May 6, 2021
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The Italian Alphabet: Quick A-Z Guide for Beginners Like YOU

Want to learn the Italian alphabet? Wondering “is there a j in the Italian alphabet?” No worries. All will be answered here.

This guide will help you nail down the Italian alphabet

First, read through to get an understanding of how the letters and pronunciation work.

Then, I’ll also give you a printable PDF worksheet to practice with. Cool? Cool.

  • Part 1: Introduction to the Alphabet
  • Part 2: Alphabet Chart
  • Part 3: Similarities with the English Alphabet
  • Part 4: How is it different from English?

italian alphabet

Part 1: Introduction to the Italian Alphabet

Italian is considered one of the most romantic languages in the world. If you want to learn this beautiful language, the first thing you need to do is…. learn the Italian alphabet. 

Some quick facts:

  • The Italian alphabet has 21 letters (5 vowels and 16 consonants).
  • Same letters as in the English alphabet… except j, k, w, x, and y.
  • Italian is a phonetic language — words are pronounced the way they are spelled.

So, it’s important to understand the pronunciation rules and how each letter (or combination of letters) is pronounced. Once you master each sound, you will be able to pronounce almost every word! Sounds good, right?

Regarding language families, Italian and English are not closely related. But, they both evolved from the Indo-European language.

  • Italian is a Romance language, which evolved from Latin.
  • Latin itself evolved from the Indo-European language.
  • English is a West Germanic language, which also evolved from the Indo-European language.

Since both languages share the same origin, they also share many “cognates.” What are cognates you ask? Cognates are words that look or sound alike in both languages.  Let’s take a look at a few examples: 

Italian word English word
memorabile memorable
situazione situation
fantastico fantastic
natura nature

Part 2: Italian Alphabet Chart

So here’s the alphabet chart that you will need. Feel free to print this part out.

This will help you understand how to read the Italian alphabet.

Want to practice writing the Italian Alphabet? Download your free Alphabet worksheet here.

Italian Letter

English Pronunciation

English Equivalent

A

ah

A in father

B

bee

B in bee

C

cheeh

C in camp (if it’s before an a, o, or u)

Ch in cheese (if it’s before an e or i)

D

deeh

D in day

E

eh

E in pet 

F

eh-feh

F in fog

G

geeh

G in garden (if it’s before an a, o, or u)

G in giraffe  (if it’s before an e or i)

H

ah-kah

Always silent 

I

eeh

Ee in fleet

L

eh-leh

L in lamb

M

eh-meh

M in mother

N

eh-neh

N in Nancy

O

oh

O in boat

P

pee

P in paint

Q

coo

C in cool

R

eh-rreh

Rolled R

S

eh-seh

S in sun 

T

tee

T in tomato

U

ooh

O in who

V

veeh

V in Victor

Z

Tzay-tah

Ts in shirts

Part 3: Similarities with the English Alphabet

  • Same letters (except j, k, w, x, and y)
  • Share many cognates (mentioned in the introduction)

As mentioned before, the Italian and English alphabets are similar. It will therefore be easy to start reading and writing from the very beginning. Although the letters: j, k, w, x, and y are not included in the Italian alphabet, they are sometimes used (mainly in borrowed words) and they are generally pronounced just like they are in English.

In addition, since both languages share many cognates, there are many Italian words that you already know. 

Part 4: How is it different from English?

There are several differences between Italian and English that you need to look out for.

1. There are no j, k, w, x, and y in the Italian alphabet.

1. Remember that the H in Italian is silent.

2. The letter C has a hard and soft pronunciation. Take a look.

  • When it is followed by the vowels A, O, and U, it has a hard pronunciation (like the C in cat). 
    • Coppa (cop-pah) = cup 
  • When it is followed by E or I, it has a soft pronunciation (like the Ch in cheese). 
    • Cibo (cheeh-boh) = food
  • However, to keep a hard sound before the vowels I and E, an H is added between the C and the vowel: 
    • Chilo (keeh-low) = kilogram

3. The Letter G also has a hard and soft pronunciation.

  • When it is followed by the vowels A, O, and U, it has a hard pronunciation (like the G in garden).
    • Gola (goh-lah) = throat 
  • When it is followed by E or I, it has a soft pronunciation (like the G in giraffe, or the J in jersey).
    • Gelo (jeh-low) = ice
  • However, to keep a hard sound before the vowels I and E, an H is added between the G and the vowel.
    • Ghepardo (geh-pahr-doh *g as in game) = cheetah
  • If you see an N after the G in a word, the combination sounds like the “ny” in canyon.
    • Bagno (bah-nyoh) = bathroom

4. You must look out for double consonants in a word. In this case, the sound must be longer; you need to double its length. 

  • gatto (gaht-toh) = cat
  • freddo (frehd-doh) = cold

5. The letter S is usually pronounced like the S in Sam. However, if you see an S between 2 vowels, then it sounds like the Z in zebra:

    • Casa (kah-zah) = house

7. The letter Z is pronounced like the ts in shirts. You already produce this “ts” sound when you pronounce the Italian-borrowed word pizza. 

8. The single R in Italian is pronounced like the “tt” in “better.”

9. The double R is trilled. In other words, roll your “R.” This is undoubtedly the hardest sound for an English speaker to master. To produce it, you need to learn how to roll your tongue. You basically do this by trilling the tip of your tongue against the alveolar ridge. This is on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Anyone can learn how to roll the R, but it does take practice. Let’s look at some examples:

  • sorriso = smile 
  • torre = tower 
  • marrone = brown

It is important to learn how to achieve the full trill when pronouncing the double R, since not doing so can completely change the meaning of a word. Let’s look at this example:

  • Single R: sera (seh-rah) = evening
  • Double R: serra (seh-rrah) = greenhouse  

10. Letter combination — GLI. The combination GLI needs to be pronounced like the “lli” in “trillion.” It’s a sound that’s between a “lee” and a “yee.” When you place vowels after GLI, it sounds something like “lya,” “lye,” “lyi,” “lyo,” and “lyu.”  

  • Figlio (fee-lyo) = son

There are, of course, some exceptions. For example, when the GLI is at the beginning of the word, you need to pronounce it “glee:”

  • Glicerina (glee-she-ree-nah) = glycerine

11. Letter combinations — SCE and SCI. These are pronounced “sheh” and “shee” respectively.

  • Scena (sheh-nah) = scene

12. Vowel pronunciation. The vowels E and O have both an open and a closed pronunciation. Vowels are also pure, which means that you only make one sound when producing them:

Italian vowel
English Equivalent
A A as in father
Closed E A in chaos
Open E E in pet
I Ee in fleet
Closed O O in low
Open O O in sorry
U O in who

Conclusion — Back to You 

Now, you should be fairly acquainted with the Italian alphabet and the pronunciation.

If you want an Italian PDF worksheet, then check out this Worksheet from ItalianPod101:

Want to practice writing the Italian Alphabet? Download your free Alphabet worksheet here.

– The Main Junkie

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