È (is) vs. c'è (there is)

Reminder: this is how the verb essere (to be) is conjugated in the standard present tense essere, presente.

We use è (he/she/it is):

  • To indicate the location of an object when the subject comes before the verb.

La libreria è in centro.

The bookstore is in the center.

  • To describe someone or something.

Lucia è molto alta.

Lucia is very tall.

  • To identify people or objects.

Questo è Ciro.

This is Ciro.

Queste sono le tue penne.

These are your pens.

We use c'è (there is):

  • To indicate the presence of something when the subject comes after the verb.

C'è un libro sul tavolo.

There is a book on the table.

Ci sono ancora dei cereali?

Is there any cereal left? (Note: the Italian word for “cereal” is plural, which is why we use ci sono here.)

  • To ask about or indicate someone's presence somewhere.

C'è Luca in casa? Sì, c'è.

-Is Luca home? -Yes, he is. (Literally: “-Is there Luca at home? -Yes, there is.”)

  • To ask about someone's mood.

Cosa c'è Anna, oggi? Non mi sento molto in forma.

-What's up today, Anna? (literally: “What is there today, Anna?”) -I'm not feeling very good.

  • To talk about the weather, when c'è is followed by a noun.

Oggi c'è la nebbia fitta.

Today there is thick fog.

Stamattina c'è il sole.

This morning it's sunny (literally, “this morning there is sun”).


  • We can use the verb esserci in any tense, but only in the third person (the lui/lei and loro forms of the verb).

Ci sarà una grande manifestazione sabato esserci, futuro semplice

There will be a major event on Saturday.

C'erano tutti i tuoi amici in giardino esserci, imperfetto

All your friends were in the garden (literally, “there were all your friends…”).

  • We can also use the verb stare (to be) to indicate the presence or absence of something or someone, primarily in central-southern Italy.

La fattura di Ruggero sta sul tavolo.

Ruggero's invoice is on the table.

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