Unlike English, Italian double consonants are pronounced differently than single consonants. They sound longer. But how much longer, exactly? And are there times when a single consonant must be pronounced double?
In this lesson, you’re going to see how to recognize and pronounce le consonanti doppie, the double consonants in Italian.
Iniziamo! Let’s get started!
Double consonants in Italian
Generally speaking, a written double consonant corresponds to a longer consonant sound or sound interruption in Italian. This applies to all types of consonants, from non-plosives such as m and r (they do not interrupt the flow of air coming out of your lungs) and plosives (b, d, hard g, p, t and hard c).
Mamma, sasso, tatto, pacco
Mom, rock, touch, package
How do you pronounce a double consonant like T or S?
Pronounce attack. Now start pronouncing at… stop. Keep your tongue on your alveolar ridge (the soft palate just above your teeth). Hold it there longer than usual, then release… tack! There you have a longer consonant. With enough practice and listening, you will be able to get double consonants just right.
You will still be understood if you pronounce them as single consonants, but you will have to watch out for words that completely change meaning with the quality of their consonant!
Double S (SS) is always unvoiced, never voiced.
Now let’s look at the peculiarities of double consonants in Italian.
Z is always double
The consonant Z is always pronounced double, even if it is written as a single consonant. The double form also exists, as in pazzo or pizza.
Following this rule, a word like spazio, space, is actually pronounced as if it were spazzio. The same can be said of any word ending in -zione, such as nazione and protezione.
Spazio, nazione, protezione
Space, nation, protection
Z is not pronounced as if it were double when it follows a consonant, because it would sound awkward.
This also applies to the beginning letter of a word following another word.
GN is pronounced as if it were double
Unlike the Z rule, the pronunciation of GN as a double consonant can vary depending on your regional accent. For example, gn is not pronounced as if it were double in my accent (Western Emilia Romagna), but it is in standard Italian (the one you hear in dubbed movies, on the radio, and on TV).
Ragno, castagna, stagno
Spider, chestnut, pond
Like Z, this rule also applies to the beginning letter of a word that follows another word.
SC (“sh”) sound is always doubled
This again depends on your regional accent, but in standard Italian, you should pronounce any sci and sce sound as if they were double. This rule, too, applies to the beginning letter of a word that follows another word.
Let me go!
I pesci nuotano nell’acquario.
Fish are swimming in the aquarium.
And that’s it for the double consonants in Italian! If you still have any doubts about them, feel free to leave a comment.
Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!
Now that you’ve seen the double consonants in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:
- Useful Italian Words Series
- Common Italian Phrases Series
- Italian grammar lessons and tricks
- Italian idiomatic expressions
Or you might also want an excellent offline Italian grammar resource to take with you at all times (Amazon).
Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.
❤️ If you liked this guide on the double consonants in Italian, consider sharing it with your social media friends who are also studying Italian.