How similar is Spanish to Italian?

This is a very common question among language learners who are about to start learning one of those languages and have already studied the other in the past: understanding what Italian and Spanish have in common can help approach them correctly and consider what to expect in terms of difficulty.

First of all, Italian and Spanish are both Romance languages, which means that they both come from Latin. This common origin substantially affects their main features and makes them very close from many points of view.

Let’s discover the main similarities!

If we talk about vocabulary, Italian and Spanish share more than 80% lexical similarity! Some words are exactly the same, others have some spelling variations but we can say that they are mutually understandable. For people who want to learn both this is a great advantage…but it can also be very confusing when there isn’t a clear distinction between Italian and Spanish, which is common.

For example there are quite a lot of false friends to be aware of: words that look the same but have a totally different meaning or use. For example, the word “burro“, which in Italian means “butter” in Spanish means “donkey”: you can imagine how fun this false friend can sound if we don’t consider the huge difference in meaning!

Another common example is the word “imbarazzata” in Italian, which sounds like the Spanish “embarazada“: if we use the Italian word we mean that someone is embarassed, but if we use the Spanish one we mean that she’s pregnant!

let's read more about how similar is spanish to italian

In terms of structure of the sentence, the two languages are also very close: they are both based on the structure subject – verb – object, so you won’t find differences.

When it comes to grammar they have some features in common, for example the formal register, the gender of nouns, the agreement between some parts of the sentence (articles, nouns, adjectives), a similar use of pronouns, the verb conjugation. This doesn’t mean that the grammar rules are the same though! For instance, even if the general concept is the same, the actual rules might differ a lot: for example, the same word can be masculine in Italian and feminine in Spanish.

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