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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Così’

This Italian word is so useful to know.

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

The Italian language features plenty of very versatile little words, like allora, ecco, quindi, insomma, cioè, and così, which have a multitude of uses and come in handy in all sorts of situations.

Helpfully, as Italian native speakers will demonstrate during almost any phone call, these words can also be used as fillers at times when you’re not sure what to say – but are still talking anyhow:

Ecco, così è, così siamo messi, così è andata

There you go, that’s the way it is, that’s where we are, that’s how it went

Today’s word might just be the most versatile of them all.

Così is a word that you’ll hear used all the time in spoken Italian, in all sorts of different ways. Here are a couple that you’ve probably heard or used yourself:

È così – That’s how it is (literally ‘it is so’)

Basta cosi? – Is that all?

Per così dire – so to speak/as it were

Non si fa così – don’t do that/that’s not cool (literally ‘it’s not done like that’)

As you can probably tell, così in its most common usages translates roughly into English as so, thus, such, that, or like this.

You pronounce it ‘koh-zee’ – click here to hear some examples.

Much like the English ‘that’, così can also be used to add emphasis, as in così tanto (‘so much’) or così poco (so little), or to modify an adjective:

Non è così comune

It’s not that common

It’s used to mean ‘so’ as in ‘therefore’:

C’era sciopero dei treni, così non siamo potuti partire.

There was a train strike, so we couldn’t leave.

You could even use it like this to stress how strongly you feel:

Siamo così così dispiaciuti per ieri sera.

We’re so, so sorry for last night

But normally, when you see it doubled up, it has a different meaning.

Così così is the equivalent of ‘so-so’ in English, which means ‘not good, not bad’ – but is the sort of phrase you might euphemistically use to indicate that you’re not feeling well, or didn’t like something very much.

Com’era il film? 

Così così… ho visto di meglio.

How was the film? 

So-so, I’ve seen better.

(Here, you could also use the word insomma instead of così così)

Le case sono mantenuti solo così così.

The houses aren’t very well maintained.

These are just a few of the many possible uses of così, but we’re sure you can see why this is a word every Italian learner should be familiar with. 

È così utile sapere! (It’s so useful to know)

Do you have an 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 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.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

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.

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