What does “cioè” mean?
Cioè is one of those words that Italians frequently throw-in during a conversation. In English, cioè can take different translations, depending on the context. In any case, no matter the context, cioè is used to provide or give additional information about something previously stated.
These examples will help you understand how to use cioè in a conversation.
cioè: like what? / for example?
When cioè is used in a question, it means “like what?” or “for example?.” It often appears as the only word in the question. It’s used to ask someone to be more precise or provide additional information to clarify something.
- mi sveglio sempre prestissimo al mattino – I always wake up very early
- cioè? – like what?
- cioè alle sei – like at 6
- Martina è una poliglotta, parla un sacco di lingue – Martina is a polyglot, she speaks a bunch of languages
- cioè? – like what?
- ne parla almeno sei – like six, at the very least
cioè: that is to say / I mean
When cioè is used in a statement, it’s used to specify, correct or rephrase something that was previously mentioned.
- sono veramente arrabbiata, cioè infuriata – I’m very mad, I mean, furious
- ci vediamo alle 3…cioè alle 4, mi sono confusa – let’s meet at 3..I mean at 4, I got confused
- è stata una giornata lunghissima, cioè, abbiamo lavorato 14 ore! – it was such a long day, I mean, we worked 14 hours.
The difference between “ciò” and “cioè” in Italian
Cioè is often confused with the pronoun ciò, which has a totally different meaning (and pronunciation).
Ciò is a pronoun, often used instead of quello che (what), especially in formal and written Italian. The function of the pronoun here is to replace the previously mentioned idea or fact. Both quello che (informal) and ciò che (formal) means “that thing”, so they are synonyms.
These examples will help you understand how ciò is used and its meaning.
Examples with ciò
- Ciò che mi fa arrabbiare è che (formal) – What drives me crazy is that…
- Quello che mi fa arrabbiare (informal) – What drives me crazy is that…
- Questo non è ciò che ti avevo detto di fare (formal)– This is not what I told you to do to
- Questo non è quello che ti avevo detto di fare (informal) – This is not what I told you to do
- Ciò che voglio dirti…(formal) – What I want to tell you
- Quello che voglio dirti…(informal) – What I want to tell you
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