5 “consigli” for learning Italian

Learning Italian requires hard work and some necessary mistakes. Follow 5 simple tips, or “consigli” as we call them in Italian, for keeping yourself motivated and ready to learn more.


I’ve been teaching Italian for quite a long time, beginners to advanced students connected online from all over the world. Some beginners give up and stop studying after some time, while others improve rapidly and overcome initial challenges. Some advanced learners get stuck in front of complicate grammatical structures whilst others don’t care much and enjoy a long and happy relationship with the Italian language. How can you manage your expectations and learn Italian with the right attitude?

1. You won’t speak perfectly and that’s ok

You can live with that, I know how it feels. I am not a native English speaker, I’ve been studying it for a long time, every day a couple of hours, and I still make tons of mistakes. That’s fine, because the number of errors I make decreases year by year and I’m happy with that. Some of my students speak good Italian but are overconcerned with perfection. If you focus on the accent, you lose fluency. If you focus on grammar you don’t sound natural. The biggest mistake you could make is to stop speaking after a mistake. Fix the main ones and move on. Nobody is perfect.

2. Find a native Italian friend on Skype 

If you are lucky, you have some Italian friends living close to you, willing to speak with you and help you to learn the language. Unfortunately, chances are that you live in a place where Italians are just a few and there are no occasions to practice. The good news is that plenty of Italians want to learn English and are eager to speak online. With Skype, people can “meet” easily and exchanging a foreign language is now possible for free. A Skype friend is not a professional teacher, so you will still need the help and guidance of a native teacher, but a “regular dose” of spoken Italian will help you tremendously.

3. Learn Italian following your interests

Let’s face it. Some Italian language lessons are boring or difficult to digest. Some teachers find it easier to follow a textbook and give you homework instead of asking what your interests are. Studying Italian as a foreign language is not like studying English. People usually study it for passion, not because it’s necessary. Do you like Italian arts, opera, lifestyle, cars, football, men, women, food? Don’t be shy. Once you learned the basics, ask your teacher to fix some lessons for you based on your interests. Learning Italian will be more fun and engaging. If your teacher says no, just change teacher!

4. Come to Italy for a language course if you have a chance

I’m sure you want to enjoy “la dolce vita” in Italia, after a year of hard work in your country. Please, consider seriously the idea of joining an Italian language course in one of our beautiful cities. School is great at any age! There are many places where you can spend a holiday while studying Italian, with foreign students having your same passion. If you are a beginner, perhaps an intensive course at school will help you to digest the basics pretty rapidly. If you are an intermediate/advanced learner, home-stay will help you to learn daily spoken Italian from your host family. Remember though, don’t hang out too much with other foreign students. You will speak English and defeat the purpose.

5. Read, read and read again!

Listening to a song or watching a movie in Italian, possibly every day, are all great and entertaining exercises. Youtube will help you to get used to Italian sounds and learn quickly. However, my best students are the ones who read regularly newspapers, magazines or simple Italian books. Listening and watching are passive exercises but reading will force you to process and remember much better what you study. Leggere è la cosa migliore!


Whatever your reason for studying Italian is, please remember that you are the only one responsible for your success or failure. Follow your passion, cultivate your motivation and don’t give up, non mollare!


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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

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