Lesson 3 – A Scuola (At School)

New Words:


  • la biblioteca (bib-lee-o-tek-a) – library
  • la biologia (bee-o-lo-gee-a) – biology
  • l’amico/la amica (ah-mee-ko, ah-mee-ka) – friend
  • il cancellino (can-chel-lee-no) – chalkboard eraser
  • il quaderno (kwa-der-no) – notebook
  • la classe (klas-say) – class (people), classroom
  • la lezione (let-zee-oh-ne) – class (lesson)
  • il dizionario (dik-zee-o-nar-eeo) – dictionary
  • il danaro (dah-nar-oh) – money
  • i soldi (sol-dee) – money
  • l’economia (eeko-nom-eea)- economics
  • l’italiano (ee-tah-lya-no) – Italian
  • lo studente (stoo-dehn-tay) – student (male)
  • la studentessa (stoo-dehn-tays-sah) – student (female)
  • lo scolaro/la scolara (sko-lah-roh, sko-lah-rah) – schoolboy, schoolgirl
  • il banco (ban-koh) – desk
  • la scuola (skwoh-la) – school
  • la geografia (geeo-gra-fee-a) – geography
  • l’ora (or-a) – hour
  • l’inglese (eeng-lay-seh) – English
  • la matita (mah-tee-tah)- pencil
  • il libro (lee-bro) – book
  • la matematica (mat-ay-mat-ee-kah) – math
  • la pagina (pa-gee-na) – page
  • la carta (kar-tah) – paper
  • la lavagna (lah-vah-nya) – chalkboard
  • la penna (pen-nah) – pen
  • l’orologio (oh-roh-lo-joe) – clock/watch
  • il compito (kom-pee-toh) – homework
  • il tempo (tehm-poh)- time
  • il gesso (jehs-soh)- chalk
  • l’università (oo-nee-ver-see-tah)- university

  • amare – to love
  • ascoltare (as-kohl-tah-reh) – to listen
  • studiare (stoo-dee-ah-reh) – to study
  • parlare (par-lah-reh) – to speak/talk
  • chiamare (kee-ah-mah-reh) – to call
  • ritornare (ree-tor-nah-reh) – to return
  • lavorare (lah-voh-rah-reh) – to work

  • quale (kwahleh)- which
  • quando (kwahndo) – when
  • quanto(-a) (kwahnto) – how much
  • quanti(-as) (kwahntee)- how many
  • dove (doh-vay) – where
  • perché (payr-kway)1 – why
  • che cosa (kay kohsah) – what
  • chi (kee) – who

  • perché (payr-kway)1 – because
  • e (ay) – and

  • a (ah) – at, to, the dative a

  • corto(-a, -i, -e) (korto) – short
  • quarto(-a, -i, -e) (kwar-toh) – quarter (one-fourth)
  • difficile (-i) (deef-fee-chee-lay) – difficult
  • facile (-i) (fa-chee-lay) – easy
  • lungo(-a, -hi, -he) – long
  • largo(-a, -hi, -he) – wide, broad
  • mezzo(-a, -i, -e) (metz-zoh) – half
  • Numbers 100-999.999

  • 100 cento (chen-toh)
  • 101 centouno (chen-toh oo-no)
  • 102 centodue
  • 103 centotre
  • 110 centodieci
  • 120 centoventi
  • 199 centonovantanove
  • 200 duecento (doo-ay-chen-toh)
  • 201 duecentouno
  • 255 duecentocinquantacinque
  • 282 duecentoottantadue
  • 300 trecento (tray-chen-toh)
  • 400 quattrocento (kwat-troh-chen-toh)
  • 500 cinquecento (cheen-kwe-chen-toh)
  • 600 seicento (say-ee-chen-toh)
  • 700 settecento (set-tay-chen-toh)
  • 800 ottocento (ot-toh-chen-toh)
  • 900 novecento (no-vay-chen-toh)
  • 1.000 mille (mil-lay)
  • 1.001 milleuno
  • 1.010 milledieci
  • 1.100 millecento
  • 1.538 millecinquecentotrentotto
  • 1.999 millenovecentonovantanove
  • 2.000 duemila
  • 3.000 tremila
  • 9.000 novemila
  • 10.000 diecimila
  • 15.000 quindicimila
  • 27.000 ventisettemila
  • 76.000 settantaseimila
  • 99.999 novantanovemilanovecentonovantanove
  • 100.000 centomila
  • 210.005 duecentodiecimila e cinque
  • 305.111 trecentocinquemila centoundici
  • 500.000 cinquecentomila
  • 860.789 ottocentosessantamila settecentoottantanove
  • 911.222 novecentododicimila duecentoventidue
  • Notes

