It's true that asking questions in Italian can be as easy as changing your inflection. Part one of this lesson discusses that. Nonetheless, there are times when you need question words (and we'll get to that in a future lesson). But even more basically, how do we talk about asking questions?
While the cognate questione exists, it's not the word we are looking for right now. We'll talk about questione further on. In English, we have the noun "the question" and we ask a question.
In Italian, it's a little different. "The question" is often translated into Italian as la domanda and rather than using a verb that means "to ask," Italians usually "make" a question with fare (to make, to do):
Quando io conosco una persona, prima la saluto. Abbiamo imparato: buongiorno, buonasera, poi faccio la seconda domanda importante: come ti chiami?
When I meet a person, first I greet him or her. We learned "good morning" — "good evening." Then I ask the second important question: What's your name?
Captions 9-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela Tu o Lei?Play Caption
More often than not, we ask someone a question, so we may need an indirect pronoun: "I ask you/him/her/them/myself a question." In Italian, this indirect pronoun often comes before the verb, as in the following example.
Ma, ci torneresti con tua moglie? -No. Perché mi fai questa domanda?
But would you go back to your wife? -No. Why are you asking me this question?
Captions 33-34, Sposami EP 1 - Part 7Play Caption
The previous example was a question, but even in a statement, the indirect pronoun will come before the verb.
Ti faccio una domanda semplice (I'm going to ask you a simple question).
There is another verb we can use in place of fare. It's a little more formal, it has an English cognate, and it often indicates that some thought is needed in the asking and the answering. The verb is porre (to put, to place, to pose).
Daniela talks about this verb in a lesson:
"Porre": io ponevo, si usa spesso con "domanda". "Scusi, posso porre una domanda?" Al posto di "fare" — "posso fare una domanda?" — dico: "Posso porre una domanda?"
“To pose.” I was posing, it's often used with "question." “Sorry, may I pose a question?” Instead of using “to ask” — "may I ask a question?" — I say: “May I pose a question?”
Captions 33-37, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'imperfetto - Part 4Play Caption
We use the reflexive for this in Italian:
Allora, pur con la testa tra le nuvole, cominciò a porsi qualche domanda. Ma, ma il resto di me c'è ancora?...
So, even with his head in the clouds, he began to ask himself a few questions. But, but is the rest of me still here?...
Captions 13-15, Dixieland Testa tra le nuvolePlay Caption
You can also use the verb fare reflexively for the same purpose — farsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question).
La domanda has a verb form as well, and we can use it both reflexively and not: domandare (to ask).
Of course, sometimes we don't need to ask a question. We can just ask someone something. Domandare (to ask).
Perché non mi lasci in pace? -Eh, me lo domando anch'io.
Why don't you leave me in peace? -Yeah, I ask myself that, too.Play Caption
Just as in English we have the noun and verb "to request," Italian has the cognate richiedere (to request, to require) and la richiesta (the request) but it also has chiedere (to ask, to request), which is used a lot, in many different contexts.
Dal momento che il progetto del tuo muro taglierebbe fuori la mia zona di cucina, avresti dovuto chiedere il mio parere.
Since your wall project would cut off my kitchen area, you should have asked for my opinion.
Captions 22-24, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 9Play Caption
In the following example, we can see the relationship between chiedere and richiesta.
Lorenzo ti ha chiesto di dargli un po' di tempo, no? Fossi in te, rispetterei la sua richiesta.
Lorenzo asked you to give him a little time, right? If I were you, I would comply with his request.
Captions 33-34, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7Play Caption
Making sense of the different ways to use richiedere will have to wait for another lesson. It can get kind of complex.
Let's remember that in English, "question" can also mean "matter." For example in this book title: A Question of Integrity by Susan Howatch. In this case, it's not a question we ask. With that in mind, we can easily transfer the idea to Italian. In fact, we have a movie on Yabla: Questione di Karma.
Sono dieci giorni che aspetto, è diventata una questione di vita o di morte.
I've been waiting ten days. It's become a question/matter of life or death.
Caption 5, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 8Play Caption
What we hope you take away from this lesson is that for normal questions you ask, the noun is la domanda (the question) and that we "make" a question: fare una domanda (to ask a question). Using porre works, too, but it's a little more serious: porre una domanda (to pose a question). Both fare and porre can be used reflexively when we ask ourselves a question: porsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question, to wonder), farsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question). We can talk about asking with the verbs domandare (to ask) and chiedere (to ask).
To get a feel for all these words, we suggest doing a search on the videos page to find examples of these words. Don't forget to use singular, plural, masculine and feminine where applicable, and different conjugations of verbs. Searching and reading all the instances will give you an overview of real people using these words. Repeat the sentences to yourself, and if you get confused, drop us a line — chiedere! — in the comments tab or by sending an email to email@example.com. We are happy to help.