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To’ and Boh

In a recent episode of Commissario Manara, two short words stick out. The first is to’. It appears to be an abbreviation, and is found in the Collins dictionary, but is missing in many other dictionaries. In fact it’s a very informal, colloquial one-word expression.


Although hard to find in a dictionary, to’ is a good word to know, as we hear it often enough in informal situations. It sounds like an abbreviation for te lo do (I'm giving it to you), but is considered to be an abbreviation for tieni (“hold [it],” or “take [it]”) or prendi (take [this]). It’s used in the act of handing something to somebody. It’s often used together with the original word tieni. Though there is no actual infinitive to identify the verb, to'  is expressed as a command, as in "take this," and is only used informally.

It’s like saying “Here!”, “Here you go!” or “Here, take it.”

To’, tieni.
Here, take [it].


Luca’s friend Sergio uses it twice at the beginning of this week’s segment of Commissario Manara. He’s giving Luca some papers to sign.

To', è tutto qui, eh?

Here you go, it's all here. Huh?

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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Non manca niente. To', servizio a domicilio.

Nothing's missing. Here you go, door to door service.

Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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The other short word that we often hear in conversation is boh.

Boh is a way of vocally shrugging your shoulders to say, “I don’t know!” or “I have no idea.” It can also be a quick but significant way of saying you don’t know what’s going on, or that something doesn’t make sense or add up.

Ma non capisco, dovrebbe essere aperto,

But I don't understand. It should be open,

ma non c'è nessuno! Boh!

but nobody's there! It makes no sense!

Captions 18-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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Pay close attention to how people say to’ and boh, as the o is quite short in duration and finishes quite suddenly. But once you get the hang of this kind of o, you’ll enjoy shrugging your shoulders and saying “Boh!”


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