Thanks to AI technology, machines can now learn any language on earth.
By examining texts from various languages, computers can develop algorithms to immediately translate phrases from one language to another.
It would be nice if learning Italian were that easy.
Unfortunately, for us plain humans, picking up a language still takes a little elbow grease. Nonetheless, what many people don’t realize is how quickly you can begin using that language.
By learning as few as around 50 common Italian words, you can begin creating sentences and speaking Italian.
Below are 53 words that include nouns, adjectives, pronouns and the conjugations of essere, the Italian verb “to be.” These common words were chosen to allow you to build simple, yet common sentences and begin communicating in Italian immediately.
They cover all the basic parts of a sentence, allowing you to get across thousands of different ideas. Plus, they come with simple sample sentences to help you practice.
Let’s get started!
The 53 Most Common Words in Italian Every Beginner Should Know
As you go through our list of common words, pay close attention to the example sentences. These sentences were purposefully kept very simple.
In fact, we tried to use (almost) only the words defined within this post in the examples. This way, even beginners can start using them to have basic conversations by the time you finish reviewing this post!
Perhaps the most commonly used words are also the shortest and most unassuming. Articles in Italian are paired with nouns, and match the nouns in gender and number.
For example, because bagno (bathroom) is masculine, it takes the masculine il (the) and un (a). Masculine nouns most often end with the letter “o.”
Feminine nouns, such as camicia (shirt), take the feminine la (the) and una (a). Feminine words most often end with the letter “a.”
Some words end in neither “o” nor “a,” and their gender must be memorized (such as caffè, which is masculine).
Generally, the article for a noun, as well as how the noun ends, changes when it becomes plural. Masculine nouns that start with a consonant other than “s” or “z” take i for “the.” Feminine nouns use le. Masculine plural nouns often end in i, while plural feminine nouns end with e.
Here are all the Italian articles:
2. la — the (feminine, singular)
4. le — the (feminine, plural)
5. un — a (masculine)
6. una — a (feminine)
We’ve skipped the examples for these because there will be plenty as we move on with our list of common Italian words. Let’s go!
Master tip #1: Why are there a few versions for the masculine singular and plural articles? It depends on what letter the next word begins with. It’s a good idea to become familiar with Italian articles and their oddities as soon as possible, because you’ll be seeing them a lot in your studies!
Common Italian Nouns
A noun is a person, place, thing or idea and a good supply of nouns can help you talk about an ever-growing collection of topics.
7. la madre — the mother
Mia madre è alta. — My mother is tall.
8. il padre — the father
Tuo padre è basso. — Your father is short.
9. il marito — the husband
Mio marito è triste. — My husband is sad.
10. la moglie — the wife
Mia moglie è felice. — My wife is happy.
11. il figlio — the son
Nostro figlio è basso. — Our son is short.
12. la figlia — the daughter
Sua figlia è alta. — His daughter is tall.
13. la cucina — the kitchen
La cucina è sporca. — The kitchen is dirty.
14. il bagno — the bathroom
Il bagno è pulito. — The bathroom is clean.
15. la donna — the woman
Quella donna è carina. — That woman is pretty.
16. l’uomo — the man
Quell’uomo è brutto. — That man is ugly.
17. il bambino — the kid
Il bambino è basso. — The kid is short.
18. il caffè — the coffee
Il caffè è caldo. — The coffee is hot.
19. la birra — the beer
La birra è fredda. — The beer is cold.
20. la settimana — the week
Questa settimana è lunga. — This week is long.
21. l’anno — the year
L’anno è breve. — The year is short.
22. la scarpa — the shoe
La sua scarpa è sporca. — Her shoe is dirty.
23. la camicia — the shirt
La sua camicia è bella. — Her shirt is pretty.
24. i calzini — the socks
I suoi calzini sono puliti. — His socks are clean.
Master tip #2: You can always add to this list of nouns or double-check the articles used with them by consulting an online English-Italian dictionary, such as LexiLogos.
Common Italian Pronouns
There are a number of different kinds of pronouns, but a good place to start is by learning the personal pronouns.
Italian Personal Pronouns
These pronouns are used to replace nouns and names, and will enable you to make simple statements about yourself and other people without being repetitive.
25. io — I
Io sono felice. — I am happy.
Tu sei triste. — You are sad.
27. lui — he
Lui è alto. — He is tall.
28. lei — she
Lei è bassa. — She is short.
29. noi — we
Noi abbiamo freddo. — We are cold.
30. voi — you (plural)
Voi avete caldo. — You are hot.
31. loro — they
Loro sono belli. — They are pretty.
Master tip #3: Need some help remembering these? Check out FluentU for more practice.
On FluentU, you can hear all these words (and many more) in use by native Italian speakers, so you can get a good sense of how and when each word is used. Plus, you can save any word to your vocabulary list for later review through fill-in-the-blank quizzes and video-enhanced flashcards.
