BUONO vs BENE: how to choose the correct one in Italian

Is it buono or bene? Which one should you use?



Many students struggle in understanding the difference between BUONO and BENE because these two words both translate good (kind of). However, these two words are very different and are used in different situations, very different situations, and using one over the other might make your sentence sound weird. Let's see how to choose the correct one.


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Let's start off by saying that BUONO is an adjective and BENE is an adverb. That means that BUONO is used to describe a thing, a person, so basically a noun. BENE instead is used to describe the way you do something, therefore a verb, an action. Keep this in mind:

  • BUONO with NOUNS

  • BENE with VERBS

There's only one big exception to this rule and that is ESSERE (to be) that is the only verb in Italian that actually takes BUONO. And that makes sense because you would use ESSERE to describe things. For example, "pizza is good", la pizza è buona.


It makes sense to use BUONO with ESSERE, but again it's the only verb you can use BUONO with. And guess what, if you can use BUONO with ESSERE that means you can't use BENE with ESSERE, never ever.


Let's look at some examples with buono:

  • La pasta al sugo è buona → Pasta with tomato sauce is good

  • Gianni e Luca sono buoni → Gianni and Luca are good (kind)

  • Ho bevuto un buon vino in Veneto → I drank a good wine in Veneto


As you can see I am using BUONO to describe things. Specifically, BUONO is used to describe food and beverages or to say that someone is nice. I actually wrote an article on BUONO vs BELLO that you can read here. So BUONO means GOOD.


Now let's try to make some examples with BENE:

  • Come stai? Sto bene, grazie!How are you? I am good, thanks! Of course, I am going to use BENE with this one and even though in English you're used to saying I am good, you know deep down that you should be saying I am well. I am good is totally acceptable now and it's not wrong at all, but you know that it should be I am well. Well, that's why in Italian we say Sto bene because we're using BENE as an adverb (well).

  • Io parlo bene l'Italiano I speak Italian well.

  • Mia sorella non sa leggere bene ancoraMy sister doesn't know how to read well yet.

  • Ho mangiato bene al ristoranteI ate well at the restaurant.


As you can see BENE can be used with all verbs!


The big problem comes when people use BENE with the verb essere. For example, if you like this video and you want to say that it's good, how would you say this?

  • Questo video è bene? NOPE, it doesn't work. Because you wouldn't say in English that this video is well, so try to say questo è un buon video, un video bello, un video utile, not bene.

  • Com'è stata la vacanza? How was your vacation? È stata bene!WRONG! You wouldn't say that the vacation was well but was good! So you can say: è stata bella, divertente OR you can use BENE with a verb and say: è andata bene → it went well. Now you can use bene because you're using it with a verb (andare) and not essere!

I hope these examples helped!


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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