When You Just Need to Know More: How Do You Say "Why" in Italian?
Knowledge is power. Trying to figure stuff out is a significant reason why we’re here – from philosophers down to toddlers, we should always be on a quest for knowledge. For just about everyone, this starts with a why.
The word why in Italian, as in other languages, creates quite possibly the most powerful questions ever uttered. And once an answer is granted, it opens up a world of wonder that we never stop exploring.
In Italian, this is ever-evident, and if you’re learning to figure out why something exists, or you want someone to expound on their beliefs or opinions, there isn’t a better way to start. On the other side of the coin, you could be wanting to explain a concept to someone, making you the one that’s supposed to teach.
If you want to learn more practical Italian vocabulary, don’t forget to look at our Italian Frequency Dictionaries. You’ll find 10,000 most used Italian words there listed by the frequency of their occurrence. It makes vocabulary learning easy and fun!
How to Translate “Why” into Italian
The most basic translation of “why” into Italian is perché. You use it when you ask about reasons or explanations. It’s pronounced [perˈke] in the IPA transcription. Don’t forget that “ch” in Italian is pronounced [k]!
- Mi chiedo perché – I wonder why
This common phrase is a building phrase for any sentence where you’re trying to get an explanation out of a person, place, or thing. While it may sound inquisitive, its delivery can be rhetorical in the sense that you could be, as we say in English, “thinking out loud” or even using a bit of sarcasm.
The operative word here is chiedo, expressing contemplation, or more directly – I am asking. Once paired with the modifier, it becomes a more direct phrase to a given person.
- Perché no? – Why not?
Perché no is used when you need to have a bit more clarification on whatever was previously asked. This frequently used phrase works formally or informally.
Use it with care, though. You may sound childish if you question something that’s so obvious that it doesn’t need explanation. No, like in English, it is pretty self-explanatory. It is generally used in the negative, such as English words like no, nay, or nope.
Like in English, it can also mean that you don’t see a reason why something wouldn’t work.
- Perché no? Dammi una sola ragione. – Give me one reason why not.
- Sí, perché no, andiamo. – Sure, why not, let’s go.
In these two sentences, you can see both meaning of this phrase – asking about a reason (1) and agreeing with somebody (2).
Two Meanings of Perché
We have already mentioned that it can be an interrogative adverb that asks about purpose or cause. However, the Italian perché is often also translated as “because.” Why is that? (By the way, you can translate this question into Italian simply as Perché?)
To put it simply, it can also be a conjunction, an Italian equivalent of the English “because.” Let’s take a look at some examples.
- Perché? Perché ho detto così. – Why? Because I said so.
- Sono venuto perché volevo. – I came because I wanted to.
- Perché sei in ritardo? – Why are you late?
Other Important Italian Question Words
"Why" is not the only question word you can use when you are curious about something. Questions starting with “where, when, how,” or “who” are just as important.
No matter if you need to know where a certain place of interest is located, or when it opens, it always helps to know how to form these questions correctly. So, let’s revise the most common question words in the Italian language.
- Where – dove [ˈd̪oː.ve]
Dove sei? – "Where are you?" Dove is often shortened to dov’ as in Dov’è il museo? – "Where is the museum?" If you travel in Italy and want to ask where something is, you can also use Dove si trova…? or Dove posso trovare…? – Where can I find…?
- When – quando [ˈkwando]
Italians are habitually late. It’s one of the common stereotypes about Italians. While it may be sometimes viewed negatively, for them it is just a reflection of taking time slowly and enjoying the moment.
However, knowing how to ask when something happens makes planning the day easier. Quando apre? means “When does it open?” while Quando chiude? means “When does it close?”
- How – come [ˈkome]
Asking how something works can be as inquisitive as asking why. In this case, you would use the phrase Come funziona? – "How does it work?"
Of course, we mustn’t forget one of the most common phrases with come: Come sta/stai? – “How are you?” Use sta in formal and stai in informal situations.
- Who – chi [ki]
You can ask Chi va là? – "Who is there?" Don't confuse it with che, which means "what."
- What – che cosa, cosa, che [ke ˈkɔːsa]
Che cosa is rather formal, while a simple cosa is informal. Using just che is very informal. However, if it precedes a noun e.g. "what color," use just che.
- Cosa consigliate? – What do you recommend?
- Che colore è questo? – What color is this?
- How much – quanto [ˈkwanto]
This question word comes in handy when you need to know how much something costs: Quanto costa?
If you want to ask “how many,” use quanti, e as in quante persone – "how many people" or quanti bambini – "how many children." Use quanti with masculine and quante with feminine nouns.
Of all of the words in any given language, understanding why something is, is paramount to getting a grasp of anything in a particular culture. Asking why allows you to honestly relate to what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what you can do in a situation.
Asking why eliminates confusion. When you ask why a lot, it helps you get the necessary context in any situation. You’ll make sure everybody is on the same page, while a lack of knowledge is something you should avoid. Pre-conceived assumptions can be dangerous!