Verbs in the Italian grammar: the Gerund

The gerund (Il Gerundio)

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The gerund, in Italian, has two main functions:

1) Expresses a progressive action
2) Expresses some types of subordinate clauses
(These subjects are treated in depth in the chapters below).

The Gerund has two tenses: the present and the past.

The present gerund is formed, according to Italian grammar rules, by dropping the infinitive endings and adding to the stem:

"-ando", if the infinitive ends in " -are"
"-endo", if the infinitive ends in "-ere" or "-ire"

The past gerund is formed by the present gerund of the auxiliary ("avere" or "essere") plus the past participle of the verb.

Infinitive Gerund (present) Gerund (past)
Mangiare (To eat) Mangiando (Eating) Avendo mangiato (Having eaten)
Vedere (To see) Vedendo (Seeing) Avendo visto (Having seen)
Dormire (To sleep) Dormendo (Sleeping) Avendo dormito (Having slept)

The gerund is invariable with the exception of the passive forms of the past, where the past participle agrees in gender and number with the subject.

The past gerund is rarely used and often replaced by subordinate clauses. When it is used, the action described occurs prior to the action of the verb in the main sentence.

Essendo andata a piedi, Michela è arrivata tardi → Michela è arrivata tardi perché è andata a piedi. (Since Michela went on foot, she arrived late → Michela arrived late because she went on foot)

Non avendo mangiato niente, morivano dalla fame → Morivano dalla fame poichè non avevano mangiato niente. (Not having eaten anything, they were starving → They were starving because they hadn't eaten anything)

Avendo comprato un'auto, non ho dovuto prendere l'autobus → Non ho dovuto prendere l'autobus perché ho comprato un'auto (Having bought a car, I have not had to take the bus → I have not had to take the bus because I have bought a car).

1. Expressing a progressive action

The most important use of the gerund, in Italian, is in progressive tenses, to describe an action in progress.

In these cases, the gerund is usually preceded by the verb "stare".

Io sto comprando il giornale→ I'm buying the newspaper
Simona sta scrivendo un libro → Simona is writing a book
Tu non stavi correndo ieri sera → You weren't running yesterday evening
Quando sono arrivato, i ragazzi stavano facendo i compiti → When I arrived, the kids were doing their homework.

2. Expressing some types of subordinate clauses

As we have already seen with the use of the past, the gerund can be used to convey several types of subordinate clauses:
  1. When expresses the means by which the main action takes place

    Leggendo si impara molto → Through reading you learn a lot
    Si perde peso andando in palestra → You lose weight by going to the gym
  2. When expresses the moment when an event occurs

    Ogni giorno, uscendo di casa, incontro il postino → Every day, when leaving home, I meet the postman
    Domani, passando da Roma, visiteremo il Colosseo → Tomorry, when passing through Rome, we will visit the Colosseum
  3. When expresses the cause of the action

    Non conoscendo la storia, non ho potuto dire niente → Not knowing the story, I could not say anything
    Avendo venduto la radio, non ho potuto ascoltare la musica → Having sold the radio, I couldn't listen to the music

Posted by Arnaldo Colonna on March 4, 2010 - All rights reserved

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