Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 62 million people, most of whom live in Italy. Standard Italian is based on Tuscan dialects and is somewhat intermediate between the languages of Southern Italy and the Gallo-Romance languages of the North. Italian has double (or long) consonants, like Latin (but unlike most modern Romance languages, e.g. French and Spanish). As in most Romance languages (with the notable exception of French), stress is distinctive.

Italian is the official language of Italy, San Marino and an official language in the Ticino and Grigioni cantons or regions of Switzerland. It is also the second official language in Vatican City and in some areas of Istria in Slovenia and Croatia with Italian minority. It is widely used by immigrant groups in Luxembourg, the United States, and Australia, and is also spoken in neighbouring Malta. It is spoken, to a much lesser extent, in parts of Africa formerly under Italian rule such as Somalia, Libya and Eritrea.

Italians say that the best spoken Italian is lingua Toscana in bocca Romana - 'the Tuscan tongue, in a Roman mouth.' The formative influence on establishing the Tuscan as the elite speech is generally agreed to have been Dante's Commedia, to which Boccaccio affixed the title Divina in the 14th century. Some people claim that Tuscan became the standard language because it's so close to Latin, but other languages spoken in Italy are even closer to Latin (e.g. sardo logudorese as well as some Southern Italian idioms). The economic power that Tuscany had at the time, specially considering Pisa's influence, gave its dialect weight, though Venetian remained widespread in the markets and streets of the Terra Firma. Also, the increasing cultural relevance of Florence in the period of Umanesimo (before Rinascimento) made its vulgare become a standard in art, quickly imported to Rome.

Italian is the language used in musical terms-such as pianoforte, fortissimo, etc.

Table of contents
1 Pronouns
2 Verbs
3 Graphemes and Phonemes of Italian
4 Some common phrases
5 External Links


Pronouns are unnecessary in Italian, because the verb ending provides information about the subject (apart some exceptions), and hence the pronouns are used only to emphasize the subject.

Singular Plural
1st Person io - I noi - we
2nd Person tu - you (one person, familiar) voi - you (plural, familiar)
3rd Person lei - she
Lei - you (one person, polite)
lui - he
loro - they
Loro - you (plural, polite)

Lei and Loro (sometimes written with a capitalized L) have special meaning in addition to their meanings as "she" and "they". Lei is the polite form of tu (which is only used for individuals one is familiar with, family members, for children, or for praying to a god), and similarly, Loro is the polite form of voi (but voi or Voi too is a polite form).


Italian verb infinitives have one of three endings, either -are, -ere, or -ire. Most Italian verbs are regular.

Questions are formed by a rising intonation at the end of the sentence, as in most European languages (see examples below).

Present Indicative Regular Conjugation Patterns

This is the basic conjugation pattern used to indicate that something is occurring now.

-are Singular Plural
1st Person -o -iamo
2nd Person -i -ate
3rd Person -a -ano

Example: mangiare, "to eat".

Io mangio. (or just Mangio.) I eat.
Antonio mangia. Antonio eats.
Antonio mangia? Does Antonio eat?
Mangia Antonio? Does Antonio eat?

guardare, "to watch"
Noi guardiamo la televisione. (or just Guardiamo la televisione.) We watch television.

-ere Singular Plural
1st Person -o -iamo
2nd Person -i -ete
3rd Person -e -ono

Example: leggere, "to read"

Leggono i libri. They read books.
Leggo il giornale. I read the newspaper.

Some regular -ire verbs conjugate normally, and some conjugate according to the -isco pattern. There is no way to tell other than to memorize which are which.

-ire (normal form) Singular Plural
1st Person -o -iamo
2nd Person -i -ite
3rd Person -e -ono

Example: partire, "to leave"

Partite. You leave. (plural; used if talking to two or more persons one is familiar with.)
Parti. You leave. (singular; used if talking to only one person one is familiar with.)
Partono. Depending on context, could mean either You leave (if addressing more than one person formally), or could also mean They leave.

-ire (-isco form) Singular Plural
1st Person -isco -iamo
2nd Person -isci -ite
3rd Person -isce -iscono

Example: capire, "to understand".

Io capisco or just Capisco. "I understand."
Capisci? "Do you understand?"

Graphemes and Phonemes of Italian

i /i/

e, /e/

e, /E/

a /a/

o /o/

o, /O/

u /u/


p /p/

b /b/

t /t/

d /d/

c before velar vowels, ch- before palatal vowels, q before u in some words, k in foreign words /k/

g- before velar vowels, gh- before palatal vowels /g/


z /ts/

z /dz/

c- before palatal vowels; ci- before velar vowels /tS/

g- before palatal vowels, gi- before velar vowels /dZ/


f /f/

v /v/

s /s/

s /z/

sc- before palatal vowels, sci- before velar vowels /S/


m /m/

n /n/

n /N/

gn /J/


l /l/

gl(i) /L/


r /r/

rr /r:/

Minimal pairs

/'fato/ - /'fatto/

/'kade/ - /'kadde/

/'kasa/ - /'kassa/

/'pala/ - /'palla/

/'karo/ - /'karro/

/'pena/ - /'penna/

Length is distinctive for all consonants except /S, z, n_j, l_j/.

Some common phrases

See Common phrases in different languages and Italian proverbs.

External Links