8 TOP Common Errors in Italian Usage

Here are 8 mistakes that make Italian learners stick out no matter how melodious their pronunciation.


Italian Usage Error #1:

Many no-native Italian speakers have difficulty pronouncing double consonants in Italian.

Here’s a simple rule: if you see a consonant in Italian, say it!

Unlike English, Italian is a phonetic language, so be certain to pronounce (and write!) both consonants in Italian words when they are doubled.

That should help you avoid asking for pain (pena) instead of a pen (penna) at la cartoleria (the stationery store).

Italian Usage Error #2:

The tendency to use the verb potere when the verb riuscire (to succeed, to manage, to be able) is more accurate is a linguistic quirk that immediately identifies a speaker of Italian for whom English is their madrelingua (native tongue).

For example, Non sono riuscito a superare gli esami (I was’t able to pass the exams) is correct, whereas the sentence Non ho potuto superare gli esami proves the point in more ways than one.

Italian Usage Error #3:

For those studying English as a second language it seems that there is no logic, no reason, no rational for the use of prepositions.

Those studying Italian usually share the same sentiments. Just compare the difference in these sentences: Vado a casa. Vado in banca. Vado al cinema.

Reconcile the fact that, just as in English, there are few rules and many exceptions regarding the usage of Italian prepositions.

Though, there’s only one sure way to approach them: commit to memory how to use the preposizioni semplici (simple prepositions) a, con, da, di, in, per, su, and tra/fra.

Italian Usage Error #4:

There are several words and phrases in Italian that have minimal semantic content on their own, but serve important linguistic functions.

They are difficult to translate, but it is important to master such terms such as cioè, insomma, magari, and mica


Italian Usage Error #5:

Italians use body language and hand gestures to punctuate an expression and give it a shading that the word or phrase itself lacks.

So it might be a good idea to learn a few Italian hand gestures and other nonverbal responses, and join in the animated discussion with Italians.


Usage Error #6:

When the weather turns warm and families eat outside on terraces, there is sure to be an article about dining “al fresco.” There are even restaurants throughout the United States named Al Fresco (or worse, Alfresco).

In Italy, though, when you arrive at a trattoria for lunch and have to decide between dining indoors or outside on the terrace, the hostess will probably snicker if you ask to dine “al fresco.”

That’s because the term means “in the cool”—similar to the English slang term that means to be in prison.

Instead, use the term “all’aperto” or “all’aria aperta” or “fuori.”



Italian Usage Error #7:

The Italian pronoun ne is the most overlooked part of speech, probably because it can be omitted in English (but not in Italian).

Get used to it, and you’ll sound more like a native Italian.

Italian Usage Error #8:

Io parlo, tu parli, lei parla...Want to immediately identify yourself as a non-native Italian speaker, even if you can conjugate verbi pronominali (pronominal verbs).

Unlike in English, the use of the subject pronouns (io, tu, lui, noi, voi, loro) with the conjugated verb forms is not necessary (and considered redundant unless used for emphasis), since the verb endings identify the mood, tense, person, number, and, in some cases, gender.

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