Words and Letters: Italian sounds – Audio

Basic Italian sounds

There are some few basic rules for pronouncing correctly Italian sounds. Italian is less complicated than other common European languages. That’s because Italian is a literary language, heavily influenced by classic Latin and syllables have just one sound.

The Italian alphabet has just 21 letters, since j, k, w, x, and y are used only in foreign words recently adopted in the Italian vocabulary, like jeans, wifi, baby sitter, marketing, etc. Italian vowels are A E I O U. Listen to their sound:



The letter H is quite unique, since generally it’s not pronounced in the spoken language, but it is fundamental for creating some sounds. For example, “I have” in Italian is “io ho”, where “ho” is not pronounced like “holiday”, but like “Oregon”. GElato and spaGHEtti are simple and effective examples of how the letter H changes the sounds of syllables. Listen how a native speaker says these words correctly.


Another example where H creates sounds is CHI, like CHItarra, guitar, where we also have a double R. Double consonants give a stronger tone to the sound. Please listen and repeat.


Let’s find out some tricky words and Italian sounds you wouldn’t guess just reading them.

We are sure you would like to have some fantastic food in Italy. If you want to order some fish, you should call it pesce. SCE in italian is pronounced like shame. Two or more fish are pesci and SCI is pronounced like she in English. Listen and repeat.


The last tip of today about tricky Italian sounds is the hybrid sound GLI, where G and L are smoothly blended together. For example, the Italian word for family is famiglia. Listen carefully and catch the sound GLI.


Let’s wrap up today’s learnings. Please try to read and pronounce correctly the following syllables and then listen to the correct sound to adjust. Finally, solve the simple quiz below.






Thanks for listening.

Italian articles – Basic Rules & Quiz

Italian articles are of 2 types: determinativi (definite) and indeterminativi (indefinite)

All Italian articles agree in gender and number with a noun. There are 2 genders in the Italian language: maschile (masculine) and femminile (feminine) and they can be singular or plural.

  • The articolo determinativo, in Italian, is used to introduce nouns which refer to specific items. They are equivalent to the English “the“.
  • Same for the articolo indeterminativo, equivalent to the English “a” referring generically to an object.

Depending on the gender and number of the object they describe, articles change.

For example, we can say, La casa è grande, the house is big, using the article LA, singular feminine, because the noun casa is singular feminine. We are clearly referring to a specific house, because LA is an articolo determinativo. The house.

If we say, Vorrei una casa grande, I’d like a big house, we use the article UNA, singular feminine. In this case we need to use UNA, articolo indeterminativo, just “a” house.

Let’s see them all in detail.

Articoli determinativi

Articoli determinativi maschili – Masculine Definite Articles

il and its plural i are the most used

  • il cane, i cani

Lo, and its plural Gli are exceptions, used in the following cases: masculine nouns beginning with: a vowel, s + consonantz, gnpspn.

  • L’amico, Gli amici
  • Lo studente, Gli studenti
  • Lo zaino, Gli zaini
  • Lo gnocco, Gli gnocchi
  • Lo psichiatra, Gli psichiatri
  • Lo pneumatico, Gli pneumatici

The first case, masculine noun beginning with a vowel, is by far the most common case where we need Lo (L’) and Gli. S + consonant and Z are pretty common, the last three are rare, so don’t worry too much.

A classic example is lo spazio, gli spazi. In case of a vowel we use L’amico

Articoli determinativi femminili – Feminine Definite Articles

Feminine articles, are less complicated. We have la singolare and le plurale.

  • La casa, Le case

In case of a noun beginning with a vowel we use L’ because of the smoother sound.

  • L’amica, Le amiche

Articoli indeterminativi

Articolo indeterminativo maschile UN, is by far the most used, for all masculine nouns beginning with a vowel or a consonant

  • Un amico
  • Un cane

Articolo indeterminativo maschile UNO, not used together with nouns beginning with a vowel (uno amico —> un amico). Other that that, it matches the cases valid with “Lo”: s + consonantz, gnpspn:

  • Uno studente
  • Uno zaino
  • Uno gnocco
  • Uno psichiatra
  • Uno pneumatico

Articolo indeterminativo femminile UNA, is used for all feminine nouns, except when they begin with a vowel, in which case we use the truncated form UN’. So, we can say una casa, but un’amica , a female friend:

  • Una casa
  • Un’amica

Please take your time, solve the quiz below and repeat the correct sounds. A presto.


