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Italian word of the day: ‘Casomai’

You never know when this word might come in handy.

Italian word of the day: 'Casomai'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This word is about preparing for every eventuality, however unlikely.

Casomai (click here to hear it pronounced) is a contraction of caso mai, which individually mean ‘case’ and ‘never/ever’ and put together add up to ‘in case’.

You can also use the more obvious translations in caso or nel caso, but casomai makes whatever you’re talking about sound that bit less expected to happen – like saying ‘if ever’.

Casomai tornerai da queste parti, vienici a trovare.
If ever you’re back in these parts, come and see us. 

Grammar fiends will know that when you’re talking about a hypothetical possibility in Italian you often have to use the subjunctive, or congiuntivo. That’s the case with casomai too – though not in the example above, since you’re using the future tense to describe something that may well happen at some point down the line.

If you don’t necessarily see it happening at all, though, you’ll need to switch into the subjective.

Casomai io non fossi in casa, vieni a cercarmi in ufficio.
On the off chance I’m not at home, come and find me at the office.

Casomai tu ne avessi bisogno, le chiavi sono qua.
If you should need them, the keys are here.

To make things more confusing, you’ll notice that in these examples it’s not even the regular old present subjunctive (sia, abbia) but the imperfect subjunctive (fossi, avessi). 

That’s because Italian uses tenses in a particular order when you’re talking about two conditional possibilities in the same sentence (‘if x, then y’). We actually have a similar pattern in English, we just tend not to notice it – think about this sentence, for example: ‘If I were rich, I would buy an apartment by the Spanish Steps’. Find an explanation here

If that’s too much to bite off at once, you’ll be reassured to know that there’s another way you can use casomai without a subjunctive in sight. 

In certain contexts it also means ‘if needs be’, when you’re laying out what you’ll do if things don’t go as you expect. In this case you can avoid the subjunctive because you’re simply describing a back-up plan without going into whatever hypothetical events might have to happen to make it necessary.

Non venire – casomai passo io da te.
Don’t come – if needs be I’ll come to you.

Credo di fare in tempo. Casomai prenderò un taxi.
I think I’ll make it in time, but I’ll get a taxi if needs be.

And with that, you’re covered for every possibility. 

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.