Italian Grammar Review - Part One

This course is intended to provide a self-study review of Italian language grammar. Each chapter covers an aspect of Italian grammar as completely as possible. It includes exercises in the form of close-ended questions (multiple-choice, True/False, fill-in-the-blanks) that you can check your answers to in the back of the book. Feel free to follow the chapters in order or to skip around to topics where you need the most review.

Design by Gabrielle Moore

Content by Marcel Danesi (2006). Complete Italian Grammar Review, Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Chapter 1. Italian Sounds and Spelling

Introduction

Let's start with a quick quiz to see much you already know/remember about Italian sounds and spelling!

1. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • chi
  • qui

Choose the correct spelling.

who

2. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • perché
  • perqué

Choose the correct spelling.

why

3. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • jente
  • gente

Choose the correct spelling.

people

4. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • chao
  • ciao

Choose the correct spelling.

bye

5. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • luglio
  • lulio

Choose the correct spelling.

July

6. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • bello
  • belo

Choose the correct spelling.

beautiful

7. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • quando
  • cuando

Choose the correct spelling.

when

8. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • giunio
  • giugno

Choose the correct spelling.

June

9. Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

  • si

Choose the correct spelling.

yes

Vowels - Le Vocali

There are two basic kinds of sound in any language: vowels and consonants. The letters that represent the Italian vowels are a, e, i, o, u. Generally, Italian vowels are pronounced in a pure fashion: that is to say, there is no "gliding" of the vowels as in English sale, send, sift, soft, sure, which are pronounced, more or less, as "sayl", "sehynd", and so on. 

Meet il professor Pasqualucci, who will become your mentor through this course. Everytime he appears, he will emphasize what it is that you must learn. Heed his advice! 

 

Alphabet Letters Pronunciation Examples
a Similiar to the a sound in father, or to the exclamation ah!

casa / house

amica / friend

e Similiar to the e sound in bet, or to the exclamation eh!

bene / well

esame / exam

i Similiar to the i sound in machine, or to the exclamation eeh!

vini / wines

indirizzi / addresses

o Similiar to the o sound in sorry, or to the exclamation oh!

otto / eight

oro / gold

u Simiar to the oo sound in boot, or to the exclamation ooh!

uva / grapes

gusto / taste

 

Speakers in different regions of Italy might tend to pronounce e and o slightly differently. In some regions, they are pronounced with the mouth relatively more open; in others they are pronounced with mouth relatively more closed. In many areas of Italy today, however, both pronunciations are used.

The letter i can also stand for semivowel sounds similar to those represented by the y in yes and say. The letter u can also stand for semivowel sounds similar to those represented by the w in way and how

i = y (as in yes)

u = w (as in way)

i = y (as in say)

u = w (as in how)

ieri / yesterday mai / ever, never
piatto / plate poi / then
uomo / man causa / cause
buono / good laurea / degree (university)

 

This pronunciation feature occurs when the i or the u is next to another vowel and both vowers are pronounced rapidly together. The syllable is called a diphthong. If there is a slight pause between the two vowels, then i and u are pronounced in the normal way, as in the words zio / uncle and suo / his, her.

Quick Practice 1

Indicate if the letter of each word stands for the vowel sounds i and u, or the semivowel sounds y and w by dragging the word to the correct vowel or semivowel sound. Pronounce each word as you go along to help you understand the sounds. 

Modello (Example):

io / io = i

pieno / pieno = y

  • tua
  • zia
  • chiamare
  • quando
  • mai
  • pausa
  • dire
  • diede
  • sugo
  • suonare

Quick Practice 1 Answers

Quick Practice 1 Correct Answers:

  1. zia = i
  2. tua = u
  3. chiamare = y
  4. quando = w
  5. mai = y
  6. pausa = w
  7. dire = i
  8. diede = y
  9. sugo = u
  10. suonare = w

Single Consonants - Le consonanti

The remaining sounds in a language are called consonants. With minor adjustments in pronunciation with respect to corresponding English consonants, the consonants represented by the letters b, d, f, l, m, n, p, q, r, t, v always represent the same sounds in Italian. Differences between English and Italian are discussed in the chart below. These might seem to be matters of detail, but they are important; otherwise you will speak Italian with a perceivable accent!

