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Italian word of the day: 'Piuttosto'

The Local Italy
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Italian word of the day: 'Piuttosto'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

We'd rather you remember this elegant word.


"Ready to learn some new vocabulary? Rather!" 

... is what no one says, ever. Today's word is one whose closest English translation sounds more than a little dated, but that remains current in everyday Italian: piuttosto (click here for the pronunciation).


It means 'rather' in exactly the same two senses that the English word has: both 'quite' or 'a bit'...

Sono piuttosto stanco.
I'm rather tired (or: I'm a bit tired).

... and 'preferably'.

Prenderei piuttosto un vino rosso.
I'd rather have red wine (or: I'd prefer to have red wine).

Side note for those with an interest in etymology: the word comes from piu (more) and tosto (quickly, promptly) – think of the way we might say 'I'd sooner...' to express a preference.

Piuttosto la morte che chiedere scusa!
I'd sooner die than ask forgiveness!

Even when it's not necessarily a question of which one you like more, you can use piuttosto che... to make a comparison between two options, in just the same way we would say 'rather than...' 

Conviene prendere l'aereo piuttosto che il treno.
It's easier to fly rather than take the train.

In questa regione piove piuttosto in autunno che in primavera.
In this region it rains in autumn rather than in spring.

But if 'rather' sounds a bit dated, try to think of piuttosto as 'instead'.

Non stare lì senza far niente: vieni qui ad aiutarmi, piuttosto!
Don't just stand there doing nothing: come here and help me instead!

Parliamo sempre di lavoro. Piuttosto, perché non facciamo qualche progetto per il weekend?
We're always talking about work. Why don't we make some plans for the weekend instead?

The dictionary notes, with some irritation, that lately Italians have taken to using piuttosto to mean simply 'or', with no comparison implied (for example, some people might say "Conviene prendere l'aereo, piuttosto il treno" in the sense: 'It's easy to fly or take the train').

We're not going to get dogmatic about whether you should use piuttosto that way. But honestly? We'd rather you didn't. 

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.


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