It’s a word heard all over Italy…usually in 25 different contexts within 25 minutes.
In short, it’s diverse.
WordReference says that it can mean any of the following:
— In that moment, at the time
— In that case
I’ve picked a few definitions from that list and added a few definitions of my own based on my own experiences using the language.
Below I’ve done my best to separate these definitions into categories and give you super-useful examples to help you understand, but I gotta say that the lines between the categories are easily blurred, so take this as a primer for how to use “allora” and start recognizing it in your studies and daily life to get a feel for how to use it.
Case 1: Then, therefore, so
In this case, “allora” is being used to show that some decision has been made.
Fornaio: È una torta fatta in casa. – It’s a homemade cake.
Tu: Allora la prendo! – Then I’ll take it!
— Dovresti trasferirti in Italia allora. – You should move to Italy then.
— Luigi arriva tra 5 minuti? Beh, allora me ne vado. – Luigi is arriving in 5 minutes? Well, then, I’m leaving.
— Quel libro era noioso, allora ne ho comprato un altro. – That book was boring, so I bought another one.
— Fa freddo fuori, allora ho deciso di stare a casa. – It’s cold outside so I decided to stay home.
Case 2: Then, in that moment, at the time (in the past or future)
In this case, “allora” represents a period of time.
— Ci vediamo allora! – We’ll see each other at that time!
In this example, both people have discussed when the next time they’ll see each other will be.
— Fino ad allora, pensavo che lui fosse la mia anima gemella. – Up until then, I thought that he was my soul mate.
In this example, the speaker has already stated the period of time, so she or he is just referencing it again using “allora” as a time marker.
— Ti ricordi il mio livello di italiano dell’estate scorsa? Ho imparato tante cose da allora. – Do you remember my Italian level from last summer? I’ve learned many things since then.
— Nell’estate del 2012, sono andato/a in Italia e da allora in poi, ho studiato italiano ogni giorno. – In the summer of 2012, I went to Italy and from then on, I studied Italian every day.
Case 3: Well
In this case, “allora” is being used in the typical say that we use “well” in English to reach some sort of conclusion, like “Well, let’s go then.”
In this way, it’s similar to using “allora” to mean “then,” but as you’ll see in the examples below, there are slight differences in meaning.
— Bene, allora, dato che lui non arriva, noi andiamo a cena. – Good, well, since he’s not coming, let’s go to dinner.
— Allora, adesso devo imparare come si usano le preposizioni in italiano. – Well, now I have to learn how to one uses prepositions in Italian.
— Allora, la città dove vivo io non è un granché. – Well, the city where I live isn’t much.
Case 4: So, alright
In this case, “allora” is being used to introduce a new statement or transition to a new topic.
— Allora, iniziamo la lezione. – All right, let’s start with the lesson.
— Allora, cosa ne pensi? – So, what do you think about it?
— Allora, che facciamo stasera? – So, what are we doing tonight?
— Allora che vuoi mangiare per cena? – So, what do you want to eat for dinner?
— Allora, sei pronto? – So, are you ready?
— Allora come riesco a imparare l’italiano? – So how can I succeed in learning Italian?
You’ll often hear:
— E allora? – And so what?
— Da allora in poi – From then on
— Da allora – From then
— Fino ad allora – Until then
Have questions about a way that you’ve heard “allora” used? Let me know in the comments below!
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