Here is a list of the 5 most common grammatical mistakes that beginners/intermediate students tend to make when speaking Italian.
1. The use of the definite masculine articles il – lo and i – gli
Lo is used instead of il before singular nouns starting with s + consonant, ps, gn, x, y, z.
Gli is used instead of i before plural nouns starting with a vowel or s + consonant, ps, gn,x, y, x.
2. The definite articles and family names
Singular family names, such as, madre, sorella, cugino, nonna, don’t use the definite articles. However, they do when they are used in their plural version.
- Mia sorella Martina – Le mie sorelle Martina e Lavinia
There are a few exceptions to the rule, though. Singular family names do use the definite article with
The pronoun loro -> il loro nonno
a modified noun -> la mia sorellina, il mio figlioletto
and when the noun is accompanied by an adjective -> la mia cara mamma
3. The prepositions of place A and IN and the verb ANDARE
This is one of the most confusing grammar aspects of Italian, however, there are some easy rules to help you to opt for the correct preposition, the most evident ones are:
- names of cities use the proposition A, whilst names countries use the preposition IN
- Islands have its own rule: big islands use the preposition IN (vado in Sicilia), whilst smaller island use the proposition A (vado a Cuba, vado a Porto Rico)
- nouns of places ending in – ia, e.g. pizzeria, macelleria, pasticceria, use the preposition IN
4. Choosing the correct auxiliary when using compound tenses.
The vast majority of the Italian verbs, use the auxiliary avere. However, a very restricted amount of them, use the auxiliary essere. Here is a list of must-know verbs using essere as an auxiliary.
- verbs of movement (partire, uscire, tornare, venire…)
- reflexive and pronominal verbs (svegliarsi, alzarsi, arrabbiarsi..)
- stative verbs (tare, rimanere, restare…)
- verbs of transformation (nascere, morire, diventare…)
5. The use of the Imperfect Tense (Imperfetto) vs the use of the Present perfect (Passato Prossimo)
The imperfect is used:
- to describe the ongoing status of people, object and places or a habit or repetitive action in the past (in English you could use ‘used to’ or ‘would’ ) -> Da bambina ero brava in matematica .
- to discuss two things at the same time -> Mentre studiavo, ascoltavo musicato describe how a person was feeling -> Ieri mi sentivo male
- with the following expressions: da bambino, da piccolo, mentre, quando ero..
The Present Perfect is used:
- to describe a NON-repetitive action happened in a specific time in the past.-> Ieri sera sono andata al cinema