Italian Language

  • In the news

    Minneapolis Star Tribune (subscription), MN -
    ... A friend and I had signed on for a weeklong homestay program, hoping to immerse ourselves in Italian language, culture and cuisine. ...
  • Ciao-ing down at the Italian fest
    The Gloucester County Times, NJ -
    ... Many schools in Gloucester County now offer Italian language courses, thanks to work by the Sons of Italy Lodge in Gloucester County, the largest in the state ...
  • 'Fort mentality' suffocating Paul Martin's leadership
    Hill Times, Canada -
    ... in the next elections. Angelo Persichilli is political editor of Corriere Canadese, Toronto's Italian-language daily newspaper.
    Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy -
    ... Gasparri has said, "I fully support and share the position assumed by Italian President Ciampi on the need to safeguard the Italian language" and recalled ...
  • People, Places and Things
    Naples Daily News, FL -
    ... Albano teaches Italian language and culture at Gulf Coast High School and will receive a continuing education stipend for study in Italy for a course designed ...
Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 70 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. The long-established Tuscan standard has, over the last few decades, been slightly eroded by the variety of Italian spoken in Milan, the economic capital of Italy. 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 (Italiano)
Spoken in: Italy and 29 other countries
Region: Southern Europe
Total speakers: 70 Million
Ranking: 19
Official status
Official language of: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Slovenia, Vatican City
Regulated by: Accademia della Crusca
Language codes
ISO 639-1: it
ISO 639-2: ita

1 History

2 Classification

3 Geographic distribution

4 Sounds

5 Grammar

6 Vocabulary

7 Writing system

8 Examples

9 External links

Table of contents


The origins of italian language is very complex and mostly formalized by Dante Alighieri mixing south italian dialects, especially from Sicilian, with his native Tuscan ("supposed" to be derived from Etruscan and Oscan). Those older italian dialects were hardly influenced by the Occitan bring by the Bard escaping from France centuries before under Emperor Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor. Of the major Romance languages, which were derived from Latin language, Italian is the closest to Latin, although there are other langauges spoken in Italy which are even closer to Latin, for example Sardo logudorese language.

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.

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 a member of the Italo-Dalmatian group of languages, which is part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

Geographic distribution

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 an Italian minority. It is widely used by immigrant groups in Luxembourg, the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Australia, and is also spoken in neighbouring Malta and Albania. It is spoken, to a much lesser extent, in parts of Africa formerly under Italian rule such as Somalia, Libya and Eritrea.

Official status

Italian is an official language of Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Slovenia and Vatican City.


The dialects of Italian identified by the Ethnologue are Tuscan, Abruzzese, Pugliese (Apulian), Umbrian, Laziale, Central Marchigiano, Cicolano-Reatino-Aquilano, and Molisan. Other dialects are Milanese, Brescian, Bergamasc, Venetian, Modenese, Bolognese, Sicilian, Sardian, and so on, essentially one per city. Many of the so-called dialects of Italian spoken around the country are different enough from standard Italian to be considered separate languages by most linguists.

A link to an Italian site with translation features between Italian dialects and Italian: [1]


Description of the sound set of the language. Can include phoneme charts and example words for each phoneme like in French language. If there is significant discussion here, it is probably best to divide the section into vowels and consonants subsections.


Italian has seven vowel phonemes: /a/, /e/, /ɛ/, /o/, /ɔ/, /u/. The words /'peska/ (fishing) and /'pɛska/ (peach), both spelled as "pesca", show that /e/ and /ɛ/ are in fact two different phonemes. Similarly, the words /'bot:e/ (barrel) and /'bɔt:e/ (beatings), both spelled as "botte", discriminate /o/ and /ɔ/.


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

bilabial labiodental dental alveolar postalveolar palatal velar
plosive p b t d k g
nasal m n ɲ
trill r
flap ɾ
fricative f v s z ʃ
affricate ʦ ʣ ʧ ʤ
lateral l ʎ

The sound [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ when followed by a velar consonant, i.e., /k/ or /g/.

Italian has geminate, or double, consonants, which are distinguished by length. Length is distinctive for all consonants except for /z/, /ʃ/, /ʦ/, /ʣ/, /ʎ/ /ɲ/ . Geminate plosives and affricates are realized as lengthened closures. Geminate fricatives, nasals, and /l/ are realized as lengthened continuants. Geminate /ɾ/ is realized as the trill [r:].



Personal pronouns in the subject of a sentence are usually 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?"

Writing system

Italian is written using the Latin alphabet. Italian uses both acute accent and grave accent for marking words with irregular stress.


  • cheers (generic toast): salute /sa"lute/ (sall-OO-teh); cincin /tSin"tSin/ (cheen-CHEEN)
  • English: inglese /iN"glEze/ (ing-GLAY-zay)
  • good-bye: arrivederci /ar:ive"dErtSi/ (a-ree-veh-DARE-chee)
  • hello: ciao /"tSAo/ (CHAH-oh) (informal); buon giorno /"bwon "dZOrno/ (bwon JAWR-noh) (good morning), buona sera /"bwona "s:era/ (BWO-na SAY-ra) (good evening)
  • how much? quanto /"kwAnto/ (KWAN-tuh) (masculine); quanta /"kwAnta/ (KWAN-tah) (feminine)
  • I don't understand: non capisco /"noN ka"pisko/ (known kah-PEES-kuh)
  • Italian: italiano /ita"ljano/ (ee-tah-LYAN-oh)
  • no: no /no/ (nuh)
  • please: per favore /"per favOre/ (per fa-VOAR-ay)
  • sorry: scusa /"skuza/ (SKOO-zah) (familiar); scusi /"skuzi/ (SKOO-zee) (polite)
  • thank you: grazie /"gratzje/ (GRAT-zyeh)
  • that one: quello /"kwEl:o/ (KWEL-luh) (masculine); quella /"kwEl:a/ (KWEL-lah) (feminine)
  • where's the bathroom?: dov'è il bagno? /do"vE il "baJo/ (duh-vay-eel-BA-"spanish ñ"-uh)
  • yes: /si/ (see)
  • cara or cara mia (feminine); caro or caro mio (masculine) - approximately means my darling or my dear; common term of endearment.
See Common phrases in different languages and Italian proverbs.

External links