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Contradicting and Reconsidering with Anzi

A Yabla subscriber has asked to know more about the popular short word anzi (rather, on the contrary, in fact, indeed). In fact, it's hard to pin down a one-word meaning for anzi that works all of the time. Aside from its various uses and connotations as a single conjunction, anzi is also part of important compound words such as anziché (rather than), innanzitutto (first and foremost, first of all) among others, and has some archaic definitions and grammatical categories we can safely overlook for now.

The important thing is to be able to understand and use anzi when appropriate. So let’s look at some of the ways anzi fits into sentences.


One handy way to use anzi is when you say something, and you correct yourself right away. In English you’d say “or rather,” or “I mean.” In our first example, Andromeda corrects herself on the fly. Regalare (to give as a gift) wasn’t quite the word she was looking for. Then she found it: affidare (to entrust).


Abbiamo dovuto regalare, anzi,

We had to give away, or rather,

affidare Dorian alla nonna dei miei figli.

entrust Dorian to the grandmother of my children.

Caption 19, Andromeda - e i gatti 2

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In the next example, anzi contradicts a negative statement with something positive. In this situation, it’s not even necessary to finish the sentence after anzi; we already know, because of its presence, that we’re contradicting whatever negativity came before.


Non è per niente male vivere in Italia, anzi!

It's not at all bad living in Italy, on the contrary!

Caption 54, Francesca - sulla spiaggia

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If Francesca were to complete her sentence, she’d say something like:


Non è per niente male vivere in Italia, anzi, è fantastico!
It's not at all bad living in Italy, on the contrary, it’s great!


Anzi, said with a certain inflection, raise of an eyebrow, or nod of a head, lets you avoid having to search for the right word!

In this next example, Lara’s aunt is telling her that what she believes about Luca is actually the opposite of how things really stand. So once again, anzi is used to contradict.


Penserà che sono una stupida.

He'll think I'm an idiot.

-Ma no, no, ma quando mai!

-But no, no, out of the question!

Anzi, dice sempre che sei speciale!

On the contrary, he's always saying that you're special!

Captions 8-10, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

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In the following example, as he dreams of his vacation in Sicily, Manara first mentions two brioches, then thinks better of it and changes the quantity to four. He didn't make a mistake, and he's not exactly contradicting himself, but he is reconsidering. This is a classic example of how people use anzi.


Mi mangio due granite caffè con panna

I'll eat my two coffee Italian ices with whipped cream

e due brioche, anzi, quattro.

and two brioches, no, four.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Even in this classic case, there isn’t just one way to translate anziOther expressions can do the job:


Come to think of it, I’ll have four.
I’ll have two. No, make that four.
Actually, I’ll have four.
Then again, I’ll have four.
Better yet, I’ll have four.



Hopefully you’ve gotten the gist of some of the ways anzi works, and how useful it can be. So far, anzi has helped to change one’s mind, or someone else’s. We’ll soon be back with still more ways to use anzi. We’ll discuss how anzi can reinforce an adjective or idea, and how it can introduce a new idea related to what’s come before. And then we'll put them all together just for fun!


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