Italian Language Lessons: Italian Interrogative Pronouns

Grammar, spelling, and usage

Studious female high school student
Image Source / Getty Images

Sometimes interrogatives replace nouns altogether, and act as interrogative pronouns that introduce a question. They are:

ITALIAN INTERROGATIVE PRONOUNS
ITALIANENGLISHEXAMPLE
Chi?(Who? Whom?)Chi sei?
Che/Che cosa/Cosa?(What?)Cosa dici?
Quale?(Which (one/s)?)Quali giornali vuoi?

Chi? is invariable and used exclusively when referring to people: Chi ha parlato? Di chi stai ridendo? The gender of the pronoun chi is usually recognized in context or by the agreement of the adjective or participle.

 Chi hai salutato per prima/primo?

Che? or che cosa? refers only to a thing and has the significance of quale/i cose? Che (che cosa) vuoi? Che cosa desideri di più dalla vita?

Che often appears in the interrogative phrase che cosa? (what/which thing?), though sometimes one of these two words may be dropped. The following three phrases are all equally correct:

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

Quale? is used to indicate people, animals, or things. It expresses "What is...?" when the answer involves a choice, or when one requests information such as a name, telephone number, or address. Quale? is invariable in gender. Quale vuoi conservare di queste due fotografie?

Interrogative Prepositions

In Italian, a question never ends with a preposition. Prepositions such as adicon, andper always precede the interrogative chi (who).

A chi scrivi? (To whom are you writing?)
Di chi sono queste chiavi? (Whose keys are these?)
Con chi escono stasera? (Who(m) are they going out with tonight?)

Italian Language Study Resources
Language Lessons: Italian grammar, spelling, and usage.
Audio Phrasebook: Improve your pronunciation and build your vocabulary.
 
Audio Lab: Word of the day, survival phrases, ABC's, numbers, and conversation