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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:
da + il = dal
da + lo = dallo
da + l' = dall'
da + la = dalla
da + i = dai
da + gli = dagli
da + le = dalle
- Mezzadri, Marco. Essential Italian. Guerra Edizioni, 2004