How to Pronounce Consonants in Italian

Learn how to pronounce consonants correctly

Studying consonants in Italian
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Here are some basic pronunciation rules, tips, and practice words for Italian consonants.

  1. All whose pronunciation is similar to, yet distinct from that of the single consonant. This could result in confusion like saying “andremo - we will go” instead of “andremmo - we would go.”

  2. Italian is a phonetic language, which means that it’s spoken the way it’s written.

 

B, F, M, N, V

The consonants not listed below (b, f, m, n, v) are pronounced as in English.

The approximate English equivalents are as follows:

c before a, o, and u is like the English k.

c before -e or -i is like the English sound ch in chest.

  • cena - dinner

  • voce - voice

  • cibo - food

  • concerto - concert

  • cipolla - onion

  • facile - easy

ch (found only before -e or -i) is like the English k.

  • che - that

  • chimica - chemistry

  • perché - because

  • chilo - kilo

  • chi - who

  • chiuso - closed

  • anche - also

D

d is somewhat more explosive than in English, with the tongue near the tip of the upper teeth but with no aspiration.

G

g before a, o, and u is as in the English word go.

  • albergo - hotel

  • gamba - leg

  • gusto - taste

  • gonna - skirt

  • gomma - eraser

  • lungo - long

  • guanti - gloves

  • guidare - to drive

  • lingua - tongue

g before -e or -i is like the g in gem.

  • gelato - ice cream

  • angelo - angel

  • pagina - page

  • gente - people

  • gentile - kind

  • gennaio - January

GH

gh (found only before -e or -i) is like the g in go.

  • laghi - lakes

  • maghi - magicians

GLI

gli is approximately like ll in million.

  • bottiglia - bottle

GN

gn is approximately like ny in canyon.

  • signora - lady

  • signore - gentleman

  • bagno - bath

  • sogno - dream

  • lasagne - lasagna

  • spugna - sponge

H

h is silent

  • ho - I have

  • ha - has

  • ahi! - ouch!

  • hanno - they have

I

l is as in English, but sharper and more forward in the mouth.

  • olio - oil

  • lingua - language

  • sale - salt

  • melone - melon

  • luna - moon

  • scuola - school

P

p is as in English but without the aspiration that sometimes accompanies this sound in English.

  • pane - bread

  • patata - potato

  • pepe - pepper

  • papà - dad

  • ponte - bridge

  • pasto - meal

  • pronuncia - pronunciation

  • psicologo - psychologist

QU

qu is always pronounced like the English qu in quest.

  • questo - this

  • quinto - fifth

  • quale - which

  • quanto - how much

  • quadro - picture

  • qualità - quality

R

r is different from the English r; it is pronounced with one flip of the tongue against the gums of the upper teeth. This is the trilled r.

  • ora - now

  • albergo - hotel

  • baritono - baritone

  • arte - art

  • orologio - watch

  • porta - door

S

s is sometimes like the English s in house.

  • soggiorno - living room

  • testa - head

  • stanza - room

  • festa - party; holiday

  • posta - mail

s is sometimes (but always before b, d, g, l, m, n, r, and v) like the English s in rose.

  • rosa - rose

  • tesoro - treasure

  • frase - phrase

  • sbaglio - mistake

  • esercizio - exercise

  • musica - music

SC

sc before a, o, or u is like sk in ask.

  • ascoltare - to listen

  • scuola - school

  • pesca - peach

  • tasca - pocket

  • toscano - Tuscan

  • scarpa - shoe

  • scultura - sculpture

sc before -e or -i is like the English sound sh in fish.

  • sci - ski

  • pesce - fish

  • conoscere - to know

  • scena - scene

  • scendere - to descend

  • uscita - exit

SCH

sch occurs only before -e or -i, and is pronounced like the English sk.

  • pesche - peaches

  • tasche - pockets

  • scheletro - skeleton

  • lische - fishbones

T

t is approximately the same as in English but no escaping of breath accompanies it in Italian.

  • contento - glad

  • carta - paper

  • arte  art

  • matita - pencil

  • turista - tourist

  • antipasto - appetizer

  • telefono - telephone

  • testa - head

Z

z is sometimes voiceless, like ts is bets.

  • negozio - store

  • marzo - March

  • grazie - thank you

  • dizionario - dictionary

    z is sometimes voiced, like ds in beds.

    • zero - zero

    • pranzo - lunch

    • romanzo - novel

    • zanzara - mosquito

    Note: When ci, gi, and sci are followed by -a, -o, or -u, unless the accent falls on the -i, the -i is not pronounced. The letter -i merely indicates that c, g, and sc are pronounced, respectively, like the English ch, g (as in gem), and sh.

    • arancia - orange

    • giornale - newspaper

    • ciliegia - cherry

    • salsiccia - sausage

    • camicia - shirt

    • scienza - science

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