Section One – Grammar and Spelling
1. Accents: are used on upper case letters. It is incorrect to use apostrophes after vowels to represent accents.
2. Gender: Italian has noun genders, but it does not have cases like Latin or German.
The two genders are feminine and masculine.
As a general rule singular feminine nouns end with the letter a or e and are preceded by the article la or una, e.g. la ditta, la stampante, una ditta, una stampante. There are some exceptions however: moto and Gestapo are both feminine.
Singular masculine nouns normally end with the letter o or e and are preceded by the article il, lo, un, uno, e.g. il libro, il bicchiere, lo zaino, lo scaffale, un bambino, un bicchiere, uno zaino, uno studente. The use of the appropriate article depends on the initial letters of the noun; for example, sc always requires lo.
Plural feminine nouns end with the letter e or i, and are preceded by the article le, e.g. le bambine, le stampanti.
Plural masculine nouns end with the letter i and are preceded by the article gli or i, e.g. gli amici, i bambini.
3. Plurals: plural words normally end with e or i and are preceded by the articles i, gli, le, e.g. i signori, gli amici, le amiche.
4. One-letter words: These include a ('at' or 'to'), e ('and'), è and È ('is', also a capital letter at the start of a sentence), i ('the' - plural), o ('or').
5. Capitalisation: Capital letters in polite forms of address are used as follows: In correspondence, both for the Lei (you) form and the Voi (you) form (Lei if the letter is sent to a specific person, Voi if the letter is sent to an entity or a company): for example '…la Vostra lettera' (your letter), '…per Voi' (for you), '…per porgerVi' (to give you), '…inviarLe' (to send you).
General capitalisation rules: Italian does not use capitals as often as English.
Inglesi, gli Italiani, i Romani, etc. to mean the English people, the Italian people, etc.
Please note: the word paese can mean 'country' OR 'village/town'. To prevent misinterpretation, when the meaning 'country' is intended, Paese within a sentence can be written with a capital 'P'.
Section Two – Punctuation
1. Colons and semi-colons: Punctuation is normally the same as in English although, generally speaking, Italian makes less frequent use of colons and semi-colons than English.
2. Speech marks: As in English, the use of « ... » instead of inverted commas is not permitted.
3. Full stops: These are not used at the end of headings and titles. Bullet points do not normally have full stops.
Section Three – Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: Metric measurements are used throughout, with the rare exception of the following which retain the imperial measurement:
Time: the 24 hr clock is used in Italy and indication of am or pm is therefore unnecessary, e.g.
10 am = ore 10:00
3 pm = ore 15:00
In a written context very often the time follows the word alle, meaning 'at', e.g. alle 10:00, alle 15:00 or even alle quattro.
Date: the date 25/8/04 can be written as:
25 agosto 2004
25 agosto '04
Please note that when the date is, for example, 1st April 2000, in Italian 1° aprile 2000 is used. 1° = primo, 2° = secondo, etc.
Numbers over 999 are separated by a dot: 1.000, 2.233, 145.000.
Decimal: Italian uses a decimal comma.
Square metres and square centimetres are abbreviated both as m² and mq and cm² and cmq, respectively.
A space is normally left between numbers and the measurement abbreviation such as 25 cm, 48 g, 2 bar. However NO space is left before °C: 25°C.
N/a = n/p (non pertinente) [= not relevant]
No. = N.; n.; N°
e.g. = ad es.; es.; per es.
Q&A = the abbreviation should be D&R, although occasionally it is left as Q&A
WxLxHxD = Lar x Lun x H x Prof (larghezza x lunghezza x altezza x profondità)
All. (allegato) = Enc. (enclosure)
CEE (Comunità economica europea) = EEC
CA (corrente alternata) = Alternate Current
C.A. (cortese attenzione) = 'FAO' in letters
CAP (codice di avviamento postale) = English postcode and American zipcode
c.s. (come sopra) = as above
ecc., etc. = etc.
IVA (imposta valore aggiunto) = V.A.T.
Ns. or ns (nostro) = our
OMS (Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità) = WHO (World Health Organisation)
pag. (pagina) = page
pagg. (pagine) = pages, e.g. from page 4 to page 5 = pagg. 4-5
pag. seg. (seguente) = following page
pagg. segg. (pagine seguenti) = following pages
UE = Unione Europea = EU (European Union)
u.s. = ultimo scorso (as in nella lettera del 15 u.s. = in our letter of the 15th last)
v. (vedi) = see
ved. (vedere) = see
vs. or Vs. = vostro (your)
v.s. (vedi sopra) = see above
Section Four – Hyphenation
Hyphenation is only used to split words over a line.
Words are hyphenated by syllables (a syllable is normally made up of one consonant followed by one or two vowels e.g. 0-ro-lo-gio)
When two similar or different consonants appear, they are split, e.g. il-lu-mina-zione, an-ti-co, stam-pan-te, par-te-ci-pa-zio-ne, cap-pel-lo
The following consonants must not be split: sp, sc, gn, gl, st, ch, gh, q, cq (a-spet-ta-re, di-sco, ci-co-gna, Ca-glia-ri, a-stan-ti)
The following vowels must not be split: ai, io, oi, ie, ia, eo (geo-gra-fia, astro-lo-gia, poi-ché)
In Italian hyphenation is logical and never guessed.
Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Use of the apostrophe instead of a vowel: for example instead of la altra we say and write l'altra, instead of lo amico we say and write l'amico, instead of dove è we say and write dov'è.
Use of the apostrophe in front of some words which begin with h (h is a silent letter in Italian): for example l'hanno visto.
Double consonants are very common and change the meaning of a word e.g. anno = year, ano = anus
- words which end with an accented a have a grave accent = à
- words which end with an accented u have a grave accent = ù
- words which end with an accented o have a grave accent = ò
- perché, cosicché, affinché, poiché only have acute accents é (never grave)
È should be used instead of E' (the latter is often used by typists who do not know how to call up the symbol or to key in the ASCII character on the keyboard - or lazy ones!).
Use of foreign words in Italian: words such as il computer (the computer) and i computer (computers) are common usage. The same word is used for both singular and plural.
In letters sent to a company, there is generally no equivalent to 'Dear Sirs' in Italian. The subject of the letter is stated first, normally followed by the body text of the letter. Many greener agencies will come back and say that the translation of this term has been missed out or forgotten, not realising that the convention is different in Italian.
Section Six – Geographic Distribution
Italian is considered by many to be the most beautiful of the world's languages. As the transmitter of the great culture of the Renaissance, its influence on the other languages of Western Europe has been profound.
Besides being spoken in Italy, it is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, and is also widely spoken in the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Brazil. All told there are about 60 million speakers of Italian. Italian is one of the Romance languages, and has remained closer to the original Latin than any of the others. Its dialects, however, vary tremendously, often to the point where communication becomes a problem.
Italian is spoken/used in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Holy See (Vatican City), Italy, Monaco (Principality of), San Marino, Slovenia, Somalia, Switzerland, United States of America.
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Italian - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Section Seven – Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes