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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Basta’

Enough already! Just read on and learn this word.

Italian word of the day basta
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It’s been said that Italians are some of the best talkers in the world. They’re also – in our humble opinion – the best at telling you when to shut up.

Today’s word is a wonderfully peremptory phrase for signalling that you’ve had just about all you can take: basta. It means ‘that’s enough!’ and we like to imagine saying it while reclining on a divan and raising a single finger to signal our displeasure.

Ora basta!
Enough already!

Of course, whoever’s listening to you should get the hint and realize that what you’re really saying is: ‘Stop’. You can specify exactly what afterwards, with or without using con (‘with’).

Basta con questo chiasso!
Stop this racket!

Basta parlare!
No more talking!

You can also direct basta at more abstract targets: you might hear it chanted at protests or spot it on placards, where it’s the equivalent of ‘down with…’

Basta ingiustizie.
Down with injustice, no more injustice.

Not that basta always has to be angry. You can also use it as a neutral phrase to close one conversation or activity and move on to the next.

Basta, me ne vado.
Right then, I’m off.

And you’ll hear it all the time in shops or restaurants when staff want to check if you’ve finished ordering.

– Basta così?
– Grazie, basta così.

– Is that everything? (literally, enough like that?)
– That’s it, thanks.

Also – and here’s where context comes in – basta can be an encouragement rather than a reprimand. Take the example we used earlier, basta parlare: yes, if you’re angry it might mean ‘enough talking already!’; but said in a different tone, it could also be ‘it’s enough to talk’ or ‘all you have to do is talk’.

There’s no grammatical difference between the two meanings; this is one you’ll just have to judge for yourself.

Basta il pensiero.
It’s the thought that counts (literally, the thought is enough).

Basta la parola.
Just say the word (literally, the word is enough).

The other form you should be aware of is basta che…, which is an informal way of saying ‘provided that…’ or ‘so long as…’ You’ll need to follow it with the subjunctive.

Potete giocare, basta che non rompiate niente.
You can play, so long as you don’t break anything.

Did we cover everything? It’ll do. Now feel free to tell us – waving that finger – ‘Basta!’

Do you have an Italian phrase you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Così’

This Italian word is so useful to know.

Italian word of the day: 'Così'

The Italian language features plenty of very versatile little words, like allora, ecco, quindi, insomma, cioè, and così, which have a multitude of uses and come in handy in all sorts of situations.

Helpfully, as Italian native speakers will demonstrate during almost any phone call, these words can also be used as fillers at times when you’re not sure what to say – but are still talking anyhow:

Ecco, così è, così siamo messi, così è andata

There you go, that’s the way it is, that’s where we are, that’s how it went

Today’s word might just be the most versatile of them all.

Così is a word that you’ll hear used all the time in spoken Italian, in all sorts of different ways. Here are a couple that you’ve probably heard or used yourself:

È così – That’s how it is (literally ‘it is so’)

Basta cosi? – Is that all?

Per così dire – so to speak/as it were

Non si fa così – don’t do that/that’s not cool (literally ‘it’s not done like that’)

As you can probably tell, così in its most common usages translates roughly into English as so, thus, such, that, or like this.

You pronounce it ‘koh-zee’ – click here to hear some examples.

Much like the English ‘that’, così can also be used to add emphasis, as in così tanto (‘so much’) or così poco (so little), or to modify an adjective:

Non è così comune

It’s not that common

It’s used to mean ‘so’ as in ‘therefore’:

C’era sciopero dei treni, così non siamo potuti partire.

There was a train strike, so we couldn’t leave.

You could even use it like this to stress how strongly you feel:

Siamo così così dispiaciuti per ieri sera.

We’re so, so sorry for last night

But normally, when you see it doubled up, it has a different meaning.

Così così is the equivalent of ‘so-so’ in English, which means ‘not good, not bad’ – but is the sort of phrase you might euphemistically use to indicate that you’re not feeling well, or didn’t like something very much.

Com’era il film? 

Così così… ho visto di meglio.

How was the film? 

So-so, I’ve seen better.

(Here, you could also use the word insomma instead of così così)

Le case sono mantenuti solo così così.

The houses aren’t very well maintained.

These are just a few of the many possible uses of così, but we’re sure you can see why this is a word every Italian learner should be familiar with. 

È così utile sapere! (It’s so useful to know)

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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