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Italian Tenses Made Simple

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Verb tenses are absolutely necessary in clearly defining when a given action is taking place. 

If you were to browse through any Italian grammar textbook or study an Italian conjugation table, you would probably find yourself overwhelmed by the number (21!) and apparent complexity of the tenses. And on top of that, each of the Italian tenses has to be conjugated for the six persons (io, tu, lui/lei, noi, voi, loro). This means that—unlike in English—every person of every tense has a different form. 

But don’t worry, I have good news. Two pieces of good news, actually! 

  1. To have a complete and meaningful conversation in Italian, you really just need to know three (3!) tenses: presente (present), passato prossimo (near past), and imperfetto (imperfect). You can also throw in the imperative, if you want, since it has pretty much the same form as the present.

  2. Even though every person of every tense is conjugated and has a different form, the basic forms of the conjugations (the verb endings) follow a very consistent and predictable pattern. Once you’ve memorized that pattern, you’ll be able to easily apply it to whatever verb and tense you need.

Of course, there are other verb tenses in Italian that are used to express more complex thoughts and concepts, but we can worry about those later on. Just keep in mind that you can alw/ays get by knowing just the three basic Italian tenses. Isn’t that wonderful?

A Woman Eating a Slice of Pizza

Mangio una pizza. (“I’m eating a pizza.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Present Tense
  2. Past Tenses
  3. Future
  4. Conditional
  5. Are You in the Mood for Moods…? 😉
  6. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary
  7. Conclusion

1. Present Tense

The present tense in Italian is used to express an action happening right now, as we speak. It’s by far the most common and most frequently used tense in the Italian language.

Mangio una pizza.“I’m eating a pizza.”
Andiamo al cinema?“Let’s go to the movies?”
Non lavoro la domenica.“I don’t work on Sundays.”

In addition to expressing actions happening right now, the Italian present tense is also commonly used to express the near future or the intention of doing something. Of course, there’s a specific tense for future (which we’ll see later on), but keep in mind that it’s extremely common in Italian to use the present tense to express a near-future intention or action.

Domani vado a mangiare una pizza.“Tomorrow I’ll go for pizza.”
L’estate prossima andiamo in vacanza in Sicilia.“Next summer we’ll go to Sicily on vacation.”

2. Past Tenses

When it comes to the past tense in Italian, it gets a bit more complicated. This is because there are actually two main Italian past tenses that we use depending on the situation. Here’s a brief overview with examples to make everything clearer.

A- Passato Prossimo

Passato prossimo (simple past) is the tense that expresses a specific action that happened in the past and ended in the past. The Italian passato prossimo is formed by combining the auxiliary avere (to have) or essere (to be) and the past participle, usually* ending in -ato, -uto, or -ito, respectively for the -are, -ere, and ire conjugations.

A Woman Studying while Snacking on a Pastry

Hai studiato? (“Did you study?”)

InfinitivePast participlePassato prossimo
Mangi-are (To eat)Mangi-atoHo mangiato (I ate)
Cred-ere (To believe)Cred-utoHai creduto (You believed)
Cap-ire (To understand)Cap-itoHa capito (She understood)

That’s not too hard to remember, right? 

Just keep in mind that there’s a great number of verbs that have an irregular past participle, so you’ll have to memorize them. The good news is that some of them are so common that the memorization process will happen naturally. Also, they’re mostly of the -ere conjugation, so you should watch out for those. 

Here’s a quick list of some must-know verbs that have an irregular past participle, along with their passato prossimo forms.

InfinitiveIrregular Passato ProssimoInfinitiveIrregular Passato Prossimo
AccendereHo acceso (I turned on)Perdere Ho perso (I lost)
Aprire Ho aperto (I opened)Prendere Ho preso (I took)
Chiedere Ho chiesto (I asked)Ridere Ho riso (I laughed)
Chiudere Ho chiuso (I closed)Rimanere Sono rimasto/a (I stayed)
Correre Ho corso (I ran)Rispondere Ho risposto (I answered)
Dire Ho detto (I said)Scendere Sono sceso/a (I went down)
Essere Sono stato/a (I was)Scrivere Ho scritto (I wrote)
Fare Ho fatto (I did/made)Spegnere Ho spento (I turned off)
Leggere Ho letto (I read)VedereHo visto (I saw)
Mettere Ho messo (I put)Venire Sono venuto/a (I came)
Morire Sono morto/a (I died)Vivere Sono*/Ho vissuto (I lived)
Nascere Sono nato/a (I was born)

Ieri ho mangiato a casa di mio fratello.“Yesterday, I ate at my brother’s house.”
Durante le vacanze sono andata** al mare tutti i giorni.“During my vacation, I went to the beach every day.”
Hai letto il giornale di ieri?“Did you read yesterday’s newspaper?”
Non abbiamo chiesto l’orario del treno…“We haven’t asked for the train schedule…”

You probably noticed that in the examples, the auxiliary avere (to have) was sometimes used and essere (to be) was used other times. Why? Well, this is rather common in Romance languages. So, if you’re familiar with French or Spanish, for example, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Basically, you always use avere as an auxiliary, except when you have an intransitive verb

What does “intransitive” mean? 

Intransitive verbs cannot have a direct object and must be used with the essere auxiliary. These verbs often indicate movement or a change of state, such as: 

  • Andare (To go) 
  • Rimanere (To stay)
  • Nascere (To be born)
  • Morire (To die)

At the beginning, it might seem complicated—but don’t worry! With a little practice, choosing the right auxiliary will be really easy!

Another thing to remember: If you use the essere auxiliary in any compound tense, you need to make it agree with the subject. It’s easier to show than to explain:

Giovanni è andato a scuola.                    (Giovanni went to school.)
Maria è tornata dalle vacanze.                 (Maria is back from vacation.)
(Noi) Siamo nati in Italia.                        (We were born in Italy.)
Le mie amiche sono venute in treno.       (My friends came by train.)

On the other hand, if you had a verb that uses the avere auxiliary, the ending always stays the same:

Giovanni ha studiato la lezione.                            (Giovanni studied the lesson.)
Maria ha mangiato un panino.                             (Maria ate a sandwich.)
(Noi) Abbiamo visto un bel film.                            (We saw a good movie.)
Le mie amiche hanno organizzato una festa.         (My friends organized a party.)

Passato prossimo is often used with adverbs or phrases indicating time, such as: 

  • ieri (yesterday)
  • l’altro ieri (the day before yesterday)
  • la settimana scorsa (last week)
  • un mese fa (a year ago)
  • l’anno passato (last year)

So far so good? Then let’s get ready for the imperfetto.

B- Imperfetto

Imperfetto (imperfect) is a tense that exists in most Romance languages. It indicates a recurrent or usual action, an action that is still pending or not yet completed, or an ongoing action that occurred while another action happened. Basically, it’s an “imperfect” tense because it does not describe a definite, precise action of the past. It might be a little tricky at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

When and how do we use it, then? The indicative imperfect is used…

  • …to indicate an action not completed, which took place at the same time as another:

    Quando sono entrato, stavi dormendo. (When I came in, you were asleep.)
    Mentre andavo a scuola, ho incontrato una mia amica. (When I was going to school, I met a friend of mine.)
  • …to indicate an action that was habitually repeated in the past:

    Tutte le estati andavamo in Sicilia in treno. (Every summer, we used to go to Sicily by train.)
    Il nonno veniva a trovarci tutti i giorni e ci portava le caramelle. (Grandpa came to visit every day and brought us candies.)
Two Birds Sitting on a Tree Branch with Purple Flowers

C’era il sole e gli uccellini cantavano. (“It was sunny and the birds sang.”)

  • …to describe events, places, and people’s physical characteristics:

    C’era il sole e gli uccellini cantavano. (It was sunny and the birds sang.)
    Le montagne erano tutte coperte di neve. (The mountains were all covered with snow.)
    Maria aveva i capelli neri e gli occhi verdi. (Maria had black hair and green eyes.)

Since we’re talking so much about the past… There’s another past tense that’s so remote people don’t really use it anymore when speaking: the passato remoto. It’s a simple tense, used today mainly in written texts such as history textbooks and Italian literature. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize it.

Giulio Cesare fu un generale romano. (Julius Caesar was a Roman general.)
La ragazza andò via senza voltarsi. (The girl left without looking back.)
Quell’estate andammo al mare solo una volta. (That summer, we only went to the beach once.)

3. Future

As mentioned before, in Italian you can use the present tense when talking about the near future. So, if you’re talking about your plans for later in the day or the following week, you can simply use the present tense and let the temporal adverb communicate that it will happen in the future. For example: 

Domani esco da scuola alle tre del pomeriggio! (Tomorrow I leave school at three in the afternoon!)
Domenica facciamo una gita in montagna. (On Sunday, we are going for a day-trip to the mountains.)
La settimana prossima faccio una festa, vieni? (Next week I am throwing a party, will you come?)

But that doesn’t work all the time. When you’re talking about the distant future or want to be more specific about a future event, you’ll have to use the future tense. 

The future tense in Italian is easy to spot, as it’s formed by adding an ending to the verb’s infinitive stem. 

Infinitive
Futureparl-are (to talk)legg-ere (to read)sent-ire (to hear)
ioparlelegg-eròsent-irò
tuparlerailegg-eraisent-irai
lui/leiparlelegg-eràsent-irà
noiparleremolegg-eremosent-iremo
voiparleretelegg-eretesent-irete
loroparlerannolegg-erannosent-iranno

Easy, right? Just keep in mind that you need to change the a into an e for the first conjugation (the one in -are): 

  • parlare >> parlerò 
  • mangiare >> mangerò 
  • volare >> vole

Also remember that the first (io = “I”) and third (lui/lei = “he/she”) persons have an accent on the ending, which means you need to put the stress on that final vowel.

But you can notice that, apart from the vowel coming from the stem of the infinitive, all endings are the same for each of the three conjugations.

L’anno prossimo faremo un viaggio negli Stati Uniti.      (Next year we will travel to the United States.)
Un giorno questa situazione cambierà.                             (One day this situation will change.)
Prevedo che nel 2021 l’economia crescerà.                      (I predict that in 2021 the economy will grow.)
Domani ci sarà il sole?                                                     (Will it be sunny tomorrow?)

Another common use for the future tense in Italian is to express a supposition or a doubt:

Che ora sarà? (What time can it be?)
Saranno le tre, le tre e mezza. (It is probably three, three and a half.)

Quanti anni avrà Maria? (How old can Maria be?)
Boh, avrà vent’anni. (Dunno, she’s probably twenty.)

And finally, we use the future tense in the main clause when we’re stating a very realistic hypothesis, such as:

Se non piove, uscirò. (If it doesn’t rain, I will go out.)
Se leggi il libro, capirai il film. (If you read the book, you will understand the movie.)

Three People Walking in the Rain with Umbrellas

Se non piove, domani uscirò… (“If it doesn’t rain, I’ll go out tomorrow …”)

4. Conditional

Once you know how to conjugate the future tense, it’s very easy to use the conditional because it’s formed exactly the same way. Just use the stem from the infinitive (changing the a into e for the -are conjugation) and add the appropriate ending for conditional.

Conditional is very important because it’s one of the most common Italian tenses and it’s used to express many situations.

  • A personal opinion:
    Io voterei per l’altro candidato. (I would vote for the other candidate.)

  • A doubt:
    Cosa dovremmo fare? (What should we do?)

  • A possibility:
    Sono così stanca che potrei dormire per due giorni! (I’m so tired that I could sleep for two days!)

  • A desire:
    Mangerei un gelato al cioccolato… (I would love a chocolate ice cream…)
    Oggi andrei al cinema. (Today I would like/love to go to the movies.)
  • A polite demand:
    Potrei avrei un cappuccino? (Could I have a cappuccino?)
    Vorremmo noleggiare un’auto.
    (We would like to rent a car.)
A Red Sports Car

Vorrei noleggiare questa macchina! (“I wish to rent this car!”)

We’ve already talked about hypothetical sentences regarding very realistic situations. Another important use of the conditional is in hypothetical sentences where we’re stating something very unrealistic. Do you remember these examples? Let’s look at them from a different point of view:

Se non piovesse, uscirei. (If it weren’t raining—but it is!—I would go out.)
Se tu leggessi il libro, capiresti il film. (If you read the book—but you refuse to—you would understand the movie.)

Or:

Se fossi ricco, comprerei una casa al mare. (If I were rich—but I’m not!—I would buy a beach house.)
Se tutti andassimo in bici, non ci sarebbe traffico! (If we all rode bikes—very unlikely—there would be no traffic!)

If you’re asking yourself what tense the verbs piovesse, leggessi, fossi, and andassimo, are in, I’ll tell you right away that it’s the past subjunctive (congiuntivo passato). We’ll talk about it in a little bit.

5. Are You in the Mood for Moods…? 😉

We’ve just mentioned condizionale (“conditional”) and congiuntivo (“subjunctive”), but we need to back up a little here. These are not tenses, but rather modi (“moods”). In other words, they indicate the attitude of the speaker relative to the action expressed in the verb.

For example, if the action is real we use the indicative; if it’s possible, we use the subjunctive; if it’s subject to particular conditions, we use the conditional; and if we’re giving orders, we use the imperative. These are the four Italian finite moods, meaning that they’re conjugated for each person. Then there are three infinite moods which are invariable and don’t change with different subjects. 

On the other hand, the tenses only refer to the time of the action (in the present, in the past, or in the future).

Here’s a table that represents all of the moods and tenses in Italian for my favorite verb: studiare (to study).

FINITE MOODS
Indicativo
Presente (studio)
Imperfetto (studiavo)
Passato remoto (studiai)
Futuro (studierò)
Passato prossimo (ho studiato)
Trapassato prossimo (avevo studiato)
Trapassato remoto (ebbi studiato)
Futuro anteriore (avrò studiato)
Condizionale
Presente (studierei)Passato (avrei studiato)
Congiuntivo
Presente (che io studi)
Imperfetto (che io studiassi)
Passato (che io abbia studiato)
Trapassato (che io avessi studiato)
Imperativo
Presente (studia!)

INFINITE MOODS
Infinito
Presente (studiare)Passato(aver studiato)
Participio
Presente (studiante)Passato (studiato)
Gerundio
Presente (studiando)Passato(avendo studiato)

6. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary

Now that we’ve taken into consideration the absolutely must-know Italian tenses (and had an overview of all the Italian moods and tenses), it’s time to look at how to form every Italian tense using the help of auxiliaries.

    → We’re not going to go into too much detail about conjugation, because if you want to know more about it, you just need to check out this fantastic article on the ItalianPod101 blog.
One Hand Extending Toward Another to Help

Gli ausiliari sono qui per aiutare. (“Auxiliaries are here to help.”)

Auxiliaries have lots of uses, as the name itself suggests: auxiliary = ausiliare = “to help.” 

We’ve already seen how to choose between essere (to be) and avere (to have) when forming the passato prossimo. Now we can look at other tenses (and other moods) that you’ll need the help of auxiliaries to use. Here we go!

A- Reality [Indicative]

Presente
Studio perché mi piace l’italiano!
(I study because I like Italian!)
Passato Prossimo
Anche tu hai studiato italiano con ItalianPod101?
(Have you also studied Italian with ItalianPod101?)
Imperfetto
Da bambina giocavo con le macchinine.
(As a child, I used to play with toy cars.)
Trapassato Prossimo
Quando sono arrivato, erano partiti da un’ora.
(When I arrived, they had left an hour before.)
Passato Remoto
Il gatto saltò sul divano.
(The cat jumped on the sofa.)
Trapassato Remoto
Dopo che Cesare ebbe conquistato la Gallia, si riposò.
(After Caesar had conquered Gaul, he rested.)
Futuro
Da grande farò l’astronauta.
(When I grow up, I will be an astronaut.)
Futuro Anteriore
Dopo che avrò studiato uscirò con gli amici.
(After I study, I will go out with friends.)

B- Desire [Conditional]

Presente
Mangerei un chilo di gelato al cioccolato…
(I would eat a kilo of chocolate ice cream…)
Passato
Ieri mi sarebbe piaciuto andare al cinema.
(Yesterday, I would have liked to go to the movies.)

C- Doubt, Possibility [Subjunctive]

Presente
Penso che Carlos canti benissimo.
(I think Carlos sings very well.)
Passato
Penso che Carlos ieri abbia cantato meglio.
(I think Carlos sang better yesterday.)
Imperfetto
Pensavo che Carlos oggi cantasse in italiano.
(I thought Carlos was singing in Italian today.)
Trapassato 
Ero convinta che Carlos ieri avesse cantato meglio.
(I was convinced that Carlos had sung better yesterday.)

D- Giving Orders [Imperative]

Presente
Studia se vuoi migliorare!
(Study if you want to improve!)

E- Indefinite Moods

The indefinite moods are verb forms that are only used in subordinate clauses, because they cannot stand alone in a sentence.

Infinitive

It indicates the pure action expressed by the verb. It ends in -are, -ere, ire.

  • Correre è bello! (Running is fun!)
  • Voglio andare al mare… (I want to go to the beach…) 

Present participle

It usually turns the verb into a noun or an adjective (as in, the person or the thing doing the action). It ends in -ante, -ente.

  • Il cantante è bravo. (The singer is good.)

Past participle

We already looked at this mood when talking about the passato prossimo. It’s the one ending in -ato, -uto, -ito that we use together with auxiliaries.

  • Ho cantato tutto la notte. (I sang all night.)

Gerund

It’s used to indicate something that is in the process of occurring, often used with the verb stare. It ends in -ando, -endo.

  • Sto cantando sotto la pioggia. (I’m singing in the rain.)
  • Stai ancora dormendo? (Are you still sleeping?)

7. Conclusion

Verbs are like bricks that you need in order to speak full sentences. In this lesson, you learned enough tenses, moods, and verbal forms to build yourself a beautiful Italian villa!

How confident are you feeling about Italian verb tenses now? Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have any questions, and we’ll get back to you!

Don’t forget to browse through the many vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources available on our website. We make it easy to keep improving your Italian anywhere you are!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your private teacher help you with tenses and conjugation. And that’s not all! With this service, you unlock 220+ hours of audio/video courses, study tools, bonus apps, and more. So you get the best of both worlds: access to a teacher and the ability to learn at your own pace with fast, fun, and easy lessons.

Keep learning while having fun with ItalianPod101.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian

Time, Love, Wisdom: A Guide to the Top Italian Proverbs

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Proverbs are pearls of wisdom, sometimes coined by famous individuals but more often of anonymous origin. Some proverbs go back to the beginning of humanity itself, and although they sound a bit old sometimes, they always have a practical application in everyday life and can help us deal with complicated situations. 

In general, proverbs tend to transmit popular wisdom in a very concrete way. They often stand out for their irony, their colorful comparisons, and their funny tones and metaphors.

Italian proverbs are an important part of the language, because… 

  • …Italians use them often in conversations.
  • …they belong to a shared body of knowledge.
  • …they typically denote specific cultural traits of the country. 

That last point is especially important, because each culture has its own set of proverbs and idioms. They reflect a particular sense of wisdom, in harmony with the history of each country. Many of these are universal, but there are equally well-known local variations.

In this guide from ItalianPod101.com, you’ll learn about some of the most common Italian proverbs, what they mean, and how to use them.

An Old Book Lying Open with Pages Turning

Proverbs = traditional popular culture.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Proverbs About Time
  2. Proverbs About Food
  3. Proverbs with Animals
  4. Proverbs About Love and Family
  5. Proverbs About Life, Wisdom, and All the Rest…
  6. Conclusion

1. Proverbs About Time

There are a great number of proverbs about time, maybe because our wise ancestors knew how important it is—and how easily we forget about it or even waste it.

#1

ItalianIl mattino ha l’oro in bocca.
Literally“The morning has gold in its mouth.”
EquivalentThe early bird catches the worm.
This is the perfect proverb to begin our guide, since it deals with getting the right start. According to this proverb, if you get up early, you’ll get the most out of your day. This proverb also praises the value of acting immediately, and presents a concept well-known since ancient times and in many different cultures.

Another version of the same proverb is: Chi tardi arriva, male alloggia. (“Who arrives late, settles badly.”)

