Italian word of the day: ‘Assaggiare’

Italian word of the day: 'Assaggiare'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Have you given this word a try yet?

This word is for those of us whose primary goal here in Italy is to sample as much wine, cheese, gelato and olive oil as possible.

In fact if you want a little taste of anything, assaggiare is the transitive verb you'll need.

– Ti piacerebbe assaggiare il vino?

– Magari!

 
– Would you like to taste the wine?
 
– I certainly would!
 
 
Pronunciation: note that the double 'g' in this word is soft. It's pronounced 'ah-sad-jar-eh', with a slight stress on the third syllable.
 
I learned to use this word thanks to – who else? – my suocera, or Italian mother-in-law, who is forever imploring me to try every dish on the table, every fresh vegetable plucked from the garden, and every type of homemade jam, wine, cheese, and cake she can produce.
 
A typical dinner table conversation between us goes something like this:

– Hai assaggiato la mozzarella?

– No, grazie. Sono piena. Ho mangiato troppo.

– Ma l'ho appena fatto sta mattinaAssaggia un po', dai.

– Va bene, solo un pezzetino.

– E hai assaggiato i fagioli?

– Sono piena… Ma vabbe, assaggio un po'.

– Have you tasted the mozzarella?

– No, thanks, I'm full. I ate too much.

– But I just made it this morning. Try a bit, come on.

– Alright, just a little piece.

– And have you tried the beans?

– I'm full… But ok, I'll try a ittle.

As you can see, she often uses it in the imperative form, like this:

– Assaggia com’è buono!

– Taste how good this is!

As you can see, this verb can translate as “try”, “taste”, or “sample”. 

When I first started studying Italian, I made the mistake of using the verb provare, meaning “to try”, whenever I wanted to try anything – from trying on clothes in a shop (when it would be correct) to tasting wine (not really correct).

While you could use provare in that sense and be understood, it's more commonly used when we talk about testing or attempting to do something:

– provaci e vedrai! 

– Try it and see!

Or you can even use it like this:

– ci ha provato con tutte in ufficio 

– He's tried it on with every woman in the office

In fact, instead of provare, Italians have quite a few other words to use when it comes to sampling foods. 

As well as assaggiare, you could usassaporare, degustare, gustare, pregustare, or even sperimentare.

Unlike provare, these words are all given as synonyms of assaggiare in most dictionaries. Be warned though: these verbs might be a bit flowery for most situations – you might give your local cheese shop owner a bit of a surprise.

So whenever you want to sample a piece of salami at the market or a new flavour at the gelateria, you have a whole range of verbs to choose from – but assaggiare is the one you really need.

Happy tasting!

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