Ascolta! 15+ Italian Exclamations to Sound More Like a Native
There’s nothing worse than reaching that one level in a video game that you just can’t get past.
Maybe you didn’t master the triple jump or you forgot some crucial item.
Regardless of what happened, the game usually ends with the controller flying across the room and nearly killing the cat.
Learning languages can be just as frustrating.
There are plenty of moments when we feel that we just don’t get it and want to give up.
How do you surpass this level of frustration?
You go back and find something different to learn.
Something a little easier and a little more fun, perhaps?
After all, you’ve got to go back and fill your health bar before you can face the final boss—that is, fluency!
If you feel like saying “Game Over” to your Italian studies, don’t give up just yet. We’ve got the cheat codes to get you back on your feet and energized again.
Learning easy Italian exclamations is the power-up you need to boost your spirits and improve your language skills!
Level Up Your Language Skills with Italian Exclamations
If we’ve learned anything from Mario and Luigi, it’s that Italian is full of emotion and outbursts (and emotional outbursts). You don’t have to be a linguist (or even a plumber) to figure that out.
We’ve all seen the gestures that are such an essential part of the language. A flick of the wrist or the swing of a palm from a native Italian can inspire joy, laughter, or the epitome of dread (believe me, I had an Italian girlfriend).
But the gestures are just the beginning.
Exclamations are what bring color to the language. They bring emotion to a conversation and add weight to your words.
It might be hard to understand from an English speaker’s perspective, but this is because our exclamations are pretty bland compared to those in Italian.
How many can you think of?
“Wow.” “Yum.” “Gosh.” Real exciting, right?
In fact, exclamations in English have decreased in use over time. Try to remember the last time you heard someone say “Golly!” “Gee whizz!” or “Boy oh boy!”
In Italian, exclamations are alive and well. They’re used often and cover a wide range of emotions.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common Italian exclamations because, without them, you’ll seem like a boring old straniere (foreigner).
Italian Exclamations to Liven Up Any Conversation
How can we make Mario proud? We can learn Italian exclamations in all their many forms. Mario might not say much (unlike his fellow Italians) but his exclamations are always full of pride and passion.
Like any Italian, he uses both verbal and non-verbal exclamations to get his point across. You don’t need Mario to say anything to know how he’s doing.
Our point? Italian is a language so full of life that you don’t need to say much to communicate effectively.
Let’s take a hint from the man in the red cap and jump into these easy Italian exclamations.
Verbal Italian Exclamations
Verbal exclamations are interjections that are formed with language, or words. Let’s take a look at some of the most widely used verbal exclamations in Italy.
Che + Adjective
The most common type of Italian exclamation is the “che + adjective” exclamation. To form this exclamation, you simply say che (it usually translates to “how” in this context) and, you guessed it, you add an adjective.
You see a handsome dude and say, Che bello! (How handsome!); or if it’s a girl you’d say, Che bella! (How beautiful!); and even if you see a nice dress in a shop window, Che bello! (How nice!)
Your friend tells you about the spaghetti alla carbonara she prepared and you say, Che buono! (How good/delicious!).
Your teacher tells you the test is going to cover the entire book and you say, Che difficile! (How difficult!) or Che brutte notizie! (What terrible news!).
The list goes on and on. It might feel weird to interject like this at first, but it’s super common in Italian. It makes speaking easier and more fun!
The imperative form of a verb is often used as an exclamation. This is similar in English as the imperative is usually a command.
Imperatives use an impersonal verb form and don’t have a subject. In other words, it’s the way you talk to a dog. “Sit!” “Stand!” “Speak!” These are all commands in the imperative.
In Italian, people commonly use the imperative to interject. To form the imperative in Italian, you just use the 3rd person of the verb in the present tense and say it like you mean it!
Aspetta! (Wait! or Wait a sec…).
Ascolta! (Listen here! or Listen up!)
Guarda! (Look out! or Look here…)
Smettila!* (Stop! or Cut it out!)
*This verb in the imperative commonly has the particle “la” attached to it.
In English, the imperative isn’t always polite to use. In Italian, it’s a normal part of a conversation and doesn’t cause offense.
More Common Verbal Italian Exclamations
Macché!/Ma Dai! (Seriously! / Really?!)
