The alternatives to “SÌ” and “NO” in Italian: improve your Italian vocabulary!

In this lesson we are going to talk about all the alternatives to the 2 most common words in Italian, which are used everyday ad nauseam: ““(yes) and “no“(no). We are sure that you also use them very often, but with the options that we are giving you, we promise you that you’ll stop doing it and you’ll start being more relaxed and natural with your Italian.

All the ways to say “sì” and “no” in Italian

The alternatives to “Sì” (yes)

The little word “sì” is certainly one of the most common words in Italian and maybe the first that everybody learns. Obviously, the risk of using it too often, or becoming banal and monotonous, is real and it happens to many people. But actually, the alternatives to say “sì” are a lot. Here are some of them:

1)  Certo or “certamente”, which is more formal and less common:

– “Hai fatto i compiti di italiano?” —> “Have you done your Italian homework?”

– “Certo!” —> “Sure!”

– “Ha completato il lavoro che le avevo chiesto di svolgere?” —> “Have you finished the job I asked you to do?”

– “Certamente.” —> “Of course”

2) You could also say “assolutamente sì”.

“Credi che gli esercizi di grammatica siano utili?” —> “Do you think that grammar exercises are useful?”

“Assolutamente sì”. —> “Definitely.”

Be careful: the word “assolutamente”, alone, can mean both “sì” and “no”. Only the context can help us understand which meaning is the right one: usually, as an answer to an affirmative question, it means “yes”, otherwise, as an answer to a negative question, it means “no”. For example:

– “Sei d’accordo con me, vero?” —> “You agree with me, right?”

– “Assolutamente!” (in this case it means: yes) —> “Of course!”

– “Non andrai alla festa di Marco?” —> “You won’t go to Marco’s party, will you?”

– “Assolutamente!” (In this case it means: no) —> “Absolutely not!”

3) Another alternative is “senza dubbio”(without a doubt) oppure “non ho dubbi”(I have no doubts):

– “Credi che Alfonso vorrà venire alla festa?” —> “Do you think Alfonso will want to come to the party?”

– “Senza dubbio!” —> “Without a doubt.”

– “E Marta?” —> “And Marta?”

– “Non ho dubbi!” —> “I have no doubts about it!”

4) You can use also “sicuramente”:

– “Credi che la prof. ci interrogherà oggi?” —> “Do you think that the professor will call us today?”

– “Sicuramente!” —> “That’s for sure!”

5) Another way to say “yes” is “per forza”:

– “Vuoi una mano a trasportare quegli scatoloni?” —> “Do you need a hand with those large boxes?”

– “Per forza!” —> “Yeah, definitely!”

6) The last alternative we recommend is: “ovvio” or “ovviamente” (this latter a little more formal). For example:

– “Sei andato alla festa di Chiara ieri sera?” —> “Did you go to Chiara’s party last night?”

– “Ovvio!” —> “Obvious!”

– “Ti è piaciuta?” —> “Did you like it?”

– “Ovviamente!” —> “Obviously!”

The alternatives to “No”

It’s the other very common word, even too much, that often turns out to be very boring and repetitive. But don’t worry, there are many ways to say “no”! For example:

1) You can say “non credo” or “non penso”:

– “Angela ti chiamerà oggi?” —> “Will Angela call you today?”

– “Non credo.” —> “I don’t believe she will.”

– “E mio padre ti aiuterà?” —> “And will my father help you?”

– “Non penso.” —> “I don’t think so.”

2) Otherwise, you can use “ne dubito”:

– “Credi di aver passato l’esame?” —> “Do you think you have passed the exam?”

– “Ne dubito…” —> “I have doubts about it…”

This word doesn’t exactly mean “no”, but it expresses uncertainty, a strong presentiment that something will not happen or that did not happen.

3) Another alternative is “mi sa di no”:

– “Sai se Chiara è partita per l’America?” —> “Do you know if Chiara left for America?”

– “Mi sa di no…” —> “I don’t think so…”

Like the previous case, you can use this expression to show that you are not sure of something, but you have the feeling that the answer is negative.

4) Another slightly more formal alternative is “temo di no”:

– “Ti è arrivata la mail riguardante il nuovo progetto?” —> “Have you received the email about the new project?”

– “Temo di no.” —> “I’m afraid not.”

In this case, you are conveying not only negation, but also the fact that you are sorry for something, like saying: “I’m sorry, but unfortunately I didn’t got your email.”

5) Among the alternatives, you can also find: “neanche per sogno”(in your dreams), “non ci penso neanche”(no way) or “scordatelo” (forget it). For example:

– “Hai voglia di fare i compiti di italiano al posto mio?” —> “Would you do my Italian homework in my place?”

– “Non ci penso neanche!” —> “Don’t even think about it!”

– “E ti va di cucinare?” —> “And what about cooking?”

– “Scordatelo!” —> “Forget it!”

– “E di andare a correre?” —> “And do you fancy going for a jog?”

– “Nemmeno per sogno!” —> “In your dreams!”

6) Finally, we have “ma quando mai?” (since when?/when did I ever…?), which is generally used when someone “accuses” us of doing something we haven’t done:

– “Eri tu che passeggiavi per mano con Giulia ieri sera?” —> “Was it you who was walking hand in hand with Giulia last night?”

– “Ma quando mai?” —> “Since when?”

Which is like saying: “Are you crazy? Giulia and I?”

Expression of the day: “Con un “no” ti spicci, con un “sì” ti impicci!” (“If you say no you are free to go, if you say yes you are in a mess!”)

This expression is used to suggest that it is better to say “no”, so to refuse to do something, instead of saying “yes” and agreeing to do it.  That’s because a “no” makes you avoid any possible problem, while saying “yes” can put you in a messy situation.

For example:

– “Elisa mi ha chiesto di darle un passaggio con la macchina fino all’aeroporto per andare a prendere il suo amante che è appena tornato da una vacanza. Non so che fare…” —> “Elisa has asked me to give her a ride with my car to the airport to get his lover, who’s just arrived from his holidays. I don’t know what to do…”

– “Ricorda sempre che con un “no” ti spicci, con un “sì” ti impicci!” —> “Always remember that with a “no” you are free to go, with a “yes” you are in a mess!”

We hope that these alternatives will be useful in your conversations, but if you want to learn other new ways to say things, have a look at the lesson about the alternatives to “CIAO!”. We are sure that if a native Italian speaker hears you using them, he/she will be impressed by your skill.

And don’t forget to have a look at Italki YouTube channel, the online platform with thousands of professors that teach their languages as we do!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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