How to ask questions in Italian

Something basic when learning Italian is knowing how to ask questions in Italian. It will help us express ourselves better and get more precise information from our interlocutors. We must master this subject to have fluent and deep conversations.

In this post, we will examine how questions work in Italian. We will also give many examples.

Question mark

In Italian, you will only see the closing interrogation mark. Just as in English. Do not get confused with other romance languages, for example, Spanish, which has an opening and closing question marks.

General interrogation

The general interrogation deals with the whole content of the sentence and is usually answered with: yes, no, maybe, etc. Here are some examples:

Sei venuto ieri? – Did you come yesterday?

Ti fa male la pancia? – Does your tummy hurt?

Stai guardando la tv? – Are you watching TV?

Sei andato a casa di tuo fratello? – Did you go to your brother’s house?

Partial interrogation

This type of interrogation differs from the previous because the question is not about the whole sentence but only about a part. In other words, one of the clusters that make up the sentence is responsible for the question. We usually use these questions to request data that we need.

Usually, sentences have an interrogative particle as a header. The accent falls on this particle.

Here are some examples:

Che hai comprato? – What did you buy?

Perche non sei venuto a lavorare? – Why didn’t you come to work?

Quanto costa questa macchina? – How much does this car cost?

Dove è la mia camicia bianca? – Where is my white shirt?

Interrogative particles

Interrogative particles come into action to introduce a partial interrogation. There are two main types of interrogative particles.

The first type of Interrogative particle

The first type has the same form as the relative pronoun. Among these, we find several that we are going to see below.

Che particle

Equivalent in English: What.

Che cosa stai facendo oggi? – What are you doing today?

Che ne dici? – What are you saying?

The noun cosa (which does not translate into English) can accompany this particle. When the noun cosa follows the particle che, it can replace it by avoiding the spelling of the particle.

Che cosa vuoi mangiare? – What do you want to eat?

So, in the example above, this would be the alternative:

Cosa vuoi mangiare? – What do you want to eat? 

Chi particle

Equivalent in English: Who.

Chi è venuto con te al cinema? – Who went with you to the movies?

Chi ha comprato questo videogioco? – Who bought this video game?

Any preposition can precede the word Chi:

Con chi hai studiato? – With whom have you been studying?

Per chi lo stai facendo? – For whom are you doing this?

Quale particle

Equivalent in English: Which.

Ci sono due concerti stasera. Quale vuoi vedere? – There are two concerts tonight, which one do you want to see?

Quali pantaloni preferisci? – Which pants do you prefer?

As we see in the last example, quale can also function as an adjective when it precedes a noun that precedes a choice. 

The second type of Interrogative particle

The second (and last) type of interrogative particle refers to when we want to find out a circumstance, cause, time, manner, or quantity. In this group, we find the following.

Perche particle

Equivalent in English: Why.

Perché sei arrabbiato?– Why are you angry?

Perché non sei andato a lavorare ieri? – Why didn’t you go to work yesterday?

Perché is always written together and with a graphic accent, whether it is an interrogative adverb when asking a question:

Perché non vuoi mangiare? – Why don’t you want to eat?

Or if it acts as causal conjunction when answering:

Perché mi fa male la testa.– Because my head hurts.

Dove particle

Equivalent in English: Where.

Dove sono le chiavi della macchina?– Where are the car keys?

Dove andremo in vacanza? – Where are we going on vacation?

Quando particle

Equivalent in English: When.

Quando andrai all’università? – When will you go to university?

Quando sei stato in Sud America? – When were you in South America?

Come particle

Equivalent in English: How.

Come hai fatto? – How did you do that?

Come farai a tornare a casa ora? – How are you going to go home now?

Quanto particle

Equivalent in English: How much. It is employed to ask quantities.

Quanto costa questo libro? – How much does this book cost?

Quanto tempo ci vorrà per arrivare? How long will it take you to arrive?

Reinforcement with the adverb mai

All the particles we have seen, except quale and quanto, can be reinforced with the adverb mai. In this way, we can indicate surprise about the question.

Che dici mai? – But what do you say?

Come mai non sei venuto a lezione? – How come you didn’t come to class?

Perché mai hai fatto questo? – Why did you ever do this?

Mai can also appear in general interrogatives, which we saw at the beginning of this post. In that case it means “have you ever.”

Sei mai stato a Milano? – Have you ever been to Milan?

Wrapping Up!

I hope this post has helped you clarify several of your questions. Would you like to dig deeper into Italian? There is a course that is free to join that can help you a lot. Click here to check it out.

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