This blog series, “How to Talk About… in Italian” will focus on the topics that have come up most frequently in my everyday conversations with Italian family, friends and colleagues. We will focus on the important Italian phrases and Italian vocabulary we all need to know to become more fluent when we speak about everyday events in Italian!
The topic for this month — email — is a written form of communication, but one that comes up frequently during daily conversation. In the “How to Talk About Email in Italian” blog for this month, we will focus on common Italian phrases needed to describe the different activities that are involved with “emailing.” As email is now the preferred method of communication around the world, it is important to be able to give one’s email address and talk about an email one has sent or received. This topic comes up between Italian friends in casual conversation and is now the preferred method of communication between business associates.
Although Italians have adopted the use of email readily, including the English email terms, it is also important to know the Italian approach and understanding of this concept if we want to communicate in Italian.
Enjoy the first topic in this “How to Talk About…” series, “How to Talk About Email in Italian.” —Kathryn Occhipinti
Some of this material was originally presented on the Conversational Italian! blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! “ Special thanks to Italian instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.
When talking about how an Italian views the concept of email, the first and most basic question to answer is, of course,
“How does one translate the word “email” into Italian?”
First we need to recognize that “email” is an English abbreviation for “electronic mail,” and this abbreviation is not easily translated into Italian.
The Collins English to Italian dictionary translation of email is simple and makes sense for both Italian and English: la posta elettronica, which translates as, “the electronic mail.”
A single email message would be un messaggio di posta elettronica.
A person’s email address would be l’indirizzo di posta elettronica.
Unfortunately, although these official Italian phrases make perfect logical sense, they are a bit too long for common, every day use. Since Italians, in general, easily accept useful foreign words into their language, it is not surprising that a quick look at the online dictionary Wordreference.com yields multiple permutations of English and Italian to translate the word “email.”
It should be noted here that the word “email” remains feminine when translated into Italian in all its various forms, since “la posta” or “the mail” is feminine in Italian.
Here are the different ways we can talk about email according to the online dictionary Wordreference.com.
la posta elettronica, la e-mail, l’email
il messaggio di posta elettronica, il messaggio email
l’indirizzo di posta elettronica, l’indirizzo e-mail
It is apparent from the above phrases that Italians have, over time, shortened their correct but very long descriptive phrase la posta elettronica to the shorter phrase l’email. This combination of Italian and English makes grammatical sense in Italian because the original word for “mail” in Italian is feminine and also because the Italian language generally eliminates the last vowel of the definite article la if the noun that comes after it begins with a vowel. L’email is commonly seen in written form on websites.
But, although l’email is correct grammatically, most Italians simply say “la mail.”
The difference in the official written form and the spoken form of the Italian word for “email” may originate from the difference in pronunciation between the English and the Italian letter “e.” In English, the letter “e” can be pronounced with a long “ee” sound, as in “week” or short “eh” sound, as in “bed.” But there is no long “ee” sound associated with the Italian letter “e,” and this may lead to confusion for an Italian when attempting to say the word “email” with the correct English pronunciation. So, it is simpler in spoken Italian just to leave off the “e” in email, and say “mail.”
In the same way, note that a single email can be referred to in Italian as both the grammatically correct “un’email” and “una mail.”
Below is a summary of the Italian phrases to describe email in Italian. The most common conversational Italian ways to say “email” are listed in the first column in bold letters.
|la posta elettronica
|email in general
|una mail / la mail
|un messaggio di posta elettronica
|a single email
|l’indirizzo di posta elettronica
|the email address
Now let’s talk about what to say if an Italian asks for your email address and you would like to reply in Italian.
The question: “Qual’è l’indirizzo mail?” is used for the English, “What is your email address?”
It will be important in this situation to know that the English word “at” used for the symbol @ is referred to with the visually descriptive Italian term “chiocciola,” which literally means “little snail.” And the “dot” in the English “dot” com is called a “period” in Italian, with the word “punto.”
Italian email addresses often end in “it,” for Italy, and the abbreviation is usually pronounced as an Italian word. For email addresses that end in “com,” com is usually pronounced as a word, similar to English but with an Italian accent, of course!
The letters “it” and “com” may also be spelled out, using the Italian name for each letter. For the ending “it,” the Italian letters are pronounced “ee tee.” For the ending “com” the Italian letters are pronounced “chee oh èmme.”
Below is a sample email address that uses the name of this blog as a person’s first and last name, first written, then as it would be pronounced by an English speaker and an Italian speaker:
|Learn Italian “at” aol “dot” com
|Learn Italian “chiocciola” aol “punto” com
Finally, how do we talk about sending and receiving an email?
Two verbs are commonly used to describe the acts of sending and receiving an email. The Italian verb mandare is probably the most common way to describe the act of sending an email, although the verbs inviare or spedire, older terms for “snail mail,” can also be used.
