Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Pronunciation

Pronunciation tips for the letter E

In a previous lesson, we looked at the vowel, A. In this lesson, we'll focus on the vowel, E. 


We'll talk a little bit about this vowel from an English speaker's point of view, but the truth is that the best way to start pronouncing this vowel like a native is to listen carefully to the videos and then do each exercise except multiple choice. Each has its way of aiding you. Make it your mission to focus on E. 

Fill-in-the-blank. You hear a word and have to write it. Connecting the sound of E with the written E will set you on your way to getting it. 

The vocabulary review always provides you with the pronunciation of each word on your list. Listen for the E. So many words will contain one! One part of the vocabulary review entails writing the Italian word. 

Then we have Speak. This is an exercise you can do at any stage, and sometimes it's best to do it first. After all, you don't have to write anything. All you have to do is repeat what you hear. Then you will see it and be able to make the connections. And the best part is that you can play back what you've said and see how close it comes to the version you hear. This is good for any level!

Finally, there is Scribe. You listen and then write down what you hear, a dictation exercise, in short. 


As you might have heard, there are two different pronunciations of E's in Italian. One with no diacritical accent and one with an accent: è. The one with the accent is considered open and the plain e is considered closed. This is not always easy for English speakers to discern, so be patient with yourself, but try to listen and repeat. 


One of the shortest words in the Italian language is the word for "and." It's e, all by itself, no accent. Pick just about any video and you'll hear it (sometimes it goes by quickly). 

Sì, e noi facciamo su e giù da Roma a Pomezia con la moto,

Yes, and we go back and forth from Rome to Pomezia on the motorcycle,

Caption 26, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

 Play Caption


When we see or hear two items, they are often connected by either e (and) or o (or). So this is a good way to practice this e. Find two things that go together, like fruits and vegetables. 

Qui, di solito, tutti i giorni si vendono frutta e verdura e anche altre cose.

Here, usually, every day, fruits and vegetables are sold, and other things, too.

Captions 27-28, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 2

 Play Caption


What other things go together? Prosciutto e melone or prosciutto e mozzarella.

Prosciutto e mozzarella! -Prosciutto e mozzarella, giusto, un altro antipasto classico. Come prosciutto e melone poi del resto, però la mozzarella...

Cured ham and mozzarella! -Cured ham and mozzarella, right, another classic appetizer. Like cured ham and melon, for that matter, but mozzarella...

Captions 22-23, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1

 Play Caption


Marito e moglie...

E poi tra moglie e marito è quasi impossibile sapere come vanno le cose.

And besides, between wife and husband, it's almost impossible to know how things go.

Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 10

 Play Caption


 Destra e sinistra

Ci sono le botteghe a destra e a sinistra... C'è una macchina dietro!

There are shops on the right and on the left... There's a car back there!

Caption 39, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 5

 Play Caption



When we see è, that is, e with a grave accent (descending from left to right), then the meaning changes to "is," "it is," "he is," or "she is." In other words, it's the third person singular of the verb essere (to be).


You'll need this verb when asking and answering questions, such as "Who is that?" "What's that?"


"Chi è quella ragazza?"

"Who is that girl?"

Caption 41, Marika risponde Risposta 1 Pronomi e aggettivi interrogativi

 Play Caption



Sì, è vero, è una ricetta segreta,

Yes, it's true. It's a secret recipe,

Caption 6, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

 Play Caption


If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear that pronouncing è is a little different from e, but it's more important to understand the context and meaning than to get the pronunciation exactly right. It will come with time.  


Sometimes we need an acute accent on an e (rising from left to right) to show which part of the word is stressed. The most common example of this is perhaps the word for "why" and "because": perché. Keep in mind that the pronunciation is not the same as è. It's more like e, but above all, it's stressed. To hear multiple examples of how it's pronounced, see the Yabla dictionary and type in the word you want to hear. Anywhere you see the audio icon, you'll hear the word spoken, either by itself, or in context by clicking on it. 

Perché ti lamenti?