Alphabet Letters Pronunciation Examples
b Identical to the b sound in boy

bello / beautiful

bravo / good

d Like the d sound in day, but with the tongue touching the upper teeth. This is true even when followed by r; in English, the tongue is raised a bit more, as in drop.

dopo / after

ladro / thief

f Identical to the f sound in fun

forte / strong

frutta / fruit

l Identical to the l sound in love. In English, the back of the tongue is raised when the l is at the end of a syllable or of a word, as in bill. This feature is not found in Italian pronunciation. 

latte / milk

alto / tall

m Identical the m sound in more

matita / pencil

mondo / world

n Identical the n sound in nose

naso / nose

nono / ninth

p Identical to the p sound in price

porta / door

prezzo / price

q Identical to the q sound in quick. It is always followed by u

quanto /

how much

quinto / fifth

r Similar to the rolled r sound in some Scottish dialects. It is pronounced by flapping the tongue against the upper gums.

rosso / red

raro / red

t Pronounced like the t sound in fat, but with the tongue against the upper teeth. This is true even followed by r; in English, the tongue is raised a bit more, as in train

tardi / late

treno / train

v Identical to the v sound in vine

vino / wine

vero / true

 

The remaining consonant sounds in Italian are not that much different from English ones. However, various letters or combination of letters are used to represent them, and this can be a source of confusion. 

Alphabet Letters Pronunciation Examples
c Similar to the English k sound in kit and cat. Used in front of a, o, u and any consonant.

cane / dog

come / how

cuore / heart

classe / class

cravatta / tie

ch Represents the same k sound. Used in front of e and i

che / what

chi / who

chiesa / church

c Similar to the English ch sound in church. Used in front of e and i

cena / dinner

cinema / movies

ci Represents the same ch sound in front of a, o, u.

ciao / hi, bye

cioccolata / chocolate

g Similar to the English g sound in good. Used in front of a, o, u, and any consonant. 

gatto / cat

gola / throat

guanto / glove

gloria / glory

grande/ big, large

gh Represents the same g sound. Used in front of e and i

spaghetti / spaghetti

ghiaccio / ice

g Similar to the English j sound in just. Used in front of e and i

gente / people

giro / turn, tour

gi Represents the same j sound. Used in front of a, o, u. 

giacca / jacket

giorno / day

giugno / June

sc Represents the sound sequence sk in front of a, o, u, or any consonant.

scala / staircase

scopa / broom

scuola / school

scrivere / to write

sch Represents the same sk sequence in front of e and i.

scherzo / prank

schifo / disgust

sc Represents the sh sound in front of e and i.

scena / scene

sciocco / unsalted

sci Represents the same sh sound in front of a, o, u. 

sciopero / labor strike

sciupare / to waste

 

The sound represented by gli is similar to the lli in million; and the sound represented by gn is similar to the ny sound in canyon

  • figlio / son
  • luglio / July
  • sogno / dream
  • giugno / June

The letter s is similar to either the 'voiceless" s sound in sip or the "voiced" z sound in zip. The voiced sound is used before b, d, g, l, m, n, r, v and between vowels; otherwise, the voiceless one is used.  

Voiceless S-Sound Voiced Z-Sound Voiced Z-Sound (Between Vowels)
sapone / soap sbaglio / mistake casa / house
sete / thirst svegliarsi / to wake up

peso / weight

specchio / mirror slittare / to slide rosa / rose
studente / student smettere / to stop cosa / thing

The letter z is, instead, similar to the ts sound in cats or the ds sound in lads

  • zio / uncle
  • zero / zero
  • zuppa / thick soup
  • zaino / knapsack, backpack

The letter h does not represent any sound. It is analogous to the silent h of hour:

ho (pronounced "oh") / I have

Quick Practice 2

Each of the following words is misspelled. Correct each one, pronouncing each word as you go along. 

1. zmettere 

2. coza 

3. suppa 

4. sonio 

5. filio 

6. schopero 

7. skerzo 

8. schuola 

9. jacca 

10. cuanto 

Quick Practice 2 Answers

Quick Practice 2 Correct Answers:

  1.  zmettere ==> smettere
  2.  coza ==> cosa
  3.  suppa ==> zuppa
  4.  sonio ==> sogno
  5.  filio ==> figlio
  6.  schopero ==> sciopero
  7.  skerzo ==> scherzo
  8.  schuola ==> scuola
  9.  jacca ==> giacca
  10. cuanto ==> quanto

Double Consonants - Le consonanti doppi

Any single consonant can have a corresponding double articulation. The pronunciation of double consonants lasts twice as long as that of the corresponding single consonant and is slightly reinforced. 

