Italian Lessons


50 good-to-know Italian adjectives part 1 — positives

It's good to know some basic Italian adjectives so that you can comment on things you see, hear, smell, and taste. We'll be presenting 50 Italian adjectives that people use every day, approximately 10 by 10, so they'll be manageable. Some of these will be easy because they are similar to ones you know in English. Others will be past participles of verbs, just as in English. Yet others will be weird and different and just need to be memorized. And there will be some false friends to watch out for. For more about how adjectives work, see this lesson.



Sometimes An Adjective Is Enough. 

Adjectives are an essential part of speaking a language but the good news is that even if you don't know how to form a sentence or a question, just knowing the appropriate adjective can allow you to communicate something. And that's what language is all about: communication. So if nothing else, just say the appropriate adjective, all by itself, and you will get your message across. 


Adjectives that express something positive:


1) bello (beautiful, great)

beautiful blue sea
We can use this adjective for much more than describing a panorama or person as “beautiful.”


We also use it for a movie or book we liked, a situation like a vacation, an encounter…


Ho visto un bel film (I saw a great movie).


So it can also mean “wonderful.” And, since it’s an adjective that changes its ending according to gender and number, it can be used for both guys and gals or masculine and feminine nouns by just changing the ending from bello to bella. So it also means “handsome!”


You'll have noticed that instead of saying Ho visto un bello film, we chop off the ending when it's followed directly by the noun. We say:

Ho visto un bel film, ho letto un bel libro (I saw a great movie, I read a good book). 


When you see something beautiful, you can simply say Bello! or Che bello!

Bello, l'ha fatto Lei?

b. Did you do it?

Caption 16, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 18

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2) buono (good)

Buono is used a lot for food, for instance, when something tastes good, but it’s also used to mean “valid.” It can also describe a good person.

È una buona persona (He/she is a good person). 


Note that persona is a feminine noun, so even if we are talking about a boy or man, the adjective describing persona has to take a feminine ending. Tricky, right?


See Daniela's video lesson about bello, buono, and bene.

Questo è il gelato artigianale. Più gli ingredienti sono freschi e più è buono.

This is handmade ice cream. The fresher the ingredients are, the better it is.

Captions 15-16, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

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Note: Buono is one of those adjectives that has an irregular comparative. See this lesson and this one, too.


3) carino (nice, pretty, good-looking)

This is another adjective with an “o” ending, changing its ending according to gender and number. In aesthetic terms, it is less extreme than bello. However, carino is often used to mean “nice” or “kind” in describing a person, or what the person has done, for example, if you do someone a favor they didn’t ask you to do.

Eh sì. -Eh sì. Comunque Luca è stato molto carino, eh, ad accompagnare suo figlio Fabio all'istituto.

Oh yes. -Oh yes. However Luca was very sweet, no, to accompany his son Fabio to the institute.

Oh yes. -Oh yes. However, it was really nice of Luca, no, to accompany his son Fabio to the institute.

Captions 26-27, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 14

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4) gentile (kind, gentle)

Gentile is a bit more formal than carino. Carino is often used to describe people close to you, but if the bank manager was nice and polite to you, you would use the word gentile. You might also use cortese (courteous) —a great cognate!

E come no, mai una cattiva parola, sempre gentile.

For sure, never a mean word, always kind.

Caption 31, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP2 Rabbia - Part 3

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5) bravo (capable, well-behaved, good at something)

Caro Olivetti, sarai anche bravo a far le macchine da scrivere, ma i tuoi interessi non sono i nostri.

Dear Olivetti, you might be good at making typewriters, but your interests are not ours.

Captions 43-44, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 20

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False friend alert! Forget about “brave” for the most part. Fai la brava! means “Be a good girl!” 


È un bravo idraulico (he is a very capable plumber. He is a good plumber).


When I want to say, “Good for you!” I say Bravo! (for a guy) or Brava! (for a gal).

Il cane è bravo (he’s a good [well-behaved] dog–he won’t bite you).

6) ottimo (great, excellent)

This looks like “optimal,” and can also mean that sometimes, but primarily, it’s a superlative kind of adjective that means “great.” Consider this exchange:

Ci vediamo alle cinque. -Ottimo.
I’ll meet you at five o’clock. -Great.


È un ottimo posto per fare jogging.

It's a great place to go jogging.

Caption 25, Anna e Marika Villa Torlonia - Casino Nobile

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This is the perfect comment for someone whose work you appreciated:

Ottimo lavoro!
[You did a] great job! 

7) eccellente (excellent)

Here’s a great true friend or cognate. This adjective ends in e, so it doesn’t change with gender, just number.

