Your travel plans might be on pause currently, which means it’s the perfect time to learn more about Italian culture and communication! Being a tourist in a foreign country can be hard, especially when you aren’t familiar with the language. These expressions will help you start your trip abroad with ease so you can enjoy everything Italy has to offer without having to worry about language barriers.
Meaning: no idea, expressing doubt, expressing indifference
Marvel fans might know this one already, but this expression is perfect for showing indifference. It can be used as a response for almost any question, although this is not advised as it might be considered antisocial or rude if used continuously.
Similarly to ‘boh’, meh has an infinite number of meanings depending on the use of tone or pitch. Use this term cautiously as the wrong tone might communicate indifference rather than approval.
Meanings: yes, no, maybe, this portion of food is rather small, i don’t agree with you, cheer up old sport, don’t worry, I’ll do it tomorrow, I am unimpressed, (in response to ‘how are you?’) I’m doing decently
Meanings (prolonged, increasing pitch): you look amazing, why are you wearing that
Example: Your friend is wearing scuba gear to a night out at the theatre.
*point disapprovingly at outfit* Meeeeeeeh?!
Meaning: Right now.
A: A che ora vogliamo mangiare (what time do we want to eat)?
Pronounced: ‘wae’, usually prolonged or lengthened for impact. Also like the Mexican güey or we(y)
Meaning: hey man, that is an excessive amount of (insert food name here), you’re exaggerating, look at that, I disagree with you
Example: Your friend put 30kg (66 lbs) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano on your food.
Ou, weee basta!
Although many Italians will understand English if you need to say stop it can’t hurt to know a few words that can get their attention. Basta can be used both in serious situations (said firmly), or with your friend who for the 5th time today is telling you about the “best gelato ever” (said in a drawn out baaaassttaa).
Example: Someone is serving you pasta and it seems well beyond the usual portion size.
Basta così, grazie (that’s enough, thank you).
To learn more about these Italian phrases, come join us on one of our study abroad programs to Italy! We offer Italian classes for every student, at any level (beginner to advanced). This will help you fully immerse yourself in the rich cultural experience you’ll gain here in Florence. Get your suitcase ready!
About the Author:
Sara is interning with ISI Florence through ISI Abroad as part of her gap year experience. As an aspiring English major and experienced traveler, she will be your guide this summer to help you plan for a semester in Florence, Italian style.