Reading Italian Words in English Sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read Italian.
The following paragraphs in English have a few Italian words mixed in. This starts you reading a few Italian words in the easiest way – in a context of familiar English words in English sentences.
1. Some of these Italian words you may not know,
2. But many are similar to English words,
3. And others are ones you may have seen used in English.
In English there are words and phrases that are still obviously Italian, but used enough in English that you may have heard them and may know what they mean.
English has borrowed words from Italian and many other languages over centuries. Most of these borrowings have been in our language so long that we no longer think of them as foreign.
Others of these borrowed words have come into the language recently enough that they still seem foreign to native speakers. Usually these words borrowed recently have retained their Italian pronunciation, spelling, and some accent marks.
Or some of these borrowed words still have elements in their spelling or pronunciation that do not fit into the usual pattern of the native language.
For these Italian words you may already know, your knowledge may have several levels:
1) You may have seen a Italian word in English writing, and know how it is spelled, perhaps with Italian accent marks.
2) You may know the retained Italian pronunciation of a borrowed word.
3) You may know the meaning of a borrowed word.
The following paragraphs in English that have a few Italian words mixed in were written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many Italian words are similar to English words.
In the following paragraphs, the WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS are either some Italian words you may not know, or some that are similar to English words, or others that you may have seen used in English.
1. A STORY IN ENGLISH WITH ITALIAN WORDS
A Slice of Italy in America
Here I am in Italy, after dreaming about it for so many years.
Last night I tried a RISTORANTE here in ROMA.
My waiter Nino spoke English with a heavy Italian accent. He called me SIGNORINA.
The menu was in ITALIANO, of course, but I am used to that from all the authentic Italian restaurants back in America. I felt right at home because the MENÙ had a lot of the same items as our favorite “RISTORANTE ITALIANO” back home in Springfield.
Some items I recognized right away, like IL MINESTRONE (vegetable soup).
They also had CIOPPINO (seafood soup).
There were the Italian cheeses: MOZZARELLA, GORGONZOLA, and PROVOLONE.
The PASTA sauces were MARINARA BOLOGNESE, POMODORO, and PESTO.
The wine list included CHIANTI, SOAVE, and VALPOLICELLA.
Nino asked if I wanted any ANTIPASTO (appetizers), like PROSCIUTTO (ham) or i SALAMI.
I ordered an INSALATA VERDE (green salad).
For my entree I considered the veal PARMIGIANA or CANNELLONI, but finally picked LE LASAGNE.
Nino served dinner and said, “BUON APPETITO!” This is when I realized that I was eating real "ITALIANO" food. It may have been my imagination, but the food with these familiar foreign names seemed to taste better here in Italy. Perhaps I drank too many glasses of IL CHIANTI !
An American guy at the next table started to put on a fake Italian accent – you know the kind where you just pronounce any English word with a vowel added to the end - to sound like a Italian immigrant – "We-a gonna MANGIA"(eat), "it’s-a BELLA PIZZA!" My waiter Nino seemed to take it all in good fun.
For dessert, I couldn't decide between a GELATO or SORBETTO, with a choice of CIOCCOLATO or VANIGLIA. So I had some TORTA (cake). Then an ESPRESSO coffee, and an after-dinner drink: SAMBUCA.
As I left, I tried out the few Italian words I do know from movies and TV – filling the air with “BRAVO!” and “GRAZIE” (thanks) and “CIAO” (goodbye).
That was my first taste of LA DOLCE VITA (the sweet life).
On to IL CINEMA, and after that, back to my hotel without my AMORE.
I’m so excited about being here in Italy. I just wish I knew more Italian words.
CIAO! -- Candace
2. LETTER ABOUT DISCOVERING ITALIAN WORDS SPELLED LIKE ENGLISH
Dear Billy Bob, What surprises me is how many words I am seeing in Italian that are spelled exactly like English words. I wonder why?
Except that in front of these look-alike words, the Italians usually stick a il, lo, la, i, gli, le or un, una, uno. (Or if the word starts with a vowel, they hook an l' onto the start of it.) Maybe the Italians do it so we tourists won't get these Italian look-alike words confused with the identical English words.
I'll give you some examples.
Last night I went for a SOLO night out. I took l'AUTOMOBILE because I like to drive. Pull out l’ANTENNA for la RADIO and blast il VOLUME. Una ORCHESTRA was playing this NOSTALGIA tune. Il TROMBONE player sounded great! Driving through downtown is fun. There are NEON lights, and the people walking around make this place come alive.
