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50 good-to-know adjectives, part 3 — size and strength

Here are some good-to-know Italian adjectives that describe size and strength:

21) grande (big, large, tall, adult, great, grand)

This is a basic adjective that covers several bases, which means there is also room for doubt about what someone means. Hand gestures help, of course. Generally speaking, grande is a very positive adjective.

22) grosso  (big, large, major, coarse, arduous)

As you can see, grande and grosso are equivalents in some cases, but not all. If you say someone is grande, that’s fine. You might mean “tall” or you might mean “adult.” If you use grosso, you are talking about size, and might be implying they are also grasso (fat). Reading and watching Italian language videos will help you develop a sense for which adjective to use.

il sale grosso (coarse salt). Sale grosso is what most Italians use to salt the water for cooking pasta or vegetables. Good to know! We also need to consider the figurative meanings of both grande and grosso.

È stato un grande lavoro can imply the positive quality of a job. Grande also means “great.”

È stato un grosso lavoro implies that there was a lot of work to do.

Sometimes we describe someone as grande e grosso. In this case, it’s (often) a big, tall man with broad shoulders and possibly also a paunch. Grosso might give the impression of strength too.

È un omone grande e grosso, però è come un bambino,

He's a tall and big man, but he's like a child,

Caption 70, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 2

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23) grasso  (fat, fatty, greasy, oily)

We use this adjective to describe a person or animal, but also to describe the fat content of food. Even oily or greasy hair can be described with grassoCapelli grassi (oily hair). Boldface letters are called in grassetto because the letters are thicker than normal ones.

24) robusto (strong, sturdy, hardy, robust, heavyset)

Here’s a word to use when you don’t want to call someone grasso (fat).

Era una donna robusta. (She was a heavyset woman.)

25) forte (strong, loud, intense, gifted)


This adjective is important to know, but it can also be ambiguous sometimes. See this Yabla lesson about this ambiguity.

In estate qui il sole è molto forte.

In summer, the sun here is very strong.

Caption 40, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Forte can also be the opposite of negato, therefore describing someone who is very good at something. Here are two examples with forte, but where it means something different in either example.

Abbassa la musica; è troppo forte. (Lower the volume of the music. It’s too loud.)

Certo che se vai tantissimo [tanto] forte, devi saper frenare per tempo!

For sure, if you go super fast, you have to know how to brake in time!

Caption 11, Dixiland In bicicletta

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26) piccolo (small, little)

If you are ordering a beer, the waiter might ask you grande o piccola? large or small?

Una birra piccola, per cortesia (a small beer, please).


Piccola can also mean very young, just as grande, especially when used comparatively, can describe someone older, like an older brother.

Mio fratello è più piccolo di me (my brother is younger than me).

27) debole (weak)

Sono troppo debole per sollevare questo peso. I’m too weak to lift this weight.


28) sottile (thin, subtle, fine)

The cognate for sottile is “subtle,” but sottile also means "thin," as when you want thin slices of something like cheese or prosciutto.

La nostra cipolla va affettata in modo molto sottile.

Our onion is to be sliced very thinly.

Caption 6, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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29) basso (low, short, shallow, soft [in volume])

Here’s another adjective with different meanings that can lead us astray, so consequently, we have to pay careful attention to context. Sometimes it’s hard to know!

Ha il fondo piatto cosicché può navigare anche sui canali più bassi e sui fondali anche di pochi centimetri.

It has a flat bottom so it can navigate even the shallowest canals and over depths of even just a few centimeters.

Captions 20-21, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 5

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30) alto (high, loud, tall)

The same ambiguity applies to this adjective. If you know all the meanings, you can try to figure out which meaning is intended, according to context. As with basso and forte, sometimes it’s hard to be 100% sure of the meaning.

Il sole doveva già essere alto in cielo, e invece era scomparso.

The sun should have already been high in the sky, but instead it had disappeared.

Captions 14-15, Dixiland Sole dormiglione

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Learn more!

Practical examples of these adjectives can be found throughout Yabla videos available here.   Yabla offers you the possibility of learning at your own pace and through videos pertaining to your interests. Expand your horizons by learning one of the most romantic languages in the world.


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