The emphasis for this lesson is school, either gradeschool, secondary school,
or at a university, and what you do or find there. The numbers from 100 to
999999 are covered, regular 1st (-are) verb conjugation is introduced, you'll learn
some question-and-answer words, and you'll find out how to tell time in
If you're new to the Italian lessons, you might want to check out the first
2 lessons at the Italian Lessons Homepage.
Italian Lesson 3 - a scuola (at school)
This week's new words:
There is a single word in Italian for "why" and "because", that is
perché. The accent
on perché, as well as on any other word in Italian,
tells you that the stress is on that syllable. Accents in Italian are written only
to indicate that the stress is on the last syllable (contrary to the majority of
words which is stressed on the penultimate syllable). On dictionaries accents are
always written on the stressed syllables, but this is not done in common writing.
- The letter "q" (as in quando) is always followed by an "u" and another wovel, and is
pronounced "kw" (as in English "quill"). The same identical pronunciation is used for the group "cu" followed
by a vowel (as in scuola). There is no rule on when to use either
forms in writing, but it is
a serious mistake to use the wrong one (in fact, writing "squola" with "q" is the prototype of mistakes
in jokes). There are a few words with a double-sound (k-kw), which are always written as "cqu + vowel"
(like acqua "water", pron. "ak-kwah"), with a single exception of double "q" in the word
soqquadro ("sok-kwa-droh", "a mess").
Regular -are (1st conjugation) verbs
All Italian verbs fall into one of three categories (conjugations) - they either end in
are, ere, or ire. Within each category, there
are regular and irregular verbs. Regular
verbs all conjugate with a similar pattern - all the new verbs in this lesson
are regular (as you'll see soon). Irregular verbs don't follow a pattern,
and each verb's conjugation has to be memorized separately - the two verbs
you learned in Lesson 2, essere and stare are irregular.
Here are the new verbs for this lesson: amare, ascoltare,
studiare, parlare, ritornare,
lavorare. These are all regular -are verbs. Here
are the present-tense (present indicative) conjugations of them all:
Regular verbs are made up of a body (parl), and a suffix
(are). To conjugate regular verbs, replace the infinitive suffix
(are, ere, ire) with the correct conjugation suffix
from the example conjugation for parlare above. For example, take
amare, and conjugate it:
All verbs can be split into a body/suffix pair, but only regular verbs follow
these patterns. There are 3 different regular-verb patterns - one for
-are verbs, one for -ere verbs, and one for -ire
verbs. (In the next lesson, we'll learn the rules for regular -ere and
-ire verbs.) In summary, to conjugate any regular -are verb
in the present
(present indicative) tense, remove the -are suffix, and add one of
the following (depending on who is the subject of the verb):
Here are complete conjugations of 2 more verbs from this lesson:
Now that we have the conjugation for these regular -are verbs, we can
make sentences with them, like this:
- io lavoro, tu lavori,
lei lavora, noi lavoriamo,
voi lavorate, essi lavorano
- io ritorno, tu ritorni,
lei ritorna, noi ritorniamo,
voi ritornate, essi ritornano
- Amo Tania. ("I love Tania")
- Lavora all'università. ("He works at (in) the university")
- Noi ascoltiamo la professoressa. ("We listen to the teacher")
- Essi studiano alle otto. ("The men study at 8")
- Esse parlano italiano. ("The women speak Italian")
- Io ritorno all'università alle tre. ("I return to the university at
- Studiate matematica ? ("Do you study math?")
A - At or To, and the dative A
In a few of the sentences above, the preposition a is used, as in
Essi studiano alle otto. The preposition
a translates to the English "at" or "to", depending on the sentence.
The preceeding sentence ("essi studiano...") is an example of
a meaning "at". The sentence io ritorno all'università
is an example of a meaning "to". When the a
comes before an article,
as in io ritorno a la università, the a and the la combine to form alla.
This is the so-called articulated preposition. Moreover, if the next noun begins with a wovel, the last
vowel of the articulated preposition falls and is replaced by an apostrophe
So the correct way to write the preceeding sentence is: io ritorno all'università.
