In English, one must use a comma after or before a vocative to separate it from the rest of the sentence. Examples:

Boys, hold on!
Hold on, boys!

I have read the following sentence today in a Italian learning tool:

Tenete duro ragazzi!

Isn't a comma required in this sentence?

2 Answers 2


It is required indeed, at the very least because many sentences would be ambiguous or outright change meaning without the comma. Just compare

Guarda, Gianni!

(Gianni, look!) and

Guarda Gianni!

(Look at Gianni!).


To add a source to DaG's answer, the article "vocativo" in Treccani encyclopedia states that commas are usually used to indicate the pause that separates the vocative from the rest of the sentence, as in these examples (you can find more examples in the cited article),

(1) – Scusa, giovanotto …

Mi volto. Una vecchia che sembra fatta con gli scarti (Benni 1990: 23)

(2) Ehi, voi due, – li facciamo fermare, – dove avete preso questa legna? (Calvino 1949: 76)

but that these commas are sometimes omitted, a practice which is frequently considered erroneous:

Di solito viene staccato con pause, rese graficamente con virgole (cfr. gli esempi citati sopra; ➔ virgola). Tali virgole non sono però sempre presenti, cosa considerata da molti impropria o erronea, come si vede da (10), (26) e (27) dove il vocativo è preposto, posposto e interposto:

(26) – Dove volete andare signori? – chiese con voce cerimoniosa (Benni 1990: 119)

(27) Voi adesso egregio signore ci firmate […] dodici cambiali (De Crescenzo 1985: 43)

The example number (10) mentioned in this explanation is this one:

(10) Cara ti amo (titolo di una canzone di Elio e le Storie Tese, Aspirine Music, 1989)

  • Very interesting, thanks. I'd like to remark that all of the three examples where the comma is omitted are more or less humorous texts (Benni, De Crescenzo, Elio & c.). The first two seem to mock some over-solemn person, while the latter is a funny dialogue between two lovers, a boy in love and a girl who plays with his feelings.
    – DaG
    Aug 29, 2019 at 16:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.