Interjections You Need to Know

A guest post by Gloria Spagnoli

Why learn Italian interjections? Since interjections are part of our everyday conversations, avoiding them pushes you away from your ultimate goal: communicating. And because interjections are fun, you will feel more relaxed when you speak–and sound more Italian!  Here are three of the most common Italian interjections:

BOH – It can be used both to replace the sentence "I don't know" or when you are faced with something that you can't understand. Have a look at these examples:

    *A che ora parte il treno? (What time does the train leave?) Boh! (I don't know.)

    *You're reading an article about a subject you don't know. You feel so confused that you just want to say a huge "boh!"

    Remember to use "boh" only with a friend or family member. You want to avoid sounding too laid back with your boss or a stranger.

DaiDAI – If English is your first language, you might feel a bit confused when you hear dai because it sounds like "die." However, dai translates as "come on." Here are some examples:

*You're ready to leave your home, but your partner or friend is not. You shout: Siamo in ritardo, dai!!! (We're late, come on!) You can use dai whenever you want to incite someone to do something, even when you're cheering during a match or a race.

*You've been invited to do something you don't like or don't want to do. Say that you hate poetry and someone asks: Andiamo alla serata di poesia? (Shall we go to the poetry night?) You might  reply with "No, dai!!! "(Come on, no!!!) When you use dai in this context, add a "no" at the beginning and sound irritated to convey the message that you really don't want to do that particular thing.

*Someone is bothering you — calling you when you're concentrating or poking you every two seconds. Eventually you shout: DAI!!! In this case, dai means "Come on, stop it!"

*You've been invited to do something you want to do. Your friend says: "Andiamo a prendere un gelato?" (Shall we go and get an ice cream?) You can reply with "Sì, dai." (Yes, why not? Let's do it.)

*You're working on something urgent on your computer when suddenly it freezes. At this point, you're so frustrated that you shout: DAI! (Come on, move!)

AlloraALLORA – You can use allora in these situations:

*Before you say something. In this case it translates as "so": Allora, andiamo? (So, shall we go?) Allora, cosa facciamo? (So, what are we doing?)

*When you need to pause and  think before you say something, as in this example: Cosa ne pensi di questo quadro? (What do you think of this painting?) Allora … secondo me è un bel dipinto. (So…to me it's a good painting.)

*To recap what has been said to you. Say that you're ending a business meeting, and you need to put your ideas into order. You might want to say something like: Allora, i punti chiave sono… (So, the key points are…)

*To say "in this case," as in these examples: Se è rotto, allora lo butto. (If it's broken, then I'll throw it away.) Se parla francese, allora è perfetto per questo lavoro. (If he speaks French, then he's perfect for this job.)

The next time you're speaking Italian, why don't you try using these interjections–just for fun?

Gloria Spagnoli, who has a bachelor's and master's degree in foreign languages and certification as an Italian teacher from the University for Foreigners in Siena, offers light-hearted and enjoyable online lessons at

Dianne Hales is the author of  MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.