It’s a natural (and fun!) way to learn new Italian words!
Italian Possessive Pronouns and Adjectives
Possessive pronouns and adjectives let you talk about ownership (my/mine, your/yours, etc.). The basic difference between a possessive pronoun and a possessive adjective is whether there’s a noun following it.
For example, this sentence shows a possessive adjective because the word mio is modifying the word caffè:
Il mio caffè è caldo. — My coffee is hot.
This sentence, on the other hand, shows a possessive pronoun because mio replaces the word caffè, which is now only implied:
Il mio è caldo. — Mine is hot.
As you’ve probably already noticed from the examples above, the definite article (aka “the”) is required to form the possessive: il, la, i or le. The noun that follows or is being replaced determines which article to use, and the form the possessive pronoun or adjective takes.
All possessives must agree in number, as well as gender. For example, if you’re talking about your bathroom, you might say: il mio bagno, but if you’re describing both bathrooms in your house, it would be i miei bagni.
One final plot twist: One of the few exceptions in which an article isn’t needed with possessives is nouns of family members. Hence, it’s Tuo padre è basso (Your father is short) instead of Il tuo padre è basso.
Learning the following words will help you reference ownership and expand the complexity of your sentences quite a bit!
Il mio caffè è caldo. — My coffee is hot. (adjective)
Il mio è caldo. — Mine is hot. (pronoun)
La tua birra è fredda. — Your beer is cold. (adjective)
La tua è fredda. — Yours is cold. (pronoun)
La sua cucina è pulita. — Her kitchen is clean. (adjective)
La sua è pulita. — Hers is clean. (pronoun)
La nostre camicie sono brutte. — Our shirts are ugly. (adjective)
Le nostre sono brutte. — Ours are ugly. (pronoun)
Le vostre figlie sono belle. — Your daughters are pretty.
Le vostre sono belle. — Yours are pretty.
Le loro scarpe sono sporche. — Their shoes are dirty. (adjective)
Le loro sono sporche. — Theirs are dirty. (pronoun)
Master tip #4: Once you master these, you can move on to other types of Italian pronouns. From there, there’s a whole world of pronouns to be discovered, from subject pronouns to direct object pronouns and beyond!
Correctly using pronouns in any language can really help you sound more natural, so it’s worth spending some time on mastering them.
The Most Common Italian Verb
The most important verb you can learn in Italian is essere (to be). As you might have noticed from the example sentences in this post, this little word can take you a long way!
38. io sono — I am
Io sono basso. — I am short.
39. tu sei — you are
Tu sei bella. — You are pretty.
Lui è alto. — He is tall.
41. noi siamo — we are
Noi siamo tristi. — We are sad.
Voi siete felici. — You are happy.
43. loro sono — they are
Loro sono tristi. — They are sad.
Common Italian Adjectives
Adjectives describe whatever you’re talking about and are an easy way to further bump up the complexity of your sentences.
Keep in mind that, like possessive pronouns, adjectives must also agree in number and gender. For example: Il bambino è alto (The child is tall) vs. I Bambini sono alti (The children are tall).
Also remember that, unlike in English, in Italian the adjective often follows the noun it’s describing instead of preceding it. For example: Il bambino alto è felice (The tall child is happy).
44. contento — happy
Il figlio è contento. — The son is happy.
45. triste — sad
La moglie è triste. — The wife is sad.
46. alto — tall
Il bambino è alto. — The child is tall.
47. basso — short
L’uomo è basso. — The man is short.
48. pulito — clean
La cucina è pulita. — The kitchen is clean.
49. sporco — dirty
Il bagno è sporco. — The bathroom is dirty.
50. caldo — hot
Il caffè è caldo. — The coffee is hot.
51. freddo — cold
Il caffè è freddo. — The coffee is cold.
52. brutto — ugly
Il padre è brutto. — The father is ugly.
53. bello — pretty
La mamma è bella. — The mother is pretty.
Master tip #6: Find a language exchange buddy to practice forming sentences with. You can use sites such as Italki to find a partner to practice speaking Italian with. Knowing someone else who’s learning the language (or is a native Italian speaker learning your native language) is a great way to stay motivated, while making new friends at the same time.
While there are no shortcuts to becoming fluent in a language, don’t make the mistake of waiting until you’ve memorized 1,000 words to start communicating in Italian. Instead, fast track your progress and become an Italian speaker in just a few days by learning—and using—these 53 common Italian words.
These basics are the building blocks to a lifetime of conversation in Italian!
Ryan Dennis was a Fulbright Scholar and previously taught at Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch Gmünd. In addition to hating ketchup, British spelling and violence, he is the founder The Milk House, an online community for rural writers.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.