Italian Basics: Resources For Language Learners

Everything we’ve ever written about Italian, all in one place.
man and woman discussing italian basics on the couch

Eager to learn Italian, but not sure where to start? The first step can be the most daunting one, and that’s why we took some of the guesswork out of the equation for you by compiling all of our Italian learning resources in one convenient spot. Whether you’re looking for helpful learning tips, a guide to the Italian basics, or a little cultural insight, this page will help point you in the right direction.

Below, you’ll find everything we’ve written about the Italian language (and culture) grouped into categories. Learn valuable words and phrases; figure out the meaning of untranslatable idioms; discover specific tips for mastering the trickier features of Italian; introduce new vocabulary into your repertoire; and find the books, movies, and YouTube accounts that will help you develop your skills further. We’ve also got quizzes to test you on your knowledge, with lots of general insight into the Italian language and culture.

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Whether you’re just starting out or you’re seeking to build on what you already know, let this hub serve as an ongoing resource for you as you go along.

Italian Basics: Words And Phrases

What are the basic building blocks of a conversation? Well, you might start by learning to say “hello” — and then adding some basic verbs, adjectives, and phrases to your repertoire.

How To Say Hello
Are you unsure about how to use ciao in Italian? And what, exactly, is the difference between buongiorno and buona giornata?

How To Say Goodbye
Ciao, bella! Knowing how to say “goodbye” in a socially appropriate way is one of the most important Italian basics.

How To Apologize
Here’s a quick guide to understanding the difference between the two main ways to say “sorry” in Italian.

How To Insult Someone
You’re not speaking Italian until your words taste a little spicy on the uptake. Here are some of the riskier words and phrases to add to your vocabulary.

How To Compliment Someone
At the very least, you wouldn’t want to end up at a dinner party and not know how to lavish praise on the host.

How To Ask Someone Out
When the moon hits your eye and you smoothly deploy a pick-up line in Italian, that’s amore.

A Guide To The Italian Alphabet
The Italian alphabet looks a lot like the English one, but don’t let the differences trip you up.

The Best 11 Italian Idioms And How To Use Them
The Italian language is not all musicality and gestures. Here’s a rundown of 11 marvelous Italian expressions that you can use to impress the locals.

Vacation Cheat Sheet: 22 Italian Phrases To Know
Make the most of your upcoming trip by focusing on these Italian conversation topics ahead of your flight abroad.

8 Words You Need To Know To Have A Conversation In Italian
Want to speak Italian with the confidence of a native speaker? Learn how to spice up your conversations with these eight words that every Italian uses in daily conversation.

4 Untranslatable Italian Concepts
Summer bike rides, aperitivi and Sunday lunches at la nonna’s place: here’s a list of “untranslatable” Italian concepts that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world!

Real Slang To Make You Sound Like A Native
Even if you studied Italian in school, we bet you’ll only learn these slang expressions on the streets of Italy…or by reading this article.

The 20 Most Common Italian Verbs
With these 20 common Italian verbs, you can put together hundreds of sentences without much effort.

The 21 Most Common Italian Adjectives
Knowing the difference between poco and tanto can come in handy. That’s why we made a guide to help you with the most common Italian adjectives!

Vintage Italian Words
These “vintage” Italian words have fallen out of fashion, but we think it’s about time they made a comeback. Check out our favorites.

11 Words Invented By Italian-Americans
A fun collection of words invented by Italian-American immigrants during the past century.

8 Italian Words We Should Be Using in English
Words like chiacchierone and mozzafiato are sonorous, playful and really fun to say. And the Italian language is chock full of such words!

8 Italian Expressions You Won’t Learn In School
Even if you studied Italian in school, we bet you’ll only learn these slang expressions on the streets of Italy… or by reading this article.

12 Italian Expressions That Other Languages Wish They Had
Water, priests, demons and nails: a list of the most colorful expressions in the Italian language.


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General Tips For Beginners Learning Italian

If the future you (who is obviously a fluent Italian speaker) could offer you some advice on the Italian basics now, here’s what they’d have to say.