And you? What part of the day do you prefer?

#2

ItalianChi dorme non piglia pesci.
Literally“Who sleeps does not catch fish.”
EquivalentDon’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.
This well-known Italian proverb of ancient origin is used to warn those lazy ones among us that without work and commitment, it’s impossible to get what you want or need. The proverb is therefore a real exhortation to get busy because nothing is achieved without effort.

#3

ItalianMeglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani.
Equivalent“Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.” 
This Italian proverb seems to express that it’s more convenient to settle for the little certainties of today than to risk losing them.  

In fact, it could have a double interpretation, which is a common characteristic of proverbs. Another meaning could be that of another common proverb: Chi non risica non rosica. (“Who does not take risks doesn’t eat.”) Both talk about the behavior of prudent people, as well as the behavior of those who are willing to risk a little.
As Aristotle used to say… “Virtue lies in the middle, in the balance of the two opposites.”

#4

ItalianLa gatta frettolosa fece i gattini ciechi.
Literally“The hasty cat made the blind kittens.”
EquivalentHaste makes waste.
This proverb emphasizes that everything should be done at the right time and in the best possible way. Haste is always a bad advisor, and even if it gives you the impression of being very productive, it can eventually create some unpleasant situations to solve.

So, beware of multitasking and hyperactivity…!

#5

ItalianSe sono rose, fioriranno.
Literally“If they are roses, they will bloom.”
EquivalentTime will tell.
This old proverb has a second part that’s usually omitted… “if they are thorns, they will sting.” But in any case, the meaning is clear: Keep working on a job or a project with faith, because only at the end will you see the results.

And if you want to keep optimistic about it, you can rely on yet another proverb about time: ll tempo è galantuomo. (“Time is a gentleman.”) It means that in the end, time will solve every problem, even if you can’t see it at the moment.

#6

ItalianIl buongiorno si vede dal mattino.
Literally“Good morning starts in the morning.”
EquivalentA good beginning makes a good ending.
This proverb reminds us of something we already know: If a day or endeavor has a good start, it’s likely to be a success. If it starts well, it will probably end well.

This is also the bottom line of another very common Italian proverb, stating: Chi ben comincia è a metà dell’opera. (“Well begun is half done.”) Both proverbs stress the importance of starting con il piede giusto (“with the right foot”).

#7

ItalianMeglio tardi che mai.
EquivalentBetter late than never.
This is the perfect proverb for the typical Italian… While it may be an oversimplification, it’s partly true that Italians tend to be late. Not all of them, obviously, but arriving a little late to an appointment (especially among friends and family) is accepted—and even almost expected—in Italy. So, if you’ve been waiting on someone or something for some time, you can use this proverb to express your disappointment with a little irony. 

It’s also used in reference to people who finally change a bad behavior or have finally come to understand something:

Finalmente hai lasciato il fidanzato…meglio tardi che mai! (“You finally left your boyfriend…better late than never!”)

#8

ItalianFinché c’è vita, c’è speranza.
EquivalentWhere there’s life, there’s hope.
This proverb comes from a quote by Cicero from more than 2000 years ago. It encourages us not to despair, even in difficult situations. As long as we’re alive, we can still make our dreams come true. How wise and optimistic is that?

Another way of saying it is: La speranza è l’ultima a morire. (“Hope is the last to die.”)

A Little Girl Rubbing Her Eyes While Waking Up in the Morning

A good morning starts in the morning.

2. Proverbs About Food

Italians love to eat. They eat all the time, and when they’re not eating, they’re talking about food! It’s only natural that there are so many popular Italian proverbs about food and wine.

#9

ItalianCome il cacio sui maccheroni.
Literally“Like cheese on macaroni.”
EquivalentTo be just right for the job.
Cacio—a mixed cheese made of sheep’s and cow’s milk—is the perfect combination for macaroni, because its strong flavor completes it. So, you can use this proverb when describing something that makes a situation just perfect

This proverb must date back to the origin of the short and pierced pasta called macaroni, in the early Middle Ages in Sicily. Even today, this combination of pasta and cacio is present in the well-known Roman cuisine dish called “cacio e pepe.”

There’s another Italian saying that means the opposite: come i cavoli a merenda (“like cabbage for snacks”). This refers to a combination that just doesn’t work.

#10

ItalianBuon vino fa buon sangue.
Literally“Good wine makes good blood.”
EquivalentAn apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Nothing goes better with a pasta dish than a good red wine…but in this proverb, we also find the ancient wisdom that a little (especially red) wine every day makes your whole spirit better. 

If wine isn’t your favorite drink, check out our vocabulary list of 20 Drinks to Quench Your Thirst and learn how to say your favorites! 

#11

ItalianO mangiar questa minestra o saltar questa finestra.
Literally“Either eat this soup or jump out of this window.”
EquivalentTake it or leave it.
Whether it’s something we don’t like on our dinner plate or any other unpleasant situation, we’re often presented with things that we have to accept out of necessity, because there’s no alternative.

Interestingly, the Italian term minestra today simply means “soup,” but in Ancient Rome, it referred to any food served at the table. This is because the minister was the person who served food during meals (from which we get the verb “to administer”). 

#12

ItalianNon tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.
Literally“Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.”
EquivalentYou can’t win them all.
Even though this proverb talks about the Italian doughnut ciambella, it’s not really about food. Rather, it’s about the fact that not everything turns out as planned. It also encourages us to be ready for surprises!

#13

ItalianAvere le mani in pasta.
Literally“Having your hands in the dough.”
EquivalentTo have a finger in the pie.
This expression refers to being involved in a situation or project (especially a dubious one), either financially or for personal interests. It has a negative meaning and is normally used to refer to “dirty” business.

It originates from the old times, when several people used to work together with sticky dough while manually making pasta and bread.

A Variety of Donuts

Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.

3. Proverbs with Animals

Why are there so many proverbs with animals? Since the oldest times, animals have helped people, made great companions, and provided food and warmth. For these reasons, it makes sense that they occupy a special place in the long list of Italian proverbs.

#14

ItalianCane che abbaia non morde.
Literally“Dog barking does not bite.”
EquivalentHis bark is worse than his bite.
We’ve all met a grumpy person who yells and maybe even threatens us—but who, in the end, is totally harmless. Just like the dog that protects its home or owner by making lots of noise!

#15

ItalianIl lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio.
Literally“The wolf sheds its hair but not the vice.”
EquivalentA leopard cannot change its spots.
It’s very difficult to get rid of bad habits, right? That’s exactly what this old proverb means. In its original Latin version, it talked about a fox rather than a wolf, but the concept remains: a person can work hard to make changes in their life, but still struggle to overcome certain habits.

Mario ha di nuovo cominciato a bere… il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio! (“Mario has started drinking again…a leopard cannot change its spots!”)

#16

ItalianQuando il gatto non c’è, i topi ballano.
EquivalentWhen the cat’s away, the mice will play.
There’s really no need to explain this proverb, which is common in many different cultures. We all remember when we were kids and our parents were away, right?

#17

ItalianA caval donato non si guarda in bocca.
EquivalentLook not a gift horse in the mouth.
This proverb has to do with good manners and graciousness: If you receive a gift, do not make a fuss about its value. 

It comes from not-so-ancient times when, before buying a horse, people would look into the animal’s mouth to determine its age and its health condition from the teeth. But remember not to do that if the horse was a gift, okay?

A Horse Neighing

Gift or no gift…he doesn’t want you to look inside his mouth!

4. Proverbs About Love and Family

Because family and relationships are such fundamental aspects of the Italian lifestyle, there’s no shortage of love and family proverbs in Italian. Here are a few of the most common ones. 

#18

ItalianI panni sporchi si lavano in famiglia.
Literally“Dirty clothes are washed within the family.” 
EquivalentDo not wash your dirty linen in public.
Dirty clothes, thanks to this popular proverb, have become synonymous with delicate and private matters. 

It’s better to solve delicate matters inside the circle of those who are directly concerned. Only those who are close, like members of the same family, can understand the facts and situations that those on the outside may misinterpret.

#19

ItalianMoglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi.
Literally“Wives and oxen of your country.” 
This is a really dated proverb—way before globalization, Erasmus, and all the traveling we do today. It basically suggests that, like in agriculture, it’s better to stick to local “breed” in relationships and not marry (or breed) foreigners.

Of course, it’s painfully politically incorrect today, especially because it only refers to mogli (“wives”) and it compares them to animals…but oh well, you got the point. After all, it’s just saying that cultural differences in a relationship will come back to haunt you in the long run! 

#20

ItalianChi si assomiglia si piglia.
Literally“Who looks alike chooses each other.”
EquivalentBirds of a feather flock together.
People tend to relate to others who have similar personalities, lifestyles, and tastes as they do. For this reason, we find it easier to establish relationships with people who are similar to us. 

Another related proverb says: Dimmi con chi vai e ti dirò chi sei. (“Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.”)

#21

ItalianTra moglie e marito non ci mettere il dito.
Literally“Between wife and husband don’t put a finger.”
EquivalentDon’t go between the tree and the bark.
You should not get involved in family affairs that are not your own, because the problems of the couple are so intimate that they can be judged only by the husband and wife.

In other words… Fatti gli affari tuoi! (“Mind your own business!”)

#22

ItalianLa mamma dei cretini è sempre incinta.
Literally“The mother of fools is always pregnant.”
EquivalentThere’s one born every minute.
There are many versions of this very old and wise proverb:

La madre dei cretini (“fools”) è sempre incinta. 
La madre degli idioti (“idiots”) è sempre incinta.
La mamma degli stupidi (“stupid people”) è sempre incinta.
La mamma degli imbecilli (“imbeciles”) è sempre incinta. 

So, you can change the word but the concept is the same: There will always be idiots around to make things difficult.

#23

ItalianVolere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca.
Literally“Wanting a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.”
EquivalentHave your cake and eat it too.
Here’s another example of a proverb that’s not very kind to Italian women…but its metaphorical meaning is clear: You cannot have everything in life!

Vuoi dimagrire continuando a mangiare di tutto? Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca! (“Do you want to lose weight while continuing to eat everything? You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”)

5. Proverbs About Life, Wisdom, and All the Rest…

A Lovely Garden in Canada

Why is the neighbor’s grass always nicer???

We could all use a little guidance now and then, which is where these Italian proverbs about life and all of its trappings come in! 

#24

ItalianOcchio non vede, cuore non duole.
Literally“Eye does not see, heart does not hurt.”
EquivalentOut of sight, out of mind.
Ignorance can be a blessing and it sometimes spares us a lot of suffering. Another popular way of saying this is:

Beata ignoranza! (“Blissful ignorance!”)

#25

ItalianChi troppo vuole nulla stringe.
Literally“Those who want too much obtain nothing.”
EquivalentGrasp all, lose all.
Don’t be greedy! This proverb ultimately invites us to not do/want too many things at the same time, because none of those things will be done well in the end.

#26

ItalianA buon intenditor, poche parole.
Literally“To the good connoisseur, a few words.”
EquivalentA word to the wise (is sufficient).
This proverb indicates that if you’re intelligent and aware of things, you don’t need many explanations in order to understand a concept. A few words should be enough.

#27

ItalianL’erba del vicino è sempre più verde.
Literally“The neighbor’s grass is always greener.”
EquivalentThe grass is always greener on the other side.
Envy is one of the most defective traits we can have, but it’s unfortunately a pretty common trait in our society. Often, as this proverb suggests, we prefer to look at the possessions or success of those around us, often thinking they’re better than us.

#28

ItalianRide bene chi ride ultimo.
EquivalentLaughs best who laughs last.
This proverb highlights how one should not celebrate before the end of a situation, even if things seem to be going in the right direction. And this is not only out of superstition! We all know that everything can change at the very last minute.

#29

ItalianFra i due litiganti il terzo gode.
Literally“Between the two litigants the third enjoys.”
This proverb comes from the title of an Italian comedy of errors from the end of the eighteenth century. It means that sometimes, if two people fight about something, a third person might benefit in the end by taking advantage of the distraction and weakness of the two busy fighting.

So, don’t make war, please!

#30

ItalianNon è tutto oro quello che luccica.
EquivalentAll that glitters is not gold.
This metaphorical phrase warns about things, behaviors, or situations that appear fantastic from the outside—but which are far worse when you take a closer look!

Another proverb that warns us not to judge by appearances is: 

L’abito non fa il monaco. (“The dress does not make the priest.”)

A Little Toddler Climbing Up the Stairs

Life is made of stairs…

#31

ItalianIl mondo è fatto a scale, c’è chi scende, e c’è chi sale.
Literally“The world is made of stairs, some go down, and some go up.”
EquivalentEvery dog has his day.
Life, as luck, comes and goes. You never know what direction life will take.

#32

ItalianChi fa da sé, fa per tre.
Literally“He who works by himself does the work of three (people).”
EquivalentIf you want something done right, do it yourself.
It’s true that often, in order to do a good job, you have to do it yourself. But, ironically, you could also say the opposite using another motto: L’unione fa la forza (“Unity is strength”). So, who do you think is right?

#33

ItalianTra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.
Literally“An ocean lies between what is said and what is done.”
EquivalentActions speak louder than words. 
Talking is easy, but it’s much more difficult to actually do things. This proverb refers to people who have a tendency to speak a lot and make promises they don’t keep.

#34

ItalianA mali estremi, estremi rimedi.
EquivalentDesperate times call for desperate measures.
Sometimes a drastic action is called for—and justified—when you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation.

#35

ItalianSbagliando s’impara.
Literally“Learning by mistakes.”
EquivalentPractice makes perfect.
Don’t worry about making mistakes, as they are life experiences that we can learn from. And if you’re learning Italian, you can be certain that making a few mistakes is paving the road to greater skills. And practice—with ItalianPod101.com—definitely makes perfect! 

6. Conclusion

In this guide, you’ve learned the 35 most common Italian proverbs. Do you know any others? Make sure to share them with our community in the comments below!

And keep up the good work with your Italian studies! We encourage you to take advantage of all the free resources, vocabulary lists, and video and audio podcasts on ItalianPod101.com to boost your studies and keep learning fun!

Make sure you also check out our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching with your own private teacher. He or she will use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your Italian like never before! 

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È with an Accent or E? All About Italian Accent Marks

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Have you ever wondered what makes Italian so musical? Among other reasons, there’s the fact that the rhythm inside the sentences is set by raising and lowering one’s tone of voice, dictated by…yes, you guessed right! The accento, which is how you say “accent” in Italian.

Man in Suit Singing into a Microphone

Accents and alternation of vowels make Italian so musical!

Accents are little (and often invisible) signs that help us speak and write correctly. That’s why it is so important to get Italian accent marks right on the page and to know the few rules that govern them. Ready to go? Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Italian Accents
  2. Italian Accents and Their Functions
  3. The Most Important Italian Accent Mark of All (È vs. E)
  4. Are Italian Accent Marks Optional?
  5. Homograph Words (Same Words, Different Meanings)
  6. A Brief History of Italian Accents
  7. How to Type Italian Accents
  8. How to Get All Your Italian Accents Right with ItalianPod101.com!

1. Introduction to Italian Accents

First of all, let’s clarify an important point. In this article, we’ll be focusing only on orthographic signs, and not on the wonderful variety of regional variations with which Italians talk. That is a totally different topic, even though it also has to do with the musicality of the Italian language. But keep checking the ItalianPod101.com blog because in the future, you might discover just how to do an Italian accent!

The accents we’ll be talking about are those little orthographic signs that you write on top of vowels to give a syllable prominence or emphasis, basically to indicate that your voice has to stop there for an instant. In Italian, the only letters with accents are: à, è, é, ì, ò, ù.

When we talk, even if we don’t realize it, we put the accent on every word we say. And rightly so, because each word has an accent. But in writing, it’s rarely obligatory to indicate the accent, given that the Italian words with accent marks are a minority compared to those without. 

In Italian, you’ll find only two accents:

  • grave accent (`) as in città (“city”)
  • acute accent (´) as in perché (“why”)

In the past, there used to be a circumflex accent (^) in specific cases, but it has—luckily—been dropped. 

2. Italian Accents and Their Functions

Recapping, there are two types of Italian accents (acute and grave), and they have two functions:

  • They indicate on which syllable to put the stress when you speak.
  • They indicate if the vowel is open (grave = `) or closed (acute = ´).

In the first case, the only time it’s obligatory to put the accent mark in Italian is when the stress falls on the last syllable. These are called parole tronche (“truncated words”).

Roma è una bellissima città. (“Rome is a beautiful city.”)
I soldi non danno la felicità. (“Money does not give happiness.”)
La pazienza è la virtù dei forti. (“Patience is the virtue of the strong.”)

One Girl Looking Over Another Girl’s Shoulder During Test

Is it with an accent or without…?

Notice how when the accent on the last syllable falls on the vowels a, i, o, or u, the accent is always grave: à, ì, ò, ù. If it falls on the vowel e, it could be grave (è) or acute (è), depending on the open or closed pronunciation of the vowel. (You can watch this video on Italian accents when pronouncing vowels for more information.)

For example, it’s acute with the causal conjunctions perché (“why” / “because”), affinché (“so that”), cosicché (“so”), giacché (“since”), poiché (“because”), etc., or on the compound words of tre (“three”), ventitré (“twenty-three”), trentatré (“thirty-three”), etc. In most other cases, it is grave.

To know when to put the accent, it helps to remember that all of the words in English that end in -ty (city, society, variety, immensity, etc.) will end in -tà in Italian (cit, socie, varie, immensi, etc.). Note that they end with the à accent.

Then, there’s a certain number of monosyllabic words that are composed of just one syllable and need to have an accent. The small Italian words with accent marks are:

  • (“She/He/It gives”)
  • Là, Lì (“There”)
  • (“Yes”)
  • (“Tea”)
  • È (“It is”)
  • (“Nor” / “Neither”)
  • (“Oneself”)
  • Ciò (“That,” as a pronoun)
  • Già (“Already”)
  • Giù (“Down”)
  • Più (“More”)
  • Può (“He can”)

Other places where you need to consistently put the accent? Here they are:

  • On the third person singular of the passato remoto (“remote past,” which is the equivalent of the preterit past). This is actually a bit more advanced. Do you want to find out more about it?
    • Andò (“He went”)
    • Mangiò (“She ate”)
    • Dormì (“He slept”)

  • On the first and third person singular of the future tense:
    • Andrò / Andrà (“I will go” / “He will go”)
    • Mangerò / Mangerà (“I will eat” / “She will eat”)
    • Dormirò / Dormirà (“I will sleep” / “He will sleep”)

  • On all the names of the days, except for sabato and domenica (“Saturday” and “Sunday”).This is because they are compounds of the word , which is another way to say giorno (“day”).
    • Lunedì (“Monday”)
    • Martedì (“Tuesday”)
    • Mercoledì (“Wednesday”)
    • Giovedì (“Thursday”)
    • Venerdì (“Friday”)

3. The Most Important Italian Accent Mark of All (È vs. E)

The accented è in Italian is extremely important. Being the third person singular of the verbo essere (“verb ‘to be’”), you can imagine just how useful it is in your writing and how often you’ll have to write it. 

That’s why Italian teachers can overlook some spelling and grammar mistakes, but one thing that will surely result in a red mark on your homework is to leave out the ` accent of è (“it is”) or to put it on e (“and”).

Teacher Grading Papers Behind Her Desk

Beware! È vs. E is a red pen mistake!

In fact, in this case, it’s not only a matter of style, but it directly affects the meaning of the sentence. And since both parts (conjunction and verb “to be”) are so common and essential in any sentence, it’s clear why it’s so important to write them correctly. To help children remember if they need to write e with an accent or not, Italian teachers use this little rhyme with kids:

E che lega / È che spiega (“E that ties / È that explains”).

Try and repeat it a few times to memorize it. And if you still need more practice, check out one of the many resources on ItalianPod101.com.