Trapassato Prossimo, the “past of the past” – Quiz

trapassato prossimo

The Italian Trapassato Prossimo describes “the past of other past actions”

If we have two or more actions in the past, the Trapassato Prossimo describes the oldest. We usually need the Trapassato Prossimo when there’s a change, a discontinuity in the past. We’ll see all the details with some examples and a quiz.

This is a very basic post for beginners. If your level is intermediate to advanced, please read this other lesson in Italian.

The Trapassato (Pluperfect in English) is the combination of the Imperfetto of essere or avere and the past participle, the Italian Participio Passato. See the table.

ioero andato/aavevo comprato
tueri andato/aavevi comprato
lui / leiera andato/aaveva comprato
noieravamo andati/eavevamo comprato
voieravate andati/eavevate comprato
loroerano andati/eavevano comprato

In most cases, the Trapassato Prossimo is used in combination with another past tense with or without a given time frame (e.g. ieri, la settimama scorsa, un’ora fa) with or without adverbs (mentre etc…). For example:

  • Passato Prossimo Avevo studiato ma non ho superato gli esami universitari
  • Imperfetto, Avevo studiato ma non superavo gli esami universitari
  • Passato Remoto. Avevo studiato (ebbi studiato) ma non superai gli esami universitari

First I (had) studied, then I didn’t pass the test. The Trapassato Prossimo works fine with other past tenses, including the Passato Prossimo, Imperfetto, Passato Remoto or even another Trapassato Prossimo if the actions are clearly in the right sequence. If time references are absent, the Trapassato helps to give us an idea of what happened (or did not happen) in the first place.

With the Passato Remoto, third example, we can use the Trapassato Remoto (ebbi studiato), but it’s very rare in spoken Italian.

Look at the following sentences.

  • Non sono mai stato a Sorrento.
  • Non ero mai stato a Sorrento.

The meaning of these two sentences is totally different. In the first sentence I’ve never been to Sorrento. In the second I am saying that it was the first time for me in Sorrento, I “had never been” there before. So I was there eventually.

In other words, the other past event or circumstance is implied in the sentence.

  • Non avevo mai incontrato Marco (but eventually I did).

Have a look at those examples. We clearly need the Trapassato Prossimo to emphasise the change.

  • Ho chiesto al professore di ripetere perché non avevo capito.
  • Ti avevo detto di non guidare la mia macchina.
  • Era rimasto a casa per più di un mese.
  • Luigi aveva paura perché non aveva mai preso l’aereo.
  • Non avevamo mai visto un tramonto così intenso.

So, for example, Luigi was scared because he “had never taken” a plane before. It means that eventually he did.

Sometimes however, the Trapassato Prossimo is just a way to give more depth to a past event. In theory, we could omit it and use the Passato Prossimo or Remoto instead. For example:

  • Ci eravamo divertiti tanto l’anno scorso in vacanza.
  • Mi ricordo di Laura. L’avevo conosciuta ai tempi dell’università.
  • Avevamo preso un taxi per tornare perché non c’erano più treni.
  • Ti ricordi dove avevi comprato il tuo telefono?
  • Ha preso una multa perché era passato con il rosso.

For example, in the last sentence the use of the trapassato prossimo is correct because he first ignored the red lights and then he got a ticket. However, the sequence of the events is so clear that a simple Passato Prossimo would be enough clear.

  • Ha preso una multa perché è passato con il rosso.

Please try the quiz.


Aggettivi possessivi, Italian possessive adjectives – Basic guide and quiz

The Italian Aggettivi Possessivi, are also pronouns –> Pronomi Possessivi

Aggettivi Possessivi indicate the ownership, or close relationship, between the owner and the object they possess. For example, my brother is mio fratelloand my sister is mia sorella. Their termination reflects exactly the gender and number of the object.


