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Italian sentence structure (word order)

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If you want to form a simple affirmative sentence, it's necessary to order three main elements first.

enlightened Simple affirmative sentence: Subject + Verb + Object

ItalianEnglish
Marco guarda la televisione.Marco is watching television.
Il cantante saluta i fans.The singer waves to the fans.
L'albero è in giardino.The tree is in the garden.
 

Sentence structure rules

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Word order recap

We can imagine other elements of the sentence as blocks. Each block has its own position.

Here's a recap of the possible spots in which you can collocate the linguistic elements you need.

(Adverb)Subject
(personal pronoun omittable)
Preposition +
Information
Direct/Indirect/Reflexive pronounVerb(Adverb)[Adjective]Direct object[Adjective]Indirect object(Adverb)
Complement
English
(Oggi)Maria/miporta//un maglionerosso/(Oggi)Today Maria will bring me a red sweater.
/(Tu)//seisempreun grandeamico/per Laura./You are always a great friend for Laura.
/La mia amica Sara//è andata////al mare/My friend Sara went to the sea.
Domani(io)/tichiameròbrevemente////alle cinque.Tomorrow I will briefly call you at five.
/Il regalodel compleanno/era/blu e giallo////The birthday present was blue and yellow.

 

Position of articles

Articles are used to point out a noun or other substantivized parts of speech.

enlightened Remember! Italian nouns are always introduced by an article (either determinate, indeterminate or partitive).

  • CORRECT: Girls just want to have fun. Le ragazze vogliono semplicemente divertirsi.
  • WRONG: Girls just want to have fun. (x) Ragazze vogliono semplicemente divertirsi.

 

Omission of the personal pronoun

Unlike English, in most cases personal pronouns could be omitted because the conjungated verb clearly shows the subject of the sentence.

ItalianEnglish
(Io) Vado a scuola.I go to school.
(Noi) Mangiamo della pasta.We eat some pasta.
(Loro) Cantano molto forte.They are singing very loudly.
 

Position of objects and pronouns

Direct/indirect objects and reflexive pronouns

Direct and indirect object pronouns substitute another elment; reflexive pronouns stress that the action is carried out by the subject itself.

enlightened Pronouns: Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Direct/Indirect/Reflexive pronoun + Verb + Rest of the sentence

ItalianEnglish
Io ti vedo.I see you.
Maria si lava i capelli.Maria washes her hair.
Mario la ama.Mario loves her.

Direct and indirect object pronouns

Indirect object pronouns generally precede direct object pronouns.

enlightenedDirect and indirect object pronouns: Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Indirect object pronouns + Direct object pronoun + Rest of the sentence

ItalianEnglish
Il negozio te lo regala.The store will gift it to you.
Me la presteranno.They will lend it to me.
Te le restituirò.I will give them back to you.

Direct and indirect objects

In Italian sentences, direct objects precede indirect objects.

enlightened Direct and indirect objects: Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Verb + Direct object + Indirect object

ItalianEnglish
Mario dà un libro a suo fratello.Mario gives a book to his brother.
La segretaria chiama un taxi al direttore.The secretary calls the director a taxi.
Michel regala una bici a suo figlio.Michel gives a bike to his son.

 

Position of adjectives

Unlike English, adjectives generally follow the noun they refer to.

ItalianEnglish
Un maglione rossoA red sweater
Un libro noiosoA boring book
Dei ragazzi interessantiSome interesting guys
 

enlightenedRemember! Adjectives must always agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.


Adjectives can also precede the noun, and, in this case, the meaning conveyed is completely different.
This happens with adjectives such as: Buono (Good), Grande (Big), Bravo (Good), Vecchio (Old).

Noun + AdjectiveAdjective + Noun
Un amico vecchio (A friend who is old)Un vecchio amico (An old friend)
Un uomo grande (A big man, in size)Un grande uomo (An important man)

Other adjectives as well could be placed before the noun, and it's mainly for stylistic purposes, to simply accentuate a specific meaning.

Position of possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives help specify a possession. They agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.

enlightened Possessive adjective: Article + Possessive adjective + Noun + Rest of the sentence

ItalianEnglish
La mia macchina è rotta.My car is broken.
Il suo accento è strano.His accent is weird.
I nostri zii sono arrivati.Our uncles are here.
 

Position of prepositions

Simple and articulated prepositions are used to introduce a quality, a possession, a location or direction of a noun or verb; they are usually placed after the element they refer to.

enlightened Prepositions: Subject/(Personal pronoun) + (Preposition + Information) + Verb + (Preposition + Information) + Rest of the sentence

Check out the following examples.

ItalianEnglish
La casa di Maria è grande.Maria's house is big.
(Io) Viaggio da Roma a Parigi.I travel from Rome to Paris.
 

Position of adverbs

Adverbs generally add a piece of information about the main verb.

enlightened  Adverbs: (Adverb) + Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Verb + (Adverb) + Rest of the sentence + (Adverb)

Adverbs of manner

enlightened Adverbs of manner/ending in -mente: Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Verb + Adverb + Rest of the sentence

ItalianEnglish
Luigi mangia velocemente.Luigi eats quickly.
Il cane cammina tranquillamente.The dog walks calmly.
Lui parlava chiaramente.He was speaking in a clear way.
 

Adverbs of place, time and frequency, quantity

enlightened Adverbs of place, time and frequency, quantity: (Adverb) + Subject/(Personal pronoun) + Verb + (Adverb) + Rest of the sentence + (Adverb)

These adverbs can go right after the verb as well as at the beginning or at the end of a sentence; it depends on the communicative intention.

ItalianEnglish
Domani (io) andrò al mare.Tomorrow I'll go to the sea.
(Io) Ho preparato la cena stamattina.I made dinner this morning.
(Tu) Non ascolti mai la musica punk.You never listen to punk music.
 

Exercises

  1. Exercise on Italian affirmative sentences (Easy) - Drag text
  2. Exercise on Italian sentence structure (Objects and pronouns) - Single choice set
  3. Exercise on Italian sentence structure (Adverbs) - Single choice set
  4. Exercise on Italian simple affirmative sentences (Mixed) - Single choice set

Exercise on Italian affirmative sentences (Easy) - Drag text


Exercise on Italian sentence structure (Objects and pronouns) - Single choice set


Exercise on Italian sentence structure (Adverbs) - Single choice set


Exercise on Italian simple affirmative sentences (Mixed) - Single choice set


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