Before you head to Italy, take the time to research basic phrases, questions, and vocabulary. Even a small bit of the Italian language and knowledge of customs and traditions will make the trip more enjoyable and interactive.
As you learn to speak, read, and hopefully even write in Italian, you will find yourself more engaged with what is happening around you and able to pick up on small subtleties that otherwise would have passed you by.
How To Conjugate Italian Verbs
One of the first things any Italian learner needs to know is how to conjugate Italian verbs. Once you have a handle on this, moving between tenses and mastering vocabulary will come much more naturally.
These three YouTube videos cover the basic process, and you can take quick notes on them:
Possessive Italian Adjectives
If you plan to travel to Italy and want to speak a bit of Italian while there, this video from Live Lingua Italian teacher Luisa. She covers possessive Italian adjectives in a friendly and approachable manner, with English translations and
Consistent use, both with speaking and listening, of the language is the best way you can memorize possessive Italian adjectives. If you have access to any Italian media — such as television, movies, Italian learning podcasts, or newspapers, this can substitute for times when you don’t have anyone to speak to.
Soft Z or Hard Z?
The Soft Z is usually written as “long z” in phonetical dictionaries. It comes from latin, of course.
Here are some examples: prandium – pranzo (lunch); radius – razzo (rocket).
Here the Z with a soft sound:
1) when it is followed by two vowels, but the first one is not an “I”:
zoo, zuavo (zuave), zaino (backpack), Zeus, Zaira.
2) When It is at the beginning of a word and the second syllable has a voiced consonant as a first letter:
B: zabaione, zibibbo, zibaldone, zebra. (eggnog, raisins, medley, zebra).
D: zodiac (zodiac).
G: zigrino, zigomo, zigote (shagreen, cheekbone, zygote). Exception: zigano (gypsy)
L: zelo, zulù, zelante(zeal, Zulu, zealous).
M: zimarra, zumare (zimarra, to zoom)
N: zona (zone) , Zeno
R: zero, Zara
V: zavorra (ballast)
Z: zan-zara, zen-zero, Zan-zibar, zuz-zurellone (mosquito, ginger, Zanzibar, playful idler)
3) Between 2 vowels:
nazareno, ozono, azalea, azoto, Azeglio (Nazarene, ozone, azalea, nitrogen, Azeglio).
Exception: nazismo (Nazism)
4) verbs end in “izzare” :
organizzare, armonizzare, penalizzare, concretizzare, sintetizzare (organize, harmonize, penalize, realize, synthesize).
Exception: rizzare (to raise)
The Z with a hard sound
Again, latin plays an important role. Here some examples: facetia – facezia (pleasantry); pretium – prezzo (price); tertium – terzo (third);
1) When is followed by “I” within a diphthong:
zio, pazzia, dizione, razzia, agenzia, polizia, polizia, vizio, tizio, razionale, anziano, divorzio, grazia, grazie, dazio, strazio, malizia, Lucrezia, ozio, astuzia.(uncle, madness, diction, pillaging, agency, police, police, vice, dude, rational, older, divorce, grace, thank you, duty, torment, malice, Lucrezia, leisure, cunning).
2) When it is at the beginning of a word and the second syllable is an unvoiced consonant:
C: zucchero, zucca, zucchina, zuccotto, zinco, zoccolo, zecca (sugar, pumpkin, zucchini, skullcap, zinc, windowsill, brand)
F: zuffa, zaffata, zufolo, zolfo (scuffle, whiff, whistle, sulfur )exceptions: zafferano, zefiro, zaffiro (saffron, zephyr, sapphire)
P: zampa, zappa, zuppa, zampogna, zampina, zoppo, zeppo.(paw, hoe, soup, bagpipes, paw, lame, chock).
T: zitto, zittire, zattera (silent, silence, raft) ; exceptions: zeta, zotico (zed, lout)
3) When the Z is immediately after “l”:
alzare, calza, scalzo, calzolaio, milza, infilzare, mascalzone, filza, sfilza.(raise, stocking, barefoot shoemaker, spleen, spearing, scoundrel, string, string)
Exceptions: elzeviro, belzebù (elzeviro, Beelzebub)
4) words end in “zione”:
terminazione, direzione, colazione, addizione, frazione, posizione. (termination, management, breakfast, addition, fraction, location).
5) When there are two following Z:
pizza, pazzo, pozzo, strozzare, strozzino, struzzo, carrozza, spruzzo, bellezza, carezza, prezzemolo, durezza, purezza, prezzo, pezzo, nozze, piccozza (pizza, crazy, well, choke, loan shark, ostrich, carriage, spray, beauty, caress, parsley, hardness, purity, price, piece, wedding, ice ax)
Exceptions: azzardo, azzurro, brezza (gambling, blue, breeze)
6) verbs end in “azzare” :
ammazzare, scorazzare, stramazzare, strapazzare, starnazzare. (kill, run around, collapsing, scramble, quacking)
7) words end in in “anza”, “enza” :
assenza, senza, risonanza, costanza, mancanza, stanza, coerenza, apparenza, divergenza, violenza, partenza.
