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Italian word of the day: 'Pure'

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Pure'
Photo: DepositPhotos"

Think you know plenty of Italian adverbs? You're going to need this one as well.

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If you're living in Italy while learning to speak Italian, life can sometimes feel like one long language lesson.

While all that speaking practice is obviously very helpful, it also feels like work. And it means that even the most mundane of everyday tasks or conversations can suddenly become confusing.

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For example, simply discussing what to have for dinner with my husband recently left me feeling puzzled. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: Cosa vuoi per cena?

Him: Facciamo una frittata?

Va bene, farò anche l'insalata

Forse delle patate pure

Cosa? Vuoi mettere purè con la frittata?

Oops. Can you see where I went wrong? Here's the English translation:

- What do you want for dinner?

- What about a frittata?

- Ok, I'll make a salad too

- Maybe with some potatoes as well

- What? You want mashed potato with frittata?

He wasn't asking for a surprising food combination. He'd said pure – which the context led me to mistake for purè (puree).

Hear the difference in pronounciation here: pure vs purè. Not dramatically different, but the accent in purè puts the stress onto the second syllable. (Or it should - after asking him to repeat them numerous times, I still think my husband pronounces both words in exactly the same way.)

 

So what does it mean? A quick check in the dictionary confirmed that, no, it doesn't mean the same thing as oppure (which is roughly equivalent to 'o' in Italian, meaning 'or, if not, otherwise').

- possiamo guardare la TV oppure andare al cinema

- we can watch TV or go to the cinema

Instead, pure is an adverb meaning 'too, as well, also'.

It's a good alternative to anche (and) which I had clearly been relying on too much.

- viene suo fratello e pure sua sorella

- His brother is coming and so is his sister

It can also (pure?) be used in the negative, to mean 'either'.

- pure lei non lo sa fare

- she doesn't know how to do it either

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This explains why Italians who are learning English often say things like “also I don't like it” instead of “I don't like it either.” There's no need to use a different word in Italian when expressing a negative.

And, as you can see from the structure in these examples, pure doesn't always go at the end of a sentence or clause in the same way we'd use 'as well' or 'either' in English.

Pure can also be used as a conjunction, which changes the meaning to 'but, and yet, nevertheless, even though'.

- è giovane, pure ha buon senso

- he's young but he's sensible

You might also hear the phrase faccia pure which means “please do!” or “go ahead!”

Which words have you mixed up or misheard while learning Italian?

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

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