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How Is Italian Different From English?
By:Daniel C Howard

English and Italian are two distinct languages that offer two very different ways of expressing one's thoughts. While Italian is known for its fluidity, English is characterized by its intricacy. The Italian language is spoken by about 85 million people from around the world. It is the mother tongue of 65 million people, most of whom are from Italy. The remainder treats it as their second language. English, on the other hand, is spoken by about 500 million people. Aside from the U.S., the largest numbers of English speakers are found in India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Canada, and Australia.

But in what other ways is Italian different from the English language?

Difference in language family

Italian is a Romance language, which is one of the Indo-European language families. It is the modern language that most resembles Latin. In fact, there are numerous similarities between the two languages. Being a Romance language, it shares many characteristics with other Romance languages such as Spanish (82% lexically similar) and French (89% lexically similar).

Meanwhile, English had its roots in the Anglo-Saxons in England. As a member of the Germanic language family, it is closely associated with the German, Dutch, Frisian and Afrikaans languages.

Difference in Alphabet

Though they share the same 26 letters of the English alphabet, the letters j, k, w, x and y are seen as foreign letters, and as such, are employed for import words only. In addition, words that are considered proper nouns in English and spelled with capital letters, such as names of months, days and others do not use capital letters in Italian.

Difference in sounds and spelling

In Italian, the spelling is phonetic with very little exception to rules and without silent letters. This is distinct from English where the use of silent letters is practiced and spelling is more complicated. Furthermore, vowels in Italian are pronounced in a precise way, in contrast to English's use of diphthongized vowels.

Difference in Grammar

Like other Romance languages, Italian assigns genders to nouns. Nouns are either feminine or masculine. The modifiers and articles must agree with the quantity and the gender of the subject. This is not the case in English as nouns generally do not have genders and modifiers do not have to concur.

The two languages also differ in conjugating verbs. Italian makes use of 5 tense forms, namely simple past, present, future, imperfect and conditional. It uses auxiliary to form other tenses and change verb endings to express the tense and subject. In English, the verbs typically preserve their original forms. Their meanings are distinguished by using suffixes like -ed, -es or -ing and auxiliaries such as "will" or "would".

In English, the meaning of a sentence depends on the word order. Italian, being an inflected language, permits greater flexibility in sentence structure. Additionally, adjectives in English come before the noun; in Italian they come after the noun.

There are other differences between the Italian and English languages. In general, while English is a language of intricacy, Italian is a language of simplicity, fluidity and deference.

I am a language teacher living in Asia. I have over a decade of experience teaching all ages a variety of subjects. For free Italian info and lessons, please visit my blog here.

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