How to Learn Italian Grammar and Build a Foundation for Linguistic Architecture
Have you ever marveled at how intricate the architecture of the Colosseum is?
Or been amazed that the dome of the Pantheon hasn’t come down and smacked you in the face mid-gaze?
Or how the Tower to Pisa stays precisely in such an intense lean?
Okay, that last one wasn’t on purpose.
But those architectural feats have been made possible by a strong structural base.
Learning a language is a little bit like building beautiful architecture.
First, you dig a foundation, let’s say with a good online Italian course. Next, you start building upward, using translator apps as your bricks.
Don’t forget to decorate! No architectural masterpiece is complete without those beautiful details, or shall I say at-home Italian immersion and a sprinkling of Italian virtual video libraries.
But what about the mortar that holds your Italian language wonder together?
That’s a great understanding of Italian grammar, of course!
How can you learn Italian grammar? Read on for a step-by-step assembly guide!
How to Learn Italian Grammar and Build a Foundation for Linguistic Architecture
Learning Italian grammar isn’t as easy as just reading about it in some book or listening to it in some course. Like building an amazing monument, learning grammar takes a little bit of elbow grease.
Check out this must-do guide for how to get your Italian as awe-inspiring as St. Peter’s Basilica.
Buy a Good Italian Grammar Guide
Outside of a course, an Italian grammar guide is the best way to learn Italian grammar. Treat a good grammar guide like the base of your mortar. I mean, I’m no architect or anything, but I assume mortar has a few ingredients in it.
Anyway, good grammar guides should focus on all aspects of the grammar, not just verbs or nouns (although, a verb conjugation textbook may be helpful too). This means that it should take you step-by-step through Italian grammar, touching on topics such as noun-adjective agreement, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions and so much more.
Further, you should ensure the grammar guide you choose has both explanations and real Italian examples. While it may be a little intimidating to go for a really thick grammar guide, sometimes less is not more, especially in the case of grammar.
Languages, even Italian, are filled with rules and exceptions to the rules, and you should strive to find as comprehensive a guide as possible.
In the same vein, however, make sure the grammar guide you choose is digestible. While I do still believe that you should find a guide that is extensive, don’t buy a guide that only PhD candidates would read. Not only is that going to bore you, but it will make learning Italian grammar like building a high-rise with a sandbox shovel.
I recommend the following Italian grammar guides:
- “Italian Grammar: Barron’s Grammar Series” by Marcel Danesi is a great reference for all aspects of Italian grammar. It covers practical grammar topics such as verbs, adjectives and nouns but also tips on idioms and pronunciation.
- “Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Italian Grammar” by Marcel Danesi is a little lighter on the grammar explanations, but its exercises are a must for those who want to practice Italian grammar in a practical sense.
Its topics literally cover everything in Italian, and its exercises are practical and even fun.
- “Basic Italian: A Grammar and Workbook” by Stella Peyronnel and Ian Higgins is an oldie but a goodie.
The book introduces grammar topics through the lens of everyday Italian situations. That means you learn grammar through the situations where you would actually use that grammatical aspect, such as in a hotel or at a supermarket.
This book doesn’t lie about being a workbook: the exercises are bountiful!
Strengthen the Foundation Through Grammar Practice
In addition to a good grammar guide, you need to do some good exercises to practice the grammar. It’s like asking a new architecture grad to build the next Florence Cathedral: they need couple practice runs before attempting the next masterpiece.
As I mentioned previously, a good textbook has practice exercises already in them for immediate revision. The three I listed above already have some great exercises to get the ball rolling—or the bricks laid, so the speak.
But don’t just settle for those!
For starters, if your reference guide has no exercises, you’ll definitely need some, and even if it does have them, you’ll still need more!
Practice makes perfect, and lucky for us, there are tons of online resources with exercises for you to master your new Italian grammar lessons.
Check out the following websites for stellar grammar practice:
- ILUSS Italian Online is a great online resource for Italian grammar exercises. The website is divided into three categories: elementary, intermediate and advanced. This means there are exercises for each step in your Italian grammar learning journey.