Questo risotto era da vero eccellente (this risotto was excellent.)

Queste ostriche sono eccellenti (these oysters are great.)


Eccellente can also describe a prominent or eminent person, such as someone in a high position.

8) corretto (correct, fair, right, decent)

Here is a partially false friend. If you get the right answer, la risposta è corretta. That’s easy.  However, the other meaning of “fair,” — “fair-minded,” “sportsmanlike”— is less familiar to non-native speakers, but very important! For instance, corretto can describe a person as well as his or her behavior.

Pensavo che fosse una persona corretta, e invece… (I thought he was a decent, fair-minded person, but instead…)


Ma ti pare corretto, l'esaminatore che si fa venire a prendere dall'esaminando? -No. -Ma dai!

But does it seem right to you for the exam giver to have the exam taker pick him up? -No. -Come on!

Captions 8-9, La Ladra EP. 11 - Un esame importante - Part 4

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9) favoloso (fabulous, magnificent, awesome)

Here is another true friend. We don’t use “fabulous” in English so much anymore — but some of us still remember the “fab four” (The Beatles). In contrast, Italians do use favoloso when they really mean it. Eyebrows go up, eyes get wider.

Allora, io oggi sono arrivata in questa favolosa città, Lucca, però non la conosco, quindi dove posso andare?

So, today I arrived in this fabulous city, Lucca, but I don't know it, so where can I go?

Captions 16-17, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 1

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10) magnifico (magnificent, great, terrific, cool)


Another true friend, this adjective is somewhat over-used in Italian, thus diminishing its value as a superlative:


Ci vediamo alle cinque. -Magnifico. (I’ll see you at five. -Great.)


E tu, come sempre, sei stata magnifica. -E tu un magnifico bugiardo.

And you, as always, were magnificent. -And you, a magnificent liar.

Captions 2-3, La Ladra EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 14

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Let's add one more adjective (not included in the 50) that is super easy to use, and easy to remember: fantastico. It's used just like "fantastic" in English, so when you're short on vocabulary, try this one. AND even if you say it in English, people will understand. Of course, it can also be connected with "fantasy," but that's another story. 

Sarebbe fantastico andare al concerto tutti insieme. -Un sogno.

It would be fantastic to go to a concert all together. -A dream.

Caption 48, JAMS S1 EP2 - Part 7

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We hope this has been helpful. The next group of adjectives will be about negative adjectives. Stay tuned!



Dividere and Condividere

What's the difference between dividere and condividere?


The short answer is that dividere means to "divide" and condividere means "to share." Dividere is a true cognate and is pretty obvious.


Davide doveva solo sposare Federica e dopo la sua morte,

Davide had only to marry Federica and after her death,

avremmo dovuto dividere l'eredità a metà.

we would have had to split the inheritance in two.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società

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Condividere adds the prefix/preposition con (with), so that makes a certain amount of sense as well. To divide up something with someone.


Voglio... saluto con tanto affetto

I want to... I say farewell with great affection to

Ines, Laura, Sara, Enzo e Norbert

Ines, Laura, Sara, Enzo, and Norbert

per aver condiviso con me e la famiglia gran parte della mia vita.

for having shared with me and the family the greater part of my life.

Captions 25-27, Ennio Morricone - ''Io sono morto, vado via senza disturbare''

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But with the verb "to share" in English, we also share information with someone. We don't keep it to ourselves. But we are not dividing it up. The same nuance exists in Italian.


Lei avrebbe dovuto condividere con me ogni scoperta,

You should have shared every discovery with me,

e invece non l'ha fatto.

but you didn't do that.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Condividere also means to agree on something, to have the same opinion as someone else. Even in English, we can use the word "share." "I share (or I don't share) your view."


"Non condivido ciò che dici,

"I don't agree with what you say,

ma sarei disposto a dare la vita

but I would willingly give my life

affinché tu possa dirlo".

so that you could say it."

Captions 19-21, In giro per l'Italia - Mazara Del Vallo - Sicilia

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But what is interesting is that if we do a search of the verb dividere in Yabla videos, we discover that it is often synonymous with condividere, or rather, there are plenty of cases where it means "to share." Sometimes, in order to share something, you have to divide it up, so using dividere can often be clear enough. If we look at the dictionary definition of dividere, "to share" is included. So we just have to keep in mind that a short answer isn't always good enough.


This question came up because, in a recent episode of Non è mai troppo tardi, we translated dividere as "to share," not "to divide."


The context: Alberto Manzi has become a TV personality, so people stop him on the street, and he is happy to talk to them and sign autographs. But his wife Ida is not so thrilled and she resents having to share him with so many other people. 


