Introduction to Italian: Lesson 4

Italians hate it when you bring this up but what a lot of people associate with Italy is the mafia. Mafia is, of course, mafia in Italian and one of the most famous of them is Cosa Nostra which is actually a U.S. criminal organization. Cosa Nostra means our affair or our thing thus:

Cosa is thing in Italian.

I really like this word. When Italians want to ask what, they would say what thing which would be:

?What?|Che cosa?

In speech, however, you would often skip che for what and just say cosa to mean what. Knowing this, you can put it to use and ask:

?What do you learn?|Cosa impari?

?What do you speak?|Cosa parli?

Let’s learn an easy word:

Italian for to study is studiare.

It works just like all the other -are words do. Remember that -i for you and ask:

?What do you study?|Cosa studi?

You could answer that in many ways. Guess how you would say:

?I study French.|Studio francese.

Italian for to work is lavorare.

Think of labour to remember this word.


?What do you work?|Cosa lavori?

Answer, for example:

?I don’t work.|Non lavoro.

Italian for nothing is niente.

There is such a word in English as well but it’s used in music.

If you want to say I study nothing you say I not study nothing in Italian because Italian has double negation like a lot of languages in the world. Say:

?I study nothing.|Non studo niente.

This, of course, means I don’t study anything. How would one say:

?I don’t work anything.|Non lavoro niente.

Italian for I understand is capisco.


?I don’t understand anything.|Non capisco niente.

There is another cool word:

Italian for everything is tutto.

You might remember ice cream tutti frutti which means all fruits. The English word total comes from a related root. How would you say:

?I understand everything.|Capisco tutto.

You understand, you say capici.


?What do you understand?|Cosa capici?

?Why don’t you understand everything?|Perché non capici tutto?

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