Italian expression of the day: ‘Una curiosità’

Italian expression of the day: 'Una curiosità'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
We were just wondering if you knew what this phrase might be used for?

Language learners who like to ask questions (politely) will find the phrase una curiosità useful.

As you might guess, it literally translates as “a curiosity,” and can be used to describe something curious.

– Questo libro antico è una vera curiosità

– This antique book is a real curiosity

But it also turns out to be the perfect phrase to use when asking questions politely – but not too formally.

For example, I noticed a new restaurant had opened in our town and I wondered aloud if it would be open over the weekend as it was a holiday here in Italy.

My Italian husband, who loves nothing more than stopping strangers in the street for a chat, immediately asked a nearby person (who may or may not have had anything to do with the restaurant) the following question:

– Una curiosità, il ristorante sarà aperto domani sera?

Out of curiosity, will the restaurant be open tomorrow night?

This phrase has since proven invaluable in all kinds of situations; while shopping, at work, or even when completing paperwork at the town hall – the ultimate test of patience and politeness.

– Una curiosità, avete questo vestito in nero anche?

– Out of curiosity, do you also have this dress in black?

– Un’altra domanda, se mi permette una curiosità

– One more question, if you’ll humour me.

– Una curiosità, sarebbe possibile chiudere la finestra?

– Just wondering, would it be possible to close the window?

– Una curiosità, ho bisogno di completare questa parte del documento?

– Could you tell me, do I need to complete this part of the form?

We English speakers probably wouldn’t use the phrase “just out of curiosity” quite so often.

Personally, I’d only ever really say it in English if I wanted to make it very clear that I wasn’t questioning the truth of a statement, or if I was simply being nosy.

But as you can see, in Italian it’s a simple way to make your requests more polite in pretty much any situation.

I also like this variation, which means “tell me something”, “let me ask you a question”, or “humour me”.

– Toglimi una curiosità, Davide. Dove hai trovato il libro?

– Tell me something, Davide. Where did you find the book?

So while living in Italy may leave you with a head full of questions, at least you’ll be able to ask them politely.

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

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