If you've ever sat in an Italian bar having a cappuccino or a glass of wine and listened to an animated conversation among Italians, even if you speak only a little bit you surely noticed a few words catching your ear over and over again. Short, punchy, and ubiquitous, they range from allora and dunque to ma, perché, come, eppure, and purché, and, well, back to allora and dunque again.
They are the words that make Italian shimmy and shine, twist and dance: the conjunctions, or connector words, that express contraposition, doubt, questioning, and disagreement, and that while conveying key connections between words and concepts, also add the salt and pepper to storytelling.
Italian conjunctions are plentiful and complex; these little connectors come in many guises and different types, simple and composite, disjunctive and declarative, and they are worth reading about and studying. Here, through, you will find a dozen or so very popular conjunctions that, once mastered and conquered and their power harnessed, will boost your confidence to speak and give you a much better sense of what is being said around you.
In this list we skipped over the straightforward conjunctions e, o, ma, and che because you know them-"and," "or," "but," and "that"-to favor these more interesting cohorts.
Però: But and However
On the surface, the adversative or contrasting conjunction però has the same meaning as its fellow ma. And it does mean but. But as usual, Italian is full of meaningful nuance and però is slightly more adversative (and to make it really adversative, sometimes people use both together, though purists frown upon it).
- Se vuoi andare, vai; però ti avverto che è di cattivo umore. If you want to go, go ahead; but, I warn you that she is in a bad mood.
- Ma però anche lui ha sbagliato. Yes, but he was wrong, too.
There, it almost could serve as a however. And here, too:
- Sì, il maglione mi piace, però è troppo caro. Yes, I like the sweater, but it is too expensive.
In addition, però can be placed at the end of a sentence (which ma cannot) to give it a stronger contrasting emphasis, with a bit of a though meaning. In that regard, però is a useful word to make a clarification or state a correction.
- Te lo avevo detto, però. I had told you, though.
- Però, lo sapevi. But, you knew (that was the case).
- È un bel posto però. It's a nice place, though.
In addition, you can also use però as a freestanding word with interjective value that conveys that you are surprised or impressed. It comes with the right tone of voice and facial expression.
For example, if you told someone that last year you made a million dollars, he might answer, "Però!"
Infatti: Indeed, In Fact
As in English, infatti is a declarative conjunction that confirms or validates something previously said (though sometimes in English it is used to mean "in actuality," contrasting what was previously said). In Italian, it is meant to agree and corroborate what is said. Sure thing; sure enough. Indeed.
- Sapevo che Giulio non si sentiva bene, e infatti il giorno dopo aveva la febbre. I knew that Giulio was not feeling well and, indeed, the following day he had a fever.
- Pensavo che il mercato fosse chiuso il mercoledì, e infatti quando siamo andati era chiuso. I thought that the market was closed on Wednesdays, and, sure enough, when we went it was closed.
- I fumatori hanno maggiore probabilità di contrarre il cancro ai polmoni, e infatti il nostro studio lo conferma. Smokers have a greater probability of contracting lung cancer, and indeed, our study confirms it.
It also means as a matter of fact:
- Al contrario, Paolo non era a casa, come aveva detto, e infatti, lo vidi al mercato quel pomeriggio. To the contrary, Paolo was not home, as he said, and indeed, I saw him at the market that afternoon.
Infatti is sometimes used as a final, conclusive word of confirmation.
- "Lo sapevo che facevi tardi e perdevi il treno." "E infatti." "I knew that you were late and that you would miss the train." "Indeed, I did."
Anche: Also, Too, As Well and Even
One can't really function without anche. Depending on its position in the sentence, it covers a lot of ground, mostly putting emphasis in different places:
- Ho comprato il pane, il vino e anche dei fiori. I bought bread, wine, and some flowers, too (or, I bought bread, wine and also some flowers).
- Mi piace molto leggere; anche al mio ragazzo piace leggere. I love to read; my boyfriend also likes to read.
