Another meaning of TANTO: Italian grammar lesson 126

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tanto in italian

Tanto in Italian

If you’ve been learning Italian for a while, you are probably already familir with the word tanto, which can be used as both an adjective and an adverb in many kinds of sentences.

Usually, tanto can be translated as “a lot (of)”, “much”, “many”, etc.

Ci sono tante verdure nel frigo.

There are a lot of vegetables in the fridge.

Ieri abbiamo lavorato tanto.

Yesterday we worked a lot.

Ci sono tanti modi diversi di suonare questo strumento.

There are many different waysof playing this instrument.

As an adjective, tanto becomes tanta, tanti, tante according to the gender and subject of what we are describing, while as an adverb it stays the same.

Another meaning of tanto

tanto per italian

What you might not know, is that, in Italian, tanto can also be used as a conjunction, which is a word that connects two clauses.

Have a look at the exmaples below:

Non dirgli niente, tanto non ti ascolta.

Don’t tell him anything, he won’t listen anyway.

Non l’ho invitata, tanto non sarebbe mai venuta.

I did not invite her, she would never have come anyway.

Careful, tanto here has nothing to do with its original meaning! Instead, it means “anyway“, “in any case“, and it can also have a similar meaning to because.

Tanto on its own

tanto italian

Sometimes, especially in very informal contexts, Italians use tanto on its own as an answer to a question.

Perché non hai parlato con Giorgia?
Eh, tanto…

Why didn’t you talk to Giorgia?
There’s no use, anyway…

In this case, tanto expresses resignation, meaning that something is useless, that nothing would change it.

Perché hai smesso di studiare il Russo?
Mah, tanto…

Why did you quit studying Russian?
There’s no use, anyway…

Here, the speaker, by answering “tanto…” to the question is transmitting the idea that there isn’t much point in studying Russian anyway.

That it is not important and maybe was not taking him/her anywhere.

Tanto per + verb

just because italian

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Another common expression that includes the word tanto is tanto per + infinitive verb.

L’ho chiamato tanto per fare.

I called him without any specific reason.

If you do something “tanto per fare, it means you do it with no specific reason, just to do it (just because).

Perché ti sei tinto i capelli?
Non so, tanto per cambiare un po’.

Why did you dye your hair?
I don’t know, just to change a bit.

Sometimes, tanto per is also used on its own in very informal settings.

Perché ti sei tinto i capelli?
Così, tanto per…

Why did you dye your hair?
Just because… (For no reason, really!)

Tanto vale + verb and more

hats off italian

Another common expression with the word tanto is tanto vale + verb. 

This expression can be translated with the English “might as well” + verb.

Have a look at the following examples:

Se non lavoriamo, tanto vale uscire!

If we do not work, we might as well go out!

Se hai iniziato, tanto vale finire!

If you started, you might as well finish!

There are also other set expressions that include the word tanto.

Here are some of them:

di tanto in tanto

from time to time

ogni tanto


tanto di cappello!

chapeau! / hats off!

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