4. Are Italian Accent Marks Optional? 

Accents on parole tronche (“truncated words”), those words where the stress falls on the last syllable, are the only case in which accents are not optional. And—in theory—you should respect the correct orthography of the accent (basically the direction you write it ` vs. ´). But beware that nowadays, many Italians don’t pay much attention to it, especially with all the fast writing in chats and on phones…

When the stress falls inside the words, it’s not mandatory to write the accent. However, it’s extremely useful to clarify the pronunciation (yes, sometimes even Italians can get confused on the correct way to pronounce long words…). You’ll also find it useful in distinguishing cases in which two words look the same, but have different meanings depending on where the accent falls or what kind of accent it is. In this case, the choice of whether to use the accent or not is left to the writer, depending on the degree of ambiguity of the context. As in lèggere (“to read”) vs leggère (“light” f. pl.).

  • Mi piace molto lèggere storie leggère. (“I really like to read light stories.”)

Most of the time, you’ll only see these accents in Italian dictionaries when you’re looking up the definition of the word.

5. Homograph Words (Same Words, Different Meanings)

The example above perfectly shows the other function of Italian accents, which is phonetic rather than orthographic. This means that it impacts the pronunciation and not the writing. These accents help you know how to pronounce any given word, and they clear things up in case of homographs, which are two words that are written the same way but have different meanings depending on where the accent falls.

Old Man Raising Hands in Gesture of Uncertainty

Homograph words…what are those?

1- Same accent, different position

To better understand the importance of Italian accent marks’ pronunciation, here’s a list of Italian words with hidden accent marks that have different meanings depending on the position or the type of accents. But remember that these accents aren’t usually written, and they only appear in dictionaries.

  • Lèggere / Leggère (“To read” / “Light”)
  • Meta / Metà (“Goal” / “Half”)
            La meta di quest’anno è le metà dell’anno passato. (“This year’s goal is half of last year’s.”)
  • Prìncipi / Princìpi  (“Princes” / “Principles”)
            La storia è piena di prìncipi senza princìpi. (“History is full of princes with no principles.”)
  • Capitàno / Càpitano (“Captain” / “They happen”)
            Il capitàno ha detto che sono cose che càpitano. (“The captain said that these things can happen.”)
  • Áncora / Ancòra (“Anchor” / “Yet” or “Still”)
            La nave non ha ancòra gettato l’àncora. (“The ship has not yet thrown the anchor.”)

2- Same position, different accent

In other cases, the accent is in the same place, but it’s a different type (acute vs. grave). When this happens, the meaning changes as well, like in these examples.

  • La bótte (“the barrel”) vs. Le bòtte (“the beatings”)
  • Affètto (“affection”) vs. Affétto (“I slice”)
  • Pèsca (“peach”) vs. Pésca (“he fishes”/”fishing”)
  • Èsca (“bait”) vs. Ésca (“she leaves,” subjunctive of uscire)

Even for an Italian ear, it’s not always easy to hear the difference, especially since regional accents might influence the pronunciation. So it’s always easier to make out the difference based on the context of the sentence.

6. A Brief History of Italian Accents

Old Writings with a Red Wax Seal On It

Old Italian has a lot more accents…

So now you know that accents are sometimes there (we pronounce them), but aren’t really there (we don’t write them). Do you wonder why? 

Accents in all romance languages come from the Greek. In Italy, up to the 19th century, there were no set rules and everybody used them as they liked…kind of. This is why, if you try and read a very ancient Italian text, you might find a lot of accents that today aren’t written anymore. And it’s just recently that the grammaticians have gotten together and set the rules that you’ve just learned here.

7. How to Type Italian Accents

Now, you might be wondering: “How do I type Italian accent marks?”

Sometimes, the biggest challenge when you write in a different language is to find unfamiliar letters and accents on your keyboard. Luckily, in Italian, you only have to worry about è, é, à, ì, ò, ù. So, here’s a little guide to help you learn how to write Italian accents.

1- On phones

Smartphones with a touchscreen normally have a very useful feature. If you hold your finger on a letter, all of the possible combinations and variations of that letter will pop up, including the accents.

2- On an Italian keyboard

If you happen to be in Italy, and you’re using an Italian keyboard (at a friend’s house, a library, or an internet cafè), you’ll find the vocali accentate (“accented vowels”) on the right side of the keyboard (à, è, é, ì, ò, ù). Very convenient! However, you won’t find uppercase È (“It is”) on the keyboard. But since it’s the only one that you will ever really need, you can copy-paste from another text, for example here: È! 🙂  

An Upclose Shot of a Keyboard

Combination of keys will write à è é ì ò ù

3- On other keyboards

However, if you need to write Italian accent marks on keyboards that aren’t Italian, you’ll need a little patience and some trial and error before you’re able to write that perfect letter to your friend or finish your Italian homework.

On keyboards that have the ` and ´ keys, you normally just need to press one of those keys, followed by the vowel you need the accent on.

For the grave accent:

  • à = ` then press the ‘a’ key.
  • è = ` then press the ‘e’ key.
  • ì = ` then press the ‘i’ key.
  • ò = ` then press the ‘o’ key.
  • ù = ` then press the ‘u’ key.

For the acute accent:

  • à = ´ then press the ‘a’ key.
  • é = ´ then press the ‘e’ key. (The only one you will really need.)
  • í = ´ then press the ‘i’ key.
  • ó = ´ then press the ‘o’ key.
  • ú = ´ then press the ‘u’ key.

4- On a Mac

To type Italian accent marks on Mac keyboards, for the grave accent you’ll have to press the Option key, the tilde (~) key, and then the vowel you need to put the accent on:

  • à = option + tilde (~) / then press the ‘a’ key.
  • è = option + tilde (~) / then press the ‘e’ key.
  • ì = option + tilde (~) / then press the ‘i’ key.
  • ò = option + tilde (~) / then press the ‘o’ key.
  • ù = option + tilde (~) / then press the ‘u’ key.

To write with the acute accent, you’ll have to press the Option key, the “e” key, and then the vowel you need to put the accent on, as follows:

  • à = option + ‘e’ key / then press the ‘a’ key.
  • é = option + ‘e’ key / then press the ‘e’ key again. (The only one you will really need.)
  • í = option + ‘e’ key / then press the ‘i’ key.
  • ó = option + ‘e’ key / then press the ‘o’ key.
  • ú = option + ‘e’ key / then press the ‘u’ key.

5- On search engines

One thing that you won’t have to worry too much about is using the right accent when you’re looking something up on a search engine. Engines, in fact, give you full results, whether you put the accent or not.

For example, if you search meta on an Italian search engine, in the results you’ll find links, articles, and definitions about both the goal (meta) of this year’s spending review and the difference between metà and mezza (both, in fact, mean “half”).

8. How to Get All Your Italian Accents Right with ItalianPod101.com!

Are you ready now to write a perfect letter, a perfect resume, or a motivational letter? Are you confident enough to chat comfortably with your Italian friends via messages and chats? 

Making progress in learning a language becomes easier once you have the right tools. And what could be better than free resources, mobile apps, a personalized learning system, or audio and video lessons to help you improve more everyday? All of this and more you’ll find on ItalianPod101.com, the Innovative Language site for on-the-go learning. Check it out!

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Is Italian Hard to Learn?

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In this article, we’re going to dismantle some common misconceptions about learning a new language, with a focus on Italian. We’ll start with a big question: “Is Italian hard to learn?”

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Italian Table of Contents
  1. Is Italian a Difficult Language to Learn? (Spoiler…the answer is “No”)
  2. What are the Hardest and Easiest Parts of Learning Italian?
  3. This is Why Learning Italian is Easy!
  4. Here’s Why Italian is Hard to Learn
  5. I Want to Learn Italian. Where Should I Start?
  6. Why is ItalianPod101 Great for Learning Italian?
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Italian a Difficult Language to Learn? (Spoiler…the answer is “No”)

So, you’ve finally decided to jump into learning a new language, and your first choice is Italian (a great choice, by the way). Now, with your foot in the door, you’re wondering whether Italian is a hard language to learn. 

The short answer here is “No!” Anybody can learn Italian, especially after getting through our quick and definitive guide on how to succeed. And our first piece of advice is this: Independent of your goal, learning a new language is a journey, so have fun with it!

Of course, there are some variables that have an impact on how easily or quickly you’re going to master Italian, but the good news is that you’ll definitely get there—and you’ll have great fun in the process.

First, let’s take a brief look at the main factors that affect the way one learns and perceives a new language:

  • → predisposition: We all know that learning a language just comes easier to some people than it does for others. They have that something…it’s like having a good ear for music or a good sense of direction. But don’t worry, even if that might give them a little jumpstart, there are lots of other variables that contribute to one’s perceived difficulty of a language.

  • → motivation: Whether you were born with a knack for languages or not, being very motivated can help you learn quickly and with ease. Imminent moves to Italy, the prospect of a job abroad, or an Italian boyfriend/girlfriend have always been fantastic motivators!

  • → how close your native language is to Italian: of course, if you speak another of the Romance languages (French, Spanish, or Portuguese, for example), Italian will be easier for you because you’ll find many similarities.
A Couple Walking Together Down a Road

Learning a language is a journey. Have fun with it!

2. What are the Hardest and Easiest Parts of Learning Italian?

But what if you don’t speak one of the Romance languages? Is Italian hard to learn for English-speakers?

We have good news: The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) considers Italian to be one of the easiest languages for English-speakers to learn. In fact, they estimate that you just need twenty-four weeks (or 600 hours) to acquire basic fluency. So after that amount of time, you should be able to sustain a simple conversation and get by in various Italian language situations.

Well, in the end, these are just numbers and everybody has a different learning pace and different needs. But that said, let’s see in full detail what the easiest and hardest parts of learning Italian are—and what strategies you can use to tackle any Italian difficulty you face.

Let’s start with the good news:

3. This is Why Learning Italian is Easy!

Here are a few aspects of the Italian language you can rejoice about as a new learner. 

1 – Pronunciation 

Italian pronunciation is not only beautiful and very musical, but it’s also easy! 

Why? Mainly because everything is pronounced the same way it’s written, and there are no strange exceptions as there are in languages like English or French. In Italian, there are clear and basic rules to follow, and the most important thing to remember is that every letter is pronounced (except for “h”). In addition, almost every word ends with a vowel, which is what makes the Italian language so beautiful. 

2 – Simple Tricks to Easily Guess the Italian Word

Italian, like all other Romance languages, comes from Latin. It’s actually the one language among them that’s closest to Latin.

Black and White Image Representing a Group of People in the Middle Ages

Can I borrow these words? Please…?

Since the Middle Ages, English has borrowed a great number of words from Latin and incorporated them into everyday language. You might not realize it, but there are lots and lots of English words that you use every day that come from Latin. Thus, these words are very similar to the corresponding Italian word.

This means that you can reverse the process and guess the Italian word, starting from a Latin-derived English one. And this process is super-easy because there are simple tricks for translating suffixes (the final part we attach to a word to slightly change its meaning) and getting the correct Italian word every time. 

Let’s see how easy it is:

English EndingItalian EndingEnglish WordItalian Word
-ity-ità“abilityabilità
-tion
-ption
-ction
-zione“station
“action
“corruption
stazione
azione
corruzione
-ly-mente“legallylegalmente
-ism-ismo“alpinismalpinismo
-ist-ista“dentistdentista

3 – Do You Know Another Romance Language?

If you’ve already studied another Romance language, such as Spanish, French, or Portuguese, learning Italian will be much easier for you. Just consider these factors: 

  • the alphabet is the same (and it’s also the same as English’s alphabet, by the way)
  • the vocabulary has a lot in common
  • the use of some tenses is similar across the board
  • the concept that everything has a gender remains intact
  • the concept of agreement also remains 
A Man Hiding Flowers Behind His Back for His Girlfriend

Are you ready for some Romance…languages?

Here are a few examples:

ItalianSpanishPortugueseFrench
cantare (“to sing”) cantarcantarchanter
dormire (“to sleep”)dormirdormirdormir
luna (“moon”)lunalualune
mare (“sea”)marmarmer

So, if you know any of the words above, you’ll definitely have a much easier time learning Italian than those not familiar with other Romance languages. Knowing another Romance language will give you a great advantage! 

4. Here’s Why Italian is Hard to Learn

Like any other foreign language (I’m putting a little stress on the “foreign” part), Italian also presents some challenges to the learner. 

But I’m sure that you’ll overcome these challenges with little problem. 

The important thing here is not to become overwhelmed because, with just a little study and practice, things will get much easier for you. Having said that, here are some of the things that make Italian hard to learn for some people, and that require a little more effort on the learner’s part.

1 – Everything Has a Gender 

This might drive an English-speaker crazy, but it’s quite common in many languages (and not only Romance languages, mind you!). Everything in Italian has an assigned grammatical gender, either masculine or feminine. 

We can all agree that it’s hard to make sense of the criteria behind the assigned gender. Why is la sedia (“the chair”) feminine, while il tavolo (“the table”) is masculine? And if it makes sense that i pantaloni (“the pants”) is masculine while la gonna (“the skirt”) is feminine, can someone please explain why il vestito (“the dress”) is masculine, but la giacca (“the blazer”) is feminine?

The good news, however, which you might have already noticed, is that it’s not too difficult to guess the gender of a word because the ending generally gives it away. 

  • If it ends in -o, it’s masculine.
  • If it ends in -a, it’s feminine.

2 – Everything Has to Agree 

Once you’ve gotten the hang of word gender, you have to start paying attention to all the other elements of the sentence that need to agree with it: articles, adjectives, past participles, etc.

It might seem like a lot of work at the beginning, but it’s actually quite automatic after a while. You just remember that most of the ending vowels must be the same (unless it’s one of those names or adjectives ending in -e):

    La mia bella casa è spaziosa e colorata (ma mi è costata carissima).
    “My beautiful house is spacious and colorful (but it cost me a lot).”

3 – Double or Nothing!

For a non-Italian speaker, it’s always a bit difficult to hear the difference between a single or double consonant. They are very frequent in the Italian language, and sometimes missing the double can change the meaning of a word. For example:

  • pane (“bread”) vs. panne (“breakdown”)
  • cane (“dog”) vs. canne (“canes”)
  • copia (“copy”) vs. coppia (“couples”)

But even if it appears that only Italians are able to hear the difference, and they immediately know if it’s one or the other, this is a minor mistake. One that we can all live with!

4 – The Subjunctive (And How to Survive Without It)

Many Italian students consider the subjunctive a true bestia nera (literally “black beast,” referring to something nightmarish, something that everybody is afraid of). 

This is mainly due to the fact that it’s virtually nonexistent in English. And besides, the rule on how to apply it isn’t always crystal-clear. Basically, the subjunctive is used to express subjectivity, uncertainty, doubt, will, desire, etc. The subjunctive is very often introduced by the conjunction che (“that”).

A Man Lying in Desert Sand, Out of Water

I bet he needs a Subjunctive Survival Kit!

But don’t worry! Even in this case, there are little tricks you can implement to make life easier, such as:

  • Learning a few prefabricated sentence patterns:
    • Credo che sia giusto. (“I think it’s fair.”)
    • Penso che tu abbia ragione. (“I think you are right.”)
    • Bisogna che i ragazzi si sveglino presto. (“It’s necessary that the kids get up early.”)
  • Learning the little tricks to avoid using the subjunctive altogether! 🙂
    • Credo che sia giusto. >> Secondo me è giusto.
    • Penso che tu abbia ragione. >> Per me hai ragione.
    • Bisogna che i ragazzi si sveglino presto. >> I ragazzi devono svegliarsi presto.

5 – What About the Rolled R?

Why haven’t we included the rolled R among the challenging parts of Italian? Well, even if it stresses out some students, this is actually not a problem at all. Even some Italians can’t roll their R (it’s called erre moscia). And, don’t worry, everybody will understand you, whether you roll it like a pro or just use your basic anglophone R.

5. I Want to Learn Italian. Where Should I Start?

So, now that we’ve got the challenging parts of learning Italian out of the way, it’s time to give you some basic strategies to help you learn Italian in a quick, easy, and fun way.

1 – Learn the Basic Structure

You can start taking a course, going through a textbook, or using a great variety of free online resources, but from the very beginning, you should start paying attention to the basic patterns of the Italian language and practice with them. Start easy and keep adding more and more features as you go on. This way, you can go from making basic sentences to more complex ones. 

2 – Memorize the Top 100 Basic Words

One way to quickly get a grasp of Italian is to memorize the top 100 basic words. This will help you build simple sentences and start a conversation, and it will also make it easier to understand what you’re hearing and reading. The best way is to learn words divided into categories that are related to your immediate environment. For example:

3 – Learn the Basic Conjugations

Verbs are the cement that keeps sentences together, so you might want to tackle them right away. It’s true that, for an English-speaker (who virtually doesn’t have to bother with conjugations in his/her language at all), Italian conjugation might seem like a lot of work. But you can start gradually, concentrating on what’s most important. Here it goes, start with the present and past tense conjugations of: 

  • auxiliary verbs: essere and avere (“to be” and “to have”)
  • modal verbs: 
    • volere (“to want”) 
    • potere (“to be able to”) 
    • sapere (“to know how”) 
    • dovere (“to have to”) 

Okay, you’re right, they’re quite irregular and might be a bit complicated to memorize. But once you have them in your head, you’ll be able to start speaking tons of different phrases right away. 

4 – Don’t Be Shy

To learn a language, you have to practice, and to practice, you have to speak. So, once you’ve learned the basic structure, memorized the first 100 words, and are familiar with auxiliaries and modal verbs, it’s time to take the plunge. 

So what if, in the beginning, you’re using the wrong verb or mispronouncing a word? That’s just part of the learning process! So, lose your inhibitions and shamelessly dive into a conversation with the first Italian you meet.

5 – Have Fun with it!

Learning a new language is like assembling a puzzle: it can be a very entertaining mental exercise. And the most fun part is that you get to “play” with a great variety of materials and media.

A Man and Woman Dressed in Costumes and Line Dancing

Time to lose your inhibitions and have fun learning Italian!

From the very beginning, you should try to read and listen to authentic material as often as possible: being exposed to the language is the best way to memorize vocabulary and patterns. And the best part is that you don’t even realize that you’re learning!

These are some excellent ways to get authentic Italian content: 

And don’t worry if, at the beginning, you only understand about ten percent of what you’re reading or listening to. Try to focus on keywords, pay attention to the articles, look at verbs and how they conjugate, look for words that are similar to English, and finally, listen or watch for the basic words you’ve recently learned. It’s just like a Lego building: you keep adding different little bricks until you get the result you want.

6. Why is ItalianPod101 Great for Learning Italian?

Finally, what are the best tools for solving this wonderful puzzle? To put together all the pieces that, combined, will give you basic fluency? Because this is a complex task, the best strategy is to use all the tools you have available to you. 

And guess what? We have just the right tools to make your Italian-learning experience fast, easy, and fun. 

ItalianPod101.com is a great place to learn Italian, because we offer you a great variety of tools to ensure that you learn at your own pace, in your own time, and with an approach that’s tailored to your needs and goals.

  • →  An Integrated Approach
    One of the distinguishing traits of ItalianPod101 is that we offer an integrated approach. This means that each lesson combines activities based on the four basic language skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking) using podcasts, videos, texts, and practice exercises. This combination allows you to learn in a very effective way because it’s a natural approach—and much more fun than traditional learning methods!
  • → A Great Variety of Free Content
    ItalianPod101 offers so many resources for learners at every level that you’re sure to find the tool that’s best for your specific needs. You’ll find grammar lessons, vocabulary lists, customizable flashcards, texts, videos, and audio lessons. It’s all available on your computer, your smartphone and, in the case of our downloadable lessons, offline.
  • → Premium Personal Coaching
    If you’re looking for something more personalized, ItalianPod101 has the perfect solution for you! With our Premium service, you’ll enter the Fast Track to Fluency program and gain access to your own teacher and guided learning system.

Besides the regular lessons, you’ll have direct interaction with your personal teacher, weekly assignments, and ongoing assessment of your progress. 

7. Conclusion

In this article, I wanted to show you that, even though there are some challenges when you start learning Italian, anybody can reach basic fluency with a little practice, no inhibitions, and—especially—the right tools.

How do you feel about trying to learn Italian now? More confident, or do you still have questions or concerns? Reach out to us in the comments, and we’ll get back to you! 

We’ve selected for you a great variety of free resources covering all aspects of Italian grammar and vocabulary to help you in this adventure. We also provide flashcards to help you learn words in context and mobile applications so you can always have ItalianPod101 at hand.

So, don’t be shy. Jump right into it, because learning Italian is easy with ItalianPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Italian

How to Master the Most Useful Italian Sentence Patterns


Thumbnail

Have you ever asked yourself how we learn our native language when we’re kids? We keep hearing and repeating the same simple sentences over and over. That’s the only trick! 

As an adult, it works the same way: You memorize a sentence structure, then you start changing the elements a little, and in the end, you start making the sentences more complex. 
With this simple guide on forming sentences in Italian, we’ll help you memorize the most basic and useful Italian sentence patterns; with those, you’ll be able to generate hundreds of natural sentences. And in no time, you’ll be holding complex conversations with ease and confidence.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. A is B: L’italiano è bello!
  2. Voglio imparare l’italiano con ItalianPod101.com!
  3. Love is all you need…
  4. Mi piace l’italiano!
  5. Bella Ciao and the Reflexive Verbs
  6. Asking politely: Scusi, posso…?
  7. Asking Questions
  8. Conclusion

1. A is B: L’italiano è bello!


Sentence Patterns

In Italian, if you want to describe a person or an object, you need to be able to say that A is B. Nothing’s easier! The only thing is that you need to know how to use and conjugate the verb essere (“to be”). And once you master that, you need to keep in mind that everything in Italian needs to agree in number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine).

  • Mario è mio fratello. (“Mario is my brother.”)
  • Maria è mia sorella. (“Maria is my sister.”)

There are already a lot of things you can say using this pattern:

  • (Lei)* È professoressa di italiano. (“She is an** Italian teacher.”)
  • (Voi) Siete molto simpatici. (“You are very nice.”)
  • Gli amici sono americani. (“The friends are American.”)

*Notice how, in Italian, you don’t need to express the personal pronoun when it’s the subject of the verb (io, tu, lui/lei, noi, voi, loro), **and when you say someone’s profession, you can omit the article:

  • (Io) Sono avvocata. (“I’m a lawyer.”) [for a female speaker]
  • (Tu) Sei ingegnere. (“You are an engineer.”)
  • Carlos è studente. (“Carlos is a student.”)

But what about when you want to say that A is not B? No problem. Anytime you need to express a negative statement, you just add the negation non (“not”) in front of the verb, as in:

  • Maria non è mia sorella. (“Maria is not my sister.”)
  • Questo orologio non è un regalo. (“This watch is not a present.”)

Notice also how the basic Italian sentence structure doesn’t change with most of the tenses (past, future, etc.).

  • Giovedì sarà il mio compleanno. (“Thursday will be my birthday.”)
  • Mario non era un bravo calciatore. (“Mario wasn’t a good soccer player.”)

And finally, if you need to ask a question, remember that, in Italian, you don’t need to do much. Just change your intonation, and you’ll have a perfect question.

  • Sei ingegnere? (“Are you an engineer?”)
  • Mario non era un bravo calciatore? (“Wasn’t Mario a good soccer player?”)

When we use adjectives to describe a person, a thing, or a situation, the structure stays exactly the same, including in the negative form or in other tenses:

  • (Tu) Sei bellissima! (“You are very beautiful!”)
  • La lasagna era deliziosa. (“The lasagna was delicious.”)
  • Il museo che abbiamo visitato ieri era molto interessante. (“The museum we visited yesterday was very interesting.”)

A Red Rose on Top of a Love Letter

The rose is red…[A] is [B]

2. Voglio imparare l’italiano con ItalianPod101.com!

Voglio (“I want”) is one of the Italian modal verbs (verbi servili) that are constructed by directly preceding the infinitive. 

  • Voglio imparare l’italiano con ItalianPod.101! (“I want to learn Italian with ItalianPod101.com!”)
  • Devo parlare. (“I have to speak up.”)
  • Posso fare. (“I can do it.”)
  • So suonare. (“I know how to play.”)

You can probably guess by now what the pattern is for the negative and interrogative forms. Yes, you’re right! For the negative form, you just put non (“not”) in front of the verb; if you want to ask a question, you just change the intonation:

  • Non voglio andare a scuola domani! (“I don’t want to go to school tomorrow!”)
  • Sai suonare il sassofono? (“Can you play the saxophone?”)

Italian phrases change a little when we start using direct or indirect personal pronouns, which we can put in front of the conjugated verb (as usual): 

  • Lo voglio dire. (“I want to say it.”)

Or, we can attach it to the end of the infinitive: 

  • Lo voglio dire; = Voglio dirlo(“I want to say it.”)
  • Ti devo parlare; = Devo parlarti; (“I have to talk to you.”)
  • Lo possiamo fare; = Possiamo farlo; (“We can do it.”)
  • La so suonare; = So suonarla; (“I can play it.”)

3. Love is all you need…

Although it might be true that “All you need is love,” in the real world, outside of dreamy songs, we need a lot of things. In Italian, “to need” translates into avere bisogno di. It’s a slightly different structure than in English and you’d better get familiar with it, because when you travel to Italy, or when you’re in the company of Italian friends, you might need to say one of the following:

  • Avete bisogno di informazioni? (“Do you need information?”)
  • Hai bisogno di cambiare i soldi. (“You need to change the money.”)
  • Il bambino ha bisogno di mangiare subito! (“The kid needs to eat right away!”)

A Group of Friends Holding Their Hands Up in Heart Shapes

Abbiamo bisogno d’amore! (“We need love!”)

Let’s take a look now at this Italian language sentence structure. 

You’ve probably noticed that we’re conjugating the verb avere (“to have”), which means that the literal translation of avere bisogno di is “to have the need for.” The noun bisogno (“need”) never changes, regardless of who the subject is, or who or what you need. 

Another important thing to remember is that the thing you need is introduced by the preposition di (“of”). When prepositions meet the article, they usually merge into a preposizione articolata.

  • Ho bisogno del (=di + il) bagno. (“I need the bathroom.”) 
  • Hai bisogno della (=di + la) macchina? (“Do you need the car?”)

When what you need is expressed by an action (and therefore a verb) you can change the sentence by replacing avere bisogno di (“to need”) with dovere (“to have to”). Like in English, the final meaning in Italian is basically the same, with maybe just a slight difference:

  • Ho bisogno di mangiare altrimenti svengo. (“I need to eat, otherwise I’ll faint.”) >> It’s necessary.
  • Devo mangiare altrimenti svengo. (“I have to eat, otherwise I’ll faint.”) >> I have no choice.

4. Mi piace l’italiano!

In Italian, the verb piacere expresses the concept of “liking” something, and of showing tastes and preferences. Piacere uses a particular sentence structure: What you like (or don’t like) is the subject of the verb, while the person who likes (or dislikes) someone/something is expressed with an indirect personal pronoun. 

If you try to translate it literally into English, you’ll have to change the order of the words a bit. Take a look:

  • Mi piace la pasta. (Mi = a me) > “I like pasta.”
  • Ti piace la pasta. (Ti = a te) > “You like pasta.”
  • Le piace la pasta. (Le = a lei) > “She likes pasta.”
  • Gli piace la pasta. (Gli = a lui) > “He likes pasta.”
  • Ci piace la pasta. (Ci = a noi) > “We like pasta.”
  • Vi piace la pasta. (Vi = a voi) > “You like pasta.”
  • A loro piace la pasta. > “They like pasta.”

Can you see what happened here? In the Italian translation, the grammatical subject is no longer “I” (io); it turned around to be the pasta! So if we go for the literal English translation, it would be “Pasta (subject) pleases (third person plural verb) me.”

If the thing you like is plural, you use piacciono (“they please”).

  • Mi piacciono gli spaghetti. > “I like spaghetti.”
  • Ti piacciono i fumetti di Diabolik? > “Do you like Diabolik comic books?”
  • Non ci piacciono le brutte notizie. > “We don’t like bad news.”

The verb piacere can also be followed by an infinitive.

  • Non gli piace guidare. > “He doesn’t like to drive.”
  • Ti piace ballare? > “Do you like dancing?”
  • Mi piace camminare a piedi nudi. > “I like to walk barefoot.”

Many other verbs use the same Italian sentence construction as piacere. For example:

  • Dispiacere (“to be sorry”) >> Mi dispiace per la confusione. (“I’m sorry for the mess.”)
  • Bastare (“to suffice”/”to be enough”) >> Ci basta poco. (“We don’t need much.”)
  • Mancare (“to miss something or someone”) >> Mi manca molto. (“I miss it a lot.”)
  • Servire (“to need”) >> Gli servono due pomodori. (“He needs two tomatoes.”)
  • Interessare (“to be interested in”) >> Ti interessa la storia? (“Does history interest you?”)
  • Sembrare (“to seem”/”to appear”) >> Ci sembra molto bello. (“It seems very nice to us.”)
  • Dare fastidio (“to annoy”/”to bother”) >> Mi dai proprio fastidio. (“You really bother me.”)

5. Bella Ciao and the Reflexive Verbs

Lately, the traditional hymn of freedom and resistance Bella Ciao has become very popular. But have you ever realized how it’s also a hymn to the power of reflexive verbs? Just look at the very first lyrics:


Someone Holding a Sign that Says

Is it a protest or a bank robbery…? 😉

Una mattina mi son(o) svegliato,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
Una mattina mi son(o) svegliato
e ho trovato l’invasor.

One morning I awakened,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao!
One morning I awakened
And I found the invader.

One very common structure in Italian is to use reflexive verbs. These verbs express that the subject and the object of the action are the same: 

  • (io) mi sono svegliato. (“I woke up.” Literally: “I woke myself up.”)
  • (io) mi lavo le mani. (“I wash my hands.” Literally: “I wash myself the hands.”)

As you can see from the examples above, the reflexive verb is always preceded by a reflexive pronoun. So the pattern is always:

[subject] [reflexive pronounsame person as the subject] [verb]
[Maria] [si – (lei)] [sveglia]

Further, an Italian sentence that uses reflexive verbs requires the auxiliary essere (“to be”) in the past and all compound tenses. It also needs the consequent agreement of the past participle with the subject, as usual.

  • Si sono sposati l’anno scorso. (“They got married last year.”)
  • Carla, ti sei arrabbiata con me? (“Did you get angry at me?”)
  • Ieri non mi sono rasato. (“Yesterday, I didn’t shave.”)

In Italian, many common reflexive verbs are those related to routine daily actions. Reflexive verbs, in the infinitive form, will have the third person reflexive pronoun -si attached to the end, which can be a little confusing. Let’s see a few examples to clear things up.

Svegliarsi (“to wake up”) > Mi sveglio alle sei. (“I wake up at six.”)

Alzarsi  (“to get up”) > Ti alzi? (“Do you get up?”)

Lavarsi (“to wash up”) > John si lava solo la domenica. (“John washes up only on Sunday.”)

Vestirsi (“to dress up”) > Mi vesto per andare alla festa. (“I dress up to go to the party.”)

Mettersi (“to wear”) > Non ti metti il vestito rosso? (“Don’t you wear the red dress?”)

Pettinarsi (“to comb”) > Jessica non si pettina mai. (“Jessica never combs her hair.”)

Radersi (“to shave”) > Si rade un giorno sì e un giorno no. (“He shaves every other day.”)

Truccarsi (“to put on makeup”) > Le bambine si truccano a Carnevale. (“Girls put on makeup for Carnival.”)

Addormentarsi (“to fall asleep”) > Mi addormento a mezzanotte. (“I fall asleep at midnight.”)


A Man Thinking Deeply about Something on a White Board

Reflecting on reflexive verbs…

Many Italian verbs that express a physical state or a state of mind are also reflexive:

Annoiarsi (“to get/be bored”) > A teatro ci annoiamo. (“We get bored at the theater.”)

Arrabbiarsi (“to be angry”) > Perché ti arrabbi? (“Why do you get angry?”)

Chiamarsi (“to be called”) > Ciao, mi chiamo Elena. (“Hi, I’m called Elena.”)

Divertirsi (“to have fun”) > Sono sicura che vi divertiete. (“I’m sure you’ll have fun.”)

Innamorarsi (“to fall in love”) > Mi sono innamorata di te. (“I fell in love with you.”)

Lamentarsi (“to complain”) > Si lamentano sempre. (“They complain all the time.”)

Preoccuparsi (“to worry”) > Non ti preoccupare. (“Don’t worry.”)

Rilassarsi (“to relax”) > La domenica mi rilasso in famiglia. (“On Sunday I relax with my family.”)

Sedersi (“to sit down”) > Ci sediamo un poco? (“Shall we sit down for a while?”)

Sentirsi (“to feel”) > Non ti senti bene? (“Aren’t you feeling well?”)

Sposarsi (“to get married”) > Si sposano a maggio. (“They get married in May.”)

Vergognarsi (“to be ashamed”) > Mi vergogno di quello che ho fatto. (“I’m ashamed of what I’ve done.”)

6. Asking politely: Scusi, posso…?


1- Posso?

There are many situations where you need to politely ask to go someplace, or to get information or a service. Here’s the correct Italian language sentence pattern for you to use in order to make the best impression with your politeness.


A Little Boy Asking to Use the Bathroom

Posso andare al bagno? (“May I go to the bathroom?”)

As in English, Italian uses the verb potere (“can”/”may”), followed by an infinitive, to ask for permission to do or get something.

  • Posso entrare? (“May I come in?”)
  • Posso andare in bagno? (“Can I go to the bathroom?”)
  • Posso alzarmi da tavola? (“Can I be excused?” Literally: “Can I leave the table?”)
  • Posso avere il tuo numero di telefono? (“Can I have your phone number?”)

2- Scusa… Scusi…

Often, before asking for something, Italians say Scusa… (informal) or Scusi… (formal). But what does that mean? It’s actually a short version for saying “Excuse me,” and in some situations, it can also be used to say “Sorry.” But going back to the sentence pattern for politely asking for something, scusa is a way to draw the attention of the person you’re about to ask permission from.

  • Scusi, posso entrare? (“Excuse me, may I come in?”)
  • Scusa, posso avere il tuo numero di telefono? (“Excuse me, can I have your phone number?”)

A common situation where you should use this structure is when you’re at a coffee bar or a restaurant, and you want to draw the waiter’s or bartender’s attention before making your request:

  • Scusi, posso avere un cappuccino? (“Excuse me, can I get a cappuccino?”)
  • Scusi, possiamo avere il conto? (“Excuse me, can we have the bill?”)

Or, if you’re lost in Milan or Rome and you need directions (or the time):

  • Scusi, può dirmi come arrivo al Duomo? (“Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the Duomo?”)
  • Scusi, può dirmi che ore sono? (“Excuse me, can you tell me the time?”)

Remember to use the formal version, scusi, when you talk to an older person, someone you don’t know, or anyone you want to show respect to (and with waiters and bartenders). The informal scusa is for young people, friends, and family.

3- Potrei…?

Finally, another way to ask politely for something in Italian is to use the present conditional. This shows that you’re asking something, but you’re not ordering. You’re rather expressing a wish.

  • Potrei avere un cappuccino? (“Could I have a cappuccino?”)
  • Mi farebbe un cappuccino? (“Could you make me a cappuccino?”)
  • Mi potresti dire l’ora? (“Could you tell me the time?”)

7. Asking Questions


1- About things: Che cos’è …?

Cosa (“thing”) is the most indeterminate and comprehensive word in the Italian language. With the word cosa, you can indicate anything that exists, whether in an abstract sense or in reality. It’s also the interrogative pronoun we use to ask about things when we want to know what they are, what they do, etc.


A Woman with Question Marks Above Her Head

Cosa? Dove? Quando? Too many questions!!!

It’s interesting to notice how there are different ways to say “what” in Italian:

  • Che
  • Cosa
  • Che cosa

These pronouns are always followed by a verb, either essere (if you’re asking what things are), or any other verb (if you’re asking about any other thing).

  • Che fai stasera?
  • Cosa fai stasera?
  • Che cosa fai stasera?

What’s the difference between the above sentences? None whatsoever. They all mean: “What do you do tonight?” Similarly, the following sentences all mean: “What is an interrogative pronoun?” (By the way, if you want to know more about interrogative pronouns in Italian, you can review all about pronouns on ItalianPod101.)

  • Che è un pronome interrogativo?
  • Cos’è un pronome interrogativo?
  • Che cos’è un pronome interrogativo?

Did you see what happened with cos’è (in cos’è successo)? When you have cosa + è, the final “a” is dropped, and you add an apostrophe (‘) to indicate that there was an elision. This is quite common in Italian, and we’ll see more examples of this in the next chapter.

2- Asking about a location: Dov’è …?

It might be true that all roads lead to Rome, but when you’re in Rome and you need directions to get around, what do you do? For that, you simply use the adverb dove (“where”). Remember what happened with cosa + è = cos’è (elision). The exact same phenomenon happens here: dove + è = dov’è.

  • Dov’è il bagno? (“Where is the bathroom?”)
  • Dove si prende l’autobus? (“Where do we take the bus?”)
  • Dove va questo treno? (“Where does this train go?”)

A Map Focusing on Rome

All the roads lead to Rome, but you can still get lost…

Another common way to ask where things are is by using the verb trovarsi. It’s a reflexive verb meaning “to find oneself” / “to happen to be” / “to be situated.”

  • Dove si trova il bagno? (“Where is the bathroom?”)
  • Dove mi trovo? (“Where am I?”)

And finally, you can hear Italians use the verb stare (literally “stay”) to indicate where things are (especially within Rome):

  • Dove stanno i miei calzini? (“Where are my socks?”)
  • Stanno nel primo cassetto, come sempre! (“They are in the first drawer, as always!”)

3- Asking about time: Quand’è?

Tell me Quando Quando Quando

This old Italian standard from the ‘60s is the perfect soundtrack to introduce the final basic Italian sentence pattern: Asking about time. Quando (“when”) is used pretty much the same way as the other interrogative words, including the trick quando + è = quand’è.

  • Quand’è il tuo compleanno? (“When is your birthday?”)
  • Quando arriva il treno? (“When does the train get in?”)
  • Quando cominciano le vacanze di Natale? (“When does the Christmas vacation start?”)

Obviously, you use quando if you mean to ask a general question about time, but you can change the formula if you want to be more specific:

  • In che anno sei nato? (“What year were you born?”)
  • A che ora arriva il treno? (“What time does the train get in?”)
  • Che giorno cominciano le vacanze di Natale? (“What day do the Christmas vacations start?”)

Sentence Components

8. Conclusion

Do you think you know enough about the most useful Italian sentence structures now? Do you feel confident about diving into a conversation in Italian, using basic sentences, questions, and polite requests? What about discussing your likes and desires?

Let us know if there’s any other topic or sentence pattern that you would like to learn more about. And make sure to explore our site, ItalianPod101.com, to take advantage of our free resources, vocabulary lists, and mobile apps to practice whenever and wherever you want.
Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to learn Italian with your own teacher. You’ll also continue to study at your own pace with fast, fun, and easy Italian lessons, including 220+ hours of audio/video courses, study tools, and more!

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The 100+ Most Common Italian Adverbs

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“Adjectives are the sugar of literature and adverbs the salt,” said the great American writer Henry James. So, let’s add some salt to your Italian with this amazing list of the 100+ most common Italian adverbs by ItalianPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Italian Table of Contents
  1. What is an Adverb?
  2. List of the Most Common Italian Adverbs
  3. Improve Your Italian While Having Fun with ItalianPod101

1. What is an Adverb?

Top Verbs

An adverb is an element in a sentence that can’t be inflected and which modifies the meaning of another element. As in Henry James’ quote, it adds something to a sentence, a nuance that makes it more meaningful and rich.

Let’s see an example:

  • Angela was walking back home.
  • Angela was tiredly walking back home. 

The adverb “tiredly” adds a new layer of meaning to the sentence and clarifies the image we may create of Angela while she was walking back to her house.

Well, now that we’ve convinced you of the importance of Italian adverbs, let’s see our amazing Italian adverbs list.

