Italian language

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Pronunciation: /itaˈljaːno/
Spoken in: Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, Slovenia, Switzerland, Croatia.

Used by a significant part of population in: Monaco, Albania, France (Corsica and Nice), Croatia (Istria), Malta, Eritrea and Somalia. Significant immigrant communities are found throughout the Americas (primarily Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay, United States and Venezuela), Australia, and Western Europe (primarily in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom).

Total speakers: 62 million[1] 
Ranking: 19
Language family: Indo-European
Official status
Official language of: Template:EUR
Flag italy.gif Italy
Flag Switzerland.gif Switzerland
Template:Country data Vatican City Vatican City
22px Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Template:CRO (Istria)
(Pirano, Isola d'Istria and Capodistria)
Regulated by: Accademia della Crusca
Language codes
ISO 639-1: it
ISO 639-2: ita
ISO 639-3: ita — Italian (generic)

Italian (italiano , or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken by about 63 million people,[2] primarily in Italy. In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages. It is also the official language of San Marino and Vatican City. Standard Italian, adopted by the state after the unification of Italy, is based on Tuscan dialect and is somewhat intermediate between Italo-Dalmatian languages of the South and Northern Italian dialects of the North.

Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian has retained the contrast between short and long consonants which existed in Latin. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. Of the Romance languages, Italian is considered to be one of the closest resembling Latin in terms of vocabulary,[3] though Romanian most closely preserves the noun declension system of Classical Latin, and Spanish the verb conjugation system (see Old Latin), while Sardinian is the most conservative in terms of phonology.

It is affectionately called il parlar gentile (the gentle language) by its speakers.


The history of the Italian language is long, but the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. The earliest surviving texts which can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as opposed to its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae from the region of Benevento dating from 960-963.[4] What would come to be thought of as Italian was first formalized in the first years of the 14th century through the works of Dante Alighieri, who mixed southern Italian languages, especially Sicilian, with his native Tuscan in his epic poems known collectively as the Commedia, to which Giovanni Boccaccio later affixed the title Divina. Dante's much-loved works were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that others could all understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language and, thus, the dialect of Tuscany became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.

Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city, since the cities were until recently thought of as city-states. The latter does now have considerable variety, however. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout the nation, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian. The most characteristic differences, for instance, between Roman Italian and Milanese Italian are the gemination of initial consonants and the pronunciation of stressed "e", and of "s" in some cases (e.g. va bene "all right": is pronounced [va bˈbɛne] by a Roman, [va ˈbene] by a Milanese; a casa "at home": Roman [a kˈkasa], Milanese [a ˈkaza]).

In contrast to the dialects of northern Italy, southern Italian dialects were largely untouched by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards from France, during the Middle Ages. Even in the case of Northern Italian dialects, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages. (See La Spezia-Rimini Line.)

The economic might and relative advanced development of Tuscany at the time (Late Middle Ages), gave its dialect weight, though Venetian remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life. Also, the increasing cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of 'Umanesimo (Humanism)' and the Rinascimento (Renaissance) made its volgare (dialect), or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts. The re-discovery of Dante's De vulgari eloquentia and a renewed interest in linguistics in the 16th century sparked a debate which raged throughout Italy concerning which criteria should be chosen to establish a modern Italian standard to be used as much as a literary as a spoken language. Scholars were divided into three factions: the purists, headed by Pietro Bembo who in his Gli Asolani claimed that the language might only be based on the great literary classics (notably, Petrarch, and Boccaccio but not Dante as Bembo believed that the Divine Comedy was not dignified enough as it used elements from other dialects), Niccolò Machiavelli and other Florentines who preferred the version spoken by ordinary people in their own times, and the Courtesans like Baldassarre Castiglione and Gian Giorgio Trissino who insisted that each local vernacular must contribute to the new standard. Eventually Bembo's ideas prevailed, the result being the publication of the first Italian dictionary in 1612 and the foundation of the Accademia della Crusca.

Italian literature's first modern novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), by Alessandro Manzoni further defined the standard by "rinsing" his Milanese 'in the waters of the Arno" (Florence's river), as he states in the Preface to his 1840 edition.

After unification a huge number of civil servants and soldiers recruited from all over the country introduced many more words and idioms from their home dialects ("ciao" is Venetian, "panettone" is Milanese etc.).


