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The Italian Alphabet – Writing The Italian Letters

The people of Italy are good at keeping things sweet and simple. The Italian alphabet is no exception to this. There are 21 letters found in the alphabet, however there are five further Italian letters that you will find only on foreign words which are common in everyday Italian writing. These letters are j, k, w, x and y. The Italian alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet. The Italian language itself is derived from Latin and is the closest match to Latin of any language spoken today.

Letters In The Italian Alphabet

Italian Letter

Italian Name

English Approx.

Italian Example

Memorization Tips

A, a

a car
aria
The pronunciation of the vowel "a" never changes; it corresponds exactly to the "a" sound in the English word car.

B, b

bi black
bello
Identical to its English counterpart.

C, c

ci sketch
ciao
The /t/ sound is employed only and exclusively when "c" is followed by either "i" or "e".

C, c

ci customer
chiaro
The /k/ sound is used only and exclusively when "c" is followed by: 1) any consonant, including the letter "h" 2) either "a", "u" or "o". It keeps this pronunciation also in rare cases where "c" is the word last letter.

D, d

di dodge
radio
Identical to its English counterpart.

E, e

e traine
erba
It can be pronounced either with an "open" or "closed" accent. Both are acceptable, the former characterizes the southern talking, the latter the northern one.

F, f

effe Fig
fortuna
Identical to its English counterpart and the "ph" diphthong.

G, g

gi judge
giardino
The /d/ sound is employed only and exclusively when "c" is followed by either "i" or "e".

G, g

gi gag
grillo
The /g/ sound is used only and exclusively when "c" is followed by: 1) any consonant, including the letter "h" 2) either "a", "u" or "o". It keeps this pronunciation also in rare cases where "c" is the last letter of the word.

H, h

acca hole
bicchiere
The Italian "h" is always mute. Being a mere graphic sign, it serves the only purpose to define the pronunciation of the letters "c" and "g" (see above). In any other position, it causes no sound whatsoever.

I, i

i creed
isola
The Italian pronunciation of 'i' is identical to the 'ee' sound in English, except it is slightly shorter.

J, j

i lungo jazz
jazz
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms, i.e., Italian words borrowed by foreign languages.

K, k

kappa crisis
kilo
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms.

L, l

elle long
lino
Identical to its English counterpart.

M, m

emme mother
mare
Identical to its English counterpart.

N, n

enne nurse
nonno
Identical to its English counterpart.

O, o

o horse
ora
The sound /o/ is always closed, that means identical to the group "ou" in the word "course", except it is slightly shorter.

P, p

pi priest
palla
Identical to its English counterpart.

Q, q

cu steak
quadro
Always followed by the letter "u". The group "qu" is pronounced as the letter "k".

R, r

erre not presen
re
Similar to its English equivalent, the 'r' is in Italian 'rotic', that means it is pronounced touching the upper part of the of the mouth's roof with the tip of the tongue.

S, s

esse song
serenata
It is always soft, it never makes the sound /ts/, such as in the English plural forms (ex. "pets")

T, t

ti train
tetto
Identical to its English counterpart.

U, u

u blue
uccello
Always identical to the 'oo' sound of ' booze' (/u:/), but slightly shorter. It never changes its phonetic form.

V, v

vu vacation
vista
Identical to its English counterpart.

W, w

doppia vu wealth
webcam
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms.

X, x

ics exaggerate
xilofono
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter come mostly form Greek, Latin and foreign terms.

Y, y

ipsilo yell
yogurt
Identical to its English counterpart.

Z, z

zeta cats
zaffiro
Identical to the "ts" sound in English

Students who take on Italian as a second language are always pleased to discover that Italian is for the most part a phonetic language. This means that Italian words are read and sound exactly how they appear in writing. This makes pronunciation and spelling in Italian letters much easier to learn than with some other languages. Those who learn Italian by listening find learning the Italian alphabet and Italian writing later on a breeze.

Like English, the appearance of two letters at the same time can indicate a change in pronunciation. In your Italian lessons you will learn that there are few variants of this occurrence, and with a bit of practice you'll have no problems picking up on these irregularities.

Italian letters use an accent system. An accent on the word means that pronunciation should be stressed in a different way. Italian accents can seem complicated at first, but once you get started, you'll find the Italian writing system is easy to understand. Don't worry, Italian grammar is much easier than English. You'll pick it up in no time!