Brava vs Bravo: What’s the Difference?

English speakers often use words borrowed from foreign languages in their everyday speech. The Italian words bravo and brava are perfect examples of that. They’re gendered versions of the same Italian word, and both are correct. Here’s an explanation of the difference between brava vs. bravo so you’ll know when to use each.

What Is Bravo?

Unlike the English language, the Italian language utilizes grammatical gender. That means there are two forms of most words, depending if you’re referring to a male or a female. 

The literal translation of the Italian word bravo is brave. However, you’re more likely to hear it used to congratulate someone on a job well done

Fun Fact: In the past, English speakers used the word “bravo” to describe an assassin or a mercenary. That use of the word isn’t common in contemporary speech, though.

Examples

  • If you want to hear bravo from the audience, Mark, you’ll need to practice your part in the play.
  • You’d use the word bravo to tell a vocalist that he’s performed a song well.
  • You should never shout bravo to a woman, or you might offend her.
  • Don’t forget to show your appreciation at the end of the live music show by shouting bravo to the musician.

When to Use Bravo

The proper way to use the word bravo is as a way to express admiration for someone’s performance. As a congratulatory phrase, however, you’d only use bravo when speaking to or about a single man. That’s because it is the singular masculine form of the root Italian word. As such, you would never use it when addressing a group of people.

What Is Brava?

The Italian language typically specifies gender by altering the final letter of a given word. In general, words ending in the letter “o” are masculine. Words ending in an “a,” however, are typically feminine. 

That means “brava” is the female-gendered version of “bravo.” It has the same roots and etymology as the word “bravo.” It is also an adjective. Among English speakers, however, the use of “brava” is not common. Since English doesn’t rely on grammatical gender, native speakers tend to use “bravo” in all situations.

When to Use Brava

You should use “brava” to congratulate a woman on a job well done. Just like “bravo,” you might exclaim it at the end of musical or theatrical performances. Doing so would show the artist that you appreciated their work. 

“Brava,” like “bravo,” only refers to a single person—a female, in this case. You’d never use brava when addressing a group of people.

What’s the Difference?

Picture showing that bravo and brava are both correct

The only meaningful difference between brava vs. bravo is gender. Both words convey the same thing, and both share a literal translation in Italian to the word brave. 

Native Italian speakers would use bravo when addressing a man and brava when addressing a woman. English speakers, however, tend to use bravo in all situations. Since the word bravo isn’t native to English, that usage is often deemed acceptable. 

As they say, however—when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Therefore, it’s best to adhere to the same grammatical rules an Italian would when choosing between brava vs. bravo.

What About Bravi, Bravissima, Bravissimo and Bravissimi

Bravo and brava aren’t the only forms of the root word you might encounter. That’s because they’re both singular forms of the word. 

If you want to say it to a group of people, either male or female, you should use the word “bravi,” which is the plural form of bravo and brava. 

You might also encounter other forms of the root word, like “bravissima,” “bravissimo,” and “bravissimi.” Being superlatives, they’re used when you wish to place some extra emphasis on your congratulations. They imply that you believe the person or persons you’re addressing are at the top of their craft. 

Bravissima is the feminine form, bravissimo is the masculine forme, ands bravissimi is the plural form.

  • I shouted bravi to the whole theater troupe as they bowed at the end of the play.
  • Her performance was so stunning that I couldn’t help but exclaim bravissima when it concluded.
  • Having won the gold medal, Michael heard the crowd shout bravissimo in appreciation for his feat.
  • We should all offer a hearty bravissimi to the rescue teams who saved many people after the earthquake.

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