I had a very light dinner at Villa Roma Ristorante with SPAGHETTI al PESTO.
For il DESSERT I had un GELATO and un'ESPRESSO. I was thinking of going to il CINEMA but ended up at l’OPERA. They had a great cast, and la DIVA had a QUASI angel voice. During l’INTERMEZZO I had un MARTINI, which I paid for with my VISA card.
After il GALA was over, I was driving around again in l'AUTO looking for answers to my INSOMNIA. I was going a little too fast when I got stopped by a police car. I pulled over right before il TUNNEL. The policeman said that il RADAR gun showed I ws just over the speed limit. I pointed out that in America or Canada you don't get pulled over for that! The cop said that it was RUDE of me to argue with him, but he let me go anyway.
I went back to il HOTEL, turned on the TV and watched un TENNIS match. I love SPORTS!
I switched to another channel and watched un FILM about a lady working at lo ZOO. She caught un VIRUS from la SALIVA of il DOCILE bear, and was praying to la MADONNA for a speedy recovery. This is when I fell asleep. CIAO!
3. LETTER ABOUT ITALIAN SPELLED SOMEWHAT DIFFERENTLY THAN ENGLISH
Mio caro Billy Bob,
This is my fifth day in ROMA, and l’ADORO! (I adore it!). Il CLIMA (climate) is temperate.
I like being un TOURISTA over here. Note the extra -a at the end of tourist -- it's like they call a great artist an ARTISTA, and pronounce it ”ahr-TEE-stah”. It seems like the Italians add extra letters to the ends of some English-looking words, often adding an –a or –e or –o.
So yesterday I went for una VISITA RAPIDA to la CATTEDRALE, my SECONDA one. But NON c’e` PROBLEMA (no problem).
Not only does Italian add letters to some English-looking words--it also leaves off letters at the ends of others in a few cases. For example, TÈ is ‘tea’. Also in Italian O means ‘or’. So Italian adds some letters and leaves off some letters, and it also changes the spelling at the ends of other English-looking words.
Like earlier today I saw some historical sites of grande ANTICHITÀ (great antiquity) that aroused la MIA CURIOSITÀ.
This evening in the bar, I met un PROFESSORE, un DOTTORE (doctor) and un ATTORE (actor).
Later I went to una FARMACIA (pharmacy) to buy una MEDICINA for sores from my SANDALI (sandals).
Then I went to il TEATRO. At night the streets by l'UNIVERSITÀ were full of BICICLETTE and PEDESTRI. Some English words that end with "-tion" are equivalent to ones ending "-zione" in Italian. Like railroad ‘station’ is STAZIONE and ‘conversation’ is CONVERSAZIONE.
There are a few exceptions: one is VACANZE meaning ‘vacation’.
An INVITO to Marco’s was INCLUSO in a letter that I received. When I came in there was l’ENORME BAMBU plant INDIGENA (indigenous) to Asia. The tablecloth was MANUFATTO di LINO (linen).
I ate l’INSALATA di PATATE (potato salad) and an omelette.
A BANDA MUSICALE was playing - very ROMANTICO.
Seemingly everyone smokes SIGARETTE O PIPE in all the RISTORANTI here, and tonight I was driven out of one by the smoke and odor from a SIGARO.
My cab passed lo STADIO where a big crowd was waiting impatiently for a soccer game.
Buona NOTTE (good night), amore MIO (my love).
4. LETTER ABOUT ITALIAN WORDS THAT SUGGEST THEIR MEANING
Dear Billy Bob,
Yesterday I thought I'd see what an Italian library was like. But when I went into la LIBRERIA, it turned out to be a bookstore!
That was close enough for me. I bought a book on amici falsi, which are the Italian False Friends -- words that don't mean what you might think -- which I will tell you about in my next letter.
However, some of them are close enough that it helps me remember what the Italian word means.
For example, your FRONTE is your forehead.
La PRUGNA is the plum (before it becomes a prune).
Here are others close enough in meaning to remember:
I went for a tour out in the countryside. The VENTO (wind) was blowing gently as we hopped in a CARRO (horse-pulled carriage) and rode through a CAMPO (field) to a nearby CASCATA (waterfall).
A little girl with a CARAMELLA (lollipop) was home from boarding school, which they call COLLEGIO.
I took some pictures with my MACCHINA FOTOGRAFICA (camera) from my MACCHINA (car).
Some other helpful Italian friends also make sense.