Italian is most closely related to the other two Italo-Dalmatian languages, Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian. The three are part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

Geographic distribution

The geographic distribution of the Italian language in Europe.

Italian is the official language of Italy and San Marino, and one of the official languages of Switzerland, spoken mainly in Ticino and Grigioni cantons, a region referred to as Italian Switzerland. It is also the second official language in the Vatican City and in some areas of Istria in Slovenia and Croatia with an Italian minority. It is widely used and taught in Monaco and Malta.[5] It is also widely understood in Corsica, Savoy and Nice (areas that historically spoke Italian dialects before annexation to France), and Albania.

Italian is spoken by some in former Italian colonies in Africa (Libya, Somalia and Eritrea). However, its use has sharply dropped off since the colonial period. While Italian was the language of instruction in Eritrea during the colonial period, as of 1997, there is only one Italian language school remaining, with 470 pupils.[6]

Italian and Italian dialects are widely used by Italian immigrants and their descendants living throughout Western Europe (especially Luxembourg, Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium), the United States, Canada, Australia, and Latin America (especially Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela).

In the United States, Italian speakers are most commonly found in four cities: Boston (7,000)[7], Chicago (12,000)[8], New York City (140,000)[9], and Philadelphia (15,000)[10]. In Canada there are large Italian-speaking communities in Montreal (120,000) and Toronto (195,000).[citation needed] Italian is the second most commonly-spoken language in Australia, where 353,605 Italian Australians, or 1.9% of the population, reported speaking Italian at home in the 2001 Census.[11] In 2001 there were 130,000 Italian speakers in Melbourne,[12] and 90,000 in Sydney.[13]

Italian language education

Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first non-native language of pupils. In anglophone parts of Canada, Italian is, after French, the third most taught language. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Italian ranks fourth (after Spanish-French-German and French-German-Spanish respectively). Throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught non-native language, after English, French, Spanish, and German.[14]

In the European Union, Italian is spoken as a mother tongue by 13% of the population (mainly in Italy itself) and as a second language by 3%; among EU member states, it is most likely to be desired (and therefore learned) as a second language in Malta (61%), Croatia (14%), Slovenia (12%), Austria (11%), Romania (8%), France (6%), and Greece (6%).[15] It is also an important second language in Albania and Switzerland, which are not EU members or candidates.

Influence and derived languages

From the late 19th to the mid 20th century, thousands of Italians settled in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil, where they formed a very strong physical and cultural presence (see the Italian diaspora).

In some cases, colonies were established where variants of Italian dialects were used, and some continue to use a derived dialect. An example is Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where Talian is used and in the town of Chipilo near Puebla, Mexico each continuing to use a derived form of Venetian dating back to the 19th century. Another example is Cocoliche, an Italian-Spanish pidgin once spoken in Argentina and especially in Buenos Aires, and Lunfardo.

Rioplatense Spanish, and particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects,[16] due to the fact that Argentina had a constant, large influx of Italian settlers since the second half of the nineteenth century; initially primarily from Northern Italy then, since the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly from Southern Italy.

Lingua Franca

Starting in late medieval times, Italian language variants replaced Latin to become the primary commercial language for much of Europe (especially the Tuscan and Venetian variants). This became solidified during the Renaissance with the strength of Italian banking and the rise of humanism in the arts.

During the period of the Renaissance, Italy held artistic sway over the rest of Europe. All educated European gentlemen were expected to make the Grand Tour, visiting Italy to see its great historical monuments and works of art. It thus became expected that educated Europeans would learn at least some Italian; the English poet John Milton, for instance, wrote some of his early poetry in Italian. In England, Italian became the second most common modern language to be learned, after French (though the classical languages, Latin and Greek, came first). However, by the late eighteenth century, Italian tended to be replaced by German as the second modern language on the curriculum. Yet Italian loanwords continue to be used in most other European languages in matters of art and music.

Today, the Italian language continues to be used as a lingua franca in some environments[citation needed]. Within the Catholic ecclesiastic hierarchy, Italian is known by a large part of members and is used in substitution of Latin in some official documents as well. The presence of Italian as the second official language in the Vatican City indicates not only use in the seat in Rome, but also in the whole world where an episcopal seat is present.


