Venetian word of the day: èsser

The word èsser, in its many forms, is fundamental to Venetian identity. It encapsulates the essence of what it is to be Venetian, one’s very existence. Èsser distinguishes Venetian speakers from Italian speakers at the very heart of language. It is the word that find its ultimate expression in the declaration, ‘Mi so Venessian’, ‘I am Venetian’. It is, of course, the verb to be.

In its infinitive form èsser looks similar to its Italian cousin essere. But scratch the surface of form and you’ll find that it has a very different, almost alien feel to it. In the present tense, many of its forms contain an x, a letter which is absent from standard Italian. The frequency of this word gives written Venetian an exotic feel, marking the spot with a declaration of linguistic independence.

A few phrases show the difference between èsser and essere. ‘El xé de San Polo.’, ‘(Lui) è di San Paolo.’, ‘He’s from San Polo.’ ‘Nialitri sémo Venessiani, vialtri sé Romani.’, ‘(Noi) siamo Veneziani, (voi) siete Romani.’,’We are Venetian, you are Roman.’ ‘La no xé stada a Verona.’, ‘(Lei) non è stata a Verona.’, ‘She hasn’t been to Verona.’

Unlike Italian, many Venetian verbs have special question forms. ‘Sistu ti Luca?’, ‘Tu sei Luca?’, ‘Are you Luca?’ ‘Come xeli?’, ‘Come sono?’, ‘How are they?’

Here’s the full form of èsser in the present tense:

Mi so

Ti ti xé

El / La xé

Nialtri sémo

Vialtri sé

i / le xé

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5 thoughts on “Venetian word of the day: èsser”

  1. Great post to help us English-speakers who’ve learned the Tuscan Italian understand the Venetian dialect. But what does xé sound like? I’m assuming the x is like that in x-ray?

    1. Luca Marchiori

      Xe sounds a bit like ‘zay’. x sounds like a z at the beginning of words and ss in the middle.

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