Magari: What Does it Mean?

If you ended up here, you wonder whether there is any difference between the words “magari” and “forse“. Well, there is a subtle but significant one.

First of all, to understand the difference between magari and forse, we need to examine the various meanings of the Italian adverb magari.

The 3 meanings of ‘magari’

Magari is one of those little words that Italians throw in all the time, that with no direct English translation, it’s often not easy to understand. Sometimes magari means if only, sometimes it means I wish, and it means maybe too.

Let’s have a closer look at how to use magari, and how it is different from forse.

When “magari” means “maybe” 

Magari means maybe, just when it appears in combination with an indicative mood (generally the present tense or past participle).

How magari is different from forse, then?

While “forse” has a neutral connotation, “magari” entails a sense of excitement and hopefulness. If you use magari, in place of forse, you are excited about that possibility. You wish that to happen.

The Italian word magari stems from the ancient Greek word makarios, meaning positive, happy. 

  • Forse andiamo a sciare a Cortina, questo fine settimana (neutral)
  • Magari andiamo a sciare a Cortina, questo fine settimana (hopefully) 

When “magari” means “I wish” 

Magari means I wish when it is used as an exclamation in an answer. For example, if a friend asks you if you want to go for a drink downtown, and your reaction is positive, you might say magari! I wish that! Why not?. In this case, the word “magari” can be replaced by the adverb “volentieri” which means with pleasure.

  • Vuoi venire a vedere con me la mostra su Raffaello al Museo Nazionale?
  • Magari!

Magari, is used as an exclamation in an answer also when you mean I wished you could do something, like in the following sentences.

  • Parli bene italiano?
  • Magari!

It means that you wish you could speak Italian fluently, but you don’t at the moment.

When “magari” means “if only” 

Magari means if only (with a positive connotation) in a sentence followed by the congiuntivo imperfetto (the one with the two esses – avessi, fossi, vivessi, etc).

  • Magari potessi parlare italiano perfettamente – If only I could speak Italian perfectly
  • Magari vivessi a NYC – If only I lived in NYC 

Magari vs. Forse: The Difference Explained 

Is it always possibile to use magari as opposed to forse?

YES. Is it possible to use magari instead of forse. Magari and forse are interchangeable when magari means forse and is used with the indicative mood. Don’t forget that the message you express will be slightly different if you use one or another. Remember, magari is always positive, forse is neutral. 

Other ways to say “forse” in Italian

  • Può darsi – può darsi che cambi lavoro 
  • Per caso – hai una penna da prestarmi, per caso?
  • Probabilmente – probabilmente pioverà domani 
  • Chissà  – chissà se andremo in vacanza quest’anno

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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