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Asking Questions in Italian part 2

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? 

How do you say "question" in Italian?


Good question!

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.

When I meet a person, first I greet him or her.

Abbiamo imparato: buongiorno, buonasera,

We learned "good morning" — "good evening."

poi faccio la seconda domanda importante: come ti chiami?

Then I ask the second important question: What's your name?

Captions 9-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Tu o Lei?

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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.

But would you go back to your wife? -No.

Perché mi fai questa domanda?

Why are you asking me this question?

Captions 33-34, Sposami - EP 1

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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).

When the question takes some thought

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".

“To pose.” I was posing, it's often used with "question."

"Scusi, posso porre una domanda?"

“Sorry, may I pose a question?”

Al posto di "fare" — "posso fare una domanda?"

Instead of using “to ask” — "may I ask a question?"

— dico: "Posso porre una domanda?"

— I say: “May I pose a question?”

Captions 33-37, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'imperfetto

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Asking yourself a question

We use the reflexive for this in Italian:


Allora, pur con la testa tra le nuvole,

So, even with his head in the clouds,

cominciò a porsi qualche domanda.

he began to ask himself a few questions.

Ma, ma il resto di me c'è ancora?...

But, but is the rest of me still here?...

Captions 13-15, Dixiland - Testa tra le nuvole

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You can also use the verb fare reflexively for the same purpose — farsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question).

Verbs that mean "to ask"

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?

Why don't you leave me in peace?

-Eh, me lo domando anch'io.

-Yeah, I ask myself that, too.

Captions 7-8, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

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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

Since your wall project

taglierebbe fuori la mia zona di cucina,

would cut off my kitchen area,

avresti dovuto chiedere il mio parere.

you should have asked for my opinion.

Captions 22-24, La Ladra - Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro

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 In the following example, we can see the relationship between chiedere and richiesta.


Lorenzo ti ha chiesto di dargli un po' di tempo, no?

Lorenzo asked you to give him a little time, right?

Fossi in te, rispetterei la sua richiesta.

If I were you, I would comply with his request.

Captions 33-34, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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Making sense of the different ways to use richiedere will have to wait for another lesson. It can get kind of complex.

What about the noun la questione?

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

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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 We are happy to help.

Getting to Know Conoscere

In a previous lesson we discussed addressing people formally or informally, using Lei or tu. Deciding which is appropriate has to do with the degree of conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, familiarity). Conoscenza comes from the verb conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with). (For the other kind of knowing — sapere — see the previous lessons, Sapere: Part 1 and Sapere: Part 2.)


Conoscere is worth a closer look, because although it’s used to mean “to know, to be acquainted with,” Italians also use it to mean “to meet, to get acquainted with, to get to know.” In the following example from one of Daniela’s Italian lessons, it’s clear she means “to know, to be acquainted with.” 


Se io per esempio non conosco Alex,

If, for example, I don't know Alex,

Alex è il mio vicino di casa,

Alex is my next door neighbour,

o una persona che ho incontrato per la strada,

or a person I've met on the street,

voglio sapere come si chiama, io do del Lei.

I want to know his name, I give the "Lei."

Captions 18-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Tu o Lei?

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In the same lesson, Daniela is talking about meeting someone for the first time, and she uses the same verb, conoscere. The context tells us what she means.


Dobbiamo sapere, quando conosciamo una persona,

We have to know, when we meet a person,

se darle del Tu o del Lei.

whether to give him the "tu" (informal "you") or the "Lei" (formal "you").

Captions 2-3, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Tu o Lei?

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In a previous lesson, Making It Happen, we talked about combining fare (to do, to make) with other verbs to make things happen, or get things done. Fare gets combined with conoscere to make introductions: fare conoscere (to make someone or something known, or to introduce someone or something).

Francesca is going to her first riding lesson at a nearby stable, and she tells us:


Ehm, questo ragazzo che mi accoglierà, e che vi farò conoscere...

Uh, this fellow who will receive me, and to whom I'll introduce you...

Caption 8, Francesca - Cavalli

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When you talk about when and where you met someone for the first time, use conoscere:


Ho conosciuto Alberto solo oggi. Conosce molto bene i suoi cavalli.

I met Alberto today [for the first time]. He knows his horses very well.


Now that Francesca has heard all about these horses from Alberto, she’s ready for a closer look.


E quindi va bene, ne andiamo a conoscere qualcuno.

And so all right, let's go to meet some of them.

-Andiamo a conoscerne un bel po'. -OK.

-We're going to meet a lot of them. -OK.

Caption 63, Francesca - Cavalli

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In case you’re wondering why ne is attached to the end of conoscere the second time it appears, it’s because it means “of them.” Like ci, as we’ve already seen in Ci Gets Around, ne is a particle that can either be separate, as in the first sentence, or can become part of the verb, as in the second. You’ll find more information on ne here


To sum up, here’s a list of variations of conoscere, including a few new ones:

conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with, to be familiar with)

conoscere (to get acquainted with, to meet for the first time)

fare conoscere (to introduce, to make known)

conosciuto (well known)

conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, awareness, consciousness)

a conoscenza (aware)

delle conoscenze (knowledge, influential people, connections)

fare la conoscenza (to get acquainted)

riconoscere (to recognize)

un conoscente (an acquaintance)

• the reflexive form: conoscersi (to know oneself, to know each other/one another)

riconoscente (appreciative, grateful) 

uno sconosciuto (a stranger)

sconosciuto (unknown, little known)


And putting them all together, just for fun, here’s what we get: 


Se finora non eri a conoscenza del sistema Yabla, probabilmente non conoscevi questo trucco: clicchi su qualsiasi parola sconosciuta, o su una parola che non riconosci, e puoi subito conoscerne il significato nella tua lingua, perché si apre il dizionario. O forse te l’aveva detto un conoscente, e sei stato riconoscente. Tu ti conosci meglio di chiunque altro, e quindi saprai tu se vuoi vedere i sottotitoli o no. Tutti gli utenti Yabla conoscono questo trucco. E a proposito, come hai conosciuto Yabla? C’è qualcuno che te l’ha fatto conoscere, o l’hai conosciuto per caso? A che livello è la tua conoscenza o a che livello sono le tue conoscenze dell’italiano? È vero che noi non ci conosciamo, ma per convenzione, ci diamo del tu.


Before sneaking a peek at the English translation, see how much you understand of the Italian!



If, up until now, you were not aware of the Yabla system, you probably weren’t familiar with this trick: click on any unknown word, or on a word you don’t recognize, and you can immediately find out (get acquainted with) the meaning of it in your language because a dictionary opens up. Or maybe an acquaintance had already told you that and you were grateful. You know yourself better than anyone, so you must know if you want to see the captions or not. All Yabla users know this trick. And by the way, how did you learn about Yabla? Was there someone who introduced you to it, or did you know about it already? What’s your level of knowledge in Italian? It’s true that we don’t know each other, but by convention we use the familiar form of address.


E se non basta (and if that’s not enough), here are two more links for you: sapere and conoscere and How to Use the Italian Verbs Sapere and Conoscere


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