(absence, without, resonance, perseverance, lack room, consistency, appearance, divergence, violence, starting)
8) words end in “orzo”, “orza”, “erzo”:
forza, sforzo, scorza, sfarzo, sterzo. (force, strain, peel, glitz, steering)
9) words end in “onzolo” :
Frónzolo, pretónzolo, medicónzolo, girónzolo (embellishment, poor little priest, medicónzolo, wander).
Household Items in Italian
Perhaps you’re renting an Airbnb for your stay and want to hone up on Italian language skills to impress your host.
Or maybe you just want to speak a
Either way, this video from Live Lingua Italian teacher Luisa covers household items in Italian and includes English translations. She covers each item in a slow memorable and even provides some handy tricks for
Take it away, Luisa!
If you found this video on household items in Italian to be helpful, please share on social media and be sure to subscribe to Live Lingua’s YouTube channel!
Each week our language teachers — all native speakers in the languages they teach — post instructional videos which typically go live on Wednesdays.
Learn Italian: Italian Monuments
In this series of two videos, Live Lingua Italian teacher Luisa guides us through many of the most famous Italian monuments. She pronounces them and walks you through how to say their names, tying them into useful Italian sentences that you can use on your trip to Italy.
Her Italian phrasing is accompanied by English translation, making memorization a breeze. Luisa also runs through tips for visiting the monuments including cost, appropriate dress, and how to beat the crowds.
Check out the video, and please share!
Once you’ve had a chance to work through the first video, continue on to this next one:
Learn the Italian Alphabet
The best way to learn Italian is to memorize the alphabet and go from there. This video covers the Italian alphabet:
How To Order Food in Italian
It’s no surprise that many people think of food when they think of Italy. Italians are notorious for their amazing and delightful dishes. Pizza, pastas and their deserts are die for! Who doesn’t like Italian food? What is your favorite Italian dish? I have a few friends who I am meet for dinner tonight. Will you come with us? Great, see you soon! Here is some vocabulary to get you started.
- il calzone... pizza pastie
- La bistecca…. beef steak
- Il pollo…chicken
- Il pesce...fish/seafood
- La verdura... vegetables
- L ‘insalata….green salad
- Le patatine fritte…fries
- Il gelato…ice cream
- Il caffe...coffee
- Il the...tea
- Il vino bianco… white wine
- Il vina rosso… red white
- Pronti? Ready?
- Cosa prende?/ Cosa prendono? What will you have? (singular/ plural)
- Da bere? To drink?
- Per me… I’ll have…
- Avete…? Have you got…?
- Vorrei… I’d like…
- Tutto bene? Is everything all right?
- antipasti hors d’oeuvres
- primi piatti starters
- secondi piatti main courses c
- ontorni side dishes
- dolci desserts …
- Buon appetito! Enjoy your meal!
- Mi scusi/Scusa… Excuse me (Formal/Informal)
- Quanto costa… How much is…
- Il conto… The bill/The check
- Sono molto affamato/a.… I’m super hungry.
- Sono pieno/a…. I’m so full.
Ready to get started? This table looks nice, have a seat. Sono molto affamato/a.… (I’m super hungry.). I’ll call the waiter over. I’ll order for us. Then you will order for our friends…It will be good practice. Let’s see how you do.
- Me: Mi scusi cameriere!
- Waiter: Pronti?
- Me: Si.
- Waiter: Cosa prendono?
- Me: Per me il calzone.
- Waiter: Da bere?
- Me: Per me Il caffe.
- Waiter: E si?
- Me: Per me Il pesce e Linsalta.
- Waiter: Da bere?
- Me: Per me L’acqua
Why don’t you try ordering for our friends. Here is what they want:
Chicken and vegetables with a glass of red wine to drink.
Pizza with a glass of white wine to drink
Steak and fries with tea to drink
You did well ordering for us this evening. What about dessert?
Sono pieno/a…. I’m so full!!
Anch’io (me too!)
Alright, no dessert for us then. That was delicious.
Mi scusi cameriere! Il conto per favore!
Well done ordering in Italian today. Italian food is my favorite food. What is yours? Can you cook Italian food? What is your favorite Italian dessert? We would love to hear from you. Talking about food is great but now I’m hungry…. Ciao!
How Italian evolved from Latin
When we think of the Italian language, we think of classic beauty, romance and elegance. We imagine the time-honored ladies and gentlemen of ancient Rome speaking in this elegant and graceful language. However, the reality of the founding of this romance language is quite different; actuality, Italian is an indirect descendant of one of the vulgar dialects that evolved from Classic Latin.
Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Well, as the story goes, Latin was actually a descendant of Indo-European languages,and old Latin dates from about 700 B.C. Be that as it may, throughout the centuries, there were many variations of the Classic Latin language. In fact, Romans from the Classical period found it difficult to understand the older Carmen Saliare (early Latin form 750 B.C.), because of the way the language evolved. In a way, it can be compared to our understanding and reading of English from the Renaissance period.