Singolare Maschile

il mio amico

il tuo amico

il suo amico

il nostro amico

il vostro amico

il loro amico

Singolare Femminile

la mia amica

la tua amica

la sua amica

la nostra amica

la vostra amica

la loro amica

Plurale Maschile

i miei amici

i tuoi amici

i suoi amici

i nostri amici

i vostri amici

i loro amici

Plurale Femminile

le mie amiche

le tue amiche

le sue amiche

le nostre amiche

le vostre amiche

le loro amiche

Let’s take a better look at Aggettivi and Pronomi Possessivi with the sentence below:

  • La mia casa è più grande della tuaMy house is bigger than yours.

The first thing we have to notice is the object casa, singular feminine noun.

  • The aggettivo possessivo mia agrees with gender and number with the noun casa.
  • As opposed to English, aggettivi possessivi retain the article, in this case La, which also agrees with casa. In English we can say The house or My house, not “the my house”. In Italian, with some important exceptions, there’s always an article.
  • La mia casa and la tua (casa): the object casa in this comparison is the same, it is not necessary to say it again, hence … della tua (casa), where tua becomes a pronoun as yours in English.

In Italian mio aggettivo possessivo is the same mio pronome possessivo. It does not change. In English you have my and mine and so on. In Italian we don’t.

All the aggettivi possessivi agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to, except loro, which never changes.

In Italian there are no his or her based on he or she. For example:

  • Ho incontrato Giorgio e sua mamma
  • Ho incontrato Stefania e sua mamma

Sua refers to the mother, not to Giorgio (male) or Stefania (female).

We mentioned that in pretty much all the sentences there is a pattern

  • la + mia + casa
  • article + aggettivo possessivo + noun

The rule is overridden when the noun is of a family relative, only singular:

  • mio fratello, tua sorella, suo nonno, mia nonna, sua mamma, tuo papà, mia cugina


  • i miei fratelli, i suoi nonni, i tuoi genitori, i loro cugini.

In case of Loro (their / theirs) we keep the article: —> La loro madre.

I hope this explanation of the Italian aggettivi possessivi helped you.

Please take some time to solve the quiz below about aggettivi possessivi. Feel free to book a Zoom trial class. Ciao.


Pietro Scoppetta – Ritratto dell’artista Adele Carrà – 1920

Preposizioni semplici, Italian prepositions – Basic guide and quiz

Preposizioni semplici, Italian prepositions,  are fundamental elements of the Italian language

Preposizioni semplici are invariable elements of a sentence. The name “pre-posizione” comes from Latin and it quite obviously means they are “positioned before”  nouns, verbs and pronouns, defining their meaning inside a sentence. There are several types of Italian prepositions.

Today we will have a look a the so called “preposizioni semplici” literally, simple prepositions. They are 9.

DI – A – DA – IN – CON – SU – PER – TRA – FRA

The first thing we can notice is that these Italian prepositions have just one syllable and do not change according to the noun they link to. They have something in common with their English counterparts. The descriptions below compare English and Italian prepositions  but of course in many cases they are used differently, so please try to use the comparison just as a reference and not as a rule.

“Preposizioni semplici” can be combined with “articoli determinativi” (il, lo, la, i gli, le) and create “preposizioni articolate (e.g. the classic “il libro è sul tavolo” where sul=su+il). We will explain the use of preposizioni articolate in another post.Please look at the examples explaining the main use of all preposizioni semplici and solve the quiz.



The preposition di is used to indicate:

  • possession La macchina di Andrea.
  • material Un bichiere di vetro.
  • quality Luigi è un uomo di cuore.
  • topic Parliamo di arte
  • time Vado al cinema di lunedì.
  • mode Sono sempre di fretta.
  • comparison Lucia è più bella di Giorgia

It is often compared to the English prepositions of, than.


The preposition is used to indicate:

  • position Sono a casa.
  • motionVado a Roma  .
  • age Vado in pensione 65 anni
  • time Ci vediamo a mezzogiorno

It is often compared to the English preposition, to, at.


