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If I had to choose a few words that I’m asked about all the time in Italian, ones like “proprio” and “magari” would surely be up there, but the one I hear about being difficult constantly is “mica”.
In fact, it’s such a difficult word that I was still fuzzy on how to use it as I wrote this lesson. I had to get lots of help from our lovely in-house native Italian editor, Carlotta.
Despite that, we’ve done our best to drill “mica” — a word that’s used informally in everyday spoken conversation — down to its simplest usages.
- Not at all/not one bit
- Not even
- Not in the least
- By any chance
Overall, know that it’s used in order to strengthen the negative meaning of a sentence.
POPULAR EXPRESSION #1: Mica Male
“Mica male” can best be translated as “not bad”, as in:
- Questo gelato non è mica male! – This gelato is not bad at all! (in the sense of, “this gelato is quite good”.)
- Mica male quella ragazza! – Look at that girl, not bad, right?
- Mica male questo libro. – This book isn’t bad at all.
POPULAR EXPRESSION #2: Mica tanto
“Mica tanto” can best be used to mean “not really” or “not much”.
A: Ti è piaciuto il film “Superman vs. Batman”? – Did you like the movie “Superman vs. Batman”?
B: Mica tanto! – Not really!
Mica costano poi (così) tanto/Non costano mica tanto, prendile! – They are not that expensive after all./ They are not that expensive, go and get them!
DEFINITION: Not at all/not one bit
- Non sembri mica interessato/a. – You don’t seem interested at all.
- Non è mica vero. – It’s not true at all!
- Non ha mica capito. – He didn’t understand at all.
DEFINITION: By chance/happen to
- Hai mica visto la mia borsa? – Have you by chance seen my purse?
- Hai mica una penna? – Do you happen to have a pen?
- Non sai mica dov’è? / Mica sai dov’è? – You don’t happen to know where he is, do you?
- Non sei mica la sorellina di Giulia?/Mica sei la sorellina di Giulia? – You wouldn’t happen to be Giulia’s little sister?
- Non glielo dico mica, stai tranquilla! – I’m surely not going to tell him, don’t worry!
- Se lui è là, io mica vado alla festa. – If he is there, I am surely not going to the party.
DEFINITION: It’s not like…
- Mica ci vuole un’ora per bere una tazza di caffè. – It’s not like it takes an hour to drink a cup of coffee.
- Mica sono scemo! – It’s not like I’m stupid.
Non sono mica nato/a ieri! – It’s not like I was born yesterday!
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