PERCHÉ – POICHÉ – PURCHÉ: differences, meanings, uses

In today’s lesson we selected 3 words that are confusing for Italian students: PERCHÉ – POICHÉ – PURCHÉ! These words, apparently simple, hide many snares, so keep reading to find out more!

How and when to use PERCHÉ – POICHÉ – PURCHÉ

PERCHÉ: meanings and uses

Let’s start with the best known among these three words: PERCHÉ! Now you’re probably thinking that this is one of those easy words you learn as a very beginner, but actually even the easiest things hide some snares!

PERCHÉ is generally used to ask for or to indicate the cause, the reason why something happens/doesn’t happen or is done/is not done.

1. Therefore, it is obviously used in direct and indirect questions.

For example:

Perché vai già via? Non ti piace la festa? [Why are you already leaving? Don’t you like the party? – direct question]


Gli ho chiesto perché andasse già via e se non gli piacesse la festa! [I asked him why he was already leaving and if he didn’t like the party – indirect question]

For those who don’t know, we explained the indirect questions in our lesson about indirect speech! So, if you have any doubts, you can watch it: it is a long and sometimes boring topic, but also very useful! 

2. Moreover, we use PERCHÉ even at the beginning of a sentence to answer those questions with PERCHÉ and COME MAI (why).

For example:

– Perché vai via? (Why are you leaving?)

– Perché mi annoio! (Because I’m bored)

– Come mai dobbiamo prendere il treno? (Why do we have to take the train?)

– Perché l’auto è dal meccanico! (Because the car is at the mechanic)

But… this is the ONLY case in which PERCHÉ is put at the beginning of the sentence!

3. In fact, when you have to express the cause of something in a sentence that is not an answer to a question, you can only use PERCHÉ (becausein the middle of the sentence and never at its beginning.

As a consequence, we’ll say “Mangio perché ho fame” (I eat because I’m hungry) and NOTPerché ho fame, mangio” (Because I’m hungry, I eat).

Or “Ho fatto la spesa perché non avevamo più cibo” (I went shopping because we were all out of food) and NOTPerché non avevamo più cibo, ho fatto la spesa” (Because we were all out of food, I went shopping).

4. Finally, don’t forget that PERCHÉ can also be used as a synonym of affinché (so that, in order to). Even with this meaning, it is usually in the middle of the sentence and – pay attention – it is always followed by the subjunctive!

For example:

Vi correggo perché non facciate più gli stessi errori. (I correct you so that you won’t do the same mistakes anymore)

*today’s nugget*

UNA VOLTA OGNI MORTE DI PAPA: once in a blue moon, rarely.

For example:

La mamma di Marco è triste perché suo figlio la va a trovare una volta ogni morte di Papa. (Marco’s mother is sad because her son only visits her once in a blue moon)

POICHÉ: meaning and uses

Let’s move to today’s second word: POICHÉ!

Basically, POICHÉ can be considered as a more formal synonym of PERCHÉ, but be careful:

– first of all, POICHÉ cannot take the meaning of “affinché”, like PERCHÉ;

– moreover, POICHÉ can be used at the beginning of the sentence even when we don’t answer questions!

For example:

Poiché ho fame, mangio. (Because I’m hungry, I eat)

Poiché non avevamo più cibo, ho fatto la spesa. (Because we were all out of food, I went shopping)

But, again, it is highly likely that you will find POICHÉ only in the written language, as it is rare that an Italian might use it in oral contexts, especially if they’re informal. In fact, when we have to add a cause in the middle of a sentence, we prefer PERCHÉ.

Instead, if we need to express a cause at the beginning of a sentence, then we prefer to replace POICHÉ with other expressions, such as SICCOME (since), DATO CHE (given that), VISTO CHE (considering that), DAL MOMENTO CHE (given the fact that). All of them are followed by the indicative.

For example:

Dato che ho fame, mangio. (Given that I’m hungry, I eat)

Dal momento che piove, prenderò l’ombrello. (Given the fact that it rains, I’ll take my umbrella)

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PURCHÉ: meaning and uses

Now we just have to see PURCHÉ! No, this word has nothing to do with the previous words! They only share the physical appearance!

Therefore, PURCHÉ means “as long as”, “provided that”, “only if”. It introduces conditional subordinate clauses and it always requires the subjunctive.

For example:

Puoi restare, purché tu faccia silenzio. (You can stay here, as long as you are quiet)

Purché mi chiedano scusa, posso perdonarli. (I can forgive them only if they apologize)

Ti do un po’ di soldi, purché tu ne faccia buon uso. (I’ll give you some money provided that you make good use of it)

With PURCHÉ, as you can see, the order is not important, given that it can be put at the beginning as well as in the middle of the sentence.

Do you know also all the meanings of the small word PURE? Review them with us!

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

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