Monday, July 8, 2013

Fare domande- Asking questions in Italian


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There are two types of questions, "yes or no" questions and all others.  

In English, yes or no questions require the use of an auxiliary verb.  If the sentence doesn't already have an auxiliary, then do/does is added.

Mary eats ice cream. ->  Does Mary eat ice cream?

In English, you can also simply change your intonation, but this usually implies a bit of
incredulity to the statement.

Mary eats ice cream. -> Mary eats ice cream? (I thought she was lactose intolerant!)

In Italian, however, there is no auxiliary for questions, and a rising intonation at the end is the only difference between a statement and a question. 

Mary mangia il gelato. ->  Mary mangia il gelato?

You can still be incredulous, but this requires exaggerating the rising tone.

Mary mangia il gelato. ->  Mary mangia il gelato???

For all other questions, it is necessary to use one of the "question words."  In English, they are known as "the five w's" plus how and how much.  In Italian, they are:

WHO?              CHI?                   (as in the word "key")
WHAT?           CHE (COSA)?*  (keh koh-za)
WHEN?           QUANDO?         (kwan-doh)
WHERE?          DOVE?              (doh-vay)
WHY?             PERCHÉ?          (per (as in pear) -kay)
HOW?             COME?              (koh-may)
HOW MUCH?    QUANTO?         (kwan-toh)

*Che is literally what and che cosa is literally what thing. Both forms are pretty much interchangeable, but there are some instances where one sounds better than the other.

The pronunciation guides in parentheses above are very rough approximations based on English words.  To get a feel for the native pronunciation of each word, listen and repeat along with the following:

 {See this post on our new site to view the video.} 

Now that you're familiar with each word, let's listen to them in context.  

Now, without referring to the translations, can you fill in the blanks for each sentence from the video?

____ vuole andare a Firenze?
  Who wants to go to Florence?

____ c'è da fare a Firenze?
 What is there to do in Florence?

____ possiamo andare? 
  When can we go?

_________ costa il biglietto?
How much does the ticket cost?

____ si trova il Palazzo Vecchio?
  Where is the Palazzo Vecchio located?

____ costa così tanto il biglietto aereo?
  Why does the plane ticket cost so much?

____ si dice "let's go" in italiano?
  How do you say "let's go" in Italian?

Familiarizing yourself with key words in context as spoken by native speakers is a great way to learn new vocabulary and make sure you are able to recognize it as it is spoken.  So be sure to check out for downloadable audio versions of various texts (or request your own recording if you need something specific!)

A chi piace studiare l'italiano?
Who likes studying Italian?
(I hope you!)

Happy Studying!

A special thanks to Enzo at who provided the native-speaker audio for both videos!

See also: