When you’re learning a new language, it can be hard to tell how to pronounce different letter combinations and sounds. Fortunately, learning to read Italian is a lot more straightforward than learning to spell in English! In Italian, how letters are pronounced is consistent, so once you understand the basics of Italian writing, you’ll be well on your way to knowing how to pronounce any Italian word.

Use this Italian pronunciation guide together with general pronunciation tips to improve your speaking skills today!

In this post:

How to pronounce Italian vowels

Each written vowel in Italian has only 1 or 2 possible pronunciations:

Letter Pronunciation (English and IPA) Examples
a like the "a" in "pa" (IPA: /a/) cane (dog), caro (expensive)
e like the "ay" in "bay," but tenser and shorter (IPA: /e/) cena (dinner), mela (apple)
e like the "e" in "bed" (IPA: /ɛ/) bello (beautiful), senza (without)
i like the "ee" in "feet" (IPA: /i/) tipo (kind, type), di (of)
o like the "oa" in "boat," but tenser and shorter (IPA: /o/) sono (I am), voce (voice)
o like the "ou" in "bought" (IPA: /ɔ/) rosa (pink), cosa (thing)
u like the "oo" in "boom" (IPA: /u/) scusa (excuse me), duro (hard)

(You can learn more about the International Phonetic Alphabet and IPA pronunciation symbols by reading this post.)

Italian makes many more sounds by writing combinations of vowels:

Letters Sound (English and IPA) Examples
ai like the "ie" in "lie" (IPA: /aj/) mai (never), dai (you give)
au like the "ow" in "how" (IPA: /aw/) aurora (dawn), causo (I cause)
ei like the "ay" in "day" (IPA: /ej/) dei (of the), nei (in the)
ei like the "ay" in "day" but with your jaw a bit more open (IPA: /ɛj/) sei (six), lei (she)
eu like a mix between "new" and "now" (IPA: /ew/) pneumatico (tire), europeo (European)
eu like a mix between "new" and "no" (IPA: /ɛw/ euro (Euro), reuma (rheumatism)
iao like the "yow" in "yowl" (IPA: /jao/) miao (meow)
ia like the "ya" in "yacht" (IPA: /ja/) iato (hiatus), siamo (we are)
ie like the "ye" in "yes" (IPA: /jɛ/) ieri (yesterday), miele (honey)
iei like "yay" (IPA: /jɛj) miei (my)
io like the "yo" in "yo-yo" (IPA: /jo/) fiore (flower), violino (violin)
io like the "yo" in "yo-yo" but with your jaw a bit more open (IPA: /jɔ/) piove (it's raining), pioggia (rain)
iu like "you" (IPA: /ju/) aiuto (help), piuma (feather)
oi like the"oy" in "boy" (IPA: /oj/) noi (we), voi (you all)
oi like the "oy" in "boy" but with your jaw a bit more open (IPA: /ɔj/) poi (then)
ua like the "wa" in "wash" (IPA: /wa/) uguale (same), quadro (picture)
uai like "why" (IPA: /waj/) guai (troubles)
ue like the “wa” in “way” (IPA: /we/) questo (this), quello (that)
ue like the "we" in "wed" (IPA: /wɛ/) quercia (oak), guerra (war)
ui like "we" (IPA: /wi/) qui (here), quindi (so)
uo like "woe" (IPA: /wo/) nuotare (to swim), suonare (to play)
uo like the "wa" in "wander" but with rounded lips (IPA: /wɔ/) cuore (heart), uovo (egg)
uoi like "woy," rhyming with "boy" (IPA: /wɔi/) puoi (you can), vuoi (you want)

How to pronounce Italian consonants

Many Italian consonants make the same sounds as English, but here are some important differences:

Letters Sound (English and IPA) Examples
c + e
c + i
like "ch" in English "cheese" (IPA: /t͡ʃ/) certo (of course), cielo (sky)
c + all other vowels like "k" in English "kid" (IPA: /k/) casa (house), come (as)
ch like "k" in English "kid" (IPA: /k/) che (what), chiedo (I ask)
g + e
g + i
like "j" in English "jump" (IPA: d͡ʒ) gelato (ice cream), giorno (day)
g + all other vowels like "g" in English "go" (IPA: /g/) gonna (skirt), gusto (taste)
gh like "g" in English "go" (IPA: /g/) leghe (leagues), ghiro (dormouse)
gl make a "y" sound, then pull the middle of your tongue up to the back of your mouth for a sort of "ly" sound (IPA: /ʎ/) gli (the)
gn like "ni" in "onion" (IPA: /ɲ/) ogni (every)
h Nothing… it's silent! hotel (hotel)
sc + e
sc + i
like "sh" in "sheet" (IPA: /ʃ/) pesce (fish)
sv "z" + "v" svago (hobby)
pn say both letters, "p" + "n" pneumatico (tire)
ps say both letters, "p" + "s" psicologia (psychology)

Double consonants in Italian
Italian has many geminates, or double consonants. Whenever you see a double consonant, you need to hold it a little bit longer than a single one. For example, casa (house) has a shorter "s" sound, while cassa (crate) will be pronounced more like "cas" + "sa," with the "s" being pronounced for longer. 

Accent marks in Italian

Accent marks are not used that often in Italian. Occasionally they are used to show the difference between two words that are spelled the same way, such as e (and) and è (is). Otherwise, the accent mark tells you that the last part of the word is stressed (or emphasized). For example, in città (city), the stress goes at the end.

You can say that again!

Now that you know the basics of Italian pronunciation, you’ll be able to read any word and you'll know how to say it yourself. With practice, sounds that don’t exist in English will become second nature to you, and you’ll be speaking Italian with confidence!