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Common verbs that take essere

Avere is used in most cases.  Transitive verbs (verbs which have a direct object) always use avere.

Some verbs can be used both transitively (with a direct object) and intransitively (without a direct object).  When used transitively, in compound tenses they are conjugated with the auxiliary avere.   When used intransitively, in compound tenses they take the auxiliary essere.   For example, la primavera è cominciata (spring has begun); but lei ha cominciato il libro (she has started the book).

The general rule of exceptions is that essere is used with verbs of:

  1. Movement (andare, arrivare, entrare, partire, ritornare, salire, scappare, tornare, uscire, venire, etc.); but not camminare, passeggiare, or viaggiare, which use the auxiliary avere ;
  2. State (essere, esistere, rimanere, restare, sembrare, stare, vivere, etc.);
  3. Change (apparire, cambiare, crescere, diventare, nascere, morire, svanire, etc.);
  4. Reflexive verbs (alzarsi, lavarsi, vestirsi, etc.)
  5. Impersonal verbs – used in the third person (abbondare, abbuiare, accadere, bastare, costare, dipendere, durare, mancare, occorrere, piacere, succedere, etc. )

When the perfect tense is formed with essere, the past participle behaves like an adjective – it has to agree in gender and number with the subject of the verb.   When the perfect tense is formed with avere, the past participle does not change.

Note also that some verbs can be used either reflexively (i.e. when the action is directed back on the subject) or non-reflexively (for example, lavarsi – to have a wash, vs lavare – to wash sth or sb).   When used reflexively, they take the auxiliary essere.

Some common verbs that take essere

Movement
accorrere (a)è accorso/-ato hurry to, rush up to, run to
affiorareè affiorato/-ato emerge, surface, appear
affondareè affondato/-ato sink
andareè andato/-ato go
arrivareè arrivatoto arrive, come
cadereè cadutoto fall
crollareè crollato/-ato collapse, cave in
entrareè entrato/-ato enter
giungereè giunto/-ato arrive at, reach
partireè partito/-ato leave
salireè salito/-ato climb, ascend, mount
State
apparireè apparso/-ato appear, seem
appartenere aè appartenuto/-a to belong to
bastareè bastatoto be enough, be sufficient
esistereè esistito/-ato exist
essereè stato/-ato be
mancareè mancato/-ato be lacking, missing
Change
affogareè affogato/-ato drown
annegareè annegato/-ato drown
appassireè appassito/-ato wither, wilt, shrivel
dimagrireè dimagrito/-ato lose weight
diventareè diventato/-ato become
morireè morto/-ato die
nascereè nato/-ato be born
Reflexive
Impersonal
abbuiareè abbuiatoto get dark
accadere (che)è accaduto (che)to happen, occur
ammontare (a)è ammontato/-ato add up to, to amount to
costareè costato/-ato cost
dipendereè dipeso/-ato depend
durareè durato/-ato last
occorrereè occorsoto be needed, be required
passareto pass (by), to go buy
piacere
provenire
restare
rimanere
ritornare
scadere
scappare
scendere
sembrare
sfuggire
sparire
stare
succedere
svanire
tornare
uscire
venire
vivere