Woman Sitting on Floor with Speech Bubble above Her Head

2. List of the Most Common Italian Adverbs

1 – Italian Adverbs of Time

We start our list with the Italian time adverbs:

  • Oggi (“Today”)
    • Oggi Marta e Lorenzo si sposano.
      “Today, Marta and Lorenzo are getting married.”
  • Ieri (“Yesterday”)
    • Sono tornato ieri dall’Italia.
      “I came back from Italy yesterday.”
  • Domani (“Tomorrow”)
    • Domani andremo a Roma.
      “Tomorrow, we’ll go to Rome.”
  • Presto (“Soon”)
    • Spero di vederti presto.
      “I hope to see you soon.”
  • Tardi (“Late”)
    • Elena arriva sempre tardi.
      “Elena always arrives late.”
  • Prima (“Before”)
    • Prima di tornare a casa, sono andato al supermercato.
      “Before coming home, I went to the supermarket.”
  • Dopo (“After”)
    • Dopo aver cambiato lavoro, la mia vita è migliorata.
      “After I changed my job, my life got better.”
  • Ora (“Now”)
    • Ora sono troppo stanca per uscire.
      “Now I’m too tired to go out.”
  • Stamattina (“This morning”)
    • Stamattina Maria si è svegliata molto presto.
      “Maria woke up very early this morning.”
  • Stasera (“Tonight”)
    • Ti va di andare al cinema stasera?
      “Would you like to go to the cinema tonight?”
  • Subito (“Immediately”)
    • Giovanni, vieni subito qui!
      “Giovanni, come here immediately!”
  • Già (“Already”)
    • Ho già visto questo film.
      “I’ve already seen this movie.”
  • Ancora (“Again,” “Yet”)
    • Non ho ancora incontrato la ragazza di mio fratello.
      “I haven’t met my brother’s girlfriend yet.”
  • Ormai (“By now,” “Already”)
    • Ormai devono essere arrivati a Milano.
      “They must have arrived in Milan by now.”
  • Poi (“Then”)
    • Siamo andati a fare shopping e poi a cena.
      “We went shopping and then to dinner.”
A Couple Window Shopping Downtown

2 – Italian Adverbs of Frequency

Here’s a list of the most common Italian frequency adverbs:

  • Mai (“Never”)
    • Non sono mai stato in Cina.
      “I’ve never been to China.”
  • Sempre (“Always”)
    • Quando viaggio, porto sempre con me un buon libro.
      “When I travel, I always bring a good book with me.”
  • Spesso (“Often”)
    • I miei genitori sono spesso fuori città.
      “My parents are often out of town.”
  • Raramente (“Rarely”)
    • Mangio carne raramente.
      “I rarely eat meat.”
  • Di solito (“Usually”)
    • Di solito il sabato esco con i miei amici.
      “I usually go out with my friends on Saturday.”
  • A volte (“Sometimes”)
    • A volte mia sorella si alza all’alba e va a correre.
      “Sometimes my sister gets up at dawn and goes jogging.”
  • Costantemente (“Constantly”)
    • Luigi controlla costantemente il cellulare.
      “Luigi constantly checks his mobile phone.”

3 – Italian Adverbs of Place

  • Qui (“Here”)
    • Potremmo fermarci qui e fare un pic nic.
      “We could stop here and have a picnic.”
  • (“There”)
    • Non andare là!
      “Don’t go there!”
  • (“There”)
    • Vorrei andare lì domani.
      “Tomorrow, I’d like to go there.”
  • Ovunque (“Wherever”)
    • Il mio cane mi segue ovunque io vada.
      “My dog ​​follows me wherever I go.”
  • Dappertutto (“Everywhere”)
    • Ho cercato le chiavi dappertutto, ma non le trovo.
      “I looked for the keys everywhere, but I can’t find them.”
  • Dentro (“Inside”) 
    • Il sale è dentro la dispensa.
      “Salt is inside the pantry.”
  • Fuori (“Outside”) 
    • Per favore, vai a fumare fuori.
      “Please, go smoke outside.”
  • Giù (“Down,” “Below”)
    • Maria è scesa giù al primo piano.
      “Maria went down to the first floor.”
  • Su (“Up”)
    • Guarda su, il cielo è bellissimo.
      “Look up, the sky is beautiful.”
  • Lassù (“Up there”)
    • Lassù c’è un bellissimo castello.
      “There’s a beautiful castle up there.”
  • Laggiù (“Down there”)
    • Laggiù c’è un ottimo ristorante.
      “There’s a great restaurant down there.”
  • Sopra (“Above”)
    • Sopra il tavolo c’è un vaso.
      “Above the table, there’s a vase.”
  • Sotto (“Below”) 
    • Sotto il tavolo c’è il gatto.
      “Below the table, there’s the cat.”
  • Vicino (“Nearby”)
    • Ho parcheggiato vicino.
      “I’ve parked nearby.”
  • Lontano (“Far away”)
    • Matteo si è trasferito lontano, in un’altra città.
      “Matteo has moved far away, in another city.”
  • Intorno (“Around”)
    • C’è un bel giardino intorno alla casa.
      “There’s a nice garden around the house.”
  • Altrove (“Somewhere else”)
    • In questo momento vorrei tanto essere altrove.
      “At this moment, I’d really like to be somewhere else.”
  • Davanti (“In front of”)
    • Di fronte alla chiesa c’è un bel caffè.
      “There’s a nice café in front of the church.”
  • Dietro (“Behind,” “Back”)
    • Si è nascosto dietro la tenda.
      “He hid behind the curtain.”
  • Ci (“There”) [also used as a desinence]
    • Mi farebbe molto piacere esserci.
      “I’d really like to be there.”
  • Vi (“There”) [also used as a desinence]
  • Ne (“[Away] from there/here”)
    • Se ne sono andati da due ore.
      “They went away two hours ago.”
  • Via (“Away”)
    • È tardi, andiamo via.
      “It’s late, let’s go away.”
People Going on Holiday

4 – Italian Adverbs of Manner

A tip: You can turn many Italian adjectives into adverbs of manner by adding –mente to feminine adjectives, which is a pattern you’ll notice often in this section. But it doesn’t always work. For example, you can’t turn cattivo into an adverb by simply adding –mente. 

The most important Italian adverbs of manner are:

  • Lentamente (“Slowly”)
    • Il latte caldo va bevuto lentamente.
      “Hot milk must be drunk slowly.”
  • Velocemente (“Quickly”)
    • Ho mangiato velocemente e sono tornato al lavoro.
      “I ate quickly and got back to work.”
  • Attentamente (“Carefully”)
    • Ascolta attentamente quello che dico.
      “Listen carefully to what I say.”
  • Facilmente (“Easily”)
    • Lucia ha passato l’esame facilmente.
      “Lucia easily passed the exam.”
  • Semplicemente (“Simply”)
    • Ho semplicemente detto di sì alla sua offerta.
      “I simply said yes to his offer.”
  • Dolcemente (“Sweetly”)
    • La baciò dolcemente sulle labbra.
      “He sweetly kissed her on her lips.”
  • Tranquillamente (“Calmly”)
    • Un uomo cammina tranquillamente sulla spiaggia.
      “A man calmly walks on the beach.”
  • Perfettamente (“Perfectly”)
    • Questo vestito ti sta perfettamente.
      “This dress fits you perfectly.”
  • Bene (“Well”)
    • La presentazione è andata molto bene.
      “The presentation went very well.”
  • Male (“Badly,” “Rudely”)
    • Monica ha risposto male a sua madre.
      “Monica responded rudely to her mother.”
  • Chiaramente (“Clearly”)
    • Il professore ha spiegato tutto molto chiaramente.
      “The professor explained everything very clearly.”
  • Letteralmente (“Literally”)
    • Sono letteralmente senza parole.
      “I’m literally out of words.”
  • Onestamente (“Honestly”)
    • Onestamente, non so di cosa stai parlando.
      “Honestly, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • Gentilmente (“Gently”)
    • La neve cominciò gentilmente a cadere.
      “Snow started gently to fall.”
  • Bruscamente (“Abruptly”)
    • L’auto frenò bruscamente.
      “The car broke abruptly.”
  • Improvvisamente (“Suddenly”)
    • Improvvisamente è spuntato il sole.
      “Suddenly, the sun came out.”
  • Freddamente (“Coldly”)
    • Ci accolsero freddamente.
      “They received us coldly.”
  • Calorosamente (“Warmly”)
    • Ci siamo salutati calorosamente e siamo partiti.
      “We said goodbye warmly and left.”
  • Correttamente (“Correctly,” “Properly”)
    • Sul lavoro si è sempre comportato correttamente.
      “At work, he’s always behaved properly.”
  • Duramente (“Hardly,” “Hard”)
    • Ho lavorato duramente per la mia carriera.
      “I worked hard for my career.”
  • Volentieri (“Gladly”)
    • Sarei venuto con voi volentieri, ma non potevo.
      “I would have come with you gladly, but I couldn’t.”
  • Forte (“Strongly,” “Quickly”)
    • Federica correva forte incontro a suo padre.
      “Federica was running quickly toward her father.”
Girl Running

5 – Italian Adverbs of Degree or Addition

  • Molto (“Much”)
    • Il film non mi è piaciuto molto.
      “I didn’t like the film much.”
  • Poco (“Little”)
    • A cena ho mangiato poco.
      “At dinner, I ate little.”
  • Troppo (“Too much”)
    • Stamattina ho dormito troppo.
      “I slept too much this morning.”
  • Piuttosto (“Quite,” “Rather”)
    • I mobili sono piuttosto belli, ma vecchi.
      “The furniture is quite nice, but old.”
  • Abbastanza (“Quite,” “Sufficiently”) 
    • Maria è abbastanza soddisfatta del nuovo lavoro.
      “Maria is quite satisfied with her new job.”
  • Più (“More,” “Most”)
    • Matteo è più bello di Antonio.
      “Matteo is more handsome than Antonio.”
  • Meno (“Less”)
    • Camminiamo meno di un tempo.
      “We walk less than (what we used to do) once.”
  • Meglio (“Better”)
    • Oggi mia nonna si sente meglio.
      “Today, my grandmother is feeling better.”
  • Peggio (“Worse”)
    • L’esame era difficile, ma pensavo peggio.
      “The exam was difficult, but I thought it was worse.”
  • Moltissimo (“Very much”)
    • La cena mi è piaciuta moltissimo.
      “I liked the dinner very much.”
  • Pochissimo (“Very little”)
    • Mio cugino guadagna pochissimo.
      “My cousin earns very little.”
  • Come (“How,” “Like,” “As much as”)
    • Paolo è come un fratello per me.
      “Paolo is like a brother to me.”
  • Inoltre (“Moreover”)
    • Volevo dirti, inoltre, che abbiamo finito lo zucchero.
      “I wanted to tell you, moreover, that we’re out of sugar.”
  • Pure (“Also,” “Too”)
    • Vorrebbe venire pure Flavia, va bene?
      “Flavia would like to come too, is it okay?”
  • Persino (“Even”)
    • Persino mio figlio si è divertito.
      “Even my son had a great time.”
  • Addirittura (“Even”)
    • Era così freddo che siamo addirittura partiti prima della fine del concerto.
      “It was so cold that we even left before the end of the concert.”
A Concert

6 – Italian Question Adverbs

  • Dove (“Where”)
    • Dov’è andata Gianna?
      “Where did Gianna go?”
  • Quando (“When”)
    • Quando tornerai dagli Stati Uniti?
      “When will you come back from the United States?”
  • Come (“How”)
    • Come ti senti oggi?
      “How are you feeling today?”
  • Perché (“Why”)
    • Perché non ci raggiungete più tardi?
      “Why don’t you join us later?”

7 – Italian Adverbs of Exclamation

  • Come (used to emphasize a sentence)
    • Come sono felice di vederti!
      “I’m so happy to see you!”
  • Quanto (used to emphasize a sentence)
    • Quanto mi manchi!
      “I miss you so much!”

8 – Italian Adverbs of Affirmation, Negation, and Doubt 

  • (“Yes”)
    • Sì, mi piacerebbe venire a cena con te.
      “Yes, I’d like to go to dinner with you.”
  • Certo (“Of course”)
    • Certo, ormai è troppo tardi.
      “Of course, now it’s too late.”
  • Davvero (“Really”)
    • Ho davvero voglia di un gelato.
      “I’d really like an icecream.”
  • Sicuramente (“For sure”)
    • Io e mio marito ci saremo sicuramente.
      “My husband and I will be there for sure.”
  • Proprio (“Really”)
    • Sono proprio contento che siate venuti a trovarmi.
      “I’m really happy that you went to see me.”
  • No (“No”)
    • A: Vieni con noi? 
      B: No, sono stanco.

      A: “Will you come with us?”
      B: “No, I’m tired.”
  • Non (“Not”)
    • Giorgio non è andato a scuola oggi.
      “Giorgio didn’t go to school today.”
  • Nemmeno (“Even [negative],” “Neither,” “Not even”)
    • Nemmeno io sopporto quella donna.
      “Even I can’t stand that woman.”
  • Affatto (“At all”)
    • Questo vino non mi piace affatto.
      “I don’t like this wine at all.”
  • Forse (“Maybe”)
    • Forse stasera sono libera.
      “Maybe tonight I’m free.”
  • Probabilmente (“Probably”)
    • Probabilmente alla festa ci sarà anche Mauro.
      “Mauro will probably be at the party, too.”

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More Essential Verbs

We hope you enjoyed learning about Italian adverbs with us, and that you learned some new words for your next conversation! Are there any adverbs we missed that you want to know? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help you out! 

ItalianPod101.com is an extensive source for everything Italian, including amazing word lists, comprehensive blog posts (like our articles about Italian adjectives and nouns), apps, video lessons, and everything you need to improve your knowledge of this fascinating language. And learning with us is so fun that you won’t ever feel tired! Check out our courses, find Italian adverbs exercises and in-depth lessons, and start on the road to fluency.

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A Simple Guide to Italian Verb Conjugation

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Verbs are everywhere! Whatever you’re trying to say or write in Italian, you’re going to need to use a verb and a subject. And guess what? Right there, you already need to conjugate the verb to use it correctly. 

  • Vado al cinema. Vieni con me? Cosa dici? 
    “I go to the movies. Will you come with me? What do you say?”

For example, in this simple sentence, you’ll have to know the conjugations of the verbs andare (“to go”), venire (“to come”), and dire (“to say”).

Italian verb conjugation might seem tough at first, but with a few tips (and ItalianPod101’s resources), you’ll learn how to conjugate Italian verbs and become a real pro!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Italian Table of Contents
  1. What Does Conjugation Mean?
  2. Verb Groups
  3. Conjugation Examples
  4. Irregular Verbs and Their Conjugations
  5. Quiz
  6. Tips to Improve and Practice Your Italian Conjugations

1. What Does Conjugation Mean?

What is a conjugation and what do you need it for? A conjugation is a basic process—common to most languages—by which you change the verb ending in order to indicate who is doing the action (me, you, he/she, we, you, they), with what intention (realistic, wish, opinion, order, etc.), and when (present, past, future, etc.).

Woman with Question Marks above Her Head

Who? When? What intention? Ask questions to start conjugating.

Also, in Italian verb conjugation, you may have to:

  • Conjugate auxiliary verbs (avere/essere = “to have”/”to be”) 
  • Conjugate modal verbs (verbi servili: potere, dovere, volere, ecc. = “can, must, want, etc.”) 
  • Add a participio passato (“past participle”) 
  • Watch out for Italian irregular verbs and irregular verb forms (dire, fare, andare, stare, venire, perdere, chiudere, and a few more…)

Let’s look at this in more detail:

1- Who?

1st person singularIo“I”
2nd person singulartu / Lei*“you” (casual) / “you” (formal)
3rd person singularlui / lei“he” / “she”
1st person pluralnoi“we”
2nd person pluralvoi“we”
3rd person pluralloro“they”

*It’s important to remember that the polite form of address is in the third person singular feminine. So, for example, the phrase “What do you eat?” can be:

  • Tu cosa mangi? (informal)
  • Lei cosa mangia? (formal)

It can be a little confusing at the beginning, but since the formal way of address is extremely common in Italian, it’s a good idea to practice using it from the very beginning.

Remember that the person who is doing the action is very important because, in Italian verb conjugation, every person of the verb has a different ending. But we’ll see that in a little bit.

2- With what intention?

In every sentence, you can ask “What is the intention of this action?” This intention is called il modo (“the mood”), and it reflects whether the intention is realistic, possible, or uncertain, or if it’s a wish, an opinion, or an order. 

Let’s look at this Italian conjugation table and study the moods to determine what they mean.

Indicativo
(“Indicative”)
Mangio una pizza.
(“I eat a pizza.”)
Used to express a real and certain fact. This is, by far, the most common mood in Italian.
Conjuntivo
(“Subjunctive”)
Credo che sia meglio.
(“I think it is better.”)
Used to express an opinion, a possibility, a desire, or something uncertain. It’s usually supported by certain verbs and conjunctions.
Condizionale
(“Conditional”)
Vorrei andare.
(“I would like to go.”)
Used to express a probability or a hypothesis. Usually, one fact depends on another.
Imperativo
(“Imperative”)
Fai i compiti!
(“Do your homework!”)
Used to give an order.
The examples above are called modi finiti (“finite moods”) because they define the action in a precise way, and they’re conjugated according to the person and the time. The following ones, on the other hand, are modi indefiniti (“indefinite moods”) as they don’t have a specific subject. They usually depend on other verbs, and—very good news—they don’t change!
Infinito
(“Infinitive”)
Mangiare
(“To eat”)
It’s an undetermined action, used as the basic form of the verb.
Gerundio
(“Gerund”)
Sto dormendo.
(“I am sleeping.”)
Often used in combination with stare, it can have many intentions.
Participio
(“Participle”)
Serata danzante
(“Dancing night”)
A word formed from a verb and used as an adjective.

3- When?

Every action takes place in a specific time, called tempo (literally “time,” or “tense” in the context of a conjugation). The Italian tenses are presente, passato, and futuro, and they can be tempi semplici (“simple tenses”) when they’re made of just one word, or tempi composti (“compound tenses”) when they’re formed by the auxiliary (essere/avere) and the past participle.

Two Hearts Drawn in the Sand on a Beach

Io amo, tu ami… (“I love, you love…”) The best conjugation of all!

Let’s look at the full Italian conjugations chart of all possible moods and tenses with the best Italian verb: amare (“to love”).

MODITEMPI SEMPLICITEMPI COMPOSTI
FinitiIndicativoPresente | AmoPassato prossimo | Ho amato
Imperfetto | AmavoTrapassato prossimo | Avevo amato
Passato remoto | AmaiTrapassato remoto | Ebbi amato
Futuro semplice | AmeròFuturo anteriore | Avrò amato
CongiuntivoPresente | Che io amiPassato | Che io abbia amato
Imperfetto | Che io amassiTrapassato | Che io avessi amato
CondizionalePresente | AmereiPassato | Avrei amato
ImperativoPresente | Ama!
IndefinitiGerundioPresente | AmandoPassato | Avendo amato
ParticipioPresente | Amante
Passato | Amato
InfinitoPresente | Amare

It’s true that there are quite a lot of tenses! But keep in mind that the Italian conjugations you’ll really have to master are the ones that are in bold, as they are by far the most common. They’re also the most practical ones for meaningful communication up to an intermediate Italian level. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

2. Verb Groups

Top Verbs

In the Italian conjugation of verbs, there are three basic groups, divided according to the verb ending in the infinitive:

  • 1st with the infinitive in -ARE
  • 2nd with the infinitive in -ERE (verbs ending in -arre, -orre, and -urre belong to this group)
  • 3rd with the infinitive in -IRE (verbs that add a -isc suffix belong to this group)

Regular Italian verbs are simple to conjugate because they all follow the same pattern, as you can see in the following chart:

Io (“I”)tu (“you”)lui/lei (“s/he”)noi  (“we”)voi (“you”)loro (“they”)
AMARE (“to love”)AmoAmiAmaAmiàmoAmàteÀmano
CREDERE (“to believe”)CredoCrediCredeCrediàmoCredèteCrèdono
DORMIRE (“to sleep”)DormoDormiDormeDormiàmoDormìteDòrmono*

*Notice how the position of the stress changes syllable. Try and read the three basic present conjugations, just to familiarize yourself with the rhythm of it.

