How exactly do you say do you speak English in Italian?
You have finally crowned your dream of traveling to Italy for an unforgettable vacation. You’re visiting art museums, drinking cappuccinos at cafès… and then you realize that your limited Italian vocabulary is not enough to cover all possible conversation topics.
That’s where you have to fall back to using English.
As you will see in this lesson, there’s actually more than one way of asking whether someone speaks English or not, depending on the situation.
Don’t worry, non ti preoccupare, I’m here to help you!
By the end of this lesson, you’ll know everything you need to ask do you speak English in Italian like a real pro. Let’s start! Iniziamo!
How to formally ask do you speak English in Italian
If you are on vacation in Italy, you will more often than not engage in conversation with complete strangers and people you are not in very familiar terms with.
In such cases, you have to carefully choose how to ask do you speak English in Italian. Italians are very friendly people and can certainly chiudere un occhio, turn a blind eye to language bloopers (actually, we do love it when foreigners take time to learn our language!), but formality when formality is needed is always appreciated.
Plus, you will make a very good impression!
So, how do you formally ask do you speak English in Italian?
Lei parla inglese? / Parla inglese?
Do you speak English? (formal)
Let’s analyze this sentence word for word.
Lei normally means she, third person singular subject pronoun, but it also functions as the polite form for you in Italian especially when it’s written with a capital l, Lei.
Parla is the third person singular present tense conjugation (that’s a mouthful!) for the verb parlare, to speak. It might be handy to take a look at the entire present tense conjugation, so here it is complete with pronunciation:
Present tense conjugation for parlare
From this table you can see that the correct conjugation for the lei pronoun is parla.
English is translated as inglese. If you need to write it down in a message, make sure you don’t capitalize the initial letter.
Languages and nationalities are not capitalized in Italian.
Subject pronouns can be omitted in Italian, so that’s why you can use the short version Parla inglese?. Since conjugation forms are different for each pronoun, unlike English, there’s no doubt you’re addressing the person with a degree of respect.
You will also notice that you don’t need an auxiliary verb to form questions in Italian. Sweet, isn’t it? Affirmative and interrogative forms only differ because of a sign! 😉
How to informally ask do you speak English in Italian
Italians don’t normally address kids with the formal lei, even if they don’t know them.
If you ever happen to chat with a kid and want to turn to speaking English, you can ask…
Tu parli inglese? / Parli inglese?
Do you speak English? (informal)
Look at the table in the other paragraph. What’s the parlare conjugation for tu, the informal form for you in Italian? That’s right, parli.
Other ways to ask do you speak English in Italian
Say you are in a crowded space and you can’t go around asking everyone whether they speak your language or not. What do do? There’s a specific formula you can use both in informal and formal settings alike.
C’è qualcuno che parla inglese?
Is there anyone who speaks English?
We’ve already covered a few elements in this sentence, so let me focus on the words we haven’t yet seen.
C’è is the shortened for of ci è, but you will only ever find it as c’è. Ci è is NEVER used, not even in the written language. Qualcuno translates both someone and anyone.
That said, this is the best question you can ask if you are among a group of people and want to know if there’s anyone who speaks English.
If you want to sound a little more polite, you can say:
C’è qualcuno che parla inglese, per favore?
Is there anyone who speaks English please?
With per favore meaning please. Literally for favor.
How to say do you speak English in Italian to groups of people
There’s one more way of asking do you speak English in Italian, and that’s the plural form of the question.
Yet again, let me show you the present conjugation for parlare.
The plural you in Italian is voi. So let’s say there’s a group of students you want to ask do you speak English in Italian to. You can either use the formula we’ve just seen, is there anyone…? OR you can ask…
Do you speak English? (plural)
Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!
Parla inglese? … No, mi dispiace
Bear in mind that language skills throughout Italy are very varied and you might not always get a yes when you ask do you speak English in Italian.
Tourist locations may abound with people who speak a second language, but smaller villages and towns are more often than not inhabited by older people who likely don’t speak a single word of English.
If you’re travelling through the Italian countryside, it might take a while before you stumble upon someone who does speak your language! You might hear a lot of…
No, mi dispiace.
Mi dispiace, non parlo inglese.
I’m sorry, I don’t speak English.
Sometimes, speakers may ask you if you speak Italian with:
Parla italiano? / Parli italiano?
Do you speak Italian? (formal/informal)
With italiano translating Italian in Italian. Remember, nationalities are not capitalized!
You can reply to this with:
Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano.
I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian.
But wait, maybe you speak a third language!
If you want to ask any person if they speak a certain language, you can use the Parla…? formula we saw earlier on how do ask do you speak English in Italian and add a random nationality from this list:
- spagnolo (Spanish)
- tedesco (German)
- francese (French)
- cinese (Chinese)
- russo (Russian)
- arabo (Arabic)
Do you speak Arabic? (formal)
Parlare arabo and parlare turco (speak Turkish) are popular Italian expressions that mean to be impossible to understand.
When someone tells you that you parli arabo, it means they’re not understanding a single word you’re saying!
Do you speak German? (plural)
Do you speak German? (informal)
That’s it with our lesson, now you know everything you need to ask do you speak English in Italian. Don’t be shy and ask away: we love to have a good chit-chat with foreigners, and if we really can’t find a shared “spoken means of communication”, we can always speak with gestures! 😉
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