Conversational Italian: Mica and Manco

Mica and Manco: Popular Colloquial Words in Spoken Italian

Mica and Manco are widely used expressions in spoken Italian, often characterized as colloquial. However, their usage is rarely emphasized in academic settings or textbooks. These words are considered “too conversational” and may pose challenges when attempting to provide a comprehensive explanation. In this discussion, we will explore their meanings and usage in a simplified manner.


The term “mica” originates from the Latin word for “breadcrumb.” Its Latin root is still evident in some other Italian words. For instance, in Milan, the typical bread roll is known as “michetta,” meaning “little crumb.” While the original meaning of “mica” has faded, the modern Italian word for breadcrumb is “briciola.”

In conversational Italian, “mica” roughly translates to “not even a breadcrumb,” comparable to the English expressions “not one bit” or “not at all.” It is used to intensify the negation of a statement. Consider the following examples:

  • Mica male! – Not bad at all!
  • Mica tanto – Not really.
  • Mica “pizza e fichi” – Not “pizza with figs” (something extraordinary).
  • Non ho mica capito – I didn’t understand, not one bit.
  • Non sarà mica successo qualcosa? – I hope nothing (at all) happened.
  • Hai mica una sigaretta? – Do you happen to have a cigarette?
  • Marco non mi piace mica tanto – I don’t like Marco that much.
  • Non sono mica scemo – I’m not a fool, not at all.
  • Non ho mica fretta – I’m not really in a hurry
  • Io mica ci vado al concerto – I’m not going to the concert (not a chance).

“Mica” can’t be easily translated in English, as it includes the notion of “not as you think”, “not as it seems”, “not as you said” etc. For example:

  • Gigi, prendi l’ombrello!
  • Mica piove…

You asked Gigi to take the umbrella because you thought it was raining, but Gigi is telling you you it’s not, “at all”.


“Manco” is a simpler alternative to the word “neanche” (not even) and is commonly used in conversation. While it is not recognized as a standard Italian word in academic literature, it finds frequent usage among Italian speakers. Consider the following examples:

  • Manco a dirlo… – Needless to say…
  • Manco a farlo apposta… – when something happens by coincidence
  • Manco fosse il capo – (He behaves) as if he were the boss.
  • Non sa manco cosa fare – He doesn’t even know what to do.
  • Sono in ritardo, non ho manco fatto colazione – I’m late, I even haven’t had breakfast.
  • Manco li cani! – (Sicilian) Not even dogs (would pay attention to them).

While “mica” and “manco” have distinct meanings, they are discussed together due to their widespread use across the country. “Mica” is more commonly used in northern Italy, whereas “manco” has roots in southern dialects, particularly Sicilian. However, both words are familiar to Italians and contribute to the richness and diversity of spoken Italian.

Thanks for reading – Grazie per avere studiato con me

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    Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals. I do not use social media.

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