written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch
• edited by: Rebecca Scudder
• updated: 4/5/2012
Learn the different question words in Italian: there are different words for who and how, why and what, how many and where. We show which words to use for what questions, and differences in formation of the questions.
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Asking questions is an important part of spoken language. In Italian, the key is learning the different question words. We will go over each of these, and how to form a question with each word.
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Chi means “who" and can only be used when referring a person. For example:
-Chi è quello ragazzo? (Who is that boy?)
-È Carlo. (That's Carlo)
Chi can also be used to mean “whose" when prefaced with the word di. Literally, di chi means “of who?" The response to a di chi question also needs to have di before the subject to indicate ownership. For example:
-Di chi è questo libro? (Whose book is this?)
- È di Isabella. (It is Isabella's book)
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Che cosa means “what" and can only be used when referring to an object. For example:
-Che cosa mangiamo oggi? (What should we eat today?)
-Vorrei una insalata. (I would like a salad)
However, we can use che or cosa in lieu of che cosa. The sentence we had in the example (che cosa mangiamo oggi?) can also be:
-Che mangiamo oggi?Or
-Cosa mangiamo oggi?
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Quale means both “which" and “what" in Italian; in plural, quale becomes quali. For example:
-Quale libro stai leggendo? (What book are you reading? or Which book are you reading?)
-Quali libri stai leggendo? (What books are you reading? or Which books are you reading?)
An alternative to quale is che. For example:
-Che libro stai leggendo? (What book are you reading?)
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Quanto is used when we want to ask “how much" or “how many." Quanto can be used as either an adjective or a pronoun. An example of quanto being used as an adjective:
-Quanti amici hai in Italia? (How many friends do you have in Italy?)
Notice that quanto becomes quanti: it matches the noun's gender and quantity. Now an example of when quanto is used as a pronoun:
-Quanto costa la tua nuova vespa? (How much is your new Vespa?)
When quanto is used as a pronoun, its form does not change.
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Come means “how" in Italian, and can be used in two manners: how something is done or how someone feels. For example:
-Come va? (How are you?) ← an example of “how someone feels"
-Come sei arrivata? (How did you arrive?) ← an example of “how something is done"
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Perché is used to ask “why" in Italian. For example:
-Perché non si vai a scuola oggi? (Why did you not go to school today?)
Perché can also be used as a response:
-Perché sono malata. (Because I am sick)
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Quando is the question word used to ask time. For example:
-Quando sei tornata? (What time did you get back?)
However, if we need to ask the specific time, we use che instead:
-Che ore sono? (What time is it?)
An alternative is che ora è, which is appropriate when it is a singular hour, such as one o'clock (l'una), midnight (mezzanotte) and noon (mezzogiorno).
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Dove means “where" in Italian. For example:
-Dove sei andata? (Where did you go?)
When we add da in front of dove, it means “where from," and is used to ask a person's origin. For example:
-Da dove vieni? (Where are you from?)
-Dagli Stati Uniti (I'm from the United States).
To respond to a da dove question, it is da + the appropriate definite article, then the country. Here are the combination da prepositions: