Learn Italian Cognates – Italian/English Best Friends!

Italian Cognates on via Dante, Milan
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

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 cognateswords 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, this will greatly increase your vocabulary with very little effort.

For words that are similar in both 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

Italian Nouns Ending in -tà

Some Italian -ire Verbs


The ending –tà in Italian is equivalent to the ending –ty in English.

All of the nouns in the group listed in this group are feminine and invariable; therefore, these words will take the definite article la for the singular form and le for the plural form, although the ending of these nouns remains –à.  For instance, one city is la città and many cities is le città.

città = city
communità = community
elettricità  = electricity
facoltà = faculty, department course of study
festività  = religious holiday
identità  =  identity
località  =  locality/place/small town
nazionalità = nationality
ospitalità = hospitality
società = society
company (business)
specialità  = speciality
unità = unity
università  = university

For some –ire verbs, the –ire ending will be equivalent to the ending –ish in English.  

finire  = to finish
punire  = to punish

 If you can think of another cognate to add to either of 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!


Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

Available on Amazon.com and www.Learn Travel Italian.com