- Anche te hai portato il vino? You, too, brought wine?
- Ho letto anche questo libro. I have read that book, too.
- Sì, mi ha detto questo anche. Yes, he told me that too.
Note the meaning of as well:
- Anche qui piove. It is raining here as well.
- Anche lui mi ha detto la stessa cosa. He as well told me the same thing.
- Vorrei anche un contorno. I would like a side as well.
- Abbiamo camminato moltissimo; ci siamo anche persi! We walked a lot; we even got lost!
Anche se means even though or even if.
Cioè: In Other Words, That Is
A good explicative and declarative conjunction, cioè is a keyword in refining what we say and mean: to clarify and correct what was said.
- Non voglio andare al museo; cioè, non ci voglio andare oggi. I don't want to go to the museum; that is, I don't want to go today.
- Ho visto Giovanni ieri-cioè, l'ho visto ma non ci ho parlato. I saw Giovanni yesterday-that is, I saw him but I didn't get to talk to him.
- Vado in Italia fra due mesi, cioè a giugno. I'm going to Italy in two months, in other words, in June.
- Mi piace; cioè, mi piace ma non moltissimo. I like it; that is, I like it, but not to die for.
Often you hear it asked, Cioè, vale a dire? That means, in other words, what does that mean exactly?
Purché: As Long As
Purché is a conditional conjunction that does-infatti-set up a condition: if; as long as. Because of that conditional meaning, it is accompanied by the subjunctive.
- Vengo al mare con te purché guidi piano. I will come to the beach with you as long as you drive slowly.
- Gli ho detto che può uscire purché studi. I told him he could go out as long as he studies.
- Purché usciamo stasera, sono disposta a fare tutto. As long as we go out tonight, I am willing to do anything.
Purché can come at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.
Sebbene and Benché: Though and Although
Sebbene and Benché are other essential connectors meaning even though, although, though. They suggest a contrast to what was previously said, or some kind of conflict of fact or emotion. You can't talk about love or intentions and anything of the heart without these. They are also used with the subjunctive most often.
- Sebbene il ristorante fosse chiuso ci ha serviti. Even though the restaurant was closed, he served us.
- Benchè non riesca a parlare l'italiano perfettamente, faccio comunque molto progresso. Although I cannot speak Italian perfectly, I am still making much progress.
- Sebbene ci abbiamo provato, non siamo riusciti a trovare la chiesa di cui mi avevi parlato. Although we tried, we were not able to find the church you told me about.
Siccome: Since, Given That
Siccome falls in the category of most used Italian words ever. It is a causal conjunction, and since you have been studying Italian for a long time, you should know how to use it.
- Siccome che non ci vediamo da molto tempo, ho deciso di invitarti a cena. Since we have not seen each other in a long time, I decided to invite you for dinner.
- Siccome che Fiesole è così vicina a Firenze, abbiamo deciso di visitarla. Since Fiersole is so close to Florence, we decided to visit.
- Siccome c'è lo sciopero dei treni, abbiamo affittato una macchina. Since there is a train strike, we decided to rent a car.
Comunque: In Any Case, Still, However
The queen of summing up, comunque is another essential word, thrown in here and there to say that whatever else is said, still, regardless, in any case, whatever the case may be, this final thing must be said. It is often used to offer a conclusive fact or opinion that rests the case.
- Il parco è chiuso; comunque, se volete visitare, fatemelo sapere. The park is closed; regardless, let me know if you want to visit it.
- Sei comunque un maleducato per avermi dato chiodo. You are, in any case, rude for having stood me up.
- In giardino era freddo, ma abbiamo comunque mangiato bene. The garden was cold, but, regardless, we ate well.
- Non vengo comunque. I am not coming in any case.
- Comunque, anche se pensi di avere ragione, hai torto. In any case, even if you think you are right, you are wrong.
