Italian Language Blog

Poco Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in Grammar

Poco – a little word that makes a big difference when used correctly! It can be translated as ‘little’, ‘short’, ‘few’, ‘not much’, ‘not very’. N.B. when used as an adjective it changes gender and number according to the noun, e.g. poco sole – not much sun, pochi giorni – a few days, poca pasta – little pasta, poche ragazze – few girls.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Franco parla poco – Franco doesn’t talk very much (lit. Franco speaks little)

lo conosco poco – I don’t know him very well (lit. I know him little)

lei è una persona poco educata – she is not a very well mannered person (lit. a person of few manners) N.B. educata refers to manners rather than education

l’ho fatto in poco tempo – I did it quickly (lit. in little time)

avevo poco voglia di fare quel lavoro – I didn’t really want to do that job (lit. I had little will to ……)

ci sono poche persone qua oggi – there are few people here today

c’era poca gente alla festa – there weren’t many people at the party

N.B. if we want to emphasize the rareness or scarcity of something we use the following construction:

sono poche le persone che se ne intendono di questo problema – not many people have an insight into this problem.

Here’s another example to illustrate the difference between the two constructions:

a. ci sono pochi animali selvatici in questa zona – there are not many wild animals in this area (this refers to the quantity of animals)

b. sono pochi gli animali sevatici che si possono addomesticare – not many wild animals can be tamed (this refers to the rareness of wild animals that can be tamed and could be translated as ‘wild animals that can be tamed are rare’, or ‘few and far between’)  

another way of expressing this scarcity or rareness when referring to people is: ‘sono in pochi’, e.g. sono in pochi quelli che se ne intendono di questo problema – few people understand this problem

sono in pochi quelli che parlano bene l’Inglese qua a Pontremoli – not many people speak good English here in Pontremoli

un po’

po’ is an abbreviation of poco and usually translates as ‘bit’, e.g.:

è andato un po’ male – it didn’t go very well (lit. a bit badly)

il tempo è stato un po’ brutto – the weather wasn’t very good (lit. a bit bad)

un po’ alla volta – a bit at a time

ci ho messo un bel po’ di tempo – it took me quite a bit of time

dammene un po’ per favore – give me a bit of it please

mi sento un po’ stanca – I feel a bit tired

N.B. we also use the diminutives pochino and pochettino – a little bit, e.g.: vuoi una fetta di torta? ….. solo un pochino/pochettino, grazie – do you want a slice of cake? ….. just a little bit thanks

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  1. Tom:

    Some good expressions here that I will learn by heart!

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