As one of the most popular destinations, Italy is a dream vacation for many. Imagine yourself eating copious amounts of gelato and pizza or roaming the picturesque streets of Rome or Florence. What would make that experience even better? Being able to know some basic Italian phrases.
While English is spoken by many in large cities, it’s not at common in smaller towns and the countryside. Don’t let that discourage you from ditching the large tourist spots and explore Italy off the beaten path. Most Italians appreciate you trying to speak their language which can come in very handy.
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Italian language basics
Before getting into Italian phrases, let’s look at the language itself. The Italian alphabet consists of 21 letters and uses Roman characters. Unlike English, the letters j, k, w, x and y do not exist in Italian. You might see them used in some words, which means they were borrowed from other languages. You’re likely to see chilo as opposed to “kg” for kilograms when shopping for produce. These days, Italians frequently use some English words, like Facebook and okay in their vocabulary.
In addition to the 65 million native speakers in Italy, Italian is one of the official languages spoken in Switzerland. San Marino and Vatican City also use Italian. It is also the second most spoken language in Argentina. Italian is also the second language of many immigrants worldwide, including the US, Canada and Australia.
Italian pronunciation is simple once you know what sounds go with specific letters. The vowels are common in Italian and sound very melodic. “A” sounds like a in cat whereas the “E” and “O” pronunciation varies between open or closed depending on the word. “I” sounds more like ee in meet and “U” sounds like u in rule.
The consonants have combinations that change with placement. “C” before “E” or “I” is pronounced tch like chin. However, “CH” is pronounced like “K” as in kit. “G” before “E” or “I” sounds more like “J” as in jet, while “GH” is pronounced like “G” in get. “GL” before “E” or “I” sounds like lli as in million. To add to the mix, “GN” is pronounced like ny in canyon whereas “SC” before “E” or “I” sounds more like sh. “Z” is pronounced ds at the beginning of a sentence or ts in all other cases.
Basic Italian phrases
Let’s start with some basic Italian phrases, including greetings and pleasantries.
|Buona sera||Good Evening|
|Buona notte||Good Night|
|Mi dispiace||I’m sorry|
|Come stai?||How are you? (formal)|
|Come va?||How are you? (informal)|
|Molto bene, grazie||Very well, thank you|
|Come ti chiami?||What’s your name?|
|Mi chiamo…||My name is…|
|Piacere||Nice to meet you|
Useful Italian phrases
Here are some useful Italian phrases that will help you communicate with the locals.
|Parla Inglese?||Do you speak English?|
|Non capisco||I don’t understand|
|Lentamente, per favore||Slower please|
|Non lo so||I don’t know|
|Mi scusi||Excuse me (to get attention)|
|Permesso||Excuse me (to get by in a crowd)|
|Mi sono perso||I am lost|
|Che ora è?||What time is it?|
Italian phrases – numbers
When it comes to usefulness, nothing beats numbers. Here is what you need to know.
Italian phrases – days and months
Knowing days of the week and months will come in handy, especially if you want to find out when places are open or closed.
|Dopo domani||Day after tomorrow|
Italian phrases for getting around & directions
Useful phrases for getting around Italy.
|Gira a sinistra/destra||Turn left/right|
|La stazione ferroviaria||Train station|
|La fermata dell’autobus||Bus stop|
|L’ufficio postale||Post office|
|L’ufficio informazioni||Information office|
|Quando arriva lì?||When does it arrive there?|
|Mi serve un taxi||I need a taxi|
|Quanto costa la corsa?||How much is the fare?|
|Mi piacerebbe andare a…||I would like to go to…|
|Quanto dura il viaggio?||How long does it take to get there?|
|Quando si apre?||When does it open?|
|Quando si chiude?||When does it close?|
|Due adulti||Two adults|
|Un bambino||One child|
|Uno studente||One student|
|Un pensionato||One senior|
Italian phrases for shopping
What you need to know for shopping in Italy.
|Posso aiutarLa? / Mi dica?||Can I help you?|
|Cerca qualcosa?||What would you like?|
|Posso guardare?||May I look?|
|Quanto costa?||How much is it?|
|È troppo caro!||That’s very expensive!|
|Mi fa uno sconto?||Can you give me a discount?|
|Lo compro!||I’ll take it!|
|Nient’altro, grazie.||Nothing else, thank you.|
|Accettate carte di credito?||Do you take credit cards?|
|A che ora apre/chiude?||What time do you open/close?|
|La taglia||Size (clothes)|
|Il numero||Size (shoes)|
|Tabacchi||Tobacconist also sells bus tickets|
Eating out and ordering food
Because you’re in Italy for the food.
|Avete un tavolo per…?||Do you have a table for…?|
|Vorrei prenotare un tavolo||I would like to reserve a table|
|Il menu a prezzo fisso||Fixed price menu|
|Piatto del giorno||Dish of the day|
|Il primo||First course|
|Il secondo||Main course|
|La lista dei vini||Wine list|
|É la salsa piccante?||Is the sauce spicy?|
|Sono allergico/a a …||I’m allergic (male/female) to…|
|Sono vegetariano/a||I’m vegetarian (male/female)|
|Il conto, per favore||The bill, please|
|Che cosa ci consiglia?||What do you recommend? (formal)|
|Vino rosso/bianco||Red/white wine|
|Una bottiglia di vino della casa, per favore||Bottle of house wine please|
|La Birra/ due birre, per favore||Beer/two beers please|
|Una bottiglia di acqua naturale||A bottle of still water|
|Una bottiglia di acqua gassata||A bottle of sparking water|
|Il fritto misto||Mixed fried seafood|
|Frutti di mare||Seafood|
|Il gelato||Ice cream|
Italian phrases for emergencies
What you need to know in case of an emergency.
|Chiama un medico||Call a doctor|
|Ho bisogno di un dottore||I need a doctor|
|Chiama un’ ambulanza||Call an ambulance|
|Chiama la polizia||Call the police|
|Chiama i vigili del fuoco||Call the fire department|
|Sono stato assalito/a||I’ve been mugged (male/female)|
|Ho perso il mio passaporto||I lost my passport|
|C’è stato un incidente||There’s been an accident|
|Dov’è l’ambasciata americana / britannica / australiana / canadese?||Where is the American/ British/ Australian/ Canadian embassy?|
|Mi sento male||I feel sick|
|Fa male qui||It hurts here|
|Vai via!||Go away|
Additional thoughts on Italian phrases
While it might seem very daunting, Italian is easy to navigate once you get a hang of the pronunciation. Like many other languages, Italian distinguishes between masculine and feminine with articles like “il” and “la.” Many of the adjectives also distinguish between the male and female subject with -o ending for male (americano) and -a ending for female subjects (americana).
Once you are in Italy, you’ll find that the words will slowly make sense, especially when you see them written down. This guide is meant to get you started with Italian phrases. You might even find that you want to learn even more. We encourage you to seek out courses and tutors to help you with that. After all, Italian is a beautiful language and knowing even the basics can transform your Italian adventure.
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