Italian Language Blog

Italian Temporal Expressions – Part 1 Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in Grammar

Today we’re going to begin looking at words and expressions that deal with time. This is a pretty big topic, so it will be divided in several parts. Let’s begin with the basic vocabulary.

We’ll take a logical journey through time, moving from the past to the present and the future.

1. Parlando del passato = Speaking about the past:

ieri = yesterday
la notte scorsa = last night
questa notte = last night (colloquial)
l’altro ieri = the day before yesterday (literally: ‘the other yesterday’)
l’altro giorno = the other day
tre giorni fa = three days ago
sabato scorso = last Saturday
la settimana scorsa = last week
l’altra settimana = the other week
due settimane fa = two weeks ago
il mese scorso = last month
l’altro mese = the other month
un mese fa = a month ago
l’anno scorso = last year
l’altr’anno = the other year
cinque anni fa = five years ago

Contextual examples:
cinque anni fa trovai una gattina abbandonata in giardino = five years ago, I found an abandoned kitten in the garden
la settimana scorsa siamo andati a Sarzana = last week we went to Sarzana
questa notte ho sentito un gufo che chiamava = last night I heard an owl calling
l’altro ieri mi ha telefonato Fabio = Fabio phoned me the day before yesterday

Ambra, the kitten that I found in the garden. Here she is sleeping in one of the cat-food bowls.

2. Parlando del presente = Speaking about the present:

oggi = today
questa mattina/stamattina = this morning
questo pomeriggio/oggi pomeriggio = this afternoon
questa sera/stasera = this evening
questa notte/stanotte = tonight, differentiated from questa notte (last night) in section 1. by verb tense and context
questa settimana = this week
questo mese = this month
quest’anno = this year

Contextual examples:
stanotte devo andare a letto presto = I have to go to bed early tonight
questa settimana ho una visita medica = I’ve got a medical appointment this week
scusa, questa mattina sono incasinato = sorry, I’m busy this morning
stasera vado a teatro = I’m going to the theatre this evening

3. Parlando del futuro = Speaking about the future:

domani = tomorrow
domani mattina/domattina = tomorrow morning
domani pomeriggio/sera/notte = tomorrow afternoon/evening/night
dopodomani = the day after tomorrow
fra un’ora = in an hour
fra una settimana = in a week
venerdì prossimo = next Friday
quest’altra settimana/la settimana prossima/la prossima settimana = next week
quest’altro mese/il mese prossimo/il prossimo mese = next month
quest’altro anno/l’anno prossimo/il prossimo anno = next year
nei prossimi giorni/mesi = in the next few days/months
nelle prossime ore/settimane = in the next few hours/weeks

Contextual examples:
domani pomeriggio ho un appuntamento col  commercialista = tomorrow afternoon I have an appointment with my tax consultant
ho il treno fra due ore = my train leaves in two hours
il prossimo mese vogliamo visitare il museo archeologico di Parma = next month we want to visit the Parma archaeological museum
nelle prossime settimane vedremo un cambio di direzione = in the next few weeks we’ll see a change of direction
quest’altro anno Lucia comincia l’università = next year Lucia will start university

If you have any questions leave a comment.

Alla prossima! (Until next time!)
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  1. Mauricie Frota:

    Thanks a lot for your Italian classes! I do like it!

    • Geoff:

      @Mauricie Frota Non c’è di che Mauricie! You’re very welcome.

      A presto, Geoff 🙂

  2. Mitch:

    Uncanny! I was about to do myself some lists of associated vocab and time phrases were one of the lists. Thank you very much for your well timed post.
    Also, what’s the Italian for psychic?

    Ciao e grazie

    • Geoff:

      @Mitch Ciao Mitch, the Italian for psychic is veggente, or sensitivo (a false friend because it sounds like sensitive, which is in fact what a psychic actually is!).

      More temporal words and phrases coming next week!

      Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  3. Patricia Neale:

    Ho il treno fra due ore = my train leaves in two hours.

