How to use “quello che”: Italian grammar lesson

Lesson 183

Key Takeaways

Learn how to use the Italian phrase quello che to accurately translate “what” in various contexts.

  • Quello che translates to “that which” but is often used to mean “what” in English.
  • Examples include: “Ricordi quello che ti ha detto?” meaning “Do you remember what she said?”
  • It can be used in sentences like “Quello che ti ha detto Marco non è vero” meaning “What Marco told you isn’t true.”
  • Understanding quello che helps in translating complex sentences more naturally.

Quick facts

How can "what" be translated in Italian?

"What" can be translated as che, cosa, che cosa, ciò, quello, and quello che, depending on the context.

What does "quello che" literally mean in Italian?

"Quello che" literally means "that which," but it often translates to "what" in English for smoother phrasing.

Can "quello che" be used in everyday speech?

Yes, "quello che" is commonly used in everyday Italian to mean "what," especially when referring to something specific.

How does "quello che" function in a sentence?

"Quello che" introduces a clause, often translating to "what" or "that which," and provides specificity to the statement.

Could you give a practical example of "quello che"?

Sure! "Ricordi quello che ti ha detto?" translates to "Do you remember what she said?" illustrating its use in conversation.

How is "quello che" used in music?

Fabrizio De André, in his song, uses "quello che" to poetically say "what I do not have," showing its versatility in artistic expression.

Can "quello che" be used to express possession?

Yes, "quello che" can indicate possession, as in "Quello che non ho," meaning "what I do not have."

How does "quello che" enhance lyrical expression?

It adds a poetic and reflective quality, as seen in De André's lyrics, allowing for deeper, more nuanced expression.

How does "quello che" compare to other Italian translations of "what"?

"Quello che" is more specific and often used in more complex sentences compared to simpler forms like "che" or "cosa."

Why is understanding "quello che" important for Italian learners?

Mastering "quello che" enriches comprehension and communication, allowing learners to convey detailed and specific ideas more effectively.

Audio images

Quello che voglio è un caffè.
Quello che ti serve è pazienza.
Quello che voglio è un gelato.




Quello che dici è interessante.

What you're saying is interesting.

Non capisco quello che vuoi.

I don't understand what you want.

Quello che mi piace di più è il gelato.

What I like the most is ice cream.

Hai visto quello che è successo ieri?

Did you see what happened yesterday?

Quello che conta è la tua felicità.

What matters is your happiness.

My Thoughts

How to say what in Italian?

In all languages, there are certain words that can be translated in very different ways, especially when it comes to short words.

Think of the Italian word in which could be translated as in, to, into, at and there are probably more options depending on the context.

The same goes for saying “what” in Italian. We can say che, cosa, che cosa, ciò, quello, and quello che.

Have a look at the example below to understand how we can translate quello che as “what”:

Ricordi quello che ti ha detto?

Do you remember what she said?

Quello che voglio è un caffè.

Quello che ti serve è pazienza.

What is the meaning of quello che?

Quello che literally means that which.

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Have a look at the lyrics of a song composed by the great Fabrizio De André which, by the way, we recommend listening to:

Quello che non ho è una camicia bianca.
Quello che non ho è un segreto in banca.
Quello che non ho sono le tue pistole
per conquistarmi il cielo, per guadagnarmi il sole.

We could translate them literally as:

That which I do not have is a white shirt.
That which I do not have is a secret in the bank.
That which I do not have are your guns
to conquer the sky, to earn the sun.

But of course it sounds better if instead of that which, we say “what”.

Now you understand why “what” could be translated as quello che.

Quello che voglio è un gelato.

Quello che: examples

Let’s have a look at some more examples:

Non posso perdonarlo per quello che ha fatto.

I cannot forgive him for what he did.

Quello che ti ha detto Marco non è vero.

What Marco told you isn’t true.

Capisco quello che mi stai dicendo.

I understand what you’re saying.

Mi puoi dire quello che mi volevi dire?

Can you tell me what you wanted to tell me?

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


What is the meaning of "quello che"?

Literally it means "that which" but is more commonly translated as what.

Italian word of the day
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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3 Responses

    1. “Ecco la Sua pasta” è formale.
      “Ecco la tua pasta” è informale.

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