Italian word of the day: ‘Anzi’

This word is nothing to get antsy about; actually it's rather straightforward.

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

Sometimes might feel like you don't speak a word of Italian – but in fact, if you've been following all our Words of the Day, by now you'll know quite a few.

See what we did there? If, like us, you want to say “the opposite of what I just said is true”, in Italian you can use the word anzi. It means 'actually' or 'in fact'.

Quell'albergo non era brutto, anzi mi piaceva.
That hotel wasn't bad, in fact I liked it.

Non è costoso, anzi è un vero affare.
It's not expensive, actually it's a real bargain.

If you're really concise, you can use anzi all on its own to stand in for a contradictory phrase – like saying “quite the contrary” in English.

Non mi disturbi, anzi!
You're not bothering me, quite the contrary!

Non è cattivo, anzi.
He's not mean, quite the opposite in fact.

You don't have to be contradicting yourself to use anzi. It also applies when you're just modifying or emphasizing what you just said, similar to “or rather” or “better yet”. 

Ho bisogno di un favore, anzi due.
I need a favour, better yet two.

Ti amo, anzi ti adoro.
I love you, or rather I adore you.

Anzi comes from the Latin root ante (“before”), which is why you might occasionally see it used in phrases such as anzi tempo (“ahead of time”, “prematurely”), anzi tutto (“first of all”) and poc'anzi (“just now”, “just before”). 

They aren't common in everyday speech, though; you're only really likely to encounter them in literature, in fact. Or should we say, anzi

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

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According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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