    1. There is a single word in Italian for “why” and “because”, that is perché. The accent on perché, as well as on any other word in Italian, tells you that the stress is on that syllable. Accents in Italian are written only to indicate that the stress is on the last syllable (contrary to the majority of words which is stressed on the penultimate syllable). On dictionaries accents are always written on the stressed syllables, but this is not done in common writing.
    2. The letter “q” (as in quando) is always followed by an “u” and another wovel, and is pronounced “kw” (as in English “quill”). The same identical pronunciation is used for the group “cu” followed by a vowel (as in scuola). There is no rule on when to use either forms in writing, but it is a serious mistake to use the wrong one (in fact, writing “squola” with “q” is the prototype of mistakes in jokes). There are a few words with a double-sound (k-kw), which are always written as “cqu + vowel” (like acqua “water”, pron. “ak-kwah”), with a single exception of double “q” in the word soqquadro (“sok-kwa-droh”, “a mess”).

    Regular -are (1st conjugation) verbs

    All Italian verbs fall into one of three categories (conjugations) – they either end in are, ere, or ire. Within each category, there are regular and irregular verbs. Regular verbs all conjugate with a similar pattern – all the new verbs in this lesson are regular (as you’ll see soon). Irregular verbs don’t follow a pattern, and each verb’s conjugation has to be memorized separately – the two verbs you learned in Lesson 2, essere and stare are irregular.

    Here are the new verbs for this lesson: amare, ascoltare, studiare, parlare, ritornare, lavorare. These are all regular -are verbs. Here are the present-tense (present indicative) conjugations of them all:

  • io parlo (“I speak”)
  • tu parli (“you speak”)
  • lei,[lui]parla (“you (formal), [he,] she speaks”)
  • noi parliamo (“we speak”)
  • voi parlate (“you (plural) speak”)
  • essi,esse,loro parlano (“they (male), they (female). you (formal plural),speak”)
  • Regular verbs are made up of a body (parl), and a suffix (are). To conjugate regular verbs, replace the infinitive suffix (are, ere, ire) with the correct conjugation suffix from the example conjugation for parlare above. For example, take amare, and conjugate it:

  • io amo (“I love”)
  • tu ami (“you love”)
  • lei,[lui] ama (“you (formal), [he,] she loves”)
  • noi amiamos (“we love”)
  • voi amate (“you (plural) love”)
  • essi,esse,loro amano (“they (male), they (female) you (formal plural), love”)
  • All verbs can be split into a body/suffix pair, but only regular verbs follow these patterns. There are 3 different regular-verb patterns – one for -are verbs, one for -ere verbs, and one for -ire verbs. (In the next lesson, we’ll learn the rules for regular -ere and -ire verbs.) In summary, to conjugate any regular -are verb in the present (present indicative) tense, remove the -are suffix, and add one of the following (depending on who is the subject of the verb):

  • io -o
  • tu -i
  • lei,lui,esso -a
  • noi -iamo
  • voi -ate
  • essi,esse,loro -ano
  • Here are complete conjugations of 2 more verbs from this lesson:

    io lavoro, tu lavori, lei lavora, noi lavoriamo, voi lavorate, essi lavorano
    io ritorno, tu ritorni, lei ritorna, noi ritorniamo, voi ritornate, essi ritornano

    Now that we have the conjugation for these regular -are verbs, we can make sentences with them, like this:

    • Amo Tania. (“I love Tania”)
    • Lavora all’università. (“He works at (in) the university”)
    • Noi ascoltiamo la professoressa. (“We listen to the teacher”)
    • Essi studiano alle otto. (“The men study at 8”)
    • Esse parlano italiano. (“The women speak Italian”)
    • Io ritorno all’università alle tre. (“I return to the university at 3 o’clock”)
    • Studiate matematica ? (“Do you study math?”)

