36 Similar Words You Don’t Want to Confuse in Italian

Even though Italian and English share many similarities, there are plenty of words that trip up Italian students repeatedly – and not all of them are false friends!

One of the biggest headaches for learners is the double consonant, which is pronounced differently to a single consonant in that the sound is lengthened and more forceful. Unfortunately, since we don’t have double consonants in English, these words often sound identical to the untrained English ear.

Another stumbling block are words with an accent on the vowel. The letters that make up the two words may be the same, but the simple addition of an accented vowel can change the pronunciation altogether.

Finally, we have some words whose meaning is drastically altered by changing just one letter. Most of these are masculine/feminine pairs, where one ends in -o and the other in -a.

In this article, we’ve listed some of the most common word pairs that Italian students easily confuse, even at an advanced stage of learning! We hope you find them useful!

words you don't want to confuse in italian

1. Pala vs Palla

Pala = Shovel / Blade

Palla = Ball

Ho usato la pala per tirare la palla.

I used the shovel to hit the ball.

2. Rosa vs Rossa

Rosa = Pink / Rose

Rossa = The feminine form of rossomeaning “red”

Sto meglio con la gonna rosa o con quella rossa?

Do I look better in the pink or red skirt?

Kid in a grey jacket keeping his hands on top of a bag with wheels and looking at camera

3. Posto vs Posta

Posto = Place

Posta = Mail / Post office / Mail service

Lascia la posta in un posto ben visibile.

Leave the mail in a conspicuous place.

4. Casa vs Cassa

Cassa = Cash register / Trunk / Case

Casa = House / Home

Sei sicuro di voler tenere questa cassa in casa?

Are you sure you want to keep this trunk in the house?

5. Note vs Notte

Note = Notes / Memos / Musical notes

Notte = Night

Ho scritto due note al mio capo ieri notte.

I sent two memos to my boss last night.

6. Mostro vs Mostra

Mostro = Monster

Mostra = Exhibition / Display

Voglio mettere un mostro in mostra al museo!

I want to put a monster on display at the museum!

Vrouwenpolder, The Netherlands. 16 september 2017. Whale skeleton on exhibition in Neeltje Jans Deltapark in vivid colors

7. Papa vs Papà vs Pappa

Papa = Pope
Papà = Dad
Pappa = Childish term for food / baby food / mush

Mio papà e il papa stanno preparando la pappa insieme.

My dad and the pope are preparing the baby food together.

8. Caffè vs Café*

Caffè = Coffee

Café* = Coffee shop / Cafe

Andiamo a bere un caffè in quel nuovo internet café, quello all’angolo della strada.

Let’s have a coffee at that new internet coffee shop, the one on the street corner.

*Note: café is rarely used on its own. Usually it is associated with other words such as café society, web café or internet café.

9. Sete vs Sette

Sete = Thirst

Sette = Seven

Ho tanta sete. Portami sette bicchieri di birra, subito!

I’m very thirsty. Bring me seven glasses of beer, pronto!

10. Capelli vs Cappelli

Capelli = Hair (hairs collectively, as in a “head of hair”)

Cappelli = Hats

Indosso sempre i cappelli perché odio i miei capelli.

I always wear hats because I hate my hair.

Woman in hat and red sweater stay near pine tree.

11. Cane vs Canne

Cane = Dog

Canne = Reeds / Canes / Joints

Il cane abbaia a quei ragazzi che si stanno facendo le canne.

The dog ​​barks at those guys who are smoking joints.

12. Banco vs Banca

Banco = Bench / Desk

Banca = Bank

Non c’era un singolo banco libero in banca.

There wasn’t a single free bench in the bank.

13. Panno vs Panna

Panno = Rag / Cloth

Panna = Cream

Devo pulire la panna che hai spalmato sul tavolo con il panno.

I have to wipe off the cream you smeared on the table with the cloth.

Woman doing housework and cleaning the kitchen table with a cloth, household and hygiene concept

14. Tori vs Torri

Tori = Bulls

Torri = Towers

Tengono i tori nelle torri.

They keep the bulls in the towers.

15. Penne vs Pene

Penne = Pens / Feather / Penne pasta

Pene = Penis

Attento a non confondere la parola “penne” con “pene”!

Be careful not to confuse the word “penne” with “pene”!

16. Pesca vs Pesca

Pesca = Fishing

Pesca = Peach

Note: In standard Italian pronunciation, pesca (fishing) should have a closed E vowel, whereas pesca (peach) should have an open E vowel. However, not all Italians respect this distinction. Find out more about Italian vowels in this article!

Ti va di andare a pesca una volta che hai finito di mangiare la pesca?

Would you like to go fishing after you’ve eaten your peach?

17. Scoreggiare vs scoraggiare

Scoreggiare = To fart

Scoraggiare = To discourage / dissuade

Non so quante volte ho confuso i verbi “scoreggiare” e “scoraggiare”.

I don’t know how many times I have confused the verbs “fart” and “discourage”.

18. Ano vs Anno

Ano = Anus

Anno = Year

Una volta ho chiesto ad un amico “Quanti ani hai?” invece di “Quanti anni hai?” Che vergogna!

One time I asked a friend “How many anuses do you have?” instead of “How old are you?” How embarrassing!

Beautiful brunette female bursting into laughing covering mouth with hands trying to stop her emotions looking with dark eyes full of happiness.

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