Italian You Won’t Learn in Class: Pure

Sep 1, 2015

In a continuing series of posts, Riccardo Cristiani, the head Italian teacher at Dante Learning, explains a word with many meanings:



(pronounced “pùhr-ray”)

There are some Italian key words adaptable to different situations. “Pure” is one of the most used.

The English and the Italian words “pure” are related but not synonymous. In Latin, pure was the adverb of purus (“pure” in English) so it meant “purely.”  In old Italian, pure was used as “purely, simply, only” or “really.”  

Not anymore. In modern Italian we use it with other meanings. By itself or merged with some conjunctions, the word pure can have a lot of different functions. Siete pronti? (Are you ready?)

“Also,” “too”

This is the most common meaning, as a synonym of anche. For example:

    • Noi andiamo al cinema, vieni pure tu?

        We are going to the movies, are you coming too?

    • Ho voglia di un bicchiere di vino, e pure di un po’ di formaggio.

        I’m in the mood for a glass of wine, and also some cheese.

In this case, pure is a little more conversational than anche, so you can use it as a valid alternative when you speak with your friends.

"Although,” “despite,” “even if”

Pure, or the more poetic pur, in combination with a gerundio can introduce a “frase concessiva.”  Let’s see…

    • Pur essendo italiano, non mi piacciono i pomodori.

        Despite being Italian, I don’t like tomatoes. (Not true, just for the sake of argument.)

    • Pure giocando bene a calcio, Il Milan non vincerà lo scudetto.

        Even playing good soccer, AC Milan (alas) won’t win the Italian league.

If your Italian is intermediate or advanced, note that pure can introduce a congiuntivo (subjunctive) in a periodo ipotetico (conditional sentence):

    • Pure se volessi, non avrei i soldi per comprare una macchina nuova.

        Even if I wanted, I wouldn’t have the money to buy a new car.

    • Pure se fosse l’ultimo uomo sulla terra, non uscirei con Mario.

        Even if he was the last man on Earth, I wouldn’t date Mario. (Poverino!)

"Go ahead!”

Used directly after any imperativo, pure turns an order into a warm and friendly “please go ahead.” Very common in the spoken language, this is a nice touch if you want to sound more natural:

    • Siediti pure.

        Please sit down

    • Cominciate pure a mangiare senza di me.

        Please go ahead and eat without me.

"In order to…”

This is difficult to render in English. The combination of pur di + infinitive has a very precise meaning in Italian. These examples may explain it better:

    • Farei qualsiasi cosa pur di andare all’Arena di Verona.

        I’d do anything to go to the Arena di Verona.

    • Fabio lavora anche la domenica pur di mandare i figli all’università.

        Fabio works even on Sundays in order to send his children to college.

When someone does or would do anything in order to do something else, then you can use pur di + infinitive.

Eppure, Oppure, Neppure, Purché 

Pure can merge with some conjunctions to form other words (e + pure = eppure, etc.). There are several, but these four are very common:

    • Enzo aveva tutto quello che voleva, eppure era infelice.

        Enzo had anything he wanted, but he was still unhappy. (As “but still.”)

    • Vieni con me oppure stai a casa?

        Are you coming with me or are you staying home?

    • Non ho neppure un euro in tasca!

        I don’t even have a euro in my pocket. (As "not even.")

    • Aiuterò Lucia, purché non lo dica a sua sorella.

        I’ll help Lucia, provided that she won’t tell her sister.

There are many Italian words worth a deeper look. Let me or Dianne know if you want to see more published on this blog.

I’ve put together three fun language quizzes to test your Italian. If you want, you can win a Skype class with me. If you don’t, just pick your level and enjoy the quiz. Alla prossima!  Click to choose the BEGINNER, INTERMEDIATE  or ADVANCED.

Dante-Learning is an online Italian language school based in Milan and Tokyo, with students from many countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan.

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discoverednow available in paperback, and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

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