Italian Question Words – Get Your Eye Immediately(!) On the 7 Most Common Question Words in Italian

Last Updated on October 17, 2021 by

Italian Question WordsDiscover an easy way to learn some common Italian question words: here’s “Gianna”, a nonsense song by Rino Gaetano, live at Sanremo festival 1978 (question words in Italian are in the second part):

 

Gianna, Gianna, Gianna sosteneva tesi e illusioni,
Gianna, Gianna, Gianna used to support theses and illusion,
Gianna, Gianna, Gianna prometteva pareti e fiumi.
Gianna, Gianna, Gianna used to promised wall and rivers.

Gianna Gianna aveva un coccodrillo e un dottore,
Gianna, Gianna had a crocodile and a doctor,
Gianna non perdeva neanche un minuto per fare l’amore.
Gianna didn’t waste even a minute to make love.

Ma la notte, la festa è finita, evviva la vita, la gente si sveste,
But at night, the party is over, hurrah for life, people get undressed,
comincia un mondo, un mondo diverso ma fatto di sesso, chi vivrà vedrà.
a world begins, a different world, but made of sex, and who’ll live will see.

Gianna, Gianna, Gianna non cercava il suo Pigmalione,
Gianna, Gianna, Gianna wasn’t searching for her Pygmalion,
Gianna difendeva il suo salario dall’inflazione.
Gianna defended her salary from inflation.

Gianna Gianna Gianna non credeva a canzoni o UFO,
Gianna Gianna Gianna didn’t believe in songs or UFOs,
Gianna aveva un fiuto eccezionale per il tartufo.
Gianna, Gianna, Gianna had an exceptional nose for the truffle.

Ma la notte la festa è finita, evviva la vita, la gente si sveste,
But at night, the party is over, hurrah for life, people get undressed,
comincia un mondo, un mondo diverso ma fatto di sesso, chi vivrà vedrà.
a world begins, a different world but made of sex, who’ll live will know.

Ma dove vai? Vieni qua! Ma che fai?
But Where are you going? Come here! What are you doing?
Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Vieni qua! Ma che fai? Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Di chi sei? Ma che vuoi?
Whose are you? But what do you want?
Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Vieni qua! Ma che fai? Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Ma dove vai? Vieni qua! Ma che fai?
But Where are you going? Come here! What are you doing?
Dove sei? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you? Whom are you angry at?

Chi la prende? A chi la dai? Il dottore non c’è mai!
Who takes it? Whom do you give it to? The doctor’s never here!
Di chi sei? Ma che vuoi? Fatti sempre i fatti tuoi!
Whose are you? But what do you want? Always mind your own business!

Di chi sei? Ma che vuoi? Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Whose are you? But what do you want? Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Vieni qua! Ma che fai? Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Di chi sei? Ma che vuoi?
Whose are you? But what do you want?
Dove vai? Con chi ce l’hai?
Where are you going? Whom are you angry at?

Common Italian Question Words in the Song

The second part of this nonsense song contains many common Italian question words:

  • Ma dove vai? But Where are you going?

  • Ma che fai? What are you doing?

  • Di chi sei? Whose are you?

  • Con chi ce l’hai? Whom are you angry at?

  • Ma che vuoi? But what do you want?

  • Dove vai? Where are you going?

  • Chi la prende? Who takes it?

  • A chi la dai? Whom do you give it to? This sentence is not polite and used figuratively here. The meaning is “Whom are you giving yourself away to?” (sexually, for women)

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How to Say “What” in Italian

There are 3 words in Italian to say “what”:

  • Che cosa
  • Cosa
  • Che

These 3 question words are generally interchangeable, therefore  the sentence “What are you doing?” can be expressed in Italian in 3 different ways:

  • Che cosa fai?
  • Cosa fai?
  • Che fai?

“Cosa” and “che”  are more common because they are shorter and easier to say respectively.

Here’s a classic Italian question with the question word “cosa” and the verb “essere” (to be):

“Cos’è questo? (What is this?)

As you can see, in this case, the word “cosa” loses its final A, which is replaced by the apostrophe and is immediately followed by the form“è” (is) of the verb “to be”. This disappearance of the final vowel of a word in front of the initial vowel of the following word is called “elisione” (elision) in Italian.

A similar linguistic phenomenon happens in English with “What is this” that becomes “What’s this”.

Here are 2 other classic Italian questions regarding the time:

Che ore sono? Che ora è? (What time is it?)

In this case, the English question word “what” can be translated only with the Italian question word “che”. You can never use “che cosa” or “cosa”.

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How to Say “Why” and “Because” in Italian

Both these English words can be translated into Italian with “perché”, which is used as an interrogative adverb when it introduces a question:

Perchè non hai parlato? (Why didn’t you speak?)

or as subordinating conjunction when it introduces a subordinate:

Non ho capito perchè non hai parlato. (I don’t understand why you didn’t study)

It can also be used as a noun when it is synonymous with “reason”:

Non so il perchè di questo. (I don’t know the reason for this.)

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How to Say “Where” in Italian

Here’s what’s probably the most common Italian question with “dove”:

Dove vai? – Where are you going?

Very often in Italian, as well as in English, this question word is associated with the verb to be. In this case, we also have a grammatical similarity with English: the final vowel of “dove” is dropped and replaced by the apostrophe (in English, viceversa, is dropped the vowel of the word “is”.

This rule is called in Italian “elisione” (elision). Here are some very common examples:

Dov’è? Where’s it?

Dov’è il bagno? Where’s the toilet?

An often asked question in Italian is “Dove posso trovare…” that means “Where can I find…” For example:

Dove posso trovare un ristorante? Where can I find a restaurant?

Dove posso trovare un teatro? Where can I find a theatre?

A very common question asked in Italian with the word “where” has the following structure: where + second person of the verb stare + gerund od the verb “andare” (go).

Dove stai andando? Where are you going?

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How to Say “When” in Italian

Actually, the word “quando” is the correct translation of the English question word “when”:

Quando parti? When do you leave?

Be careful, however, that when it is not used as a question word the correct English translation is once. Here is a classic example:

Partirò quando avrò finito di lavorare.
I will leave once I am done working.

Once, in this case, can also be translated with “una volta che”:

Partirò una volta che avrò finito di lavorare.
I will leave once I am done working.

How to Say “Who, Whom, Whose” in Italian

The word “who”, when it’s used as a subject, can be correctly translated into Italian with “chi” and it doesn’t epend on the number or gender:

Chi è lui? Who’s he?

Chi è lei? Who’s she?

Chi sono loro? Who are they?

The same word can also be used as an object and correspond to the English word “whom”:

Chi hai visto? Whom did you see? or Who did you see?

Note: “Whom” is not used very often in modern spoken English, although its use is acceptable in writing or formal speech.

“Di chi” is instead the logical translation of the English word “whose”:

Di chi è questa macchina? Whose care is it?

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Italian Colors Adjectives

How to Say “How” in Italian

The common question “How old are you” can’t be literally translated into Italian. In fact, asking an Italian person “Quanto sei vecchio” would be a gaffe, because the real meaning of this Italian phrase is “How old you are.”

So the right translation for “How old are you?” is:

Quanti anni hai?

The right English-Italian translation of “how” is “come”:

Come stai? – Come va? How are you?

Come ti senti? How do you feel?

Come si dice …in Italiano? – how do you say … in Italian?

Com’è andato il viaggio? How was the trip?

Come hai passato le ferie? How did you spend your vacation?

A very common Italian question is “Come ti chiami?” that we have to translate into English with “What is your name?”  (and not literally with “How do you call yourself”, a phrase that makes no sense in English)

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How to Say “How Much, How Many” in Italian

Italian Question Word QuantoThe most common question people ask with the question word “How much…” is probably the following:

Quanto costa?How much does it cost

Another classic way for asking the price is this:

Quanto viene questa camicia? How much is this shirt? 

In this case, the word “viene” means “costs”.

Other typical Italian expressions with “quanto”:

Quanto dista Milano da Roma? How far is Milan from Rome?

The same word is also used to mean “how many”, but you have to use the plural “quanti” (for masculine nouns) and “quante” (for feminine nouns) 

Quanti figli hai? How many children do you have?

Quante sorelle hai? How many sisters do you have?

You also have to change “quanto” in its feminine form “quanta” when it’s referred to a feminine noun:

Quanta benzina faccio? How much gasoline do I get?

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How do I say “Which” in Italian

The most immediate translation of the English word “which” is “quale”.

For example, when asking for a choice, the phrase Which one do you like” can simply be translated into Italian with:

“Quale ti piace?”

Other examples might be:

Quale cibo preferisci?  – Which food do you prefer?

Per quale motivo? For what reason?

You have to use “qual” when the following name begins with a vowel:

Qual è la tua macchina?Which is your car?

In the plural “quale” becomes “quali”:

Quali sono i tuoi amici?Which are your friends?

Italian Question Words – the Video

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