Learning new vocabulary doesn’t get you far unless you know proper Italian pronunciation.
Italian is known for being one of the most beautiful languages, and learning how to correctly speak it is all about mastering the right sounds.
In this article, you’ll learn the five basic rules of Italian pronunciation for beginners.
5 Rules for Italian Pronunciation
Let’s take a look at five Italian pronunciation rules to help you better understand this language.
After the video, keep scrolling for more detail on these helpful tips and tricks!
Similar to the English language, Italian uses the vowels, a, e, i, o, u. However, there is a slight difference in the way vowels are pronounced in Italian.
Here is how to pronounce Italian vowels. Remember that most words in Italian end in a vowel!
- A- Ah (as in, Amore)
- Practice it: “Ah-moh-reh”
- E- Eh (as in, Bene)
- Practice it: “Beh-neh”
- I- eee (as in, Vino)
- Practice it: “Vee-noh”
- O- Oh (as in, Modo)
- Practice it: “Moh-doh”
- U- ooh (as in, Lungo)
- Practice it: “Loohn-goh”
Some Italian consonants – such as b, f, m, n, and v – are pronounced the same as they are in English.
The majority, however, are pronounced much differently. Below are some tips for how to pronounce Italian consonants.
If you need to hear them sounded out, watch the video above for more explanation.
- D- Put your tongue to your teeth, to make the sound more explosive (for example, dove)
- L- Sharper and more forward (for example, lingua)
- H- Usually silent (for example, hanno)
- P- A little less forced than in English (for example, pane)
- Q- Always accompanied with a U after (for example, quanto)
- R- Make sure you roll the R’s by flipping your tongue against your upper teeth (for example, arriverderci)
- T- Very pronounced (for example, antipasto)
- Z- Often can sound like T, but add more zest to it, especially when two Z’s are together (for example, pizza)
There are some consonants in the Italian language that have two unique pronunciations, such as:
- S and SS- If S is used singular, in the middle of a word, it can often sound like a Z. If a double S (SS) is present, then the S is very much emphasized. (For example, casa, passare)
- Z and ZZ- When used singular, it can be silent, as in Dizionario, but when doubled in Pizza it can sound more like a T.
- G- If G appears before the letters A, O, or U, it has a hard sound like Grande, but if it precedes E or I, like in Gelato, it has a soft and gentle sound.
- C- Before A, O, or U, it sounds like a K, as in Cane, but if before I or E, it has a CH sound, as in Cena.
3. Consonant Digraphs
Another important thing to know about when learning Italian pronunciation is that there are several consonant digraphs in Italian. These are combinations of two letters that make one sound.
Memorizing these combinations will allow you to more easily recognize the pronunciation of words. Below are some examples of how to pronounce Italian consonant digraphs correctly.
- CH- Spoken as K (for example, Che)
- GN- G is silent and N is hard (for example, Gnocchi)
- GLI- G is silent, and L is the focus (for example, Famiglia)
- SC- Before A, O, and U, it sounds like SK (for example, Scarpe). But if it’s before I or E, it has a SH sound as in Pesce.
SEE ALSO: Fun and Interesting Facts About Italy
4. Double Consonants
Many Italian words have double consonants. It’s wise to remember that all consonants can be doubled except for the letter H because it’s always silent.
It’s common for English speakers to stumble over double consonants since there are very few in the English language.
Here’s a helpful hint: double consonants have a stronger and more forced pronunciation together. For example, the CC is pronounced as K in the word Secca.
Italian is a phonetic language, which means it’s written the way it sounds, and visa versa. This makes it fairly easy for English speakers to learn Italian pronunciation, compared to other languages.
Nonetheless, it’s very important that you take the time to learn correct pronunciation. There are tons of fun exercises that you can do to practice.
Try singing popular Italian songs such as “Volare” or “That’s Amore” to really get the feel of the pronunciation. You can also watch some Italian TV or listen to Italian radio.
With these tips you’ll be speaking perfect Italian in no time!
Liz T. teaches Italian lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and has a graduate certificate in arts administration from New York University. Learn more about Liz here!
Photo by Steve Slater
2 thoughts on “5 Basic Rules of Italian Pronunciation”
Is the letter g silent in the name carfagno?
The instructor said gn is pronounced like ny. G is silent, but we have to add the y sound after the n.