How to use BENE, BRAVO, BELLO and BUONO
In a Nutshell…
- Bene is an adverb and is used only with verbs – Paolo parla inglese bene (Paolo speaks English well)
- Bravo is used just with people – Paolo è bravo! (Paolo is skilled and talented)
- Buono refers to the interior qualities of things or people – Paolo è buono (Paolo is good at heart)
- Bello refers to the exterior qualities of things or people – Paolo è bello (Paolo is handsome)
When to use BENE
Bene is often misused. One of the most recurring mistakes I hear from English native speakers, is using bene for good. That’s incorrect.
- Good translates into “bene” just in the phrase “sto bene” = I’m good. Otherwise, it only means well.
Never say: il libro è bene ❌
Bene is also an adverb, which means that it can be used only after a verb, like the following examples:
- Marco cucina bene – Marco cooks well
- Lucia disegna bene – Lucia draws well
Intensifiers of bene
- molto bene, benissimo = very well
- strabene (colloquial) = super good
When to use BRAVO
Bravo is an adjective which is often misused too.
Bravo means, indeed, good. But, it’s just used for a person and with the meaning of talented, skilled, or good at something.
- Luca è bravo a disegnare (or Luca è bravo in disegno) – Luca is good at drawing
- Luca è bravo a cucinare (or Luca è bravo in cucina) – Luca is good at cooking
Note that you can use the adverb bravo in two different ways, like the above phrases.
- essere bravo + a + verb – Luca è bravo a cucinare
- essere bravo + in + noun – Luca è bravo in cucina
In other words, we can say that bravo is used when someone has a talent, a skill, or is simply good at doing something.
Bravo has a secondary meaning too.
Bravo is also used to indicate the moral qualities of a person.
- Una brava persona – a person with ethical values
Common Italian expressions using “bravo”
- Che bravo! – well done!
- Bravo! – well done!
- Bravissimo – way to go!
When to use BELLO
Bello means nice if applied to something (a thing), or beautiful/ handsome if applied to someone (a person).
In short, bello indicates the appearance of something or the physical quality of someone.
- Questo tavolo è così bello – This table is so beautiful
- Marta è una bellissima dona – Marta is a beautiful woman
Intensifiers of bello
- Molto bello, bellissimo – very beautiful, awesome, gorgeous
- strabello (colloquial) – super beautiful
More examples with bello
- Quel palazzo è bellissimo – That building is gorgeous
- Che bella città! – What a nice city!
- Che bella casa! – What a beautiful home!
Popular Italian expressions using “bello”
- Che bello! – That’s lovely!
- Bello! – Lovely!
- Bellissimo – Awesome!
BONUS for intermediate learners: do you that bello becomes begli, bei or bel sometimes? In this article, I will explain to you why.
When to use BUONO
Buono means good and is used to give an opinion about the interior qualities of something or someone.
If a person is buona, we mean that this person has ethical qualities.
- Marco è buono – he is good-hearted or a person with good moral qualities
If something is buono, we mean that this thing has a good quality.
- Quella pasta è buona – That pasta is good
- Questo prodotto è buonissimo – This product is very good
- Questo legno è buono – This wood is good
Intensifiers of buono
- molto buono, buonissimo – very good
- strabuono (colloquiale) – super good
Popular Italian expressions using buono.
- Che buono! – It’s delicious! (when referring to food or drinks)
- Buono a sapersi – good to know
Do you know that there is a German-speaking region in Italy? Do you know that when hiking in the Dolomites, you can refuel at a local “malga“? And do you know what typical food in the Dolomites is like? If you don’t, you can learn everything about it in simple Italian by listening to and reading my short story “Due Amiche.”