How to say “which”: Italian grammar lesson 245


Dive into the nitty-gritty of Italian grammar with our guide on using quale and quali! Master the art of choosing the right relative pronoun, and learn how to add that authentic Italian flair to your conversations. 🇮🇹✨

  • Quale vs. Quali: Get the hang of when to use quale (singular) and when to switch to quali (plural). It’s all about matching the number of nouns you’re referring to. 🔄
  • Quale as a Relative Pronoun: Use quale to refer back to a noun you just mentioned. It’s gender-neutral but changes in number. Remember, quale is singular, and quali is plural. 🤓
  • Prepositions Matter: When a preposition is involved, quale and quali step in to add clarity. Think “the girl with whom you went out” instead of just “the girl you went out.” 🎯
  • Article + Preposition + Quale/Quali: Nail the structure by combining an article with a preposition before quale or quali. It’s like building blocks for grown-up Italian sentences. 🏗️
  • Articulated Prepositions: Some prepositions merge with articles to become articulated. Get this trick down, and you’ll sound like a local in no time. 🤌
  • When in Doubt, Use Cui: If quale and quali are giving you a headache, just use cui. It’s the one-size-fits-all relative pronoun that doesn’t change with gender or number. 🆒

My thoughts

What is quale in Italian?

Quale is the equivalent of which in Italian. And like in English it has two uses.

It can either be a question word or a relative pronoun which is a word that is used to refer to a noun previously mentioned.

Here is an example of quale used as a question:

Quale città Italiana preferisci?

Which Italian city do you prefer?

And here is an example used as a relative pronoun:

Il film il quale ho visto mi è piaciuto tanto.

I liked a lot the movie which I saw.

Today we’re going to focus on the use of quale and quali as relative pronouns.

What does quale mean?

As we already said, quale means which but it can also mean who.

If we use quale as a relative pronoun, we’re referring to something or someone we just mentioned. And, is invariable for gender, which means it stays the same for feminine and masculine words.

However, it changes depending on the number of words it refers to. Quale is singular, and quali is plural.

Sometimes, quale and quali simply replace che.

We could say:

Ho incontrato un ragazzo che mi ha aiutato a portare le cose.

I bumped into a guy who helped me carry my stuff.

This option is definitely more common. But we could also say:

Ho incontrato un ragazzo il quale mi ha aiutato a portare le cose.

I bumped into a guy who helped me carry my stuff.

This option is not too common. You’ll find it mostly in written texts.

When to use quale?

Have a look at the sentences below:

Ho letto gli articoli dei quali mi avevi parlato.

I read the articles about which you talked.
I read the articles you talked about.

La ragazza con la quale sei uscito è la mia ex.

The girl with whom you went out is my ex.
The girl you went out with is my ex.

As you can see in the examples we just saw, we use quale and quali when there’s a preposition (di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra) referring to which or whom.

How to use quale with relative pronouns?

The structure is preposition + article + quale or quali. Example : con + il + quale (literally: with + the + which)

The article will change depending on the gender and number of the word it’s referring to:

  • La ragazza con la quale.
  • I libri per i quali.

Some prepositions, like a, di, da, nel, and su become articulated, which means articles are added to the prepositions, as you can see below:

  • a: al, allo, alla, all’, ai, agli, alle
  • di: del, dello, della, dell’, dei, degli, delle
  • da: dal, dallo, dalla, dall’, dai, dagli, dalle
  • in: nel, nello, nella, nell’, nei, negli, nelle
  • su: sul, sullo, sulla, sull’, sui, sugli, sulle

We can say things like: sulle quali (about which), dei quali (about which), per la quale (for which), etc.

What does cui mean?

Cui is a synonym for quale and quali.

However, cui is simpler to use as it doesn’t change depending on the number and gender of what it’s referring to. It’s always cui.

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Also, we don’t need an article right before cui. The structure is always just: preposition + cui

So, if you still don’t feel comfortable using quale or quali, just use cui.

We can either say:

Io ho una sorella alla quale voglio bene.

I have a sister who I love.


Io ho una sorella a cui voglio bene.

I have a sister who I love.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Quale and quali: examples

Let’s now have a look at some examples with quale and quali preceded by a preposition and an article.

You will see the translations into English sound odd so we’ll give you a more appropriate translation for each example:

I bambini con i quali stavo giocando sono i miei cugini.

The children with whom I was playing were my cousins.
The children I was playing with were my cousins.

Sono delle persone sulle quali si può contare.

They’re people on which you can count.
They’re people you can count on.

Voglio una casa dalla quale poter vedere il mare.

I want a house from which I can see the sea.
I want a house I can see the sea from.

E’ il terzo concorso al quale partecipo.

It’s the third contest in which I have participated.
It’s the third contest I have participated in.

Ho perso la scatola nella quale avevo messo i documenti.

I lost the box in which I had put the documents.
I lost the box I had put the documents in.

What is "quale"?

Is the equivalent of which in Italian. And it has two uses: as question or as a relative pronoun.

What does "quale" mean?

It can mean which and also who. And can be used singular "quale" and plural "quali". In some cases, it replaces "che".

When to use "quale" and "quali"?

When there is a preposition (di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra) referring to which or whom.

How to use "quale" with relative pronouns?

The structure is: preposition + article + "quale" or "quali".

What does "cui" mean?

It's a synonym of "quale". but does not have singular or plural. It's structure is: preposition + "cui".

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2 Responses

  1. Re Lesson 245.
    I don’t understand why there is an article ‘il’ that has to be used in front of ‘quale’ –> il quale. I didn’t see it explained in the Grammar section and tried to Google to see if I could better understand, especially since there’s no need for an article in front of ‘cui’, for instance, a synonym to ‘il quale’. Grazie.

    1. Ciao!

      Quale in Italian can work as an adjective or as a relative pronoun.

      As the latter, it can substitute a subject and the complements but is a little bit more formal than che and cui and that is why is used for writing.
      The reason why is accompanied by articles is that is always in number and genre agreement with the noun is referring to. There are 4 possibilities: il quale, la quale, i quali, and le quali.

      Regarding your second question, il quale can express possession but the sentence changes compared when cui is used. Il quale agrees in genre and number with the person it possesses but cui agrees in genre and number with the object or the person possessed.

      Cui is always preceded by a preposition but when it expresses possession it’s preceded by a determinative article.

      An example can be: Mio fratello, la moglie del quale l’ha tradito, è depresso. = Mio cugino, la cui moglie l’ha tradito, è depresso.

      If you have any other questions or doubts don’t hesitate to let us know.

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