In this article, we will see how to use bello, bravo, buono and bene in Italian. We will start with the first three which are all adjectives and see how to use and how to inflect them, and then we will look bene, which is an adverb.
Bello, bravo, buono and bene are very important and simple words, but they have very similar meanings. So sometimes they can be confused by students. In fact, all these words are used to express a positive judgment about a thing or an action, and often Italian people are able to discover that you are a foreigner just from you using these words in the wrong way. In this article, I’ll try to show you some simple rules and how to use these words so that you look and sound like an Italian native.
Bello, bravo and buono are all adjectives, but bene is an adverb. We’ll start by looking at the differences between the three adjectives and then the adverb.
The first adjective we will talk about is bello, because it is the simplest of the three. It expresses an aesthetic aspect of a noun:
- Maria è una bella donna: Maria is a beautiful woman.
- E’ un bel concerto: It’s a beautiful/nice concert.
- Il buono, il brutto e il cattivo è un bel film: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a beautiful film.
- C’era bel tempo: There was nice weather.
We use bello to also emphasize a concept or an action:
- Mangio un bel piatto di spaghetti: I ate a lovely plate of spaghetti.
- Mi faccio una bella doccia: I had a wonderful shower.
- Bevo una bella birra: I enjoyed my beer.
Buono refers to aspects of the content. We use it to express taste or qualities of people or things:
- La pizza è buona: Pizza tastes good.
- E’ un ragazzo buono: He’s a good boy.
- E’ un buon libro: It’s a good/well-written book.
We use it also to wish something to someone:
- Buon viaggio!: Have a nice trip!
- Buone vacanze!: Have a good holiday!
- Buona giornata!: Have a nice day!
- Buon lavoro!: I wish you a good working day!
Bravo is used only in reference to living beings when they are good at doing something. For example, their job, playing sport, speaking Italian, cooking and also in their behavior:
- Carla e’ una brava ragazza: Carla is a good girl.
- Mastrandrea e’ un bravo attore: Mastrandrea is a good actor.
- Pilù e’ un bravo cane: Pilù is a good dog.
Bravo is also used to reward someone that has done a good job:
- Hai fatto un buon lavoro. Bravo!: You did a good job. Congratulations!
Bravo o buono?
Bravo is used only with people or animals (living beings), buono, instead, is used both for living beings and things. Now it should be easier for you to choose the right adjective:
- Un buon ristorante...not...un bravo ristorante.
- Un buon libro...not...un bravo libro.
- Un buon cane...or...un bravo cane.
A restaurant doesn’t live, nor does a book, but a dog does!
Watch out! Un buon ragazzo / un bravo ragazzo are very similar sentences, and we use them indifferently. But un ragazzo buono / un ragazzo bravo are different. The first means that he is a good boy that wouldn’t hurt a fly, the second that he is a boy who acts well in what he is doing.
Bravo, buono and bello are adjectives, so they follow the noun:
- Un bravo ragazzo: A good boy.
- Una brava ragazza: A good girl.
- Due bravi ragazzi: Two good boys.
- Due brave ragazze: Two good girls.
Buono becomes buon before a singular masculine noun. If the noun starts with s + consonant, gn, pn, ps, z, x they have both forms; buono and buon:
- Buon Natale: Merry Christmas.
- Buon gelato: Good ice-cream.
- Buono studio / buon studio: Have a good studying day.
- Buona scuola: Good school.
- Buona domenica: Have a nice Sunday/week-end.
Be careful! Buono can also be a noun. For example: ho dei buoni sconto doesn’t mean that I have some good discounts, but that I have discounts. In this case, Buono is the paper that is used to get the discount.
Bello is more complex, because it follows the definite articles: il, lo, l’, la, gli, i, le.
- Un bel cane: Beautiful dog.
- Un bello spettacolo: Nice show.
- Un bell’ombrello: Beautiful umbrella.
- Una bella maglietta: Nice t-shirt.
- Bell’amica: Good friend.
- Begli occhi: Beautiful eyes.
- Bei cavalli: Beautiful horses.
- Belle persone: Nice people.
The word belli is used just after a noun:
Hai degli occhi molto belli...but...hai dei begli occhi: You have very beautiful eyes.
As I said at the beginning of this article, after the adjectives, I will talk about the adverb Bene. As an adverb, Bene has just one form, because it follows the verb, not the noun!
- Lorenza canta bene: Lorenza sings well.
- Luigi parla bene italiano: Luigi speaks Italian well.
- E’ andata bene: It went well.
- Ho mangiato molto bene: I ate very well.
- Ti voglio bene! : I love you!
Bene is also a noun, and can have a lot of different meanings:
- Questo è bene: He is right.
- Il legname è un bene commerciale: Wood is a commercial good.
When used as a noun, bene has the plural form beni:
- L’acqua e l’aria sono beni comuni: Water and air are common goods.
So please be careful when you use these words and say:
- Mario ha suonato bene...not...Mario ha suonato bravo.
- In questo ristorante si mangia bene...not...In questo ristorante si mangia buono.
In this article we saw that bello, buono and bravo are used to express positive judgments about something. Bello not only means that something is beautiful but also that I enjoy something; buono and bravo can both be translated to good, but buono is more about attitude. Instead bravo is used more after an action, in fact only living beings can be bravi.
Even if bello seems the simplest one to use, it is the most difficult one to inflect. In fact, it follows a definite article and does not follow the general rules of adjective inflection.
Finally, we examined the adverb bene, which means well and follows the verb, not the noun, and so it is invariable.
But this article is useless because I know that!
Voi siete dei bravi studenti, andate in una buona scuola, avete un bel cervello e parlate bene l’italiano!
 Ti voglio bene is quite different from ti amo. The first is used to refer to a friend or a son, the second just to a fiancé or to husband or wife.