Spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino,Vatican City, as a second language in Malta, Slovenia and Croatia, by minorities in Albania, Eritrea, France, Libya, Monaco,Montenegro, Romania and Somalia, and by expatriate communities in Europe, in the Americas and in Australia

Many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardised Italian and other regional languages.According to the Bologna statistics of the European Union, Italian is spoken as a native language by 59 million people in the EU (13% of the EU population), mainly in Italy, and as a second language by 14 million (3%). Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is around 85 million.

In Switzerland, Italian is one of three official languages (Romansh is a national language but not an official one nationwide); it is studied and learned in all the confederation schools and spoken, as a native language, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Graub√ľnden (predominately in Italian Grigioni) and by the Italian immigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of the Vatican City. It is co-official in Slovenian Istria and in Istria County in Croatia.

Italian is descended from Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. Among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary.


Italian is a Romance language, and is therefore a descendant of Vulgar Latin. Standard Italian is based on Tuscan, especially itsFlorentine dialect, and is therefore an Italo-Dalmatian language, to which Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian also belong, among a few others. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. Lexical similarity is 89% with French, 88% with Catalan, 85% with Sardinian, 82% with Spanish and Portuguese, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance, and 77% with Romanian.


Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first foreign language; in fact, Italian is considered the fourth most frequently taught foreign language in the world. According to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every year there are more than 200,000 foreign students who study the Italian language; they are distributed among the 90 Institutes of Italian Culture that are located around the world, or in the 179 Italian schools located abroad, or in the 111 Italian lecturer sections belonging to foreign schools where Italian is taught as a language of culture.

Writing System

The Italian alphabet has only 21 letters. The letters j, k, w, x, y are excluded, though they appear in loanwords such as jeans, whisky and taxi. The letter (x) has become common in standard Italian with the prefix extra-, although (e)stra- is traditionally used (but the word "extra" alone, used as a noun or adjective, is written with an (x)); it is now common to use of the Latin particle "ex(-)" to mean "former(ly)" as in: "la mia ex" ("my ex-girlfriend"), "Ex-Jugoslavia" ("Former Yugoslavia"). The letter (j) originated as an archaic orthographic variant of (i). It appears in the first name Jacopo and in some Italian place-names, such as Bajardo, Bojano, Joppolo, Jerzu, Jesolo, Jesi, Ajaccio, among numerous others. It also appears in Mar Jonio, an alternative spelling of Mar Ionio (the Ionian Sea)..


Italian grammar is typical of the grammar of Romance languages in general. It is noteworthy to mention that apart from a similar phonology, Italian is not as similar to Spanish in grammar and vocabulary as many people wrongly believe. Cases exist for pronouns (nominative, oblique, accusative, dative), but not for nouns. There are two genders(masculine and feminine).

Nouns, adjectives, and articles inflect for gender and number (singular and plural). Adjectives are sometimes placed before their noun and sometimes after. Subject nouns generally come before the verb. Subjective pronouns are usually dropped, their presence implied by verbal inflections. Noun objects come after the verb, as do pronoun objects after imperative verbs and infinitives, but otherwise pronoun objects come before the verb.

There are numerous contractions of prepositions with subsequent articles. There are numerous productive suffixes for diminutive, augmentative, pejorative, attenuating etc., which are also used to create neologisms.

There are three regular sets of verbal conjugations, and various verbs are irregularly conjugated. Within each of these sets of conjugations, there are four simple (one-word) verbal conjugations by person/number in the indicative mood (present tense; past tense with imperfective aspect, past tense with perfective aspect, and future tense), two simple conjugations in the subjunctive mood (present tense and past tense), one simple conjugation in the conditional mood, and one simple conjugation in the imperative mood.

Corresponding to each of the simple conjugations, there is a compound conjugation involving a simple conjugation of "to be" or "to have" followed by a past participle. "To have" is used to form compound conjugation when the verb is transitive ("Haidetto", "haifatto": you have said, you have made), while "to be" is used when the verb is intransitive ("Seiandato", "seistato": you have gone, you have been). "To be" may be used with transitive verbs, but in such a case it makes the verb passive ("Seidetto", "Seifatto": you are said, you are made). This rule is not absolute, some exceptions do exist.

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