Italian Lessons


"Pure" - not pure and simple!

One of our Yabla subscribers has asked about the word pure. It does get translated differently in different contexts, so it can be a bit confusing. This one short word has a few different but related connotations. On the simple end of the scale it’s an adverb—another way of saying anche (also, too, as well).


In the following example, both anch’io and io pure mean pretty much the same thing. There’s no particular emotion attached to the word. It’s matter-of-fact.

Anch'io. -Anch'io. -Io pure.

So do I. -So do I. -Me too.

Caption 65, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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In the example below, however, the meaning of pure is technically the same (meaning “also,” “too,” “as well”) but there’s some sort of emotion involved, as if one were saying, “not only is she pretty, but she’s smart too!” (as if that weren't to be expected...):

Bellina e pure brava questa Rubino.

Pretty, and also smart, this Rubino.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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In the example below, pure is still an adverb, but this time gets translated as “even.” Let’s remember that anche can also mean “even” in certain situations. Some Italians will tell you that pure quite simply means anche. In fact, one could even swap pure with anche, and it would mean much the same thing.

È incredibile, fai pure finta di non ricordare.

It's incredible, you even pretend not to remember.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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Below is another example where the sense of pure is “even.” We could use “as well” or “too,” but it would be a bit of a stretch. In fact pure is a way to raise your eyebrows without actually doing so. It adds an emotional element.

Eh, questo, fa resuscitare pure i morti!

Yes, this, will revive even the dead!

Caption 59, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 8

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The following example is one in which pure requires more than a one-word translation. It’s used in contexts where we would use “go ahead” in English.

Senti, se ti va di metterti nei guai fallo pure,

Listen, if you want to get yourself in trouble, go ahead.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 9

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Fallo pure! can be translated as “go right ahead!” [literally: “do it nevertheless”].       

Pure as “go ahead” is also used a lot in offices and such places, where someone will either ask you to have a seat, or to go in. It can also be interpreted as “it’s OK if you…” since when you say “go ahead,” you’re giving permission. Here are some formal and informal examples:

Si sieda pure.
Go ahead and have a seat.

Siediti pure.
Go ahead and sit down.

Si accomodi pure.
Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. [Have a seat.]

Accomodati pure.
Go ahead and make yourself at home. [Also, as a sarcastic retort: "Be my guest!"]

Vada pure avanti.
Go ahead and lead. [After you.]

Vai pure avanti.
Go right ahead.
Go ahead and take the lead.
It’s all right if you go in front of me.

We often hear a more literary form of purepur, which basically means the same thing, although it’s considered a conjunction. It’s used to mean “though,” “although,” “yet,” and tends to occur before a gerundio (gerund) form of a verb, as in the following example.

Pur essendo partito in una situazione di un ristorante di fronte all'ortofrutta [fruttivendolo]...

Though getting its start as a restaurant situated across from the vegetable market...

Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 6

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It’s also frequent to find eppure (and yet, yet, still, but, nevertheless, all the same), which has the same root. In this case it’s a stand-alone conjunction and will likely be followed by a comma.

Eppure, il rischio vulcanico non ha mai allontanato i suoi abitanti.

And yet the volcanic risk has never sent its inhabitants away.

Caption 23, Linea Blu - Sicilia - Part 9

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In the same vein, we have neppure, which like neanche means “not even.”

E per di più non è neppure la stessa persona

And what's more, it's not even the same person

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 13

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Tying it all together in context, just for fun:

Dialogo fra 2 maratonisti:

Francesca: Pur essendo anziano, vai forte! 
Massimo: Sì, ma vai pure avanti, ti raggiungo dopo la corsa. Mi sono allenato come un pazzo, eppure, sto facendo fatica. 
Francesca: Pure io sto facendo fatica. Fermati pure due minuti per riprendere fiato!
Massimo: Se tu ti vuoi fermare, fallo pure. Io non ci penso neanche! Neppure per sogno!
Francesca: Io pure non voglio fermarmi. A dopo!

