Italian quantitives really confuse me

I know that I’m not supposed to translate things exactly literally from English, but if any native Italian speaker can help me to understand this then I’d be ever so grateful.
In English, “some” is normally a small amount. Most people (there are always a few rebels, however) will use the following:

One = one
Two = “a couple”, or “a pair”
Three or four = “a few”, or “some”

It depends on how many items there are in total; if there are 10 items, then you’d likely choose “several” or “many”, instead of just “some”. And definitely not just “a few”.
Some implies “not much/ not many”.

Now in Italian.
You’ve got alcune/alcuni, but you’ve also got qualche and dei/delle/degli for “some”. Throw in parecchi/parecchie (and pochi/ poche) for higher and lower numbers and you’ve got a mix-up:

  • Lei ha dei libri

  • Lei ha alcuni libri

  • Lei ha qualche libro

  • Lei ha parrechi libri

Are those four sentences equivalent, or is there some reason to choose one over the other? Does one of those sentences mean she has several books (quantitive)? She has some books but not many (comparative)? She just has books (the number is unimportant)?

September 8, 2015


"dei" is the classic "of the" or partitive "some" which in English we often omit.
"Lei ha dei libri." "We read books." (or "We read some books." Of course you read "some; it is plural isn't it? So most of the time we don't bother to put the word "some" here.)

"Lei ha alcuni libri." "We read some books." or "We read a few books."

"Lei ha qualchi libri." "We read some books." or "We read a few books." but this word can also be used with words that you cannot count to mean "a little".

Perhaps you mean "parecchio/parecchia" which means "quite a lot of"

I think it is just that "some" is such a vague word. It even depends on the quantities you are used to. If you are used to "hundreds" or "thousands" and 400 of them are damaged. You could still say "Some of the books are damaged." "some" does not mean "not much" or "not many" It means "not all" and usually "less than half". For as you say, if it were more than half, people would be inclined to use "many". "Some" specifically means "an unspecified amount or number". So, you could still use it in place of "many".

Keep in mind that "a few" is not the same as "few" which means "not many". "I have a few books." is different from "I have few books." "a few" is a small positive number, while "few" indicates that perhaps more would be better.
"pochi" would mean "few"

I bet "several" confuses "Italians" as it is just a bit more than "a few". I see them use "diversi", "parecchi and "alcuni" depending on whether you want to emphasize less than many or more than a few.

The broadest term has the most variations of use in Italian.

Might as well have "many" here too:

September 8, 2015

"dei", "alcuni" and "qualche" are more or less the same, the difference is very tiny but "dei" is more general: it could be 2 or 10 you don't know. "parecchi" instead means "a lot"

September 9, 2015

In the first sentence the number is unimportant. The second and the third sentences have the same meaning (some books but not many). The fourth sentence has the meaning of several books.

September 21, 2015
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