The preposition da is used to indicate:

  • origin Vengo da Roma.
  • agent È un dolce fatto da Lucia
  • motion Vado da Mario 
  • time Studio italiano da un anno
  • purpose Una tazza da 

It is often compared to the English prepositions from, by, since


The preposition in is used to indicate:

  • position Vivo in Francia.
  • motion Vado in Francia
  • means Viaggio in treno 
  • mode Stiamo insieme in amicizia

It is often compared to the English preposition in.


The preposition con is used to indicate:

  • company Studio con un amica
  • union La pizza con i funghi.
  • means Viaggio con il treno.
  • mode Ho letto con attenzione
  • quality La donna con i capelli lunghi.

It is often compared to the English preposition with.


The preposition su is used to indicate:

  • position Il gatto è su una sedia.
  • motion Saliamo su una collina.
  • topic Un film su Michelangelo
  • estimation Una donna sui 30 anni.

It is often compared to the English preposition on.


The preposition per is used to indicate:

  • motion Questo è il treno per Roma.
  • motion through Siamo passati per Milano
  • time length Ho aspettato per un anno
  • reason Ho telefonato per prenotare
  • cause Sudiamo per il caldo

It is often compared to the English prepositions for, to.

Tra / Fra

The prepositions tra and fra are used to indicate:

  • position between Verona è tra Milano e Venezia 
  • position among  Vivo fra la gente.
  • point in time from now Ci vediamo fra un’ora
  • relation Tra Maria e Antonio c’è tanto amore

They are often compared to the English prepositions between, through, among.

Thanks for reading. Please try the quiz.


Parmigianino – Ritratto di giovane donna detta ‘Antea’ – 1530 ca

L’Italia è bella! Aggettivi qualificativi – Quiz & Audio

Adjectives, Italian aggettivi, are words that define, qualify or modify the meaning of a noun

This is a very basic Italian lesson, so I assume you are an absolute beginner. If you are not, try the quiz again and consolidate some vocabulary.

Aggettivi qualificativi are Italian adjectives, describing visible or abstract qualities of a noun.

  • l’Italia è bella

Italia is a feminine noun, “bella” is an adjective and agrees with the gender of the noun, so it’s singular and feminine too.

As a rule of thumb, we can classify aggettivi qualificativi in their singular masculine version and define the rules to make them feminine and plural.

Remember that most adjectives end in -o just like bello, so you can apply this rule with some confidence.

  • Il pomodoro è rosso.
  • La fragola è rossa.
  • I pomodori sono rossi.
  • Le fragole sono rosse.

Then we have a second minor type ending in -e like grande, where feminine and masculine are the same.

  • La casa è grande.
  • Lo stadio è grande.
  • Le case sono grandi.
  • Gli stadi sono grandi.

There are other types of aggettivi ending in -a. Please see the examples.

Some basic examples

  • L’abero è alto (the tree is tall).
  • I bambini sono simpatici (kids are funny).
  • Maria è bassa (Maria is short).
  • Le mele sono rosse (apples are red).

  • Giovanni è intelligente (Giovanni is Intelligent).
  • Gli elefanti sono pesanti (elephants are heavy).
  • La marmellata è dolce (jam is sweet).
  • Le foglie sono verdi (leaves are green).

  • Stefano è un idiota (Stefano is an idiot).
  • Daria è ottimista (Daria is optimist).
  • I bambini sono egoisti (kids are selfish).
  • Le mie amiche sono entusiate (my girlfriends are enthusiastic).

Grazie e alla prossima.


Introduction to the Passato Prossimo – Quiz & Audio Examples


The Italian Passato Prossimo describes actions and events set in the recent and far past

Theoretically, the Italian Passato Prossimo should describe actions and events with a beginning and an end set in the recent past (Passato Prossimo means “near” past), with a logical connection with the present.

In reality the Passato Prossimo, in modern Italian, can describe any complete event set in the past. Even when the action is not close to the present.

We should use the Italian Passato Remoto when an action has no connection with the present. However as described more properly in this post about the Passato Remoto, the limited use of the Italian Passato Remoto among Northern Italian speakers and the role of the Passato Prossimo in the media, makes the latter a preferred choice in the spoken language. That said, let’s see how the Passato Prossimo works.

