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Different ways to use the word no in Italian

The word "no" is pretty clear. It means the same thing in both English and Italian. But there are a few things to remember when using this word. When you want to say, "No" just say, "No." It will be absolutely clear. No (No)!

 

But when you are asking someone to give you a yes or no answer about something, or talking about someone saying "yes," or "no," then you usually add the preposition: di (of). At that point, it is no longer directly reported speech and therefore no quotation marks are necessary. Keep in mind that leaving out the preposition is not wrong, it's just much more common to use it.

 

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Instead of just using the word "no," we say: 

 

Per fortuna Manrico non ce l'ha fatta a dire di no a Melody.

Luckily, Manrico didn't succeed in saying no to Melody.

Caption 38, Sposami EP 2 - Part 13

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E quindi dissi di no. Quando mi mandarono le foto di Ulisse, non so perché, è scattato qualcosa dentro di me e... ho detto di sì.

And so I said no. When they sent me the photo of Ulisse, I don't know why, something clicked inside me and... I said yes.

Captions 21-24, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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Although we are primarily talking about the word no in this lesson, the same goes for sì (yes). And if we replace dire (to say) with another verb, such as sperare (to hope), we do the same thing. In the following example, actress Alessandra Mastronardi says the same thing in two different ways:

Ma, io spe' [sic], mi auguro di sì. Alla fine è stato coronato il sogno che tante persone volevano, quello che si ritor' [sic], si riformasse la famiglia e che Eva e Marco... fortunatamente... e così è andata, quindi spero di sì.

Well, I ho' [sic], I hope so. In the end the dream many people wanted was crowned, the one in which the family retur [sic], re-forms and in which Eva and Marco... fortunately... and that's how it went, so I hope so.

Captions 40-43, Alessandra Mastronardi: Non smettere di sognare

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As we have seen, she uses two different ways to say "I hope so." Mi auguro di sì and spero di sìMi auguro di sì is a bit stronger, a little bit more personal (your eyes open wider). Maybe you are worried that things are not going to go as you hoped, or else, the end result is really crucial. It might also be that you are fully expecting something to happen in a certain way: It had better! It's kind of the difference between "I hope so" and "I certainly hope so." When using augurare or sperare, we can't leave out the di (of).

 

1) We can put this in the negative in the exact same way: Is your landlord going to kick you out? Can you give a couple of answers?

2) What if you are talking about when you asked someone out on a date. How did he or she answer you? M'ha...

 

When no means yes (in a way)

 

One very common expression, as a retort, uses the word "no" to mean "yes" or rather, "for sure!" "of course!" It's a way to confirm something, and literally means, "how not?" Or we could say, "How could that not be?" "How could you doubt it?"

Anche se la politica non ci ha aiutati, ce l'abbiamo fatta, no? Come no!

Even if politics didn't help us, we did it, didn't we? For sure!

Captions 31-32, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

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The important thing here is, first of all, to understand that when someone says, "Come no!" they are saying something positive, like "of course!". Then, once you have heard it many, many times, you might be ready to use it yourself. 

 

Question tags

 

In English we have the dreaded question tags... dreaded by people trying to learn English, that is. In Italian, however, it is way easier. All you have to do is add no and a question mark to the end of your statement. That's all the question tag you need.

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...

Well, it shouldn't be so hard to put the carriage back in, should it? -I...

Caption 9, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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3) Can you say this in a more positive way?

 

È carino, no? Ti piace?

It's cute, isn't it? Do you like it?

Caption 19, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 15

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4) What if you put a question tag after ti piace (you like it)?

 

Using no as a question tag should come as a relief to Italian learners. You didn't know there was such an easy way to insert one, did you?

 

Another way to get the same result is to use the adjective vero (true) with a question mark. It's short for non è vero (isn't it true)? So I might say the same thing with the question tag, vero? 

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, vero? -Io...

 

5) In reference to the previous example with carino, what if you think something is nice but you don't think the other person likes something?

 

Answers to "extra credit"

 

1) Mi auguro di no! Spero di no! 

2) M'ha detto di sì. Mi ha detto di no.

3) Be', dovrebbe essere facile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...​

4) È carino, no? Ti piace, no?

5) È carino, no?  Non ti piace, vero?

 

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There is more to say about saying no in Italian and using the word no... so stay tuned!

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