Buono vs Bello: how to use them in Italian

These two adjectives are very common in Italian, so you definitely need to understand how to use them and I hope this article will help!



In today's article, we are going to talk about two Italian adjectives: BUONO and BELLO. These two are probably the most common adjectives in Italian and we use them all the time but do you really know how to choose the correct one?


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1. BELLO


These are the categories you would use bello in:

  • Appearance: used to describe something or someone for their look.

  • Marco è un bel ragazzo → Marco is a good-looking, handsome guy.

  • Chiara è una bella ragazza → Chiara is a beautiful girl.

  • Tutti gli italiani sono belli → All the Italians are good-looking/beautiful.

  • Questa casa è molto bella → This house is very beautiful.


  • Something that is well-done, well organized:

  • Questo corso di italiano è molto bello → This Italian course is well-done, it works.

  • Questa puntata è molto bella → this episode is good, it’s interesting or well-done (not necessary referred to the look of it).


  • Size: something that is big, abundant:

  • E’ una bella lista della spesa → It’s a big, long, conspicuous shopping list.


  • To emphasize an idea:

  • Questo è un bel problema → This is a pretty big problem.



2. BUONO


  • Kindness:

  • Francesca è buona → Francesca is kind.

  • E’ importante fare una buona azione al mese → It’s important to do a good deed a month.

  • I miei amici sono sempre buoni con me → My friends are always nice to me.


  • To express that someone is good at what they do or what they are supposed to do:

  • E’ un buon medico → He is a good doctor (he is good at doing his job).

  • Quel ristorante è molto buono → That restaurant is very good.


  • To say that something is useful or works for something else:

  • Questo sciroppo è buono per la tosse → This syrup is good for treating a cough.

  • Il mio nuovo cellulare è buono per fare le foto → My new cell phone is good for taking pictures.


  • Something that is good to the taste or smell (food, drinks)

  • Le tue lasagne sono molto buone → Your lasagne are very good.

  • Il vino pugliese è buono → Pugliese wine is good.


3. Forms of BELLO and BUONO


The adjectives buono and bello behave differently based on their position in the sentence: if positioned after the noun they refer to, they behave as normal four-ending adjectives (bello/bella/belli/belle and buono/buona/buoni/buone). If put before the noun they refer to, they behave a bit differently. Let's start with bello. Look at the chart below:

Be + il = bel

Be + lo = bello

Be + la = bella

Be + i = bei

Be + gli = begli

Be + le = belle

Be + l’ = bell’

As you can see, what’s going on here is pretty obvious. You attach the definite article to the root of the adjective according to the chart above (this doesn’t mean you don’t put the article before the adjective. That’s not a real article you are attaching. It’s just a particular ending so similar to definite articles that I call it “article ending” ). Let’s look at a few examples:

Il ragazzo —> il ragazzo bello —> il bel ragazzo

Gli alberi —> gli alberi belli —> i begli alberi

La bambina —> la bambina bella —> la bella bambina


As you can see, you can choose the position of the adjective. If you put it after the noun, you treat "bello" as a normal adjective, but if you put it before you'll have to choose the right form based on the definite article you would use.

This is what you do:

⁃ Choose the right article for the word

⁃ Position "bello" after the noun treating it as normal adjective

⁃ Or position "bello" before the noun and change the ending according to the article you would’ve used.

A lot of my students ask me if there is a difference between the position of the adjective. There’s practically none. Though I do understand the struggle of saying “begli” instead of “belli”, that’s why I often recommend my students to put the adjective after the noun. It’s much easier, and correct anyway.


Now let's talk about buono. Basically, it works like the previous adjective, but instead of using definite articles as endings, it uses indefinite articles (un, uno, una, un). Again the use of "buono" depends on its position. If positioned after the noun it refers to, it has four regular endings (buono/buona/buoni/buone), exactly like the adjective "bello". Otherwise, it follows the following rules:

Un amico —> un buon amico

Un mattino —> un buon mattino

Uno zaino —> un buono zaino

Uno specchio —> un buono specchio

Un’amica —> una buon’amica

Una chiesa —> una buona chiesa

In the plural you have only buoni and buone:

Delle amiche —> le buone amiche

Degli amici —> i buoni amici



If you have any questions about this topic, don't hesitate to send me a message in the contact section of my website.


A presto,


Stefano


Do you want to take your Italian to the next level? Check out my Online Italian course for beginners "Be Italiano" and start learning today to become a real Italiano, like me!
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