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 mean 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 stresses the fact that the answer is a consequence of something. 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.
But it’s still a good one to know – not least because it often pops up in Italian language textbooks and exams.
Less formal alternatives include siccome (since) and dato che (given that). Even visto che (condisering that) is probably used more often in speech.
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.
– Puoi restare qua, purché tu faccia silenzio.
– You can stay here, as long as you’re quiet.
And while we’re at it, this word has nothing to do with pure either – but that’s one for another article.