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Bene vs Buono - Which one should you use? why?

'Bene' and 'buono' sound very similar but they are different. The only issue is to understand when to use each of them, if someone asks you 'come stai?' why you should use one rather than the other? In this article we will discover why they are different and how to use them.

If you landed here, you are probably already a pro in greeting people and introducing yourself in Italian. Your next step will be to say a bit more. What is the natural flow of a basic conversation? Generally, after having introduced ourselves to someone we get asked so many questions, but the main one is always : 'come stai?' (How are you? [Eng]). To answer this omnipresent question we can choose to go for a standard and easy way out with 'bene', or to put ourselves in an awkward situation in which we have to explain why our life is a complete disaster! (I hope it's not, but as an Italian I love to complain about everything!). We will leave the complaint bit to a future article and today we will focus on something basic and useful: buono vs bene

History & present

'Bene' is a word that comes from Latin (who would have guessed that?) where it had several uses: for instance, to express the idea of 'goodness', to stress the meaning of an action (a bit like we do today with expressions such as 'well-known', 'well-spoken', etc.), and to wish something that brings happiness. An example of that meaning can be found in the name 'Benedict' that derives directly from the Latin words 'said' and 'well', and it means 'blessed' - If you think of that, when you bless someone you wish them something good and you 'say happiness to them'! -.

Along with 'bene', in Italian, we can find also 'buono' that has similar roots and it literally means 'good'. So what's the difference between the two of them? Well, bene is an adverb, and buono is an adjective. Don't worry, you don't need to read it twice, I'll tell you the same thing in a less technical way.

The adverb 'bene'

An adverb is a grammatical item that gives us information about a verb. As we saw in this article a verb is an action, and an adverb is a word that helps us to describe that action. Imagine you are running, how can you run? You can run fast, slowly, smoothly, lightly, etc. All those words are describing the action and they are 'adding' something to the 'verb'. When someone asks you 'come stai?' your answer will provide information about how you are / come stai. With that answer, you describe the state of yourself at that moment. To do so, the best choice would be to use the adverb 'bene'.

..And 'buono'? Buono is an adjective, it means that it adds information to a noun (an object). Let's compare the verb 'to run' with the word 'gelato'. When you think of the verb 'to run' we already saw what elements you might use to describe it but if we think of 'gelato' it will be a completely different matter : it can be cold, delicious, melt, good, bad, disgusting, etc. All these words are adjectives because their function is to describe a noun. Il 'gelato' won't be 'well' but 'good'.

Therefore, 'tu stai bene', 'il gelato è buono'.

I hope this explanation helped you to understand a bit more the difference between these two grammatical items, and from now on you will know what to answer when someone asks you 'come stai?'. If you enjoyed this article consider joining our summer courses and follow us on Instagram to get our latest news and language tips!

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