“Assieme” and “Insieme”

As part of our series on the differences and synonyms between similar Italian words or phrases, today we’re looking at the words assieme and insieme.

Luckily for you, they are almost entirely interchangeable. Preferences between which word is used are usually down to personal or regional preferences, although you’ll probably notice that “insieme” is generally the more common option.

They mean “together”, or “with”, and are used in the following context:

Andremo via in vacanza assieme / insieme.

We’ll go on holiday together.

Stiamo insieme / assieme da tre anni.

We’ve been together three years.

Studieranno insieme / assieme.

They will study together.

Vanno insieme / assieme ai loro cugini.

They’re going with their cousins.


Difference between “Non era mia intenzione” and “Non era la mia intenzione”

Non era mia intenzione is an offer of apology and/or remorsefulness, and it generally means “It wasn’t my intention” for example:

Mi dispiace, non era mia intenzione di svegliarti / spaventarti / urtarti ecc

(I am sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you / scare you / bump into you etc).

On the other hand, Non era la mia intenzione has a very different meaning. It generally precedes the word questa, and it means “This wasn’t the purpose of my actions”, i.e. “I didn’t intend for things to work out this way”.

Mi dispiace, non era mai stata la mia intenzione di ammaccare la tua auto!

“I’m sorry, I never meant to dent your car!”

The sentence structure is incredibly similar between the two phrases but their meaning his very different!


Ways of saying “I think”

Once you learn a set phrase, it’s easy to simply stick to the one way of saying something.

Languages are rarely simple though, they have a rich and varied tapestry of words, sayings, and phrases which any native or fluent speaker should and does know.

Even if you have a favourite way of saying something, it’s very important to familiarise yourself with other sayings, if nothing else so that you can recognise them and understand them when they crop up.

Today I’m looking at different ways you can say “I think” in Italian.

You can simply say “Penso” (I think), or “Credo” (I believe, generally used in the context of “I hold the belief that…”).

You could also say “Direi che” (I would say), or “La mia opinione e` che” (My opinion is).

Mi sa che” (I think, as in I get the feeling that…) and “Immagino” (I imagine) are also acceptable.

All of these phrases have some differences of varying degrees, but can all be used in lieu of “I think”, depending on the context of what you’re trying to say.

Can you think of any more ways you could replace the term “Io penso che”?

Sentire e ascoltare

The difference between “sentire” and “ascoltare” is a very simple one, as it mirrors the English way of speaking.

Ascoltare” refers to the act of actively listening to something, e.g. “Sto ascoltando della musica” (I am listening to some music).

Sentire“, on the other hand, refers to when we are involuntarily hearing sounds e.g. “Non ce la faccio piu` a sentire la musica dei vicini!” (I can no longer stand hearing the neighbours’ music!)

Potere and riuscire

This came up in a recent Italian lesson.

These two terms (potere and riuscire) have a similar meaning, “to be able to” or “can”, however they do have a subtle difference in meaning.

You would ask “Posso andare in bagno?” (“Can I go to the toilet?”), and on a second implied level you’re asking if you have permission to go to the toilet.

On the other hand, if you want to say that you have the ability to do something (as in, you have the skills or knowledge necessary to accomplish something) you would use “riuscire”.

For example:

“Riesco a leggere quattro libri al mese” (I can read four books a month)

“Lei riuscira` a raggiungere la cima tra un’ora” (She’ll be able to reach the top in about an hour)

Strictly speaking, even when using “potere” instead of “riuscire” incorrectly an Italian speaker will understand what you’re trying to say. Learning these nuances in a language is a great way to becoming an excellent speaker, but don’t get too bogged down if it means you will start over thinking every sentence.

As a learner, you’re supposed to make mistakes!