Fare domande — Asking questions in Italian

There are two types of questions, "yes or no" questions and all others.  

In English, yes or no questions require the use of an auxiliary verb.  If the sentence doesn't already have an auxiliary, then do/does is added.

Mary eats ice cream. ->  Does Mary eat ice cream?

In English, you can also simply change your intonation, but this usually implies a bit of
incredulity to the statement.

Mary eats ice cream. -> Mary eats ice cream? (I thought she was lactose intolerant!)

In Italian, however, there is no auxiliary for questions, and a rising intonation at the end is the only difference between a statement and a question. 

Mary mangia il gelato. ->  Mary mangia il gelato?

You can still be incredulous, but this requires exaggerating the rising tone.

Mary mangia il gelato. ->  Mary mangia il gelato???

For all other questions, it is necessary to use one of the "question words."  In English, they are known as "the five w's" plus how and how much.  In Italian, they are:

WHO?              CHI?                   (as in the word "key")
WHAT?           CHE (COSA)?*  (keh koh-za)
WHEN?           QUANDO?         (kwan-doh)
WHERE?          DOVE?              (doh-vay)
WHY?             PERCHÉ?          (per (as in pear) -kay)
HOW?             COME?              (koh-may)
HOW MUCH?    QUANTO?         (kwan-toh)

*Che is literally what and che cosa is literally what thing. Both forms are pretty much interchangeable.

The pronunciation guides in parentheses above are very rough approximations based on English words.  To get a feel for the native pronunciation of each word, listen and repeat along with the following:

Now that you're familiar with each word, let's listen to them in context.  

Now, without referring to the translations, can you fill in the blanks for each sentence from the video?

____ vuole andare a Firenze?
  Who wants to go to Florence?

____ c'è da fare a Firenze?
 What is there to do in Florence?

____ possiamo andare? 
  When can we go?

_________ costa il biglietto?
How much does the ticket cost?

____ si trova il Palazzo Vecchio?
  Where is the Palazzo Vecchio located?

____ costa così tanto il biglietto aereo?
  Why does the plane ticket cost so much?

____ si dice "let's go" in italiano?
  How do you say "let's go" in Italian?

Familiarizing yourself with key words in context as spoken by native speakers is a great way to learn new vocabulary and make sure you are able to recognize it as it is spoken.  So be sure to check out for downloadable audio versions of various texts (or request your own recording if you need something specific!)

A chi piace studiare l'italiano?
Who likes studying Italian?
(I hope you!)

Happy Studying!

A special thanks to Enzo at who provided the native-speaker audio for both videos!


Gli aggettivi di nazionalità - The adjectives of nationality in Italian

Aggettivi di nazionalità are the adjectives that specify which country a person or thing comes from.

In English the adjective of nationality for Italy is "Italian".

Giovanni comes from Italy.  He is Italian.

In Italian, the adjective of nationality for Italy (Italia) is "italiano."

Giovanni proviene dall'Italia.  È italiano.

Chances are, you've heard "italiano" before, but what about the adjectives of nationality for other countries… like Antigua and Barbuda? Kenya?  Sri Lanka?

In Italian, like in English, even if you don't know the exact adjective, you can still express this idea by using the following construction:

di (definite article)* + (paese)
of/from +  (country)

*When the preposition di (of/from) is combined with a definite article, either: il, la, l', i, le or gli they get joined together to create the articulated forms:  del, della, dell', dei, delle, degli. Whether you can simply use "di" or must use one of the articulated forms in this construction depends on the country/context.

Kasun? Lui è dello Sri Lanka.
Kasun? He's from Sri Lanka.

La squadra olimpica del Kenya è bravissima!

The olympic team from Kenya is great!

That construction works, but often it sounds better to have a single word— the appropriate adjective of nationality.  

Kasun?  Lui è singalese (anche "cingalese")
Kasun?  He's Sri Lankan.

La squadra olimpica keniota è bravissima!
The Kenyan olympic team is great!

The following is an almost complete list of the countries of the world (listed alphabetically in Italian) and their corresponding Aggettivo di nazionalità: 

(available as a pdf on Google drive)


flip through the list here in Flashcard format:

Hint: you can also use the drop down menu on the bottom right hand side "Choose a Study Mode" to see the list in various learning modes and games.

There isn't always a corresponding adjective (in this case the aforementioned construction is the only option) and sometimes, more than one term is acceptable.  

Want more explanation and/or activities? Check out these sites:

Aggettivi di Nazionalità da One World Italiano
Esercizio- Aggettivi di Nazionalità da Impariamo Italiano

Mi chiamo Alex e sono americana (o statunitense!)... e tu?

See also:

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae
Acque del sud (To Have and Have Not) original: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow."