10 ways to say HOW in Italian

How many ways are there to say how in Italian?

Many. This is because there are many common expressions where how doesn’t directly translate to come, its most common counterpart in Italian.

In this lesson, we’ll take a look at all the different ways you can say how in standard Italian, so you can rest assured that you’ll be able to use them throughout Italy in all your travels.

For each how, you’ll find:

  • an audio recording of a native speaker (that would be me!)
  • the context in which the word is used
  • the translation into English and its meaning

Let’s get started! Iniziamo!

woman running - let's start!

How do you say how in Italian?

Let’s start with the most common and direct translation for how in Italian.

Most common translation for how in Italian – Come

Pronunciation: coh-meh

Come
How

Many English questions that begin with how also begin with come in Italian. For example, you can find…

Come stai?
How are you?

Come ti senti?
How do you feel?

Come si accende la tv?
How do you turn on the TV?

Come va il tuo braccio? Fa ancora male?
How is your arm doing? Does it still hurt?

Come si dice “come” in Italiano?
How do you say “how” in Italian?

Come hai pulito la macchina?
How did you wash the car?

father and son washing a car together - how do you say how in italian

How to say how in Italian as a compliment

You can start a sentence with come to compliment someone. How in Italian translates to come in sentences such as…

Come sei bravo!
How good you are!

Ciao, gattone. Come sei bello!
Hello, big cat. How handsome you are!
(Do you talk to your pets? I do.)

Come sei elegante stasera, Sara.
How elegant you look tonight, Sara.

woman and man dancing a tango

How to say how in Italian as in “how long”

How long (asking how long it will take) is translated in Italian as quanto tempo, where tempo means time.

Quanto tempo ci vuole per andare a Roma?
How long does it take to get to Rome?

Quanto tempo ci hai messo a svuotare il garage?
How long did it take you to empty the garage?

For sentences using the English progressive tenses, where the action is ongoing, you must add the preposition da (since) before the question in Italian, as in:

Da quanto tempo vivi in Italia?
How long have you been living in Italy?

Da quanto tempo studi il francese?
How long have you been studying French?

Literally, it would be translated as “Since how much time do you study French?”. You do NOT use a past tense in Italian.

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

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How long as in how long is… is translated as quanto è lungo…?, where lungo is the direct translation for long.

Quanto sono lunghi gli spaghetti?
How long are spaghetti?

Quanto è lungo il letto?
How long is the bed?

woman making the bed

How to say how in Italian as in “how come”

Pronunciation: coh-meh mah-ee

Come mai?
How come?

This is an interesting expression to learn. Literally it would be, how never?

Come mai non mi hai chiamato ieri sera?
How come you didn’t call me last night?

Come mai non stai ancora dormendo?
How come are you still not asleep?

Non ho fame. – Come mai?
I’m not hungry. – How come?

Come mai il cielo è azzurro?
How come the sky is blue?

blue sky background with a few white clouds

Cases where the literal translation for how in Italian doesn’t work

Other times, however, you will find that come can be translated with a completely different word in English, depending on its context. Let’s take a look at such contexts.

What… like?

Com’è il tempo?
What’s the weather like?

Com’è il tuo nuovo lavoro?
What’s your new job like?

Come sono fatte le prese in Germania?
What do sockets look like in Germany?

Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!

What…? Why is that? Why does how in Italian translate to what?

That happens because… the language is wired a little differently than English. To ask what something is like in Italian, you actually start the question with come, how in Italian.

More precisely, this come is followed by a conjugation of the essere verb, to be, either in the present or past tense, singular or plural.

For example, this is the present tense conjugation of essere.

io – Isono
tu – yousei
lui, lei – he, sheè
noi – wesiamo
voi – yousiete
loro – theysono

This is why you will say com’è il tempo? (com’è is just the shortened form of come è, which is less pleasant to the ear), because weather is a singular noun.

Similarly, we will say come sono fatte le prese?, because sockets is a plural noun.

illustrator working at a desk

What is your name?

Pronunciation: coh-meh tee kee-ah-me?

Come ti chiami?
What’s your name?

This is another example of how come doesn’t translate as how into English, and it’s a very common one.

Literally it would be, How do you call yourself?.

It sounds very unnatural, but that’s how Italians say it.


Quanto and quanti

Pronunciation: koo-ahn-toh, koo-ahn-tah, koo-ahn-tee, koo-ahn-teh

Quanto costa questa giacca?
How much does this jacket cost?

Quanti cani vedi?
How many dogs can you see?

family of 4 brown dogs

How is sometimes accompanied by much and many to form the expressions how much and how many.

You’ll be happy to know that these are NOT translated with how in Italian! 😉

Instead of two words, you only have one.

How much is translated as quanto or quanta depending on the gender of the following noun. How many is also translated as quanti/quante, depending on the gender of the plural word.

So you will say…

Quanto costa?
How much does it cost?

Quanto denaro ti serve?
How much money do you need?

Quanta farina ci vuole per fare la torta?
How much flour do you need to make the cake?

Quanti tavoli ci sono nella stanza?
How many tables are there in the room?

Quante rose rosse hai tagliato?
How many red roses did you cut?

beautiful red rose

Other exclamations using how in Italian

Come is also used in two very common exclamations in Italian. Let’s see them.

Pronunciation: koh-meh noh

Come no!
Indeed! Sure!

Example:

Verrai alla festa? – Come no! Non me la perderei per nulla al mondo.
Will you come to the party? – Sure I will! I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Pronunciation: mah koh-meh

Ma come!
But why!

Example:

Non verrò alla festa. – Ma come! Avevi detto che ci saresti stato!
I will not come to the party. – But why? You said you would be there!

That’s the end of our lesson on all the different ways to say how in Italian!


What next?

Now that you’ve seen how to say how in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

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