As you can see, there are no major changes from one group to the other. But things do get a bit more complicated with Italian irregular verb conjugations, which involve some of the most common verbs.

3. Conjugation Examples

Negative Verbs

Now that you know that Italian conjugations are divided into three groups, let’s see in greater detail how each group behaves according to the person (who), the tense (when), and the mood (with what intention).

1- Verbs in -ARE

AMARE (“To love”) 

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute Past*ImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
ioamoamaiamavoameròamiamerei
tuamiamastiamaviameraiamiamerestiama
lui/leiamaamòamavaameràamiamerebbe
noiamiamoamammoamavamoameremoamiamoameremmoamiamo
voiamateamasteamavateamereteamiateameresteamate
loroamanoamaronoamavanoamerannoaminoamerebbero

PARLARE (“To talk”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute Past*ImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
ioparloparlaiparlavoparleròparliparlerei
tuparliparlastiparlaviparleraiparliparlerestiparla
lui/leiparlaparlòparlavaparleràparliparlerebbe
noiparliamoparlammoparlavamoparleremoparliamoparleremmoparliamo
voiparlateparlasteparlavateparlereteparliateparleresteparlate
loroparlateparlaronoparlavanoparlerannoparlinoparlerebbero

GIOCARE (“To play”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute Past*ImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iogiocogiocaigiocavogiocherò*giochi*giocherei*
tugiochi*giocastigiocavigiocherai*giochi*giocheresti*gioca
lui/leigiocagiocògiocavagiocherà*giochi*giocherebbe*
noigiochiamo*giocammogiocavamogiocheremo*giochiamo*giocheremmo*giochiamo*
voigiocategiocastegiocavategiocherete*giochiate*giochereste*giocate
lorogiocanogiocaronogiocavanogiochino*giochino*giocherebbero*

*Notice how, whenever the ending of the conjugation starts with i or e, the root adds an h in order to maintain the hard K sound of giocare. This will happen for all the verbs of the first group that end in -care or gare. So, for verbs in -care or gare:

C + I, E = CHI, CHE (in order to keep the hard K sound)
G + I, E = GHI, GHE (in order to keep the hard G sound)

Let’s see some examples:

  • Pagare (“to pay”)
    Paghi tu? (“Will you pay?”)
  • Cercare (“to look for”)
    Cerchiamo un bar. (“We look for a bar.”)
  • Giocare (“to play”)
    Giocheresti con me? (“Would you play with me?”)
  • Litigare (“to fight”)
    Non litighiamo! (“Let’s not fight!”)
  • Mancare (“to miss”)
    Mi manchi tanto! (“I miss you so much!”)
  • Sporcare (“to get dirty”)
    Ti sporchi sempre… (“You always get dirty…”)
  • Sprecare (“to waste”)
    Perché sprechi la carta? (“Why do you waste paper?”)
  • Navigare (“to sail”)
    Navigheremo per tre notti. (“We will sail for three nights.”)

Wait… Didn’t we tell you earlier that the only verbs you really needed to master were presente, passato prossimo, imperfetto, futuro, condizionale, and imperativo (“present, present perfect, imperfect, future, conditional, and imperative”)? 

You’re absolutely right! As a matter of fact, the absolute past (passato remoto) is mostly used in literary writing and very formal speech about things that happened a very long time ago. So you definitely don’t have to worry about it too much. Just be aware of it, just in case you encounter it while reading a story.

Do you know where you might actually hear passato remoto a lot? In the south of Italy, in Sicily for example, because southern dialects have no passato prossimo in their grammar. For this reason, people have historically tended to use this tense more often than other Italians. 

Sicily, Italy

Andai in Sicilia. (“I went to Sicily.”) Sicilians use passato remoto a lot!

On the other hand, the one that you’ll really be using all the time (in combination with the imperfect) is the present perfect (passato prossimo), which is formed by the auxiliary essere or avere (“to be” or “to have”) and the past participle. But we’ll see more about that in a little bit. For now, just take a look at what it’s like.

Passato Prossimo – AMARE
ioho amato
tuhai amato
lui/ leiha amato
noiabbiamo amato
voiavete amato
lorohanno amato

2- Verbs in -ERE

CREDERE (“To believe”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveSubjunctiveImperative
PresentAbsolute Past*ImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iocredocredetticredevicrederòcredacrederei
tucredicredesticredevicrederaicredacrederesticredi
lui/leicredecredettecredevacrederàcredacrederebbe
noicrediamocredemmocredevamocrederemocrediamocrederemmocrediamo
voicredetecredestecredevatecrederetecrediatecrederestecredete
lorocredonocrederonocredevanocrederannocredanocrederebbero

PRENDERE (“To take”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
ioprendopresi*prendevoprenderòprendaprenderei
tuprendiprendestiprendeviprenderaiprendaprenderestiprendi
lui/leiprendeprese*prendevaprenderàprendaprenderebbe
noiprendiamoprendemmoprendevamoprenderemoprendiamoprenderemmoprendiamo
voiprendeteprendesteprendevateprendereteprendiateprenderesteprendete
loroprendonopresero*prendevanoprenderannoprendanoprenderebbero

*Just to complicate things a bit further, most verbs of the second group in -ERE have an irregular passato remoto (“absolute past”), in which the io, lui/lei, loro (“I,” “s/he,” “they”) forms can change considerably from the root. But again, this tense is rarely used in spoken Italian, so you’ll just need to recognize them in case you encounter them while reading. 

LEGGERE (“To read”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
ioleggo**lessi*leggevoleggeròleggaleggerei
tuleggileggestileggevileggeraileggaleggerestileggi
lui/leileggelesse*leggevaleggeràleggaleggerebbe
noileggiamoleggemmoleggevamoleggeremoleggiamoleggeremmoleggiamo
voileggeteleggesteleggevateleggereteleggiateleggeresteleggete
loroleggono**lessero*leggevanoleggerannolegganoleggerebbero

*See the note above.

**Contrary to what happens to the -care / -gare verbs in the first group (they add an h to keep the hard sound in front of e or i), in the second conjugation, verbs in -cere and -gere change sound from soft to hard in front of the ending -o (io and loro – “I” and “them”). 

Mother Reading to Her Baby

Che piacere leggere! (“What a pleasure to read!”)

IO LEGGO [leggo – hard G] as in “gospel”
TU LEGGI [ledʒi – soft g] as in “giant”

Other common verbs that have the same behavior are:

  • Vincere (“to win”)
    Vinco sempre! (“I always win!”)
  • Conoscere (“to know”)
    Non ti conosco. (“I don’t know you.”)
  • Crescere (“to grow”)
    Come crescono questi bambini…! (“How do these kids grow…!”)
  • Nascere (“to be born”)
    In Italia nascono 50 bambini all’ora. (“In Italy, 50 babies are born every hour.”)
  • Correggere (“to correct”)
    Correggo i tuoi errori. (“I correct your mistakes.”)
  • Friggere (“to fry”)
    Friggo le patate. (“I fry potatoes.”)
  • Leggere (“to read”)
    I ragazzi leggono Pinocchio. (“Kids read Pinocchio.”)
  • Aggiungere (“to add”)
    Aggiungono sempre troppo sale! (“They always add too much salt!”)
  • Piangere (“to cry”)
    Quando sono triste piango. (“When I’m sad, I cry.”)

3- Verbs in -IRE

DORMIRE (“To sleep”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iodormodormiidormivodormiròdormadormirei
tudormidormistidormividormiraidormadormirestidormi
lui/leidormedormìdormivadormiràdormadormirebbe
noidormiamodormimmodormivamodormiremodormiamodormiremmodormiamo
voidormitedormistedormivatedormiretedormiatedormirestedormite
lorodormonodormironodormivanodormirannodormanodormirebbero

SENTIRE (“To hear” / “To feel”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iosentosentiisentivosentiròsentasentirei
tusentisentistisentivisentiraisentasentirestisenti
lui/leisentesentìsentivasentiràsentasentirebbe
noisentiamosentimmosentivamosentiremosentiamosentiremmosentiamo
voisentitesentistesentivatesentiretesentiatesentirestesentireste
lorosentonosentironosentivanosentirannosentanosentirebbero

CAPIRE (“To understand”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iocapisco*capiicapivocapiròcapiscacapirei
tucapisci**capisticapivicapiraicapiscacapiresticapisci
lui/leicapiscecapìcapivacapiràcapiscacapirebbe
noicapiamocapimmocapivamocapiremocapiamocapiremmocapiamo
voicapitecapistecapivatecapiretecapiatecapirestecapireste
lorocapisconocapironocapivanocapirannocapscanocapirebbero

*Did you notice something different about this conjugation? You’re absolutely right! Quite a few Italian verbs of the third group add an -isc suffix to the conjugation in the present, subjunctive, and imperative in the first singular (io, “I”),  second singular (tu, “you”), third singular (lui/lei, “s/he”), and third plural (loro, “they”).  


**Similarly to what happens to the verbs in the -cere and -gere that we just saw above, verbs that add the -isc suffix change sound from soft to hard in front of the endings -o and -a (io and loro – “I” and “them”).

IO CAPISCO [kapisko – hard K] as in “color”
TU CAPISCI [kapishi – soft sh] as in “sheep”

Other common verbs that have the same behavior are:

  • Capire (“to understand”)
    Capisco [capisko] / Capisci [capishi] tutto. (“I/you understand everything.”)
  • Costruire (“to build”)
    Costruisco [kostruisko] / Costruisci [costruishi] una casa. (“I/you build a house.”)
  • Finire (“to finish”)
      Finisco [finisko] / Finisci [finishi] subito! (“I/you finish right away!”)
  • Preferire (“to prefer”)
    Preferisco [preferisko] / Preferisci [preferishi] l’acqua. (“I/you prefer water.”)

    Now it’s your turn to try! Change the subject from io (“I”) to tu or lui/lei (“you” or “s/he”) and practice with the hard/soft pronunciation.
  • Proibire (“to forbid”)
    Io ti proibisco di andare! (“I forbid you to go!”) >> Lei ti ……………… di andare! (“He forbids you to go!”)
  • Pulire (“to clean”)
    Io pulisco la mia stanza. (“I clean my room.”) >> Tu …………….. la mia stanza. (“He cleans my room.”)
  • Punire (“to punish”)
    Non punisco gli sbagli. (“I don’t punish mistakes.”) >> Lui non ………… gli sbagli. (“He doesn’t punish mistakes.”)
  • Restiture (“to give back”)
    Io restituisco il libro. (“I give back the book.”)  >> Tu …………….. il libro. (“You give back the book.”)
  • Trasferire (“to transfer” / “to move”)
    Io mi trasferisco a Roma. (“I move to Rome.”) >> Tu ti …………….. a Roma. (“You move to Rome.”)

4. Irregular Verbs and Their Conjugations

Essential Verbs

As it often happens, some of the most common verbs are irregular and, although they continue to follow a pattern to a certain point, they can differ quite a lot from what you expect. 

Let’s start with the most important Italian irregular conjugations: essere (“to be”) and avere (“to have”). 

ESSERE (“To be”) 

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
iosonofuierosaròsiasarei
tuseifosteerisaraisiasarestisii
lui/leiè*fuerasaràsiasarebbe
noisiamofummoeravamosaremosiamosaremmosiamo
voisietefosteeravatesaretesiatesarestesiate
lorosonofuronoeranosarannosianosarebbero

*The third person singular lui/lei è (“s/he is”) requires the grave accent to distinguish it from the conjunction e (“and”). Even if it might seem like a small detail, it’s considered a big mistake, so double your attention!


AVERE  (“To have”)

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentAbsolute PastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
ioho*ebbiavevoavròabbiaavrei
tuhai*avesteaveviavraiabbiaavrestiabbi
lui/leiha*ebbeavevaavràabbiaavrebbe
noiabbiamoavemmoavevamoavremoabbiamoavremmoabbiamo
voiaveteavesteavevateavreteabbiateavresteabbiate
lorohanno*ebberoavevanoavrannoabbianoavrebbero

*In Italian, you’ll never find the H at the beginning of a word, except for in foreign words such as “hotel” and the avere conjugation. For some reason, only the first singular (io, “I”), second singular (tu, “you”), third singular (lui/lei, “s/he”), and third plural (loro, “they”) in the present keep the H from the Latin conjugation habere. However, nothing changes in the pronunciation.

1- AVERE & ESSERE as auxiliaries with passato prossimo (“present perfect”)

Remember how we told you that the absolute past isn’t really used in colloquial Italian, and you would more often use the passato prossimo? Passato prossimo is formed with an auxiliary avere/essere and the past participle, which is formed as follows:

  • Verbs in -are >> -ato
    Ex: Parlare >> ho parlato  / Andare >> sono andato
  • Verbs in -ere >> -uto
    Ex: conoscere >> conosciuto
  • Verbs in -ire >> -ito
    Ex: dormire >> dormito
  • Essere >> stato 
  • Avere >> avuto

But how do you know which auxiliary to use? Here’s how it works. 

Transitive verbs (verbs that can have a direct object) form the passato prossimo with the auxiliary AVERE:

  • Amare Ho amato mio marito. (“I loved my husband.”)
  • Vendere Ho venduto la mia macchina. (“I sold my car.”)
  • Capire Ho capito quello che hai detto. (“I understood what you said.”)

Intransitive verbs (verbs that can’t have a direct object, and that usually indicate state, movement, change, etc.) form the passato prossimo with the auxiliary ESSERE:

  • Andare Sono andato al cinema. (“I went to the movies.”)
  • Venire Sono venuto con te. (“I came with you.”)
  • Uscire Sono uscito. (“I went out.”)

Other intransitive verbs that need the essere auxiliary are: salire, restare, tornare, ritornare, scendere, arrivare, cadere, entrare, and more.

Irregular verbs in Italian are quite frequent and common. Here’s a basic list with their conjugations in the present indicative, from which you can deduct the rest of the patterns.

DIREDAREFAREANDAREVENIREVOLERESAPEREPOTEREUSCIRE
iodicodofacciovadovengovogliosopossoesco
tudicidaifaivaivienivuoisaipuoiesci
lui/leidicedafavavienevuolesapuòesce
noidiciamodiamofacciamoandiamoveniamovogliamosappiamopossiamousciamo
voiditedatefateandatevenitevoletesapetepoteteuscite
lorodiconodannofannovannovannovoglionosannopossonoescono

Do you think that these are enough? No way! There are many more irregular verbs in Italian you can have fun with.

5. Quiz

Do you think that you know enough about Italian conjugations? Let’s do a quick test.

Fill in the blanks with the correct verb, paying attention to the subject and the tense:

Someone Filling Out Answers on Multiple Choice Test

Quiz time!

  1. Gli Italiani (amare) _______________ il caffè molto forte.
    (“Italians love very strong coffee.”)
  2. Domani tu (andare) ______________ al cinema con i tuoi amici?
    (“Tomorrow, will you go to the movies with your friends?”)
  3. Quando noi (essere) __________ piccoli, (credere) ___________ a Babbo Natale!
    (“When we were kids, we believed in Santa Claus!”)
  4. Io (volere) _____________ un gelato al limone, per favore.
    (“I would like a lemon ice cream, please.”)
  5. Un anno fa Laura (finire)  ______________ la scuola.
    (“A year ago, Laura finished school.”)

Let’s check the answers together:

1) Amano: This is the third person plural of the present.

2) Andrai: This is the second person singular of the future, since domani tells us that the action takes place in the future.

3) Eravamo, Credevamo: These are both first person plural of the imperfect, which is the tense we use for describing a generic time, not a specific moment.

4) Vorrei: Here, we use the first person singular of the conditional, since we’re expressing a wish or a polite request.

5) Ha finito: In this case, the past tense that we need is the passato prossimo, since it’s an action that occurred at a specific time.

Did you get them all correct?

6. Tips to Improve and Practice Your Italian Conjugations

Italian conjugations can seem like a lot to take in, but there are tricks and strategies that you can use to help you learn and remember them.

For example, you can try to memorize each verb as a chant (amo, ami, ama, amiamo, amate, amano…). This way, you’ll memorize the patterns and they’ll stick forever. Repetition always helps, so do as many exercises as you can. Reading, listening to music, and watching videos is also extremely useful in getting familiar with different kinds of verbs in context. 

And the final tip: Make sure that you take advantage of all the free resources available on ItalianPod101.com! You’ll even find mobile apps, lessons, and a guided learning system with your own teacher!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Italian

The 100+ Most Important Italian Verbs

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Verbs are concepts in motion and are a fundamental part of every language. But how many Italian language verbs should you learn to speak the language properly? Here at ItalianPod101, we believe that with the following 100+ Italian verbs, you’ll be able to face most circumstances with ease. And don’t be scared—with our examples and definitions, you’ll be able to master this Italian verbs list quickly. It’s Italian verbs made easy with ItalianPod101! 

But first, let’s take a look at Italian verb conjugation.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Italian Regular Verbs
  2. Italian Irregular Verbs
  3. Reflexive Verbs in Italian
  4. Italian Verb Types & Their Meanings
  5. Italian Verb Placement in a Sentence
  6. ItalianPod101: A Great Source for Your Italian Learning!

1. Italian Regular Verbs

Buildings in Florence, Italy

There are three groups of Italian regular verbs, and their conjugation makes students happy. Indeed, they’re easy to learn and always the same. 

The three regular verb groups are: 

  • Verbs in -are
  • Verbs in -ere
  • Verbs in -ire

1- Verbs in -are

Here’s a chart with the -are Italian verb conjugation, and an example of how it works with the verb portare, meaning “to bring.”

1st sg (I)2nd sg (you)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)2nd pl (you)3rd pl (they)
Stem + oStem + iStem + aStem + iamoStem + ateStem + ano
Io portoTu portiEgli portaNoi portiamoVoi portateEssi portano

Some examples of Italian verbs in -are are: 

1.

Amare
“to love”
Amo moltissimo viaggiare.
“I love traveling very much.”

2.

Pensare
“to think”
Io lavoro e penso a te.
“I work and I think about you.”

3.

Cominciare
“to start”
Oggi cominciamo un corso di italiano.
“Today, we start an Italian course.”

4.

Incontrare
“to meet”
Il Presidente incontra il suo staff nello Studio Ovale.
“The President meets his staff in the Oval Office.”

2- Verbs in -ere

Top Verbs

And now let’s see the conjugation of -ere verbs. We’ll use temere, meaning “to fear,” as an example.

1st sg (I)2nd sg (you)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)2nd pl (you)3rd pl (they)
Stem + oStem + iStem + eStem + iamoStem + eteStem + ono
Io temoTu temiEgli temeNoi temiamoVoi temeteEssi temono

Some examples are: 

5.

Leggere
“to read”
Al mattino leggo il giornale.
“In the morning, I read the newspaper.”

6.

Mettere
“to put,” “to wear”
Marco mette sempre lo stesso cappello.
“Marco always wears the same hat.”

7.

Ridere
“to laugh”
Valeria ride sempre, è una ragazza davvero allegra.
“Valeria always laughs; she really is a joyful girl.”

8.

Prendere
“to take,” “to get”
Di solito prendono il caffè in questo bar.
“They usually get their coffee in this cafe.”
Woman Enjoying Breakfast in Venice, Italy

3- Verbs in -ire

The -ire verbs in Italian have two conjugations:

  • Verbs in -ire (simple)

This is the simplest conjugation. Here, we use the verb partire, meaning “to leave,” as an example.

1st sg (I)1st sg (I)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)1st pl (we)3rd pl (they)
Stem + oStem + iStem + eStem + iamoStem + iteStem + ono
Io partoTu partiEgli parteNoi partiamoVoi partiteEssi partono

Other examples are:

9.

Aprire
“to open”
Il negozio apre dalle ore 10 alle ore 18.
“The shop is open from 10 to 18.”

10.

Sentire
“to hear,” “to feel”
Sento freddo, puoi chiudere la finestra per favore?
“I feel cold, can you please close the window?”
  • Verbs in -ire (with -isc-)

This is a slightly more complex conjugation. We’ll use the verb colpire, meaning “to hit,” as an example.

1st sg (I)2nd sg (you)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)2nd pl (you)3rd pl (they)
Stem + iscoStem + isciStem + isceStem + iamoStem + iteStem + iscono
Io colpiscoTu colpisciEgli colpisceNoi colpiamoVoi colpiteEssi colpiscono

Examples: 

11.