7 Italian Words You’ll Struggle To Pronounce (If You’re Not Italian)
We chose the most difficult Italian words we could find and asked people learning Italian to pronounce them. Follow our Italian pronunciation tips so you can do better than they did.

5 Very Good, Very Specific Tips To Learn Italian
Is it difficult to learn Italian? Maybe you just need some hints to help you succeed. Here are our five specific tips for learning Italian from a linguist and Italian native speaker!

Italian Punctuation Marks
Don’t worry, Italian punctuation isn’t too different from English.

7 Italian Gestures That Could Come In Handy
An expert on nonverbal communication shares his 7 favorite Italian hand gestures. Can you guess what they mean? The answers are not always obvious.

6 Common Embarrassing Mistakes That English Speakers Make In Italian
We all make mistakes when trying to speak Italian, but the most embarrassing ones can be avoided. Keep reading to avoid these common pitfalls for English speakers!

7 ‘Italian’ Words And Phrases Native Speakers Never Use
Be mindful around these phrases, lest you out yourself as a bumbling tourist.

Making Sense Of Italian Prepositions
The ins and outs of whether you should use di, in, or a can get confusing. Here’s a shortcut that can help.

How To Use Italian Modal Verbs
In Italian, modality is expressed by the verbs volere, potere and dovere. Here’s a guide to how these everyday modal verbs work.

Pronouncing The Italian ‘Gli’ Sound
Pronouncing the gli in Italian is especially tricky for non-native speakers, who tend to divide the two consonants such that they’re both audible.

Figuring Out The Perfect Tense
Learn to conjugate one of Italian’s past tenses.

Mastering Italian Auxiliary Verbs
When in doubt, here are four simple rules for when you need to use the verb essere.

Tips And Tricks For Proper Italian Pronunciation
Native Italian speakers actually pronounce words in many different (regional) ways. That being said, we occasionally find ourselves wondering what the right way to say a word is.

What’s The Difference Between An Accent Mark And An Apostrophe In Italian?
And more importantly, the answer to the million-dollar question: why is it written qual è instead of qual’è?

Italian Numbers

It’s not always quite as easy as one, two, three. Sometimes it’s as easy as uno, due, tre.

How To Tell The Time
Need to verbally orient yourself in the present moment, or even make plans for the future? You’ll be an expert in no time.

How To Count To 100
Counting in Italian is an important skill to master when learning the language. Here’s a breakdown of how the numbers work, from zero to cento.

How To Write The Date
A brief guide to writing the date in Italian, starting with the days of the week — from lunedì to domenica.

Italian Vocabulary Lists

It’s time to build up your vocabulary. Where do you start? You can begin by perusing these lists of Italian basics according to the topics that interest you most. Most of these come with helpful audio pronunciation guides voiced by native speakers, too.

Italian Weather Vocabulary
When packing for a trip to Italy, you’ll want to know what the weather’s going to be like. Sounds like a perfect time to brush up on Italian weather vocab!

Italian Color Vocabulary
Roses are rosse, violets are blu, for the rest of the colors in Italian, here’s a handy guide for you. Learn all the colors of l’Arcobaleno (the rainbow)!

Italian Transportation Vocabulary
Whether you’re venturing by l’auto, l’aereo or l’acqua (Venetian gondola ride, anyone?), let this vocabulary guide to transportation in Italian ease the way for smooth sailing.

Italian Food And Drink Vocabulary
Italian food words are perhaps the most important vocabulary you’ll learn when studying the language. Here’s a quick guide to the most common ones.

Italian Emotions Vocabulary
You can’t just rely on hand gestures to express your emotions. Here’s how to use your words and name those feels you’re feeling.

Italian Hobby Vocabulary
Whether you like to play games at home or go see the opera, here’s a guide to talking about free time in Italian.

Italian Animal Vocabulary
Also known as, How To Look At Cute Pictures Of Animals While Technically Studying Italian.

