A Guide to Italian - The Italian alphabet

What's the Italian alphabet like?

The standard Italian alphabet contains only 21 letters.
You may well have to spell out your name and perhaps your address in Italian. Here is the alphabet and how to pronounce it

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What's significant about the Italian alphabet?

  • Missing letters

    The following letters don’t appear in the Italian alphabet as they’re not used in Italian words, just in foreign loan words:
     J - i lunga
     K - cappa
     W - vu doppia / vi doppia
     X - ics
     Y - i greca / ipsilon

  • More vowel sounds than letters

    The alphabet has five vowels:  a, e, i, o, u

    There are two pronunciations for e and o, which change the meaning of the words:
     e - and
     è - is
     Nono - ninth
     nonno - grandfather

  • Consonants

    The Italian alphabet has only 16 consonants and most of them are pronounced as they are in English. So, what’s different?

    H isn’t pronounced at the beginning of words, so words like
     hanno, they have and  anno, year, are pronounced exactly the same

    R is rolled with a trill in the front of the mouth:  pizzeria

    C before e or i sounds like the English ‘ch’:   cena, dinner
    The Italian ch sounds like ‘k’:  chilo, kilo

    G before e or i has a soft ‘gee’ sound:  giacca, jacket, but
    gh sounds like a hard ‘g’:  ghirlanda, garland

    S can be pronounced ‘s’ as in  , yes, but when it’s between two vowels, it’s pronounced ‘z’ as in  sorpresa, surprise

    A double consonant is pronounced twice as long as a single one:
     sete - thirst
     sette - seven

    Other sounds include gl as in  tagliatelle roughly pronounced as the 'li' in 'million', or gn, as in  ognora, always, roughly pronounced as the 'ni' in 'onion'

  • Accents

    Words with the stress on the last syllable carry a written grave accent:
     città - city
     caffè - coffee
     università - university

    Very few carry an acute accent except é, e.g.
     perché, why/because

    Some words have the same spelling but are stressed on a different syllable:
     ancora - again
     ancora - anchor

  • Email and website conventions

    When giving an email or website address the conventions are:
     @ chiocciola
     . punto , dot
     / barra, forward slash
     - trattino, hyphen

Facts about Italian

Facts about Italian

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Italian key phrases

Italian key phrases

Get started with 20 audio phrases

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