Home Language HacksItalian How to Use Questions Words in Italian [+ FREE PDF ] Chi? Dove? Perché? + MORE

How to Use Questions Words in Italian [+ FREE PDF ] Chi? Dove? Perché? + MORE

Learn how to ask questions in Italian in a few simple steps. From intonation to Italian question words, here's everything you need to know

by Michele
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Question words in Italian - How to ask questions in Italian
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Where can I buy the best gelato in town? Where is the closest public toilet? How do I get to St. Mark’s Square? How much does a ticket cost? Which bus takes me to Vatican City? Why are trains always late? Whether you live in Italy, need to brush up on Italian phrases for travel or are learning Italian from home, knowing how to ask questions in Italian is an essential part of communication. 

In this guide, you’ll learn all there is to know about how to ask questions in Italian. From intonation to useful Italian question words and tag questions, we’ll also take a look at the different types of questions you can ask, such as direct questions and indirect questions.

I’ve provided plenty of examples that will help you simulate an actual conversation with an Italian in various situations so you’ll be able to ask your own questions in Italian with confidence.

Pronti? (Ready?) Iniziamo! (Let’s get started!)

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3 Types of questions in Italian

Let’s start off by exploring the different types of questions that can be asked and how to form them in Italian. We’ll start with the easiest and work our way up to the more articulated ones.

1. Simple questions in Italian

How to ask questions in Italian - Forming simple questions in ItalianThe first thing you need to know is that asking questions in Italian is not as complicated as it sounds. So, don’t worry! In most cases forming a question in Italian is really easy because it’s just a matter of putting a question mark at the end (when writing), and using the right intonation (when speaking). This is how you can turn a simple statement into a question. We call these simple questions.

Take a look at the following examples:

  • Maria vive in Germania. (Maria lives in Germany)
  • Maria vive in Germania? (Does Maria live in Germany?)

When we see these two sentences in Italian, we clearly recognize the second one as a question because of the question mark at the end. Whereas when we enunciate them out loud what we’ll hear is a rising pitch in the voice in the second one, which is a clear signal that a question has been asked.

Unlike English, in Italian there is no inversion of subject and predicate (also because most of the time, personal pronouns – io, I, tu, you, lui, he, lei, she etc. in Italian are implicit), but instead the intonation of your voice rises toward the end of the sentence. Sometimes, when the subject is explicit, a question can be formed by reversing subject and verb, but this is by no means mandatory, it’s just a stylistic choice.

Here are some examples:

  • I ragazzi stanno studiando. (The kids are studying.)
  • I ragazzi stanno studiando. / Stanno studiando i ragazzi? (Are the kids studying?)

Also, notice how the word order in Italian is not 100% fixed. The following questions are both grammatically correct. What changes is what part of the question we want to emphasize. Usually, but this is no fixed rule, the stressed element is the one that comes after the verb (shown in bold in the examples below):

  • Andiamo al cinema alle otto? (Are we going to the cinema at 8pm?)
  • Andiamo alle otto al cinema? (Are we going to the cinema at 8pm?)

Simple questions (or simple interrogative clauses) are also called polar questions because they require a specific answer, which is either yes () or no (no):

For example:

  • Ti piace questa canzone? (Do you like this song?)
  • Parli spagnolo? (Do you speak Spanish?)
  • Hai mangiato? (Have you eaten?)
  • Si chiama Paolo? (Is his name Paolo?)
  • Lavori da casa? (Do you work from home?)

2. Alternate questions in Italian

There are also questions which give a choice between two or more answers. We call these alternate questions and in Italian, they are formed with the connectors “o”, “oppure” (or). Again, remember that in Italian we don’t need to change the order of the sentence to ask the question or put an auxiliary at the beginning (like in English where we use: do/does…? ; are/is… ?; etc.).