Note that the English "at" may translate to either a or in
in Italian, depending on the sentence. In is usually used to refer
to something being at something else, such as sono in
università - "I'm at the university". A usually refers to a
state or condition (sort of) of something, such as "at great speed", or when
referring to time, such as alla una ("at one o'clock").
In two more cases, the a isn't either of
the above two meanings, but is used for English "to".
One case is when a motion to somewhere is involved, like in
"Io vado all'università" (I go to the university, the verb
used is irregular). Another one is when a person or name of a place is the destination
of a verb, an a is placed before the object, as in
La professoressa parla agli studenti. ("The teacher talks to the students"). The preposition a
is NOT needed for transitive verbs (when the object is direct, as in Io amo Tania ("I love Tania").
Numbers 100 to 999.999
If you've looked at the numbers in the New Words section, you may already
have seen some patterns developing in Italian numbers. First, the numbers
100, 200, 300, etc., all have a similar form - cento,
duecento, trecento... If you look carefully, and
remember the numbers 2 through 9, you'll see that each hundred above 100 is
just "two hundred" (duecento), "three hundred"
(trecento), and so on. To form numbers in between the hundreds,
you use the numbers 1-99 you learned in the last 2 lessons, but add the
hundreds on to the front. Eleven is undici, 111 is centoundici.
Three-hundred and twenty is trecentoventi, and so
on. Putting spaces between parts of a compound number is optional.
Mille is Italian for 1.000. No, this isn't "one
point zero zero zero zero", this is one-thousand. English
uses a comma to separate thousands, millions, etc., in a number. Italian traditionally
use the period (".") instead.
In English, we would expect to see this
number: 12,399,100. In Italian, the same number is written: 12.399.100. In
much the same way, where English uses the period to denote numbers between
whole numbers (as in "12.99"), Italian uses a comma ("12,99"), but this will
be discussed in another lesson.
In scientific practice we often use the English convention, particularly
for fractionary numbers. Public administration uses the Italian convention, and this
is what was taught in schools in my times.
Multiples of 1000 are treated as such - 2000 is duemila, literally
"two thousands". Three thousand is tremila, and so on. This
pattern is the same for thousands up to 999.000 (that's nine-hundred
ninety-nine thousand), so that 50.000 is cinquantamila, and 231.000
is duecentotrentunomila. Combining these two rules for
numbers, we can read numbers like 123.456 (centoventitremila
quattrocentocinquantasei) and 784.675 ( settecentoottantaquattromila
seicentosettantacinque). So now, practice saying
Io ritorno in università alle tre. Telling time in Italian uses
only 2 forms of the verb essere: é and sono.
for "it is one o'clock" is é la una. Times are always given in
the feminine form because la ora ("hour", or "the time") is feminine.
É la is only used if you are talking about one o'clock,
since "one" is singular. For all other hours, you use sono le, as in
sono le sei ("It's 6 o'clock"). Minutes are expressed as numbers
after the hour, using either e or mens to represent after
or before the hour, respectively. At 15 minutes before or after the hour,
quarto ("a fourth") is commonly used instead of quindici ("fifteen").
Likewise, at 30 minutes after an hour, mezza ("half") is commonly used instead
of trenta ("thirty"). Mezza is never used with meno.
Here are some examples:
To say that something is "at" a certain time, use alla or alle:
- É la una e venti. ("It's twenty after one", literally "it's one and twenty")
- Sono le due meno dieci. ("It's ten before two", literally "it's two minus
ten") but also É la una e cinquanta
- Sono le quattro e un quarto. ("It's a quarter after four.")
- Sono le quattro meno un quarto. ("It's a quarter before four.") but also
Sono le tre e tre quarti (literally, "it is three and three quarters") and
Sono le tre e quarantacinque (literally, "it is three and forty-five")
- Sono le dieci e mezza. ("It's half past ten.")
- É la una meno cinque. ("It's five (minutes) to one.")