Con quanti dobbiamo dividerti ancora?

With how many more do we have to share you?

Caption 70, Non è mai troppo tardi - EP 2

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We can imagine a large pie to be divided up into slices. How big is Ida's slice of the pie? We can also note that she uses the preposition con. So it's pretty clear what she means. But do people also use con with condividere? Could she have said, Con quanti dobbiamo condividerti ancora? Probably, but it might have sounded a bit redundant and awkward. For sure, sometimes condividere and con are used together.


E quindi siamo partiti per una, circa, una quindicina di giorni

And so we left for fifteen days or so

e abbiamo vissuto in famiglia

and we stayed with families

e abbiamo praticamente condiviso con loro la loro vita quotidiana.

and we basically shared with them their daily life.

Captions 16-18, Professioni e mestieri - Erica - archeologa

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We hope this has cleared up any doubts you might have had about the verbs dividere and condividere. Let us know at


Gentile as a Courtesy Adjective

You may be familiar with the adjective gentile. We use it when we are talking about someone who is nice, kind, and courteous.


Il povero anatroccolo si accovacciò tra le canne

The poor duckling crouched down among the reeds

e tremava per il freddo.

and trembled because of the cold.

Fortunatamente, passò un contadino gentile

Fortunately, a kind farmer passed by

e se lo portò con sé

and he brought him along with him,

a casa nel suo fienile.

to the hay barn of his house.

Captions 58-62, Ti racconto una fiaba - Il brutto anatroccolo

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1) How about telling this part of the story in the present tense?


The cognate for gentile is "gentle," but "gentle" only corresponds sometimes, not often. In fact, "gentle" often corresponds to delicato.


Seguì un bussare delicato alla porta.

It was followed by a gentle knock at the door.

Caption 38, Ti racconto una fiaba - Il Principe Ranocchio

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There's a brand of bleach called Ace Gentile because it is less harsh than normal bleach, but most of the time, gentile is more about kind and courteous.


Carino vs gentile


You might describe the bank director, your neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, your doctor, a policeman who wants to give you a ticket but doesn't, etc... with gentile. The more informal version of this is carino.


Eh sì. -Eh sì. Comunque Luca è stato molto carino, eh,

Oh yes. -Oh yes. However Luca was very kind, no,

ad accompagnare suo figlio Fabio all'istituto.

to accompany his son Fabio to the institute.

Captions 26-27, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Carino can also refer to someone or something's physical appearance:


Però, all'epoca era simpatico e pure carino.

But at the time he was nice, and cute, too.

Caption 9, La Ladra - EP.11 - Un esame importante

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2) Here, a gal is talking about a guy. What if it were a guy talking about a gal?

Courtesy and intimacy

But we also use gentile as a description of courtesy in certain expressions, often written, and that's what we're going to talk about here.


If you get a letter from your phone company about their change in fees, or some special promotion, it may start out with, 

Gentile cliente (dear customer)


In English, we use "dear" almost universally for the beginning of a letter, except for informal emails where we will often just write "Hi" and then the name. The equivalent of "dear" is caro, care, cari, or care, and it may be used in many situations, where it can either be warm or cool, depending on the relationship. 


There's a famous movie from 1993 called Caro diario (Dear Diary) with Nanni Moretti. Check out the trailer here!


In an informal letter, caro can be used, and, as a matter of fact, it can be used without any name at all. In this case, it's often used in its superlative form (superlativo assoluto) carissimocarissima, etc. 


To some, caro implies a certain intimacy or acquaintanceship, so in a less personal kind of letter, caro is often replaced by gentile, which is both polite and generic. It's a good choice when you are in doubt as to what choice to make.


Formal letters

If you are writing a formal letter, you will likely use signor or signora and the last name, or sometimes even the first name of the person you are addressing, or no name at all.


So, a letter could begin with one of the following:


Gentile signora

Gentile signorina

Gentile signora Rossi

Gentile signorina Rossi

Gentile signora Adriana (sometimes we don't feel informal enough to use someone's first name without the signora because of an age difference, for example).

Gentile signor Rossi

Gentili signori (this includes men and women, much like "dear sirs").


We have looked at one way to start a letter, but there are others, so check out Daniela's lessons about writing both informal and formal letters.


Solutions to "Extra credit," as one reader called it...

1) Il povero anatroccolo si accovacia tra le canne e trema per il freddo. Fortunatamente, passa un contadino gentile e se lo porta con sé a casa nel suo fienile.

2) Però, all'epoca era simpatica e pure carina.

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