Italian Language Blog

Colloquial Italian – 2. Allora and Dunque Posted by on Nov 9, 2009 in Grammar, Italian Language

In part two of my Colloquial Italian series I’m going to continue exploring those little everyday words that we Italians use all the time, but which are often overlooked in classes and text books. Learning how and where to use them will help to make your spoken Italian sound much more natural.

The two words which I have chosen today, allora and dunque, both have more or less the same meaning, and most of the time it is a matter of personal choice which one you use. I, for example tend to use allora more frequently than dunque, and I was well known when I taught Italian in England for starting every other sentence with ‘allora, oggi studieremo…’ (well then, today we’ll study…), or ‘allora, adesso facciamo…’ (so, now we’ll do…), etc.

Allora has the following meanings: ‘then’, ‘well then’, ‘in that case’, ‘therefore’, ‘so’.

Here are a few examples to give you a feeling for how it is used:

Non sei ancora pronto? allora ti aspetterò (aren’t you ready yet? in that case I’ll wait for you)

allora, siamo d’accordo? (well then, are we in agreement?)

Franco: ‘Purtroppo non sono riuscito a prenotare un tavolo a quel ristorante’ Laura: ‘e allora, dove andiamo stasera?’ (Franco: ‘Unfortunately I didn’t manage to book a table at that restaurant’ Laura: ‘and so…, where are we going this evening?’)

Allora is also used in several common expressions with the meaning of ‘then’, or ‘that time’:

da allora (since then) e.g. …e da allora non l’ho visto (…and I haven’t seen him since then)

da allora in poi (from then onwards, or from that time onwards) e.g. …e da allora in poi ha continuato a funzionare (…and it has continued working from that time onwards)

fino allora (until then, or until that time) e.g non ci ero mai stato fino allora (I’d never been there until then)

proprio allora (right then, at that very moment) e.g. …e proprio allora è entrata Federica! (and at that very moment Federica came in!)


Dunque also has the meaning of ‘then’, ‘well then’, ‘in that case’, ‘therefore’, ‘so’.

Here is a very famous example: penso, dunque sono (I think, therefore I am)

dunque, andiamo in pizzeria stasera? (well then, are we going to the pizzeria this evening?)

use dunque if you are picking up the thread of a conversation e.g. dunque… mi stavi raccontando delle tue vacanze (so… you were telling me about your holiday)

you can also use it in exclamatory phrases e.g. dimmi dunque! (tell me then!)


As you can see from the examples, dunque and allora are mostly interchangeable and you will probably end up having a preference for one or the other. As I said, I tend to use ‘allora’ a lot but my mother, on the other hand, uses ‘dunque’. Both words are used very commonly when you are having a conversation and are thinking about what you’re going to say next, a bit like saying ‘hmmm now let me think…’

allora… non so cosa altro dirvi!

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  1. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    Does the word ‘dunque’ imply logical necessity? ‘Dunque’ seems to me to be a weaker term than the word ‘then’ in this English statement:

    If ‘A’, then ‘B’.

    Which Italian term below would best match the meaning of ‘ergo’ in the Latin phrase:
    ‘Cogito ergo sum’?

    Some other word.

    It just seemed to me, intuitively, the when Italians really meant ‘therefore’, that they used ‘quindi’. But I have no idea if this feeling is correct. It’s just a distant memory.



  2. Serena:

    Salve Vince,

    You asked: ‘Does the word ‘dunque’ imply logical necessity?’
    To express the idea of ‘if A, then in that case B’ you should use dunque. As I said in my blog dunque and allora are mostly interchangeable, however there are often subtle distinction which you only really learn through practice. Let’s say that ‘dunque’ is more formal, and so you would use it for equations etc. This is why ‘Cogito ergo sum’ has always been translated as ‘Penso, dunque sono.’
    Quindi, which I didn’t include above in order not to overcomplicate matters, is equivalent to dunque, but is a slightly more ‘modern’ word which may gradually take the place of dunque. As usual, these things vary from region to region, so there is no hard and fast rule.

  3. Melissa:

    Che meraviglia! Sono appena trovato questo blog nonostante per anni abbia ricevuto la parola del giorno nella mia cassella di e-mail da Transparent Language! Che bell’idea! Complimenti! Sono molto appassionata della lingua italiana e non vedo l’ora di leggere piu’! Grazie! Meli

  4. jacqui:

    this is a great series, Serena.

    I have just started to learn Italian and am watching Un Posto al Sole to help me with colloquial language, but your series has helped me understand so much more.


  5. Deborah:

    Allora is my favorite Italian expression. So much so that my personalized car tags say Allora.

    It is the use of the word as a ‘place holder’ in a conversation, as in the last example in you blog entry that I love.

    And the way a person will use it as a sort of “self talk” to help them think.

    For example: A shop keeper is adding up the total of your purchase on a scrap of paper and muttering to himself, “Quindici, no, allora…quattrodici. Si, quattrodici.”

  6. Jawaher S:

    Thank you. This was very helpful.

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