Italian Body Parts Vocabulary
Let your occhi behold this very important vocabulary set.

Italian Musical Terminology
Music may be universal, but musical notation is Italian. If you sing or play a musical instrument (or want to start), you better learn these Italian words.

Italian Family Vocabulary
It’s all in la famiglia. Here are some terms you’ll need to discuss family in Italian.

Italian Tech Vocabulary
Looking for a way to connect to the Italian language when you’re not in Italy? All you have to do is log on.

Italian Home Vocabulary
For all those times when you might need to refer to the living room, or ask your host where they bought their stunning coffee table.

Italian Clothes Vocabulary
Here are all the words you’ll need for that shopping trip in Milan you’ve been dreaming about.

Italian Movies, Books, And Other Media

Movies, books, podcasts and social media accounts can be your greatest allies when you’re learning the Italian basics. Not sure where to start? Here are our recommendations.

Italian Films To Watch
Lucky for you, Italian cinema is one of the best ways to supplement your language learning. Here are eight of the best movies for learning Italian.

Italian TV Shows To Stream
With the help of these Italian TV shows, you don’t have to fly to the Mediterranean to talk like an Italiano autentico.

Italian Podcasts To Listen To
Good news: they’re not all too fast for beginners to understand. These Italian podcasts will make an ideal complement to your studies.

Italian Books To Read
From My Brilliant Friend to lesser-known works, these Italian books will help beginner, intermediate and advanced language learners master Italian.

Books About Rome
All books lead to Rome. Well, these ones do, anyway.

Italian YouTube Channels To Subscribe To
Let these Italian YouTubers inject some entertainment into your language-learning endeavors.

Italian Instagram Accounts To Follow
Whether you love fashion, food or funny memes, we’ve got you covered.

Italian And Its Dialects: The Clever Linguistic Choices In My Brilliant Friend
Italian dialects show just how difficult the task of translation can be.

La Bottega Di Babbel: Babbel’s Italian Podcast
Hand-crafted by Babbel’s own language experts, this show helps you discover the culture and traditions of Italy while strengthening your language skills.

Italian Twitter Accounts To Follow
Did you know the Pope tweets too? Here’s a shortlist of accounts that will feed you bits of language knowledge.

From Milan To Naples: Italian Dialects In Music
To better understand the soul of Italian, you need to get to know its dialects, and Italian dialects in music are an important part of Italy’s heritage.

Italian Dictionaries To Use
Whether you’re looking for an authoritative resource or a guide to Italian slang, we’ve got you covered.

Italian Puzzles, Quizzes And Other Fun Stuff

Alright, time for a fun break. Try one of our quizzes or puzzles to test your knowledge of the Italian basics.

How Much Do You Know About Italian? Quiz
Test your knowledge of Italian language trivia. You don’t have to know how to speak it, but you do need to know its history!

Do You Know The Days Of The Week In Italian? Quiz
Are you always ready for il fine settimana? Take this Italian days quiz to make sure you know Saturday from Monday.

How Well Do You Know The Colors In Italian? Quiz
Whether you’re cooking a meal or touring the Italian countryside, you’ll want to know the right descriptive words. Take our Italian colors quiz to see where you stand!

How Well Do You Know Italian Animal Names? Quiz
So you’ve got your Italian food vocab down pat (for obvious reasons), but do you know how to talk about animals?

Can You Avoid These Common Italian Mistakes? Quiz
This quiz should hopefully help you figure out what you already know and what you still need to learn.

How Much Do You Know About The Italian Language? Crossword
You might have to think outside the box. But, you know, definitely write inside the boxes.

7 Struggles Italian Learners Understand All Too Well
If speaking with hand gestures still feels like the linguistic equivalent of tossing pizza dough unskillfully, you might be able to relate to some of this.

Language And Culture Miscellanea

Don’t just learn the language — learn about the context that gives it meaning. Below, you can learn new things about the Italian language, culture and people. Most importantly, you can learn more about the food.

