In this blog, “Stare per: ‘To be about to’ in Italian “ we will focus on how to conjugate and use the Italian verb and preposition combination stare per. This verb combination is the way Italians let others know they are “about to” do something.
The heart of any language is its verbs. I believe that to speak fluently in any language, it is important to have an in-depth understanding of how each verb is used in real life situations. And what can be more important than telling the one you love how special they are to you?
Enjoy the third topic in my blog series about Italian verbs: Stare per: “To be about to” in Italian. —Kathryn Occhipinti
Special thanks to Italian instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.
Parts of this blog have been reposted from Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – “To be about to” with Stare per’ from Conversational Italian! a blog by the same author. Check out this blog as well if you are interested in phrases to use every day!
As we’ve seen in a previous blog about the verb stare, 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. 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 on this topic to reflect the different meaning with the addition of the preposition per after the verb.
Stare per – to be about to
|I am about to|
|you (familiar) are about to|
|you (polite) are about to
she/he is about to
|noi||stiamo per||we are about to|
|you all are about to|
|they are about to|
Once we have stare conjugated 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 restare):
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).
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” answer (rispondere) a question. We may be “about to” write (scrivere), send (mandare), or read (leggere) an important text or email.
After hearing sad news, we may be about to cry (stare per mettersi a piangere).
Several commonly used verb combinations given above have been listed in the table below. How many more can you think of?
|Stare per andare||About to go|
|Stare per partire||About to leave|
|Stare per arrivare||About to arrive|
|Stare per venire||About to come|
|Stare per entrare||About to enter|
|Stare per tornare||About to return|
|Stare per rientrare||About to come back|
|Stare per dire||About to say|
|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 mettersi a piangere||About to cry|
Now that we know how to say what we are about to do in the present tense, 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|
|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 one minute 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! For more information on this verb type, check out our reference book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs.”
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!”
Stare per – “To be about to” in Italian