8

How would you translate the expression "by the way" into Italian? I think it can be translated as "a proposito", but I don't know if there are other possible translations.

11

As always, there is not a single translation that always fits. A proposito is often appropriate; depending on the register, also incidentalmente, the already-mentioned fra l'altro, or a periphrasis like dimenticavo, or già che ci siamo and so on.

[Added from a comment of mine:] To confirm that certain uses of “by the way” map perfectly on a proposito, let me point out that, while the original meaning of a proposito is something like “about the above, as regards what we said”, it is now used more generally to coordinate a not necessarily connected sentence. It is meaningful that Treccani for a proposito and the Oxford Dictionary of English in my computer for “by the way” give quite similar examples:

a p., dimenticavo di dirti che è arrivata una lettera per te

and

oh, by the way, while you were away I had a message.

9

The perfect translation would be "fra l'altro". I wouldn't translate it as "a proposito", in my opinion the meaning is slightly different.

  • 2
    A proposito = something more and to the point about the same subject. Fra l'altro = something with a loose connection to the main subject and just being picked up in the conversation as a side remark. By the way sounds much closer to the meaning of fra l'altro. – Mauro Vanetti Sep 22 '14 at 9:13
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    @MauroVanetti: I don't quite agree about the meaning of a proposito: the one you mention is indeed the etymology of the phrase, but it is used more generally to coordinate a not necessarily connected sentence. It is meaningful that Treccani for a proposito and the Oxford Dictionary of English in my computer for by the way give almost equal examples: “a p., dimenticavo di dirti che è arrivata una lettera per te” and “oh, by the way, while you were away I had a message”. – DaG Sep 22 '14 at 15:40
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    I agree that the meaning of a proposito is often lost for many speakers, but it's not just a matter of etymology: the expression is used in other ways, like Ha parlato a quel proposito, and there is also a sproposito (off topic), which may make it sound funny if you say A proposito... and then talk about something completely unrelated. In the letter example, it means Since I'm talking with you, this is something about you: I got a letter for you. So, it is a proposito and not a sproposito in this sense. – Mauro Vanetti Sep 23 '14 at 10:17
  • @MauroVanetti: In fact, when you suddenly change the topic you can informally say: "A sproposito...". "A proposito..." normally introduces a related topic, as in: "Now that you mention it, ..." Sometimes there is a change in the topic but the situation suggests that it is appropriate to do so, e.g. if you are speaking to someone and you remember you had to tell them something. So, you say: "A proposito, mi sono ricordato che ..." – Giorgio Jan 25 '17 at 21:41
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By the way can be used in many context. As some have correctly identified, Fra l'altro is a correct translation. Another equivalent is Comunque or ad ogni modo which can also obtain a different meaning (literally, comunque means anyway, and so does ad ogni modo). In Italian, the three of them can all be used as a translation for by the way:

  • By the way, I told him not to worry. - Comunque/Ad ogni modo, gli ho detto di non preoccuparsi.
  • Let's talk about Francesco who, by the way, is her husband. - Parliamo di Francesco che, tra l'altro/comunque, è suo marito.

A proposito can still be used in the second case, but is a rather awkward translation for the expression by the way.

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I think we can use "Comunque" as equivalent of "By the way"

4

It's difficult to analyse this without more context, but ”By the way, I told him not to worry", might be something we'd say if referring back to an earlier subject or conversation or if saying something that indirectly related to the current subject, but you could also hear "in any case/anyway I told him not to worry", with the latter having an element of closure in it for a subject. I think the former is better translated by a proposito, while the latter would be better translated by comunque/ad ogni modo

2

"By the way" is different from "comunque" or "a proposito" or "tuttavia" etc. In Italian, you say "per inciso" or "incidentalmente" or "di passaggio". The meaning is the same as the French "en passant".

2

For me the correct translation is:

tuttavia

But, for example, WordReference translate it in:

a proposito

I think that by the way have a one to many relation with Italian dictionary.

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