Take a look at the following examples:

  • Vuoi del tè o del caffè? (Would you like some tea or some coffee?)
  • Preferisci viaggiare in treno o in aereo? (Do you prefer to travel by train or by plane?)
  • Vivi con i tuoi genitori oppure da solo? (Do you live with your parents or by yourself?)
  • Ti piace di più la carne o il pesce? (Do you like meat or fish more?)
  • Quest’estate vai al mare o in montagna? (Are you going to the beach or to the mountains this summer?) 

3. Rhetorical questions in Italian

Another common type of question is when you don’t expect an answer because they’re uttered only to make a point. These are called rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are often used for marketing or literary purposes (to catch the audience’s attention), but also in everyday life, to persuade people or get them to agree with an easy and obvious statement. From a pragmatic point of view, we could describe these questions as direct, sarcastic and sometimes even rude.

See the examples below:

  • Non è una splendida giornata oggi? (Isn’t today a wonderful day?)
  • Ti sembra questa l’ora di arrivare? (Does this look like the time to arrive?)
  • Stai scherzando? (Are you kidding?)
  • Sei scemo o cosa? (Are you dumb or what?)
  • Chi non vorrebbe essere milionario? (Who wouldn’t want to be a millionaire?)

8 Question words in Italian

How to ask questions in Italian - Italian question wordsLet’s now look at the so-called question words. The grammatical term used to describe words used to ask questions is interrogative pronouns. Question words in Italian will help you ask for precise information, that is, when you’re expecting more than just a yes or no answer, but rather a specific answer such as an indication, a time, a price, a reason, etc. Question words in Italian you’ll need to know are as  follows:

  • Chi? (Who? Whom?)
  • Dove? (Where?)
  • Quando? (When?)
  • (Che) cosa? (What?)
  • Come? (How?)
  • Perché? (Why?)
  • Quale/i? (Which? Which ones?)
  • Quanto/a/i/e? (How much?/How many?)

Generally speaking, with questions that begin with a question word and you want to mention the subject, this subject is placed at the end of the sentence (later, however, we’ll see that this is not always the case). Here are some examples (the subject is in bold):

  • Quando arriva Chiara? (When does Chiara arrive?)
  • Chi è lui? (Who is he?)
  • Come si chiama tuo fratello? (What’s your brother’s name?)

 Let’s take a look at each Italian question word one by one and learn how to use them in real-life situations!

Chi? (Who?)

The interrogative word for “who” in Italian is Chi?, pronounced kee. This question word only refers to people and it can be either singular (referring to one person) or plural (referring to two or more people). Let’s see some examples of Chi? in action:

  • Chi vuole venire con me al mercato? (Who wants to come with me at the market?)
  • Chi è il responsabile del negozio? (Who is the store manager?)
  • Chi parla? (Who’s speaking?)
  • Chi è quel ragazzo? (Who is that guy?)
  • Chi è il Presidente della Repubblica italiana? (Who is the President of the Italian Republic?)

 When you are asking who owns something, start the question in Italian with di chi (literally, “of who”). For example:

  • Di chi è questa giacca? (Whose jacket is this?)
  • Di chi sono questi occhiali da sole? (Whose sunglasses are these?)
  • Di chi è la borsa blu? (Who owns the blue bag?)

Dove? (Where?)

The Italian question word Dove? pronounced doh-vay, is used to inquire about places and directions, to find out where something is located.

  • Dove abiti? (Where do you live?)
  • Dove devo andare? (Where do I have to go?)
  • Dove posso trovare i bagni pubblici? (Where can I find public toilets?)
  • Dov’è la gelateria? (Where is the ice-cream shop?)
  • Dov’è la stazione centrale? (Where is the main station?)

As you can see in the examples above, when the third person singular of the verb “essere” è (which translates the English he/she/it is) is used, it combines with the question word Dove and we add an apostrophe to connect the two, to it becomes Dov’è.

Like Chi?, Dove? can also be combined with a preposition to form fixed phrases, for example:

  • Da dove vieni? (Where do you come from?)
  • Di dove sei? (Where are you from? Literally, “Of where are you?”) 

Quando? (When?)

