Interrogatives in Italian

This is simply obtained by adding a uestion mark at the end of the sentence, while in speech only the inflection of the voice expresses a question.

  • hai una penna rossa  »  you have a red pen
  • hai una penna rossa ?  »  do you have a red pen ?
  • l'albero è nel giardino  »  the tree is in the garden
  • l'albero è nel giardino ?  »  is the tree in the garden ?

In spoken language, the question will be expressed by simply raising the pitch of the voice while approaching the end of the sentence, especially stressing the last one or two words

The only situation in which words change order is when verb essere (to be) introduces a copula, expressing a quality, a condition, etc. (not a direct object). The verb and the copula go before the rest of the sentence, and the subject is postponed.

  • la penna è rossa  »  the pen is red
  • è rossa la penna ?  »  is the pen red ?
  • la casa era fredda  »  the house was cold
  • era fredda la casa ?  »  was the house cold ?
  • il mio gatto è nero  »  my cat is black
  • è nero il mio gatto ?  »  is my cat black ?

However, all of the questions above have implied either a yes or no answer. 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:

What - che cosa Why - perché How many - quanti(-e)
Who - chi Which - quale How much - quanto(-a)
When - quando  Where - dove  


  • Quando ritorna Roberto ?  »  When is Roberto returning?
  • Dove studia ?  »  Where does s/he study?
  • Che ora é ?  »  What time is it?
  • A che ora é la lezione ?  »  At what time is the lesson?
  • Chi é in casa?  »  Who is in the house?
  • Perché torni a scuola ?  »  Why do you return to school?
  • In quale università studi ?  »  At which university do you study?
  • Quanti studenti ci sono in classe ?  »  How many students are there in the classroom?

Che and cosa are abbreviated forms of che cosa. The forms are interchangeable:

  • Che cosa bevi?  »  What are you drinking?
  • Che dici?  »  What are you saying?
  • Cosa fanno i bambini?  »  What are the children doing?