Capire
“to understand”
Kate capisce benissimo l’italiano.
“Kate understands Italian very well.”

12. 

Pulire
“to clean”
Mia zia pulisce la casa ogni giorno.
“My aunt cleans the house every day.”

2. Italian Irregular Verbs

More Essential Verbs

Unfortunately, many very important Italian verbs are irregular, and this means that you have to learn their conjugation one by one. But don’t worry, with our help you’ll master them like it was the most natural thing in the world. 

By far, the most important Italian irregular verbs are essere (“to be”) and avere (“to have”), which also work as Italian auxiliary verbs

13. 

Essere
“to be”
Lorenzo è un bravissimo cuoco.
“Lorenzo is a great chef.”

14. 

Avere
“to have”
Luca e Antonia hanno una casa stupenda in Toscana.
“Luca and Antonia have a wonderful house in Tuscany.”

Other important examples of irregular verbs are: 

15. 

Andare
“to go”
In Italia i bambini vanno a scuola dalle 8 alle 13.
“In Italy, children go to school from 8 to 13.”

16. 

Venire
“to come”
Se non è un problema, vengo con voi.
“If it’s not a problem, I’ll come with you.”

17.

Potere
“can,” “may”
Posso raggiungervi più tardi?
“May I join you later?”

18.

Dovere
“to have to”
Devi parlare con tua madre.
“You have to talk to your mother.”
Boats in Burano, Italy

3. Reflexive Verbs in Italian

Reflexive verbs in Italian are very common and can sometimes be hard to understand for students. This is because some of them don’t actually have a real reflexive meaning. In sentences, even those verbs that have an identical subject and object are more like expressions in Italian than actual reflexive verbs as they’re thought of in English.

An example is the verb svegliarsi, which literally means “to wake yourself up.” But it really just means “to wake up.”

Some of the most important reflexive verbs are:

19.

Divertirsi
“to have fun”
Mi sono divertito molto questa sera.
“I really had fun tonight.”

20.

Lavarsi
“to wash up”
Ti sei lavato i denti?
“Did you brush your teeth?” (literally, “Did you wash your teeth?”)

21.

Alzarsi
“to stand up”
Quando l’insegnante entra in classe, dovete alzarvi.
“When the teacher comes in the classroom, you have to stand up.”

22.

Addormentarsi
“to fall asleep”
Ieri mi sono addormentata sul divano.
“Yesterday, I fell asleep on the couch.”

4. Italian Verb Types & Their Meanings

Negative Verbs

Following are a few lists of the best Italian verbs to know as a beginner in the language. Beginning with Italian action verbs, we’ll go through a variety of verb types that we’ve categorized for your convenience. Let’s get started! 

Italian Action Verbs

23.

Arrivare
“to arrive”
I miei cugini sono arrivati ieri sera.
“My cousins arrived yesterday evening.”

24.

Stare
“to stay”
A Parigi starò a casa di un’amica.
“In Paris, I’ll stay at a friend’s house.”

25.

Fermarsi
“to stop”
Fermati qui, c’è un buon ristorante.
“Stop here, there’s a good restaurant.”

26.

Camminare
“to walk”
Amo camminare sulla spiaggia.
“I love walking on the beach.”

27.

Cercare
“to search,” “to look for”
Scusi, cerco un bancomat. Sa dove posso trovarlo?
“Excuse me, I’m looking for an ATM. Do you know where I can find it?”

28.

Trovare
“to find”
Ho trovato un buon amico.
“I’ve found a good friend.”

29.

Spostare
“to move”
Per favore, aiutami a spostare il tavolo.
“Please, help me to move the table.”

30.

Tirare
“to pull”
Tira per aprire.
“Pull to open.”

31.

Spingere
“to push”
Sto scendendo, non serve spingere!
“I’m getting off, there’s no need to push!”

32.

Correre
“to run”
Mia sorella corre ogni mattina per 10 chilometri.
“My sister runs for ten kilometers every morning.”

33.

Viaggiare
“to travel”
Viaggio almeno due volte all’anno.
“I travel at least twice a year.”

34.

Rimanere
“to remain,” “to stay”
Vorrei rimanere di più, ma non posso.
“I’d like to stay longer, but I can’t.”

35.

Tenere
“to keep,” “to hold”
Tienimi la mano.
“Hold my hand.”

36.

Trasportare
“to transport,” “to carry”
Questo camion trasporta frutta.
“This truck transports fruit.”
Couple on Vespa

Mental Verbs

37.

Volere
“to want”
Sono stanca, voglio andare a dormire.
“I’m tired, I want to go to bed.”

38.

Sapere
“to know”
So chi è stato.
“I know who did it.”

39.

Credere
“to believe”
Credo che tu abbia ragione.
“I believe you’re right.”

40.

Sperare
“to hope”
Spero che l’esame vada bene.
“I hope the test will go well.”

41.

Piacere
“to like”
Il caffè italiano mi piace molto.
“I like Italian coffee very much.”

42.

Dispiacere
“to be sorry”
Mi dispiace che tu non ti sia divertito.
“I’m sorry that you didn’t have fun.”

43.

Ricordare
“to remember,” “to remind”
Questa canzone mi ricorda la mia infanzia.
“This song reminds me of my childhood.”

44.

Dimenticare
“to forget”
Ho dimenticato le chiavi.
“I forgot the keys.”

45.

Imparare
“to learn”
Sto imparando l’italiano.
“I’m learning Italian.”

46.

Sognare
“to dream”
Sogno di visitare Venezia.
“I dream of visiting Venice.”

47.

Desiderare
“to wish”
Desidero rivederti.
“I wish to see you again.”

48.

Odiare
“to hate”
Mia figlia odia il cavolfiore.
“My daughter hates cauliflower.”

Verbs of Change

The world is full of change and nothing is to be taken for granted. Here are some useful Italian verbs to learn to talk about change!

49.

Cambiare
“to change”
Il paesaggio è davvero cambiato.
“The landscape has really changed.”

50.

Diventare
“to become”
Crescendo, sono diventata più indipendente.
“Growing up, I’ve become more independent.”

51.

Migliorare
“to improve”
Il mio italiano è migliorato nell’ultimo anno.
“My Italian has improved over the last year.”

52.

Peggiorare
“to worsen”
Il tempo è peggiorato rapidamente.
“The weather has quickly worsened.”

53.

Aumentare
“to increase”
Il mio stipendio è aumentato di 100 euro.
“My salary has increased by 100 euro.”

54.

Diminuire
“to decrease,” “to reduce”
Bisogna diminuire le spese.
“We have to reduce our expenses.”
Rome

Verbs for the Workplace

Here are some Italian verbs you must know to talk about work and different types of jobs.

55.

Lavorare
“to work”
Matteo lavora 10 ore al giorno.
“Matteo works ten hours a day.”

56.

Fare
“to make,” “to do”
Faccio spesso degli errori di ortografia.
“I often make spelling mistakes.”

57.

Finire
“to end,” “to finish”
Ho finito il nuovo libro di Elena Ferrante.
“I’ve finished Elena Ferrante’s new novel.”

58.

Iniziare
“to start,” “to begin”
Hai iniziato a fare i compiti?
“Did you start doing your homework?”

59.

Costruire
“to build”
Mio nonno ha costruito questa casa.
“My grandfather built this house.”

60.

Creare
“to create”
Leonardo ha creato un capolavoro.
“Leonardo created a masterpiece.”

61.

Cucinare
“to cook”
Mio padre ha cucinato la pasta.
“My father cooked pasta.”

62.

Mescolare
“to mix”
Mescola il latte con le uova.
“Mix the milk with the eggs.”

63.

Tagliare
“to cut”
Per favore, taglia il pane.
“Please, cut the bread.”

64.

Servire
“to serve”
Servire a temperatura ambiente.
“Serve at room temperature.”

65.

Guidare
“to drive”
Non mi piace guidare molte ore.
“I don’t like to drive for many hours.”

66.

Usare
“to use”
Posso usare la tua auto?
“Could I use your car?”

67.

Scrivere
“to write”
Gli scriverò una lettera.
“I’ll write him a letter.”

68.

Telefonare
“to phone”
Domani telefonerò all’ufficio.
“Tomorrow, I’ll phone the office.”

69.

Chiamare
“to call”
Andrea ti chiamerà più tardi.
“Andrea will call you later.”

70.

Chiedere
“to ask,” “to request”
Marco ha chiesto a Valentina di sposarlo.
“Marco asked Valentina to marry him.”

71.

Rispondere
“to answer”
Ti prego di rispondere al più presto.
“Please, answer as soon as possible.”

72.

Firmare
“to sign”
Ho appena firmato il contratto.
“I’ve just signed the contract.”

Sensory Verbs

73.

Guardare
“to watch”
Sto guardando la tv.
“I’m watching TV.”

74.

Vedere
“to see”
È così buio che non vedo nulla.
“It’s so dark that I can’t see anything.”

75.

Ascoltare
“to listen”
Roberto ascolta solo la musica metal.
“Roberto only listens to metal music.”

76.

Assaggiare
“to taste”
Voglio assaggiare questo vino.
“I want to taste this wine.”

77.

Profumare
“to smell”
La tua macchina profuma di sapone.
“Your car smells like soap.”

78.

Toccare
“to touch”
Tocca questo tessuto: è morbidissimo.
“Touch this fabric; it’s really soft.”

9- Other Italian Verbs for Beginners

79.

Parlare
“to talk,” “to speak”
Io e mia sorella parliamo ogni giorno al telefono.
“My sister and I talk everyday on the phone.”

80.

Dipingere
“to paint”
Michelangelo ha dipinto la Cappella Sistina.
“Michelangelo painted the Cappella Sistina.”

81.

Suonare
“to play (an instrument)”
Maria sa suonare il piano.
“Maria can play the piano.”

82.

Recitare
“to play (like an actor)”
Al Pacino ha recitato ne Il Padrino.
“Al Pacino played in The Godfather.”

83.

Mangiare
“to eat”
Di solito a pranzo mangio un panino.
“I usually eat a sandwich for lunch.”

84.

Bere
“to drink”
Ti andrebbe di bere qualcosa con me?
“Would you like to drink something with me?”

85.

Dormire
“to sleep”
La domenica dormo sempre fino a tardi.
“On Sundays, I always sleep until late.”

86.

Riposare
“to rest”
In vacanza non ho riposato per niente.
“On holiday, I couldn’t rest for a moment.”

87.

Vestirsi
“to get dressed”
Vestiti, dobbiamo uscire.
“Get dressed, we have to go out.”

88.

Nuotare
“to swim”
Non so nuotare.
“I can’t swim.”

89.

Sdraiarsi
“to lie”
Mi sono sdraiato per terra.
“I lay down on the ground.”

90.

Salire
“to get on,” “to get up”
Sono salito sull’ultimo autobus.
“I got on the last bus.”

91.

Scendere
“to get off”
Scusi, devo scendere alla prossima fermata.
“Excuse me, I have to get off at the next stop.”

92.

Sollevare
“to lift”
Questa macchina solleva fino a una tonnellata di peso.
“This machine lifts up to one ton of weight.”

93.

Passare
“to pass”
Passami il sale, per favore.
“Pass me the salt, please.”

94.

Inventare
“to invent”
Marconi ha inventato la radio.
“Marconi invented the radio.”

95.

Comprare
“To buy”
Hai comprato il latte?
“Did you buy the milk?”

96.

Vendere
“to sell”
Il negozio all’angolo vende borse e scarpe.
“The shop at the corner sells bags and shoes.”

97.

Pagare
“to pay”
Ho pagato 10 € per una pizza a una birra.
“I paid 10 € for a pizza and a beer.”

98.

Vincere
“to win”
La Ferrari ha vinto l’ultimo Gran Premio.
“The Ferrari won the latest Grand Prix.”

99.

Perdere
“to lose”
Ho perso il cellulare.
“I’ve lost my mobile phone.”

100.

Nascere
“to be born”
Sono nato in Francia, ma sono cresciuto in Belgio.
“I was born in France, but I grew up in Belgium.”

101.

Morire
“to die”
Nell’incidente per fortuna non è morto nessuno.
“Luckily, nobody died in the accident.”

5. Italian Verb Placement in a Sentence

As you can see from the many sentences above, in Italian, a verb usually goes after the subject and before the object (or any other complement). 

Example: 

Subject + Verb + Object

Il topo mangia il formaggio.

“The mouse eats the cheese.”

6. ItalianPod101: A Great Source for Your Italian Learning!

We hope you enjoyed learning about Italian verbs with us, and that you picked up a few new vocabulary words you can start using today! It will take lots of studying and practice, but you can memorize every word on this list over time. And once you do, why not start on another Italian basic verbs list on ItalianPod101? 

Have you already checked out our majestic 100 adjectives article, our amazing 100 nouns list, or our guide on Italian pronouns? If not, it’s time to do it! Improve your Italian with our wonderful guides and lessons, whenever and wherever you want. Download our mobile apps or follow our courses on your PC, and you’ll live the Dolce vita

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any Italian verbs you still want to know! We look forward to hearing from you, and will do our best to help! 

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Italian Pronouns: Definition, List, and Examples of Use

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Pronouns are one of the fundamental bricks in the majestic building of grammar. Basically, what they do is replace another word, allowing us to avoid repetition and making every language more agile, pleasant, and poetic. Italian pronouns are no exception. 

A pronoun in Italian can replace: 

There are many kinds of Italian pronouns, categorized by their function in a sentence. In this Italian pronouns lesson here on ItalianPod101.com, we’ll show you a list of all the most important ones, with their definitions and examples of Italian pronoun usage. It’s Italian pronouns, made easy!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Italian personal pronouns
  2. Italian possessive pronouns
  3. Italian reflexive pronouns
  4. Italian demonstrative pronouns
  5. Italian interrogative and exclamatory pronouns
  6. Italian indefinite pronouns
  7. Italian relative pronouns
  8. ItalianPod101: Fast & Fun Italian for All

1- Italian personal pronouns

Introducing Yourself

A personal pronoun is a word that indicates who or what is involved in a sentence, without having to repeat it in full. Let’s clarify with an example in English: “My daughter is on holiday. She’s very happy.” Without pronouns, we would say: “My daughter is on holiday. My daughter is very happy.” A bit annoying, isn’t it?

Now, there are two categories of Italian personal pronouns:

  • Subject pronouns: When the replaced element is the subject of the sentence.
  • Object pronouns: When the replaced element is the object of the sentence. 

Further, there are two kinds of object pronouns.

  • Direct object pronouns: When the pronoun replaces a direct object, answering the question “Who?” or “What?”
  • Indirect object pronouns: When the pronoun replaces an indirect object, answering the question “To whom?” or “To what?”

Now, let’s see them in action in this nice and neat Italian pronouns table. 

Italian subject pronounsItalian direct object pronounsItalian indirect object pronouns
1st person singularIo (“I”)Mi (“Me”)Mi (“To me”)
2nd person singularTu (“You”)Ti (“You”)Ti (“To you”)
3rd person singularInformal: Lui, Lei (“He, She”).

Formal: Egli, Ella, Esso, Essa (“He, She, It male, It female”) *
Lo (“Him, It male”), La (“Her, It female”), L’ (“Him, Her, It” whenever the following word begins with a vowel)Gli (“To him, her, it”)
1st person pluralNoi (“We”)Ci (“Us”)Ci (“To us”)
2nd person pluralVoi (“You”)Vi (“You”)Vi (“To you”)
3rd person pluralInformal: Loro (“They”).

Formal: Essi, Esse (“They,” male and female) *
Li, Le (“Them,” male and female)Gli, Loro (“To them”)
*Used in written, formal language, like in literature or official documents.

And now, let’s dive into these Italian pronouns with examples!

Italian subject pronouns:

  • Io
    • Io vado al cinema, vuoi venire?

“I’m going to the cinema, do you want to come?”

  • Tu
    • Tu puoi andare ora.

“You can go now.”

  • Lui 
    • Lui aveva fame ed è tornato a casa.

“He was hungry and has gone home.”

  • Lei
    • Lei, Marta, è davvero una persona interessante.

“She, Marta, really is an interesting person.”

  • Noi
    • Noi andremo in vacanza fra una settimana.

“We’ll go on holiday in one week.”

“Did you watch the match yesterday?”

  • Loro
    • Loro non sono qui perché non sono stati invitati.

“They are not here because they were not invited.”

Direct object pronouns:

  • Mi
    • Ieri Marco mi ha visto ma non mi ha salutato.

“Yesterday, Marco saw me but he didn’t say hello to me.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow to confirm the deal.”

  • Lo
    • Cerco Giuliano, lo hai visto?
    • “I’m looking for Giuliano, have you seen him?”
  • La
    • Ti piace la pasta? Io la adoro.

“Do you like pasta? I love it.”

  • L’
    • Il Barolo è buonissimo, l’ho assaggiato in Piemonte. 

Barolo is very good, I’ve tasted it in Piedmont.”

  • Ci
    • Lorenzo ci ha invitati al suo matrimonio.

“Lorenzo has invited us to his wedding.”

  • Vi
    • Martedì vi porto a cena in un ristorante buonissimo.

“Tuesday, I’ll bring you to dinner in a very good restaurant.”

  • Li
    • Li ho incontrati stamattina al supermercato.

“I bumped into them this morning at the supermarket.”

  • Le
    • A: Hai tu le mie scarpe bianche? 

B: No, non le ho io.

A: “Do you have my white shoes?” 

B: “No, I don’t have them.”

Indirect object pronouns:

  • Mi
    • Ieri Andrea mi ha dato una bellissima lettera.

“Yesterday, Andrea gave me a beautiful letter.”

  • Ti
    • Ho bisogno di parlarti.

“I need to talk to you.”

  • Gli 
    • Gli ho consigliato di accettare il lavoro.

“I’ve suggested to him to accept the job.”

  • Ci
    • Roma ci piace così tanto che abbiamo deciso di vivere lì.

“We like Rome so much that we’ve decided to live there.”

  • Vi
    • Più tardi vi mando un’e-mail con i dettagli. 

“Later, I’ll send you an email with the details.”

  • Gli / Loro
    • Gli ho detto che devono partire entro domani. / Ho detto loro che devono partire entro domani.

“I’ve told them that they must leave by tomorrow.”

Two important notes: 

  • Unlike in other languages, in Italian, the use of the subject pronoun in a sentence isn’t mandatory. In fact, the subject pronoun is usually omitted, except when it’s needed to avoid ambiguity. 
  • Sono andato a letto presto, perché ero stanco.

“(I) went to bed early, because (I) was tired.”

  • In some cases, when you use an infinitive verb, you can add the object pronouns at the end of the sentence, attaching it to the infinitive verb.
  • Vieni a trovarci questa estate?

“Are you coming to visit us this summer?”

Italian Indirect Object Pronouns

2- Italian possessive pronouns

Italian possessive pronouns are identical to possessive adjectives. They replace the possessed object and must always be preceded by a definite article or a preposition + definite article. They’re conjugated according to gender and number. 

They are:

  • Mio / mia / miei / mie
    • Adoro il tuo stereo. Il mio è vecchio. 

“I love your stereo. Mine is old.”

  • Tuo / tua / tuoi / tue
    • Le mie nuove scarpe da trekking sono perfette. Come vanno le tue?

“My new trekking shoes are perfect. How are yours going?”

  • Suo / sua / suoi / sue
    • La mia valigia è stata finalmente trovata, ma della sua ancora non si sa nulla. 

“My luggage was finally found, but we still don’t know anything about his.”

  • Nostro / nostra / nostri / nostre
    • Tuo figlio adora il basket, mentre i nostri preferiscono il calcio.

“Your son loves basketball, while ours prefers football.”

  • Vostro / vostra / vostri / vostre
    • Il mio cane è un pastore tedesco, e il vostro?

“My dog is a German shepherd, and yours?”

  • Loro 
    • Il mio lavoro mi lascia molto tempo libero, mentre il loro no.

“My job gives me a lot of free time, while theirs does not.”

