Double letters, yes or no? In this article, I will talk about some grammar rules to let you understand if you have to use a single or double letter when you write in Italian. It is impossible to analyze every single word, but I hope that these general rules will help you improve your writing skills, and consequently, the way you speak!
After the article about the double letters and their importance in the Italian language, I decided to write a second article focusing on more technical aspects: tips and rules that you can follow to write well in Italian.
These rules are not exhaustive, and I am not going to analyze every single case. But there are some rules you can use in case of linguistic doubts.
The rules we learn in primary school
I want to start by listing some simple rules that we Italians learn as children in elementary schools. Precisely for this reason, I do believe, all Italian language students should be aware of them.
- G followed by -ione never doubled
Let’s give some examples to understand better what I’m talking about. When there are words like ragione (region), legione (legion), stagione (season), the letter -g is always a single letter.
Don’t be fooled by the pronunciation: even if the letter -g may seem double, in this case -g never is.
- -Z never doubles in the words formed by -zia, -zie, -zio, but also -zione.
In this case too, even if the pronunciation seems to underline the –z, this letter does not double, as in the following words: pulizia (cleanliness), azienda (company), ozio (laziness), organizzazione (organization).
Remember, there are some exceptions represented by pazzia (madness), razzia (raid), razziale (racial).
- Z doubles with -izzare:
All words ending with -izzare want the double z. Some examples are demonizzare (demonizing), organizzare (organizing), accarezzare (caressing). It is obvious that these types of words are frequently used since there are many verbs ending in this way.
- The letter B does not double in words with -abile, -ebile, -ibile.
Attention, this is a point to keep in mind. Especially if you go to the south of Italy, you may often hear a strong B.
Use the rule I have just mentioned and write this kind of words with a single letter, and pronounce them gently, without forcing this consonant. Some words belonging to this category are: amabile (lovable), indelebile (indelible), edibile (edible)…
When do the letters double?
Now let’s move on to the more technical part. If it is rather easy to memorize the rules we have seen so far, I am now going to explain numerous other rules a bit more complex; for this reason, you should avoid memorizing all of them, but you should practice by writing and if in case of doubt use a dictionary, to check out and avoid to make mistakes.
In Italian, the letters double when a word follows the following parts of the speech:
– e: e + pure = eppure, e+come = eccome
– né: né+pure = neppure, né+meno = nemmeno
– se: se+mai = semmai, se+pure = seppure
– o: o+pure = oppure, o+sia = ossia
– a: a+prendere = apprendere, a+tendere = attendere
– da: da+prima = dapprima, da+bene = dabbene
– fra: fra+porre = frapporre, fra+tanto = frattanto
– su: su+porre = supporre, su+dividere = suddividere
– là: la+dove = laddove, là+giù = laggiù
– più: più+tosto = piuttosto
– così: così+detto= cosiddetto
– sopra: sopra+sedere = soprassedere, sopra+salto = soprassalto
– sovra: sovra+peso = sovrappeso, sovra+prezzo = sovrapprezzo
– contra: contra+bando = contrabbando
Exception: if the words following the prefixes start with s+consonant never double, as in the words sovrascrivere (to overwrite), sovrastruttura (superstructure).
When do the letters not double?
- CQ never double.
The words written with cq, for instance, purchase, water, shower, already have a strong pronunciation and this is the reason why these two letters never double.
- With consonants following the prefixes contro-, pre-, tra-, sotto-, intra-.
Some examples are represented by the words: controcorrente (counter current, nonconformist), pretendente (pretender), tramutare (transmute), sottotono (undertone), intraprendente (enterprising).
As seen so far, there are many rules to follow to write and pronounce Italian words well. It would be a great effort to try to remember all the cases and their exceptions mnemonically. For this reason, as I said earlier, memorize only the first category of rules, those which are explained to the children during the first year of school.
As for all the others, I advise you to familiarize yourself with them in other ways, reading and writing, and if in case of doubt, dissolve them using the Italian dictionary. Over time, you will learn all the other rules with practice, and without a conscious effort.
I hope this article called Double letters: some rules is not too technical and has given you some tips to improve your language skills and your writing skills.
Find ot more about the double letters!