“Dimmi (Tell me) quando, quando, quando…” goes the popular Italian song. If you want to ask about a time or date in Italian you use Quando? (pronounced kwahn-doh), meaning “when”. Make sure you stress the “d” sound, which is voiced, as opposed to the “t” sound, unvoiced, which could change the meaning completely. We’ll learn more about “quanto” later in this guide.

Take a look at the examples below:

  • Quando parte l’aereo? (When does the plane leave?)
  • Quando vai a Capri? (When are you going to Capri?)
  • Quando è il tuo compleanno? (When is your birthday?)
  • Quando va in Italia Luca? (When is Luca going to Italy?)
  • Quando inizia lo spettacolo? (When does the show start?)


Note that when you want to ask what time something happens or what time someone does something, in Italian you can be more specific by using A che ora? (What time?) See the examples below:

  • A che ora ti alzi la mattina? (What time do you get up in the morning?)
  • A che ora arriva il treno per Roma? (What time does the train to Rome arrive?)

The answer to a question that starts with A che ora? we must always use Alle + the time, for example:

  • Alle due. (At two o’clock.)
  • Alle sette e mezza. (At seven thirty.)
  • Alle dieci e un quarto. (At a quarter past ten.)

The only exception is when it’s one o’clock, midday and midnight:

  • All’una e venti. (At one twenty.)
  • A mezzogiorno. (At midday.)
  • A mezzanotte. (At midnight.)

 (Che) cosa? (What?)

The next interrogative question word(s) translates the English word “what?”. Che?, pronounced keh, and Cosa?, pronounced koh-za. These can be used on their own or combined to form the interrogative Che cosa? Both forms Cosa? and Che cosa? Can be used interchangeably. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Cosa vuoi? (What do you want?)
  • Che cosa c’è per colazione? (What is there for breakfast?)
  • Cosa è successo? (What happened?)
  • Che cosa vuoi bere? (What do you want to drink?)
  • Cosa posso fare per Lei? (What can I do for you? – formal

Attenzione! If there is a noun following the Italian question word, then Che? must be used. See the examples below (the noun is highlighted in bold):

  • Che ore sono? (What time is it?) → NOT Cosa ore sono?
  • Che giorno è oggi? (What day is today?) → NOT Cosa giorno è oggi?
  • Che lavoro fai? (What work do you do?) → NOT Cosa lavoro fai?

The use of Che? with a verb is not entirely wrong but it’s more typical of Italian spoken in the southern regions of Italy and is more common in speaking than in writing. For example:

  • Che ti ha detto? (What did he tell you?)
  • Che fai? (What are you doing?)
  • Che facciamo stasera? (What are we doing tonight?)

Do you remember what happens with the interrogative Dove? when it combines with è? The same thing happens here as well: when Cosa? or Che cosa? combine with the third person singular è, or more generally, with a word starting with a vowel (or with the letter h, which is silent in Italian), they can become one word and are linked by an apostrophe. For example:

  • Cos’è questo? (What’s this?)
  • Che cos’hai detto? (What did you say?)
  • Cos’era quel rumore? (What was that noise?)

Come? (How?)

The Italian question word for “how?” is Come?, pronounced koh-meh. Come? is used to ask simple and common questions, such as:

  • Come stai? (How are you?)
  • Come ti chiami? (What’s your name? – Literally, “How do you call yourself?”)

Come? is also used to ask about the state of things or the way something is done. Look at the following examples:.

  • Com’è il tempo oggi? (How is the weather today?)
  • Come si arriva al museo egizio? (How do you get to the Egyptian museum?)
  • Com’è andata la festa ieri? (How did the party go yesterday?)
  • Come sei arrivato qui? (How did you get here?)
  • Come sono andate le vacanze? (How were your holidays?)

Notice how Come? followed by the third person singular of “essere”, è, combines with it to form the question Com’è?

Tip: When “what?” is used with the meaning of “pardon?”, it is translated by “come?” and NOT “cosa?” in Italian. For example:

  • Il treno è in ritardo di dieci minuti. – Come? Non ho capito. – The train is ten minutes late. – Pardon?/What? I didn’t get that. 

