In today’s lesson we are going to study a short word that is often used by Italians, but it usually causes troubles for students of Italian, because of its many different meanings: APPENA!

What does APPENA mean? How is it used?

1. The first meaning of the word APPENA is time-related: in this case, it means “a very short time ago”, “a while ago” (What does “poc’anzi” mean?). With this meaning, it is always used with compound tenses and it must be placed between the auxiliary and the past participle.

For example:

Ho appena bevuto una tazza di caffè. (I’ve just drunk a cup of coffee)

Sometimes, with this meaning, the word APPENA can only be followed by the past participle (without any auxiliary verb). In this case, it is what remains of a relative or temporal clause.

For example:

Ieri ho comprato una torta appena fatta. (Ho comprato una torta che era stata appena fattarelativa)

[Yesterday I bought a cake that had just been made → relative clause]

Questa è una foto di me appena nata. (Questa è una foto di me quando ero appena nata → temporale)

[This is a picture of me just after I was born → temporal clause]

Review Italian relative pronouns with our video-lesson!

2. The second meaning of APPENA still has a time-related sense, but it stands for “at the moment in which”, “when” and it is followed by a verb in the indicative mood.

For example:

Appena finisco di registrare questo video, vado a fare shopping! (As soon as I finish to shoot this video, I’m going shopping)


In this case (but only in this one!) it is possible to add a useless NON before APPENA, that won’t change the meaning of the whole sentence!

For example, it could have been possible to say the previous sentence in this other way (WITHOUT changing its meaning):

Non appena finisco di registrare questo video, vado a fare shopping. (As soon as I finish to shoot this video, I’m going shopping)

3. APPENA can also mean “only”.

For example:

Dopo che avrò fatto shopping, mi saranno rimasti appena pochi spiccioli… (After going shopping, I will only have small change left)

4. APPENA can also replace “with difficulty”, “hardly”, “very little”.

For example:

Stamattina c’era così tanta nebbia che riuscivo appena a guidare! (This morning there was so much fog I could hardly drive!)

Un bambino a 5 anni sa appena leggere e scrivere. (When a child is 5 years old can read and write with difficulty)

5. If APPENA is placed before time or place adverbs, it takes the meaning of  “immediately”, “soon”.

For example:

Il supermercato è appena dietro l’angolo. (The supermarket is soon after the corner)

Hanno litigato appena prima di partire. (They argued immediately before they left)

Now that you learned all the meanings of APPENA, also learn other two problematic words: GIÀ e ANCORA!

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

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