How to use MAI in Italian

How do you use the word mai in Italian? What does it mean? How do you pronounce it?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use this word along with many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn everything you need to know!

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Mai in Italian

What is mai?

Mai is an adverb that can be translated into English as “never” or “ever” depending on whether the sentence is negative or a question.

Never, ever

Its pronunciation is close to mah-ee. If you have trouble pronouncing Italian sounds, refer to the Italian pronunciation guide.

Now, let’s see a couple of example sentences with mai in Italian, before taking a 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.

Non ho mai dormito in tenda.
I have never slept in a tent.

Sei mai stato a Lisbona?
Have you ever been to Lisbon?

Non parlarmi mai più con quel tono!
Don’t ever speak to me in that tone again!

Hai mai letto Il Signore degli Anelli?
Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings?

Giorgia non si è mai sposata.
Giorgia never got married.

newlyweds couple with a speaker

Now let’s see what the use of mai in Italian is.

Use of mai in Italian

We’ve said that mai in Italian is an adverb that translates to the English adverb “never” or “ever”.

Differently from English, it’s used in negative affirmative sentences along with the particle non, so you basically have a double negative.

Non ho mai mangiato in un ristorante.
I have never eaten in a restaurant.
Literally: I haven’t never eaten in a restaurant.

In questions, however, you don’t need a negative verb, unless you want to convey surprise.

Hai mai guardato Zootropolis?
Have you ever watched Zootopia?

Non hai mai letto Harry Potter? Ma dove vivi?!
You have never read Harry Potter? Where have you been living?

Mai can also translate ever/never in negative imperative sentences, such as…

Non attraversare mai la strada senza guardare.
Never cross the street without looking.

Non arrenderti mai.
Don’t ever give up.

disappointed man on the ground

Expressions with mai in Italian

There are a number of common expressions featuring mai in Italian. These are…

  • mai e poi mai (never ever)
  • mai dire mai (never say never)
  • meglio tardi che mai (better late than never)
  • ora o mai più (now or never)
  • come mai? (how come?)
  • non si sa mai (you never know)

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And that’s it, now you know how to use mai in Italian!

What next?

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

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