Use this one if you’re frustrated when someone says something kind of stupid.
A: Le sigarette, in realtà, non fanno molto male. (Cigarettes aren’t actually that bad for you.)
B: Macché… (Really?… [but like this])
Dai! (Come on!)
This one can be used like “macché…” or like “come on!” “Let’s go!” or “Hurry up!” It’s pretty versatile, but usually expresses some urgency or disappointment.
A: Non puoi venire con noi! Sei troppo piccolo! (You can’t come with us! You’re too little!)
B: Daiiii ma voglio venire! (Come on! I want to go too!)
This exclamation is one you’d commonly hear at una partita di calcio (a football match).
Vai! Vai! Vaaaiii! GOLLLLLL! (Go! Go! Goooo! Goalllll!)
It can also be used to mean “Go away!” but it’s quite rude.
Bravo! (Great job!)
This one should need no explanation. when someone does something well, you say Bravo!
But remember, if a girl has done something well, you need to say Brava!
Guai! (You’re in trouble!)
This is a threatening exclamation used by parents who have naughty children or pets. It means that trouble is coming if you keep that up!
If your dog jumps up on a guest with its muddy paws, you might let out a loud GUAI! and watch the poor pupper scamper off.
Forza! (You can do it!)
You might hear this one at a sports match as well, or use it to encourage a friend playing an intense game of Mario Kart.
A: Non riesco a superare l’esame! (I can’t pass the exam!)
B: Forza! Studiamo insieme! (You can do it! Let’s study together!)
This is a tame way to express your discontent about one thing or another. If you just miss the bus, you might let out an “Accidenti!” under your breath.
Zitto! (Shut up!)
Not very polite, but super fun to say, this is a common exclamation among Italian Teenagers.
Just as with bravo, the form you use depends on the gender and number of the people you’re referring to.
A: So con chi sei stata ieri sera. (I know who you were with last night.)
B: Zitta! (Shut up!)
Eccolo! (Here he/she/it is!)
You use this exclamation when you find something that you’d been looking for. It also works when someone you’ve been waiting for turns up late.
A: Non possiamo partire senza Antonio. Dov’è? (We can’t leave without Antonio. Where is he?)
B: Eccolo! OK, andiamo! (Here he is! OK, let’s go!)
Silenzio! (Be quiet!)
Short, sweet and often needed in the boisterous boot we call Italy is this zesty exclamation. We think you can figure it out on your own.
Non-verbal Italian Exclamations
These are just fun. Non-verbal exclamations are the sounds we make that don’t form words. Examples include “ouch!” “huh?” and “eww!”
It might surprise you to find out that while Italians also have these expressions, they’re completely different from our own. They’re a bit tough to get used to but super fun to say!
Uffa! (Expresses annoyance/boredom)
You might use this exclamation if you significant other is telling you for the 1000th time that if you went to the gym more often, you’d have more energy.
Use it with this hand gesture for the full effect.
Pronounced like the classic karate chop sound (“Hi-Ya!”) but without the “H” sound, this is simply the way an Italian lets you know you just stepped on their toe.
Boh! (I dunno)
In any situation where you’re pretty much clueless about the answer to a question or problem, you can let out a deep boh! It’s pronounced the way it looks and rhymes with “go.”
This exclamation is pronounced the same as our word, “poo,” which is fitting because it’s the expression used when you see (or smell) something gross.
If you need to get someone’s attention in Italy, you’ve got to do it their way. Ehi sounds similar to our “hey,” but without the “H” sound.
Oh is also a fun one because you can draw it out. A nice long oohhhh will make you feel like a genuine wise guy. Play with the tone and make it your own!
Italians use expressions all the time. It’s not just an important part of their language, it’s one of their favorite parts! Whether they’re at a match, in a bar or just starting out the window, there’s always something to exclaim about.
If you want to be a part of the culture, then you need to join in on the conversation! So give your Italian an extra life by using these expressions in your conversations.
Even if your Italian isn’t great, you can still learn Italian exclamations and join the gossip circle. Use them for fun or as a lifeline.
Either way, if you can let out enough “macchés” and “Uffas,” you’re sure to gain a seat at the table and a full glass of wine at any local Italian bar.