9

In many germanic languages you change the word order if you want it to be a question.

Statement: You are tired.

Question: Are you tired?

If I put “Are” at the beginning it becomes a question.

Sei un po' stanco? in Italian means “Are you tired?” but it also sounds like a statement. In Italian you cannot simply change the word order in order to make it a question. How do Italians then ask questions? By adding a question mark in texts and changing the pitch in speech?

I could write: “You are tired?” But it sounds a bit weird in English unless you were surprised that the person was tired.

Is this how you ask questions in Italian?

  • 2
    The question is “Sei stanco?". The difference is in intonation: a descending tone for the statement “Sei stanco.” an ascending tone for the question. – egreg Oct 14 at 11:32
  • You are right, it is all about the intonation. This is a characteristic of all romance languages. Changing word order when expressing questions is also present in romance languages (e.g. in French, Elle vient... vs Vient-elle...). – Easymode44 Oct 14 at 12:11
  • @Easymode44 And French, lacking the same tone features as Italian, uses something like Est-ce que tu est fatigué? – egreg Oct 14 at 13:41
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    @egreg That depends. Est-ce que is used, but not always. In informal contexts, French often makes the questions exactly as Italian (maybe with a somewhat less pronounced intonation) – Denis Nardin Oct 14 at 18:12
  • I don't really see the need for explanation, when your Germanic example works the same; "You're tired? Already?" or "You're tired; time for bed." – user3445853 Oct 15 at 13:05
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How do Italians then ask questions? By adding a question mark in texts and changing the pitch in speech?

That's exactly how you do it, for questions implying a yes/no answer.

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That's correct; it's explained on the Wikipedia page on Italian grammar:

Questions are formed by a rising intonation at the end of the sentence (in written form, a question mark). There is usually no other special marker, although wh-movement does usually occur. In general, intonation and context are important to recognize questions from affirmative statements.

  • Davide è arrivato in ufficio. (David has arrived at the office.)
  • Davide è arrivato in ufficio? ("Talking about David… did he arrived at the office?" or "Davide has arrived at the office? Really?" - depending on the intonation)
  • Perché Davide è arrivato in ufficio? (Why has David arrived at the office?)
  • Perché Davide è arrivato in ufficio. (Because David has arrived at the office.)
  • È arrivato Davide in ufficio. ("It was David who arrived at the office" or "David arrived at the office" - depending on the intonation)
  • È arrivato Davide in ufficio? (Has David arrived at the office?)
  • È arrivato in ufficio. (He has arrived at the office.)
  • (Lui) è arrivato in ufficio. (He has arrived at the office.)
  • Chi è arrivato in ufficio? (Who has arrived at the office?)
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    To these you can also add "Perché è arrivato Davide in ufficio?" (Why has David arrived at the office?) and "Perché è arrivato Davide in ufficio." (Because David has arrived at the office), where in both cases the emphasis is on the fact that David has arrived and not someone else. – Denis Nardin Oct 15 at 18:28

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