Anyone who has studied Italian for even a short time has probably noticed how similar to English many Italian words are. This is because both languages have words with origins that date back to the Latin language spoken by the Romans. These words are called cognates—words that have a common origin and a similar meaning.
English/Italian cognates can be the best friend of one who is trying to learn either language. But beware! Not all words that sound alike have the same meaning in both languages. There is a pattern, though, and if you can recognize the different groups of cognates, your vocabulary will greatly increase with very little effort.
For words that are similar in Italian and English, the stem of the word will provide a clue to the actual meaning, and the ending will also follow a common pattern.
See how this works below with an excerpt reprinted from the grammar section of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, courtesy of publisher Stella Lucente, LLC.
For an easy-to read reference book on grammar, the same section is found in the reference book Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar.
Grammar Note: Cognates
Adjectives Ending in -ale, -ico, -etto, -atto
Here are more examples of cognates—words that have a common origin and a similar meaning in Italian and English. Recognizing these words should greatly increase one’s vocabulary with very little effort!
The ending –ale in Italian is equivalent to the ending –al in English.
The ending –ico in Italian is equivalent to the ending –ical in English.
The ending –etto in Italian is equivalent to the ending –ect in English.
The ending –atto in Italian is equivalent to the ending –act in English.
|contatto||=||contact (to touch)|
|=||to know someone (in a business)|
|tratto||=||tract of land/pamphlet|
|tratto digestivo||=||digestive tract|
If you can think of another cognate to add to these lists, please join our Conversational Italian! Facebook group and leave a post, or leave a message below. I’d love to hear from you!