Perché? (Why?/Because…)

The word Perché, pronounced pehr-keh, in Italian is a little tricky, as it means both “why” and “because”. So how do you tell which one it is? You have to listen to the intonation! (Remember: questions in Italian have a rising pitch towards the end of the phrase) and of course pay attention to the context.

Here are some examples of Perché? used as a question word:

  • Perché i musei sono chiusi il lunedì? (Why are museums closed on Mondays?)
  • Perché sei in Italia? (Why are you in Italy?)
  • Perché piangi? (Why are you crying?)

Here are some examples of Perché used in an answer:

  • Non vengo al cinema perché sono stanco. (I’m not coming to the cinema because I’m tired.)
  • Siamo rilassati perché siamo in vacanza. (We’re relaxed because we are on holiday.)
  • Ci piace l’Italia perché si mangia bene qui. (We like Italy because one eats well here.)

If you want to inquire about the reason for something, instead of using Perché?, you can also use the phrase Come mai?, which translates to How come?

  • Come mai? is a less direct and demanding way to ask someone why they’re doing or not doing something. It also shows a genuine interest in knowing the answer. For example:
  • Come mai sei triste? Raccontami. (How come you are sad? Tell me.)

 Quale/i? (Which? / Which ones?)

So far we’ve looked at invariable question words, meaning that they don’t change their form and are always the same. The Italian question word is an exception to this rule. The interrogative for “which” in Italian, is Quale (pronounced kwah-leh), meaning “which one”, when referring to a singular noun. However, Quali (pronounced kwah-lee), meaning “which ones”, is used when referring to a plural noun. 

On top of this, when Quale comes before a noun that starts with a vowel, the final “e” drops and we use the form Qual (pronounced kwahl).

Take a look at the following examples:

  • Qual è il tuo colore preferito? (What’s your favourite colour?)
  • Quale autobus va alla stazione? (Which bus goes to the station?)
  • Quali sono i tuoi passatempi? (What are your hobbies?)

We use this interrogative word when asking to choose from a given set of items.

Attenzione! Sometimes we use Qual(e)/i? in Italian even though we would say “what?” in English. That’s because the Italian Cosa? refers to the identity of someone or something. In other words, it describes something/someone, it doesn’t name something/someone. For example:

  • Cos’è? (What is it) – È un libro. (It’s a book.)


  • Qual è il tuo libro preferito? (What’s your favorite book?) – Orgoglio e pregiudizio di Jane Austen. (Jane Austen’s Pride and prejudice.) → Meaning, among all the books, name your favorite.

Quanto/a/i/e? (How much?/How many?)

Finally, Quanto is the Italian question word used to ask “how much” or “how many”. As we saw with Quale/Quali, this interrogative also has more than one form:

  • Quanto?, pronounced kwahn-toh, is used with masculine singular nouns.
  • Quanta?, pronounced kwahn-tah, is used with feminine singular nouns.
  • Quanti?, pronounced kwahn-tee, is used with masculine plural nouns.
  • Quante?, pronounced kwahn-teh, is used with feminine plural nouns.

Let’s take a look at a few examples (underlined is the noun to which the interrogative word refers):

  • Quanta pasta hai mangiato? (How much pasta did you eat?)
  • Quante persone visitano il Colosseo ogni giorno? (How many people visit the Colosseum every day?)
  • Quanti giorni vi fermate a Napoli? (How many days are you staying in Naples?)
  • Quanto tempo ci vuole per arrivare a Venezia? (How much time does it take to get to Venice?)

There is, however, one exception which will make your life easier. When we ask “how much” which is followed by a verb (and not a noun), we use the form Quanto? and don’t have to change it to agree with gender or number. For example:

  • Quanto costa? (How much does it cost?)
  • Quant’è? (How much is it?) → Here, the “o” drops and an apostrophe is added to combine Quanto with è.

Tip: The question “How old are you?” in Italian is Quanti anni hai?, literally, “How many years do you have?”

