When to use “cosa” vs “che” in Italian?


Unlock the secrets of using “cosa” and “che” in Italian like a native! This guide demystifies when to use these tricky words, whether you’re chatting casually or in a formal setting. 🇮🇹✨

  • General vs. Specific: Use “cosa” for digging into details and “che” for broader strokes. Remember, “cosa” is your go-to for the nitty-gritty, while “che” keeps things high-level.
  • Formality Matters:Cosa fai” is your casual buddy, perfect for laid-back chats. Switch to “che fai” when you need to keep it classy or professional. Context is king!
  • Open vs. Closed Questions: When you’re looking for a wide range of answers, “cosa” is your open-ended question hero. For a more narrowed down choice, “che” is the sharpshooter.
  • “Cosa” as “Thing”: Beyond questions, “cosa” moonlights as “thing” in Italian. Use it when you’re talking about objects or abstract concepts. It’s a versatile little word!
  • “Che” as a Connector: When “che” isn’t asking questions, it’s busy being a relative pronoun. It’s the glue that holds clauses together, providing extra info without breaking a sweat.

My thoughts

Are you feeling perplexed by the Italian words “cosa” and “che” and when to use them in a sentence?

These two words are often interchangeable, causing confusion for language learners. Understanding their proper usage is crucial for mastering the Italian language.

Let’s dive into the nuances of “cosa” and “che” to clear up any confusion and improve your Italian skills.

When to use “cosa” vs “che” in Italian?

Cosa” and “che” in Italian can be confusing. Knowing when to use each is key for fluency. In general, “Cosa” is used for details. “Che” is for getting general information.

  • For General Info – “Che”

“Che” is used for indirect questions when seeking general information.

Vorrei sapere che libro stai leggendo.

I would like to know what book you are reading.

  • For Details – “Cosa”

“Cosa” is used when you want to delve into specific details within an indirect question.

 “Mi chiedo cosa stai facendo nel tuo ufficio.”

I wonder what you are doing in your office.

Difference between “cosa fai” and “che fai”

In Italian, “cosa fai” and “che fai” sound similar. But they have subtle distinctions in usage and formality.

  • Cosa fai” is an informal way to ask what someone is doing. It’s usually used in conversations with friends or family.

Imagine you’re talking to a friend, and you ask:

Cosa fai oggi?

What are you doing today?

  • Formality: It’s typically used in casual conversations with friends or family.

On the contrary, “che fai” is neutral and can be used in different settings, including formal ones.

  • “Che Fai”:

You could use “Che fai?” when inquiring about someone’s activities in a workplace or a formal event, like asking a colleague.

Che fai domani?

What are you doing tomorrow?

  • Formality: “Che fai” is versatile and suitable for neutral or formal conversations.

The choice between the two depends on the level of formality. “Cosa fai” is for casual conversations. “Che fai” is for neutral or formal conversations.

Read stories using che in Italian.

Using “cosa” and “che” in different situations in Italian

It’s important to know when to use “cosa” and “che” in Italian. It might be confusing, but with practice you can become more familiar. Let’s look at the contexts of their use.

When to use “cosa”:

  • “Cosa” for Giving Description or Something Unknown:

“Cosa” is used when you’re inquiring about or describing something unknown, such as an event or situation.

 “Cosa è successo?”

What happened?

  • “Cosa” for Open-Ended Questions:

“Cosa” is appropriate for open-ended questions that allow for a wide range of responses.

 “Cosa ti piace fare nel tempo libero?”

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • “Cosa” for General Preferences:

When discussing general preferences without specifying particular choices, “cosa” is used.

Cosa preferisci tra il cioccolato e la vaniglia?

What do you prefer between chocolate and vanilla?

When to use”che”:

  • Describing or providing specifics of something known.
  • Closed-ended questions or seeking specific info.
  • For indicating specific preferences among options.
  • “Che” for Describing the Known:

“Che” is employed when describing or providing specifics about something already known or identified.

“Che libro stai leggendo?”

What book are you reading?

  • “Che” for Closed-Ended Questions:

“Che” is suitable for closed-ended questions that seek specific information with limited response options.

Che ora è?

What time is it?

  • “Che” for Specific Preferences:

“Che” is used when indicating specific preferences among known options.

Che colore preferisci, il rosso o il verde?

Which color do you prefer, red or green?

Knowing the differences can help your comprehension and communication. By using “cosa” and “che” correctly, you will communicate clearly and confidently.

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Also, “cosa” can mean “thing” and “che” can be a relative pronoun. To master the subtle differences, practice is key.

  • “Cosa” as “Thing”:

“Ho perso la mia cosa preferita.”

I lost my favorite thing.

In this context, “cosa” refers to a physical object or item.

La cosa più importante è la salute.

The most important thing is health.

Here, “cosa” is used to signify an abstract concept or idea, like a general notion.

  • “Che” as a Relative Pronoun:

In this sentence, “che” is a relative pronoun that introduces a subordinate clause. “Che” connects the main clause to the relative clause, providing essential information.

La persona che ho incontrato era gentile.

The person whom I met was kind.

Il libro che ho letto è interessante.

The book that I read is interesting.

Learn more about inversion rules using chi and cosa in Italian.

Using “Cosa” and “Che” in Italian

In Italian, mastering the usage of “cosa” and “che” is essential for clear communication.

“Cosa” is for details and informal conversations, while “che” is for general info and suits formal contexts. Practice is key to understanding and applying these distinctions. Additionally, “cosa” can mean “thing,” and “che” functions as a relative pronoun, further adding to the language’s complexity.

If you want to acquire Italian phrases naturally, try Italian audio course and enjoy the full course during the free trial.

What is the difference between "cosa" and "che" in Italian?

"Cosa" is typically used for asking about details or when discussing general preferences, and it is more informal. "Che" is used for general information or specifics about known things and can be used in various settings, including formal ones.

How do I choose between "cosa" and "che" in Italian when asking questions?

The choice depends on whether you are seeking specific details or general information. "Cosa" is for details, while "che" is for getting general information. The context and formality level also play a role in the choice.

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Do you feel like going for a walk?
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