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From French to Italian

Italian is one of the closest languages to French, sharing a large number of cognates--that is, words from the same Latin root.  Below are some tips for learning Italian if you already speak some French...also check out Jennifer's Indo-European Languages French and Italian Comparative Tutorial.

Cognates

In many cases, the Italian word is the same as or similar to the French word, but with a vowel on the end (or pronouncing a vowel that is silent in French).  Here are some examples:
 French    Italian 
plage spiagga
piscine piscina
livre libro
mont blanc monte bianco
raison ragione

Note that in many cases, consonant+L in French become consonant+I in Italian.  e.g. plage-->spiagga, place-->piazza, fleur-->fiore, plante-->pianta...

Grammar

Italian grammar is almost identical to French, with the same tenses and word order.  In many cases, you can do a word-for-word translation and it will be grammatical.  However, there are a few differences:
  1. No subject pronouns - Unlike French, Italian does not typically use subject pronouns.  Thus, "Je parle italien" becomes "Parlo italiano" rather than "Io parlo italiano" (that version puts stress on the subject, rather like "Moi, je parle français").  Thus, questions are not formed by inverting the subject and verb: for example, "Parlez-vous italien?" becomes "Parla italiano?" (with only voice inflection making it a question).
  2. Vous becomes Lei or voi - While French vous can mean either plural or formal, Italian has Lei for formal singular "you" and voi for plural "you" (either formal or informal).  However, since Lei is conjugated the same as he/she/it, there are no more conjugations to learn.
  3. More definitive articles - In general, Italian uses more definitive articles than French (or English).  For example, in French you would start a sentence about your friend "Mon ami...", whereas in Italian you have to use a definitive article (the): "Il mio amico..."  Word order is also somewhat more fluid than in French: for example, you could say "Il amico mio" which emphasizes that it's your friend.
  4. No pas - French ne becomes Italian non, but there isn't an equivalent to pas (Je ne parle pas anglais-->Non parlo l'inglese ...note also the extra article in Italian, as described in #3 above).  The rest of the "negative" words (jamais-->mai, personne-->nessuno) all work the same way, though (Je ne vois personne-->Non vedo nessuno).

Pronunciation

Obviously Italian pronunciation is different from French; usually this isn't a problem to keep straight, except when words are very similar.   (In general, Italian pronunciation and spelling are more regular and straightforward than French...there is no Italian equivalent to Dictée!)  For a few recent loanwords like terroir, champagne, and bijou, Italians keep the French pronunciation (or something closer to French than Italian).

Key Words

Here are some useful "key" words that are used in more-or-less the same way as their French equivalents.

encore ancora
dejà già
rien niente
plus più
moins meno
personne nessuno
il y a c'è
il y sont ci sono
y ci/ce
qu'est ce que che cosa
ce/cette/ces questo/questa/questi
ce-là/celle-là/ces-là quello/quella/quelli
ce qui/ce que ciò che
celui
colui
ici (a)qui/qua
là/là-bas lì/là
sur su/sopra
(en) bas giù
soussotto
(de)dans dentro
quelq'un qualcuno
quelque chose qualcosa
quel quale
qui chi
que/quoi che
même stesso
en ("J'en ai trois") ne ("Ne ho tre") 
entre tra/fra 
jamais mai 
très/beaucoup molto
peu po/poco
meilleur meglio 
partout dappertutto 
assez abbastanza/assai/basta
besoin besogno 
beaucoup tanto
ni...ni... né...né....
trop troppo 
bon buono/a
bien bene
comme(nt) come
pire peggiore
combien quanto
chaque ogni
tout tutto
tout le monde tutti
toujours sempre
chaqu'un ciascun
plupart maggior parte
après dopo
avant prima di (time)/davanti a (space) 
longtemps lungo(tempo)
proche (in) vicino
loins lontano
avec con 
dove 
ou
et e
mais ma
pour per 
voici
ecco
sans
senza
tel tale
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