    A – At or To, and the dative A

    In a few of the sentences above, the preposition a is used, as in Essi studiano alle otto. The preposition a translates to the English “at” or “to”, depending on the sentence. The preceeding sentence (“essi studiano…“) is an example of a meaning “at”. The sentence io ritorno all’università is an example of a meaning “to”. When the a comes before an article, as in io ritorno a la università, the a and the la combine to form alla. This is the so-called articulated preposition. Moreover, if the next noun begins with a wovel, the last vowel of the articulated preposition falls and is replaced by an apostrophe So the correct way to write the preceeding sentence is: io ritorno all’università.

    Note that the English “at” may translate to either a or in in Italian, depending on the sentence. In is usually used to refer to something being at something else, such as sono in università – “I’m at the university”. A usually refers to a state or condition (sort of) of something, such as “at great speed”, or when referring to time, such as alla una (“at one o’clock”).

    In two more cases, the a isn’t either of the above two meanings, but is used for English “to”. One case is when a motion to somewhere is involved, like in “Io vado all’università” (I go to the university, the verb used is irregular). Another one is when a person or name of a place is the destination of a verb, an a is placed before the object, as in La professoressa parla agli studenti. (“The teacher talks to the students”). The preposition a is NOT needed for transitive verbs (when the object is direct, as in Io amo Tania (“I love Tania”).

    Numbers 100 to 999.999

    If you’ve looked at the numbers in the New Words section, you may already have seen some patterns developing in Italian numbers. First, the numbers 100, 200, 300, etc., all have a similar form – cento, duecento, trecento… If you look carefully, and remember the numbers 2 through 9, you’ll see that each hundred above 100 is just “two hundred” (duecento), “three hundred” (trecento), and so on. To form numbers in between the hundreds, you use the numbers 1-99 you learned in the last 2 lessons, but add the hundreds on to the front. Eleven is undici, 111 is centoundici. Three-hundred and twenty is trecentoventi, and so on. Putting spaces between parts of a compound number is optional.

    Mille is Italian for 1.000. No, this isn’t “one point zero zero zero zero”, this is one-thousand. English uses a comma to separate thousands, millions, etc., in a number. Italian traditionally use the period (“.”) instead. In English, we would expect to see this number: 12,399,100. In Italian, the same number is written: 12.399.100. In much the same way, where English uses the period to denote numbers between whole numbers (as in “12.99”), Italian uses a comma (“12,99”), but this will be discussed in another lesson. In scientific practice we often use the English convention, particularly for fractionary numbers. Public administration uses the Italian convention, and this is what was taught in schools in my times.

    Multiples of 1000 are treated as such – 2000 is duemila, literally “two thousands”. Three thousand is tremila, and so on. This pattern is the same for thousands up to 999.000 (that’s nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand), so that 50.000 is cinquantamila, and 231.000 is duecentotrentunomila. Combining these two rules for numbers, we can read numbers like 123.456 (centoventitremila quattrocentocinquantasei) and 784.675 ( settecentoottantaquattromila seicentosettantacinque). So now, practice saying things like:

  • The current year. (millenovecentonovantacinque)
  • How many miles are on your car. (centomiaquattrocentotrentadue)
  • The number of pages in the book you’re reading. (trecentoottanta)
  • The number of CDs and tapes you own. (duecentocinque)
  • Your yearly salary. (uh, in Lira that will be in millions … 🙂 )
  • Telling Time

    Io ritorno in università alle tre. Telling time in Italian uses only 2 forms of the verb essere: é and sono. Italian for “it is one o’clock” is é la una. Times are always given in the feminine form because la ora (“hour”, or “the time”) is feminine. É la is only used if you are talking about one o’clock, since “one” is singular. For all other hours, you use sono le, as in sono le sei (“It’s 6 o’clock”). Minutes are expressed as numbers after the hour, using either e or mens to represent after or before the hour, respectively. At 15 minutes before or after the hour, quarto (“a fourth”) is commonly used instead of quindici (“fifteen”). Likewise, at 30 minutes after an hour, mezza (“half”) is commonly used instead of trenta (“thirty”). Mezza is never used with meno. Here are some examples:

    • É la una e venti. (“It’s twenty after one”, literally “it’s one and twenty”)
    • Sono le due meno dieci. (“It’s ten before two”, literally “it’s two minus ten”) but also É la una e cinquanta
    • Sono le quattro e un quarto. (“It’s a quarter after four.”)
    • Sono le quattro meno un quarto. (“It’s a quarter before four.”) but also Sono le tre e tre quarti (literally, “it is three and three quarters”) and Sono le tre e quarantacinque (literally, “it is three and forty-five”)
    • Sono le dieci e mezza. (“It’s half past ten.”)
    • É la una meno cinque. (“It’s five (minutes) to one.”)