Poi is technically an adverb, not a conjunction, but it merits mention for its vast uses as a connector word. Indeed, it has temporal value as then, later or afterwards, and also has meaning as in addition to or on top of.
- Prendi il treno #2 e poi un taxi. You take the #2 train, and then you get a cab.
- Poi te lo dico. I'll tell you later.
- Ho comprato una camicia e poi anche una giacca! I bought a shirt and then a jacket, too!
- Non voglio uscire con Luca. È disoccupato, e poi non mi piace! I don't want to go out with Luca. He is unemployed, and on top of it I don't like him!
It is used often as an interrogative word to bridge between passages of a conversation. If someone is telling a suspenseful story and it gets interrupted, you might ask, "E poi?"
Anzi: Rather, Moreover, What's More
This little word is a reinforcing conjunction that corrects, punches, and doubles down on something. It serves to contradict something entirely or to agree with it wholeheartedly. Confused? Take a look:
- Non mi è antipatico Ruggero; anzi, mi è simpaticissimo. I don't dislike Ruggero; to the contrary, I like him a lot.
- Gli ho detto di andare via; anzi, gli ho chiesto di restare. I didn't ask him to leave; what's more, I asked him to stay.
- Non sei carina; anzi, sei bellissima. You are not cute; rather, you are gorgeous.
- Non ti sei comportato male; ti sei comportato orribilmente. You didn't act poorly; you acted horribly to boot.
If you use anzi as the final word, it is understood that it means to the contrary and nothing more needs to be said.
- Non lo odio; anzi. I don't hate him; to the contrary.
Dunque, Quindi and Perciò: So, Thus, Therefore
These three are the jewels of conclusive conjunctions: you use them to draw a consequence or conclusion from what was previously said or to connect something that is a consequence. As a result, therefore and so, they are used a lot. They are mostly interchangeable.
- Non ho studiato, quindi sono andata male all'esame. I didn't study, so I did poorly on the exam.
- Sono arrivata tardi e dunque mi sono perso lo spettacolo. I got there late and therefore I missed the show
- Non ha i soldi, perciò non va al teatro. He doesn't have the money, so he is not going to the theater.
Quindi is also used sometimes to indicate sequence in time rather than consequence, but the nuance is a fine one, and dunque you should not worry too much about it.
All three, by the way, are good for resuming a conversation that has been interrupted.
- E dunque, ti dicevo… And so I was saying…
- E quindi, come ti dicevo… . And so, as I was saying…
Allora: So, In Sum, Therefore
And last but not least comes allora-the true star of Italian conversation. It is, infatti, ubiquitously used to the point of madness sometimes (and by foreigners as filler, which it is not). But, it's important to get it right. Technically an adverb, allora is also a conclusive conjunction that supports the wrapping up of a conversation or a story. Allora means so, as a consequence, and to conclude. It also means in that case.
- Giovanni è partito e non ci siamo più sentiti, e allora non so cosa fare. Giovanni left and we have not spoken since, so I don't know what to do.
- Il museo oggi è chiuso, allora ci andiamo domani. The museum is closed today, so we will go tomorrow.
- Allora, cosa dobbiamo fare? So, what do we need to do?
- Allora, io vado a casa. Ciao! So, I am going home. Bye!
- Se non ti piace, allora non te lo compro. If you do not like it, I will not buy it for you.
Allora also has an important interrogative value. If someone pauses in a story without reaching a conclusion, you might ask, "E allora?" "And then?"
It also can mean, "So? Now what?" Say two people are talking:
- "Giovanni ha rovesciato tutto il vino per terra." "Giovanni spilled all the wine on the floor."
- "E allora?" "And now what?"
- "E allora dobbiamo andare a comprare il vino." "So, we have to go buy more wine."
Allora also lends great dramatic flair if, for example, you walk into your children's room and they are pouring paint over each other. You put your hands together in prayer and yell, "Ma allora!!" "What now! What's this!"
Allora, avete imparato tutto? Bravissimi!