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Anche se and Persino in Context

A Yabla Italian subscriber has asked about how to use anche se (even if) and perfino se (even if). These word combinations have to do with connecting two ideas in a sentence.


Let’s examine anche se (although, even if). The individual words themselves are easy enough — anche means “also” or “even,” and se means “if” — but let’s see how these words fit into sentences, and more importantly, which contexts translate with which English equivalents.


In the following example, we use se (if) in Italian but it doesn’t make sense to use “if” in English, so we need “although,” or the more emphatic “even though.”


Dopo mezzogiorno, cominciamo a dire "Buonasera",

After noon, we start saying "good evening,"

anche se, in realtà, non è proprio sera, è pomeriggio.

even though, actually, it's not really evening; it's the afternoon.

Captions 19-20, Marika spiega - L'orologio

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In the next example, we use anche se to connect a subjunctive clause with a conditional one. Remember that where we see se (if), there might be a verb in the subjunctive lurking nearby. See this lesson about the subjunctive and conditional.


Anche se mi pagasse cento euro, non gli farei quel lavoro.
Even if he paid me a hundred euros, I wouldn’t do the job for him.


In the above example, we could also use the other word our subscriber asked about: persino se.


Persino se mi pagasse trecento euro...


Persino is stronger, with more extreme limits, than anche se


Let’s look at this adverb persino. The first part is per which means “for” or sometimes “to.”
Sino is another way of saying fino (and in fact perfino also exists). Fino means “until,” among other things. So we can think of perfino as meaning “[up] to the degree.”


The following examples give us an idea of the difference between fino and perfino.


Lavorerò fino a mezzogiorno, poi smetto.
I’ll work until noon, then I’ll quit.

Potrei lavorare persino fino a mezzanotte, ma non finirei mai.
I could even work until midnight, but I would never finish.


Perfino and persino may be used interchangeably to mean “even” or “to the point of.” We choose one over the other for reasons of eufonia (euphony), that is, harmonious sound, in other words, because it sounds better.  When speaking properly, Italians try to avoid cacofonia (cacophony), which is what happens when there are too many instances of one particular consonant all together. A good example is: tra fratelli  (between or among brothers). We don’t say fra fratelli  because to Italian ears, the two F’s sound bad together, even though they both are equally correct in meaning.


The above example, which uses both perfino and fino, sounds much clearer with persino. You might very well be thinking perfino would have worked better than persino in the first example above, since the next word starts with an s. You might be right!


Perfino se mi pagasse trecento euro...
Even if he paid me three hundred euros...


In the following example, persino was used. This is perhaps because fu (was) starts with “F.”


Persino la regina cattiva fu invitata,

Even the wicked queen had been invited,

Caption 46, Ti racconto una fiaba - Biancaneve

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In the following example, Marika could have used anche (also, even) in place of perfino, but perfino gives a better idea of something pushed to its limit.


Cerchi sempre il pelo nell'uovo

You always look for the hair in the egg (you split hairs),

e sei perfino capace di trovarlo,

and you're even capable of finding it,

attenta e scrupolosa come sei.

careful and conscientious as you are.

Captions 29-31, Marika spiega - I segni dello Zodiaco

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A common synonym for perfino is addirittura.


Qui accanto a me c'è un albero che ha addirittura

Here next to me, there's a tree that is actually

quattrocento anni di vita.

four hundred years old.

Caption 20, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese

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We hope this has helped in understanding anche se and perfino.


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