Italian Language Blog

Colloquial Italian – 4 Posted by on Sep 3, 2010 in Italian Language

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of my colloquial Italian blogs. In these blogs I discuss the meaning of those little expressions or words which we Italians tend to use all the time, but which are rarely learnt in Italian classes. So, without further ado, here is another small collection with, as usual, some examples of how we use them:

1. addirittura

When used on its own ‘addirittura’ is best translated as ‘really?!’, i.e. an exclamation of surprise, e.g. Marco: ‘Ieri sera sono entrati cinque cinghiali nel nostro giardino’ Paolo: ‘Addirittura?!’ (Marco: ‘Yesterday evening five wild boars came into our garden’. Paolo: ‘Really?!’)

When used as part of a sentence  however, the meaning changes slightly to ‘even’ or ‘actually’, e.g. Ieri sera ho visto addirittura cinque cinghiali nel nostro giardino! (Yesterday evening I even saw five wild boars in our garden!).

2. anzi

Anzi is used when we want to say ‘on the contrary’, e.g. Non mi disturbi affatto, anzi mi fai piacere (You aren’t disturbing me at all, on the contrary it’s a pleasure); Non è uno sciocco, anzi! (He is not a fool, quite the contrary!)

The other common meaning of anzi is ‘or better still’ or ‘or rather’ e.g. Questa torta è buona, anzi buonissima (This cake is good, or rather, very good); Mi telefoni domani, anzi mi mandi una posta elettronica (Phone me tomorrow, or better still send me an e.mail).

3. appunto

This can be used on its own as an exclamation equivalent to ‘exactly!’, e.g. Marco: ‘Giulia voleva andare a trovare la zia stasera, ma le ho detto che ormai è troppo tardi per andarci’. Paolo: ‘appunto!’ (Marco: Giulia wanted to go and see her aunt this evening, but I’ve told her that it’s too late to go there now. Paolo: exactly!)

It can also be used as part of a sentence to mean ‘just’, e.g. Stavamo appunto parlando di te (We were just talking about you); Stavo appunto pensando alla stessa cosa (I was just thinking the same thing).

4. altroché

Altrochè is an expression of enthusiastic affirmation which is similar to ‘absolutely!’, e.g. Elisa: ‘Ti piace veramente la mia nuova gonna?’ Luca: ‘Altroché!’ (Elisa: Do you really like my new skirt? Luca: absolutely!)

5. a voglia

This can be used as an alternative to altroché, e.g. Elisa: ‘Quegli sbandieratori sono veramente bravi, vero?’ Luca: ‘Eh, a voglia!’ (Elisa: Those flag throwers are really good, aren’t they? Luca: absolutely!); Luca: C’è ancora un po’ di pasta? Elisa: A voglia, quanta ne vuoi! (Luca: Is there a bit more pasta? Elisa: Absolutely, have as much as you want!).

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  1. Peonia:

    Great article!

    However I never hear “a voglia” in Italy, maybe beacause it’s a regional word? (I live in Emilia-Romagna)

    • serena:

      @Peonia Salve Peonia, ‘a voglia’ or ‘hai voglia’ is used a lot throughout the center and south of Italy. My friend Luca who is from Napoli uses it all the time. Maybe it is used less in Emilia Romagna, however we are on the border between Toscana and Emilia Romagna and the people here consider themselves more Emiliani than Tuscan. Here in Pontremoli this expression is used a lot.

      A presto, Serena

  2. Maurizio:

    ‘a voglia’ sembra un po’ piu’ Toscano che Italiano 😉
    ‘a voglia’ sounds a little more Tuscan than Italian 😉


    • serena:

      @Maurizio Salve Maurizio, it may be that ‘a voglia’ or ‘ha voglia’ is a more Tuscan pronunciation of ‘hai voglia’. However the usage isn’t limited to Toscana (see my reply to Peonia).

      Saluti da Serena

  3. Jeannet:

    Ciao Serena,

    Colloquial italian information on good terms up to date for which many thanks but were does the imagination comes from: 5 wild boars stepping in ones garden? even one wild boar stepping into my garden should be for me surprising. May be 5
    ^ ^
    ( o o)


  4. Jeannet:

    Ciao, Serena,the cat has been misformed

    ^ ^
    (o o)


  5. Carolina:

    Great list Serena. Will be very useful for my adult intermediate lessons.
    When I lived in Florence I heard these expressions all the time.

    • serena:

      @Carolina Ciao Carolina, ci mancherebbe altro!

      A presto, Serena

  6. Cinzia:

    Strano about this “a voglia”. I had NEVER NEVER heard this expression in my life and I have been living off and on in Italy since 1958. First in Napoli, then 3 years in Perugia. BUT when I finally made residence in Matera (Basilicata) in 2002, the first thing I heard was “a voglia” and continued to hear it at least 40 times a day (e non esagero)! Is it a fairly recent expression or has it been around for quite some time?

    • serena:

      @Cinzia Salve Cinzia! I don’t think that ‘a voglia’ is a recent expression because my father uses it a lot, and he is 89! I believe that, when you are learning a language, there are so many things that require your attention that you don’t notice some minor ones, until one day you learn a ‘new’ expression and suddenly that expression seems to appear everywhere. It’s like when you buy a new car, for example a blue FIAT Punto: suddenly every other car seems to be a blue FIAT Punto.

      Saluti da Serena

  7. Kirsten:

    Lived in Tuscany 5 yrs … Siena (ahh, my love!) and Florence (oh, it’s rival :)) …. Anyway, I heard “a voglia” and the exuberant “a voglia te!!” Many many many times – all the time. Found it very funny and always wondered exactly what it meant, but could never quite put my finger on it.

    It popped into my head again tonight … with an exuberant “A Voglia Te!!” and I thought I’d look it up. It took quite awhile to find this description here. Thanks!

    I think it might have a bit more color to it than just “absolutely” .. maybe because I think it so often began with an “uuuhhh, a voglie te!”


    Thanks, K

    • Serena:

      @Kirsten Ciao Kirsten, non c’è di che!

      A presto, Serena

  8. Kirsten:

    … maybe like “you got it! Yea!”… “right on” ….

  9. Bianca:

    Ciao, I want to Know if “a voglia” is also used in a sarcastic way?

    Ex: Leí parala bene il italiano!
    Io: “a voglia”. (come per dire che non é vero che parla bene)

    Puo esere?


    • Geoff:

      @Bianca Ciao Bianca, a voglia che puoi usare l’espressione ‘a voglia’ in modo sarcastico!

      A presto, Geoff 🙂

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