MEDICO is a medical doctor.
FORTE means strong (like a fort).
La POSTA is the mail from the post office.
DOMANDARE simply means to ask not demand.
Here are some more Italian words that are easy to remember this way.
GIORNALE is a daily newspaper (think of the Wall Street Journal).
Lo SPETTACOLO is a show, a great spectacle.
LAMPO is the great sky show called lightning.
PAPA is the Pope.
L’OPERAZIONE is a surgery operation.
If you go into la GALLERIA, you are in a tunnel.
Your ANIMALE FAVORITO is your pet.
Some of these loosely related words are suggestive in a humorous way.
An English-speaker who wants to buy a few men’s clothes in Italy would need to ask for a COSTUME (swim suit), and a VESTAGLIA (which is a robe not a vest; a VESTE is a dress). And ask for a SLIP (man’s underwear not a woman's slip). Fortunately for him the latter is pronounced “sleep”.
Do you think the Italians might do this just to play with our English-speaking minds?
Wish me buona FORTUNA (good luck).
5. LETTER ABOUT FALSE COGNATES IN ITALIAN
Dear Billy Bob,
After I was here in Italy I began to realize that some of the words that look related to English do not have the same meaning in Italian as English.
In my hotel bathroom the sink faucets read CALDA and FREDDA. So I assumed from all cognates I been seeing that CALDA means ‘cold’, but no, it means ‘hot’ - and FREDDA is ‘cold’.
PAROLE are ‘words’.
GOLF means ‘sweater’.
COME means ‘how’.
CON means ‘with’.
Last night I stayed not in a hotel but in a PENSIONE or ‘boarding hous’e.
There are many others words in Italian that could fool you.
MORBIDO is ‘soft’.
GRILLO is a ‘cricket’.
GRASSO is ‘fat’.
STRETTO is ‘tight’.
GONNA is not Italian slang for ‘going to’; it is a ‘skirt’.
I was reading a magazine article about FARE LA FAME, which I thought would be ‘the price of fame’ that we've heard about. Wrong again - it means "struggling” (literally it means ‘to do anger’).
I've also found more than one Italian word that means what it appears to but also means something else too.
Yesterday I was at the supermarket shopping when I noticed a sign advertising a sale on RISO, which means ‘rice’ but also means ‘smile’.
PIANO means ‘softly’, and ‘floor’, and the musical instrument ‘Pianoforte’.
ETICHETTA means both ‘etiquette’ and ‘label’.
FINE (the end).
6. LETTER ABOUT THE SOUNDS OF ITALIAN
Dear Billy Bob,
Here in ROMA when I listen to people babble away in ITALIANO, every now and then an English-sounding word jumps out.
The easiest are the words borrowed from English, like BAR and RADIO and JEANS.
Next easiest are the Italian words we use in English, especially in the restaurants, like RISTORANTE and PASTA and PIZZA .
I went to a CONCERTO, which I know how to pronounce from English as “kohn-CHEHR-toh”.
Then I was surprised to hear a group of words I always thought were English and never suspected were Italian also, like il SOFA, il PANORAMA, lo SPORT and l'AUTO.
I took a lesson to learn how to talk Italian.
Il mio PROFESSORE is Nino, and he gave me my lesson in un BAR. He taught me some tricks to learn Italian faster.
For example, the word meaning NO in Italian is spelled and pronounced like the English word no. But the word meaning yes in Italian (SÌ) is pronounced like the English word: “see”.
"Phone" sounds something like hairdryer in Italian (PHONO).
The sound of "key" would be saying who (CHI) in Italian.
If you say some names in English to an Italian, she hears an Italian word.
For example, the English name “Otto” sounds like eight in Italian (OTTO).
The name “Sue” sounds like on (SU).
"Lana" sounds like wool in Italian (la LANA).
The name"Mort" sounds like dead (MORTE)!
So in Italian TU (you) sounds like the English words "two, too, to".
If you say the English word "ago", the Italians hear AGO (which means sewing needle).
If you say "day" in English, the Italians hear DEI (which means gods).
These are easy Italian words for me, since we already know how to say them from English, even though I must remember that they mean something different in Italian.
A funny one is the Italian word for ‘men’s restroom’, UOMINI, which sounds something like “women”!
6. EASY NEW WORDS FOR FAMILIAR CONCEPTS
Letter about “Sign” Language
Dear Billy Bob,
After being here in Italia for nine days, I realize that besides all the look-alike words I have written to you about, some totally foreign Italiano words are easier to learn than others.
