This blog series, “How to Talk About… in Italian” will focus on the topics that have come up most frequently in my everyday conversations with Italian family, friends and colleagues. We will focus on the important Italian phrases and Italian vocabulary we all need to know to become more fluent when we speak about everyday events in Italian!
The topic for this month — the weather — comes up frequently during daily conversation, both when making small talk with acquaintances and also when planning activities with family, friends, and co-workers. In the “How to Talk About Weather in Italian” blog for this month, we will focus on common Italian phrases needed to ask and answer questions about the weather. We will also give examples of common Italian expressions that can be used to describe all four seasons.
Italians have a different approach than English-speakers when making references to the weather. For instance, Italians talk about what the weather is making, rather than what the weather is at a given point in time. So first, we will learn how to use the Italian verb fare (to do/to make) to describe “what the weather is making” when we speak. We must first “think in Italian” if we want to talk about the weather in Italian!
Enjoy the second topic in this “How to Talk About…” series, “How to Talk About Weather in Italian.” —Kathryn Occhipinti
Some of this material was originally presented on the Conversational Italian! blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! “ Special thanks to Italian instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.
For a general assessment of the weather, Italians use the ever popular verb fare in the third person singular, which you will remember is fa. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb fare, you will find this in our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs” reference book.)
In English, the verb to be is used to directly refer to “it,” meaning “the weather,” and how “it” actually “is” outside. Instead, Italians speak of the weather “it” is making with the verb fa. So, it is very important to think in Italian if we want to talk about the weather in Italian!
Remember that the reference to “it” in the Italian sentence will be left out, as usual.
Below are some examples of how this works, with the correct English translation in black and the literal Italian translation in gray, so we can understand the Italian approach to this topic.
If you don’t know what the weather is like and want to ask someone a question about the weather, you can use many of the same phrases that we have listed below to describe the weather. Just raise your voice at the end of the sentence to signal that you are asking a question. There is no need to invert the subject and the verb to make a question, as we do in English.
Notice that in Italian the same word means both time and weather — il tempo.
Che tempo fa?
What is the weather? (lit. What weather does it make?)
Fa molto caldo!
|It is warm/hot.
It is very hot!
Is it warm/hot?
|(lit. It makes heat.)|
|It is cool.
Is it cool?
|(lit. It makes cool.)|
|It is cold.
It is very cold!
Is it cold?
|(lit. It makes cold.)|
|Fa bel tempo.
Fa bel tempo?
|It is nice weather.
Is it nice weather?
|(lit. It makes nice weather.)|
|It is nice/very nice out.||(lit. It makes nice/very nice weather.)|
|Fa brutto tempo.
Fa brutto tempo?
|It is bad weather.
Is it bad weather?
|(lit. It makes bad weather.)|
|Fa brutto.||It is bad outside.||(lit. It makes bad weather.)|
Of course, we may want to know how the weather was during a certain event or at a certain time. Chatting about the weather is a common pastime in any country. Why not chat in Italian about recent weather conditions yesterday, last week, or last year?
To talk about the weather in the immediate past tense, we must return to the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. For an in-depth explanation of how to use the imperfetto and passato prossimo forms of the Italian past tense, click on the link for the verb tense listed in this sentence that you want to learn about in this sentence. Or, take a look at our reference book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs.”
The imperfetto third person singular form of fare, which is faceva, is the most commonly used form with our general expressions.
Of course, if we want to refer to a specific time frame, the passato prossimo third person singular form of fare, which is ha fatto, should be used.
Below are the general questions about the weather from the last example table, this time in the past tense:
|Che tempo faceva?||What was the weather?||(lit. What weather did it make?)|
|Come era il tempo?||How was the weather?|
And our answers, depending on the situation…
|Faceva caldo.||It was hot.||(lit. It made heat.)|
|Ha fatto caldo tutto il giorno.||It was hot all day.|
|Faceva fresco.||It was cool.||(lit. It made cool.)|
|Ha fatto fresco ieri.||It was cool yesterday.|
|Faceva freddo.||It was cold.||(lit. It made cold.)|
|Ha fatto freddo quest’inverno.||It was cold all winter.|
|Faceva bel tempo.||It was nice weather.||(lit. It made nice weather.)|
|Faceva bello.||It was nice outside.||(lit. It made nice weather.)|
|Faceva brutto tempo.||It was bad weather.||(lit. It made bad weather.)|
|Faceva brutto tempo.||It was bad outside.||(lit. It made bad weather.)|
Now, let’s try to be more specific and descriptive when we talk about the weather, and talk about common weather conditions, such as the rain, snow and wind, and how the weather changes throughout the seasons. Below are a few conversational sentences. Living in Chicago, I couldn’t resist a few lines about the show we’ve had to shovel this past winter. How many more can you think of?
