Otherwise – Se no, Altrimenti: Italian grammar lesson 161

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how to say otherwise in italian
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Otherwise in Italian

Otherwise is a very important word to learn when studying a foreign language. In Italian, there are at least two ways of saying it:

  • Altrimenti

Write the number down, otherwise you will forget it.

Scrivi il numero, altrimenti te lo dimentichi.

  • Se no / sennò

Write the number down, otherwise you will forget it.

Scrivi il numero, se no te lo dimentichi.

These two expressions are interchangeable when they mean “if not” or “or else”.

Altrimenti, however, can also mean “in another way”:

It cannot be otherwise.

Non può essere altrimenti.

In this case, you would not use se no / sennò.

Otherwise Italian

Se no vs sennò in Italian

You might have noticed that there are two different versions of this expression: se no and sennò.

These are both correct, and they mean exactly the same thing in Italian, o don’t worry about having to remember the correct spelling, they are both accepted and in use in current Italian, even if the use of the separate “se no” is slightly more widespread nowadays.

Sennò simply comes from linking the two words together and can sound and look a bit more familiar and informal.

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se no altrimenti otherwise

Se no, sennò and altrimenti: Examples

Let’s have a look at some sentences containing altrimenti and se no or sennò meaning “otherwise” in the sense of “if not”, “or else”.

Accetta il regalo, sennò mi offendo.

Accept the present, otherwise, I’ll get offended.

Spegni la tele, se no la spengo io.

Turn off the TV, or else I will do it.

Usciamo a cena? Altrimenti potremmo ordinare un take away.

Shall we go out for dinner? Otherwise, we could order takeaway.

Non fare tardi, altrimenti la mamma si preoccupa.

Don’t come back late, otherwise mom will worry.

And here are a couple more examples of altrimenti used to mean “in another, different way”.

Non so come dirlo altrimenti.

I don’t know how to say it otherwise.

Tranquilla, non potevi fare altrimenti.

Don’t worry you could not do otherwise.

Altrimenti is often used together with se (if).

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