Italian Pronouns

3- Italian reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject of a sentence is also the object. There are a lot of very common reflexive verbs in Italian, and they can be a bit confusing. Anyway, the Italian reflexive pronouns are:

  • Mi (“Myself”)
    • Mi sto facendo la doccia.

“I’m taking a shower.”

  • Ti (“Yourself”)
    • Ti sei lavato le mani?

“Did you wash your hands?”

  • Si (“Himself, Herself, Themselves”)
    • Si è vestito in fretta ed è uscito.

“He dressed up quickly and got out.”

  • Ci (“Ourself”)
    • Io e Antonio ci amiamo molto.

“Antonio and I love each other very much.”

  • Vi (“Yourself”, plural)
    • Oggi vi siete svegliate molto presto, come mai?

“Today you got up very early, why?”

4- Italian demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used instead of a noun to point out a specific person or thing. The most common Italian demonstrative pronouns are:

  • Questo / questa / questi / queste (“This, these”)

“This is Luca, my husband.”

  • Quello / quella / quelli / quelle (“That, those”)
    • Quelli che vedete sono i resti di un grande tempio romano.

“Those you see are the remains of a big Roman temple.”

5- Italian interrogative and exclamatory pronouns

Basic Questions

Interrogative and exclamatory pronouns are used to form questions or exclamations. In Italian, they are:

  • Chi (“Who”)
    • Chi è l’uomo con cui parla Simone?

“Who is the man Simone is talking to?”

  • Che cosa / Cosa / Che (“What”). All of these options are synonyms.
    • Cos’è successo?

“What happened?”

  • Quanto / quanta / quanti / quante (“How much” but also “So much” in exclamations)
    • Quanto mi manchi!

“I miss you so much!”

  • Quale / quali (“Which one”)
    • Tra pizza e pasta, quale preferisci?

“Between pizza and pasta, which one do you prefer?”

Pizza and Pasta

6- Italian indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are used to indicate something or someone in general. The most common Italian indefinite pronouns are:

  • Alcuno / alcuna / alcuni / alcune (“Some”)
    • A: Ti sono piaciute le opere in mostra? 

B: Alcune mi sono piaciute, ma non tutte.

A: “Did you like the artworks on display?” 

B: “Some I liked, but not all of them.”

  • Molto / molta / molti / molte (“Many, a lot”)
    • A: Hai fame? 

B: Molta!

A: “Are you hungry?” 

B: “A lot!”

  • Poco / poca / pochi / poche (“Few”)

B: No, poca.

A: “Were there many people at the concert?” 

B: “No, not much.”

  • Tanto / tanta / tanti / tante (“Many”)
    • Tanti sono venuti alla manifestazione, nonostante il freddo.

“Many went to the demonstration, despite the cold.”

  • Troppo / troppa / troppi / troppe (“Too much, too many”)
    • Troppi non sono tornati dalla guerra.

“Too many didn’t come back from the war.”

  • Tutto / tutta / tutti / tutte (“All, everyone”)
    • Siamo arrivati tutti in ritardo.

“We’ve all arrived late.”

  • Uno / una (“One”)
    • A: Hai un cellulare? 

B: Ne ho uno, ma è vecchio.

A: “Do you have a mobile phone?” 

B: “I have one, but it’s old.”

  • Qualcuno / qualcuna (“Someone, anyone”)
    • Qualcuno sa dirmi dov’è Dario?

“Could anyone tell me where Dario is?”

  • Ciascuno / ciascuna (“Everyone, each one”)
    • Ciascuno di noi ha un compito.

“Each one of us has a task.”

  • Ognuno / ognuna (“Everyone, each one”)
    • Ognuno deve fare la sua parte.

“Everyone has to do their part.”

  • Nessuno / nessuna (“No one, any”)
    • Nessuno sa perché è successo. 

“No one knows why it happened.”

  • Sono andata a cercare funghi nel bosco, ma non ne ho trovato nessuno. 

“I went looking for mushrooms in the forest, but I didn’t find any.”

Italian Indefinite Pronouns

7- Italian relative pronouns

Relative pronouns connect a sentence with a subordinate clause. The Italian relative pronouns are:

  • Che (replaces a subject or direct object)
    • La donna che sta parlando con Leo è il mio capo. 

“The woman who is talking with Leo is my boss.”

  • Chi (“The person who, the people who, whoever”)
    • Chi è stato?

“Who did it?”

  • Cui (replaces an indirect object)
    • La ragazza di cui ti ho parlato sta entrando nella stanza proprio adesso.

“The girl I told you about is entering the room right now.”

  • Il quale / la quale / i quali / le quali (same as Cui)
    • La persona per la quale lavoro si chiama Mario Rossi.

“The person I work for is called Mario Rossi.”

8. ItalianPod101: Fast & Fun Italian for All

Improve Listening

Mastering Italian pronouns is no easy feat, but with enough practice, you’ll get there! We hope you enjoyed this article and that you’re well on your way to really understanding Italian pronouns.

If there’s anything you didn’t quite understand, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments. We’ll do our best to help you out! 

Grammar is a complicated universe, but we at ItalianPod101 are here to help! Check out our lesson library and enjoy hours of videos, tons of useful articles, and practical mobile tools to learn and study whenever and wherever you want. 

Happy Italian learning! 

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Wait a Minute… Do You Know How to Tell Time in Italian?

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How often do you need to check the time every day? Telling the time is part of everyday life, so if you’re making plans for a specific time and date while traveling or studying in Italy, it’s essential that you master this conversation skill as soon as possible. 

In this article, I’ll be going over everything from how to say “hour” in Italian to asking for the time and making plans in Italian. Let’s get started.
Che ore sono? è ora di iniziare a divertirsi con ItalianPod101.com! (“What time is it? It’s time to start having fun with ItalianPod101.com!”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in Italian Table of Contents
  1. How to Ask for the Time in Italian
  2. Italian Hours
  3. Give Me a Minute…
  4. How to Divide Hours into Minutes in Italian
  5. General Time References of the Day in Italian
  6. Top Italian Time Adverbs
  7. Italian Proverbs and Sayings about Time
  8. Conclusion

1. How to Ask for the Time in Italian

Man Checking Watch

To start, let’s see the very first basic phrases you can use to ask for and say the time in Italian:

  • Che ore sono? / Che ora è? 


These literally translate to “What hours are they?” and “What hour it is?” respectively. They both mean “What time is it?”

This is the easiest way to ask the time in Italian. With this phrase, you don’t have to worry too much about using formal vs. informal speech, as adding scusi (“excuse me” – formal) or scusa (“excuse me” – informal) at the beginning of the sentence can make it more formal or informal.

  • Potrebbe/Potresti dirmi l’ora? 


This translates to “Could you (formal/informal) tell me the time?” 

This is a more complex form of asking for the time in Italian. It can be used both formally and informally as long as you change the person (2nd vs. 3rd) of the subject accordingly.

  • A che ora è…? /A che ora comincia…? 


These translate to “At what time is…” and “At what time starts …?” respectively. This is the Italian formula for asking when something (a meeting, a show, etc.) is going to start.

Did you notice that in Italian we say ore, literally meaning “hours,” when we talk about time? If you look up ora (“hour” in the singular) in an Italian dictionary, you’ll find that it means both “hour” and “now.” While the literal translation of “time” is tempo, in Italian, we use this word just in the sense of the concept of time—never to represent the passing of time on a clock. Interesting, right?

Che ore sono? Uffa*… il tempo non passa mai… (“What time is it? Geez…time never passes…”)

*Uffa is an untranslatable word that makes life so much more interesting! Depending on the context, it can be translated as “geez/gosh!”, “damn” (angry), “come on!” (impatient), “phew” (generic), or “oh, hum” (bored).

2. Italian Hours

When you say the time in Italian, it’s more common to use the twelve-hour clock, unless it’s in written official communication. In order to avoid confusion or ambiguity, you’ll often hear Italians say the time with the twelve-hour clock, adding di mattina, del pomeriggio, di sera, or di notte (“in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, at night”).

Hourglass

Una vecchia clessidra (“An old hourglass”)

There’s no equivalent for “o’clock” in Italian. You simply say the time, and if you want to be very precise, you add in punto. You’ll only use this if you want to remark that it just turned exactly that time: Ci vediamo alle tre in punto! (“We meet at three o’clock (sharp)!”).

To state what time it is, you use the verb essere (“to be”), in the singular è, for midnight (mezzanotte), midday (mezzogiorno), and one o’clock (l’una). The rest of the time, you use the plural sono and the number  equivalent to the hour.
But if you want to say what time something happens, you use a/alle and the time, like this: a mezzanotte (“At midnight”), alle tre (“at three”). Remember that alle = a + le. Do you need to brush up on compound prepositions? Follow me!

È mezzanotte / A mezzanotte “It’s midnight” / “At midnight”
È l’una (di notte) / All’una (di notte) “It’s one AM” / “At one AM”
Sono le due (di notte) / Allle due (di notte) “It’s two AM” / “At two AM”
Sono le tre (di notte) / Alle tre (di notte) “It’s three AM” / “At three AM”
Sono le quattro (di notte) / Alle quattro (di notte) “It’s four AM” / “At four AM”
Sono le cinque (di mattina) / Alle cinque (di mattina) “It’s five AM” / “At five AM”
Sono le sei (di mattina) / Alle sei (di mattina) “It’s six AM” / “At six AM”
Sono le sette (di mattina) / Alle sette (di mattina) “It’s seven AM” / “At seven AM”
Sono le otto (di mattina) / Alle otto (di mattina) “It’s eight AM” / “At eight AM”
Sono le nove (di mattina) / Alle nove (di mattina) “It’s nine AM” / “At nine AM”
Sono le dieci (di mattina) / Alle dieci (di mattina) “It’s ten AM” / “At ten AM”`
Sono le undici (di mattina) / Alle undici (di mattina) “It’s eleven AM” / “At eleven AM”
È mezzogiorno / A mezzogiorno “It’s noon” / “At noon”
È l’una / All’una “It’s one PM” / “At one PM”
Sono le due (di pomeriggio) / Alle due (di pomeriggio) “It’s two PM” / “At two PM”
Sono le tre (di pomeriggio) / Alle tre (di pomeriggio) “It’s three PM” / “At three PM”
Sono le quattro (di pomeriggio) / Alle quattro (di pomeriggio) “It’s four PM” / “At four PM”
Sono le cinque (di pomeriggio) / Alle cinque (di pomeriggio) “It’s five PM” / “At five PM”
Sono le sei (di pomeriggio) / Alle sei (di pomeriggio) “It’s six PM” / “At six PM”
Sono le sette (di sera) / Alle sette (di sera) “It’s seven PM” / “At seven PM”
Sono le otto (di sera) / Alle otto (di sera) “It’s eight PM” / “At eight PM”
Sono le nove (di sera) / Alle nove (di sera) “It’s nine PM” / “At nine PM”
Sono le dieci (di sera) / Alle dieci (di sera) “It’s ten PM” / “At ten PM”
Sono le undici (di sera) / Alle undici (di sera) “It’s eleven PM” / “At eleven PM”

Naturally, it’s another matter to know how to write the time in Italian…. Here’s a hint: right now, it’s 11:33.

Impatient Boy at Table Holding Cutlery

È ora di pranzo! (“It’s lunchtime!”)

You’ll often find Italians referring to noon or one PM as l’ora di pranzo, meaning “lunchtime.” When it’s time to eat, it’s a sacred time for Italians. So, just a word of advice: avoid planning a meeting around that time unless you’re making plans for a lunch or dinner. Also, remember that the typical time for meals changes according to the region in Italy. Generally, people in the north have lunch around noon, while the more south you go, the later lunchtime (or dinnertime) is, especially in the summer. 

3. Give Me a Minute…

Time

A minute isn’t much, but we use the word all the time, both as a reference to sixty seconds and a more generic “little time.”

Kids will always tell you un minuto… cinque minuti… (“one minute… five minutes… “) when you ask them to get out of bed or clean their room, don’t they?

  • Sono le otto, alzati! “It’s eight o’clock, get up!”
  • Ho sonno… ancora cinque minuti… “I’m sleepy…five more minutes….”

It’s also the typical excuse for the chronic latecomer…

  • Ciao, sei pronto? “Hello, are you ready?”
  • Ehm…. Quasi… cinque minuti e arrivo… “Ehm…almost…five minutes and I’ll be there…”

Here are a few more useful formulas. Notice how the verb is in the imperative mood. You can practice with these phrases:

Dammi un minuto… “Give me a minute…”

Aspetta un minuto… “Wait a minute…”

The same formulas can be used with secondo, meaning “second.”

But in fact, apart from when we talk about cinque minuti or dieci minuti (“five minutes” or “ten minutes”), we rarely use the word “minute” in a sentence. See how it works in the case of 6:05 PM:

  • Che ore sono? (“What time is it?”)
  • Sono le sei e cinque. (“It’s five past six.”) 

We’ll look at this more in the following chapter.

Clock Spiral

Ore e minuti (“Hours and minutes”)

4. How to Divide Hours into Minutes in Italian

When the digital watches came around, a lot of people started telling time like robots:

  • Che ore sono? (“What time is it?”)
  • Sono le 17 e 27. (“It’s 17: 27.”)

But luckily, people soon realized it was too ugly and stopped doing that. The normal behavior now is to round up the minutes to halves, quarters, and fives. Much better!

  • mezz’ora (“half an hour”) 

Notice how in front of ora, the word mezza drops the last letter, a, and adds an apostrophe (‘), becoming mezz’ora. But whenever you need to put it after the hour, to mean “half past…” then you use the complete word, either mezzo or mezza.

  • … e mezza/mezzo  (“half past…”)

In this case, telling time in Italian is much simpler than in English. You just need to put together the hour and the half hour with the conjunction e. Notice how both mezzo and mezza are correct.

  • un quarto d’ora (“a quarter of an hour”)

Notice how here, too, we drop a letter and add an apostrophe, so that un quarto di ora becomes much nicer to hear and pronounce: un quarto d’ora.

  • e un quarto (“a quarter past …”)

To add just a quarter of an hour, you also need to put the conjunction e + un (indefinite article).

  • Just like in English, an easy way to tell time is by fractions of five minutes, as in:
  • le … e cinque (“five past …” or “… oh five”)
  • le … e dieci (“ten past …” or “… ten”)
  • le … e quindici (“fifteen past …” or “… fifteen”)

le … e venti (“twenty past …” or “… twenty”)

  • le … e venticinque (“twenty-five past …” or “… twenty-five”)
  • le … e trenta (“thirty past …” or “… thirty”)
  • le … e trentacinque (“thirty-five past …” or “… thirty-five”)
  • le … e quaranta (“forty past …” or “… forty”)
  • le … e quarantacinque (“forty-five past …” or “… forty-five”)
  • le … e cinquanta (“fifty past …” or “… fifty”)
  • le … e cinquantacinque (“fifty-five past …” or “… fifty-five”)
  • meno… 

After half past thirty-five, normally in Italian you start saying the following hour “minus” the minutes needed to get to the top of the hour. For example: 

  • 10:40 = le undici meno venti (literally “eleven minus twenty”)  
  • 11:45 = le dodici/mezzogiorno meno un quarto (“twelve/noon minus a quarter”)
  • 15:50 = le quattro meno dieci (“four minus ten”)
  • 19:55 = le otto meno cinque  (“eight minus five”)

5. General Time References of the Day in Italian

Telling the exact time, or being able to read a clock, is important. But since prehistoric times, people have talked about time by referring to the different stages of the day. So, if you want to have a more natural Italian conversation, here are the most common ways to give the general time of day in Italian.

Let’s remember that AM / PM isn’t commonly used in Italian. Instead, to avoid ambiguity or confusion, you’ll hear people mention di mattina, del pomeriggio, di sera, and di notte (“in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, at night”) after the time. These are the four basic stages of the day, but below is a more complete list of phrases using all the different parts of the day.

Sun Low Over the Horizon

Dall’alba al tramonto (“from dawn to dusk”)

Sono uscita di mattina presto.“I left early in the morning.
Faccio colazione a metà mattinata.“I have breakfast mid-morning.”
Mi sveglio sempre all’alba.“I always wake up at dawn.”
Ci vediamo a mezzogiorno (ad ora di pranzo).“See you at noon (at lunchtime).”
Ti chiamo nel primo pomeriggio.“I’ll call you in the early afternoon.”
La festa comincia nel tardo pomeriggio.“The party starts in the late afternoon.”
Com’è bella la montagna al tramonto!“How beautiful the mountain is at sunset!
Non esco mai di sera tardi.“I never go out late at night.”
È ora di cena.“It’s dinner time.”
Non si può fare rumore a notte fonda.“No noise can be made in the middle of the night.
Ho sentito un rumore nel cuore della notte.“I heard a noise in the dead of night.
È tardi: ora di dormire!“It’s late: time for bed (nap time)!”

6. Top Italian Time Adverbs

Improve Listening

Once you’ve mastered how to say the time, how to talk about all the stages of the day and night, you still need some other little words that help you indicate when something happens. When talking about time in Italian, these adverbs of time will be immensely helpful:

  • adesso/ora (“now”)


Il treno parte ora. (“The train leaves now.”)

  • al momento (“at the moment”)


Al momento non abbiamo tavoli liberi. (“At the moment, we don’t have free tables.”)

  • nel frattempo (“in the meantime”)


Nel frattempo preparo il pranzo. (“In the meantime, I’ll prepare lunch.”)

  • prima/dopo (“before/after”)


Ci vediamo prima di cena o dopo cena? (“Shall we meet before dinner or after dinner?”)

  • presto/tardi (“early/late”)


Per favore, arriva presto. Non fare tardi come al solito. (“Please, be there early. Don’t you be late as usual.”)

  • tra un po’ (“In a while”)

Pay attention to the apostrophe (‘). It’s there to indicate that it was originally a longer word (poco) that dropped the last syllable.


Ora non ho voglia. Lo faccio tra un po’. (“Now I don’t want to. I’ll do it in a while.”)

  • per molto/poco tempo (“for a long/short time”)


Per molto tempo ho creduto a Babbo Natale. (“For a long time, I believed in Santa Claus.”)

  • sempre/mai (“always/never”)
  • Vai sempre in palestra? (“Do you always go to the gym?”)
  • No, non ci vado mai. (“No, I never go.”)
  • il prima possibile (“as soon as possible”)


Ho bisogno della relazione il prima possibile. (“I need the report as soon as possible.”)

  • in qualsiasi momento (“at any time”)


Può succedere in qualsiasi momento. (“It can happen at any time.”)

  • di tanto in tanto (“from time to time”)


È bene fare una pausa di tanto in tanto. (“From time to time, it’s good to take a break.”)

7. Italian Proverbs and Sayings about Time

Time is such a universal and primordial concept that in all cultures, you’ll find many proverbs and sayings about it. Here are some of the most common proverbs and sayings about time in Italian.

Sundial
Il tempo è denaro.“Time is money.”
Il tempo vola.“Time flies.”
Chi ha tempo non aspetti tempo.“Those who have time do not wait for time.”

Meaning: Basically, it’s an invitation to act immediately without hesitation.
La notte porta consiglio.“The night brings counsel.”

Meaning: The best decisions must be made with a clear mind, better if after a long sleep.
Dare tempo al tempo.“Give time to time.”

Meaning: Allow things to fall into place by waiting for the right moment.
Il tempo è galantuomo.“Time is a gentleman.”

Meaning: Time restores the truth, repairs all wrongs, and heals everything. Therefore, we must learn to wait.
Ora di punta.“Rush hour.”

Meaning: This literally means “peak hour” because it refers to a peak in a diagram.
Fare le ore piccole.Literally “to make the small hours.”

Meaning: It means to stay up or out until very late (one, two, or three).
Non vedo l’ora (che succeda…).“I can’t wait (for something to happen).”

8. Conclusion

Basic Questions

I bet time flew while learning to tell time in Italian and more. Now you can practice telling time: make plans with your Italian friends, ask strangers for the time, or find out what time the movie starts.

But most importantly, don’t stop now! Go on and keep learning Italian with fun lessons and tons of podcasts and videos on ItalianPod101.com. We’ll help you improve quickly. 

Before you go, practice telling time in Italian by dropping us a comment with the current time in Italian! We look forward to hearing from you!

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