Improvvisamente il cielo è diventato scuro.

English Translation

All of a sudden the sky became dark.

I don’t think I will ever learn how to choose between oscuro and scuro.


Good question, but giving a comprehensive answer is not that easy.

I’ll try my best:

In the sentence above, “oscuro” would not be wrong. I feel that “oscuro” evokes some sense of foreboding or peril here, while “scuro” does not.

Both “scuro” and “oscuro” mean dark. But they are not always interchangeable.

For example when describing colors, we use “scuro” (e.g. “rosso scuro”, dark red, not “rosso oscuro”).

When used figuratively, I think we use almost always “oscuro”:

“Una parola oscura” (an unfamiliar or difficult word)
“Un autore oscuro” (an author that is not famous, or has been forgotten)
'Il lato oscuro della forza" (the dark/sinister side of the force)

“Essere scuro in volto” (to have an angry/worried expression)

If you look up a dictionary, you will see that the definitions largely overlap, but in practice, some expressions are more common with one version than the other.


@morbrorper. I tend to think of *oscuro as obscure, dim, sombre… And *scuro as dark or black. But as always context helps. In this case the sky would suddenly become dark rather than obscured.

Just my 10cents :wink:


I think Floria7’s hint is good and easy to remember.
If you can use - with some stretch - “obscure” in English, it is “oscuro”, if not, it is “scuro”.


At first glance, this is what I think, without looking anything up.

“Scuro” translates in my head as “dark”.
“Oscuro” feels more like “obscured” to me.

Both would be correct in this context… I could be wrong. I’m not a native speaker. I’m only b2/c1 level.