Italian grammar

Question pronouns

Question pronouns introduce an open question, like Dove abiti? Where do you live? Let’s ask questions and learn the question pronouns in Italian!

Question pronouns in Italian

Question pronouns (it. pronomi interrogativi) introduce an open question. Here you’ll find an overview of question pronouns in Italian:

ComeCome stai?How are you?
ChiChi sei?Who are you?
DoveDove abiti?Where do you live?
Di dove
Da dove
Di dove sei?
Da dove vieni?
Where are you from?
Che cosa | CosaChe cosa | Cosa mangi per colazione?What do you eat for breakfast?
CheChe sport fai?What sport do you do?
QualeQual è il tuo numero di telefono?What is your phone number?
QuantoQuanti anni hai?How old are you?
lit. How many years do you have?
PerchéPerché impari l’italiano?Why do you learn Italian?
QuandoQuando vai in vacanza?When do you go on holiday?

Di dove o da dove?

Di dove and da dove both mean from where and the choice depends on the verb. They are especially used for the question Where are you from?

di dove+ essereDi dove sei?
da dove+ venireDa dove vieni?

Learn more about this topic in the lesson Sono di vengo da – Where are you from in Italian.

Cosa, che o quale?

Che cosa, or simply cosa, means what and is followed by a verb. Che means what and is followed by a noun. Quale means what or which (one), expresses a limited choice and is also used in connection with the verb essere, for example to ask for the address, the phone number or the favorite thing. Before è quale becomes qual.

Cosa fai domani?What do you do tomorrow?
Che sport fai?What sport do you do?
Quale vino preferisci, rosso o bianco?Which wine do you prefer, red or white?
Qual è il tuo numero di telefono?What’s your phone number?
Qual è il tuo sport preferito?What’s your favorite sport?

Learn more about this topic in our lesson the difference between quale, che and cosa.

Quanto

The question pronoun quanto how much, e.g. in the question Quanti anni hai?, adapts to gender and number and has four forms, like an adjective.

SingularPlural
MasculineQuantoQuanti
FeminineQuantaQuante

We use the basic form quanto always with verbs:

Quanto costa?How much does it cost?

Note: In exclamations quanto and its forms mean so much/many:

Quanto zucchero! So much sugar!
ItalianoBello pronomi interrogativi 1 - Question pronouns

Esercizio

Italian grammar

The indefinite article in Italian

The indefinite article in Italian varies depending on gender (masculine and feminine) and the beginning letter of the following word. Learn the rules of the indefinite article in Italian!

The indefinite article in Italian

The indefinite article is used – as in English – to refer to something unknown or that you mention for the first time. In Italian, nouns and articles have two genders, masculine and feminine, and the article has to adapt to it. It is also important to look at the first letter of the following word. Have a look at the table with the rules.

Masculine

The masculine has two articles: un and uno.

Singular
before consonant or vowelun cane a dog
un amico a friend
before s+consonant
before z1
uno stivale a boot
uno zio an uncle

1Besides s+consonant and z, there are a few more peculiar cases: y (uno yogurt), x (uno xilofono), gn (uno gnomo), ps (uno psicologo).

Feminine

The feminine has only one article: una. However, before a vowel the final -a is dropped becoming un’.

Singular
before consonantuna casa a house
before vowelun’isola an island

In order to use the articles appropriately, you should know if the word is feminine or masculine. To learn more about Italian noun and their gender, you can read this article: masculine and feminine: the 3 Italian noun classes.

Wanna learn the definite article and do some exercises? Read our article the definite article in Italian.

Esercizi

Taste • Il sapore

Learn some simple Italian adjectives useful to describe taste, in Italian il sapore, or, in general, to describe food and drink. Learn Italian adjectives of the taste and practice with our vocabulary trainer.

Il caffè è molto amaro. Bevo sempre il caffè con lo zucchero.