Al traguardo...

Francesca: Ma... Sei arrivato prima tu! Eppure, eri stanchissimo.
Massimo: È vero, mi hai pure superato ad un certo punto, t’ho visto. Ma poi... puressendo stanco morto, ce l’ho fatta!


Dialogue between two marathon runners:

Francesca: Even though you’re old, you’re fast!
Massimo: Yes, but go ahead and go, I’ll catch up to you after the race. I trained like crazy, but nevertheless, I’m having a tough time.
Francesca: I’m having a tough time as wellGo ahead and stop two minutes to catch your breath!
Massimo: If you want to stop, go right ahead. I won’t even think of it! [No way!] I wouldn’t even dream of it!
Francesca: I don’t want to stop, either. See you later!

At the finish line...

Francesca: But... You finished before me! And yet, you were very tired.
Massimo: It’s true. You even passed me at a certain point, I saw you. But then... even though I was dead tired, I made it!


Elegant and Not So Elegant Turns of Phrase

Francesca is showing Daniela how to play one of the most popular Italian card games, Briscola. Two little words stand out, and merit some attention. They’re both in the category of “but,” yet they are more specific and allow for a more elegant turn of phrase. The first is the conjunction bensì (but rather).


La briscola, eh... come molti non sanno, non è un gioco nato in Italia, bensì in Olanda, nei Paesi Bassi.

Briscola, uh... as a lot of people don't know, is not a game originating in Italy, but rather in Holland, in the Netherlands.

Captions 5-6, Briscola - Regole del gioco

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The other one, ovvero (or rather), is used by Francesca who’s trying make things crystal clear, so she’s using language that’s a little more formal than usual. Ovvero is somewhat archaic, and is often a fancy way of saying o (“or,” “that is,” or “otherwise”).


Nella briscola ci sono delle carte che sono più importanti delle altre, ovvero, te le vado subito a mostrare.

In Briscola there are some cards that are more important than others, or rather, I'm going to show them to you right away.

Captions 33-34, Briscola - Regole del gioco

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In more informal speech, you’ll hear words like ma (but), invece (but, instead, rather), nel senso (I mean, in the sense), to express similar sentiments.

Speaking of informal speech, it’s definitely the norm in Lele’s family. One of the words that creeps into casual speech is mica (“not,” or “at all”). Think of when you say, “Not bad! Not bad at all!” That’s one time you’ll want to say, mica male! It’s a form of negation equivalent to non. Therefore, non male is just about equivalent to mica male, but think, “exclamation point” at the end. The fun thing about this word is that you can use it by itself, like Ciccio does, in justifying the shoes he bought with money taken from Grandpa’s pocket:


Ma guarda, Giacinto, che eran per le scarpe, mica per un gioco!

But look, Giacinto, it was for shoes, not for a game!

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 9

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But you can also use it together with a negative (it’s no crime to use a double negative in Italian) like Ciccio's Grandpa (before finding out who took his money) to emphasize the “no”:


Io sono un pensionato, Cetinka, non sono mica un bancomat!

I'm a retiree, Cetinka, I'm not an ATM machine!

Caption 91, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 7

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The character of Alessio in Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui! is older than Ciccio, but just out of high school. His speech is certainly very rich in modi di dire (if you do a Yabla search with mica, you’ll find Alessio and many others!), but in one episode there’s an expression whose translation is not very intuitive—con comodo (in a leisurely way). If you remember that comodo means “comfortable” it will make more sense. Depending on the tone (like in English), it can express patience or impatience!


Vabbè, fate con comodo.

OK, take your time [literally, "do with leisure"].

Caption 46, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato

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Watch the video to see which it is in this case!


Learning suggestion: Enrich your vocabulary by using the Yabla search as well as WordReference to get more examples of bensì, ovvero, and mica. There’s no hurry: fate con comodo!


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