The verb mandare just means “to send,” though, and Italian will follow this verb with the clarification “via mail.” As noted above, other variations might include “via email” or “via la posta elettronica. “
When an Italian has received a message, he or she can use the verb ricevere, which means “to receive.” This event would, of course be in the past tense, as for example, “Ho ricevuto una mail.” “I have received an email.”
Remember that if you have received an email “about” something, the English word “about” is often expressed in Italian with the preposition “su.” The preposition su is then combined with the Italian definite article (il, la, lo, l’, i le, gli) before the noun that describes what the email will be about. The different combined forms are: sul, sulla, sulo, sull‘, sui, sulle, sugli. More detailed information about combining prepositions is found in the Conversational Italian for Travelers book “Just the Grammar.”
“Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione?” translates as: “Have you received an email about the next meeting?”
Interestingly, if one person hears the notification sound that an email has “arrived” at another’s device, he or she may call out, “È arrivata una mail,” meaning, “An email has arrived.” Remember to use the feminine form of the past participle for arrivare, which is “arrivata“ for the email that has just arrived! In the same way, an English speaker would notify someone with the line: “You have a message.”
When one needs to check their email, the Italian verb controllare, which can mean to check, to control, or to verify, comes into play. One friend might say to another: “Controlla la tua mail!” for “Check your email!” Or, you may be advised: “Controlla la mail in arrivo!” for “Check the email that is coming to you!”
A summary table is given below, with some example sentences, reprinted from the pocket phrase book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases.”
|mandare via mail
|to send an email
|ricevere una mail
|to receive an email
|Ho ricevuto una mail.
|I have received an email.
|Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione?
|Have you received an email about the next meeting?
|È arrivata una mail.
|An email has arrived.
You have an email.
|Controlla la tua mail!
Controlla la mail in arrivo!
|Check your email! (familiar command)
Check the mail that is coming to you!
How your email account is set up
In this section, we will focus on the vocabulary one might encounter when talking about the particulars of how an email is set up: the subject line, inbox, spam box, etc.
From our example list below, you will notice that some English email terms have been adopted into Italian and given Italian masculine or feminine endings. For other technical terms, the English word itself is used, but is categorized in Italian as either masculine or feminine and assigned an Italian definite article to go with the chosen gender. For instance, when referring to “spam,” the Italians use “lo spam” or “uno spam” because the Italian gender is male and because the word spam begins with s+consonant. (See our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” book if you need to review Italian definite articles.)
Adopted foreign words always remain with their native singular ending in Italian, but the Italian definite article changes if it is necessary to represent the plural form of the foreign word. So if one wants to refer to the many spam emails he or she has been receiving, they can use “gli spam.”
|il tuo account
|sign into your account
|signed out of your account
|la posta in arrivo
|la posta in arrivo
|la posta in uscita
|spam / junk mail
|lo spam / uno spam / gli spam
|to send unsolicited emails
|to send an unsolicited email
|mandare uno spam
|i tuoi preferiti
|la tua cronologia
|to press a computer mouse
|cliccare / fare click
Basic actions performed with email
Once one is familiar with the Italian terms used for an email account, it becomes important to know how to respond to emails in Italian and also how to give instructions for basic actions that can be performed when emailing a friend or a colleague.
For example phrases that can be used to initiate and sign off on an email communication, please refer to our previous blog: Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Emailing Italian Families. In this previous blog , we discuss Italian email conventions in use today, including when to use familiar and formal greetings. We also talk about different titles an individual may hold and how they are abbreviated when writing an Italian email.
Once you understand how to introduce yourself in an email, and know some appropriate phrases for closing an email, you can focus on some terms that are commonly used in the email itself! Below is a list of terms and some example sentences. How many more can you think of? Find an Italian “email pen pal” and try them out!
|la copia nascosta
|to forward email
L’oggetto di questa mail è confidenziale.
The subject of this email is confidential.
Il documento è allegato.
The form is attached.
Ho allegato il documento. Fai una copia per la riunione.
I attached the form. Make a copy for the meeting.
Per favore, mandi una copia nascosta al direttore.
Please send a blind copy to the director.
Please send me the attachment by tomorrow morning.
Per favore, mi mandi l’allegato per domani mattina.
Lascia che ti inoltri questa mail.
Let me forward this email to you.
La mail è stata inoltrare a Lei ieri.
The email was forwarded to you yesterday.
Ho inoltrato la mail a lui ieri.
I sent the email to him yesterday.
Per favore, mi mandi la sua risposta per domani.
Please send me your response by tomorrow.
And remember to take our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” pocket travel book with you to Italy if you want a handy way to remember how to give someone your email address!
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”
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How to Talk about Email in Italian