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I am looking at a few corporate emails written in Italian. I noticed that one individual is using the verb “avvertire”, which, according to the translator (Google Translate), means “to warn”.

In one of the emails, the verb was used in the present tense, “Ti avverto che…”. In another email, it was used in the past tense.

In English, telling someone “I am warning you.” or “I warned you that…” sounds confrontational. In the second case (past tense), it even sounds like the person is trying to blame the recipient for something, especially given the context that the sender is saying that he had “warned” the recipient that something bad was going to happen, which eventually did happen.

Is this necessarily the case? Or does this verb have a lighter connotation in Italian?

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    The context is important: an “avvertenza” is a warning that's not by itself confrontational or threatening, but “ti avverto che” might be. Of course not if the sentence is “ti avverto che la settimana prossima sarò in vacanza”, but it definitely is for “ti avverto che mi rivolgerò alle autorità”.
    – egreg
    Feb 14, 2022 at 16:00
  • I would add: be kind, talk with people, don't resent, accept suggestions, beg for warnings. Feb 14, 2022 at 21:02
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    Who is “the translator”? Does s/he have a name? Is s/he an amateur or a professional?
    – DaG
    Feb 14, 2022 at 21:49
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    @hb20007: Oh, I see... Then say so, please.
    – DaG
    Feb 15, 2022 at 10:21
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    Avvertire can be slightly compared to advertize, with the meaning of "I tell you this so I am sure you know". Certainly it can bring a hidden meaning about "you now know, then be careful", but it depends on the context. Feb 18, 2022 at 7:09

1 Answer 1

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The verb "avvertire" can have different connotations, it's a matter of context. It can be used as aggressive, as an advice or just to give information. For example, if you say:

"Ti avverto che stai per passare il limite", it's literally: "I warn you that you're going to cross the line". In this case, it's a sort of warning that the receiver is doing something bad and should stop. This sentence can be seen both as aggressive or just an advice, it then depends on the tone of the person.

You can also say: "Volevo avvertirti che sono quasi arrivato", which means literally "I wanted to tell you I'm almost there", or "Ti avverto che la prossima settimana sarò fuori città" that is "I inform you that next week I'll be out of town". You can use it in this sense of giving some info to the receiver.

The kind of connotation you're referring to in the email depends on the context. Also, "Ti avverto che" is informal in Italian, so it can be between two people that know each other well. In a formal way, it should be used as "La avverto che". However, it should be instead used "La avviso che" (literally, "I advise you that") or "La informo che" ("I inform you that"), as they sound less aggressive.

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