Intanto is a very common adverb in Italian that has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.
It comprises the preposition in (in) and the adverb tanto (many) and in old Italian, it was written as two words.
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1. Intanto = Meanwhile
The first possible translation for intanto is meanwhile, in the meantime or while. It is used to denote an intervening period of time or something that happens at the same time as something else.
Scusa, devo finire una cosa velocemente. Tu intanto comincia ad andare, e ti raggiungo il prima possibile.
Sorry, I have to finish something quickly. In the meantime, you get going, and I’ll join you as soon as possible.
You may also encounter the expression intanto followed by che (that). Used in this sense, it almost always translates as while.
Intanto che la cena cuoce, prepariamo l’aperitivo.
While the dinner is cooking, let’s prepare the aperitif.
2. Intanto = Yet
Intanto can also introduce a contrasting statement similar to the words yet, but or nevertheless in English. Used in this way, it is often preceded by the conjunctions e (and) or ma (but).
Hanno sempre sminuito il suo talento ma intanto lui si è costruito una bella carriera.
They’ve always belittled his talent, yet he made a nice career for himself.
E + intanto is also used to introduce an exclamation of disappointment or frustration. For example, one phrase you’ll hear Italians say is E intanto io pago! (lit: And yet I’m paying!) to refer to a service or situation they’re not happy about and is costing them money. The object is not always mentioned but implied in the conversation. For example, they may use it to rant about the cost of the TV licence.
La qualità delle trasmissioni televisive è sempre peggio. E intanto io pago!
The quality of TV programs is getting worse and worse. Talk about money wasted!
3. Intanto = Anyway
In some cases, intanto has a conclusive value, and serves to express satisfaction due to achieving a goal in spite of difficulties encountered along the way. Some possible English translations include anyway, anyhow, or in the end to name a few.
Intanto questo lavoro è concluso. Domani penseremo al prossimo.
Anyway this job is done. We’ll think about the next one tomorrow.
4. Intanto = For one thing
Finally, intanto can introduce a phrase with the meaning for one thing, firstly, or to begin with. Admittedly, this particular usage of the word isn’t mentioned in all dictionaries, but we felt it was worth including nonetheless.
Dice di essere senza un soldo? Intanto si è appena comprato la macchina nuova.
He’s saying he has no money? For one thing, he just bought himself a new car.
5. Per intanto = For now
Very rarely you may see intanto used in the expression per intanto which means for now. It most likely came into being due to the influence of the similar expression per ora (for now).
According to the Corriere, this expression is neither tasteful nor useful, even though all dictionaries mention it, so there is no need to commit this usage to memory!
Per intanto mettiti questa maglia. Te ne compro una più adatta nel pomeriggio.
Put on this shirt for now. I’ll buy you a more suitable one this afternoon.