When you want to say ‘yes’ in Italian, sometimes sì just doesn’t cut it.
It’s ‘yes’ alright, but what about when you really, really mean it?
There’s a word you can use to emphasize your ‘yes’ without resorting to fist pumps.
We’ve already seen that senz’altro means ‘definitely’ – the kind of ‘yes’ you give when you’re absolutely sure. Volentieri, on the other hand, means ‘gladly’ – the kind of ‘yes’ you say when you’re happy to do so.
– Mi puoi dare una mano?
– Can you give me a hand?
– I’d be happy to.
– Vuoi uscire con noi stasera?
– Do you want to come with us this evening?
– I’d love to!
It comes from the same Latin root – voluntas, meaning ‘free will’ – that gave us the English word ‘voluntarily’, and just like that word, volentieri implies you’re doing something by choice, or ‘willingly’.
L’ho fatto volentieri.
I did it willingly.
But while in English being ‘willing’ might just mean you’re prepared to do something, volentieri usually indicates that you don’t only agree, you’re happy about it too.
Vado volentieri a piedi.
I’m happy to walk.
Accetto volentieri il vostro invito.
It’s my pleasure to accept your invitation.
Say ‘yes’ often enough and you’ll find yourself doing things spesso e volentieri: literally ‘often and gladly’, it’s an informal phrase that means ‘very frequently’.
And if you’re utterly delighted to say yes, you can even accept volentierissimo, or ‘very gladly’. So now you know what to answer next time someone asks you if you fancy a(nother) trip to Italy…
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This article was originally published in 2019.