How to say Italian in Italian

If you want to speak Italian, you will have to be able to say, well… Italian in Italian.

So, how do you ask, for example, are you Italian? Or imagine asking a fellow Italian student, how long have you been studying Italian?. Keep reading to find out!


How do you say Italian in Italian?

First, we’ll say that Italian can either be a noun or an adjective depending on how it’s used in the sentence.

There’s italiano, and that’s the language or an Italian person, as in I am an Italian. Then there’s italiano, the adjective, as in I am Italian.

Italiano
Italian language, Italian male person

Italiana
Italian female person

Italiani
Italians (generic)

Italiane
Italians (females)

If you have a habit of watching the Italian national news, you’ll surely have heard gli italiani. This translates to the Italians, the Italian people.

When Italian is used as a noun, you must add its corresponding definite or indefinite article before you can use it. Look at the following examples.

Gli Italiani
The Italians (people)

italian in italian - italian people
Italiani
Italian people

L’italiano è una lingua difficile.
(The) Italian is a difficult language.
(Nonsense!)

Da quanto tempo studi l’italiano?
How long have you been studying Italian?

Studio l’italiano da tre anni.
I’ve been studying (the) Italian since three years.

Gli italiani vivono in Italia.
(The) Italians (generic people) live in Italy.
(Doh!)

Un’italiana vince la gara.
(An) Italian (female) wins the race.


Italiano as an adjective (of Italy) acts in a very similar way: adjectives in Italian, just like nouns, need to agree with both gender and number so you will still have to pick up the correct form between italiano, italiana, italiani and italiane, but no articles are needed because this adjective always follows the noun it describes. It never comes before a word such as in Il piccolo principe (The little prince).

Lo Stato italiano.
The Italian state.

La cucina italiana è famosa in tutto il mondo.
The Italian cuisine is famous around the world.

Loro sono italiani, voi di dove siete?
They are Italian, where are you from? (pl)

Quelle ragazze sono tutte italiane.
Those girls are all Italian.

Italian chef
An Italian chef
Un cuoco italiano

How do you ask are you Italian? in Italian?

As we promised, here’s what you have to say.

Sei italiano?
Are you Italian? (male, informal, sg)

Lei è italiano?
Are you Italian? (male, formal, sg)

Siete italiani?
Are you Italian? (male, pl)

Sei italiana?
Are you Italian? (female, sg)

Lei è italiana?
Are you Italian? (female, formal, sg)

Siete italiane?
Are you Italian? (female, pl)

Which form do you have to use?

You will use sei italiano? or lei è italiano? if you are addressing a male person.

You will use sei italiana? or lei è italiana? if you are addressing a female person.

To address a group of people, you will use siete italiane? only if this a female group. If the group is mixed, you will have to ask siete italiani?.

Culture shock!
When describing mixed groups of people, always use the male plural form of the adjective. Female plurals are only ever used to describe exclusively feminine nouns and female people.


What next?

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

You can also do some Italian interactive exercises!

If you liked this lesson, consider sharing it with your social media friends who are also studying Italian. You will find the share buttons at the bottom of this page.

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