  • Oggi sono andato al cinema.
  • L’anno scorso ho comprato un telefono.

The Italian Passato Prossimo is a compound tense. It looks like the English Present Perfect (I have eaten) but the concept is closer to the Simple Past (I ate).

Very briefly, we can notice a few important things about the Passato Prossimo.

  • It’s built with the present tense of essere or avere and the past participle of the main verb (–ato, –uto, –ito).
  • Most Italian verbs use avere in the Passato Prossimo (green chart). In this case, the past participle generally doesn’t change (–ato, –uto, —ito). There are  important exceptions, for example when we use direct object pronouns, but for simple Passato Prossimo the participle doesn’t change according to the subject.
  • In many important cases, we need to use essere (orange chart). If so, the past participle does change in accordance to the subject, singular, plural, masculine and feminine.
  • In some cases, verbs can use both essere or avere (il film è finito VS ho finito i soldi) with the Passato Prossimo, depending on the subject or the object of the sentence. We can talk about that in our Skype classes, but those are exceptions and you should treat them as such.


ioho compratoho saputoho capito
tuhai compratohai saputohai capito
luiha compratoha saputoha capito
leiha compratoha saputoha capito
noiabbiamo compratoabbiamo saputoabbiamo capito
voiavete compratoavete saputoavete capito
lorohanno compratohanno saputohanno capito


iosono tornato/asono cresciuto/ami sono vestito/a
tusei tornato/asei cresciuto/ati sei vestito/a
luiè tornatoè cresciutosi è vestito
leiè tornataè cresciutasi è vestita
noisiamo tornati/esiamo cresciuti/eci siamo vestiti/e
voisiete tornati/esiete cresciuti/evi siete vestiti/e
lorosono tornati/esono cresciuti/esi sono vestiti/e

When we use Essere

In some books you will read that essere is used with intransitive verbs, that cannot have an object. For example andare —> Sono andato al cinema.

True, andare is intransitive, it doesn’t answer the question “what?” or “who?”, but rather “dove?” etc.

I find it rather misleading. Many intransitive verbs combine with avere (e.g. Ho dormito), so we have to narrow down the cases where essere is our auxiliary verb.

  • With verbs of movement, usually from and to a place, such as andare, venire, entrare, uscire, tornare, salire, scendere, cadere etc.
  • With verbs of position: stare, restare, rimanere
  • With verbs representing a change: ingrassare, dimagrire, crescere, nascere, morire, diventare
  • All reflexive verbs: vestirsi, prepararsi, divertirsi sposarsi…
  • Verbs like piacere, mancare, servire…
  • Passive and impersonal: il libro è stato scritto, ieri ci si è divertiti …

When we use Avere

When a verb supports an object. In other words, if you ask the question Who? or What? and get an answer. They are called “transitive” verbs. It’s an oversimplification but it works.

  • Ho comprato (cosa?) un paio di scarpe.
  • Ho visto (chi?) Luigi.
  • Ho andato (cosa?) Sono andato (dove?) al cinema.

The third verb (andare) is clearly supported by essere.

As mentioned, some verbs don’t support an object (they are “intransitive”), but they need avere nonetheless. I suggest you to learn them by heart. Here’s a list of 30 important Italian intransitive verbs that need avere with the Passato Prossimo.

This list is incomplete, but it’s good enough for beginners.

Some examples.


  • Sono andato al cinema
  • Sei tornato presto
  • È finito il film
  • Siamo venuti a trovarti
  • Siete tornati tardi ieri sera
  • I bambini sono cresciuti


  • Ho visto un film interessante
  • Hai comprato delle scarpe nuove?
  • David ha capito il passato prossimo
  • Non abbiamo pulito la casa
  • Avete salutato la nonna?
  • I ragazzi hanno giocato bene.

Please try the quiz and let me know if you have questions.


Carlo Carrà – Le figlie di Loth – 1919

MART, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto

Passato Remoto – Quiz & Audio

passato remoto

The Passato Remoto is an Italian past tense of the Indicativo

We use the Passato Remoto for describing actions in the past. Remoto means far in the past, not connected to the present.

