Bello means “It’s nice!”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

How to Use Bello with Singular Nouns

Bello is an Italian adjective that one will use often when visiting the “bel paese”—so many people are and places are beautiful, nice, and lovely in Italy!  But, the form of this adjective will change according to the masculine or feminine form of the noun (person, place or thing) it modifies, the number of “things” that are beautiful, and also according to where this adjective is placed in the sentence.

When referring to a person, bello/bella are used to mean handsome and beautiful, as well as nice, or lovely.  Places or things can be beautiful, and also nice or lovely.  The context of the conversation will determine which meaning the word bello carries, although in many cases the meanings overlap. 

Note here: the adjective buono, which was the topic of our last blog in this series, is usually used when referring to food, which is always “good” in Italy!

Sound complicated?  Well, it is… a little bit. But by remembering some common phrases that use the adjective bello, you will automatically have committed the rules for this adjective to memory!

We will start our discussion of bello with how to modify singular masculine nouns.  For masculine nouns, bello is placed either directly after the noun, or at the end of the sentence, after the verb è for is (from the verb essere). In the second case, the adjective bello will be separated from the noun it modifies, but both the noun and adjective will agree in gender and number. See the first two examples in our table below.

(You may notice that the rules for how and when to change the ending  for bello are identical to those for buono!)

A common Italian exclamation is, “Che bello!” which simply means, “How beautiful!” or “How wonderful!” This expression can also be used when an English speaker might say, “Cool!” to refer to something good. Another common expression one might hear in Italy is, “Che fai di bello?” for “What are you up to?” or “What’re you doing?” 

Il giorno è bello. The day is beautiful.
il giorno bello the beautiful day
Che bello! How beautiful!
How wonderful!
Che fai di bello? What are you up to?
What’re you doing?

But, when the adjective bello is placed before a masculine noun, the last letter -o is dropped from bello (along with the extra “l” when writing the word) to make bel, as in, “Che bel giorno!” for “What a beautiful day!”

You will remember that the Italian masculine nouns that begin with the letters s+consonant, z, ps, or gn are often treated differently in Italian from other masculine nouns that begin with a consonant.  For instance, the definite article lo must be used before these nouns, rather than the usual definite article il.

The two most important masculine nouns to remember in this category are studente (student) and zio (uncle).  When using these words in conversational Italian, bello usually follows these nouns, so we will not need to change the ending. 

Che bel giorno! What a beautiful day!
il bel uomo / il bel bambino the handsome man / the beautiful baby
lo studente bello / lo zio bello the handsome student
the handsome uncle

For a feminine noun (person, place or thing), there is only one rule to remember—the adjective bella is used to describe something beautiful, nice or lovely, whether placed before or after the noun this adjective modifies.

La donna è bella. The woman is beautiful.
la donna bella the beautiful woman
la bella donna the beautiful woman
   
La città è bella. The city is beautiful.
la bella città the beautiful city
la città bella the beautiful city

But, of course, there is one exception to use of bella for feminine nouns: if bella is placed before a feminine noun that begins with another vowel, and especially the letter –a , it is common to drop the last letter from bella and add an apostrophe to make bell’ for smoother conversation.  Although the last -a of bella can also be retained in some phrases, as in our last example. The “decision” whether or not to drop the -a from bella  before a noun is not based on any specific rule, but probably comes naturally to an Italian speaker in order to keep the conversation flowing naturally. Since our focus is on conversational Italian, just remember to bring the two words together when speaking, without repeating the -a ending, and don’t worry about the spelling!

A common Italian phrase is “Bella idea!” for  “Wonderful idea!” or “Great idea!”  Notice that there is no need to drop the -a from bella with this phrase, although bell’idea is also correct.

la bell’amica the nice friend 
la amica bella the beautiful friend
Bella idea!
Bell’idea!
Great idea!

How to Use Bello

with Plural Nouns

The adjective bello follows the usual Italian rules for changing singular adjectives to plural adjectives when placed after the noun.

In general, of course:

A masculine Italian noun and its adjective will end in -o, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

A feminine Italian noun and its adjective will ends in -a, and this ending will change to -e in the plural.