In Italy, all Romance languages spoken as the vernacular in Italy, other than standard Italian and other unrelated, non-Italian languages, are termed "Italian dialects". Many Italian dialects are, in fact, historical languages in their own right[17]. These include recognized language groups such as Friulian, Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Venetian, and others, and regional variants of these languages such as Calabrian. Though the division between dialect and language has been used by scholars (such as by Francesco Bruni) to distinguish between the languages that made up the Italian koine, and those which had very little or no part in it, such as Albanian, Greek, German, Ladin, and Occitan, which are still spoken by minorities.

Dialects are generally not used for general mass communication and are usually limited to native speakers in informal contexts. In the past, speaking in dialect was often deprecated as a sign of poor education. Younger generations, especially those under 35 (though it may vary in different areas), speak almost exclusively standard Italian in all situations, usually with local accents and idioms. Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local dialect (for example, annà replaces andare in the area of Rome for the infinitive "to go").



Italian has seven vowel phonemes: /a/, /e/, /ɛ/, /i/, /o/, /ɔ/, /u/. The pairs /e/-/ɛ/ and /o/-/ɔ/ are seldom distinguished in writing and often confused, even though most varieties of Italian employ both phonemes consistently. Compare, for example: "perché" [perˈkɛ] (why, because) and "senti" [ˈsenti] (you listen, you are listening, listen!), employed by some northern speakers, with [perˈke] and [ˈsɛnti], as pronounced by most central and southern speakers. As a result, the usage is strongly indicative of a person's origin. The standard (Tuscan) usage of these vowels is listed in vocabularies, and employed outside Tuscany mainly by specialists, especially actors and very few (television) journalists. These are truly different phonemes, however: compare /ˈpeska/ (fishing) and /ˈpɛska/ (peach), both spelled pesca (listen ). Similarly /ˈbotte/ ('barrel') and /ˈbɔtte/ ('beatings'), both spelled botte, discriminate /o/ and /ɔ/ (listen ).

In general, vowel combinations usually pronounce each vowel separately. Diphthongs exist (e.g. uo, iu, ie, ai), but are limited to an unstressed u or i before or after a stressed vowel.

The unstressed u in a diphthong approximates the English semivowel w, the unstressed i approximates the semivowel y. E.g.: buono [ˈbwɔno], ieri [ˈjɛri].

Triphthongs exist in Italian as well, like "continuiamo" ("we continue"). Three vowel combinations exist only in the form semiconsonant (/j/ or /w/), followed by a vowel, followed by a desinence vowel (usually /i/), as in miei, suoi, or two semiconsonants followed by a vowel, as the group -uia- exemplified above, or -iuo- in the word aiuola. [18]

Mobile diphthongs

Many Latin words with a short stressed e or o have Italian counterparts with a mobile diphthong (ie and uo respectively). When the vowel sound is stressed, it is pronounced and written as a diphthong; when not stressed, it is pronounced and written as a single vowel.

So Latin focus gave rise to Italian fuoco (meaning both "fire" and "optical focus"): when unstressed, as in focale ("focal") the "o" remains alone. Latin pes (more precisely its accusative form pedem) is the source of Italian piede (foot): but unstressed "e" was left unchanged in pedone (pedestrian) and pedale (pedal). From Latin iocus comes Italian giuoco ("play", "game"), though in this case gioco is more common: giocare means "to play". From Latin homo comes Italian uomo (man), but also umano (human) and ominide (hominid). From Latin ovum comes Italian uovo (egg) and ovaie (ovaries). (The same phenomenon occurs in Spanish: juego (play, game) and jugar (to play), nieve (snow) and nevar (to snow)).


Two symbols in a table cell denote the voiceless and voiced consonant, respectively.

Consonants of Italian[19]
Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive p, b , k, g
Affricate t̪s̪, d̪z̪ ,
Fricative f, v s, z ʃ
Trill r
Lateral l ʎ
Approximant j w

Nasals undergo assimilation when followed by a consonant, e.g., when preceding a velar (/k/ or /g/) only [ŋ] appears, etc.

Italian has geminate, or double, consonants, which are distinguished by length. Length is distinctive for all consonants except for /ʃ/, /ʦ/, /ʣ/, /ʎ/ /ɲ/, which are always geminate, and /z/ which is always single. Geminate plosives and affricates are realised as lengthened closures. Geminate fricatives, nasals, and /l/ are realized as lengthened continuants. The flap consonant /ɾː/ is typically dialectal, and it is called erre moscia. The correct standard pronunciation is [r].

