Words that mean “good” and “well” in Italian: Buono, bravo, bello and bene

Buono, bravo, bello and bene are very common Italian words. They are relatively simple to understand, but their correct use can be somewhat confusing for Italian learners, because they sound similar (and all start with the letter “b”!) and because they can sometimes all be translated with the word “good” or “well” in English.

First of all, from a grammatical point of view, there is a first distinction: buono, bravo, and bello are adjectives (and their forms changes according to the noun they are paired with or refer to), while bene is an adverb and its form is therefore invariable.

How to use BENE

Let’s start with bene. Bene is an adverb of manner and its always used in relation to a verb. Adverbs of manners describe how or in which way an action is performed or takes place.

  • Bene is used to indicate that the action is performed satisfactorily, properly, or correctly. The opposite of bene is male. Let’s look at a few examples with bene:

Lucia canta molto bene.

Lucia sings very well.

Stai bene oggi?

Do you feel well today?

How to use BUONO

Buono is an adjective and always refers to a noun. It must be declined according to the noun’s grammatical gender and number. It is declined as follows:

Masculine Feminine
Singular buono / buon buona
Plural buoni buone

 

Note: when buono immediately precedes a masculine singular noun, the contracted form buon is used instead.

  • When buono refers to people, it describes that someone is a good person, usually meaning they are nice, kind, friendly, or selfless.

Mio nonno è una persona molto buona.

My grandfather is a very nice person. (= nice, of good soul, good heart)

  • When buono refers to objects, it usually describes goodness, quality, or flavor.

Le tagliatelle che cucina Luisa sono veramente buone.

The “tagliatelle” (a pasta dish) cooked by Luisa are really good. (= tasty)

Questo divano è di buona qualità.

This sofa is of good quality.

Penso che “Titanic” sia un buon film.

I think that “Titanic” is a good movie. (= good quality, done well)

How to use BRAVO

Bravo is an adjective and always refers to a noun. It always refers to people or living beings, not objects. It must be declined according to the noun’s grammatical gender and number. It is declined as follows:

Masculine Feminine
Singular bravo brava
Plural bravi brave

 

  • Bravo only refers to people and living beings. It expresses a positive judgement about someone’s talent or skills.

Marta è una brava attrice.

Marta is a good actress. (= talented)

Filippo è bravo in matematica.

Filippo is good at math.

  • Bravo can also mean that someone is polite and behaves in a proper way (has good manners)

Luca è un bravo ragazzo.

Luca is a nice guy. (= he is polite and behaves in a proper way, has good manners)

How to use BELLO

Bello is an adjective and always refers to a noun. It must be declined according to the noun’s grammatical gender and number. It is declined as follows:

Masculine Feminine
Singular bello / bel / bell’ bella
Plural belli belle

 

Note: when bello immediately precedes a masculine singular noun, the contracted form bel or bell’ (for noun starting with vowels) is used instead.

  • When bello refers to people, it describes that someone who is handsome or beautiful.

Valentino è un bell’uomo.

Valentino is a handsome man.

  • When bello refers to objects, it usually expresses a positive judgement on their aspect and aesthetics.

Venezia è una bella città.

Venezia is a beautiful city.

Penso che “Titanic” sia un bel film.

I think that “Titanic” is a beautiful movie. (= enjoyable, pleasant to watch)

Audio lessons to practice buono, bravo, bello, bene

To practice buono, bravo, bello, and bene, take Lesson 32 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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