How to Use Conjunctions in Italian

Two people going to work in Paris
Sam Edwards

Conjunctions serve as connector words, bringing clauses together and, depending on their role, establishing logical connection, heightening contrast of thought and feeling, expressing relationships of time, cause, and condition, and adding a variety of so-called complements or details to the sentence.

Types of Italian Conjunctions

There are two types of conjunctions in Italian: coordinating conjunctions (congiunzioni coordinative or coordinanti), which combine two independent clauses, and subordinating conjunctions (congiunzioni subordinative or subordinanti), which combine main and subordinate clauses.

Both coordinating and subordinating conjunctions are then divided in several groups depending on the logical connection they establish; the purpose they serve. For example, among the coordinative, are copulative conjunctions, adversative, conclusive, and declarative. Among the subordinative are causal, conditional, relative, comparative, final, and the list goes on and on.

Straddling that division is another: There are congiunzioni semplici—simple conjunctions—and congiunzioni composte, which are composed of more than one word. For example, e or ma are simple; oppure and poiché are composed of two words (o and pure, and poi and che). There are simple and composed conjunctions among both coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. (Note that all conjunctions that end in che have an accento acuto on them: ché.)

Don't get too bogged down on the divisions, except for organizational purposes; it's more important that you learn what they mean, and from there their role and purpose will become obvious.

Congiunzioni coordinative/coordinanti

Congiunzioni coordinative join equivalent and independent clauses. For example:

  • Siamo andati al museo e abbiamo visto un bel quadro. We went to the museum and we saw a nice painting.
  • Siamo andati al museo; eppure non abbiamo visto arte bella. We went to the museum, yet we saw no good art.
  • Siamo andati a casa sua, ma non c'era. We went to his house but he was not there.

Each of those sentences contain two independent clauses that stand on their own. Coordinating conjunctions also connect other parts of speech, but always of equal and homogeneous value: two adjectives, two complements, two adverbs:

  • Ho mangiato la pizza e la pasta. I ate pizza and pasta.
  • Ho mangiato poco, ma tuttavia bene. I ate little but well.
  • La pizza era calda ma buonissima. The pizza was hot but delicious.

Among the congiunzioni coordinative or coordinanti are:

E and  Io vado al museo e te vai al mercato.  You go the museum and I go to the market. 
Anche/Pure also Ho comprato il latte e anche/pure il parmigiano I bought milk and also parmigiano.
nor Né vado al mercato né vado al museo.  I am not going to the market nor to the museum. 
Neanche/Neppure not even/nor/neither Non ho comprato il latte e neanche/neppure il parmigiano.  I didn't buy milk or even parmigiano. 
O/Oppure or Vado al mercato, o/oppure vado al museo.  I am going to the market or to the museum.
Altrimenti or/otherwise Vai adesso, altrimenti fai tardi.  Go now or you will be late. 
Ma but/rather 1. Non voglio il pane ma la crostata. 2. Mi piace la crostata ma preferisco il pane.  1. I don't want bread but rather crostata. 2. I like crostata but I prefer bread. 
Però but Il maglione è bello, però è troppo caro.  The sweater is nice but too expensive. 
Tuttavia though/and yet Non voglio andare; tuttavia andrò. I don't want to go, though I will go. 
Piuttosto rather Non voglio andare al cinema; piuttosto andiamo al mare.  I don't want to go to the movies; rather, let's go to the beach. 
Invece instead/but 1. Voglio la pizza invece della pasta. 2. Lo aspettavo; invece non è venuto.  1. I want pizza instead of pasta. 2. I waited for him; instead/but he did not come. 
Bensì rather/to the contrary 1. Non è venuto, bensì ha chiamato. 2. L'omicidio non è successo di notte, bensì in pieno giorno.  1. He did not come; rather he called. 2. The murder did not happen at night; to the contrary, it happened in full daylight. 
Anzi even/moreover/to the contrary Quel colore non è vivace, anzi, è smorto. That color is not lively; to the contrary, it's washed out. 
Eppure and yet Non ho trovato Giulio; eppure sapevo che c'era.  I didn't find Giulio; and yet I knew he was here. 
Cioè in other words/meaning Marco ha 18 anni, cioè è giovane.  Marco is 18; in other words, he's young. 
Infatti in fact/indeed Non avevo studiato, e infatti sono bocciata.  I hadn't studied, and in fact I flunked. 
Dunque/Perciò/ Quindi therefore/and so Siamo stati alzati tardissimo, perciò/quindi sono stanca.  We were up very late, and therefore I am tired. 
Invece instead Pensavo di essere stanca, invece sto bene.  I thought I was tired, instead I feel well.
Non solo ... ma anche/neanche not only ... but also/not even Non solo non è venuto, ma non ha neanche telefonato.  Non only did he not come, but he did not even call. 