Of special interest to the linguistic study of Italian is the Gorgia Toscana, or "Tuscan Throat", the weakening or lenition of certain intervocalic consonants in Tuscan dialects. See also Syntactic doubling.


Italian has few diphthongs, so most unfamiliar diphthongs that are heard in foreign words (in particular, those beginning with vowel "a", "e", or "o") will be assimilated as the corresponding diaeresis (i.e., the vowel sounds will be pronounced separately). Italian phonotactics do not usually permit nouns and verbs to end with consonants, excepting poetry and song, so foreign words may receive extra terminal vowel sounds.


Writing system

File:Jon Hawk.jpg
Example of Italian

el mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!
Tant'è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai,
dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
(Dante Alighieri), La Divina Commedia, Inferno, I, 1-9, AD 1304-1307

utti li stati, tutti e' dominii che hanno avuto et hanno imperio sopra li uomini, sono stati e sono o repubbliche o principati. E' principati sono o ereditarii, de' quali el sangue del loro signore ne sia suto lungo tempo principe, o e' sono nuovi. E' nuovi, o sono nuovi tutti, come fu Milano a Francesco Sforza, o sono come membri aggiunti allo stato ereditario del principe che li acquista, come è el regno di Napoli al re di Spagna. Sono questi dominii così acquistati, o consueti a vivere sotto uno principe, o usi ad essere liberi; et acquistonsi, o con le armi d'altri o con le proprie, o per fortuna o per virtù.
(Niccolò Machiavelli), Principe, Ch. 1, AD 1513

uel ramo del lago di Como, che volge a mezzogiorno, tra due catene non interrotte di monti, tutto a seni e a golfi, a seconda dello sporgere e del rientrare di quelli che, vien, quasi a un tratto, a ristringersi, e a prender corso e figura di fiume, tra un promontorio a destra, e un'ampia costiera dall'altra parte; e il ponte, che ivi congiunge le due rive, par che renda ancor più sensibile all'occhio questa trasformazione, e segni il punto in cui il lago cessa, e l'Adda ricomincia, per ripigliar poi il nome di lago dove le rive, allontanandosi di nuovo, lascian l'acqua distendersi e rallentarsi in nuovi golfi e nuovi seni.
(Alessandro Manzoni), I promessi sposi, Ch.1, AD 1840

Italian is written using the Latin alphabet. The letters J, K, W, X and Y are not considered part of the standard Italian alphabet, but appear in loanwords (such as jeans, whisky, taxi). X has become a commonly used letter in genuine Italian words with the prefix extra-. J in Italian is an old-fashioned orthographic variant of I, appearing in the first name "Jacopo" as well as in some Italian place names, e.g., the towns of Bajardo, Bojano, Joppolo, Jesolo, Jesi, among numerous others, and in the alternate spelling Mar Jonio (also spelled Mar Ionio) for the Ionian Sea. J may also appear in many words from different dialects, but its use is discouraged in contemporary Italian, and it is not part of the standard 21-letter contemporary Italian alphabet. Each of these foreign letters had an Italian equivalent spelling: gi for j, c or ch for k, u or v for w (depending on what sound it makes), s, ss, or cs for x, and i for y.

