Whether you've just started studying Italian, you hardly have anything left to learn or you picked it up perfectly as soon as you arrived in Italy, you'll need the word appena.
The term describes all three scenarios: firstly, having 'just' done something a short time ago…
Siamo appena arrivati.
We just got here.
un dolce appena fatto
a freshly made dessert (a dessert 'just' made)
… secondly, when something is 'barely' or 'hardly' the case…
Ci conosciamo appena.
We hardly know each other.
Mi rimangono €2 appena.
I've got barely €2 left.
appena in tempo
just in time, in the nick of time
… and thirdly, to say 'as soon as'.
Vi risponderemo appena possibile.
We'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Appena ottenuto il permesso, iniziarono i lavori.
Work will begin as soon as the permit is obtained.
Appena tornata, è dovuto ripartire.
No sooner had she got back than (or: as soon as she got back) she had to leave again.
When appena is used this way, you might see non appear in front of it: don't worry, it doesn't really mean anything and it's not essential – it's just a way to add emphasis.
Non appena ho finito, vado.
I'll leave as soon as I'm finished.
Non appena arriverò a Roma ti telefonerò.
As soon as I arrive in Rome I'll call you.
Finally, you can also just repeat appena itself to emphasise your point: usually when you're saying that something is barely, barely true.
È alto appena appena un metro e 80.
He's just barely 1 metre 80 tall.
L'Italia cresce, appena appena.
Italy is growing, just barely.
Calvino's Tales to Scare You (Just a Little, Not Much).
Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.