Italian Essentials: How To Ask Questions (Question Words)

avatarMille Larsen
4 mins read

It may be a little late in the game for discussing these, but it's still worth covering the topic of question words in Italian and looking at some ways they might be used which aren't immediately apparent.

Question words in Italian

Che? : What?

Chi? : Who?

Come? : How?

Quando? : When?

Quanto? : How much?

Quale? : Which?

Dove? : Where?


The word che in Italian means what, but when asking "what" questions it is preferred to ask che cosa, or "what thing". In fact, this is so common that it is actually possible to omit che and just ask cosa as if it were a question!

Che cosa fai?
What are you doing?

Cosa hai detto?
What did you say?


The word chi means who. It can be used to ask and answer question about people.

Chi hai incontrato?
Who did you meet?

chi riceve gli ospiti
host (the one who receives guests)


The word dove is used to ask where questions. Also, one interesting thing to note is that for questions of "how far?", Italians ask fin dove? or "ending where?".

Di dove sei?
Where are you from?

Fin dove andrai?
How far will you go?


The Italian word quando means when. It asks and answers "when" questions. When paired with da (from), it can be used to form the present perfect tense.

Quando torni?
When will you return?

Da quando sei qui?
How long have you been here?


The word perchè means both why and because.

Sono in ritardo perché avevo dimenticato di mettere la sveglia.
I an late because I forgot to set my alarm clock.

Dimme perchè.
Tell me why.


The word come means both how and like. It is capable of both asking and answering "how" questions.

Come è vestido?
How is he dressed?

È vestido come un poliziotto.
He is dressed like a policeman.

It can also be used in the phrase come mai to ask "why" questions (how come).

Come mai non sei venuto alla festa?
Why didn't you come to the party?


The Italian word quanto translates both as how much and how many, depending on its ending. In English, we have separate words for questions about single or plural quantities. In Italian, you just pluralize the question word as you would any other word.

Quanto sono grandi i cani?
How big are the dogs?

Quanto anni hai?
How old are you?


The word quale is the equivalent of the English question word "which".

Quale preferisci?
Which one do you prefer?

Quale macchina è la tua?
Which car is yours?

A few ways to answer questions in Italian

Sì. : Yes.

No. : No.

Forse. : Maybe.

Certo. : Sure.

Assolutamente no! : Absolutely not!


The first thing to take note of is the way the cosa (literally "thing") is so often used as a way of asking "what?" The question cosa fai? (for example) is actually a contraction of che cosa fai?

Also important is noting the difference between dove and dov'è. The latter, of course, is a contraction of dove and è.

And one last detail worth note is that you use quando when asking about a general time, such as to ask "when was this temple built?", but you use a che ora when asking when something will occur, such as "when does the movie start?"