Can I help you in Italian

Can I help you in Italian

Singular: Posso aiutarti?

Posso aiutarti is how you commonly translate can I help you into Italian when you are addressing only one person you are on familiar terms with.

Posso aiutarti?
Can I help you?

woman offering help to a crying friend

There’s one caveat though: you can use the variant posso aiutarti? only with friends and people you know well. Italian has an informal “you” and a formal “you”!

If you want to offer your help to a stranger, your boss at work or someone you need to show respect to, you will need to use the formal “you” pronoun. We’ll see that in the next paragraph.


Polite: Posso aiutarla?

Posso aiutarla? is the polite way to say can I help you in Italian to one person.

Posso aiutarla?
Can I help you?

-la
Direct object pronoun “you” (formal)

Once again we have a conjugation of potere and the verb aiutare, but what about the final pronoun which is appended to the infinitive verb? Well, that’s the formal “you” direct object pronoun.

man helping another man - formal way to say can i help you in italian

So if your boss falls and scrapes their knee, you will ask posso aiutarLA?.

If your friend needs help, you will ask them posso aiutarTI?.

You will often hear this in shops:

Come posso aiutarla?
How can I help you?

If you use the informal you with your boss or a stranger, it may sound weird. You may even sound rude, so be careful not to confuse the two forms!


Plural: Posso aiutarvi?

The English pronoun you covers both singular and plural pronouns. However, Italian has two distinctive pronouns.

You will be happy to know that there’s no longer a polite way to say “you” in the plural, so there are actually only three ways to say can I help you in Italian.

Alright, how do you offer your help to groups of people?

Posso aiutarvi?
Can I help you? (plural)

-vi
Direct object pronoun “you” (plural)

man helping an old woman and a small child

If you see a couple needing help, ask posso aiutarVI? as in this way you will address both people or all people in a given group.


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2 thoughts on “Can I help you in Italian”

  1. How do you say “Let me help you!”? Do you use “lasciare”? Translator apps give the phrase “lasci che l’aiuti” which I don’t really understand. Why is it “aiuti”? Thank you.

    • Hi Emily, there are different translations for this sentence depending on who you are talking to.

      Lascia che ti aiuti – informal (your friend, your brother, etc.)
      Lasciate che vi aiuti – plural, both formal and informal
      Lasci che l’aiuti – polite (your boss, a clerk, etc.)

      As for “aiuti”, it’s because in this type of sentence structure “lasciare che…”, the verb must be conjugated in the subjunctive mood.
      The first-person present subjunctive for “aiutare” is che io aiuti. This is why we say lascia che ti aiuti!

      Other examples with “lasciare che” using the subjunctive case:
      Lascia che porti lui la valigia – Let him carry the suitcase (portare, “che io porti”)
      Lasciate che Marta pulisca la cucina da sola – Let Marta clean the kitchen alone (pulire, “che lei pulisca”)
      Lasci che sia io a pagare il conto – Let me be the one to pay the bill (essere, “che io sia”)

      Hope this helps!

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