Italian Question Words: A Simple Guide

Question words are those used at the beginning of a sentence to form a question. In English, these include words such as ‘Who?’, ‘What?’, and ‘When?’. In Italian, equivalent words are ‘Chi?’, ‘Cosa?’, and ‘Quando?

Italian Question Words

Che cosa / Cosa / CheWhatChe cosa leggi? (What are you reading?)
Che libro leggi? (What book are you reading?)
DoveWhereDove vai? (Where are you going?)
QuandoWhenQuando arriva il treno? (When does the train arrive?)
ChiWhoChi è lei? (Who is she?)
ComeHow / WhatCome stai? (How are you?)
PerchéWhyPerché ridi? (Why are you laughing?)
A che oraWhat timeA che ora inizia il film? (What time does the movie start?)
Quale/iWhichQuale libro preferisci? (Which book do you prefer?)
Quale/iWhich one(s)Quale vuoi? (Which one do you want?)
Quanto/aHow muchQuanto costa? (How much does it cost?)
Quanti/eHow manyQuanti fratelli hai? (How many siblings do you have?)
Di chi è/Di chi sonoWhoseDi chi è questo libro? (Whose book is this)
Italian Questions Words

Cosa, che cosa, che?

They all mean what?

Question structure: che cosa? / cosa? / che? + verb 

  • Che cosa fai? (What are you doing?)
  • Cosa mangi? (What are you doing?)
  • Che leggi? (What are you reading?) – The use of che + verb is very informal and belong to a sloppy slang!

Pattern: che? + noun 

  • Che libro leggi? (What book are you reading?)

Careful: it’s not possibile to use Cosa and Che cosa with nouns. 


Dove means where?

Question structure: dove + verb 

  • Dove vai? (Where are you going?)
  • Dove sono i tuoi amici? (Where are your friends?)

Typically, you drop the last “e” when “dove” is followed by an “essere” verb, for example:

  • Dov’è? (Where is it?)
  • Dov’era? (Where was it?)

When “dove?” is preceded by the prepositions “da” or “di”, it’s used to ask someone where they are from.

  • Da dove vieni? (Where do you come from?)
  • Di dove sei? (Where are you from?)


Quando means when?

Question structure: quando + verb

  • Quando arrivi? (When are you arriving?)
  • Quando parti? (When are you leaving?)
  • Quando inizia la lezione? (When does the lesson start?)

When “quando?” is preceded by the prepositions “da”, it means “how long.”

  • Da quando studi italiano? (How long have you been studying Italian?)


Chi means who

Question structure: chi + verb

  • Chi ha chiamato? (Who called?)
  • Chi viene a cena? (Who’s coming for dinner?)

It’s important to note that when “chi?” is preceded by a preposition, it can have a slightly different meaning depending on the preposition used. For example,

  • Di chi” means “Whose,” as in “Di chi è questa macchina?” (Whose car is this?)
  • A chi” means “To whom,” as in “A chi devo mandare questa mail?” (To whom should I send this email?)
  • Per chi” means “For whom,” as in “Per chi è questo regalo?” (For whom is this gift?)


Come means how?

Question structure: come + verb

  • Come si fa la pizza? (How do you make pizza?)
  • Come si dice in italiano…? (How do you say in Italian…?)

Come typically drops the “e” when combined with some forms of the verb “essere”.for example:

  • Com’è andato il viaggio? (How was your trip?)
  • Com’era il tempo ieri? (How was the weather yesterday?)


Perché means both why? and because.

Question structure: perché? + subject (omitted if subject is an object pronoun*) + verb

  • Perché (tu*) non parli? (Why aren’t you speaking?)
  • Perché (lei/lui*) non viene? (Why isn’t she/he coming?)
  • Perché Lucio piange? (Why is Lucio crying?)

There are a few more ways, slightly more formal, to say “perché” in Italian:

Per quale motivo?

Per quale ragione?

Come mai (this one implies surprise)?

  • Per quali motivo/ragione Anna ha cambiato lavoro? (For what reason did Anna change jobs?)
  • Come mai Anna ha cambiato lavoro? (Why did Anna change jobs?)

A che ora?

A che ora means What time?

Question structure: a che ora ? + verb + subject

  • A che ora inizia la lezione? (What time does the class start?)
  • A che ora parti? (What time are you leaving?)

If you want to ask about the time in a more general sense, you can use “Che ora è?” or “Che ore sono?” which translates to “What time is it?” in English.


Quali/e means “which” or “which one(s).”

  • Quale is used with singular nouns.
  • Quali is used with plural nouns.

Question structure: quale/i? + noun + verb

  • Quale colore preferisci? (Which color do you prefer?)
  • Quale città preferisci? (What city do you prefer?)

Question structure: quale/i? + verb when quale/i stand for which one(s)

  • Quale vuoi? (Which one do you want?)
  • Quali prendi? (Which ones do you take?)

“Qual” is used when followed by some forms of the verb “essere” (to be).

  • Qual è? (Which one is it?)


Quanto? means how much? and is used with singular masculine nouns.

Quanta? means how much? and is used with singular feminine nouns.

Quanti? means how many? and is used with plural masculine nouns.

Quante? means how many? and is used with plural feminine nouns.

Question structure: quanto/a/i/e ? + noun + verb


  • Quanto pane vuoi? (How much bread do you want?) [masculine singular]
  • Quanta acqua hai bevuto? (How much water did you drink?) [feminine singular]
  • Quanti amici hai invitato? (How many friends did you invite?) [masculine plural]
  • Quante fragole hai comprato? (How many strawberries did you buy?) [feminine plural]

Di chi è, di chi sono

They mean whose? 

Di chi è? is used with singular nouns. 

Di chi sono? is used with plural nouns. 

Question structure: di chi è/sono? + noun 

  • Di chi è questo libro? (Whose book is this?)
  • Di chi sono questi documenti? (Whose documents are these?)

How to Ask Questions (Italian vs. English)

Unlike in English, questions in Italian do not require the use of auxiliary verbs (such as ‘do’, ‘does’, or ‘did’, which cannot be translated into Italian) or the inversion of the subject and verb. To form a question in Italian, all that is needed is to raise the pitch of your voice towards the end of the sentence.

For a more in-depth explanation, check out my article here.

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I’m Serena! I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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