Why are you complaining?

Caption 7, Acqua in bocca Mp3 Marino - Ep 2

 Play Caption


Ah, a proposito c'è un pane che proprio non mi piace che è quello Toscano perché è senza sale.

Ah, by the way there's a bread that I really don't like which is the Tuscan kind because it's without salt.

Captions 23-24, Anna e Marika Il pane

 Play Caption



In the previous example, you will also hear different e's. Note the very slight difference between the è in c'è and the e in che. But don't worry if you don't hear the difference. 


More about the double-duty word perché here.


Keep in mind that not all Italians pronounce their vowels exactly the same way. This happens in English too. Once you start hearing the differences, you'll see that it's kind of fun to guess where someone is from. 


See you in the next lesson!


Continue Reading

2 basic verbs: essere (to be) and avere (to have)

In this lesson, we're going to look at two of the most common verbs in the Italian language: essere (to be) and avere (to have). They are both irregular verbs so they merit some special attention.


Here's how we conjugate essere (to be):

Io sono (I am)

Tu sei (you are)

Lei è (you are - polite form)

Lui è (he/it is)

Lei è (she/it is)

Noi siamo (we are)

Voi siete (you are plural)

Loro sono (they are)




And here is how to conjugate avere (to have):

Ho (I have)

Hai (you have)

Ha (he, she, it has)

Abbiamo (we have)

Avete  (you [plural] have)

Hanno (they have)


And here's an example of how they sound, in the first person singular:

Ciao, io sono Anna e ho quasi trent'anni. -Ciao, io sono Marika e ho trentasei anni.

Hi, I'm Anna and I am almost thirty years old. -Hi, I'm Marika and I am thirty-six years old.

Captions 1-2, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

 Play Caption


There are some things to notice right away. If we look at the translation, we see that when we talk about age, the Italian verb is avere (to have) but in English the verb is "to be." That's a quirk. In Italian, you have an age and in English, you are an age. 


The second thing we might notice is that we see an h in the word ho, but we don't hear it. Yup, most of the time, the H is silent in Italian. It has an effect on other letters when following them, but at the beginning of a word, it's silent.


The third thing we notice is that Anna doesn't say io ho quasi trent' anni. Neither does Marika. That's because it's common and correct to leave out the personal pronoun because the conjugation of the verb already indicates who we're talking about. It's not always the case, but it is something to get used to and it happens with all verbs!


As you watch this video, you'll see that sometimes the personal pronoun is present, but it's often absent! Here's an example. Anna is clearly talking about Thomas, so she doesn't have to say lui è italiano. She can say è italiano.

Il mio fidanzato si chiama Thomas, ma è italiano.

My boyfriend's name is Thomas, but he's Italian.

Caption 20, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

 Play Caption


They are still talking about Thomas, so Marika doesn't need the personal pronoun lui.

Ah, è proprio di Roma, alla fine.

Oh, he's really from Rome, in the end.

Caption 23, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

 Play Caption


Here, Marika doesn't say the equivalent of "it." It's implied from the third-person singular conjugation of the verb essere (to be).

E quindi non è proprio la vacanza scelta da me,

And so, it's not a real holiday chosen by me,

Caption 12, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

 Play Caption


Here's an example of the second person singular of essere (to be):

Mamma mia quanto sei bella.

Wow, you're so beautiful.

Caption 45, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 27

 Play Caption


Here's an example of the second-person singular of avere (to have): 

Quanti anni hai? -Ventuno.

How old are you? -Twenty-one.

Caption 8, Amiche sulla spiaggia

 Play Caption


Here's an example of the second-person plural of essere:

Voi siete davvero un gruppo molto bello.

You are, really, a very nice group.

Caption 17, Anna e Marika Il verbo essere - Part 1

 Play Caption


And here's an example of the second-person plural of the verb avere:

...per riciclare al meglio la frutta che avete in casa best recycle the fruit you have at home

Caption 92, Andromeda Marmellata anti spreco - Part 2

 Play Caption


Here's an example of the first-person plural of essere:

Non riesco ancora a crederci, siamo i primi al mondo!

