“Chi” and “Che”. Time to shed some light. QUIZ

Chi and Che are very important, at times confusing, Italian words. Solve the quiz at the bottom of the blog

In my last quiz about relative pronouns, I wrote the following sentence:

  • Non so chi sia la persona che ha telefonato oggi.

Translating Italian into English makes things more complicated.

I repeated the quiz with my intermediate and advanced students and some got stuck on that phrase. Do chi and che both mean “who”?

As a native Italian speaker, I don’t have doubts. The sentence is correct. We can’t swap chi and che.


A very approximate translation could be “the one who”, “those who”.

1 – As demonstrative pronoun, indicates “the person who…” (as Colui/Colei che…)

  • Chi ha cucinato stasera è un ottimo cuoco. (as “he who / she who”)
  • C’è chi non mangia la carne. (as “those who”, singular in Italian)

2 – As indefinite, indicates “someone who…”

  • Conosco chi potrebbe aiutarti.

3 – As interrogative is simply Who (?)

  • Chi vuole un po’ di pane? (direct)
  • Non so chi ha telefonato. (indirect)


Che is an important relative pronoun, so I’m not going through the multiple functions of this word. However, there are cases when English speakers may confuse it with Chi. In other words, of the sentences…

  • Non conosco la persona che ha telefonato oggi.
  • Non conosco la persona chi ha telefonato oggi.

…the first one is right. It would be something like “I don’t know the person who called today”.

If we translate it  back into Italian, we would of course change who into Che (in detail, “il quale” or “la quale”), a  relative pronoun, which taken as a single word is closer to “that” rather than “who”.

Matching English and Italian, in this case, is problematic.

I hope the difference is now clear. If not, solve the quiz (only one question) and grab a complimentary Skype class. A presto!




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Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals. I do not use social media.

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3 years ago

Thanks for your explanation of the use of chi & che

3 years ago

okay, it’s becoming clear but i hadn’t finished reading the explanation when the message box popped. now i’ll go back to it

Rosina Paluzzi
Rosina Paluzzi
8 years ago

Colin, la ringrazio cosi` tanto per l’aiuto.

Colin Groothius
Colin Groothius
8 years ago

You could translate che as “that” instead of who and it would make everything clearer I believe.

Reply to  Colin Groothius
8 years ago

Grazie Colin, that’s true. The challenge here is the use “chi”. I noticed English speakers write it instead of che.

Colin Groothius
Colin Groothius
Reply to  Riccardo
8 years ago

Sono d’accordo e apprezzato la lezione. Tenerli a venire. Sono molto utili. Grazie.

Don`t copy text!