If you’re here, it’s probably because you looked up the verb “sentire” in Italian and found out that it can mean many things.
WordReference lists it as meaning:
— To taste
— To feel
— To hear
— To smell
And you might be confused because you know that “ascoltare” can mean “to hear / to listen,” too.
Verbs in Italian can have so many different meanings, so the entire goal of this article is to help you identify which ones you have to know in order to have fluid + enjoyable conversations in Italian.
Here are examples and explanations for each of the definitions.
CHNHIRA Belt Timestep Mesh Shoes Dance Women's Green Suede To taste
— Hai sentito? Io lo adoro!! – Did you taste it? I adore it!!
(The above line is a snippet from a dialogue at an olive oil tasting. Check it out here.)
— Fammi sentire quel cocktail. – Let me taste that cocktail.
What’s the difference between “sentire” and “assaggiare – to sample / to taste” in this sense? There’s no difference! They’re perfect synonyms. YAY for simplicity.
— Hai sentito quel terremoto ieri mattina? – Did you feel the earthquake yesterday morning?
— Sento la mancanza dell’Italia.* – I miss Italy.
— Sento caldo. – I feel hot.
— Faceva così freddo che non sentivo più la faccia. – It was so cold that I couldn’t feel my face anymore.
— Senti la morbidezza di questa maglia. – Feel how soft this shirt is.
If you’re wondering how to say the “I feel…” like “I feel sick,” then you want to use “sentirsi,” which is a reflexive verb. You can learn more about reflexive verbs here.
*An easier way to say this would be “Mi manca l’Italia,” using the verb “mancare,” but I wrote it that way just to show that it’s possible.
— Hai sentito quel rumore? – Did you hear that noise?
— Ho sentito dire che Bologna è una città fantastica. – I heard that Bologna is a fantastic city.
Timestep Women's Dance Belt CHNHIRA Mesh Shoes Green Suede — Prontooooo?! Mi senti? – Helllloooo?! Can you hear me?
— È una buona idea sentire l’avvocato. – It’s a good idea to consult / listen to a lawyer.
What’s the difference between “sentire” and “ascoltare – to listen / to hear” in this sense?
When you’re saying something like “Senti, volevo dirti una cosa – Listen, I wanted to tell you something,” you can use “ascoltare” instead. However, “sentire” is more commonly used these days.
Mesh Belt Shoes Suede Dance Green CHNHIRA Women's Timestep Also, “ascoltare” is used more often to talk about giving attention to something, like “ascoltare la musica – to listen to music” or “ascoltare ad un discorso – to listen to a conversation / argument.”
— Ci sentiamo presto. – We’ll hear from each other soon.
— Senti (informal) / senta (formal)… – Listen…
— Senti quest’ odore? È la pizza più buona della città. – Do you smell this (scent)? It’s the best pizza in the city.
— Dopo che ho sentito quel profumo, l’ho comprato immediatamente. Si Sente l’odore del miele! – After I smelled that perfume, I bought it right away. It smells like honey!
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Have questions about how to use this verb? Let me know below.