Single Consonants Double Consonants
fato / fate fatto / fact
caro / dear carro / cart
pala / shovel

palla / ball

sono / I am  sonno / sleep
casa / house cassa / case, create
zio / uncle pizza / pizza
via / road ovvio / obvious
oca / goose occhio / eye
forte / strong baffi / mustache

 

The sounds represented by gli and gn are already double in articulation and, thus, no doubling of the letters is required: figlio, giugno

Quick Practice 3

Type the meaning of each word in the blank spaces. These are fairly simple words. However, if you have forgotten what they mean, you might have to use a dictionary. Pronounce each word as you go along. 

  1. fato vs. fatto  ==  vs. 
  2. tipo vs. troppo ==  vs. 
  3. arte vs. arrivare ==  vs. 
  4. vino vs. venne ==  vs. 
  5.  filo vs. figlio ==  vs. 
  6. poco vs. pacco ==  vs. 
  7. cosa vs. chissà ==  vs. 

Quick Practice 3 Answers

  1. fato vs. fatto = fate vs. fact
  2. tipo vs. troppo = type vs. too much
  3. arte vs. arrivare = art vs. arrive
  4. vino vs. venne = wine vs. he/she came
  5. filo vs. figlio = string vs. son
  6. poco vs. pacco = little vs. package
  7. cosa vs. chissà = thing vs. who knows

Stress - L'accento

Knowing where to put the stress, or main accent, on an Italian word is not always easy, but you can always look up a word you are unsure of in a dictionary that indicates stress. Here are general guidelines. 

In most words, the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. You can identify most syllables easily because they contain a vowel. 

  • amico / friendamíco
  • italiano / Italian = italiáno
  • orecchio / ear = orécchio
  • mattina / morning = mattína

Assume, in general, that the accent falls on the second-to-last syllable. Statistically speaking, this the best strategy, since most Italian words are accented this way. But, to be absolutely sure, always check a good dictionary.

Some words show an accent mark on the final vowel. This is, of course, where the stress occurs:

  • città / city
  • gioventù / youth

  • perché (or perchè) / why, because

  • benché (or benchè) / although

  • virtù / virtue

  • / oneself

 

Quick Practice 4

A word in each sentence is missing an accent. Correct the words accordingly by dragging each sentence to the box with the correct accented letter.  Make sure to start with sentence #1 and place it correct space before moving on to the next one!

Example (Modello)

Maria, perchè dici questo?

  • Dov’e il tuo amico
  • Ci hai messo lo zucchero nel caffe?
  • Lui abita nel centro della cita.
  • A quale universita studi?
  • Lui fa sempre tutto da se.
  • Claudia non c’e.

Quick Practice 4 Answers

  1. Dov’è il tuo amico?
  2. Ci hai messo lo zucchero nel caffè?
  3. Lui abita nel centro della città?
  4. A quale università studi?
  5. Lui fa sempre tutto da sé.
  6. Claudia non c’è.

The Alphabet & Spelling Conventions - L'alfabeto e l'ortografia

The Italian alphabet does not have the letters j, k, w, x, or y, unless they occur in words that Italian has borrowed from other languages, primarily in English. The Italian alphabet contains the following characters (the foreign characters are noted with *). 

Alphabet Letters Name Example Meaning
a, A a amico friend
b, B bi bene well
c, C ci

casa

ciao

che

cena

house

hi/bye

what

dinner

d, D di dopo after
e, E e

età

age
f, F effe figlia daughter
g, G gi

gatto

gelo

ghetto

giorno

cat

frost

ghetto

day

h, H acca (always silent) ho I have
i, I i italiano Italian
j, J * i lunga jazz jazz
k, K * cappa

karatè

karate
l, L elle lira lira
m, M emme mano hand
n, N enne nonno grandfather
o, O o ora now
p, P pi pane bread
q, Q cu quando when
r, R erre rosso red
s, S esse sempre always
t, T ti tanto a lot
u, U u uva grapes
v, V vu, vi vero true
w, W * doppia vu weekend weekend
x, X * ics xenofobia xenophobia
y, Y * ipsilon, i greca yogurt yogurt
z, Z zeta zucchero sugar

Generally speaking, Italian orthography is highly phonetic: that is, each one of its letters stands generally for one sound. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule as you have already seen in this chapter. 

Italian also uses the same punctuation marks as English (period, comma, semicolon, interrogative mark, exclamation point, etc.). And, as in English, capital letters are used at the beginning of sentences and to rite proper nouns (Maria, Italia, etc.). However, there are a few different conventions worth noting. 

