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What does "proprio" actually mean?

If we listen to an Italian speaking, either formally or informally, one word we will hear constantly is proprio. With its various meanings, it can be confusing to start using. Proprio sounds a lot like "proper," of course, and that is one meaning, although not the most common.

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Let's start with one of the few cases in which proprio can connote "proper": the expression vero e proprio. Literally, "true and proper," it always comes as two words connected by the conjunction e (and). The expression can mean "proper" or "veritable" (as in the case of the example below). "Genuine," "real," or "actual" can work, too. Italians really like to say vero e proprio "true and proper." Think of it as one word.

Il Duomo di Siena è un vero e proprio scrigno,

The Duomo of Siena is a veritable treasure chest,

Caption 1, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie Ep. 3 - Part 5

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Very often, proprio means "just," or "exactly," as in the following example. 

A volte molto freddo, specie a gennaio e a febbraio. Ecco perché bisogna vestirsi pesanti, proprio come me.

Sometimes, very cold, especially in January and February. That's why we need to dress in heavy clothing, just like me.

Captions 12-13, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Proprio can mean "actually" or "indeed."

Vedrete come la prima sillaba di ogni verso è proprio il nome che poi è rimasto alle sette note. In quel caso erano sei, l'esacordo di Guido D'Arezzo. "Ut", "re", "mi", "fa", "sol", "la".

You'll see how the first syllable of each line is indeed the name which has since remained, for the seven notes. In that case they were six, the hexachord of Guido of Arezzo. "Ut" (C), "re" (D), "mi" (E), "fa" (F), "sol" (G), "la"(A).

Captions 29-32, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 1

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We use proprio to give more emphasis to an adjective.

Proprio buono!

Really good!

Caption 46, Adriano Il caffè

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We also use proprio when in English, we would say "right" as an adverb, for example, proprio lì (right there).

Ciao, ragazzi e ragazze [ragazze e ragazzi]. Mi trovo proprio al ristorante Pinocchio.

Hi guys and gals, I'm right in the Pinocchio restaurant.

Caption 3, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2

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We also use propio to indicate ownership. We add this example so that you know about this use. Not all Italians uses this properly, so don't worry about it too much, but if you don't know this meaning, there may be cause for confusion. We'll talk about this more in a future lesson.

 

Una città dove non c'è più egoismo e ognuno fa il proprio dovere di creare e agire.

A city where there's no more egotism and everyone does one's own duty — to create and act.

Captions 11-12, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 24

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One way to take advantage of Yabla is to do a search of proprio on the videos page.  You'll see example after example of this word in various contexts. If there are examples you don't quite understand, let us know! We're here to help.

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