Overview of Italian Pronunciation
Twenty-one letters are all it takes to produce the language called “la bella lingua” (the beautiful language) so, if you want to learn more about pronunciation, in this post you’ll read an easy guide to Italian pronunciation.
Using the Roman alphabet and with the addition of acute and grave accents, native Italian speakers are able to talk about everything.
For help in spelling and pronouncing words in Italian, the simple rule is:
What you hear is what you get.
Italian is a phonetic language, which means most words are pronounced as they are written.
Native Italian speakers open their mouths wide to get those big, round, vowel sounds.
For example, if you want to pronounce the Italian letter A, just open wide and say “aahh!”
All consonants of the Italian alphabet, with the exception of the letter H, can be doubled. In this case, all consonants are pronounced with a stronger sound.
Consonants B, D, F, L, M, N, P, R, T, V have always the same sounds because they never change their sound if close to other vowels or consonants.
Consonants C, G, S and Z instead can change the sound when they are close to different vowels.
The letter H is never pronounced.
The letter Q is a bit different because it usually doubles with a c (ex. acqua). In Italian, there is only one word with a double Q: soqquadro (plus words that derive from it – soqquadrare and soqquadrato, rarely used).
An easy guide to Italian pronunciation ➭ Consonants and Vowels
Italian pronunciation might have some difficulties for the beginner.
But once the rules are understood it is easy to pronounce each Italian word correctly with this guide.
Most Italian consonants are similar in pronunciation to their English counterparts.
The five basic vowel sounds in Italian correspond to the five letters
A – E – I – O – U
Vowel sounds are short, clear and always clearly pronounced.
Vowel A and I are always pronounced the same way.
The pronunciation of E and O may vary the slightly → closed or open sound
OPEN VS CLOSED E
OPEN → CASTELLO – ANELLO
CLOSED → SETE – PAESE
OPEN VS CLOSED O
OPEN → FUOCO – RISOTTO
CLOSED → NOCE – AMORE
Do you want to know more about vowel sounds?
Consonants are pronounced with the mouth closed or half-closed.
You pronounce most of the consonants the same way in Italian as you pronounce them in English, but others have some differences.
Consonants B – D – F – L – M – N – P – R – T – V always have the same sound.
B: as in Bandiera
D: as in Dito
F: as in Fiore
L: as in Libro
M: as in Mela
N: as in Naso
P: as in Penna
R: as in Rosa
T: as in Tavolo
V: as in Vino
Some consonants are pronounced differently depending on which letter follows.
Pronunciation is the same way as in English for most of the consonants.
Others have some differences:
Has 2 Sounds: a soft sound and a hard sound
before E and I → SOFT SOUND
CENA – CIAO – CIBO
before H – A – O – U (OR ANY CONSONANT) → HARD SOUND
CHIESA – COSA – CASA – CUORE
💡 Do you want to learn more about the letter C sound?
📍 Letter G
Has 2 sounds: a soft sound and a hard sound: soft sound and hard sound.
before E or I → SOFT SOUND
GENTILE – GIORNO – GIARDINO
before H – A – O – U → HARD SOUND
GOMMA – GUERRA – GHIACCIO
💡 Do you want to learn more about the letter G sound?
📍 Letter H
Is never pronounced.
It has only the function to change the sound of C and G before the vowels E and I, as described earlier.
When it follows C or G it gives them a HARD SOUND
Appears also in some foreign words and in some forms of the verb “AVERE” but it’s always silent.
📍 Letter R
is always rolled: it is not pronounced with the tongue in the back but thrilled right behind your front teeth.
CARNE – RARO – PREGO
📍 Letter S
Has two sounds:
Sometimes pronounced as S in English;
In another case like the English Z
📍 Letter Z
Has 2 sounds:
→ as TS
GRAZIE – STAZIONE
→ as TZ
ZERO – ZONA
📍 Letter Q
Exists only in connection with U followed by another vowel. You can only find the two combined letters QU.
QUATTRO – QUESTO – QUADRO
CH → CHIAVE
GH → SPAGHETTI
GLI → AGLIO – CONIGLIO – FIGLIA – FOGLIA
GN → BAGNO – SIGNORA – LEGNO
QU → QUANDO – QUADRO
Combined SC has 2 sounds:
When followed by
E or I
SCIALLE – SCENA – SCIARPA – SCINTILLA
When followed by
H – A – O – U
SCUOLA – SCOLARO – SCHERZO – SCHEDA – SCHIAVO
Guide of peculiarities of Italian Pronunciation: sound is not so familiar to a not native speaker:
OI → NOI
AI → DAI
EI → LEI
AU → AUTO
AE → AEREO
More vowel together even harder to pronounce:
OUI → cuoio
AIUO → aiuola
➭ Consonants and Vowels When to Stress and When Not to Stress: an easy guide to Italian pronunciation
Getting the stress in the right place is an important aspect of making yourself understood in a foreign language, but it is relatively easy in Italian, as most of the words are stressed on the syllable before the last.
Bi – CI –CLET – TA
When the stress falls on the last syllable an accent is placed above the word.