21.3.6 the rule "to be located" in relationships with things

We have already seen that in Spanish we use estar if instead of to be we can use to stay or another word with that meaning.

He is in Rom.
He stays in Rom.
Está en Roma.

He is intelligent.
~ He stays....~
Es inteligente.

Concerning Italian this rule is to be modified. In this case you can use stare as well as essere, but with a subtle difference. This difference is not really a rule, but a tendency.

Stare is used to describe the normal location of something, essere is used if something is not usually there.

ephemeral residence at a place
  Il bicchiere che cerchi è sulla tavola.
  The glass you are looking for is on the table.
  description of the normal residence
  I bicchieri stanno nella credenza.
  The glasses are in the cupboard. ( That's where they normally are)

Nevertheless this distinction is not always made. Even sensibilized speakers use essere to describe the normal place of something / someone. This statement is to be taken seriously because it is from a collaborator of the Corriere della Serra, Giorgio De Rienzo, who answers in a specialised forum to the question of the readers of the Corriere de la Serra, in other words native speakers. Below the question and the answer.

that is the question:
  Non ho capito bene la differenza tra essere e stare. In queste frasi quale va bene? "L'ufficio è/sta in Piazza Mazzini", "Il Perù è/sta a sud dell'equatore", "L'equatore è/sta a nord del Peru'"; "La penna è/sta sul tavolo". Sul De Mauro online, cercando "stare", ho trovato questo: "di qcs., essere collocato, avere il proprio posto: dove stanno le sigarette?, i bicchieri stanno nella credenza essere situato, trovarsi, avere sede: il paese sta su una collina, la chiesa sta in fondo alla strada può indicare la posizione di qcs. rispetto a un punto di riferimento: non hai trovato il libro perché il giornale gli stava sopra". Sul Garzanti: "detto di edificio, locale, ufficio, istituzione e sim., essere collocato, avere sede: il castello sta in cima alla collina; il museo sta sul lato destro della piazza". Leggendo questo mi sembrerebbero corretti sia "essere" sia "stare". Senza firma
  that' s the answer of Giorgio De Rienzo
  Non c’ è una sostanziale differenza nell’uso di essere e stare negli esempi che proponete: anche se è bene non abusare troppo del verbo “stare” come sinonimo di “essere”.
  that is the question
  I didn' t understand very well the difference between essere and stare. In these sentences, which one is the right form? "L' ufficio è / sta in Piazza Mazzini", "Il Peru è / sta in the south of the equator", "L'equatore è/sta a nord del Peru", "La penna è/sta sul tavolo". Looking in De Mauro online for stare I found this: "in reference to things, to be located somewhere, to be on the right place: where are the cigarettes? / dove stanno le sigarette?, i bicchieri stanno nella credenza / the cups are in the cupboard, to reside: Il paese sta su una collina / The village is on a hill, la chiesa sta in fondo alla strada / The church is at the end of the street, can describe the position of something in relationship to a point of reference: non hai trovato il libro perché il giornale gli stava sopra / You didn' t found the book because the journal was upon it. Sul Garzanti: Used with buildings, places, offices, institutions and other things like that, to reside, to be located: il castello sta in cima alla collina / the castle is on the top of the hill; il museo sta sul lato destro della piazza / the museum it on the right side of the piazza". If I read that I have the impression that both are correct, essere as well stare.  
  that' s the anwer of Giorgio De Rienzo
  There is no substantial difference in your examples, even if it is better not abuse in the use of stare as a synonym for essere.  

source :Corriere della Serra

From all that we conclude that the person who makes the question, obviously someone interested in linguistic questions, the difference is not very clear and so we assume that even for native speakers it is difficult to distinguish between essere and stare in this context (description of a residence). Even for a professional linguist the difference is not very clear, although he restricts his statement a bit, he sees a little difference, but doesn't go into details referring the examples given from the dictionary De Mauro. The examples and explication taken from De Mauro say that stare is used if we talk about the usual residence of something. Following De Mauro one should say therefore L'ufficio sta in Piazza Mazzini, Il Perù sta a sud dell' equatore, etc.. People like Giorgio De Rienzo, who occupy themselves professionally with languages, think that there is a difference and stare and essere are not really interchangeable, but they don't see a big difference neither. We can assume that less interested people in linguistic questions don't see any difference at all.

At the end of this chapter we will show the descriptions of the verb essere and stare as we found them in the dictionaries De Mauro and Garzanti. These examples are going to reaffirm the statement that stare is used to describe the usual place of something, essere to describe the place where it is at a certain moment.

Another statement in another forum goes in the same direction. From the overall picture we assume that this person as well is someone interested in linguistic problems.

Nel senso di «trovarsi in un dato luogo», riferito a oggetti, c’è tra i due verbi una sfumatura: essere esprime la collocazione con riferimento al momento dell’enunciazione, mentre stare denota la collocazione abituale; si confrontino queste due frasi:
= In the sense of to be located in reference to things there is a subtle difference between these verbs: Essere describes the place of something at a the moment of speech, while stare describes the place the thing is located usually. Compare these sentences.
(1) Le forbici sono nel primo cassetto a destra dell’acquaio [indico dove sono ora, non necessariamente di solito].
=(1) The scissors are in the first drawer besides the outflow [describes the place where they are at the moment, but not the place they are usually]
(2) Le forbici stanno nel cassetto a destra dell’acquaio [indico dove sono normalmente riposte].
= (2) The scissors are in the first drawer besides the outflow [describes the place where it is normally or where it should be]

from : Accademia della Crusca




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