Today, instead of explaining too many things, we will focus on a single word. Yeah… A word that seems to be very difficult, because of its many different meanings! So, don’t leave! On the contrary, stay until the end of the lesson!
The Italian word PIUTTOSTO: meanings & uses
As you may have understood, the word we are talking about today is PIUTTOSTO!
This word is difficult because it has 4 different meanings, that we are now going to see!
1. PIUTTOSTO with the meaning of “rather”, “pretty”, “quite”
With this meaning, the word piuttosto refers to ‘a certain number’, ‘a certain quantity’, which is usually given a sense of sufficiency.
Oggi sono piuttosto stanca! (I am quite tired today!)
Dovremmo andare: è piuttosto tardi! (We should go: it’s pretty late!)
N.B. Of course, don’t use piuttosto if you have to compliment someone, because it is related to an idea of sufficiency, while we generally exaggerate in the compliments! For example, remember to tell a woman she’s “molto bella” (very beautiful) rather than “piuttosto bella” (quite beautiful) 😉
In this case, PIUTTOSTO must always precede an adjective or an adverb!
Fa piuttosto freddo! [correct] (It’s quite cold!)
Ho studiato piuttosto! [wrong]
Ho piuttosto amici! [wrong]
In the other cases, instead, we have to use ABBASTANZA or PARECCHIO!
Ho studiato abbastanza! [correct] (I studied enough!)
Ho parecchi amici! [correct] (I have a few friends!)
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2. PIUTTOSTO CHE
When piuttosto is followed by che, it takes the meaning of “anziché”, “invece di” (rather than, instead of). Therefore, it is used to express what we don’t like, what we don’t want to do or, in general, something we reject, in a comparison between two nouns, pronouns, verbs or adjectives.
Per andare a Roma, piuttosto che l’aereo, è meglio se prendiamo il treno. [nouns] (In order to go to Rome, it is better to take the train instead of the plane)
Preferisco restare sveglia tutta la notte piuttosto che non finire il progetto! [verbs] 1 (I prefer staying awake the whole night rather than not finishing the project!)
Io considero Giulia una persona forte piuttosto che insicura. [adjectives] (I think Julia is a strong person rather than insecure)
A clarification is needed about PIUTTOSTO CHE! Very often, Italians use this expression in a wrong way, that is as a synonym of “or”, “either… or” (o, oppure):
Se vi va, possiamo andare al cinema piuttosto che al teatro.
with the meaning of:
Se vi va, possiamo andare al cinema o al teatro. (If you want, we can go either to the cinema or to the theater)
It’s WRONG, it’s a mistake, that can lead to misunderstandings. In fact, if someone says “andiamo al cinema piuttosto che al teatro”, what they are really saying is that they prefer to go to the cinema AND NOT to the theater, therefore they are expressing a preference and not an alternative (like “o”, “oppure” do).
3. PIUTTOSTO with the meaning of “instead”, “preferably”
In this case, piuttosto is used to express our preference, what we want or what we like, in a comparison between nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives.
Non parliamo di calcio, piuttosto parliamo di moda. [piuttosto che parlare di calcio, parliamo di moda!] (Let’s not talk about football! Let’s talk about fashion, instead – Rather than talking about football, let’s talk about fashion!)
No, grazie, non voglio il succo di frutta. Piuttosto prendo un caffè. [piuttosto che il succo di frutta, prendo un caffè] (No, thanks, I don’t want the fruit juice. I’ll take a coffee, instead – Rather than taking a fruit juice, I’ll take a coffee)
4. O PIUTTOSTO with the meaning of “or rather”, “or better”
In this case, piuttosto preceded by o is used to correct yourself or to make a clarification.
Marco è uscito oggi dall’ospedale. Mandiamogli un messaggio, o piuttosto, andiamo a trovarlo a casa sua! (Marco left the hospital today. Let’s send him a message, or rather, let’s visit him at his house!)
Perché non mangiamo pesce stasera, o piuttosto, perché non andiamo al ristorante di sushi? (Why don’t we eat fish tonight, or better, why don’t we eat sushi?)