Another important fixed phrase you can form with Quanto is Da quanto tempo?, which translates to the English question “how long”. For example:

  • Da quanto tempo studi l’italiano? (How long have you been studying Italian?)

 While in English, interrogative words such as who, what, where and when are always found at the beginning of the sentence, in Italian, question words are often put first in the sentence, but not always! 

For example, if you want to emphasize the person you’re talking to/about, you can put the personal pronoun/noun first. See the examples below:

  • Loro cosa ne pensano? (What do they think about it?)
  • Tu come ti chiami? (What’s your name?, literally “How do you call yourself?”)
  • Marta quando arriva? (When does Marta arrive?)

Questions with Prepositions

How to ask questions in Italian - Questions with prepositionsIn Italian, prepositions such as of, with, to, from, etc. always precede interrogative words. Unlike in English, in Italian, a question never ends with a preposition. See the examples below:

  • Di dove sei? (Where are you from?) → NOT Dove sei di?
  • Con chi stai parlando? (Who are you talking to?) → NOT Chi stai parlando con?
  • Per cosa ti serve questo? (What do you need this for?) → NOT Cosa ti serve questo per?

How do you answer questions that use a question word in Italian?

In most cases, you just answer using the same verb used in the question (but this is often implicit) plus the piece of information that’s needed. For example:

  • Dov’è il bagno? (Where is the toilet?) – [È] in fondo a destra ([It’s] at the bottom right).
  • Quanto costa? (How much does it cost?) – [Costa] dieci euro. ([It costs] ten euros).
  • Quali lingue parli? (What languages do you speak?) – [Parlo] inglese e tedesco. ([I speak] English and German.)
  • When you don’t know the answer you can say Non lo so or Non so… followed by the original question.
  • A che ora apre il negozio? (What time does the shop open?)
  • Non lo so. (I don’t know.)
  • Non so a che ora apre il negozio. (I don’t know what time the shop opens.)

Italian tag questions

How to ask questions in Italian - Italian tag questionsAnother common type of question in speaking is tag questions. We use tag questions to verify information that we think is true by adding the so-called question tags at the end of a statement, to turn it into a question. In English, we say things like: Isn’t it?, Are you?, Don’t you?, Did she?, and so on.

To form tag questions in Italian, there’s no set rule like in English. You can simply add the following phrases to the end of a statement as you see fit and raise the intonation as you say them:

  • (O) no? – Or not?
  • Giusto? – Correct/Right?
  • (O) sbaglio? – Am I wrong?
  • Vero / Non è vero? – Right? / Is that not true?

For example:

  • I musei sono aperti oggi, no? (Museums are open today, aren’t they?)
  • Ti piace la pizza, vero? (You like pizza, don’t you?)
  • Tua sorella si chiama Giulia, giusto? (Your sister’s name is Giulia, isn’t it?)

Indirect questions in Italian

How to ask questions in Italian - Indirect questions in ItalianSo far we’ve looked at direct questions, that is, questions that go straight to the point. Sometimes, however, this type of question is phrased in a more roundabout way to form an indirect question. Indirect questions are generally more formal and polite. To form them in Italian, add a phrase to the beginning of a question. For example:

  • Può dirmi… (Can you tell me…, formal)
  • Dimmi… (Tell me…)
  • Vorrei sapere… (I’d like to know…)
  • Mi chiedo… (I wonder…)
  • Non capisco… (I don’t understand…)
  • Ti dispiace dirmi… (Do you mind telling me…)

Here are some examples:

  • Vorrei sapere a che ora apre il negozio. (I’d like to know what time the shop opens.)
  • Mi chiedo perché l’hai fatto. (I wonder why you did that.)
  • Può dirmi quanto costa? (Can you tell me how much it costs?)

Final thoughts

It’s ok to feel a bit overwhelmed by the variety of Italian question words, but with some practice and persistence, you will be asking questions in Italian like a native in no time! Whether you’re looking for recommendations to the best gelateria in town or want to make new friends, use these Italian questions words to deepen your knowledge of the language and your relationships with the locals.

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