Learning the Gerund form in Italian
I’m Giovanna, Italian teacher here at ELLCI Milano, today we talk about the Gerund in Italian!
Sbagliando, s’impara! (Practice makes perfect). This famous Italian saying starts with a Gerund, the verbal tense we address today.
The Gerund is an indefinite mode used to express an idea of contemporaneity between two actions, or a process seen in relation with a second one.
Like other indefinite verbs, it does not express the person or the number of the subject of the action, therefore it is used in subordinate propositions from which it is possible to derive this information.
Italians use it because it often avoids the use of an explicit subordinate, which is more difficult to master, especially in the hypothetical sentence where the Subjunctive is required.
Se studiasse di più, potrebbe passare il test. / If he studied more, he could pass the test. → Studiando di più, potrebbe passare il test./ Studying more, could pass the test.
Forming the Gerund in Italian :
Forming the Gerund in Italian is quite easy, there are two forms of Gerund: Gerundio semplice (doing) and Gerundio composto (having done, being done).
The Simple Gerund – Gerundio Semplice (o Presente)
The Present Gerund is formed by taking off the ending of the verb and replacing it with the appropriate endings:
add -ando to the stem of -are verbs
add -endo to the stem of -ere and -ire verbs.
-ARE → ANDO cant-are (to sing) → cant-ando
-ERE →ENDO ved-ere (to see) →ved-endo
-IRE →ENDO dorm-ire (to sleep) →dorm-endo
⚠ There are some irregular verbs which form the Gerund from their first-person singular in the Present Indicative:
FARE (to make/do) → FACCIO → FACENDO
BERE (to drink) → BEVO → BEVENDO
DIRE (to say) → DICO → DICENDO
The Past Gerund – Gerundio Composto (o Passato)
The Past Gerund is formed by “ESSERE” or “AVERE” at the Present Gerund + Past Participle of the verb:
Usually, we find it in written language and it serves to indicate an action prior to the one expressed in the main clause.
FARE → AVENDO FATTO
VEDERE → AVENDO VISTO
USCIRE → ESSENDO USCITO
Avendo fatto i compiti, riuscì a superare l’esame. / Having done his homework, he successfully passed the exam.
Essendo uscito prima, non aveva sentito il telefono. / Having left earlier, he didn’t hear the phone.
The Present Progressive – Il Presente Progressivo STARE+GERUNDIO
When studying Italian, it’s easy to spot the Gerund verb in the construct with the verb “stare”, to indicate a progressive action.
The progressive present is formed with the present tense of the verb ” stare” + Gerund
The Present Progressive is used to talk about an action happening at the same time we are speaking, as the English Present Continuous.
Maria sta lavorando./ Maria is working.
Noi stiamo studiando./ We are studying.
The Imperfect Progressive – L’Imperfetto Progressivo
You can also use it to express an action in progress in the past. It’s the Imperfect Progressive tense and it is formed with “STARE” in Imperfect tense + GERUND.
Stavo scrivendo un messaggio quando mi è caduto il cellulare! / I was writing an sms, when my phone fell out.
Mentre Sonia stava studiando, ha telefonato la sua amica Lucia./ While Sonia was studying, Lucia called her.
The gerund in everyday use:
The Gerund in Italian is an indefinite verb. This means that it does not provide indications on the subject to which it refers and can also take on different functions.
In fact, it is used in subordinate clauses to express them in an implicit form.
Because of its indefinite nature, most of the times, the subject of Gerund corresponds to that expressed in the main clause.
In the study of the Italian language, Gerund is studied between the level B1 / B2 precisely because its use presupposes the knowledge of various types of the subordinate clauses.
Italians often use it to avoid resorting to an explicit subordinate, difficult to master especially if with the subjunctive.
For example the hypothetical phrase – Se studiasse di più, potrebbe passare il test”/If he studied more, he could pass the test – can be expressed more easily thanks to the gerund – Studiando di più, potrebbe passare il test/ By studying more, he could pass the test.
