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:

1 translation: What?

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:

2 translation: What do you learn?

3 translation: What do you speak?

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:

4 translation: What do you study?

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

5 translation: I study French.

Italian for to work is lavorare.

Think of labour to remember this word.


6 translation: What do you work?

Answer, for example:

7 translation: I don’t work.

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:

8 translation: I study nothing.

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

9 translation: I don’t work anything.

Italian for I understand is capisco.


10 translation: I don’t understand anything.

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:

11 translation: I understand everything.

You understand, you say capici.


12 translation: What do you understand?

13 translation: Why don’t you understand everything?

Answers to Lesson 4

1 answer: Che cosa?
2 answer: Cosa impari?
3 answer: Cosa parli?
4 answer: Cosa studi?
5 answer: Studio francese.
6 answer: Cosa lavori?
7 answer: Non lavoro.
8 answer: Non studo niente.
9 answer: Non lavoro niente.
10 answer: Non capisco niente.
11 answer: Capisco tutto.
12 answer: Cosa capici?
13 answer: Perché non capici tutto?