Otherwise – Se no, Altrimenti: Italian grammar lesson 161


Unlock the nuances of Italian with our guide on using “otherwise” like a native! Learn the subtle differences between altrimenti, se no, and sennò to express conditions and alternatives with flair. 🇮🇹✨

  • Master the basics: Altrimenti and se no/sennò are your go-to phrases for “otherwise” in Italian, covering “if not” and “or else” scenarios. 🔄
  • Context is key: Use altrimenti when you need to convey “in another way,” but stick to se no or sennò for conditional statements. 🎨
  • Flexibility for fluency: Don’t sweat the small stuff—se no and sennò are interchangeable, so feel free to use whichever rolls off the tongue! 🗣️
  • Embrace informality: Sennò might feel more casual due to its contracted form, perfect for friendly chats and informal texts. 😎
  • Pair with purpose: Combine altrimenti with se (if) to construct conditional sentences that sound authentically Italian. 🔗
  • Practice with examples: Get comfortable using these words by practicing with example sentences—contextual learning is your friend! 📚

My thoughts

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.

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.

Se no, sennò and altrimenti: Examples

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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).

How to say otherwise in Italian?

In Italian, there are two ways to express otherwise: Altrimenti and Se no/sennò.

What does Altrimenti mean?

Altrimenti has two main meanings: "otherwise" and “in another way”.

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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