The gerund in subordinate clauses give us modifying information by replacing an explicit subordinate and acquire the following values.
- MODALE – Adverb of manner
Mi rilasso ascoltando la musica classica/ I relax listening to classic music.
It expresses the way. It answers the question “How do you relax?”
The “manner function” is only implicit, ie has no corresponding explicit.
- CAUSALE – Casual Adverb
Avendo perso l’autobus, Luca è arrivato tardi all’appuntamento./ Having missed his bus, Luca arrived late for his meeting.
The gerundio can be used to give an explanation for the main verb. It replaces a phrase introduced by “siccome”, “poiché”, “visto che”, “dato che”, “dal momento che” ecc.
–Siccome ha perso l’autobus…/ Since he missed his bus → Avendo perso l’autobus, Luca è arrivato tardi all’appuntamento./ Having missed his bus, Luca arrived late for his meeting.
- CONCESSIVO – Adverb of condition
Pur avendo studiato molto, Maria non ha passato l’esame.
Gerund replaces a concessive clause which in explicit form is introduced by anche se/ although, benché/ though, “sebbene/ although, “malgrado/ even though, nonostante/ despite.
-Sebbene abbia studiato molto… / Although I have studied a lot …
⚠ The gerund in the concessive clause is always preceded by the conjunction “pur”
- TEMPORALE – Adverb of time
I bambini si sono addormentanti guardando la tv/ The kids fell asleep watching the tv.
The gerund can frame the time or period of the main action: it expresses the moment of action contemporary to the main action.
- IPOTETICA – Hypothetical sentences
Studiando molto di più , riuscirai a superare il test di ammissione! /By studying more, you will be able to pass the admission test!
→ Se studi molto di più, riuscirai a superare il test di ammissione! / If you study more, you will be able to pass the admission test!
Uscendo presto, arriveremo in orario! / Leaving early, we will arrive on time!
→ Se usciamo presto, arriveremo in orario! / If we leave early, we will arrive on time!
Vivendo in Francia, parlerei perfettamente francese! / Living in France, I would speak perfectly French!
→ Se vivessi in Francia, parlerei perfettamente francese! / If I lived in France, I would speak perfectly French!
Gerund replaces the conditional subordinate proposition of a hypothetical period.
Pronouns With the Gerundio
⚠ When there is a pronoun or the particles CI/ NE they must be added to the Gerund:
particles CI → Arriverete prima a Torino, andandoci in macchina/ You will arrive earlier in Turin going (there) by car.
pronoun LA → La conquisterai solo corteggiandola!/ You will get her only romancing her.
Gerundio with Andare
The gerund can be used also with the verb andare and venire but these forms are more old fashioned.
- ANDARE+ GERUNDIO – to express an ongoing action
Sara va dicendo a tutti che io sono una persona falsa./ Sara is telling everyone that I am a false person
- VENIRE+ GERUNDIO – to express an ongoing action (old fashioned)
Con il tempo venne sempre più sviluppando il suo progetto iniziale./ Over time he was developing his initial project more and more.
In all these forms, the actual action is expressed by the present Gerund, while the verbs stare/ stay, venire/ come and andare/ go have a function similar to that of servile verbs.
Often because of its versatility, the Gerund could refer to multiple meanings and not always be clear. For example Allenandomi molto, vincerò/ By training a lot, I will win – can mean two things:
– Since I train a lot, I will win.
– If I train a lot, I will win.
These are two different situations because, in the first sentence, it is assumed that I am training right now. The second sentence, on the other hand, communicates that I am still not training much.
Congratulations, you’ve come to the end! Don’t worry if you didn’t understand everything, we have given you a lot of information. At least it is not as difficult as the subjunctive 😉
You deserve a little break now and then you can have fun with our Gerund Italian exercises.
In the meanwhile, check out our Italian courses for foreigners, where you can learn all the fascinating nuances of the Italian language.
3 simple Gerund exercises to test your knowledge