I still can't believe it. We're the first in the world!

Caption 6, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 23

 Play Caption


And here's an example of the first person plural of avere:

Noi abbiamo amici da tutto il mondo.

We have friends from all over the world.

Caption 9, Adriano Matrimonio con Anita - Part 3

 Play Caption


And to finish, here's an example of the third-person plural of essere and avere:

Il flauto, il violino spesso... sono talmente acuti che vanno al di sopra del pentagramma.

The flute, the violin, often... are so high that they go above the staff.

Caption 33, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

 Play Caption


Molti di loro dormono con gli animali accanto al letto per riscaldarsi e non hanno neanche le scarpe per andare a lavorare, ma sorridono.

Many of them sleep with the animals next to the bed to warm up and they don't even have shoes to go to work, but they smile.

Captions 36-38, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

 Play Caption


Both essere and avere are used as helping verbs, so it's pretty important to learn them. Hope this lesson has helped!


Write to us with your questions. We answer!



Continue Reading

When the Letter X Seems to Be Missing in an Italian Word

In a previous lesson we looked at words that look similar in Italian and English, and which have an N in English, but not Italian. Now it's time for the letter X. In many cases, the X in English is "replaced" by an S. Sometimes it's "replaced" by a double S. In fact, X is used very infrequently in Italian.



Esatto (exact)


Cioè, dopo quattro anni, Voi vi ricordate il giorno esatto

That is to say, after four years, you remember the exact day

in cui abbiamo aperto il Lido delle Sirene?

I opened the Mermaids' Beach?

Captions 56-57, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1EP1 L'estate del dito

 Play Caption


Tossico (toxic)


La mattina mi aveva detto che

That morning he had told me that

voleva far mettere questi rifiuti tossici nella mia terra.

he wanted to let them put this toxic waste in my lands.

Captions 16-17, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi

 Play Caption


Esplorare (to explore)


Stiamo continuando a esplorare quest'oasi verde...

We are continuing to explore this green oasis...

Caption 2, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 7

 Play Caption


Esempio (example)


Qui abbiamo un esempio di scrittura di note sul pentagramma.

Here we have an example of notes written on a staff.

Caption 3, A scuola di musica - con Alessio

 Play Caption


Ausiliare (auxiliary)


Nei tempi composti,

In perfect tenses,

il verbo "piacere" è sempre coniugato

the verb "to delight" is always conjugated

con il verbo ausiliare "essere".

with the auxiliary verb "to be."

Captions 18-19, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Piacere

 Play Caption


Testo (text)


Quali sono le parole nuove che vediamo in questo testo?

What are the new words we see in this text?

Caption 25, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Primi incontri

 Play Caption


We can include contesto (context), pretesto (pretext), and perhaps other words that include testo/text.


Ossigeno (oxygen)


Il fiume ha un'acqua ricca di ossigeno.

The river has oxygen-rich water.

Caption 20, Meraviglie - S2EP1 - Part 6

 Play Caption


Tasse (taxes)


io non sono per niente brava a compilare

I'm not at all good at filling out

il modulo per pagare le tasse.

the form for paying my taxes.

Caption 55, Marika spiega - I verbi cavare e togliere

 Play Caption


We hope this gives you the idea, and that it can facilitate remembering certain words. There are undoubtedly others in addition to these, so don't hesitate to write to us and we'll add them to this lesson. For the N lesson, we received some good feedback.


Thanks for reading!


Continue Reading

Pappa as opposed to Papa and Papà

We have seen various Yabla videos that use the noun pappa. But first of all, let's remember that there are two P's in the middle of pappa, and they both get pronounced. And the accent is on the first syllable. So don't even think of using it to address or talk about somebody's father. 


For "dad," or "daddy," we have papà, used more in the north (babbo is used inTuscany and other areas), with the accent on the second syllable, not to be confused with il papa, the pope, where the accent is on the first syllable.