I have been seeing and hearing some foreign words so often in familiar situations that my mind has begun to remember them automatically, without even trying. (If I forget some, I look them up in my Italian Phrase Book).
For example, all the boutiques and ristoranti hang a sign CHIUSO that is like the CLOSED signs back home. The OPEN for business sign is APERTO.
Also many doors are labelled SPINGERE (PUSH) or TIRARE (PULL).
When I go to pay in a restaurant I look for the sign CASSA (CASHIER).
At places like museums, I go in through the ENTRATA (ENTRANCE) and leave through the USCITA (EXIT).
Along with all these foreign signs I see everywhere over here, I’ve been hearing certain Italiano words so often that they no longer seem so alien. Also, I can usually understand what they mean because they occur in situations like ones I’ve been used to all my life.
For example, everyone says BUONGIORNO (good day) whenever I go into a ristorante or store.
And they address me as SIGNORINA (Miss), and each other as SIGNORE (Mister) or SIGNORA (Lady).
I’ve learned to say IO MI CHIAMO Candy (my name is Candy). Or for a little joke I say IO MI CHIAMO CARAMELLA (the Italian word for candy), but they don’t get my joke sometimes.
After I meet someone they say PIACERE DI CONOSCERLA (pleased to meet you).
And they are always asking their friends COME STA (how are you?), to which they answer BENE (I’m fine).
When I leave, it’s CIAO (goodbye) or ARRIVEDERCI (see you later).
I’m always saying PREGO (please) and GRAZIE (thanks), and NO, GRAZIE (no thank you).
Since I’m always trying to find my way around as a tourist, one of the first phrases I picked up was DOV'È…? (where is this or that?)
DOV'È LA BANCA? (bank).
DOV'È IL CAMBIO? (money exchange counter).
DOV'È L'UFFICIO TURISTICO? (tourist office).
DOV'È LA STAZIONE? (train station).
And of course, DOV'È IL BAGNO? (the bathroom, which they also call GABINETTO or W.C.).
I was a little embarrassed to ask for a double bed -- LETTO MATRIMONIALE.
I’ve also had to quickly learn which way is which, so I can understand the directions they give me.
LÀ means there.
To the right is A DESTRA, to the left is A SINISTRA, and straight ahead is DIRITTO.
Near is VICINO, and far is LONTANO.
And finally, ECCO! (here it is).
After I found my way to LA BANCA, I started paying for things and quickly learned to ask about prices.
“How much is it?” (QUANTO COSTA?)
In restauranti it’s “Check please” (IL CONTO, PER FAVORE).
Here’s how to count to ten in Italian: UNO, DUE, TRE, QUATTRO, CINQUE and SEI, SETTE, OTTO, NOVE, DIECI.
ADESSO (now) I must say BUONA NOTTE (good-night) because FRA UN PÒ (soon) it will be MATTINO (morning) and PIÙ TARDI (later) DOMANI (tomorrow) I need to be PUNTUALE (on time) for IL TOUR DEL VATICANO.
-- IO MI CHIAMO CARAMELLA
7. LAST DIARY ENTRY IN ITALY
Sadly my ten day vacation is drawing to a close – I’ll be flying home tomorrow.
I’ve fallen in love with ITALIA, with the beautiful ITALIANO language.
Now I know I can read some Italian because of all the look-alike words.
I’ve also worn my phrase book to shreds.
I’m ready and motivated to take a course in Italian to learn the grammar.
I’ve read that a full-time intensive language course like the kind for diplomats takes 25 weeks or about six months, which is only half as long as for other languages that don’t have many look-alike words.
My plan is to take an Italian course at the Community College.
They say living in a foreign country is the best way to really learn a language – by being immersed in it every day with a real need to communicate in that language.
So I’ve decided to move to Italia!
I’ve also fallen for an Italian man – I’m innamorata! -- with Nino IL MIO PROFESSORE of ITALIANO.
You probably think I’m kidding about the last one.
My plan is to quit my job at the candy factory back home, because I’ve been offered a job here in Roma at a PASTICCERIA (pastry shop) owned by the family of my PROFESSORE Nino. They think it’s funny that a girl named Candy makes candy.
I can’t wait to get back here to ROMA. I’m so excited I'm bursting with happiness!
After Easiest Italian, a good next step is the Italian in Ten Minutes a Day foreign language instruction book, containing some paragraphs in English that have a few Italian words mixed in.