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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Poiché’

There are a few reasons why you should learn this Italian word.

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

While the Italian word perché (meaning ‘why’ or ‘because’) is one you’ll learn early on, it has a more confusing cousin – or two.

A reader recently emailed with the following question:

“Is there a difference between perché and poiché? I’ve seen both translated as ‘because’.”

There is a difference – as we’ll try to explain below.

Poiché means “since” or “seeing as”.

– Poiché siamo tutti stanchi, andiamo a dormire.

– Since we’re all tired, let’s go to bed.

Poiché is sometimes mistaken for a more formal synonym of perché. But while it can be used in a similar way, it’s not the same.

Here’s the difference:

Perché is used when both asking and answering questions. It can be translated into English as both ‘why’ and ‘because’.

– Perché non sei a scuola? 

– Perché oggi è chiusa

– Why aren’t you at school?

– Because it’s closed today

Poiché is similar to perché in its ‘because’ form – but it stresses the fact that the answer is a consequence of something. And it can’t be used in place of the ‘why’ perché when asking questions.

– Io smetterei di parlare, poiché nessuno mi sta ascoltando.

– I’m going to stop talking, seeing as nobody is listening to me.

As you can see, poiché goes at the beginning of a sentence or clause.

And unlike perché, you’ll rarely hear poiché used in casual conversation. It’s quite formal, and more commonly used in writing; from novels to textbooks, and in Italian language exams.

Less formal alternatives for speech include siccome (since) and dato che (given that). Even visto che (condisering that) is probably more commonly used.

Now that we’ve got the difference between those two sorted out, what about purché?

It’s not a spelling mistake. It means “as long as”, “provided that”, or “only if”. 

It introduces a conditional subordinate clause, and it should always be followed by the subjunctive.

For example:

– Puoi restare qua, purché tu faccia silenzio.

– You can stay here, as long as you’re quiet.

You’ll get the hang of using all of these little Italian words in time – as long as you keep practicing.

Find our complete Word of the Day archive here. 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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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

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

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