Difficult words: Mica

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One of the most difficult words for a foreign student to understand and use is definitely the word “mica”.

We Italians always use it, so I’m sure you will have listened to it and maybe you have even wondered what it means.

Let’s start from the origin: “mica” is an adverb that derives from a Latin word meaning “bread crumb”.

By extension of this meaning, that is “very small part”, it has taken on the meaning of “not at all, at all”.

It is an element that normally, in spoken language, we add to a negative phrase but it is not a word necessary to give meaning to the phrase.

If we look at these two sentences we realize that if we omit the word “mica” the meaning does not change:

Non mi offendo mica, sai?

Mica mi offendo, sai?

Generally, if the verb already has a negation, it follows it; if instead the negation is missing, it precedes it.

We can also use the word “mica” in doubtful or interrogative sentences:

Non ti sarai mica arrabbiato?

Mica ti sarai arrabbiato!

Or in the expressions “mica tanto” (= not so much / very much):

Hai dormito? Mica tanto! (= not so long)

Non sono mica tanto contento del risultato dell’esame (= I am not very happy)

E “mica male” (to express a favorable judgment, admiration):

Mica male questo libro! (= bello, interessante)

Mica male il tuo amico! (= bello, attraente)

Mica male come idea! (= buona, intelligente)

“Non sono mica scemo!” = “Non sono scemo!”

The reason it is used is that it is a reinforcing adverb, which gives more emphasis to the sentence.

“Mica” could be translated as “it is not true that …”.