How Many People Speak Italian, And Where Is It Spoken?
Did you know Italian is spoken in more than 30 countries around the world? Find out which countries those are.

The Top 5 Reasons To Learn Italian
Want to finally learn a foreign language, but can’t decide which one? Beyond the obvious benefits that learning any language brings, here are our top five reasons to learn Italian.

Go On An Italian Adventure In Matera, The City Of Stones
Here’s why this Italian city has recently been named the European Capital of Culture, and why it’s at the heart of a Babbel course.

The Italian Lifestyle: 10 Steps To Italianize Yourself
Wish you could be more Italian? Our resident Italian Giulia has got you covered. Embrace the Italian lifestyle in 10 easy steps!

How To Eat Like An Italian
Eating in Italy is not just a meal, it’s an adventure — an adventure worth doing correctly. Learn all about how to properly eat like an Italian.

How To Host The Perfect Italian Dinner Party
We’ve got the recipes, phrases and cultural insights you need to throw a deliciously awesome Italian dinner party.

The Definitive Guide To Italian Gelato
Gelato may be popular worldwide, but its roots go back to Italy. Here’s everything you need to know about Italian gelato.

Why Are Americans So Obsessed With Italian Culture?
From delicious food to picturesque landscapes to pop culture ubiquity, Italian culture makes Americans say: ‘That’s amore!’

The Origins Of Italian Carnival Masks
The Carnival of Venice is an annual celebration in Italy — and one that’s world famous for its intricate Venetian masks. But did you know that these disguises are more than beautiful pieces of art?

5 Stereotypes About Italians That Are Actually True
Are all those stereotypes about Italians a legend? An Italian living abroad reveals the truth.

All The Ways To Drink Coffee In Italy
Italian coffee culture can be daunting — all the unwritten rules, different names, and traditions can really make an outsider’s head spin. Here are all the ways to enjoy coffee in Italy.

5 Venetian Words That Took The World By Storm
Some of the words you use all the time come from Venice, Italy. Here are five of our favorites.

30 Sicilian Expressions That We Love
The history of Sicily has resulted in a language with diverse influences that have created a fascinating and intricate linguistic fusion.

Roman Expressions And Sayings
Here are more than 50 Roman expressions (plus a bonus!) to help you understand everything in Zerocalcare without using subtitles or Google.

Our Favorite Neapolitan Expressions
Heading to Naples? Here’s a couple dozen phrases it might be useful to know.

How Did Ciao Become So Universal?
For an Italian word, ciao seems to belong to no one and to everyone all at once. It’s been adopted by as many as (or at least) 38 languages. Why?

How Is Swiss Italian Different From The Italian Spoken In Italy?
With around 700,000 speakers, Swiss Italian is one of Switzerland’s official languages, and its third most-spoken after Swiss German and Swiss French.

Why Do Some People Speak A Venetian Dialect In Brazil?
A dialect of Venetian called Talian “emigrated” to Brazil. Enduring attempts at suppression and its struggles to survive, Talian boasts a rich and fascinating history.

What The Names Of Pasta Shapes Really Mean
Many pasta shapes are Italian words for the thing they resemble, which provides a pretty good way to remember which is which.

7 Things Italian Can’t Do (But Other Languages Can)
Despite the Italian language’s prestige, it has a few limitations that may seem bizarre to those who study it.

How Fascism Changed The Italian Language
By removing borrowed words and imposing a so-called “Italianization,” the Fascist regime manipulated the use of the Italian language.

8 Italian Words And Expressions Used In Buenos Aires
How did the Italian language influence Lunfardo, the dialect spoken by Argentinians in Buenos Aires?

Go from basic to advanced Italian with Babbel Live

OK, so you’ve spent some time reading through these handy resources for grasping the basics of Italian. Ready to get started? Start speaking Italian with Babbel Live. With options for newcomers and more advanced learners, you can go beyond the basics and practice your conversation skills with up to six peers in live, online tutoring classes led by an expert teacher.

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