Facevo, diciamo, un po' da figlio di papà, no?

I was, shall we say, sort of Daddy's boy, right?

Caption 44, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 10

 Play Caption


Make sure to use a single P in papà. Listen carefully to Yabla videos. Follow along with the Italian captions to pay attention to how Italians handle the single or double P. Try imitating the sounds.


Hear papa (pope) pronounced.


With pappa, we are usually talking about food that's soft. Little babies don't have teeth yet, so they need purees and the like. 


So, a dish made of dried bread that has been softened in liquid can very well be called a pappa. You can eat it with a spoon. (We also have the word “pap” in English—referring to bland, mushy food for babies and to mindless entertainment.)
Tuscan bread can definitely handle this kind of treatment and still have texture!


La Pappa has come to mean a meal for a baby or child, even if it contains chewable items.


Quando fanno la pappa, quindi quando mangiano, possono mettere dei bavaglini per proteggersi.

When they have their porridge, meaning, when they eat, they can wear bibs to protect themselves.

Captions 26-27, Marika spiega - L'abbigliamento - Part 2

 Play Caption


But pappa is also a way to referring to food, affectionately, and as we know by now, Italians love their food. The term is used by adults, too.


Bono [buono]! Il profumo è buono, eh! Eh, le tradizioni sono tradizioni! Eh! -C'è poco da fare! -Pappa!

Good! It smells good, huh! Yes, traditions are traditions! Yeah! -There's little to do about it! -Food!

Captions 44-46, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 8

 Play Caption


Viva la pappa!

Continue Reading

Pronunciation Tips for Beginners: the letter A

For English speakers, Italian can be difficult to pronounce, especially when reading. Watching, listening, and doing the exercises Yabla provides can all help reinforce correct pronunciation, but let’s zoom in on one of the basic sounds.


We’re not looking for the nuances here, of which there are plenty, but just the very basics.


In Italian, the vowels, in particular, sound so different from what they look like to an English speaker, so let’s start there.


Let’s have a look at pronouncing the letter "A."


To hear the Italian “A” click on the audio icon here, and you can hear the correct pronunciation and repeat it. Maybe you can find a word in English that you pronounce with this sound. The Italian "A" sound has no diphthong in it and never sounds like a long "A," as in April.


Let’s take the word naso (nose). If you pronounce the "A" as you do in "ah!," you will come pretty close! And here is a tip. Go to the Dictionary tab and type in the word naso. Apart from information about the word, you will see an audio icon you can click on to hear the word pronounced. At the bottom of the page, you will be able to click on some bite-sized video clips containing the word in context. 



Quindi ho bisogno di soffiare il naso tantissime volte.

So I have to blow my nose many times.

Caption 13, Marika spiega - Il raffreddore

 Play Caption


What are some other words with this sound?


How about casa (house)? There are 2 A's. 

È Sara che è tornata a casa.

It's Sara who just got home.

Caption 26, Acqua in bocca Mp3 Marino - Ep 2

 Play Caption


Maybe you noticed there are plenty of words with the A sound in the previous example. Try repeating the caption after hearing it. 


How about pasta?


La pasta alla Norma è una pasta semplicissima da cucinare.

Pasta alla Norma is a very simple pasta dish to make.

Caption 5, L'Italia a tavola - Pasta alla Norma - Part 1

 Play Caption


In fact, if we listen look carefully,  there are plenty of words containing the letter "A" in this one sentence. Listen to the video, and you will hear that they are all pronounced the same way. 


Try pronouncing the title. Italia a tavola (Italy at the Table).


In a segment of La Ladra (try pronouncing the title), there’s a very similar word to its English counterpart (the one in parentheses), but the "A" sounds a bit different.



Murderer (assassin)!

Caption 9, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 13

 Play Caption



For more on the alphabet, see Marika's videos about the alphabet and about pronunciation.


Let us know if this was helpful, and we’ll talk about another vowel, soon. 

Continue Reading