In Italian, as in any language, there’s more than one way to say sì (yes). As we’ll see, there are situations in which it’s more to the point to use words like certo (certainly), va bene (OK), senz’altro (definitely), or come no (of course). Even just changing the number of times we say sì, along with our tone of voice, can change its effect. Said just once, it can be rather dry, or, depending on how it is said, it can leave a little room for doubt. Said twice, sì sì (the first one higher pitched than the second), it indicates that the speaker is sure of his answer. But attenzione, this double sì sì can also imply irony! Three times, repeated rapidly, really emphasizes that there’s no question, no doubt: Of course it’s yes.
Ma posso prendere anche la metropolitana?
But can I also take the subway?
Sì, sì, sì, dura settantacinque minuti e puoi fare una corsa autobus e una corsa metro.
Yes, yes, yes, it’s good for seventy-five minutes and you can take one bus ride and one subway ride.
Captions 17-18, Passeggiando: per Roma - Part 3 of 5
When you want to say "OK" (meaning "yes"), va bene* fits the bill.
Ti va di andare a prendere un caffè? -Ehm, va bene.
You feel like going to get a coffee? -Uh, OK.
Captions 32 and 34, Passeggiando: per Roma - Part 3 of 5
Senz’altro is a strong yes and leaves no room for doubt.
E un'altra cosa, potrebbe trovarmi una sistemazione per stasera?
And another thing; could you find me an accommodation for tonight?
Senz'altro dottore, ci penso io.
Definitely, Doctor; I'll take care of it.
Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 4 of 14
In fact, senz’altro is also used to mean "without a doubt" or "undoubtedly" and can replace sicuramente (surely).
Hanno senz’altro dimenticato l’appuntamento.
They undoubtedly forgot the appointment.
In conversation, sì (or its equivalents) will often be preceded or followed by the non-word eh, which is used to reinforce the word, like in sì eh! (yeah, really!). Other words that can precede these yes words to give them more importance are e (and) and ma (but).
Che peccato! -Eh sì, che peccato.
What a shame! -Oh yes, what a shame.
Caption 19, Francesca: alla guida - Part 4
E certo. Che faccio, riesco, mi metto la cravatta e torno?
Sure. What do I do, go out, put on a tie, and come back?
Me la vuole dare questa stanza? -Ma certo che gliela do questa stanza.
Well, you want to give me this room? -But of course I'll give you this room.
Use d’accordo (agreed) to say yes to an invitation.
Andiamo al cinema insieme? -D’accordo.
Shall we go to the movies together? -Sure.
Sometimes you wouldn’t dream of saying no, so you say the literal equivalent of "how not?":
Posso farmi un panino? -Come no, io ricomincio a suonare.
May I make myself a sandwich? -Of course. I'll start playing again.
Caption 20, Escursione: Un picnic in campagna - Part 4 of 4
Come no is also used to contradict a false negative statement:
La Francia non è in Europa. -Come no!
France is not in Europe. -Yes, it is!
And that’s the story on sì. There are, senz’altro, still more ways to say sì, but this can get you started. As you go about your day, think positive! Say yes! Say it in Italiano and say it in as many ways as you can.
* More about va bene in: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Chiedere "Come va?"
P.S. You can’t always know your mind. So if you’re not sure you want to say yes, or you just don’t know the answer, have Arianna tell you what to say both in Italian and in Italian body language! Arianna spiega: I gesti degli Italiani - Part 2 of 2