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Phonetic rules

gn and gl

The Italian sounds represented by these spellings don't exist in English. Italian gn makes a sound approximately like the ny in the English word canyon, but not exactly. To come closer to the Italian sound, the tip of your tongue should touch the back of your bottom teeth.

Similarly, Italian gl makes a sound sort of like the sounds in the middle of the word "million", but not quite the same. To come closer to the correct Italian sound, the tip of the tongue should touch the back of the bottom teeth.

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  • c-C: This consonant has two pronunciations:

When "c" is followed by "a", "o", "u" or any consonant you pronounce it as in the English word Cat. It sounds like the English k. Example:

    • Casa  »  house.
    • Credere v to think, believe.
    • Con  »  with.
    • Colesseo  »  Colosseum.
    • Capo  »  head.
    • Cupido  »  Cupid.
    • Cane  »  dog.
    • Camera  »  camera.
    • Caffè  »  coffee.

  • When "c" is followed by "e" or "i" you pronounce it as you do the first and last sound in the English word Church, or like the English sound ch in chest. Examples:
  • Cena  »  supper.
  • Voce  »  voice.
  • Cibo  »  food.
  • Concerto  »  concert.
  • Aceto  »  vinegar.
  • Cinema  »  cinema
  • Cipolla  »  onion.

  • d-D: This consonant is somewhat more explosive than in English, with the tongue near the tip of the upper teeth but with no aspiration. Examples:
    • Di  »  of.
    • Dove  »  where.
    • Due  »  two.
    • Denaro  »  money.
    • Dodici  »  twelve.
    • Donna  »  woman.
    • Lunedì  »  Monday.
    • Moda  »  fashion.
    • Undici  »  eleven.

  • g-G: This consonant has two pronunciations:

When g is followed by "a", "o", "u", or any consonant, you pronounce it as you pronounce the g in the English word "good", or like "go". Examples:

    • Albergo  »  hotel.
    • Gamba  »  leg.
    • Gusto  »  taste.
    • Fungo  »  mushroom.
    • Gonna  »  skirt.
    • Gomma  »  eraser.
    • Lungo  »  long.
    • Guanti  »  gloves.
    • Guidare  »  to drive.
    • Lingua  »  tongue.

When g is followed by "e" or "i", you pronounce it as you do the first sound in the English word job or like the "g" in gem. Examples:

    • Gelato  »  ice cream.
    • Angelo  »  angel.
    • Pagina  »  page.
    • Gente  »  people.
    • Gesso  »  chalk.
    • Gentile  »  kind.
    • Gita  »  outing.
    • Gennaio  »  January.

  • q-Q: This consonant exists only in connection with u followed by another vowel; that is, you always find qu. The "q" is pronounced like (k), or like the English "qu" in quest. Examples:
    • Questo  »  this.
    • Quinto  »  fifth.
    • Quale  »  which.
    • Quarto  »  fourth.
    • Quanto  »  how much.
    • Quantità  »  quantity.
    • Quadro  »  picture.
    • Qualità  »  quality.

  • r-R: This sound is always "rolled", like a Scottish "r" in Edinburgh, or a Spanish "r" in señor.You don’t pronounce the Italian r with your tongue in the back, as you do the English r; rather, you can obtain this sound making the tip of the tongue vibrate almost against the hard palate, next to the back of the upper teeth. It never sounds as an English r, nor as a French r. Examples:
    • Ora  »  now.
    • Tenore  »  tenor.
    • Albergo  »  hotel.
    • Baritono  »  baritone.
    • Arte  »  art.
    • Orologio  »  watch.
    • Porta  »  door.
    • Sardina  »  sardine.

  • s-S: This consonant has two pronunciations:

S is sometimes strong and hissing like the English "s" in house, set, strip. Example:

    • Soggiorno  »  living room.
    • Testa  »  head.
    • Stanza  »  room.
    • Festa  »  party; holiday.
    • Posta  »  mail.
    • Stufato  »  stew.
    • Pasta  »  pasta; dough; pastry.
    • Pista  »  track.

S is sometimes (but always before b, d, g, l, m, n, r, and v) like the english s in easy, or the the English "z" in zoo. Examples:

    • Rosa  »  rose.
    • Casa  »  house.
    • Tesoro  »  treasure.
    • Frase  »  phrase.
    • Sbaglio  »  mistake.
    • Esercizio  »  exercise.
    • Svelto  »  quick.
    • Musica  »  music.
    • Sgridare  »  to scold.
    • Sbadato  »  careless.

  • z-Z: This consonant has two pronunciations(*):

Z is sometimes voiceless, like ts is bets, cats. Example:

    • Pizza  »  pizza.
    • Negozio  »  store.
    • Marzo  »  March.
    • Venezia  »  Venice.
    • Grazie  »  thank you.
    • Dizionario  »  dictionary.

Z is sometimes voiced, like ds in beds. Examples:

    • Zero  »  zero.
    • Zebra  »  zebra.
    • Pranzo  »  lunch.
    • Zelo  »  zeal.
    • Romanzo  »  novel.
    • Zanzara  »  mosquito.

(*) In either case, its sound differs more distinctly from s than it does in English.

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