The online translators seem to struggle with

Non fanno nulla anzi tempo.

I think it is : They don't do anything before it's time.

Which could mean that they always do things at the right time, or wait for the right time to do things.

Or this could be as some translators give : They don't do anything. (at all)

What is the meaning of this sentence ? What is the grammatical value of anzi in this sentence ?

  • Who are these “some translators”? Friends of yours? Professionals? Amateurs?
    – DaG
    Apr 10, 2022 at 12:18

3 Answers 3


I doubt that a professional translator would propose “they do nothing (at all)”, because that's definitely not the meaning of the sentence.

The adverb “anzitempo” (which can also be written “anzi tempo”) comes from the Latin ante tempus, that is “before the (right) time”. Hence

They do nothing too early

which might be a way of saying that they do something only when it's the right time to.

The Latin ante gave two Italian words: anti and anzi. There is also anti from Greek, but with a different meaning.’

The former is used only in composites such as antipasto, anticamera; it can be ante when joining a verb, such as anteporre. It means before in space or time.

The latter is the main object of the question: anzi can be a preposition or an adverb, but the usage as a preposition is uncommon in modern Italian, except for anzitempo, anzitutto and some other forms that are literary anyway; you can see examples in the linked entries of the Treccani dictionary. As an “independent” word, anzi became also an adversative adverb and this is the most common meaning in modern Italian.


Have you checked on a dictionary? https://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/anzitempo/

  • 1
    This is, at the same time, not an answer and the better possible answer...
    – DaG
    Apr 10, 2022 at 12:19

anzitèmpo (o anzi tèmpo) avv. – Prima del tempo giusto o previsto: il freddo è giunto a.; in partic., prima della giusta età, prematuramente: è invecchiato, è morto a.; Questa anima gentil che si diparte, Anzi tempo chiamata a l’altra vita (Petrarca); del Pelìde Achille L’ira funesta ... molte anzi tempo all’Orco Generose travolse alme d’eroi (V. Monti).

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