The use of h in Italian

Hello everyone,

today I want to explain you the use of h in Italian (we call it “acca”).

The pronunciation of acca

As regards the spoken language, the acca is not a problem because it is a silent letter and therefore it is not pronounced. So, while you speak Italian, there is no difference in “Ho comprato un nuovo libro” (I bought a new book) or “mangia il pollo o il tacchino” (eat chicken or turkey). They are pronounced the same way, like a simple o.

If you do not yet know how to pronounce the sounds of the Italian language, I suggest you download our guide “How to … pronounce Italian” where you will find the explanation of the pronunciation – vowels, consonants, special sounds – according to IPA (International phonetic alphabet). In the guide, there are many examples of words as well as an audio version that will allow you to listen to the sounds of Italian pronounced by a native speaker.

Use of h in Italian – written language

As for the written part, here it is much more important to know when to add or not the h because the meaning of the sentence can change totally. In this article, I’ll explain how to understand when to add the acca and especially when not to put it. Let’s start immediately!

When should you add acca?

Acca is fundamental in the verb AVERE (to have):

Io ho (I have) Noi abbiamo (we have)
Tu hai (you have) Voi avete (you have)
Lui/lei/esso ha (he/she/it has) Essi hanno (they have)

The verb AVERE is often used in Italian, for instance:

  • When feeling a sensation:

Luca ha fame (Luca is hungry)

Io ho molto sonno (I am very sleepy)

Mio fratello ha paura dei topi (My brother is afraid of mice)

  • When you have completed an action:

Ho mangiato molto oggi (I ate a lot today)

Non ho ancora pulito il pavimento (I have not cleaned the floor yet)

Hai preso tu il mio cellulare? (Did you get my cell phone?)

  • When you own something:

Sara ha una grande collezione di scarpe (Sara has a large collection of shoes)

Mattia e Giacomo hanno un appartamento in centro (Mattia and Giacomo have a flat in the center)

Tu hai il più bel motorino della città (You have the most beautiful scooter in the city)

When you DO NOT use acca?

  • It is not used if O can be replaced by OPPURE:

Vuoi il gelato alla pesca o al limone? = Vuoi il gelato alla pesca OPPURE al limone?

Do you want peach or lemon ice cream? = Do you want peach ice cream or lemon?

A tip: to understand if you are in this case and then or should be written without the acca, ask yourself first if you can replace o with oppure.

  • Not used to say ANNO (year)

L’anno scorso andai in vacanza in Sicilia (Last year I went on holiday in Sicily)

  • Do not use if A, AI answers one of these questions:

a DOVE? (to where?) Vado a casa (I go home)
a COME? (how?) Andiamo a piedi (We go by foot)
a CHI? (to whom?) Ho preso un regalo a Matteo (I took a gift to Matteo)
QUANDO? (when?) Compro il panettone a Natale (I buy Panettone at Christmas)
A FARE CHE COSA? (to do what?) Vado in centro a mangiare la pizza (I go to the city centre to eat pizza)

Spelling errors for using acca are very common, so do not worry if you start making lots of them. Try to practice and ask yourself every time if you are using the verb to have or (here it is without acca … you know why?) If instead, you are in one of the cases that I have just listed.

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