In addition to exercises, this website also has Italian grammar explanations to give you a quick review when you need it.
- Italiano-Online is a fantastic place to find literally hundreds of Italian grammar worksheets. These worksheets cover topics such as verb tenses, adjectives and prepositions.
They also have what are called esercizi misti (mixed exercises) that give you worksheets with a few grammatical topics all mixed together to get you practicing grammar in practical contexts.
- Online Italian Club is a website that combines lessons with practice resources. Its best exercises cover topics such as verbs, nouns and agreement, but there are hundreds if not thousands of exercises to get you practicing Italian grammar.
Best of all, these resources are categorized into six levels: beginner, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced and proficient. This means that you’ll find exercises for all stages of your Italian journey!
Take Advantage of the Information Age
Speaking of finding resources on the internet, did I mention that finding explanations online is a concise, fast way to master or review grammar?
When you’re looking for a quick grammar reference, sometimes it’s easier to forget the textbook for a moment and do a quick Google search.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all the Google results! Here are a few suggestions for websites that offer some great tutorials to brush up on Italian grammar or get the clarification you need if you’re confused:
- ielanguages Italian is one of my favorite resources for finding quick reviews of grammar topics. They cover languages such as French, German and even Icelandic, but their Italian tutorials are pretty extensive.
Topics include simple verbs and pronouns but also cover advanced topics such as relative pronouns and the conditional tense. These tutorials also have audio recordings so you can hear your grammar topic in its native use.
- About Italian is pretty extensive, and it offers tutorials in the form of articles or blogs. While it can be a little overwhelming at first, there are categories on the left-hand side to help you navigate the bountiful resources.
I suggest starting with Italian Grammar. There you’ll find literally every Italian grammar topic under the sun, and most include helpful exercises to get you practicing.
- FluentU is an excellent place to hear grammar used in authentic situations. The immersive, entertaining content makes grammar and vocabulary much more memorable.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
If you’re a visual learner, you’ll love this!
Watch Video Explanations
Watching video is perhaps one of the best ways to learn grammar aside from a textbook. It’s like being in a class, but with a smaller time commitment and the ability to pause and rewatch.
Who hasn’t wished they could rewind a lecture and go back and watch it again, especially when you’re trying to understand a particularly complicated grammar topic?
YouTube has some of the best concise grammar explanations. In my opinion, sometimes getting an explanation from a real person, especially one who speaks Italian and presumably uses it every day, is the best way to get a particular grammar point to make sense.
And of course, best of all, these videos are fast and free!
Check out grammar explanations on these YouTube channels:
- “Italy Made Easy” is hosted by an Italian named Manu, and these videos cover all sorts of topics in Italian. While Italian grammar is a focus, there are also videos on pronunciation, culture and even a few humorous videos.
Best of all, these videos are categorized by playlists, meaning it is easy for you to find explanations about verbs, common mistakes and even advanced grammar topics.
- “One World Italiano” not only offers videos on Italian grammar, but they have entire Italian video courses for beginner and intermediate learners.
Follow Veronica as she leads you through the grammar of very common Italian situations and even as she breaks down the congiuntivo (the subjunctive).
- “Weilà Tom” mixes Italian and English language videos, but there are a number of videos on Italian grammar topics such as verbs, definite articles and possession.
Further, you can check out videos with grammar tips to use in common Italian situations.
Take Notes and Review Them Often
Last but not least, no beautiful Italian architecture would grace the Italian skyline if there wasn’t at least someone there to take some notes.
The same is true for grammar. While consuming grammatical explanations is a good start, the real work starts with revision.
Make sure to get a separate notebook or a note-taking app for your laptop or smartphone so you can take your own notes on Italian grammar. This will allow you to write grammatical explanations in your own words, which will make revision a lot easier down the road.
Also, don’t forget to review these notes often. Even the best pieces of architecture needed constant attention.
Start building your own Italian-language architecture right now.
I see a new beacon of Italian beauty on the horizon!