    To say that something is “at” a certain time, use alla or alle:

    • A che ora é la lezione ? (“At what time is the lesson ?”)
    • La lezione é alle nove. (“The lesson is at 9 o’clock.”)
    • La lezione é alla una. (“The lesson is at one o’clock.”)

    To ask for the time in Italian, use Che ora é (“What time is it?”). To ask what time something happens at, use A che ora ? (“At what time…?”) as in A che ora é la lezione ?, or A che ora ritorni in università ? (“What time do you return to the university?”).

    To differentiate between AM and PM when telling time, Italian may add del mattino (“in the morning”), del pomeriggio (“in the afternoon”), della (di) sera (“in the evening”) and della notte (“in the night”) to describe what time of day being referred to. Usually this is clear from the context and is not specified explicitly. Another possibility is to use a 24-hour clock (this is always done officially, e.g. when calling for meetings, in train and plane timetables, etc.). So 9 o’clock PM becomes sono le nove di sera, while 9AM is sono le nove della mattina, and 5PM is sono le cinque del pomeriggio.

    Questions and Question Words

    Asking a yes or no question

    There are many ways to ask questions in Italian, althoug there is no do-form as in English. The simplest form of a question is to use a regular sentence but either add a question mark (when written) or change the inflection (when spoken). Look at these 2 sentences:

    • Marisa studia. (“Marisa studies.”)
    • Marisa studia ? (“Does Marisa study?”)

    When writing a question a question mark occurs at the end of the question. When speaking, you must change the inflection of the sentence. A normal sentence ends on a low inflection, as in “maRIsa sTUdia”, with capital letters denoting syllable emphasis. When asking a question, the sentence ends with a high inflection, as in “maRIsa studIA”, much the same as English questions.

    It is also possible to change the word order when asking a question. Look at these sentences:

    • Marisa studia italiano ?
    • Studia italiano, Marisa ?

    Both these sentences say the same thing, “Is Marisa studying Italian?” The subject of the sentence, namely Marisa, can be placed or at the end of the sentence, for questions only. The second sentence may mean “is she studying Italian or another language ?”

    One other common way of asking a question is to add no ? or vero ? (“right?”) to the end of a sentence. So the question above could also be written: Marisa studia italiano, vero ? (“Marisa is studying Italian, isn’t she?” or “Marisa is studying Italian, right?”).

    Question words

    All of these questions have implied either a yes or no answer – “Is Marisa studying?”, “Is she studying Italian?” To ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer, you generally have to use a question word. Here is a list of some English question words and their Italian equivalents:

    1. What – che cosa
    2. Who – chi
    3. When – quando
    4. Why – perché,
    5. Which – quale
    6. How much – quanto(-a)
    7. How many – quanti(-e)
    8. Where – dove

    Each question word, or interrogative, works similarly to its English counterpart. Perhaps the easiest way to explain how to use them is through example sentences. Take a look at these:

    1. Chi é Roberto ? (“Who is Roberto?”)
    2. Quando ritorna ? (“When is s/he returning?”)
    3. Dove studia ? (“Where does s/he study?”)
    4. Che ora é ? (“What time is it?”)
    5. A che ora é la lezione ? (“At what time is the lesson?”)
    6. Qual é il compito ? (“What is the homework (assignment)?”)
    7. Chi é in casa? (“Who is in the house?”)
    8. Dov’é la matita ? (“Where is the pencil?”)
    9. Perché torni a scuola ? (“Why do you return to school?”)
    10. In quale università studi ? (“At which university do you study?”)
    11. Quanti studenti ci sono in classe ? (“How many students are there in the classroom?”)

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