  • Italian uses the acute accent over the letter E (as in perché, why/because) to indicate a front mid-close vowel, and the grave accent (as in , tea) to indicate a front mid-open vowel. The grave accent is also used on letters A, I, O, and U to mark stress when it falls on final vowel of a word (for instance gioventù, youth). Typically, the penultimate syllable is stressed. If syllables other than the last one are stressed, the accent is not mandatory, unlike in Spanish, and, in virtually all cases, it is omitted. In some cases, when the word is ambiguous (as principi), the accent mark is sometimes used in order to disambiguate its meaning (in this case, prìncipi, princes, or princìpi, principles). This is however not compulsory. Rare words with three or more syllables can confuse Italians themselves, and the pronunciation of Istanbul is a common example of a word in which placement of stress is not clearly established. Another instance is the American State of Florida: the correct way to pronounce it in Italian is like in Spanish, "Florìda", but since there is an Italian word meaning the same ("flourishing"), "flòrida", and because of the influence of English, most Italians pronounce it that way.
  • The letter H at the beginning of a word is used to distinguish ho, hai, ha, hanno (present indicative of avere, 'to have') from o ('or'), ai ('to the'), a ('to'), anno ('year'). In the spoken language this letter is always silent for the cases given above. H is also used in combinations with other letters (see below), but no phoneme [h] exists in Italian. In foreign words entered in common use, like "hotel" or "hovercraft", the H is commonly silent, so they are pronounced as /oˈtɛl/ and /ˈɔverkraft/
  • The letter Z represents /ʣ/, for example: Zanzara /dzan'dzaɾa/ (mosquito), or /ʦ/, for example: Nazione /naˈttsjone/ (nation), depending on context, though there are few minimal pairs. The same goes for S, which can represent /s/ or /z/. However, these two phonemes are in complementary distribution everywhere except between two vowels in the same word, and even in such environment there are extremely few minimal pairs, so that this distinction is being lost in many varieties.
  • However, an H can be added between C or G and E or I to represent a plosive, and an I can be added between C or G and A, O or U to signal that the consonant is an affricate. For example:
Before back vowel (A, O, U) Before front vowel (I, E)
Plosive C caramella /kaɾaˈmɛlla/ CH china /ˈkina/
G gallo /ˈgallo/ GH ghiro /ˈgiro/
Affricate CI ciaramella /ʧaɾaˈmɛlla/ C Cina /ˈʧina/
GI giallo /ˈʤallo/ G giro /ˈʤiro/
Note that the H is silent in the digraphs CH and GH, as also the I in cia, cio, ciu and even cie is not pronounced as a separate vowel, unless it carries the primary stress. For example, it is silent in ciao /ˈʧa.o/ and cielo /ˈʧɛ.lo/, but it is pronounced in farmacia /ˌfaɾ.ma.ˈʧi.a/ and farmacie /ˌfaɾ.ma.ˈʧi.e/.
  • There are three other special digraphs in Italian: GN, GL and SC. GN represents /ɲ/. GL represents /ʎ/ only before i, and never at the beginning of a word, except in the personal pronoun and definite article gli. (Compare with Spanish ñ and ll, Portuguese nh and lh.) SC represents fricative /ʃ/ before i or e. Except in the speech of some Northern Italians, all of these are normally geminate between vowels.
  • In general, all letters or digraphs represent phonemes rather clearly, and in standard varieties of Italian, there is little allophonic variation. The most notable exceptions are assimilation of /n/ in point of articulation before consonants, assimilatory voicing of /s/ to following voiced consonants, and vowel length (vowels are long in stressed open syllables, and short elsewhere) — compare with the enormous number of allophones of the English phoneme /t/. Spelling is clearly phonemic and difficult to mistake given a clear pronunciation. Exceptions are generally only found in foreign borrowings. There are fewer cases of dyslexia than among speakers of languages such as English[citation needed], and the concept of a spelling bee is strange to Italians.

Common variations in the writing systems

Some variations in the usage of the writing system may be present in practical use. These are scorned by educated people, but they are so common in certain contexts that knowledge of them may be useful.

  • Usage of x instead of per: this is very common among teenagers and in SMS abbreviations. The multiplication operator is pronounced "per" in Italian, and so it is sometimes used to replace the word "per", which means "for"; thus, for example, "per te" ("for you") is shortened to "x te" (compare with English "4 U"). Words containing per can also have it replaced with x: for example, perché (both "why" and "because") is often shortened as xché or xké or x' (see below). This usage might be useful to jot down quick notes or to fit more text into the low character limit of an SMS, but it is considered unacceptable in formal writing.
  • Usage of foreign letters such as k, j and y, especially in nicknames and SMS language: ke instead of che, Giusy instead of Giuseppina (or sometimes Giuseppe). This is curiously mirrored in the usage of i in English names such as Staci instead of Stacey, or in the usage of c in Northern Europe (Jacob instead of Jakob). The use of "k" instead of "ch" or "c" to represent a plosive sound is documented in some historical texts from before the standardization of the Italian language; however, that usage is no longer standard in Italian. Possibly because it is associated with the German language, the letter "k" has sometimes also been used in satire to suggest that a political figure is an authoritarian or even a "pseudo-nazi": Francesco Cossiga was famously nicknamed Kossiga by rioting students during his tenure as minister of internal affairs. [Cf. the politicized spelling Amerika in the USA.]
  • Usage of the following abbreviations is limited to the electronic communications media and is deprecated in all other cases: nn instead of non (not), cmq instead of comunque (anyway, however), cm instead of come (how, like, as), d instead of di (of), (io/loro) sn instead of (io/loro) sono (I am/they are), (io) dv instead of (io) devo (I must/I have to) or instead of dove (where), (tu) 6 instead of (tu) sei (you are).
  • Inexperienced typists often replace accents with apostrophes, such as in perche' instead of perché. Uppercase È is particularly rare, as it is absent from the Italian keyboard layout, and is very often written as E' (even though there are several ways of producing the uppercase È on a computer). This never happens in books or other professionally typeset material.


