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"O" or "Oppure" / "Ma" or "Bensì"

In the Tips and Notes section of Conjunctions (In Italian), there is nothing on when to use o or oppure. I always get mixed up. Does anyone know when to use each one?

I have the same problem with ma and bensì. When do I use each one? I think it has something to do with context (She eats apples, but/ma not carrots; He is not a man, but/bensì a boy). Those are two sentences from the course, but don't seem very different.

I think that these should be mentioned in the Tips and Notes section for the Conjunctions skill, because all we learn there, is when to use e and ed.

June 7, 2019


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nothing on when to use o or oppure. I always get mixed up.

Currently dictionaries often say that adversative conjunctions o/oppure are two synonyms and that oppure is a reinforced form. More precisely these conjunctions have two functions (distinction derived from the Latin out/vel):

1) X or Y, but not both of them, alternatives that are mutually exclusive (congiunzione esclusiva) e.g.

Andrò al mare o/oppure in montagna.
(I will go to the sea or to the mountain.)

2) X or Y, there is a possibility that one does not exclude the other (congiunzione inclusiva) e.g.

A: Cosa fai di solito la domenica?
(What do you usually do on a Sunday?)
B: Leggo o/oppure vado a fare shopping.
(I read or go shopping.)

previously they considered appropriate to use oppure more for the second case, next to the other option o (o + [p]pure → or also), but today this distinction seems lost.

Now, considering they are as synonyms, the only rule that you need to remember is that when there is a word that begins with "o" after these conjuncions, it's better to use oppure, or od as an alternative (but this second option is less used.) However in the living language there is a further distinction, since often we also use o before another "o" e.g

Argento oppure/o oro.
(Silver or gold.)

this can be correct too, because the word oro has an "o" with an open sound (ò) differently from the conjunction. So, in short you should use oppure necessarily before a closed "o" only (ó) e.g.

Sei sordo oppure ottuso?
(Are you deaf or obtuse?)

even though in the spoken language we also use o here, in a colloquial way.

Clearly, since oppure is considered a reinforced form, you could use this more when you need to emphasize your speech:

(1) usually in question e.g. Vuoi chiamare tua madre oppure no? (Do you want to call your mother or not?)

(2) to begin a phrase where you're proposing an alternative e.g. Oppure potremmo mangiare il pollo. (Or/Otherwise we could eat the chicken.)

(3) to stress a consequence e.g. Fai così, oppure saranno guai. (Do this, or/otherwise there'll be trouble.)

in (2) and (3) "o/oppure" can take the particular meaning of otherwise as you see (i.e. altrimenti).

Also, when you need to repeat "or" you can use both of them to avoid repetitions, since in Italian you have this possibility, e.g. usually in a list Non riesco a decidere se comprare queste scarpe, o quelle rosse, oppure quelle verdi. (I can't decide whether to buy these shoes, or the yellow ones, or the green ones.)

I have the same problem with ma and bensì

We are speaking of adversative conjunctions. Starting with ma, this is an adversative conjunction with two values:

  • 1st: restrictive adversative value e.g.

Lei ha mangiato la pasta, ma/però/tuttavia non le carote.
(She ate pasta, but not the carrots.)

E' bello, ma/però/tuttavia è antipatico.
(He is beautiful, but he is unpleasant.)

Non è un buon libro, ma/però/tuttavia non voglio buttarlo.
(It's not a good book but I don't want to throw it away.)

there is a tendency to "limit"and specify the previous phrase and this last one can be both positive and negative. You can replace ma with però/tuttavia here.

Note: there are little differences between ma and però/tuttavia:

(1) about the placement because però/tuttavia can also stand at the end of the sentence e.g.

Sono felice della tua scelta, ma avresti potuto parlarmene.
(I'm happy about your choice, but you could've told me about it.)

Sono felice della tua scelta, avresti potuto parlarmene però/tuttavia.
(I'm happy about your choice, you could've told me about it, though/however.)

(2) about the emphasis, because clearly però/tuttavia stress more the opposition, being longer.

  • 2nd: oppositive adversative value e.g.

Lui non è un uomo ma/bensì un ragazzo.
(He is not a man but a boy.)

Domani non vado affatto al mare ma/bensì in montagna.
(Tomorrow I'm not going to the sea at all, but to the mountain.)

there is a clear opposition and the previous phrase have to be negative (non....ma). Here ma can be replaced with bensì, a more accurate synonym.

Considering only bensì, as you see it's a synonym of ma in case of oppositive adversative value.
However there are cases where you can also find a restrictive adversative value in bensì, so replacing ma/però/tuttavia e.g.

Gli dissi di no, bensì a malicuore.
(I told him no, but with regret.)

Molte persone lo odiano, poche di esse bensì lo conoscono davvero.
(Many people hate him, but few of them really know him.)

but frankly these versions are less used, I'd say more ma/però/tuttavia in my everyday language.


