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ITA1: Use of Italian

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.


This course aims to present the whole range of grammatical structures of the Italian language to ab-initio students, in order to develop an active understanding and use of the Italian language in a variety of registers, including literary. By its very nature the course runs at an intensive pace and is supported by carefully designed language material both on paper and online, that enables students to acquire, develop and reinforce the basic structures and vocabulary of Italian.

Aims and objectives: 

On successful completion of the course students are able to recognize and use correctly all the basic structures of the Italian language from noun gender and number, to the most complex structures of subjunctive. Students are able to use Italian in everyday situations both at a formal and at an informal level, having acquired a good basic vocabulary and the means to expand upon it. They are able to understand and interact with a variety of textual material, selected in order to present different registers and styles of language. Students practice through guided and free language production exercises such as fill-in-the-gaps and multiple choice grammar exercises, and writing exercises such as summary and composition. Students also acquire the basic skills to translate into Italian, accurately and idiomatically.

Course materials: 

Below is a list of the ab-initio language course textbooks and of suggested reading that can be of interest and help. In order to facilitate your contact with the Italian language you are strongly advised to familiarize yourself with the basic rules of sounds, spelling, noun and verb structure.

The main preparation you can do for this course is on Language:

The required texts are:

  • Italiano e inglese allo specchio: eserciziari per anglofoni - problemi ed errori di interferenza, Bertoni S., Loescher, 2014
  • IIn Altre Parole, Lahiri, J. , Guanda 2016/ In other words, Bloomsbury 2015 (preferably the Italian version ).

It is also highly advisable that you get hold of the following reference grammar book:

  • Soluzioni, A practical Grammar of Contemporary Italian, De Rome, D., Hodder Education.

This is the recommended course book for the ab-initio level, and is a very comprehensive grammar book that will work very well as a reference grammar book all through your time at Cambridge. This manuale di grammatica is now in its 4th edition, but previous editions are equally suitable for your work of revision and practice. (Please
also note that the MMLL library and many College libraries will hold copies of this text).

Below is a list of suggested reading that you might find of interest and helpful in your work of revision as you prepare for Cambridge. All titles recommended in the list below are available from The Italian Bookshop. Students of the Department of Italian are entitled to a discount:

  • English Grammar for Students of Italian, Primorac, K. and Adorni, S., 2011,Olivia & Hill Press, 3rd edition. This is a particularly helpful reference book that can help in dealing with the grammatical and syntactical terminology involved in the teaching of language at Cambridge.
  • For further practice, have a look at the exercises available on
  • A reference grammar of modern Italian, Maiden, M. Robustelli, C., Hodder Education, 2007, 2nd edition.
  • Practising Italian Grammar - a Workbook, Bianchi, A., Boscolo, C., Hodder Education, 2004. This is a very comprehensive grammar reference book accompanied by its workbook, ideal for revision and expansion.
  • Modern Italian Grammar, A practical guide, Proudfoot, A., Cardo, F., Routledge, 2005, 2nd edition. This grammar book looks at language from a functional point of view (language in specific situations, rather than rules), and can be helpful to look at language in use.
  • Any title of your choice from Italiano facile, 2 o  livello (intermedio), Alma Edizioni, You are invited to refresh your Italian by enjoying reading and listening to any of the titles on the list. The stories use about 1000 words of vocabulary and are a great way to revise and start expanding your language skills.

You should purchase all the coursebooks before you come up to Cambridge, together with a good bilingual dictionary (recommendations below).

Also, please make sure you work with the basic communicative material Just in Time Essentials available on the Language Centre LC Online resources (Please note this is protected access material, so you will need your University of Cambridge Raven pass activated):

Bilingual dictionaries (suitable for your first year)

  • Collins-Sansoni Italian Dictionary
  • Il Grande Dizionario Garzanti inglese 2003 + CD ROM Oxford-Paravia Italian Dictionary ed. by C. Bareggi, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Oxford-Paravia Italian Dictionary, ed. by Cristina Bareggi, Oxford University Press, 2001
Teaching and learning: 

Students have regular contact with the language teacher, working in groups of 15-20 students in two lectures weekly, and in smaller groups (6-8 students) for one consolidation class weekly.

In addition to the lectures and classes students have weekly/fortnightly supervisions in small groups (usually of three students), which ensure that they receive personal help with any problems they may have with regard to language and or the study of literature.

All ab-initio classes and supervisions are taught by native speakers. 

Please see here for the ITA1 Moodle site. 


Formative assessment

Short informal tests may be conducted periodically in class to monitor progress.

Progress Test: Students take a 2-hour test on grammar, vocabulary, translation, at the beginning of Lent Term.

Feedback on the above tests is offered both through corrections by the teacher, and on the dedicated section on the university virtual learning environment.


The 3-hour written exam includes a translation from English, grammar and vocabulary exercises and a guided composition.  

Course Contacts: 
Dott. Claudia Domenici, Associate Professor in Italian