An Italian noun or adjective that ends in -e may be masculine or feminine, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

If you are interested in learning more about masculine and feminine words in Italian that end in the letter -e, and how to distinguish one from the other, this You Tube Video may be of help: Italian Grammar by Stella Lucente, LLC.

 Plural Bello/Bella after a noun

For the adjective bello, when placed after a noun, he plural will be belli.

For the adjective bella, when placed after a noun, he plural will be belle.

 

 Plural Bello/Bella after a noun

bello o goes to i belli
         
bella a goes to e belle

Now we are ready for some examples of noun/adjective combinations using bello to describe the beautiful people and places you will find in Italy!

il giorno bello the good day becomes
the good days
i giorni belli
la città bella the nice city becomes
the nice cities
le città belle*
la donna bella the beautiful
woman
becomes
the beautiful
women
le donne belle

*Notice that the  ending for città does not change in the plural, since it is invariable by definition, but the definite article and the adjective that modifies it do. If you really want to know if an Italian noun is masculine or feminine, just look to it’s definite article and the adjectives that modify it!

Plural Bello/Bella before a noun

When the adjective bello and bella are placed before a noun, changing the singular to the plural form is a little bit more difficult.  The endings actually follow the same pattern as the plural definite article (i, gli, and le), as described in the table below.

Don’t get too bogged down trying to memorize these endings right now, though, as most times it is perfectly fine to place bello after the noun and the regular endings can be used! 

 

Plural Bello/Bella before a noun

bel (masc. before consonant) goes to definite art.
 i
bei
bell’ (masc. before vowel) goes to definite art.
gli
begli
         
bella (fem. before consonant) goes to definite art. 
le
belle
bell’ (fem. before vowel, especially -a) goes to definite art.
le
belle

 

il bel giorno the beautiful day becomes i bei giorni
il bell’albero the beautiful tree becomes i begli alberi
       
la bella settimana the nice week becomes le belle settimane
la bella donna the beautiful woman becomes le belle donne
la bell’europea the beautiful European becomes le belle euoropee

There are, of course, many more occasions to use the Italian adjective bello than those I have just listed.  How many more an you think of?

Remember how to use the adjective bello and I guarantee you will want to say something  “nice” or “beautiful” about Italy every day!

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.

Check Also

Renting property in Italy

Leasing a property in Italy is a different from the rental process you may be …

4 comments

  1. Hi,
    I’m just reading your wonderful explanation and I really appreciate all the examples you’re giving.
    There’s one part that confuses me though. You write that -for the purpose of smoother conversation- bella becomes bell’ if it is placed before a feminine noun that begins with the letter –a, like in bell’amica. In all other cases it stays bella, like for example in Bella idea.

    However, online I can find plenty of example texts with both bell’idea and bella idea.
    Also, a bit further down on this page there is a section where you mention la bell’europea (the beautiful European). I’m assuming this means a European citizen of female gender (hence the “la”). But applying your rule of thumb, shouldn’t it be la Bella Europea, same as Bella idea??
    With la Europa (the continent), I can again find both versions of “beautiful Europe” online: Bella Europa and Bell’europa.
    Can you please clarify which version is correct?
    Or why there might be two versions circulating?
    Thank you so much!

    • Kathryn Occhipinti

      First, thank you for the careful reading of my blog and for your research. According to my Italian editor, both are correct! This could explain the discrepancy. So, although grammar books (including mine) mention that for bella one should replace the last “a” with an apostrophe only before feminine words that begin with an “a,” it is also fine to do this before other feminine words that begin with a vowel. In effect, replacing the “a” with an apostrophe before all vowels is easier to remember, as replacing the last vowel so as not to have to say two vowels one after another (very cumbersome) is commonly done in Italian. It may be that the original rule has changed over time; but this is just a guess on my part. As far as my examples, I think “bella idea” has a nice ring to it and flows nicely. But “bella europea” is a little cumbersome and “bell’europea” is instead easier to say and has a nice ring to it. I suppose that is why I originally wrote the examples this way. But I will add additional comments to my blog so it is less confusing. Grazie mille for your comments and insight.

      • Thanks for your reply! When faced with two options I’ll just stick with whatever roll off the tongue most smoothly. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want More?


Subscribe to our print magazine
or give it as a gift.

Click here for details