All About Italian Grammar

By optilingo

In this post, I’m going to touch upon Italian grammar. Before I do, though, let me start with the very basics. In case you haven’t already checked out my post on the Italian alphabet, here’s a quick crash course on pronunciation.

Italian uses the vowels, a, e, i, o, u. When you learn how to speak Italian, you will soon notice there is a slight difference in the way vowels are pronounced in Italian compared to English. Here is the proper way to pronounce Italian vowels (most words in Italian actually end in a vowel that tells you whether the word is singular or plural, masculine or feminine)

A- Ah (Amore) Ah-moh-reh

E-Eh (Bene) Beh-neh

I-eee (Vino) Vee-noh

O- Oh (Modo) Moh-doh

U-ooh (Lungo) Loohn-goh

Ok, now let’s dig into consonants. I know you’re eager for more on Italian grammar, but I want to make sure you have a solid foundation before we get there.

Some Italian consonants such as b,f,m,n,and v are pronounced the same as they are in English. The majority, however, are pronounced much differently. Below are some tips on how to properly pronounce the other consonants.

D- Put your tongue to your teeth, to make the sound more explosive (as in Demand)

L- Sharper and more forward (as in Language)

H- Usually silent (as in Hanno)

P- Similar to English (as in Put)

Q- Always accompanied with U after (as in Question)

R- Make sure you roll those R’s – flip your tongue against your upper teeth. (as in the Spanish word Burrito)

T- Very pronounced (as in Tip)

Z- Often it can sound like T, but add more zest to it, especially when two Z’s are together (Grazie, Pizza)

There are some consonants in the Italian language that have two pronunciations, such as the following:

S and SS- If S is used singular, in the middle of a word, it can often sound like a Z. If a double S (SS), the S is very much emphasized.

Z and ZZ- When used singular, it can be silent, as in Dizionario, but as in Pizza it can sound more like two T’s together.

G- If G appears before the letters A, O, or U, it has a hard sound like Grande, but if it precedes E or I, like in Gelato, it has a soft, gentle sound.

C- This also has two pronunciations, before A, O, U or other consonant, it sounds like a K, as in Cane, but if before I or E, it has a CH sound, as in Cena.

Ok, we’re almost done, and ready to get to Italian grammar, but let’s just wrap things up with accents, first.

Acute (á, é, í, ó, ú) and grave (à, è, ì, ò, ù) accents are used in Italian to indicate where the voice should stress when pronouncing a word. The grave accent mark is used to mark stress on open vowels, while the acute accent mark is used to stress on closed vowels. See examples below:

Grave accents:

città

morì

portò

Acute accents:

perché

poté

nonché

Ok, now let’s dig into some basic Italian grammar!

Subject pronouns:

Persons Singular Plural
1st. person io » I noi » we
2nd. person familiar tu » you voi » you
2nd. person polite* Lei » You Loro » You
3rd. person lui » him loro » them
lei »her loro » them
esso » it (m.) essi » them (m.)
essa » it (f.) esse » them (f.)

Object pronouns:

Person Singular Plural
1st. person mi » me ci » us
2nd. person familiar ti » you vi » you
2nd. person polite* La » You (m. and f.) Li » You (m.)
Le » You (f.)
3rd. person lo » him, it li » them (m.)
la » her it le » them (f.)

Possessive adjectives:

Possess. Adjective Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural Possess. Pronoun
my il mio la mia i miei le mie mine
your (fam.) il tuo la tua i tuoi le tue yours
your (pol.) il Suo la Sua i Suoi le Sue yours
his, her , its il suo la sua i suoi le sue hers, his, its
our il nostro la nostra i nostri le nostre Ours
your (fam.) il vostro la vostra i vostri le vostre Yours
your (pol.) il Loro la Loro i Loro le Loro Yours
their il loro la loro i loro le loro Theirs

Different forms of address are used in Italian, depending on whether the conversation is formal or informal. While using the inappropriate form of address may sound rude when the speaker is a native Italian, foreigners and tourists do not actually need to worry too much about choosing the right form, so don’t complicate matters and just use the TU form.

Tu, Voi, Lei, or Loro?

There are four ways of saying you in Italian: tu, voi, Lei, and Loro. Tu (for one person) and voi (for two or more people) are the familiar forms, used only with family members, children, and close friends.

Tu, mamma. You, mummy.

Voi, ragazzi. You children.

Lei (for one person, male or female) and its plural Loro are used in more formal situations to address strangers, acquaintances, older people, or people in authority. Lei and Loro may be written with a capital L to distinguish them from lei (she) and loro (they).

Lei, professore, e anche Lei, signorina.
You, professor, and also you, miss.

Non Loro, signore e signori.
Not you, ladies and gentlemen.

Want a refresher on the Italian alphabet? This post is your next stop.