According to Roman legend, the language descended from the Trojans, who landed in Italy after the fall of Troy, although there is no documentation to this fact. The documentation and development of Classic Latin began in Central Italy, an area known as Latium, hence the name, and gradually began to expand. During the political height of the Roman Empire, it was used in its pure Classical form, and to this day is still used by the Roman Catholic Church in this version.
As time progressed and the Romans began to expand their empire throughout Italy, around 14B.C, a vulgar type of Latin began to emerge. It was this Latin, that was taken to the Italian provinces by Roman settlers.
Over the centuries’ local conditions, the influence of other existing languages and invasions also played a part in the different versions of Latin dialects throughout the Roman Empire. Eventually, the dialect or vulgar Latin was substantially distinct from the classical Latin, until there came a point where they became two different languages.
Classic Latin continued over the centuries and became a stylized language of art, science and religion. The dialects continued to evolve, and over time developed into 30 different modern languages.
The Beginning of Italian
By 600 A.D., Latin dialects were so different from Classical Latin, that it was impossible for one speaker to understand the other. We can say this was the beginning of the romance languages we know today. However, linguists do clarify that the Proto-Romance language that evolved into Italian was still significantly distanced from the modern language we speak today.
Current Italian Language
Although Italian is one of the 30 romance languages descended from Latin, unlike the other, it still retains the Latin contrasts in short and long consonants, making it the romance language that most closely resembles the original Latin.
Today, Italian is spoken by 60 million people in the EU, which is about 13 percent of the EU population. Likewise, there are another 14 million people that speak it as a second language and by people who are not of the EU, such as Switzerland and Albania.
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What are the rules for using accents? What are the exceptions?
There are many things to say regarding accents. Let’s start with this one: when we speak, although we don’t always realize it, we put an emphasis on each word. And rightly so, because all words have an accent.
But when we write, it is rarely compulsory to indicate it, as hyphenated words are a minority compared to those without accents.
Now let’s see in detail what the rules of usage are for accents in the Italian language. Knowing how to use accents makes written communication correct and more effective.
Not to mention that putting the emphasis where it is needed always gives the impression that you have mastered the language.
Let’s start by saying that accents can be grave (`) or acute (‘). When the vowels a, i, o, and u are the last letter of a stressed word, the accent is always on the: à, ì, ò, and ù.
An accent should be put on all truncated polysyllabic words:
and on the following monosyllables:
- dà (verb)
- dì (day)
- lunedì, mezzodì (related compounds)
- là and lì (adverbs of place)
- sì (adverb of affirmation)
- tè (beverage)
- è (verb)
- piè (foot)
- diè (verb: dare)
- fé (fede e fare verb)
For the vowel o, when it appears within a word, and for the vowel e, internal or final, the accent is acute or grave depending on whether the pronunciation of the vowel is open or closed.
When e is at the end of a word, the emphasis is acute on the causal conjunction ché, on che compounds (perché, affinché, cosicché, giacché, poiché, etc.), and tre compounds (tventitré, trentatré, etc.). For the rest, the accent is usually grave.
Going further with Italian
We also add an accent on the first and third person of the simple future (indicative tense), the third singular person of passato remoto (remote past in indicative tense), and on some verbs such as battere, potere, and ripetere (remote past: batté, poté, ripeté).
The accent is also added on polysyllabic words formed from monosyllables that do not have one themselves:
Within words, it is not compulsory to write the accent. It happens, however, that it is useful to use it to distinguish between homograph and homophone words. For example: àncora e ancóra o condòmini e condomìni. In this case, the choice of whether to use the accent is left to the writer. It depends on the degree of ambiguity in the context.
Anyways, here are seven points which make the difference between an uneducated person and an educated person:
Point #1: It is better to add an accent when you write the plural of words ending in -io. The accent will be on the penultimate syllable:
- adultèri (plural of adulterio)
- benefìci (plural of beneficio)
- demòni (plural of demonio)
- desidèri (plural of desiderio)
- princìpi (plural of principio)
These words can be confused with those without an accent:
- principi (plural of principe)
- adulteri (plural of adultero)
- demoni (plural of demone)
Point #2: We add accents to words such as:
- dài and dànno
- dèi (divinity, but if the initial letter is capital, we should write Dei)
- èra (age, period)
- sètte (plural of setta)
- vòlta (as an arch)
Point #3: The accent is preferable in the plural of words ending in -òrio when there is the possibility of confusion with the corresponding plural of words ending in -ore:
Point #4: We add an accent to words whose pronunciation is often wrong in the spoken language:
Point #5: We add accents to uncommon words such as:
Point #6: No accents are added to: o, fu, re, sa, so, mi, no, qui, sto, su, tre, sta, fa, me, and qua.
Point #7: Last but not least, an accent is not an apostrophe and it is written on top of capital letters. We write È and not E’.