Italian Language Blog

Colloquial Italian – 1. Ecco Posted by on Oct 28, 2009 in Italian Language

As many students of the Italian language have discovered, there is a big difference between the Italian learnt in a language class and everyday colloquial Italian. In fact many students suffer a serious blow to their confidence when, having diligently studied in their language class, they first set foot in Italia and come face to face with the natives, e non capiscono un cavolo di niente (and they don’t understand ‘a cabbage of’ anything)! There are various reasons for this phenomenon, but probably one of the main ones is that everyday spoken Italian is peppered with little phrases and expressions which are largely neglected in language classes with their tendency to focus much more on grammar and rules. Amongst the most difficult colloquial expressions to grasp are those with multiple meanings, such as today’s subject: ecco.

Ecco, a little word which we Italians use all the time, can often be difficult for foreigners to pin down because it doesn’t have a single equivalent in English. So here are some everyday examples which illustrate its usage:

1. with the meaning of ‘well’ or ‘well now’ when you are beginning an explanation, or working out what to say:

Ecco, io lavoro per il comune (well now, I work for the council)

2. used frequently in everyday conversation as an exclamation of agreement meaning ‘that’s right’ often followed by appunto or esatto (exactly): ecco, appunto! (that’s right, exactly!)

3. with the meaning of ‘here’ or ‘there’:

Eccoci arrivati a casa (no satisfactory translation for this into English, but it means something like ‘here we are, we’re home’), eccovi finalmente! (there you are, finally!), dove sei? – eccomi (where are you? – here I am). As you can see, in this case the word ecco is combined with the direct personal pronoun mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le e.g. ecco (here/there) + vi (you [plural]) becomes eccovi (here/there you are). Obviously the choice of ‘here’ or ‘there’ depends on the situation.

4. with the meaning of ‘here is / are’ or ‘there is / are’:

Ecco il libro che mi hai prestato (here is the book which you lent me), ecco lassù il castello (there is the castle up there), ecco le tue scarpe (here are your shoes). 

5. with the meaning of ‘this is’ or ‘that is’:

Ecco come vanno fatte le cose in Italia! (this is / that is how things are done in Italy!), vuoi il mio consiglio? eccolo (do you want my advice? this is / that is it).

6. with the meaning of ‘that’s why’:

Giorgio: Sono stato in vacanza per tre settimane – Lucia: ecco perché non ti ho più visto! (Giorgio: I’ve been on holiday for three weeks – Lucia: that’s why I haven’t seen you!).

7. at the end of a summary or explanation we sometimes say ecco tutto (that’s all).

8. to say that something is done, or finished we often use ecco fatto (‘that’s it’ or ‘it’s done / finished’)

Ecco fatto il blog (that’s the blog finished).

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  1. Rowena:

    Ha! Great post on the use of the word ecco. During a vacation in France, we learned that the very young daughter of our french b&b was studying italian, so they urged her to practice speaking italian with us. She was shy at first, but when her cat walked into the room, she proudly said “Ecco, il gatto!” Clever girl, because in effect, she was also introducing her cat whose name also happened to be Ecco!

  2. andreas:

    Salve, Serena!
    Ti ringrazio di cuore per il blog. Finalmente ho una buona idea di questa parolina.

  3. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    When I lived in Italy, the natives used the word ‘ecco’ so often that I picked up the habit of using it in English…even today. This is the first of your posts where I understood each use of ‘ecco’ that you exemplified.

    ‘Ecco’ reminds me of the French use of the word ‘alors’. In fact, wouldn’t the French use ‘alors’ in your “Eccoci arrivati a casa” example?

    By the way, is ‘ecco’ a direct take from the Latin? I am thinking of ‘ecco homo’.


  4. Serena:

    Salve Vince! I’m pleased you found the explanation of “ecco” clear, and it’s interesting that you are mentioning the French “alors”, because my next blog about colloquial Italian will be about “allora”.

    You are right, the Italian word “ecco” comes from the Latin “eccum” which derives from “ecce”, the same as “ecce homo”.

    Cordiali saluti da Serena

  5. Mia M. Hurst:

    Can you tell me what this means?

    Canetto Biando

    Li rin grazio della tuo transporto

    It was written on a 1800 post card

    • serena:

      @Mia M. Hurst Salve Mia, ‘Canetto Bianco’ doesn’t mean anything. ‘Bianco’ can be a surname, but I don’t know what ‘canetto’ means, maybe ‘Carletto'(?), a first name? The second line could be ‘ti ringrazio del tuo trasporto’ (I thank you for your transport). I can’t help you without seeing the post card.
      Saluti da Serena

  6. Mia M. Hurst:

    I made an error

    I made an error, the 1800 post card read:

    “Canetto Bianco

    Li rin grazio della tuo transporto”

    Can you tell me what it means?


    Mia M. Hurst

  7. Andrea:

    I am begining to learn the language and am taking my first steps and I must say “amo il suo blog”. Please keep teaching us what is not found in textbooks –the colloquial form of “la madre lingua”.
    I am looking forward for your explanation of “allora”, which I hear “un sacco” when I watch italian TV.
    Ti ringazio per I’ll tuo ingresso!

  8. Heather Sinclair:

    Trying to find out if Italian has an equivalent expression for the English ” to lose the plot” or ” losing one’s marbles” to mean someone who is forgetting things,becoming vague,losing the ability to manage one’s life. Hope you can help!

    • Serena:

      @Heather Sinclair Ciao Heather!
      Ci sono varie possibilità:
      ‘uscire di testa’, ‘dare i numeri’, ‘perdere colpi’ (questo si può usare anche per macchinari, business, ecc. perché viene dal motore a scoppio. Significa non funzionare più bene, perdere efficienza).
      Altrimenti ci sono le numerosissime espressioni come:
      rimbambire, rincoglionire, rimbecillire, rimbischerire (toscano), ecc.
      Saluti da Serena

  9. Gerard:

    Wouldn’t the English equivalent of “Ecco” be “behold”; this is what it means in Latin. And, “here” can be used in English, as an poetic apostrophe…sort of.

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