The vast majority of the people who subscribe to our newsletter and Facebook group are Americans of Italian descent. Some were born to immigrant parents, whereas others may have had to look back a few generations to discover their Italian roots.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we are sure that today’s phrase will come in handy to talk about your Italian origins:
Sono di origine italiana.
I am of Italian descent.
Let’s break it down into more manageable chunks, shall we?
Sono is the first-person singular of the verb essere, which means ‘to be’. Note that in Italian, you don’t need to explicitly state the subject pronoun (in this case io = I) because the subject is made clear by the verb conjugation and context. As a general rule, you only want to include it when adding emphasis or drawing a comparison between two subjects, as in the following example:
Io sono di origine italiana mentre Luis è di origine spagnola.
I’m of Italian descent while Luis is of Spanish descent.
I stress the importance of context because sono is also the third-person plural of essere (“they are”). This means that sono di origine italiana can also be translated as “they are of Italian descent”. Compare the following two examples to see how context – in this case, the conjugation of the verb vivere (to live) – can help you figure out the meaning of sono.
Sono di origine italiana ma vivo qui da 30 anni.
I am of Italian descent but I’ve lived here for 30 years.
Sono di origine italiana ma vivono qui da 30 anni.
They are of Italian descent but they’ve lived here for 30 years.
Di is a preposition that means “of” in this case. However it can also mean various other things including “from”, “than” and “by”.
Origine is a feminine noun that means, you guessed it, origin. It is followed by the adjective italiana, which appears in its feminine form to match the gender of the noun it modifies.
There is more than one way to express this idea in Italian, just as there are multiple ways in English:
- Sono italiano/a. = I’m Italian.
- Ho origini italiane. = I have Italian origins.
- Ho radici italiane. = I have Italian roots.
- I miei antenati / avi erano italiani. = My ancestors were Italian.
- Ho sangue italiano. = I have Italian blood.
- Nelle mie vene scorre sangue italiano. = Italian blood courses through my veins.
And if you don’t have Italian ancestry? Well, all you have to do is place the handy adverb non (not) at the beginning of the sentence.
Non sono di origine italiana, sono messicano.
I’m not of Italian descent, I’m Mexican.
Heather Broster is a graduate with honours in linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is an aspiring polyglot, proficient in English and Italian, as well as Japanese, Welsh, and French to varying degrees of fluency. Originally from Toronto, Heather has resided in various countries, notably Italy for a period of six years. Her primary focus lies in the fields of language acquisition, education, and bilingual instruction.