I have been helping students practice their Italian for quite a while now.
And by doing so, I have noticed some recurring patterns: students tend to make the same mistakes and usually struggle with more or less the same grammar topics.
Before we go on, let me tell you that mistakes must not prevent you from speaking. The main purpose of a language is communicating and communication can take place even if there are mistakes. I don’t think I will ever stress this enough: don’t let the fear of making mistakes spoil you of the joy of using the language you have been studying so hard.
With that being said, I am frequently asked by students to help them correct their mistakes because they righteously want to speak properly and improve their language skills. I give them the help they need during our lessons but I thought it could also be useful to write some posts about the grammar topics I see students struggle with the most.
I have already written a post about the verbs piacere and mancare, the use of imperfetto and passato prossimo, the use of ci and ne, and the difference between conoscere and sapere, which are some of the grammar topics that give students the hardest time.
But there is something else I see people learning Italian have some difficulties with and it’s how to use bene, buono, bravo, and bello. This post wants to help you figure out how to use these elements in Italian.
As I always do with this type of post, I have created a downloadable pdf file for you to keep. You can find it in Your Italian Toolbox, the private page on my site where I upload all language learning materials. You get access to that page if you are subscribed to my newsletter.
But let’s see how to use bene, buono, bravo, and bello.
Bene is an adverb, an element of language that is usually used to add more information about a verb. In particular, bene is an adverb of manner and this means that it describes how an action is done or how something happens. Needless to say, bene is always used with a verb.
In particular, bene means well, so it means that the action described by the verb is done in a skillful or effective way. I have just written that bene is always used with a verb but there is one exception: the verb essere. Essere is used to describe something or someone, it doesn’t refer to actions, so it needs to be followed by an adjective.
So you cannot say: “il tempo è bene“, “il fine settimana è stato bene“, or “io sono bene“. Instead, you can say: “il tempo è bello“, “il fine settimana è stato bello“, or “io sto bene“.
Let’s see some examples with bene:
“Io parlo bene italiano” (I speak Italian very well)
“Mi sento molto bene questa mattina” (I feel really good this morning)
“Le vacanze sono andate bene, ci siamo divertiti molto” (Our holidays went well, we had a lot of fun).
Please note: many students tend to translate “Ok” with “va bene“, which is absolutely correct. But then they use the expression “è va bene” to translate “it’s ok” but “va” means andare, so you don’t need to use “it’s”. If you say “va bene“, it already means “it’s ok”.
Buono is an adjective and this means that it describes the qualities or states of being of nouns. In particular, buono is used to describe the high quality of something, usually in reference to food (but not only). If buono is used to describe a person, it means that that person is good at heart.
Being an adjective, buono agrees in gender and number with the noun and it can be: buono, buona, buoni, buone.
Here are some examples:
“Questo è il gelato più buono che abbia mai mangiato” (This is the best ice-cream I have ever had)
“Di solito, il tempo è buono in questo periodo dell’anno” (The weather is usually good at this time of the year)
“Mio papà è davvero una persona molto buona” (My father is very good at heart)
Bravo is an adjective as well and it is used in reference to people only. In fact, it is used to describe the ability of someone to do something, in particular, the ability to do something well. Just like buono, bravo agrees in gender and number with the nouns and it can become: bravo, brava, bravi, brave.
Pay attention: if bravo is used before the noun, its meaning changes. In fact, “una brava ragazza” is a girl who behaves well, who is polite and kind.
“Marco è molto bravo a parlare italiano” (Marco speaks Italian really well)
“Quest’anno abbiamo un professore davvero bravo, ci sta insegnando tantissimo” (This year we have a really good teacher, he’s teaching us a lot!)
“Francesca era una brava ragazza, ma adesso è diventata un po’ ribelle” (Francesca used to be a very good girl, but she’s a bit of a rebel now)
Bello is another adjective and it is used to describe something that pleases the senses or the mind aesthetically, something that is generally pleasing and excellent. Being an adjective, bello agrees in gender and number with the noun it refers to and can be: bello, bella, belli, belle.
“Mio figlio è un bellissimo bambino, lo dicono tutti!” (My son is a very beautiful baby, everybody says that!)
“Siamo stati in Scozia e ci è piaciuta moltissimo. È davvero un bel paese” (We have been to Scotland and we liked it a lot. It’s a really nice country)
“Ho letto un bel libro recentemente” (I have read a very good book recently)
I hope this post helps you understand how to use bene, buono, bravo and bello. As usual, if you have questions please leave a message in the comments below!
As I always do with posts about the Italian language, I have created a downloadable pdf file for you to keep for future reference. You will find it in Your Italian Toolbox, the private page on my site where I upload all language learning materials, under the section Grammar. If can access the page by simply subscribing to my newsletter.
If you are interested in working on Italian grammar and want to focus on some specific topics, I suggest you check Ti aiuto io, my online Italian language tutoring service.
If you purchase Ti aiuto io, I will work as your private tutor, giving you tasks and homework and spending time over Skype with you to clarify and work together on each topic. If you want to give it a try, you can request a 30-minute free chat, so that we can meet each other and see if you like the service.