To ask for the time in Italian, use Che ora é ("What time
is it?"). To ask what time something happens at, use A che ora ? ("At what time...?")
as in A che ora é la lezione ?, or A che ora ritorni in università ?
("What time do you return to the university?").
- A che ora é la lezione ? ("At what time is the lesson ?")
- La lezione é alle nove. ("The lesson is at 9 o'clock.")
- La lezione é alla una. ("The lesson is at one o'clock.")
To differentiate between AM and PM when telling time, Italian may add del mattino ("in the morning"),
del pomeriggio ("in the afternoon"), della (di) sera ("in the evening")
and della notte ("in the night") to describe what time of day being
referred to. Usually this is clear from the context and is not specified explicitly.
Another possibility is to use a 24-hour clock (this is always done officially, e.g. when calling for meetings,
in train and plane timetables, etc.). So 9 o'clock PM becomes sono le nove di sera,
while 9AM is sono le nove della mattina, and 5PM is sono
le cinque del pomeriggio.
Questions and Question Words
Asking a yes or no question
There are many ways to ask questions in Italian, althoug there is no do-form as in English. The simplest form of a
question is to use a regular sentence but either add a question mark (when
written) or change the inflection (when spoken). Look at these 2 sentences:
When writing a question a question mark occurs at the end of the question.
speaking, you must change the inflection of the sentence.
A normal sentence ends on a low inflection, as in "maRIsa sTUdia",
with capital letters denoting syllable emphasis. When asking a question, the
sentence ends with a high inflection, as in "maRIsa studIA", much the same as
- Marisa studia. ("Marisa studies.")
- Marisa studia ? ("Does Marisa study?")
It is also possible to change the word order when asking a question. Look
at these sentences:
Both these sentences say the same thing, "Is Marisa studying Italian?"
The subject of the sentence, namely Marisa, can be placed
or at the end of the
sentence, for questions only. The second sentence may mean "is she studying Italian or
another language ?"
- Marisa studia italiano ?
- Studia italiano, Marisa ?
One other common way of asking a question is to add no ? or
vero ? ("right?") to the end of a sentence. So the question above
could also be written: Marisa studia italiano, vero ?
("Marisa is studying Italian, isn't she?" or "Marisa is studying Italian,
All of these questions have implied either a yes or no answer - "Is Marisa
studying?", "Is she studying Italian?" To ask questions that require more
than a yes or no answer, you generally have to use a question word.
Here is a list of some English question words and their Italian equivalents:
Each question word, or interrogative, works similarly to its English
counterpart. Perhaps the easiest way to explain how to use them is through
example sentences. Take a look at these:
- What - che cosa
- Who - chi
- When - quando
- Why - perché,
- Which - quale
- How much - quanto(-a)
- How many - quanti(-e)
- Where - dove
Notice the similarity between English and Italian? Try making your own
questions by translating the following English sentences (note that not all
of them need a question word). Type in your answer in the text box after each sentence, then
press the Translations button to compare what you typed to what the
right answers are. (Answers for users without
Here's your chance to see how much you know. All of these sentences you should
be able to translate either from or to Italian, if you've gone through all
three lessons. Type in your answer in the text box after each sentence, then
press the Translations button to compare what you typed to what the
right answers are. (Answers for users without
- Chi é Roberto ? ("Who is Roberto?")
- Quando ritorna ? ("When is s/he returning?")
- Dove studia ? ("Where does s/he study?")
- Che ora é ? ("What time is it?")
- A che ora é la lezione ? ("At what time is the lesson?")
- Qual é il compito ? ("What is the homework (assignment)?")
- Chi é in casa? ("Who is in the house?")
- Dov'é la matita ? ("Where is the pencil?")
- Perché torni a scuola ? ("Why do you return to school?")
- In quale università studi ? ("At which university do you study?")
- Quanti studenti ci sono in classe ? ("How many students are there in the classroom?")
Original Spanish lesson by Tyler Chambers, 21-10-94
refurbished for Italian by Lucio Chiappetti, email@example.com, 11-08-95