, of course, the state of health. Then there are idiomatic expressions, unalterable.

For example these two sentences have a slightly different meaning: Sono contento di essere qui = "I'm happy to be here [at this precise moment]"; Sono contento di stare qui = "I'm happy to be here [always]". The first sentence expresses the place in space and time; in the second, it emphasizes instead permanence in the place of which we speak (so that, invited to dinner at a friend's house, I would always use the first: the second could be misinterpreted by some touchy soul).

The relations between the two verbs are complex, and not always clear, also because of regional differences. But phrases like Dove stai? (in the sense of "Where are you?") or Non ci sta nessuno (for "No one is present") are not acceptable in supra-regional Italian.


  1. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/630889/La-lampada-sta-sopra-il-tavolo
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdDFrduKC3w (for comparison with Portuguese verbs)
  3. Sister that lived in Italy for a couple years
  4. Google Ngram Viewer
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    I think there are a couple of questionable sentence in the excerpt you quoted. (1) The substitution of "essere" e "stare" in the southern region is not a colloquialism linked to be in a formal or informal situation; it is an habit stemmed from the long Spanish domination and the way the Spanish verbs "ser" and "estar" are used. [...continue...] – secan Apr 22 at 8:11
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    [...] (2) The sentences "dove stai?" and "non ci sta nessuno" are perfectly valid in standard Italian, although their meaning might not be what you expect (the first translates with "where do you live? / where are you staying?", the second with "nobody agrees / nobody is willing to participate") – secan Apr 22 at 8:19

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