The Italian vowels are a, e, i, o, u. They are pronounced as follows:
In words where the i and u come before or after another vowel (in the same syllable), they are pronounced instead as follows:
Italian uses the Latin alphabet, which results in a language with only 21 letters, because the letters j, k, w, x and y only occur in Italian as part of words imported from other languages.
Additionally, the language has both single and double consonants. The pronunciation of single consonants is summarized in the chart below:
|c (before a, o, u)||k||cat||cane (dog)|
|ch (before e, i)||chi (who)|
|c (before e, i)||ch||chin||cena (dinner)|
|ci (before a, o, u)||ciao (hi/bye)|
|f||f||fair||fare (to do, make)|
|g (before a, o, u)||g||gas||gatto (cat)|
|gh (before e, i)||ghiaccio (ice)|
|g (before e, i)||j||gym||gente (people)|
|gi (before a, o, u)||giacca (jacket)|
|s (voiceless)||s||sip||sale (salt)|
|s (voiced)||z||zip||casa (house)|
|sc (before a, o, u)||sk||skill||scuola (school)|
|sch (before e, i)||schema (scheme)|
|sc (before e, i)||sh||shave||scena (scene)|
|sci (before a, o, u)||sciarpa (scarf)|
|z||ts or ds||cats or lads||zio (uncle)|
These are not sounded in English, even though double letters are often used (but they represent single consonant sounds).
The Italian double consonants last approximately twice as long as corresponding single ones and are pronounced with more intensity. They occur between vowels or between a vowel and l or r:
In general, there is a one-to-one correspondence between a sound and the letter (or letters) used to represent it. The main exceptions are as follows.
Words with a stressed final vowel are written with an accent mark on the vowel. The mark is usually grave. But in some words, especially those ending in -ché, the acute accent mark may be used.
Words spelled with j, k, w, x, and y are words that Italians have adopted from other languages, especially English.
The letter h is used only in several present indicative tense forms of the verb avere (to have). It is always silent.
|io ho||I have|
|tu hai||you have (familiar)|
|Lei ha||you have (polite)|
|lui / lei ha||he / she has|
|loro hanno||they have|
As in English, capital letters are used at the beginning of sentences and to write proper nouns (names of people, countries, etc.). However, there are a few different conventions worth noting: the pronoun io (I), titles, months of the year, days of the week, and adjectives and nouns referring to languages and nationalities are not capitalized.
On the other hand, the polite pronoun Lei (you) and other corresponding polite forms are capitalized (although this is optional).