    I find the translation confusing.
    Literally I read it as ‘I have a train in two hours’ is this correct or not?

    • Geoff:

      @Patricia Neale Ciao Patricia. We generally advise people to avoid literal translations, but I understand your confusion because this is a case in which the Italian is very different from the English.

      The literal translation of ‘ho il treno fra due ore’ is ‘I have the train in two hours’. Your literal translation was ‘I have a train in two hours’. So you can see that even you modified the translation, which is a good thing. There’s a small but very important difference between ‘a train’ and ‘the train’ in that the definite article (il, lo, la etc,) is very often used to signify ‘my’ or ‘our’, hence: ho il treno in ritardo = my train is late, or abbiamo la macchina guasta = our car has broken down.

      These are important points in helping one to become a fluent speaker.
      Literal translations are slow, tiring, and often not even possible. For example, this blog also contains the phrase: l’altro ieri mi ha telefonato Fabio, which I translated as: Fabio phoned me the day before yesterday. However, a literal translation would be ‘the other yesterday me has telephoned Fabio’!
      So although it’s important as a beginner to understand the structure of the language, it’s ultimately far better to move on as soon as possible to interpretation rather than literal translation.

      Hope that helps, alla prossima, Geoff 🙂

  4. Jan Vercruysse:

    Italian Temporal Expressions – Part 1

    I’m neither a native Italian speaker nor native English. I’m just wondering whether l’altra settimana effectively indicates the week before last week, or as the interpretation shouldn’t be so strict, l’altra settimana refers to any other week before last week.


    • Geoff:

      @Jan Vercruysse Ciao Jan, that’s a good question.
      L’altra settimana is a bit vague. It doesn’t correspond to the expression l’altro ieri, which means the day before yesterday. It could refer to last week or several weeks ago. The expression ‘the other week’ is perhaps easier to understand if English is your mother tongue, so I understand that it may be confusing for you.
      What is your mother tongue?

      A presto, Geoff.

      • Jan Vercruysse:

        @Geoff Thanks, Geoff for the explanation.
        No, English is not my mother tongue. I’m from Belgium and speak Dutch ;-°) .

        • Geoff:

          @Jan Vercruysse Sei il benvenuto Jan, you’re welcome!

          The Dutch and Belgians have a big advantage when it comes to languages as they grew up surrounded by so many of them. As an Englishman who had to start from scratch I envy you!

          Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  5. rukmini nini:

    thanks a lot for this lesson.

  6. Kimberly Koehler:

    I may be all alone in this, but I LOVE grammar discussions! And I like the way you organize the vocabulary into logical, related groups of words. Thank you so much. I’m trying to teach myself Italian.

    • Geoff:

      @Kimberly Koehler We’ll keep the grammar topics coming Kimberly, thanks for the feedback. 🙂

  7. Jan:

    My apologies that my comment is coming late, but I have learned that ‘stanotte’ also can mean last night or the night that one just woke up from. I have learned this from my native Italian language tutors and my cousins in Liguria. Is this a regional usage?

    • Geoff:

      @Jan Ciao Jan, stanotte is simply a colloquial abbreviation of questa notte, which can mean either last night or tonight depending on the context. It’s not regional, you’ll find it all over Italy.

      Saluti 🙂

  8. Susan:

    Thank You so much. I am trying to teach myself Italian and have been using literal translations, although with some high school Spanish, I’m aware that the order of the words in the sentences are rearranged (in comparison to English). It was helpful to read not to get too attached to the literal and instead, go with phrases which may not translate out apppropriately.

  9. Jdelgado:

    Thank you for sharing. The examples are just perfect to understand how the expressions are applied.

  10. Colleen Watson:

    Thank you so much for all the trouble you go to with your blog. I really appreciate the explanations. The advice not to translate literally but rather to interpret is so valuable. The more one reads and listens to Italian the more one learns not to translate but to interpret.

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