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5 Common Mistakes that Students of Italian Make

Learning a foreign language isn’t easy. And Italian, with its seemingly infinite verb endings and complicated pronouns, presents a challenge even to the most studious learner. While making mistakes is an inevitable part of the language learning process, there are some common errors that are easy to avoid. Differentiate yourself from the average Italian student: don’t fall victim to these mistakes!


Image via Diliff / Wikipedia

1. Using redundant pronouns.

In English, subject pronouns are obligatory: we can say “I ate yesterday”, but we can’t simply say “Ate yesterday”. In Italian, however, subject pronouns are redundant, as the subject is conveyed by the verb ending. So saying “Io mangio” (I eat) instead of simply “Mangio” is not just unnecessary, but comes off as amateurish and redundant.

2. Failing to pronounce double consonants.

When a word in Italian has two of the same consonants in a row, they both must be stressed. Pronouncing double consonants exactly the same as a single consonant is incorrect, and it’s an easy mistake to make, especially for beginners. Be careful about this: if you don’t, you may find yourself talking about ani (anuses) instead of anni (years)!

3. Using the wrong gender for possessives.

Possessive pronouns in Italian like mio (my) or suo (his/hers) are hard because they have to agree with the gender and number of the possessed noun, not the possessor. Therefore, “his shirt” translates to La sua camicia, using the feminine possessive pronoun, even though the subject is masculine. Make sure that you’re not accidentally making the possessive pronoun agree with the possessor.

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4. Falling into the trap of false cognates.

What is a camera in Italian? If you answered that it’s a portable device used to take pictures, you’re sadly mistaken. Indeed, a “camera” is a bedroom; the picture-taking machine uses the rather long-winded term macchina fotografica. Italian has plenty of false cognates -- words that look like English words, but mean something totally different -- that often confuse English speakers when they’re learning the language.

5. That rolled “R”

Some lucky English speakers are born with the ability to roll their tongue. For many others, however, pronouncing the rolled “R” -- a sound so ubiquitous in Italian -- is a struggle. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for learning how to roll your Rs. But as the adage says, practice makes perfect, so don’t give up: with time, you’ll be rolling your tongue like a native speaker.

If you can avoid the mistakes on this list, you’ll be well on your way to impressing your Italian friends and coworkers with your skills. To further ensure that you don’t let your mistakes turn into habits, you should consider taking Italian lessons with a native-speaking traine. Send us a quick inquiry to see how we can best help you meet your Italian language goals.