Asking questions in Italian using question words

The most common way of asking questions in Italian using ‘question words’. Find out and learn in this post Asking questions in Italian using question words.

Question words are placed at the beginning of the sentence they introduce.

1. Chi? (Who/Whom)

Chi means ‘who/whom’, or sometimes ‘which of’, and is only used to refer to people: is always used as a relative pronoun to refer to people, never to things.

Chi is invariable – that is, the same form is used for masculine and feminine, singular and plural:
When an adjective refers to chi, it must be in the masculine singular form unless it refers to an all-female group:

  • Chi è quell’uomo? Who is that man?
  • Chi è quella ragazza? Who is that girl?
  • Chi sono i tuoi amici? Who are your friends?
  • Chi sono quelle ragazze? Who are those girls?
  • Chi vuole venire al cinema con me? Who wants to come to the cinema with me?
  • Chi viene a cena? Who’s coming for dinner?
  • Con chi esci? Who(m) are you going out with?
  • A chi scrivete? Who(m) are you writing to?
  • Chi ha una penna? Who’s got a pen? [i.e. has anyone got a pen?]
  • Chi non va in gita domani? Who’s not going on the trip tomorrow?
  • Chi non inviti? Who(m) aren’t you inviting?
  • Chi di loro parla italiano? Which of them speaks Italian?
  • Chi è pronto? Who is ready?
  • Chi è soddisfatto? Who is satisfied?
  • Chi non è stanco? Who isn’t tired?
  • Chi di voi (ragazze) è pronta? Which of you (girls) is ready?
  • Chi di voi (Signori) è italiano? Which of you (gentlemen) is Italian?

chi è quella ragazza?  Asking questions in Italian using question words

2. Che cosa? Cosa? Che? (What)

All three mean ‘what’ and are used when referring to objects.

It is the most general term of the Italian interrogative, referring to almost anything that exists in a material or ideal sense.

Che cosa?, Cosa? and Che? are invariable in gender and number:

Che is also used as an adjective meaning ‘what (sort/type of)’:

  • Cos’è quello? What’s that?
  • Che cos’è quella luce? What’s that light?
  • Cosa sono quei segni? What are those marks?
  • Che sono quelle costruzioni? What are those buildings?
  • Che succede? What’s happening?
  • Che cosa volete? What do you want?
  • Cosa studi? What are you studying/do you study?
  • Cosa posso fare per Lei? What can I do for you?
  • A che pensate? What are you thinking about?
  • Che is also used as an adjective meaning ‘what (sort/type of)’:

3. Come?(How

Come means ‘how’:

It means “how/in what way?” and may be used in direct or indirect sentences:
Come ti chiami?( what’s your name?);

Come sta tuo padre? (how’s your father?);

  • Come sta, Signora? How are you, Madam?
  • Come va? How’s it going?
  • Come fate la pizza? How do you make (a) pizza?

Come can sometimes mean ‘what’, as in Come dici? (What did you say?),

Com’è Edimburgo/il nuovo professore? (What’s Edinburgh/the new teacher like?).

Come mai has a similar meaning, corresponding to the English ‘how come’:

📌 When used with MAI or with é (verb essere) means “per quale ragione” (for what reason)

In particular,

  • Come mai non mangi? How come you’re not eating?
  • Come mai siete in ritardo? How come you are late?

Come mai non l’hai saputo? (How come you didn’t know?)

Non capisco come mai tardi tanto. (not sure why it’s so late.)

Com’è che …? (how is it that…?)

Com’è che non ti fai più vivo? (How come you don’t show up anymore?)

4. Dove? (Where)

Dove means ‘where’.
It is used to ask about or identify a location.

  • Dove means ‘where’:
  • Dove abiti? Where do you live?
  • Dove andate? Where are you going?
  • Dove sono le chiavi? Where are the keys?
  • Dov’è il mio libro? Where is my book?

Da dove…? specifies the point of origin.

Da dove vieni? Da Milano. (Where are you from? I’m from Milan.)

dove vai in vacanza? Asking questions in Italian using question words

5. Quando? (When)

Quando means ‘when

It is used as an adverb in interrogative phrases to ask when or where a specific action, event, or situation happened or will happen.

  • Quando partono i tuoi amici? When are your friends leaving?
  • Quando comincia il film? When does the film start?
  • Quando arriva il treno? When does the train arrive?
  • Quando è lo sciopero dei treni? When’s the rail/train strike?

6. Perché? (Why)

Perché means ‘why’:

It is used as an adverb in interrogative phrases to ask why a fact, an action, or a situation happens or does not happen.

  • Perché ridono? Why are they laughing?
  • Perché Giulia non va a scuola? Why isn’t Giulia going to school?
  • Perché non studi? Why don’t you study?

7. Quanto? (How much/long

Quanto means ‘how much’ when referring to quantity, and “how long”, ‘how far’, ‘how tall’, etc. when it refers to time, distance, height, etc.:

  • Quanto pesa? How much/What does it weigh?
  • Quanto costa questa maglietta? How much/What does this T-shirt cost?
  • Quanto dura il film? How long does the film last?
  • Quanto è alta tua sorella? How tall is your sister?
  • Quant’è? How much is it?

Quanto can also be used as an adjective or pronoun.

In such contexts, it agrees with the noun it refers to in gender and number:

quanto [ms], quanta [fs] (how much),

quanti [mp], quante [fp] (how many)

quanto quanta quanti quante masculine/feinine Singular /plural  Asking questions in Italian using question words
  • Quanto pane devo comprare? How much bread do I have to buy?
  • Quanta pasta vuoi? How much pasta do you want?
  • Quanti esercizi dobbiamo fare? How many exercises have we got to do?
  • Quante ragazze ci sono in classe tua? How many girls are there in your class?
  • Quanto tempo abbiamo? How much time is there?/How long have we got?
  • ‘Ci sono molte persone.’ ‘Quante?’ There are a lot of people.’ ‘How many?’
  • ‘Dobbiamo comprare del pane.’‘Quanto?’ ‘We must get (some) bread.’ ‘How much?’
Quanti anni hai?

8. Quale? (Which)

Quale means ‘which’ (or sometimes ‘what’).

It is used either as an adjective or as a pronoun, and therefore agrees with the noun it refers to:

quale, ‘which (one)’, quali, ‘which (ones)’.

The use of “quale” rather than “che” usually implies that there is a choice, for example, if there are some books lying on the table:

Quale libro leggi?Which book are you reading?’:

Qual (without an apostrophe) is used before the forms of “essere” starting with a vowel; used in this way, it sometimes means ‘what’ rather than ‘which’.

  • Quale canzone preferisci? Which song do you prefer?
  • Quali esercizi facciamo? Which exercises are we doing?
  • Quali sono i tuoi libri? Which are your books?
  • Compro due giornali. Quali? ‘I’m buying two papers.’ ‘Which ones?’
  • Qual è la canzone più famosa? Which/What is the best-known song?
  • Qual è il Suo indirizzo/numero di telefono? What’s your address/phone number?

Quale libro stai leggendo?  Asking questions in Italian using question words


join our newsletter

What’s next?

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free resources:

🔗 Italian Vocabulary & Idioms

What's next?
Join Facebook Group

Let’s Connect!

Join and visit our Facebook Group for Italian Learners


Leave a Reply