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How to use the Italian word “insomma” – Commonly Used Words

What does insomma mean?

You may have already heard the word “insomma” several times. It is indeed one of the most used Italian filler words. It can have different meanings based on the context. This means that insomma does not have a single definition, and its use may not be as intuitive as other conversational words.

Here you can find a list of all the mean uses of insomma. Since Italian filler words are mainly used in the spoken language, it is not uncommon to find additional meanings. In other words, get ready to hear your Italian friends saying insomma at least once in every conversation!

In short, all in all

The first and primary meaning of insomma is “long story short”. Not surprisingly, insomma literally means “in sum”. For example, you could use it when you want to sum up a very long story you just told. Moreover, you can say insomma when you don’t want to share too many details about something that happened.

  • Insomma, la mia festa di compleanno è stata divertente! (All in all, my birthday party was fun)
  • Insomma, ci siamo sposati due anni fa (In short, we got married two years ago)

Basically, in other words

Similar to the previous meaning, insomma can be used to sum up a conversation, a state or a situation. If you wish to emphasise your idea or opinion, insomma is the right word to use.

  • Quell’uomo era antipatico e avaro. Insomma, una cattiva persona. (That man was unpleasant and greedy. Basically, a bad person.)
  • Abbiamo bisogno di una persona saggia. Insomma, di te. (We need a wise person. In other words, we need you)

Well

Every language has its own filler words. For example, in English, we usually say “well” when we want to start a conversation or change the topic. In Italian, you can get the same result by using the word insomma.

  • Insomma, cosa facciamo oggi? (Well, what are we going to do today?)
  • Insomma, come sta tua madre? (So, how’s your mother?)

To express your feelings

There are cases where it is impossible to translate insomma into another language. This happens mainly when it is used to emphasise a particular word or to show exasperation or discomfort.

  • Insomma, basta! (Alright, that’s enough!)
  • Ma insomma, che noia! (For goodness’ sake, how boring!)

Sometimes, you are too anxious, angry and frustrated to say much else. If you wish to express this feeling in Italian, you can just exclaim: “Insomma!”. It does not really mean anything, but it is a popular way for Italians to translate their bad feelings into words.

To answer a question (whilst trying to be polite)

Insomma is widely used in spoken Italian. It often serves as a shorthand when someone is not really willing to answer a question. It is also a universal, laconic answer. If you don’t like or enjoy something, you can use it to let other people know without sounding too rude.

  • “Allora, ti piace questa torta?”. “Insomma…” (“So, do you like this cake?”. “So-so…”)

In this case, for example, you may not like that cake, and yet you do not want to sound completely rude. By using insomma, you are letting other people know your opinion, but you are not explicitly saying that you would rather not eat that cake.

  • “Ti stai divertendo a questa festa?”. “Insomma…” (“Are you enjoying this party?”. “So-so…”)

If you answer with “insomma”, the other person will immediately understand that you don’t really like that party. Basically, this word allows you not to say it directly or to provide a reason why you don’t like it.

  • “Allora, come sono andate le vacanze?”. “Insomma…” (“So, did you enjoy your holiday?”. “So-so…”)

In this case, maybe you enjoyed your holidays, but they were not as great as you wished them to be. By using insomma, you are subtly implying this, and you do not have to add any more explanation to your answer.

“How are you?” “Not so bad…”

If you ask your Italian friends how they are feeling, most of them might answer with “insomma”. As a general rule, this filler word is used to express that you are OK, but not that great really. When accompanied by a laconic shrug, it also has an ironic meaning (for example, you are clearly having a good time, but you are pretending you are not).

  • “Come stai?”. “Mah, insomma…” (“How are you?”. “So-so…”)
  • “Come va la dieta?”. “Insomma…” (“How your diet going?” “So-so…”)

In the second example, you can use insomma if someone asks you about your diet, while you have a chocolate cookie in your hands. Alternatively, you can just hide the cookie!

Insomma, you are ready!

Now you know all the secrets of the word insomma. You are ready to surprise your Italian friends with your knowledge of Italian filler words! Insomma, you are now one step closer to mastering this language!

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