How to say “until”: Italian grammar lesson 103


Dive into the nuances of the Italian word finché and its sneaky counterpart finché non. Master the subtle difference between “as long as” and “until” to avoid mix-ups and speak like a native!

  • Understanding Finché: Grasp the basic use of finché to mean “as long as” or “while,” ensuring your Italian sentences reflect the correct duration and condition. 🕒
  • The “False Negative” Non: Don’t be fooled by the word non in finché non. It’s not a real negation but a part of the phrase that translates to “until.” 🚫
  • Context is Key: Pay attention to context when choosing between finché and finché non. A tiny word can flip the meaning from ongoing action to a definitive endpoint. 🔄
  • Examples Galore: Learn from examples! They’re your best friend when it comes to understanding how these phrases work in real Italian sentences. 📚
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Use finché and finché non in your own sentences. Practice out loud or write them down to get a feel for their usage. 💬

My thoughts

What is finché in Italian?

Finché can be translated into English as long as both in an abstract and time-related sense.

Let’s get started!

Finché va bene a lui, va bene anche a me.

As long as it’s fine for him, it’s fine for me too.

Puoi rimanere finché vuoi.

You can stay as long as you want.

It can also sometimes be translated as while.

Finché nevica, è meglio non uscire.

While it snows, it is best not to go out.

This is simple enough, you’ll say. The trouble starts when we start adding a non after finché.

When to use finché non?

Finché non is a set expression that means until in Italian.

It is quite tricky for learners (and even native speakers sometimes!) to use this correctly as the non does not actually express a real negation.

However, once you understand that this non is a false negative and it needs not to be translated, the use of this expression is pretty straightforward.

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Let’s have a look at some examples:

Abbiamo aspettato finché non sono usciti.

We waited until they went out.

Ho continuato a correre finché non ero esausta.

I kept on running until I was exhausted

Non posso uscire finché non finisco di studiare.

I can’t go out until I finish studying.

Finché vs. finché non

This difference may look small: after all, it is only a three-letter word, but it can make a sentence take a whole different meaning!

Have a look at the following example:

Sono stata bene finché ho lavorato da casa.

I was fine while I worked from home.

Sono stata bene finché non ho lavorato da casa.

I was fine until I worked from home.

In the first sentence, the subject was happily working from home, while in the second, she was happy until she started working from home!

Finché and finché non: more examples

Finché c’è vita, c’è speranza.

While there’s life, there’s hope.

Finché non torni non andrò a dormire.

I will not go to sleep until you get back.

Non sono uscita finché non ha smesso di piovere.

I did not go out until it stopped raining.

Finché siamo tutti insieme, non c’è nulla da preoccuparsi.

There is nothing to worry about as long as we’re all together.

What does finché means?

It can be translated in English as "while" or "as long as".

What does finché non means?

Finché non means "until" and the non is a false negative and it needs not to be translated.

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