In Italian, there are three different ways you can write the letter E. Normally it is written in its plain form «e» but sometimes it may be accompanied by an accent – either a grave accent (`) or an acute accent (´).
These accents serve a dual purpose in Italian:
a) they tell you that the stress falls on the final syllable
b) they indicate whether the vowel is open (grave – è) or closed (acute – é)
In IPA, the E with a grave accent (`) is written as /ɛ/ and sounds similar to the E in the English words “bet” or “met“.
The E with an acute accent (´), on the other hand, is written as /e/ and is similar (but not identical) to the initial E sound in English words like “bait”. You can hear what it sounds like by checking out this IPA vowel chart and clicking on /e/.
As a learner of Italian, try to avoid spelling è / é as e’. Italians may use an apostrophe instead of è or é when they can’t quickly access the accented form of E on their keyboard, or if they’re simply being lazy, but it is considered a spelling mistake in formal writing.
Important Italian Words Containing È and É
- è = is
- c’è = there is
- ce n’è = there is some
- caffè = coffee
- cioè = that is to say
- ahimè = alas / dear me
- vabbè = oh well
- bebè = baby
- tè = tea
- perché = why / because
- finché = until / as long as
- né = neither / nor
- purché = as long as
- affinché = so that
- allorché = as soon as
- altroché = certainly / absolutely
- giacché = since
- ventitré = twenty-three
- trentatré = thirty-three
- sé = himself / herself
- cosicché = therefore
Sometimes an acute accent is required for verbs in the third person singular of the passato remoto (preterit past). For example:
- battere (to hit) -> batté (he/she/it hit)
- tessere (to weave) -> tessé (he/she/it weaved)
- vendere (to sell) -> vendé (he/she/it sold)
How to Type “E” with an Accent
How to type è / é on your phone
Most modern smartphones allow you to hold your finger down on a letter and see all the possible variations, including the acute and grave accents.
Here is how this looks on my iPhone XR.
How to type è / é on your Mac
The easiest way to do this on a Mac is to use the keyboard accent menu.
On the keyboard, press and hold the letter E until a menu appears with all the different accent options. To choose the accented E, either use your mouse to click on it or press the corresponding key number.
How to type è / é on your Windows computer
I haven’t owned a Windows computer for many years, but it seems that the quickest option continues to be the Character Map. In Windows 10, type “map” into the search box on the taskbar and select Character Map from the search results.
Alternatively you can use number codes if you have a numeric keypad on the right side of your keyboard. Simply press Num Lock, and hold down Alt while typing the following four-digit codes:
- Alt + 0200 = È
- Alt + 0201 = É
- Alt + 0232 = è
- Alt + 0233 = é
Other ways to type è / é
If none of the above appeal to you, one final option is to copy and paste the accents from a search engine or a website like this one! 😉
È – É – è – é