I forgot one thing. You can also find the compund forms ma però, ma tuttavia and ma bensì, once they were considered as mistakes by the traditional grammar (even though many writers used them), instead nowaday they are accepted and used to stress more the adversative conjunction ma in both of its functions mentioned (or the other ones anyway).

e and ed.

You need to add the euphonic D to the conjuctions e and o, but also to the preposition a, when you need to make a good sound since there are two identical vowels (e.g. ed energicamente).
But there are cases where you have to use D also when there are different vowel and cases where you don't have to use it at all. More info here:



June 8, 2019


Grazie! That was a lot to read, but at least now I know when I should use each one.

June 9, 2019


You're welcome.

June 9, 2019


A little note. Bensì comes after a denial (it's the contraction of "ebbene si), so the sentence "molte persone lo odiano, poche (not pochi) bensì lo conoscono davvero" is not entirely correct. You have to use "ma poche".

June 8, 2019


Piero thanks for telling me about that typo "pochi".

I dont' know if I got it right, but if you mean we cannot use bensì there because the denial is missing in the previous phrase I could explain why it's possible (altrimenti se ho capito male fammi sapere). You are forced to use a negative phrase before bensì(/ma) when this conjunction has an oppositive value, while when you're using bensì with a restrictive value for specifying a previous concept (as a synonym of però/tuttavia or ma meaning "però/tuttavia") the phrase before bensì can be positive. I checked the dictionary to be sure ("valore limitativo" at the end, "2b"):


clearly it's an usage more common in literature, that's why I menitioned it separately. I also prefer ma.

June 8, 2019


Ciaaao Emy!
Ogni tanto ci si rivede. :-D

Avrei una curiosità... Che tu sappia XOR ( eXclusive OR) si usa solo nel linguaggio matematico?

June 8, 2019


Ciao ciao! Eh già, ci si rivede! Guarda, già mi sta venendo il prurito a leggere "linguaggio matematico"... non sarai una Prof. di matematica ^__^

Comunque, da quello che ho visto io sembrerebbe un termine relegato a quel linguaggio tecnico (ho dato uno sguardo anche a Treccani, Wikipedia, opinioni di docenti universitari ect), nato proprio per sopperire alle carenze dell'Italiano, dell'Inglese e di altre lingue, dal momento che non fanno chiarezza sulla disgiunzione inclusiva ed esclusiva. Un esempio (ma forse lo hai già letto):


da quelle fonti non sembra che il suo uso abbia oltrepassato quel settore, almeno formalmente. Ma forse hai quel dubbio perché hai trovato qualcosa di particolare nel "mondo concreto"? Magari Civis Romanus sa qualcosa di più, o anche il moderatore F.Formica...

June 8, 2019


Ehm... Ehm... Credo sia meglio sorvolare su una certa questione. ;-P

Ti ringrazio per aver risposto, in verità avevo già chiesto, su una vecchia discussione, ma non ho avuto alcuna risposta e non mi è sembrato il caso di insistere, essendo solo una mia curiosità.
Ho visto che, su Duolingo, qualcuno usa NOR quindi mi chiedevo se, in inglese, fosse in uso anche XOR.
Grazie ancora.

June 8, 2019


Oh cavolo...va bene, sorvoliamo
: )

Ho capito, si, ho visto anch'io il nor (sarebbe "né" o "neppure"), però di solito l'ho trovato sempre contrapposto a or. Mi dispiace di non poter aiutare molto, magari se vengo a sapere qualcosa te lo segnalo. Ciao a presto!

June 9, 2019


Grazie, Emy!
Gentilissima. :-)

June 9, 2019


Grazie Emy, it is a very helpful post.

June 9, 2019


Ciao Algarve11, di niente e grazie mille, gentile...

June 11, 2019

June 7, 2019


Thank you!

June 7, 2019


As far as i know bensi is largely a more formal synonym of ma, but needs always real contrast in the sentence while ma is alittle more forgiving in that regard.

There is also però which is a synonym of ma.

June 7, 2019


Ooh, grazie! I think I might need a better answer though, as to when I must use it. I have heard of però but I was focusing on learning the difference between the two above.

June 7, 2019


I‘d say that però is used more than bensi outside literature and thus far more important.

June 7, 2019


Even if you are learning Italian on Duolingo, there is nothing to stop you from seeking a further understanding of grammar elsewhere. My personal gripe is that Duolingo assumes that you have started from scratch which is rarely the case; most teachers would do a proper test to establish your level and to isolate difficulties which need clarification and practice. I am enjoying the course and romped through the first stages as I was already approaching A2; by now it is getting a bit wearing but I do want to understand the Italian language more. Sometimes it is irritating to have to provide an exact match in translation but on the whole the course is fairly flexible. Certainly some grammar sections are more informative than others, in which case I would personally prefer less explanation than more. I would like Italian stories and something to spend lingots on.

June 7, 2019
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