Meaning of BRAVO in Italian

Bravo is a very common word in Italian. In fact, it’s so popular that English has borrowed it: it’s a way of expressing approval or sarcasm, as in well done.

But how do you use the adjective bravo in Italian? What does it mean? How do you pronounce it?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use this word with the help of many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn everything you need to know! Let’s get started!

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How to use bravo in Italian

Meaning of bravo in Italian

As we said, bravo is a very common Italian adjective. Most of the time it can be translated into English as good. But there’s more to it than that, and if you stick with this lesson, you’ll see why.

First of all, let’s hear how bravo is pronounced.

Bravo
Good

Its pronunciation is close to bra-voh. If you have trouble pronouncing Italian sounds, check out the Italian pronunciation guide.

Now, let’s see a couple of example sentences with bravo in Italian, before we look at how to use this word.

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

Bravo! Non hai fatto nemmeno un errore.
Well done! You didn’t make a single mistake.

Leonardo è un bravo dentista.
Leonardo is a good dentist.

Non sono molto bravo a nuotare.
I am not very good at swimming.

Mattia è davvero un bravo ragazzo.
Mattia is a really good guy.

Conosci qualcuno che è bravo a disegnare?
Do you know someone who is good at drawing?

old man painting

Now let’s see where bravo in Italian comes from and how to use it. There is an interesting story behind it!


Use of bravo in Italian

Like all other adjectives in Italian, bravo needs to match the noun in both gender and number.

SingularPlural
MasculineBravoBravi
FeminineBravaBrave

If you’ve ever seen the movie Addams Family Values, you may remember the life-saving lesson scene where a girl named Amanda volunteers to jump into the water and fake drowning because she’s “going to be an actress”.

At this point, the tutor tells her “Brava!” as a compliment. Then Wednesday refuses to jump into the water because she can’t swim! 😁

Movies often get foreign languages wrong, but in our case, brava is correct. Amanda is a girl, so you should use the feminine form of bravo, which is actually brava. This is because there are two different genders in Italian — masculine and feminine.

Also note how the accent is on the -a- vowel, bràvo. Don’t put emphasis on the final -o!

Mio nonno è bravo a lavorare il legno.
My grandfather is good at woodworking.

Mia nonna è brava a lavorare a maglia.
My grandmother is good at knitting.

a woman knitting a blue garment

Plural adjectives behave the same way: if you want to describe a group of good children (masculine plural), use bravi. If you’re talking about some good girls (feminine plural), use brave instead.

Bravo in Italian has actually two common meanings:

  • to be good at something
  • to behave in a positive way

You can’t use bravo to describe inanimate objects. Use buono instead.

Questa bistecca è proprio buona.
This steak is really good.

Other examples with bravo in Italian:

Luca e Vincenzo aiutano la signora a portare la spesa. Che bravi ragazzi!
Luca and Vincenzo help the lady carry her groceries. Such good boys!

Quante brave attrici conosci?
How many good actresses do you know?

actress during filming

Origin of bravo in Italian

Bravo hasn’t always had a positive connotation. In the past, it was synonymous with “thug” or “hired assassin”, and even today it doesn’t always convey a positive message, such as in the expression notte brava, wild night.

Notte brava
Wild night, crazy night

You may have read or studied I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), a novel by the Italian author Alessandro Manzoni. In this novel, the “villain” Don Rodrigo, a local baron, hires some bravi to forbid the marriage of the two main characters, Renzo and Lucia.

Note how we are using the plural masculine form, bravi!

It begins with Renzo and Lucia (Lucy), a couple living in a village in Lombardy, near Lecco, on Lake Como, who are planning to wed on 8 November 1628. The parish priest, don Abbondio, is walking home on the eve of the wedding when he is accosted by two “bravi” (thugs) who warn him not to perform the marriage, because the local baron (Don Rodrigo) has forbidden it.

The Betrothed. (2023, January 28). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Betrothed_(Manzoni_novel)

The bravi were hired mercenaries and took advantage of every opportunity. Thus, the word came to mean “to be good at doing”.

And that’s the end of our lesson on the meaning of bravo in Italian!


What next?

Now that you’ve seen how to use bravo in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

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