Italian Language Blog

Buono o Bello? Posted by on Nov 6, 2008 in Grammar

Good or nice? These two adjectives, together with a couple more, have a very strange habit when they precede a noun. Lets look at them! But before doing so you may want to have a look at the articolo indeterminativo (indefinite article) and articolo determinativo (definite article) that I summarized in my previous post “Articles, articles, articles”. OK! Are you ready?


Buono/a follows the rules of the indefinite article un/uno/una before a singular noun: buon giorno (good day), buon anno (happy new year), buono studio (good study), buona vacanza (good holiday). The plural form is regular: buoni for the masculine and buone for the feminine.


Bello follows the rules of the definite article when placed before a noun: il bel quadro (the nice painting), il bello specchio (the nice mirror), il bello zoo (the nice zoo), il bell’orologio (the nice watch), la bella macchina (the nice car), la bell’arancia (the nice orange). The same rule applies in the plural: i bei quadri, i begli zoo, i begli orologi, le belle macchine, le belle arance. When bello follows the noun, it behaves regularly: bello, bella, belli, belle.

Two more adjectives behave like bello: quello (that, those) and dello (some).


Having explained how to use these adjectives I would now like to write a little on when to use them:


Buono is used to express a positive opinion of personal qualities: un uomo buono (a good man), un buon film (a good film, because it deals well with a difficult theme). Buono is also used to describe flavors and smells: una buona pizza (a good pizza), un buon profumo (a nice smell). Finally buono is used to express good wishes: buon viaggio! (have a good journey), buona vacanza! (have a nice holiday).


Bello is used to express a positive opinion of the formal, aesthetic aspect: un bell’uomo (a good-looking man), un bel film (a good film because it’s enjoyable), fa bel tempo (the weather is nice).


There are two more words that often create some confusion: bravo and bene.

Bravo is an adjective expressing positive qualities and is used only with human beings and animals, not objects: un bravo ragazzo (a well behaved boy). Bravo is also used to say that you are good at something: sono brava a cucinare (I’m good at cooking). N.B. bravo is an adjective, so it changes from masculine to feminine, from singular to plural: bravo, brava, bravi, brave. Show off your knowledge of Italian next time you go to a concert, and shout “brava” to a female performer, or “bravi” if it’s a group!


Bene is an adverb, therefore does not change and is used with verbs to express a positive opinion: canta bene (he/she sings well), sto bene (I’m well). Bene is also commonly used to say “it’s a good thing”: è bene imparare l’italiano (it’s a good thing to learn Italian).


I hope I haven’t confused you too much!


Buono Studio!

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  1. Vicky:

    Is it correct to say both of the following:

    Ieri e’ stata una buona giornata
    Ieri e’ stata una bella giornata

    Do they have exactly the same meaning?

    • Serena:

      @Vicky Salve Vicky! Both sentences are grammatically correct, but they have different meanings:
      “Ieri e’ stata una buona giornata” means “Yesterday was a good day” as in “productive”, “without any troubles”, etc.
      “Ieri e’ stata una bella giornata” means “Yesterday was a beautiful day” as in “the weather was nice”, “I enjoyed myself”, etc.
      Va bene?
      Saluti da Serena

  2. taf:

    Ciao. Someone recently sent me this message, and I find it confusing. “te che fai di bello?” Can you offer any insight?

    • Serena:

      @taf Simple: are you doing anything nice?

      Saluti da Serena

  3. Sam:

    Hi, thanks for the article. I am learning Italian, and I thought it’s time I moved further and immersed myself in the language even more.

    So my idea is to stick notes that would be associated with my daily activity in Italian with photos of the said activities around the house.

    For example, I sometimes buy Pepsi for myself when I’m feeling like it, so I thought I would add something like ‘It’s nice to enjoy pepsi once in a while.

    Are these versions correct please?

    E bello godere pepsi occasinalmente. (It’s nice to)
    E buono godere pepsi occasinalmente. (It’s good to) This one I’m having doubts with, I did not find any similar sentence via google.

    Thanks, appreciate the help and the dedication you’ve put to this blog.

    • Serena:

      @Sam Salve Sam!
      For something that pleases us we use ‘è bello …’. The correct sentence would be: è bello godersi una pepsi occasionalmente’. N.B. the verb is ‘reflexive’ (in reality it’s using the si impersonale), and it’s best to put the article ‘una’.
      Auguri e a presto

  4. Sam:

    Thanks a lot! Reflexive part is also helpful

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