Italian: Difference between Ma and Però

aaron's profile image
By aaron

Però = However

Ma = But

They are basically interchangeable. A common mistake among new italian speaker is to use both of them, for example, saying "ma però...", which would translate as "but however...". That's wrong. Use one or the other.

In English, the word "however" has a more formal tone than "but", and the same is true in Italian. "Però" is more emphatic than "ma", and "ma" is more fitting for a casual situation.

Neither one should be used to start a sentence, but that is true in English too. As with English, a lot of people do it in Italian, but it isn't technically correct.

It should also be mentioned that "Però" can be used on its own as an expression to show a moderate amount of surprise. In a surprising situation, you can respond with "Però!". You can't do that with "ma".


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