Lezioni italiano

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Making choices in Italian, Part 1

In English, the words that come to mind when talking about choices are: either, or, both, either one, whichever one (among others). Let's explore our options in Italian.

Or

This is an easy one. Just take the r off "or." It's o.

Birra o vino? Ultimissima.

Beer or wine? The very latest.

Caption 41, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 3

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But there's another word that means "or" and can imply "or else," or "otherwise." It's oppure. When we are thinking of alternatives, we might use oppure.... (or...). We also use it when we would say, "Or not," as in the following example.

 

Ci ha portato anche i due bicchieri per il vino, ma non so se io e Marika a pranzo berremo oppure no.

He also brought us two glasses for wine, but I don't know if Marika and I will drink at lunch or not.

Captions 22-23, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1

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Note: It doesn't have to be oppure. It can also just be o, but it's an option!

 

Either/or

In English, we have "either" and "or" that go together when we talk about choices.

 

In Italian, the same word — o —goes in both spots in the sentence where were would insert "either" and "or." Consider the example below.

 

O ci prende almeno una canzone o gli diciamo basta, finito, chiuso.

Either he takes at least one song from us, or we say to him enough, over, done with.

Caption 48, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 2 - Part 2

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Similarly, when neither choice is a positive one, Italian uses (neither/nor) for both "neither" and "nor."

Ho capito dai suoi occhi che Lei non ha marito figli.

I understood from your eyes that you have neither husband nor children.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 24

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Non voglio  questo quello (I don't want this one or that one / I  want neither this one nor that one).

 

Either one

Sometimes we don't have a preference. When it's 2 items, either one will do. If it's a masculine noun like il colore (the color), we can say:

Uno o l'altro, non importa (one or the other, it doesn't matter).

 

If it's a feminine noun such as la tovaglia (the tablecloth), we can say:

Una o l'altra andrebbe bene (one or the other would be fine).

 

We have to imagine the noun we're talking about and determine if it's masculine or feminine...

 

Anyone, whichever, whatever

When we choose among more than 2 items, we use "any,"  "whichever," or "whatever" in English. In Italian, it's qualsiasi or qualunque (as well as some others).

Qualsiasi cosa tu decida di fare.

Whatever you decide to do.

Caption 63, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

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Diciamo che potete fare qualsiasi pasta al pesto, anche, ad esempio, gli gnocchi, però il piatto tradizionale è trenette o linguine al pesto.

Let's say that you can use whatever kind of pasta for pesto, for example, even gnocchi, however, the traditional dish is trenette or linguine al pesto.

Captions 76-77, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1

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Eh, qualunque cosa tu mi abbia detto non, non l'hai detta a Raimondi, vero?

Uh, whatever you told me, you didn't, you didn't tell Raimondi, right?

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 10

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If you do a search of qualsiasi and qualunque on the Yabla videos page, you'll notice that they are used interchangeably in many cases. Experience will help you figure out when they aren't exactly the same thing.

 

In Part 2, we'll talk about how to say "both" in Italian. There is more than one way. 

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