Sentire or Ascoltare? Udire or Origliare? Meaning and Use in Italian!

What is the difference between sentire and ascoltare? What’s the meaning of udire and ascoltare? How are they used? When are they used? Let’s find it out with this amazing new video-lesson with Rocco!

 Sentire – Ascoltare – Udire – Origliare 

All these verbs have something to do with the ears and the hearing.

SENTIRE means perceiving a sound or a noise in a random, unintentional or superficial way.

For example:

Se il mio vicino di casa ha il volume della radio al massimo, lo sentirò inevitabilmente, purtroppo! (If my neighbour turns the volume of his radio really high, I will, alas, definitely hear it!)

Moreover, we often use this verb to report rumors, gossips, about someone or something.

For example:

Ho sentito che Domenico e Giada si sono lasciati! Chissà perché… (I heard that Domenico and Giada broke up, I wonder why…)

Review Italian passato prossimo!


The verb SENTIRE, besides the hearing, is also associated with the sense of touch (se tocco il polso, sento il battito del cuore = if I touch my wrist, I can feel my pulse),  the sense of smell (sento un buon profumo = something smells good here) and the sense of taste (appena ho bevuto il caffè ho sentito che era amarissimo: non c’era lo zucchero = When I drank the coffee, It tasted very bitter).

On top of that, the verb SENTIRE can also indicate sensations and feelings. For example we can sentire (feel) pain, hot and cold, nostalgia… and so on.

Finally, the verb SENTIRE can be used in its reflexive form (SENTIRSI) to express our mental and physical state. For example, we can say:

Mi sento bene (I feel good)

Mi sento male (I feel bad)

Ti senti stanco (You feel tired)

Si sente a pezzi (s/he feels like falling apart)

Ci sentiamo in colpa (we feel guilty)

Vi sentite a disagio (you feel uneasy ) …

ADVICE from LearnAmo:

Speaking of the verb sentire, the Italian poetess, Alda Merini, wrote a poem titled Mi piace il verbo sentire: read it to revise all the uses of this verb!

ASCOLTARE has still to do with the sense of hearing, so perceiving a sound, but, this time, willingly and more carefully.

Io sento inevitabilmente il volume alto del vicino, ma ascolto le notizie alla radio, perché voglio farlo, mi interessano! (I inevitably hear the high volume from my neighbor’s house, but I listen to the news on the radio because I want to do that, those interest me)

Posso sentire per caso una canzone di sottofondo in un bar, ma quando vado a teatro ascolto con attenzione la musica classica perché mi piace!  (I can hear by chance a song playing in the background in a bar, but when I go to the theater I listen to classical music very carefully because I like it!)

UDIRE, has the same meaning of SENTIRE, but it is more formal and it is rarely used in the spoken language.

ORIGLIARE means listening to something other people are saying in secret (to eavesdrop).

For example:

Quando ho aperto la porta, ho visto che una persona stava origliando (When I opened the door, I saw a person who was eavesdropping).

Review the verb RACCOMANDARE!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

Leave a Reply