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How to say ‘different’ in Italian

Diverso o differente?

Let’s begin by saying that the English word different is translated into Italian as ‘differente’ and ‘diverso’. Typically, English speakers opt for ‘differente’ rather than ‘diverso’ because of its similarity to their own word. However, in Italian is more natural to use the word diverso.

The word different is however, not straightforward as it has various meanings and these are translated in Italian with words other than diverso o differente.

Let’s start with the cases in which diverso is actually correct.

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1. Diverso

The meaning of different as in ‘not the same’, ‘not alike’ is diverso or differente.

For example: queste due macchine sono diverse, una è potente e una no. (These two cars are different, one is powerful and the other isn’t.)

Also the meaning of different as in ‘separate’ or ‘distinct’ and also in this case we use diverso or different.

For example: ogni membro della squadra ha un ruolo diverso. (Each member of the team has a different role.)

There are more meanings of different that are translated with the word diverso, and so they don’t represent a problem with the English speakers. However, let’s see three other meanings that not always can be translated with diverso.

2. Vario

When different means ‘more than one’ or ‘various’ this can also be translated with vario but also with diverso. However, this meaning is not translated with differente.

For example: ci sono vari/diversi modi di risolvere il problema. (There are different ways to approach this problem). Varie/Diverse persone la pensano come te. (Different people think like you.)

3. Unico

When different means ‘unique’, ‘out of the ordinary’ or ‘uncommon’, in a positive sense, then it is translated as:

  • unico
  • non comune
  • fuori dall’ordinario

For example:

Questa persona è particolare, non è come le altre persone che conosco.

(This person is different, she is not like any other person I know.)

This is one case when it is not possible to translate different with diverso nor differente. You can however, use those words but only if you expand the sentence explaining what you mean.

As in this example:

Questa persona è molto diversa dagli altri/da tutti quelli che conosco.

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4. Strano

When the meaning is slightly negative as in ‘strange’, ‘weird’ or ‘odd’ it is translated with strano.

For example:

Esce solo la notte, di giorno dorme. E’ strano.

(He only goes out at night and sleeps during the day, he’s different.)

So, wrapping up our Italian language adventure in the world of ‘different,’ we’ve discovered that ‘diverso’ is the more natural choice. We’ve explored the various meanings of ‘different,’ ranging from ‘not the same’ and ‘separate’ to the distinctive nuances of ‘various,’ ‘unique’ or ‘out of the ordinary,’ and the quirky territory of ‘odd’ or ‘strange.’ It’s worth noting that each of these last three meanings has its own distinct Italian word.

I hope this clarifies why there might be occasional confusion in the eyes of your Italian friends or teachers.

We have done a similar exercise with the word busy: read it HERE if you like.

If you have any lingering doubts, drop me a message, and I’ll gladly take a look! 😊

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