English Italian Audio
Italian italiano (listen)
English inglese (listen)
Yes (listen)
No No (listen)
Of course! Certo! / Certamente!
Hello! Ciao! (informal) / Salve! (general) (listen)
How are you? Come stai? (informal) / Come sta? (formal) / Come state? (plural) / Come va? (general)
Good morning! Buongiorno! (= Good day!)
Good afternoon! Buon pomeriggio! (unusual) / Buonasera! (more usual)
Good evening! Buonasera!
Good night! Buonanotte! (for a good night sleeping) / Buona serata! (for a good night awake)
Have a good lunch/dinner! Le (plural, Vi) auguro un buon pranzo/una buona cena! (formal) / Buon appetito! (informal)
Welcome [to...] Benvenuto/-i (for male/males or mixed) / Benvenuta/-e (for female/females) [a / in...]
Goodbye! Arrivederci/-rLa (formal) / Ci vediamo! or simply Ciao! (informal) (listen)
Have a nice day! Buona giornata! (formal)
Good luck! Thank you! Buona fortuna! Grazie! (general) / In bocca al lupo! Crepi (il lupo)! (to wish s.o. to overcome a difficulty) (the call and response literally means: "Into the mouth of the wolf!" "May it die!"
Please Per piacere / Per favore / Per cortesia (listen)
Thank you! Grazie! (general) / Ti ringrazio! (informal) / La ringrazio! (formal) / Vi ringrazio! (plural) (listen)
You're welcome! Prego! / Di niente!
I'm sorry Mi dispiace (general) / Scusa(mi) (informal) / Mi scusi (formal) / Scusatemi (plural) / Sono desolato (if male) / Sono desolata (if female) (listen)
Excuse me Scusa(mi) (informal) / (Mi) scusi (formal) / Scusate(mi) (plural) / (Con) permesso! (in order to pass on, to advance)
Who? Chi?
What? Che cosa? / Cosa? / Che?
When? Quando?
Where? Dove?
Why? Perché?
What's your name? Come ti chiami? (informal) / Come si chiama? (formal) / Come vi chiamate? (plural)
Because Perché
How? Come?
How much? / How many? Quanto? / Quanti? / Quante?
I do not understand. Non capisco. / Non ho capito. (listen)
Yes, I understand. Sì, capisco. / Ho capito.
Help me! Aiutami! (informal) / Mi aiuti! (formal) / Aiutatemi! (plural) / Aiuto! (general)
You're right/wrong! (Tu) hai ragione/torto! (informal) / (Lei) ha ragione/torto! (formal) / (Voi) avete ragione/torto! (plural)
What time is it? Che ora è? / Che ore sono?
Where is the bathroom? Dov'è il bagno? (listen)
Do you speak English? Parli inglese? (informal) / Parla inglese? (formal) / Parlate inglese? (plural) (listen)
I don't understand Italian. Non capisco l'italiano. / Non comprendo l'italiano.
The check, please. (In restaurant) Il conto, grazie.
The study of Italian sharpens the mind. Lo studio dell'italiano aguzza l'ingegno.