The Passato Remoto is a perfect tense, meaning that it only describes complete, finished actions or situations. Similarly to the Passato Prossimo, the Passato Remoto can work together with the imperfetto and describe a complete action in the past over a situation (imperfetto).

  • Quando ero bambino, una volta andai in vacanza in Grecia.

There is a lively discussion about the Passato Remoto and its position of “endangered species” of the Italian language. As a matter of fact, compared to just a few decades ago, the passato remoto is rapidly declining in both spoken and written Italian. It is perceived as too formal and overly complex, especially in Northern Italy.

The Passato Prossimo on the other hand is more immediate, easier than the Passato Remoto. It’s perfect for television and other media. The news, movies, radio and mass media relying on the spoken language prefer the Passato Prossimo. Newspapers usually describe recent events, so they often see the Passato Remoto as an old tool.

Still, many novels are written with the Passato Remoto, which is perfect for an articulate narration.

The Passato Remoto is very elegant and personally I like it. Being a Northern Italian though, I have to admit that I lived comfortably without using the Passato Remoto  for most of my adult life.

In northern Italian dialects, the substrate on which the local Italian language was built, there is no Passato Remoto. That’s why Northern Italians don’t use it. In many dialects of Southern Italy, the Passato Remoto is the preferred past tense and people use it daily.

When we (people from Milan) use the Passato Prossimo for actions far in the past, sometimes we pick the wrong tense:

  • Mio nonno ha combattuto la guerra. —> Mio nonno combatté la guerra.

Conversely, Sicilians and other Southern Italians use the Passato Remoto to say something like:

  • Ieri andai al mercato. —> Ieri sono andato al mercato.

That’s wrong too.

I believe that Tuscans, and generally people living in Central Italy, use the Passato Prossimo and Remoto in a very balanced fashion. I heard from friends in Napoli that the use of the Passato Remoto in town is not as heavy as in Sicily or Calabria.

This is all to say that, although in steep decline, the Passato Remoto isn’t dead. It is still spoken in large parts of Central and Southern Italy and it’s very common in books. Do you have to learn it? The short answer is yes, simply because you will come across the Passato Remoto along the way and because it’s a beautiful, rich way to express past events in Italian.

Let’s start from the basics.

Passato Remoto dei Verbi Regolari

ioballaivendei (vendetti)dormii
lui / leiballòvendé (vendette)dormì
loroballaronovenderono ( vendettero)dormirono

Please notice how –ere verbs have two possible conjugations with the Passato Remoto. Both are correct.


Passato Remoto di Essere & Avere


  • io fui
  • tu fosti
  • lui / lei fu
  • noi fummo
  • voi foste
  • loro furono


  • io ebbi
  • tu avesti
  • lui / lei ebbe
  • noi avemmo
  • voi aveste 
  • loro ebbero

The Passato Remoto is the most irregular tense in Italian. Irregular verbs are mostly of the -ere conjugation. This is possibly one of the most valid reasons why people prefer to use the Passato Prossimo.

The following, is a very basic list of irregular verbs. You can start here and build up some vocabulary.

Passato Remoto dei Verbi Irregolari

 iotului / leinoivoiloro
DARE 1diedidestidiededemmodestediedero
DARE 2dettidestidettedemmodestedettero

Thanks for reading. Please solve the quiz and listen to the correct pronunciation in the answer. If you want to try a class on Skype or Zoom, complete the quiz.

Alla prossima.


Andrea del Sarto  – Ritratto maschile – 1528

Imperfetto, an Italian past tense – Quiz & Audio

Imperfetto, imperfect by name and definition, is an Italian past tense of the Indicativo

The imperfetto  is “imperfect”, because it describes past actions with no clear beginning or end.

Let’s see how the Italian imperfetto changes with ARE ERE or IRE verbs.

lui / leimangiavaleggevacapiva

This is the imperfetto of ESSERE and AVERE. It will come in handy when you will study the Trapassato Prossimo.

lui / leieraaveva

We are going to see some typical examples. Listen to the correct pronunciation and solve the quiz at the bottom of the page.

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Imperfetto, an Italian past tense

Quiz & Audio


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