Italian Language/use if “cioè”


Dear Maria,

Can you please help- me to understand the word “cioè”.

I am confused because my dictionary states “cioè” is an adverb, but one of my reference books say that “cioè” is a conjunction.  One reference book states that “cioè” is a declarative type of conjunction that means “that is to say”, but my dictionary uses “cioè”  as a question in the following example - “Vengo tra poco - cioè?  (I’ll come soon -what do you mean by soon?)  I have also seen “cioè” used with the word “no” as “cioè no” to mean “rather”.  This is all very confusing as I can find very little explanation that I can understand.

Would you please explain the correct use and meaning of the word “cioè” and also tell me if “cioè” is an adverb or if “cioè” is a conjunction.

Thank you very, very much.



Dear Rich,

what your dictionary states  is correct: “cioè” is  just an adverb that can be used to explain more clearly, in other words,  as in “Verremo il mese prossimo, cioè in Novembre” (We will  come next month, that is to say, in November) or to modify/correct something, as in “Telefonerò, cioè ci andrò di persona” (I'll phone, or rather I'll go myself).

In short, the adverb “cioè”  can be either declarative (meaning  “that’s to say/that is/ i.e.”) or corrective (meaning “or rather/or better”).

As for the sentence “Vengo tra poco.Cioè?“,  the adverb “cioè” is used by the conversation partner to express the request of an explanation of the adverb of time “tra poco”  and thus corresponds to “what do you mean?”/ “what do you mean by soon?”.
See also "C'è qualcosa che non va in questa faccenda". "Cioè?" ("There's something fishy about this". "What do you mean?").

Moreover, the adverb “cioè” can be used with the negative  “no” as “cioè no” to mean “rather”/"better", as in e.g. “Verrò domani, cioè no, oggi” (I’ll come tomorrow, or rather today/or better today).

Hope this explanation can help you.
All the best,

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


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I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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