Easy Learning Italian

Question words - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

1  How to ask questions using question words

  • The following are common question words which never change their form:
  • dove? where?
Dove abiti?Where do you live?
  • come? how?
Come si fa?How do you do it?
  • Note that come can be translated by what? when it is used to mean pardon?
Scusi, come ha detto?Sorry, what did you say?
  • quando? when
Quando parti?When are you leaving?
  • perché? why
Perché non vieni?Why don’t you come?
  • Note that perché also means because.
Lo mangio perché ho fame.I’m eating it because I’m hungry.
  • chi? who?
Chi è?Who is it?
Chi sono?Who are they?
  • che? what?
Che giorno è oggi?What day is it today?
  • cosa? what?
Cosa vuoi?What do you want?
  • che cosa? what?
Che cosa fanno?What are they doing?
TipRemember to shorten che cosa (meaning what) and come (meaning how, what) to che cos’ and com’ when they are followed by a vowel.
Che cos’è?What is it?
Com’è successo? How did it happen?
  • Some question words do sometimes change their form.
  • You can use quale to ask for precise information about people or things. It has a plural form quali, and a singular form qual which is used in front of a vowel:
  • Use quale with a singular noun when you want to ask which or what.
Per quale motivo?For what reason?
Quale stanza preferisci?Which room do you prefer?
  • Use the singular form qual when the next word starts with a vowel.
Qual è il tuo colore preferito?What’s your favourite colour?
Qual è la tua camera?Which is your room?
  • Use quali with plural nouns.
Quali programmi hai?What plans have you got?
Quali sono i tuoi sport preferiti?Which are your favourite sports?
  • Use quale by itself when you want to ask which one.
Quale vuoi?Which one would you like?
  • Use quali by itself when you want to ask which ones.
Quali sono i migliori?Which ones are the best?
  • You can use quanto or the feminine form quanta to ask how much:
  • Use quanto by itself to ask how much?
Quanto costa?How much does it cost?
Quanta ne vuoi?How much do you want?
  • Use quanto as an adjective with masculine nouns and quanta with feminine nouns.
Quanto tempo hai?How much time have you got?
Quanta stoffa ti serve?How much material do you need?
  • Use quanti to ask how many. Use quanti as an adjective with masculine nouns and quante with feminine nouns.
Quanti ne vuoi?How many do you want?
Quanti giorni?How many days?
Quante notti?How many nights?
  • For more information on Adjectives, see Adjectives.
  • Note that some very common questions do not start with the Italian question word you might expect.
Quanti anni hai?How old are you?
Come si chiama?What’s he called?
Comè?What’s it like?

2  How to answer questions which use question words

  • If someone asks you a question such as Chi è? or Quanto costa?, you answer using the same verb.
Chi è? – È Giulia.Who’s that? – That’s Giulia.
Quanto costa? – Costa molto.How much does it cost? – It costs a lot.
  • When you don’t know the answer you say Non lo so, or Non so followed by the original question.
Chi è? – Non lo so.Who’s that? – I don’t know.
Non so chi è.I don’t know who it is.
Quanto costa? – Non lo so.How much does it cost? – I don’t know.
Non so quanto costa.I don’t know how much it costs.
Grammar Extra!The question word what can be either a pronoun or an adjective. In the sentence What do you want? it’s a pronoun and you can use che, cosa, or che cosa to translate it.When what is an adjective, and is used with a noun, for example What day is it today? you translate it by che, and NOT by cosa, or che cosa.
Che giorno è?What day is it?
  • Note that when what? means pardon? it is translated by come?

3  Where does the question word come in the sentence?

  • In English, question words like who, what, where and when nearly always come
    at the beginning of the sentence.
  • Who are you?
  • Who does it belong to?
  • Where do you come from?
  • What do you think?
  • Italian question words often come first in the sentence, but this is by no means always the case. Here are some exceptions:
  • If you want to emphasize the person or thing you are asking about, you can put a noun or pronoun first.
Tu chi sei?Who are you?
Lei cosa dice?What do you think?
La mia borsa dov’è?Where’s my bag?
  • If there is a preposition such as with, for, from or to at the end of the English question, you MUST put the Italian preposition at the start of the question.
Di dove sei?Where do you come from?
Con chi parlavi?Who were you talking to?
A che cosa serve?What’s it for?
  • Note that when you ask someone what time they do something, the question starts with a che ora.
A che ora ti alzi?What time do you get up?
  • When you are asking about the colour, make, or type of something you must start the question with di.
Di che colore è?What colour is it?
Di che marca è?What make is it?
  • When you are asking who owns something start the question in Italian
    with di.
Di chi è questa borsa?Whose bag is this?
Di chi sono quelle scarpe rosse?Who do those red shoes belong to?
Key points
  • Most question words don’t change their form.
  • Question words do not always come first in Italian questions.
  • If there is a preposition in the Italian question you MUST put it first.

4  Questions which end with question phrases

  • In English you add a question phrase (like aren’t you?, isn’t it?, didn’t I and so on) to the end of a sentence to check that an idea you have is true. You expect the person you’re speaking to will agree by saying yes (or no, if your idea is negative).
  • This is the house, isn’t it?
  • You won’t tell anyone, will you?
  • In Italian, when you expect someone to say yes to your idea, you put either no, or vero at the end of the sentence and make your voice go up as you say the word.
Mi scriverai, no?You’ll write to me, won’t you?
Vieni anche tu, no?You’re coming too, aren’t you?
Hai finito, no?You’ve finished, haven’t you?
Questa è la tua macchina, vero?This is your car, isn’t it?
Ti piace la cioccolata, vero?You like chocolate, don’t you?
  • When you expect someone to agree with you by saying no, use vero only.
Non sono partiti, vero?They haven’t gone, have they?
Non fa molto male, vero?It doesn’t hurt much, does it?
Grammar Extra!Questions such as Where are you going? and Why did he do that? are direct questions.Sometimes this type of question is phrased in a more roundabout way, for example:
  • Tell me where you are going.
  • Would you mind telling me where you are going?
  • Can you tell me why he did that?
  • I’d like to know why he did that.
  • I wonder why he did that.
This type of question is called an indirect question. It is very simple to ask indirect questions in Italian: you simply add a phrase to the beginning of the direct question, for example, you could add Può dirmi (meaning Can you tell me) to the question Dove va? (meaning where are you going?).
Può dirmi dove va?Can you tell me where you’re going?
The following are other phrases that introduce an indirect question:
Dimmi…Tell me…
Vorrei sapere…I’d like to know…
Mi domando…I wonder…
Non capisco…I don’t understand…
Dimmi perché l’hai fatto.Tell me why you did it.
Vorrei sapere quanto costa.I’d like to know how much it costs.
Mi domando cosa pensano.I wonder what they think.
Non capisco che vuol dire.I don’t understand what it means.

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