Double consonants are a distinctive element of Italian sounds. This means that in Italian, we have words that are not only spelt with double consonants but also have a lengthier sound (or a pause depending on the case). Understanding the sound (or the pause) clearly is essential since otherwise you risk confusing two similar but distinct words: learn Common Mistakes when Learning Italian: Double Consonants
› Why do some Italian words have double consonants?
Double consonants are a characteristic of the Italian language. They reflect a different sound than a single consonant. The sound of a double consonant is longer than the sound of a single consonant.
It’s important to distinguish between single and double consonants since this small difference can change the meaning of the word and can cause a lot of confusion during the conversation.
Anytime you see a double consonant in a word, in Italian, is important to reflect that these consonants lengthen the sound.
As said before, the double consonant usually changes the meaning of the word, so, to make sure that your Italian is understandable, emphasize doubled consonants well.
› How do you know when a word has double letters?
You should try to learn them with this double sound already.
It might be hard at first but with practice, it will be easier. Recognizing whether a consonant is doubled or not, takes time.
› Where you can find double letters in a word?
These doubled consonants always happen somewhere in the middle of a word: never in the beginning or end.
All consonants (except H) can be doubled to indicate the stronger sound. The letter Q is doubled only in the word “soqquadro” (confusion).
› What are the most common words with double consonants and different meanings?
Single vs double consonant
Here some common words with double consonants and different meaning:
• ano (anus) – anno (year)
• bara (coffin) – barra (blank)
• calo (decrease) – callo (callus)
• camino (chimney) – cammino (walk)
• cane (dog) – canne (reeds)
• caro (dear) – carro (cart)
• casa (house) – cassa (crate)
• copia (copy) – coppia (couple)
• dici (you say) – dicci (tell us)
• faro (lighthouse) – farro (spelt)
• fato (fate) – fatto (event)
• loto (lotus) – lotto (lottery)
• luci (lights) – lucci (pikes)
• mese (month) – messe (masses)
• moto (motorcycle) – motto (motto)
• nono (ninth) – nonno (grandfather)
• note (notes) – notte (night)
• pala (shovel) – palla (ball)
• Papa (Pope) – pappa (children’s food)
• pena (pain) – penna (pen)
• polo (pole) – pollo (chicken)
• rene (kidney) – renne (reindeer)
• rosa (rose) – rossa (red)
• sera (evening)– serra (greenhouse)
• sete (thirst) – sette (seven)
• sono (I am –> to be) – sonno (sleep)
• tufo (rock) – tuffo (dive)
› How could you improve the pronunciation and comprehension?
I suggest a lot of practice emphasizing the double consonants and facilitating the learning of these seemingly easy but complex words.
An excellent exercise is to practice double consonants by:
- singing a song
- reciting nursery rhymes out loud
- typing a dictation to link the sound with the spelling
We have a very nice tongue twister in Italian that uses several words with double consonants. It tells the story of Apelles, the son of Apollo, the sun god.
CLICK ON THE TAB TO OPEN THE TEST
Apelle figlio di Apollo
fece una palla di pelle di pollo;
tutti i pesci vennero a galla
per vedere la palla di pelle di pollo
fatta da Apelle figlio di Apollo.
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