  • Cheers (generic toast): cin cin /tʃin tʃin/ or Salute!/Alla salute!
  • English: inglese /iŋˈglese/
  • Good-bye: arrivederci /arriveˈdertʃi/
  • Hello: ciao /ˈtʃao/
  • Good morning/good day: buon giorno /bwɔnˈdʒorno/
  • Good evening: buona sera /bwɔnaˈsera/
  • Yes: /si/
  • No: no /nɔ/
  • How are you? : Come stai /ˈkome ˈstai/ (informal); Come sta /ˈkome 'sta/ (formal)
  • Sorry: mi dispiace /mi disˈpjatʃe/
  • Excuse me: scusa /ˈskuza/ (informal); scusi /ˈskuzi/ (formal)
  • Again: di nuovo, /di ˈnwɔvo/; ancora /aŋˈkora/
  • Always: sempre /ˈsɛmpre/
  • When: quando /ˈkwando/
  • Where: dove /'dove/
  • Why/Because: perché /perˈke/
  • How: come /'kome/
  • How much: quanto /ˈkwanto/
  • Thank you!: grazie! /ˈgrattsie/
  • Bon appetit: buon appetito /ˌbwɔn appeˈtito/
  • You're welcome!: prego! /ˈprɛgo/
  • I love you: Ti amo /ti ˈamo/, Ti voglio bene /ti ˈvɔʎʎo ˈbɛne/. The difference is that you use "Ti amo" when you are in a romantic relationship, "Ti voglio bene" in any other occasion (to parents, to relatives, to friends...)

Counting to twenty:

  • One: uno /ˈuno/
  • Two: due /ˈdue/
  • Three: tre /tre/
  • Four: quattro /ˈkwattro/
  • Five: cinque /ˈʧiŋkwe/
  • Six: sei /ˈsɛi/
  • Seven: sette /ˈsɛtte/
  • Eight: otto /ˈɔtto/
  • Nine: nove /ˈnɔve/
  • Ten: dieci /ˈdjɛʧi/
  • Eleven: undici /ˈundiʧi/
  • Twelve: dodici /ˈdodiʧi/
  • Thirteen: tredici /ˈtrediʧi/
  • Fourteen: quattordici /kwat'tordiʧi/
  • Fifteen: quindici /ˈkwindiʧi/
  • Sixteen: sedici /ˈsediʧi/
  • Seventeen: diciassette /diʧas'sɛtte/
  • Eighteen: diciotto /di'ʧɔtto/
  • Nineteen: diciannove /diʧan'nɔve/
  • Twenty: venti /'venti/

The days of the week:

  • Monday: lunedì /lune'di/ (the day of the Moon)
  • Tuesday: martedì /marte'di/ (the day of Mars, the Roman god of war)
  • Wednesday: mercoledì /merkole'di/ (the day of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce)
  • Thursday: giovedì /dʒove'di/ (the day of Jupiter, the Roman god of sky and weather)
  • Friday: venerdì /vener'di/ (the day of Venus, the Roman goddess of love)
  • Saturday: sabato /ˈsabato/ (the day of rest, from Hebrew)
  • Sunday: domenica /do'menika/ (the day of the Lord)

Sample texts

You can hear a recording of Dante's Divine Comedy read by Lino Pertile at

References and notes

  1. "Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People". Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  2. Ethnologue. SIL International. Tue 21 Oct 1997. As collected at:
  3. Grimes, Barbara F. (1996). Barbara F. Grimes, ed. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Consulting Editors: Richard S. Pittman & Joseph E. Grimes (thirteenth edition ed.). Dallas, Texas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Academic Pub. ISBN 1-55671-026-7. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. "History of the Italian language". Retrieved 2006-09-24.
  5. It served as Malta's official language until Maltese language was enshrined in the 1934 Constitution.
  6. Tekle M. Woldemikael, "Language, Education, and Public Policy in Eritrea," in African Studies Review, Vol. 46, No. 1. (Apr., 2003), pp. 117–136.
  7. Boston, Massachusetts, MLA Data Center
  8. Chicago, Illinois, MLA Data Center
  9. New York, New York, MLA Data Center
  10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, MLA Data Center
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005, "Language other than English" (spreadsheet of figures from 2001 Census)
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002, "A Snapshot of Melbourne"
  13. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002, "A Snapshot of Sydney"
  15. Eurobarometer – Europeans and their languagesPDF (485 KiB), February 2006
  16. Unidad en la diversidad – Portal informativo sobre la lengua castellana
  17. Ethnologue web reference for Italian
  18. Serianni, Luca (1997). Italiano. Garzanti. p. 15. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  19. Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:117)


  • Rogers, Derek & Luciana d'Arcangeli (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34(1): 117-121

See also

Look up Italian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

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External links

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