|È primavera.*||It is springtime.|
|Ci sono nuvole scure.||There are dark clouds.|
|Viene a piovere.||(It) is going to rain.
(lit. Here comes the rain.)
|C’e la pioggia?||Is it raining?|
|Tira vento.||It’s windy.|
|I fiori sono in fiore.||The flowers are blooming.|
|Ho un mazzo di rose rosse che ho colto dal giardino.||I have a bunch of red roses that I picked from the garden.|
|È estate.*||It is summer.|
|C’è sole.||It’s sunny. (lit. There is sun.)|
|È umido. Andiamo alla spiaggia!||It’s humid. Let’s go to the beach!|
|È autunno.*||It is autumn.|
|Fa fresco.||It is cool. (lit. It makes coolness).|
|Le foglie cadano dagli alberi.||The leaves fall from the trees.|
|È inverno.*||It is winter.|
|È gelido.||It’s freezing.|
|La gelata è dappertutto.||The frost is everywhere.|
|C’è la neve?||Is it snowing?|
|C’è la bufera di neve.||It’s a snowstorm.|
|I fiocchi di neve sono tanti.||There are so many snowflakes.|
|I bambini fanno un pupazzo di neve.||The children are making a snowman.|
|Mi piace sciare. Ho gli sci belli.||I like skiing. I have wonderful skis.|
|Devo spalare la neve ora!||I have to shovel the snow now!|
|Voglio una pala per la neve.||I want a snow shovel.|
|Uso sempre uno spazzaneve.||I always use a snowblower.|
*In a simple statement about what season it is, the definite article (il, la, l’ = the) is not used. However, in a longer sentence such as, “È l’inverno che porta neve,” the article is used. (Translations: It is the winter that brings the snow/Winter brings the snow.)
Finally, there are a few rules to follow if we want to talk about specific weather conditions in the past tense.
Let’s say we want to tell a story to our friend about the day that has just ended and we’d like to include a description of the weather. In this case, if we want to talk about a single, specific instance in time when we experienced a certain weather condition, we must use the passato prossimo form of the past tense.
When using the passato prossimo, the verbs piovere, nevicare, and tirare can be conjugated using either avere or essere, as the helping verb, as in:
Ieri ha piovuto per due ore. Yesterday, it rained for two hours.
Ieri è piovuto per due ore. Yesterday, it rained for two hours.
General phrases in the past tense about the sun, clouds, fog or humidity are spoken about using the imperfetto past tense. Or, if we want to mention the weather as the “setting” or underlying condition that edited at the same time as a certain activity that happened in the past, we would again use the imperfetto past tense.
The expressions we have already encountered earlier in this blog are given below again, this time in the imperfetto in the first column and in the passato prossimo in the second column.
Notice the different meanings for each type of past tense. And how the word “it” is, as usual, left out of the Italian phrase, but necessary for the English translation.
The words gia (already) and appena (just) are commonly used with the passato prossimo to give additional information.
It was raining.
|Ha già piovuto.
It already rained.
It was snowing.
|Ha appena nevicato.
It has just snowed.
It was windy.
|Ha tirato vento tutto il giorno.
It was windy all day.
|C’era sole.||It was sunny.|
|C’era nebbia.||It was foggy.|
|Era nuvoloso.||It was cloudy.|
|Era sereno.||It was clear.|
|Era umido.||It was humid.|
|L’umidità è stata molto alta oggi.||The humidity was very high today.|
|L’umidità è stata bassa oggi.||The humidity was very low today.|
Remember how to talk about weather in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these Italian phrases every day!
And remember to study our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” pocket travel book if you want a handy way to remember all the important Italian phrases you will need to know!
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”
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