Taste • Il sapore

italianobello sapore - Taste • Il sapore
buono(taste) good
deliziosodelicious, very tasty
dolcesweet
amarobitter
aspro1sour
salato2salty, savory
piccantespicy, hot
freddocold
caldo3warm
bollente4very hot, boiling hot

1 A synonym of aspro is acido. They mean more or less the same thing, but they have different uses:
il limone (lemon) and l’aceto (vinegar) are aspri;
You can buy la panna acida (sour cream); il latte (milk) can become acido.
2 Salato means salty, but it can stand also for savory, like: Preferisci la colazione dolce o salata? Do you prefer sweet or savory breakfast?
3 Caldo means warm, but in some contexts it stands for hot, like: Le bevande calde e fredde hot and cold drinks.
4 Bollente means that something is very, very hot (more or less boiling temperature) and if you drink un caffè bollente you’ll burn your tongue 🙂

Buono e buonissimo

To say that something tastes (very) good, there are the following common possibilities:

è buono
ha un buon sapore
it tastes good
è molto buono
è buonissimo
it tastes very good / it’s tasty / very tasty
è delizioso
è squisito
it’s delicious / very tasty
è ottimoit’s excellent

Il sapore e il gusto

Il gusto is both one of the five senses, the sense of taste, as well as the flavor variety:

Che gusto di gelato ti piace?What flavor of ice cream do you like?
Vorrei un gelato ai gusti fragola e cioccolato.I would like an ice cream with strawberry and chocolate flavors.

Il sapore is the feeling of taste and it can expressed with the verb to taste in English.

Ha un buon sapore. It tastes good.
Che sapore ha? What does it taste like?
Ha un sapore strano.It tastes strange.

Practice with the Vocabulary Trainer

Italian grammar

Essere and avere – To be and to have in Italian

The Italian verbs essere to be and avere to have are surely the most important verbs to know when you learn Italian. Italian essere and avere – to be and to have.

Italina essere and avere – to be and to have

Essere

iosonoI am
tuseiyou are
lui | lei | Leièhe | she is | you are (polite form)
noisiamowe are
voisieteyou (all) are
lorosonothey are

You use the verb essere for many things, for example to tell:

who you aresono JaneI’m Jane
your nationalitysono ingleseI’m English
your home townsono di LondraI’m from London
your professionsono una segretariaI’m a secretary
your moodsono felice | tristeI’m happy | sad

Avere

iohoI have
tuhaiyou have
lui | lei | Leihahe | she has | you have (polite form)
noiabbiamowe have
voiaveteyou (all) have
lorohannothey have

You use the verb avere for many things, for example to tell:

your ageho 30 anniI’m 30 years old
about things or animals you haveho un cane | una casaI’ve a dog | a house
about your familyho un figlio | una figliaI’ve a son | a daughter
expressions like be hungry or thirstyho fame | seteI’m hungry | thirsty

Esercizi

1. Il verbo essere

2. Il verbo avere

3. Essere o avere?

Tu, Lei and voi: The polite form

Ciao, come stai? If you are among friends you’ll use the Tu form, that is the informal form, but if you speak to an unknown person you should better use the Lei form, that is the polite form. You won’t be rude, don’t you? Learn the polite form in Italian!

Subject pronouns and the polite form

In Italian the feminine 3rd person singular lei she is the person used as polite form – regardless of whether the person you’re talking to is a man or a woman. The polite Lei is usually capitalized, but this is not a must.
If you speak to many people, there is not a special polite form: just use voi. You don’t need to capitalize it.

ioI
informal (sg.)tuinformal you
formal (sg.)lui | lei | Leihe | she | formal you
noiwe
formal | informal (pl.)voiyou all
lorothey

In the following table you can see how the formal and informal forms differ in Italian through the question Come stai? How are you?

ONE PERSONMORE PERSONS
INFORMALCome stai? (tu)Come state? (voi)
FORMALCome sta? (Lei)Come state? (voi)

Alternative polite forms

Lei vs. Voi

Voi can be used as polite form to speak to a single person instead of Lei. This use of voi was very common in the past, but nowadays it has been substituted by Lei. Therefore, to use voi instead of Lei to speak to one person is quite old-fashioned, but sometimes you can still hear it.

Voi vs. Loro

Loro can be used as polite form to speak to many people instead of voi, but it’s extremely formal and almost exclusively confined to bureaucratic contexts.

Useful questions

Here you can find a few useful questions and expressions we have learned in this Unit 1 in their TU, LEI and VOI variants.

TULEIVOI
Come stai?Come sta?Come state?How are you?
Come ti chiami? Come si chiama?Come vi chiamate?What’s your name?
Dove abiti?Dove abita?Dove abitate?Where do you live?
Di dove sei?Di dov’è?Di dove siete?Where are you from?
Sei inglese?È inglese?Siete inglesi?Are you English?
Quanti anni hai?Quanti anni ha?Quanti anni avete?How old are you?
Quali lingue parli?Quali lingue parla?Quali lingue parlate?What languages do you speak?

Esercizi

1. La forma di cortesia LEI

2. Il plurale VOI

2. TU o LEI?