Italian Word of the Day: Sempre (always / still)

Sempre is an extremely common adverb in Italian that has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It comes from the Latin ‘semper’ of the same meaning.


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cover image with the word “sempre” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

1. Sempre = Always

The translation for sempre that most learners encounter first is always. Just like the English word, it can be used to describe things that happen:

  1. continuously
  2. over and over again
  3. for all eternity / forever.

For example:

(1) Giorgio pensa sempre al lavoro.

Giorgio is always thinking about work.
(Giorgio is continuously thinking about work.)

(2) A cena Giorgio mangia sempre la pasta.

Giorgio always eats pasta for supper.
(Giorgio eats pasta for supper every time.)

When used in the third sense of the word, you will often see sempre preceded by the preposition per.

(3) Giorgio ti amerà (per) sempre.

Giorgio will always love you.
(Giorgio will love you forever.)

Young couple having romantic dinner on the beach
Ti amerò per sempre. = I’ll love you forever.

2. Sempre = Still

To the surprise of many learners, sempre can also mean still. In this sense, it is an acceptable synonym for ancora.

Abiti sempre a Torino?

Do you still live in Turin?

Sempre and still can also be concessive, or put differently, words and phrases that signal a contrast, qualification, or concession in relation to the main clause. Used in this sense, you’ll often see sempre preceded by pur (even).

È inaffidabile, lo so, ma è (pur) sempre tuo fratello.

He’s unreliable, I know, but he’s still your brother.

Brother teasing his sister while standing with arms crossed in living room at home
Lo so che è stancante giocare con lui, ma è pur sempre il tuo fratellino. = I know it’s tiring playing with him, but he’s still your little brother.

3. Comparative phrases

Quite often you will see sempre used in comparative phrases that, in English, require the double comparative. Some common examples include:

  • sempre più = more and more, -er and -er (e.g. higher and higher)
  • sempre meno = less and less
  • sempre meglio = better and better
  • sempre peggio = worse and worse

Ogni giorno sei sempre più alto!

You are getting taller and taller every day!

4. Sempre che = As long as

Sempre, when followed by che (that), translates as provided that or as long as. It is interchangeable with words like purché and ammesso che.

Traslocheremo a settembre, sempre che i lavori finiscano in tempo.

We’ll move in September, provided that they finish the job on time.

woman smiling and showing the keys in front of her new house
Traslocheremo la prossima settimana, sempre che ci diano le chiavi! = We’ll move next week, as long as they give us the keys.

Set expressions featuring ‘sempre’

Here are some additional ways to use the word sempre:

  • come sempre = as usual, as always
    >> Hai ragione, come sempre! = You’re right, as always!
  • da sempre = always, since the dawn of time, since time immemorial, for ages, for all one’s life
    >> Tifo per la Juve da sempre. = I’ve supported Juventus all my life.
    >> Da sempre l’uomo è affascinato dai misteri dell’universo. = Since the dawn of time, mankind has been fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.
  • di sempre = as ever, usual, of all time
    >> Mauro è rimasto quello di sempre. >> Mauro is the same as ever.
    >> È il miglior giocatore di tennis di sempre. = He is the best tennis player of all time.

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