This post is about one of our favorite words: mica.
You might be wondering why we like it. Well, it is because it’s one of those words that is very Italian and, thus, doesn’t have a direct correspondent in English.
Just think of the English word “random”. How would you translate it into Italian or into any other language you might know? You probably won’t find the exact translation for it that works in every single context.
The word mica has many different meanings depending on the context.
Just so you know, it’s very informal, so you won’t find it in literary texts. It’s a word that you will probably hear a lot though.
Now, the question is: what does mica mean?
Let’s have a look at a variety of its meanings:
- (Not) at all
- (Not) one bit
- (Not) in the least
- By any chance….?
- Do you happen to…?
- You wouldn’t happen to…, would you?
As you can probably tell by looking at the translations, we can use mica both in statements and questions.
Before we go into more detail, here’s an interesting fact: the word mica has its origins in Latin. Mica in Latin means “bread crumb” (which, by the way, in Italian is “briciole di pane”, nice, right?).
So, think of it as a word that has the power to change the meaning of a sentence even if it’s as small as a bread crumb. And most interestingly, English needs lots of words when in Italian you can just say mica.
Mica: negative sentences
To put it simply, mica is used as a negative word. You’ll usually find it together with non. In some least common cases, you might also find it as a replacement of non.
In these cases, mica could be translated as “(not) at all”, “(not) one bit”, or “(not) in the least”.
Let’s have a look at some examples which will help you understand better:
Non è mica vero!
It is not true at all!
Non è mica male!
It’s not bad at all!
Non costa mica tanto.
It is not at all expensive.
Non sono mica stanca.
I am not in the least tired.
Non mi piace mica.
I don’t like it one bit.
It’s also used to emphasize or reinforce what we’re denying. So, in this specific case, we could translate mica with words like “obviously”, “definitely”, “certainly”, and surely”.
Have a look at the sentences below and feel free to translate the word mica with other words or expressions as long as they still work as a reinforcement of the negations:
Non l’ho mica fatto apposta!
Obviously, I didn’t do it on purpose!
Non è mica uno scherzo!
It’s certainly not a joke!
Non glielo dico mica!
Surely, I’m not going to tell him about that!
Mica is also used in rhetorical questions when we expect a “no” for an answer.
It can also be used when we want to sound more polite.
In this case, mica could be translated as “by any chance” or “do you happen to”.
Hai mica una sigaretta?
Do you have a cigarette by any chance?
Hai mica una penna da prestarmi?
Do you happen to have a pen to lend me?
Non avete mica trovato un cellulare?
Have you found a mobile phone by any chance?
We could also translate it with tag questions, couldn’t we?
Have a look at the examples below:
Mica sei arrabbiata con me?
You are not angry at me, are you?
Non vuoi mica andare via?
You don’t want to leave, do you?
Mica vengono con noi?
They’re not coming with us, are they?