How to use “appena”: Italian grammar lesson

Lesson 36

Key Takeaways

A reader will learn the various meanings and uses of the Italian word appena in different contexts, enhancing their understanding and fluency in Italian.

  • With compound verbs: appena means just, as in “I just finished eating” (Ho appena finito di mangiare).
  • Before a verb: appena means when or as soon as, and can be used with or without non.
  • After a verb: appena can mean hardly or only, often interchangeable with solo.
  • Contextual understanding: Learning to guess the meaning of appena from context is crucial for accurate comprehension and usage.

Quick facts

What does appena mean in Italian?

Appena can mean "just," "when," "as soon as," "hardly," or "only," depending on context.

How is appena used with compound verbs?

When used with compound verbs, appena translates to "just," indicating a recently completed action.

Can you give an example of appena with an adverb of time?

"Abbiamo litigato appena prima di uscire" means "We had a fight just before leaving."

How does appena function with adverbs of place?

With adverbs of place, appena can indicate proximity, like in "Il negozio è appena dietro l’angolo" ("The shop is just around the corner").

What happens when appena is used before a verb?

When placed before a verb, it means "when" or "as soon as," sometimes prefixed with "non" without changing the meaning.

Can you give an example of appena before a verb?

"(Non) appena arrivo a casa ti chiamo" translates to "As soon as I get home, I will call you."

How does appena change meaning after a verb?

After a verb, appena can mean "hardly" or "only," often interchangeable with "solo."

Give an example where appena means "only."

"Ne voglio appena un goccio" means "I only want a sip."

How does appena mean "hardly" in a sentence?

"Mi fa male la schiena, riesco appena a camminare" translates to "I have backache, I can hardly walk."

What should learners do to understand appena in various contexts?

Context is key; learners should practice recognizing appena's meaning through varied sentence structures and real-life usage.

Audio images

🔊
Appena sono arrivati, hanno iniziato a cantare.
🔊
Appena sveglia, bevo il caffè.
🔊
Appena siamo usciti, ha cominciato a piovere.

Vocab

appena
subito
ora
prima
dopo
quando
mentre
ancora
già
quasi
sempre
mai
spesso
raramente
poi
tardi
presto
adesso
finire
arrivare

Sentences

Appena ho finito, ti chiamo.

As soon as I finish, I'll call you.

Sono arrivato appena in tempo.

I arrived just in time.

Appena mi sveglio, faccio colazione.

As soon as I wake up, I have breakfast.

L'ho visto appena ieri.

I saw him just yesterday.

Appena possibile, dobbiamo parlare.

As soon as possible, we need to talk.

My Thoughts

What does appena mean?

If you are studying Italian, you have probably heard the word appena. This word may cause some confusion, even to advanced learners, as it can have different meanings depending on the context.

When used with adverbs of time,  place, or when used with compound verbs, it can be translated as just.

Have a look at the examples below:

  • With compound verbs

Ho appena finito di mangiare.

I just finished eating.

Sei appena tornato dal lavoro?

Have you just got back from work?

  • With adverbs of time

Abbiamo litigato appena prima di uscire.

We had a fight just before leaving.

  • With adverbs of place

Il negozio è appena dietro l’angolo.

The shop is just around the corner.

🔊
Appena sono arrivati, hanno iniziato a cantare.

How to use appena before a verb?

When used before a verb, appena takes the meaning of when or as soon as. In this case, and only this, you might see we sometimes add a non before appena.

This addition does not change the meaning of the sentence.

In this case, appena and non appena have exactly the same meaning.

(Non) appena arrivo a casa ti chiamo.

As soon as I get home, I will call you.

(Non) appena finisco di lavorare vado a fare la spesa.

When I finish working, I will go shopping.

L’ho visto (non) appena sono arrivata.

I saw him as soon as I got there.

🔊
Appena sveglia, bevo il caffè.

🔊
Appena siamo usciti, ha cominciato a piovere.

How to use appena after a verb?

There are two more meanings of appena that you must at least be able to recognize, even if you might not use them just yet.

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When we use it after the verb, it takes the meaning of hard, as in with difficulty or only, which can often be replaced by the Italian word solo (just, only).

In this case, you will need to learn how to guess the meaning from the context. But do not worry, it is not complicated at all!

Have a look at these examples to get an idea of how it works:

  • Only

Ne voglio appena (solo) un goccio.

I only want a sip.

Ne ho bevuto appena un bicchiere.

I only had one glass of it.

  • Hardly

Mi fa male la schiena, riesco appena a camminare.

I have backache, I can hardly walk.

Mio fratello è piccolo, sa appena leggere e scrivere.

My brother is young, he can hardly read and write.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

What does "appena" mean?

Depending on the context it can mean just, when, as soon as, hardly, or only.

What does "appena" mean before a verb?

It means when or as soon as. In this case, and only this, you might see a non before "appena". This addition does not change the meaning of the sentence. In this case, appena and non appena have exactly the same meaning.

What does "appena" mean after a verb?

It means hardly, as in with difficulty, or only, which can often be replaced by the Italian word solo (just, only). In this case, you will need to learn how to guess the meaning from the context.

Italian word of the day
aziende
Example
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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