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Talking about the concept of email in Italian is tricky.  For one thing, the word “email” is an English abbreviation for “electronic mail,” and this abbreviation is not easily translated into Italian. For another thing, the way English speakers and Italians talk about email has evolved with each technological advancement in communication, and will probably continue to change in the future.  We may find that the terms we use in this blog today have been abandoned for different terms tomorrow!

But, let’s try anyway to talk about email the way Italians do — at least for now and hopefully into the 2020’s!

When talking about how an Italian views the concept of email, the first and most basic question to answer is, of course,

“How does one translate the word “email” into Italian? “

The Collins English to Italian dictionary translation of email is simple and makes sense for both Italian and English: la posta elettronica, which translates as, “the electronic mail.”  

A single email message would be un messaggio di posta elettronica.

A person’s email address would be l’indirizzo di posta elettronica.

Unfortunately, although these official Italian phrases make perfect logical sense, they are a bit too long for common, every day use. Since Italians, in general, easily accept useful foreign words into their language, it is not surprising that a quick look at the online dictionary Wordreference.com yields multiple permutations of English and Italian to translate the word “email.”

It should be noted here that the word “email” remains feminine when translated into Italian in all its various forms, since “la posta” or
“the mail” is feminine in Italian.

Here are the different ways we can talk about email according to the online dictionary Wordreference.com.

la posta elettronica, la e-mail, l’email

il messaggio di posta elettronica, il messaggio email

l’indirizzo di posta elettronica,  l’indirizzo e-mail

It is apparent from the above phrases that Italians have, over time, shortened their correct but very long descriptive phrase la posta elettronica to the shorter phrase l’email.  This combination of Italian and English makes grammatical sense in Italian because the original word for “mail” in Italian is feminine and also because the Italian language generally eliminates the last vowel of the definite article la if the noun that comes after it begins with a vowel. L’email is commonly seen in written form on websites.

But, although l’email is correct grammatically, most Italians simply say:
“la mail.”

This difference in the official written form and the spoken form of the Italian word for “email” may originate from the difference in pronunciation between the English and the Italian letter “e.” In English, the letter  “e” can be pronounced with a long “ee” sound, as in “week” or short “eh” sound, as in “bed.”   But there is no long “ee” sound associated with the Italian letter “e,” and this may lead to confusion for an Italian when attempting to say the word “email” with the correct English pronunciation.  So, it is more simple in spoken Italian just to leave off the “e” in email, and say “mail.”

In the same way, note that a single email can be referred to in Italian as both the grammatically correct “un’email” and “una mail.”

Below is a summary of  the Italian phrases to describe email in Italian. The most common conversational Italian ways to say “email” are listed in the first column in bold letters.

la mail
la posta elettronica email in general
una mail / la mail
un messaggio di posta elettronica a single email
l’indirizzo mail
l’indirizzo e-mail
l’indirizzo di posta elettronica the email address

Now let’s talk about what to say if an Italian asks for your email address and you would like to reply in Italian.

The question: “Qual’è l’indirizzo mail?” is used for the English, “What is your email address?”

It will be important in this situation to know that the English word “at” used for the symbol @ is referred to with the visually descriptive Italian term “chiocciola,”  which literally means “little snail.”  And the “dot” in the English “dot” com is called a “period” in Italian, with the word “punto.”  

Italian email addresses often end in “it,” for Italy, and the abbreviation is usually pronounced as an Italian word. For email addresses that end in “com,” com is usually pronounced as a word, similar to English but with an Italian accent, of course!

The letters “it” and “com” may also be spelled out, using the Italian name for each letter. For “it,”  the Italian letters are pronounced “ee tee.” For “com” the Italian letters are pronounced “chee oh èmme.”

Below is a sample email address  that uses the name of this blog as a person’s first and last name, first written, then as it would be pronounced by an English speaker and an Italian speaker:

Nostra Lingua “at” aol “dot” com
Nostra Lingua “chiocciola” aol “punto” com

Finally, how do we talk about sending and receiving an email?

Two verbs are commonly used to describe the acts of sending and receiving an email.  The Italian verb mandare is probably the most common way to describe the act of sending an email, although the verbs inviare or spedire, older terms for “snail mail,” can also be used. 

The verb mandare just means “to send,” though, and Italian will follow this verb with the clarification “via mail.”  As noted above, other variations might include “via email” or “via la posta elettronica. “

When an Italian has received a message, he or she can use the verb ricevere, which means “to receive.” This event would, of course be in the past tense, as for example, “Ho ricevuto una mail.” “I have received an email.”

Remember that if you have received an email “about” something, the  English word “about” is often expressed in Italian with the preposition “su.”  The preposition su is then combined with the Italian definite article (il, la, lo, l’, i le, gli) before the noun that describes what the email will be about.  The different combined forms are: sul, sulla, sulo, sull‘, sui, sulle, sugli.

“Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione?” translates as: “Have you received an email about the next meeting?”

Interestingly, if one person hears the notification sound that an email has “arrived” at another’s device, he or she may call out, “È arrivata una mail,” meaning, “An email has arrived.”  Remember to use the feminine form of the past participle for arrivare, which is “arrivata for the email that has just arrived! In the same way, an English speaker would notify someone with the line: “You have a message.”

When one needs to check their email, the Italian verb controllare, which can mean to check, to control, or to verify, comes into play.  One friend might say to another: “Controlla la tua mail!” for “Check your email!” Or, you may be advised: ” Controlla la mail in arrivo!” for “Check the email that is coming to you!”

A summary table of these phrases is given below, along with some common example sentences.

mandare via mail to send an email
ricevere una mail to receive an email
Ho ricevuto una mail. I have received an email.
Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione? Have you received an email about the next meeting?
È arrivata una mail. An email has arrived.
You have an email.
Controlla la tua mail!
Controlla la mail in arrivo!
Check your email! (familiar command)
Check the mail that is coming to you!

Remember how to talk about email in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.

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