Congiunzioni subordinative/subordinanti

Congiunzioni subordinative or subordinanti create a relationship of dependence between one clause and another; a relationship in which one clause completes or clarifies the meaning of the first and could not stand on its own (or its meaning would not be complete or the same). The conjunction is followed by a complement that can be of cause, for example, or modal, or an object complement.

For example, some of the most obvious subordinating conjunction are quando and perché, which explain time and cause and are, in fact, called congiunzioni temporali and causali respectively.

  • Non esco perché piove. I’m not going out because it’s raining.
  • Non esco quando piove. I don’t go out when it rains.
  • Esco sebbene piova. I am going out though it is raining.

Among the subordinating conjunctions are:

Perché because/for Ti amo perché sei gentile.  I love you because you are kind. 
Poiché because/since Poiché il museo è chiuso andiamo a casa.  Since the museum is closed, let's go home. 
Giacché since/given that Giacché siamo al mercato compriamo la frutta.  Since we are at the market let's buy some fruit. 
Affinché so that/in order that Te lo dico affinché tu non pensi a male.  I am telling you so that you will not worry. 
Cosicché so/therefore Non lo sapevo, cosicché non te l'ho detto.  I didn't know, therefore I didn't tell you.
Finché until  Non smetterò di chiedertelo finché non me lo dirai.  I will not stop asking you until you tell me. 
Quando when Smetterò di chiedertelo quando me lo dirai.  I will stop asking you when you tell me. 
Dopo after Andiamo a casa dopo che andiamo al mercato.  We will go home after we go to the market. 
Mentre while Mentre parlavo con la signora lui è scappato. While I was talking with the lady he ran away. 
Nonostante/ Sebbene even though/although Ha preso la macchina nonostante gli abbia chiesto di non farlo.  He took the car although I asked him not to. 
Benché though Il ristorante era sempre pieno benché le recensioni fossero mediocri.  The restaurant was always full though the reviews were mediocre. 
Se  if Non vengo se viene Carlo.  I am not coming if Carlo is. 
Qualora if/if at any time Qualora tu decidessi di partire, avvertimi.  If at any time you decide to leave, let me know. 
Eccetto che/ Fuorché except/other than Sono venuti tutti alla festa fuorché Giorgio.  Everyone came to the party except Giorgio. 
Che, cui that, which La cosa che le hai detto l'ha spaventata.  The thing you told her scared her. 

Note that several of the subordinating conjunctions—among them sebbene, nonostante, and benché—are followed by the congiuntivo.

Locuzioni congiuntive

These are expressions that serve as multi-word conjunctions.

Per il fatto che for the fact that Il ristorante fallirebbe se non per il fatto che Luigi ha molti amici.  The restaurant would fail if not for the fact that Luigi has many friends. 
Di modo che  in order that/so that Gli do i soldi di modo che possa partire.  I am giving him the money so that he can leave. 
Anche se even though/even if Anche se non ti vedo, ti penso.  Even though I don't see you I think about you. 
Dal momento che given that/since Dal momento che non mi aiuti, non siamo più amici.  Given that you will not help me, we are no longer friends. 
Subito dopo che immediately after/right after Subito dopo che lo vidi sparì. Right after I saw him he vanished. 
Dopo di che  after that  Dopo di che partì e non lo vidi più. After that, he left and I never saw him again. 
Con tutto ciò/ciò nonostante that said/given all that  Con tutto ciò, niente cambia.  Given all that, nothing changes.