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First, I want to point out that the sentence structure of Italian is something that you should be grateful for as an Italian language learner, especially if this is your first foray into foreign language learning.
For the most part, it’s pretty straightforward.
HOWEVER, Italian is known to have a fluid sentence structure.
I’ll go over the basics first and then toward the end, I’ll describe what having a fluid sentence structure really means.
Here are your four guidelines for creating sentences in Italian
1.) The basic form is: subject (whoever the sentence is about) + verb (the action that’s happening) + object (not the subject)
– Lucia ha paura. – Lucia has fear.
– (io) ho una mela. – I have an apple.
– (io) parlo inglese – I speak English.
TIP: The subject ‘io’ is often dropped because ‘Parlo’ is already conjugated to show that it’s ‘I’. So you can just say ‘Parlo Inglese.’
If you’re into geeky linguistics like me, the above tip means that Italian has a ‘null subject parameter.’ Gasp. So fascinating.
2.) Some adjectives go before whatever they’re describing.
– Una bella ragazza cammina per strada – A beautiful girl walks down the street
– Il passato è una brutta bestia – The past is an ugly beast. (Popular Italian saying!)
– È la stessa cosa – It’s the same thing.
– Luca è un bravo ragazzo. – Luca is a good guy.
Other adjectives that typically go before whatever they’re describing are:
– buono (good)
– caro (dear)
– cattivo (bad)
– giovane (young)
– grande (large)
– lungo (long)
– vero (true)
– vecchio (old)
– piccolo (small)
3.) But most adjectives go after whatever they’re describing.
– il bambino biondo – the blond boy
– la bambina bionda – the blonde girl
– il romanzo italiano – the Italian romance novel
– le ragazze intelligenti – the intelligent girls
– il vestito rosa – the pink dress
4.) Nouns agree with adjectives.
If you’ve noticed, the ends of the adjective change when the ends of the thing they’re describing change. So unlike me and a Voldemort-like Italian ex-boyfriend, nouns actually agree with adjectives.
This is because Italian has masculine/feminine and singular/plural nouns.
Need to know more about those? Open up this article.
Need to know more about what it means for adjectives, nouns, and verbs to agree? Read this article.
– ragazzo italiano – Italian boy
– piazza italiana – Italian piazza
– gelati italiani – Italian gelatos
– macchine italiane – Italian cars
Fluid Sentence Structure
So a lot of people come to me complaining about how the sentence structure confuses them because they imagine it as being similar to English and are pleased when it is, but then confused when suddenly the verb is at the beginning of the sentence and no longer after the subject.
For example, a sentence in English might say:
Rosa is coming.
We would never say “Coming is Rosa” or just “Is coming.”
But in Italian, you can.
In Italian, this example would look like:
– Rosa arriva.
– Arriva Rosa.
*You would use this one if it was clear who you were speaking about.
All three are perfectly acceptable sentence structures, and you’ll often find that you just have to get a feel for what native speakers use.
Other Differences from English
Here is a short list of some other notable sentence structure differences from English to Italian
– You’ll often find that you create sentences from English and you use the wrong prepositions. This is because prepositions are used in a variety of different ways in Italian and because prepositional phrases are common in Italian – meaning that certain phrases with prepositions come set in stone and paired with specific verbs.
– Indirect object pronouns and direct object pronouns – meaning to her/to him or it – can go at the beginning of the sentence or tack onto the end of verbs.
Not sure what I’m talking about when I say all of that pronoun nonsense? Go here to figure it out.
Questions/comments? Drop ’em in the comments below.