The pronoun io (I) is not capitalized (unless it is the first word of a sentence):

  • Vengo anche io. / I'm coming too. 

Titles are not usually capitalized. 

  • il professor (or Professor) Verdi / Professor Verdi
  • la dottoressa (or Dottoressa) Martini/ Dr. Martini

Adjectives and nouns referring to languages and nationality are not capitalized.

  • Lui è italiano. / He is Italian.
  • La lingua spagnola è interessante. / The Spanish language is interesting. 

Names of the seasons, months of the year, and days of the week are not capitalized.

  • mercoledì / Tuesday
  • maggio / May

The pronoun Lei / you (polite singular) is generally capitalized, in order to distinguish it from lei / she

 

Quick Practice 5

The following sentences have errors in them. Rewrite each sentence with the correct spelling of all the words by typing in the blank space beside them. Pay close attention to accent marks and uppercase vs. lowercase characters

  1. vedrò la mia famiglia a Maggio.  
  2. anch'Io studio l'Italiano.   
  3. ti piace il giazza?   
  4. coma si chiama, lei?   
  5. anche Tu pratichi il carate?   

Quick Practice 5 Answers

  1. Vedrò la mia famiglia a maggio. 
  2. Anch'io studio l'italiano.
  3. Ti piace il jazz?
  4. Come si chiama, Lei?
  5. Anche tu pratichi il karatè?

Chapter 1 Quiz, Part A

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing letters representing sounds as indicated. This is also a chance to review vocabulary you may have forgotten. 

Missing Vowels

  1. pne / bread
  2. za / aunt
  3. bne / well
  4. cme / how
  5. lna / moon
  6. zppa / soup
  7. mlto / much
  8. cne / dog
  9. gnte / people
  10. tpo / type

Missing Semivowels

  1. bono / good
  2. core / heart
  3. peno / full
  4. pano / slow
  5. qesto / this
  6. gerra / war
  7. novo / new
  8. patto / plate
  9. deci / ten
  10. ma / never

Missing Single Consonants

  1. cio / food
  2. baio / kiss
  3. laiare / leave
  4. roa / rose
  5. veo / true
  6. mao / hand
  7. mare / mother
  8. doe / where
  9. cado / hot
  10. fore / strong

Missing Double Consonants

  1. tuo / everything
  2. ao / year
  3. freo / cold
  4. formaio / cheese
  5. oi / today
  6. preo / price
  7. noo / grandfather
  8. ghiaio / ice
  9. oio / eye
  10. paa / ball

Chapter 1 Quiz, Part A Answers

Missing Vowels

  1. pane
  2. zia
  3. bene
  4. come
  5. luna
  6. zuppa
  7. molto
  8. cane
  9. gente
  10. tipo

Missing Semivowels

  1. buono
  2. cuore
  3. pieno
  4. piano
  5. questo
  6. guerra
  7. nuovo
  8. piatto
  9. dieci
  10. mai

Missing Single Consonants

  1. cibo
  2. bacio
  3. lasciare
  4. rosa
  5. vero
  6. mano
  7. madre
  8. dove
  9. caldo
  10. forte

Missing Double Consonants

  1. tutto
  2. anno
  3. freddo
  4. formaggio
  5. oggi
  6. prezzo
  7. nonno
  8. ghiaccio
  9. occhio
  10. palla

Chapter 1 Quiz, Part B

The following sentences have errors in them. Rewrite each sentence with the correct spelling of all the words by typing in the blank space beside them. Pay close attention to accent marks and uppercase vs. lowercase characters

  1. Domani è il tre Maggio, non e vero? 

  2. Anch’Io voglio parlare Italiano molto bene. 

  3. Si, e vero. C’e solo un teatro in quella citta. 

  4. Tuti gli student sono Americani. 

  5. Come si chiama cuella ragazza? E Italiana, vero? 

Chapter 2. The Italian Sentence

Quanto Sai Già? How Much Do You Already Know?

Each sentence is incorrect in some way. Can you correct each one by typing the right sentence in the blank spaces?

  1. La mela ha mangiato dal ragazzo.  
  2. Guardi perchè sempre la televisione? 
  3. Marco aspetta per Maria ogni giorno. 
  4. Ieri sera ho telefonato la mia amica. 
  5. Sì, no mi piace affatto! 
  6. La ragazza chi sta leggendo il giornale è sua sorella. 
  7. Italiani sono simpatici. 
  8. Quando consta quel cellulare
  9. Maria è già arrivato.