How to use “appena”: Italian grammar lesson 36

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Summary

Unlock the versatility of the Italian word appena! This guide will help you master its various meanings, from timing nuances to expressing difficulty, ensuring you sound like a native in no time. 🇮🇹✨

  • Just Did Something: When paired with compound verbs, appena translates to ‘just.’ For instance, “Ho appena finito di mangiare” means “I just finished eating.”
  • Timing is Everything: Use appena with adverbs of time to pinpoint moments. “Abbiamo litigato appena prima di uscire” translates to “We had a fight just before leaving.”
  • Location Clues: Combine appena with adverbs of place to describe proximity. “Il negozio è appena dietro l’angolo” means “The shop is just around the corner.”
  • As Soon As: Before a verb, appena or non appena (both are correct) mean ‘as soon as.’ “(Non) appena arrivo a casa ti chiamo” translates to “As soon as I get home, I will call you.”
  • Only or Hardly: After a verb, appena can mean ‘only’ or ‘hardly,’ depending on the context. “Ne voglio appena un goccio” means “I only want a sip.”
  • Context is Key: Sometimes, appena requires you to be a context detective. It could mean ‘hardly’ in a sentence like “Mi fa male la schiena, riesco appena a camminare” (“I can hardly walk because of backache”).
  • Substitute with ‘Solo’: If you’re unsure, remember that appena can often be replaced with solo (only) when it comes after a verb. It’s a handy tip for beginners!
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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?

hardly italian

  • 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.

as soon as italian

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.

just appena

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.

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FAQs on How to use “appena”: Italian grammar lesson 36

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
cappuccino
Example
Vorrei un cappuccino, per favore.
I’d like a cappuccino, please.
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