Proprio is one of those Italian words that can confuse learners at first, since it can have many different meanings and uses.
So, today I’d like to try and simplify things for you, providing you with a list of meanings that proprio can have in Italian.
Proprio can be used to indicate possession. As such, it can replace the possessive adjectives suo, sua, sue, suoi and loro.
a. Luca ed Anna vanno al lavoro con la propria auto
Luca and Anna go to work with their own car
b. Ha usato il proprio intuito per risolvere il mistero
He followed a hunch to unravel the mystery
Proprio should be used in impersonal sentences – although you can hear a lot of Italians using possessive adjectives such as suo, loro etc.
a. Bisogna che le persone si facciano i fatti propri
People should mind their own business
b. Si può fare ciò che si vuole in casa propria
You can do whatever you want in your home/people can do whatever they want in their home/one can do whatever s/he wants in her/his home
Another meaning of proprio is really. It’s used to emphasize something.
a. Quel quadro è proprio bello
That painting is really beautiful
b. Questo libro è proprio interessante
This book is really interesting
3. At all
Proprio is also used to say “in any way, at all”. So, it’s used to add emphasis in negative sentences.
a. Io non ne sapevo proprio nulla di tutto ciò!
I didn’t know anything at all about all this!
b. Non è proprio bravo a giocare a calcio!
He’s not good at playing soccer at all!
4. Exactly; just
Another meaning of proprio can be exactly, or just. When proprio has the meaning of exactly, it emphasizes that something is correct in every way and detail. By contrast, when proprio has the meaning of just, it emphasizes that something is happening at exact same moment as something else.
a. Queste scarpe sono proprio quelle che voglio
These shoes are exactly the ones I want
b. Somigli proprio a tua madre
You look exactly like your mother
c. I bambini sono arrivati a scuola proprio nel momento in cui è suonata la campanella
The children arrived at school just as the bell was ringing
d. Proprio in quel momento, squillò il telefono
Just then the phone rang
Proprio can mean typical, meaning that it shows the characteristics or qualities of a particular kind of person or thing.
Ex: Il linguaggio è proprio dell’uomo
Language is typical of humans
I hope I’ve helped you understand a little bit more how to use proprio. If you loved this article, don’t forget to share it!
Original image by Didgeman