Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What’s Happening?

Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2018?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the 11th in a series that originates from our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. Our group has had a chance to use these phrases. Now I am posting them on this blog for everyone to try! 

A “commonly asked question” that will help us talk more easily is
 “What’s happening?”
We will discuss the Italian expressions used to ask this question,
which will lead to some answers such as:
“Everything is fine.” and “I understand.” 

 See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method, and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material was adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


What’s Happening?

in Italian

The English verb “to happen” is rendered in Italian with several different verbs: succedere, accadere, and capitare. However, the verb used to convey the idea that something is about to happen, especially to somebody, is succedere. Watch any Italian movie, and you will probably hear this verb at least once when one character asks another character to explain what is going on.

Therefore, for the simple question, “What is happening?” we have our verb of choice—succedere. The conjugation is regular in the present tense, so the third-person singular form that we will need for “it” to happen is succede.

The passato prossimo (past tense) can be used as well, for a one-time event that has just happened in the past. The helping verb will be essere, and the past participle is the irregular successo. So to ask what has happened in the past, we will need to use è successo.

Now,  to complete the question we want to ask, we must also learn the different ways to say “what” in Italian.

Che is commonly used as an interrogative expression meaning “What?” Again, anyone who has watched an Italian movie has no doubt heard all of the different variations on how to say “What?” in Italian. “Che?” “Che cosa?” and “Cosa?” all mean “What?” and are used interchangeably.

In fact, three of the most commonly spoken phrases where che is used in this way are the ones we are working on! Here they are:

Che succede? What’s happening?
Che è successo? What happened?
Che c’è? / Cosa c’è? What’s up? What’s going on?
(informal between friends)


Many times, when Italians ask a question, they start the sentence with the verb and leave out che, as in these common phrases:

È successo qualcosa? Did something happen?
È tutto a posto? Is everything all right?




Whenever someone asks a question in Italian, of course, they will expect to hear an answer! Let’s say you have asked, “What’s happened?” and it turns out everything is OK. You may receive one of the general answers below:

Non preoccuparti! Don’t worry (yourself)!
Non succede niente. Nothing is happening.
Non è successo niente. Nothing happened.
Non lo so. I don’t know.
Niente importante. Nothing important.
È tutto a posto.

Va tutto bene.

Everything is all right.

Everything is going well.
Everything is fine.

Ho sistemato tutto. I’ve put everything in order. (as in “I’ve fixed the problem.”)




Or, maybe you already know the information someone is talking about.  A relative or a friend, perhaps, has done something that is no surprise to you.  In this case, we can use expressions that include “che c’è” to convey a bit of irony.

Che c’è di nuovo? What else is new?
E che c’è di nuovo? And what else is new?
E allora, che c’è di nuovo? And now, what else is new?





To continue the conversation even further, the verb capire, which means “to understand” is also very helpful. Once someone has conveyed to you what has happened, you will want to let them know that you understand the situation!

Capire is an -ire verb of the -isco type, meaning that the io,tu, lei/lui, and loro forms add -isc before the usual -ire ending. For more on the verb capire and other important -ire verbs with -isco endings, please see Chapter 7 of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and Just the Verbs book.

Below are some easy answers you can give to relay the idea that you have understood what is going on. At the end of the list, there are additional questions you can use to ask someone else if they have understood something. Remember that, as usual, we will leave out the “io” (I) and “tu” (you familiar) subject pronouns for these verbs because these verbs are easily understood solely by their endings.

Capisco. I understand.
Ho capito. I understood. / I have understood.
Capisci? Do you understand?
Hai capito? Did you understand? Have you understood?


Remember these phrases, and I guarantee you will use them every day!


"Just the Verbs" from Conversational Italian for Travelers books
Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Verbs


   Available on and Learn Travel

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