Italian Expression of the Day#9

A scrocco is an expression that can be attached to many verbs. In English the expression comes in many forms: freeloading, mooching, sponging off, scrounging.

So you can say mangiare a scrocco (to freeload a meal), vivere a scrocco (to mooch), viaggiare a scrocco (to scrounge a trip off somebody) and so forth.


Italian Expression of the Day#9

Essere giu' di corda and essere su di corda mean to feel down and to feel good, upbeat.

Ultimamente Giorgio sta sempre in disparte. Sembra essere molto giu' di corda.
Lately Giorgio is always keeping to himself. It seems he's really feeling down.

Oggi Maria non smette di parlare. Dalla promozione e' sempre su di corda.
Maria won't sop talking today. Since her promotion she has been upbeat all the time.



Italian Expression of the Day#8

Essere/sentirsi in vena means to be in the mood to do something but also to be fit to do something.

The expressions derives from doctors' old practice of feeling the pulse to determine a patient's health. If their pulse was good doctors would say the patient was in a good vein.

Usually this expression is used in the negative.

Ti va di andare a mangiare fuori stasera. No, grazie stasera non sono in vena di uscire.
How about we eat out tonight? No, thanks I'm not in the mood to go out tonight.

Credo che il nuovo atleta non sia nelle condizioni migliori. Si vede che oggi non e' in vena.
I thing the new athlete is not at his best. You can tell he's not in good shape today.



Italian Expression of the Day#7

Hello everyone!
I'd like to resume our conversation on Italian expressions with an English expression: fair enough. Matthew a few days ago asked me to translate it for him and I, in all honesty, had some trouble.

But now I know. Far enough in Italian cannot be translated but it can be rendered with va bene, sono d'accordo, hai ragione or mi sembra giusto (meaning what you are saying sounds right to me), the latter being the closest to the English version.

If that doesn't interest you, fair enough
Se non ti interessa, va bene.

New enterprises need money, fair enough
Quando nasce un'azienda ci vuole un capitale iniziale, mi sembra giusto



Italian Expression of the Day#6



Sfuggire di mano means to slip away from your hands. The English equivalent is to get out of hand.


Se non facciamo qualcosa, presto la situazione ci sfuggira' di mano. If we don't do something about it, the situation will soon get out of hand.  


A portata di mano in English can be translated into at your fingertips, close at hand, easily reached, gettable.  


Ti trovi una penna a portata di mano? Devo mettere una firma su questo documento. Do you have a pen at hand? I need to sign this document. La vittoria e' a portata di mano. Victory is at hand. 


Toccare con mano.

This expression comes from the gospel. When Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples three days after he died, St Thomas needed to stick his finger  in the cut Jesus got from a Roman soldier when on the cross to believe it was Jesus. It means to experience something directly. Non ci credo, finche' non lo tocco con mano. I won't believe it until I see it.  


Da quando sono in Canada ho potuto toccare con mano quanto faccia freddo in inverno in questo paese. Since I've been in Canada, I've been able to experience how cold it gets here in the winter. 


Mano a mano (or man mano) quite simply is an adverbial expression and means little by little, gradually, progressively.


Man mano che impari nuovi vocaboli, il tuo italiano migliorera'. As you learn new words, your Italian will improve.



Italian Expression of the Day

There are quite a few Italian expressions with the word "mano" 


"Avere le mani in pasta" literally means to have your hands in a dough.The English equivalent is to have a finger in every pie.

A Giorgio piace avere le mani in pasta. Giorgio likes to have his little finger in every pie.


"Starsene con le mani in tasca" or starsene con le mani in mano literally translates into stand there with your hands in your pocket or stand putting one hand into the other and it means to do nothing in the face of trouble.


I think the expression doesn't have an English equivalent but should you think otherwise I am open to suggestions.   


Disse che era stufo di starsene con le mani in tasca e che si sarebbe cercato un lavoro. He said he was fed up with doing nothing and would look for a job.  


"Mani fredde cuore caldo" literally means cold hands warm heart and it refers to the fact that people who have cold hands are considered helplessly in love.

The expression comes from the idea that if you are in love you tend to be more emotional and your cold hands are a sign of that state of heart.



Italian Expression of the Day#4

Fare un buco nell'acqua, to make a hole in the water means to give it a go at something and eventually  fail completely. 

The idea behind it is that you can try to make a hole in the water for instance by stirring it very fast with a stick but then fatefully that vortex/hole is doomed to vanish.

There is not an English equivalent. A couple of expressions that could be compared to the Italian's are draw a blank, to beat the air, to make a futile attempt.

Nonostante tutti i nuovi investimenti, abbiamo fatto un bel buco nell'acqua.
Despite all of our investments, we failed, we got nowhere.


Grammar tip#2

On several occasions some students have twisted their face in a baffling expression when faced with the prospect of learning or reviewing the pronoun ci. They knew from somewhere it’d be a pain to learn these minuscule two letters.
The infamous ci has an awful reputation due to its multi-faceted semantic - it carries so many fleeting meanings that students find it hard to grapple with.
In fact, the tale of the menacing ci is well-known among our tutors. Perhaps, it is for this reason that we thought the time was ripe to come up with something that would clarify the obscurity of this Italian particle. So, we hope you enjoy this.

The 8 colored meanings of ci

The Italian pronoun ci can be challenging.
 We can count 8 meanings of ci that can be classified by type and can be color coded.

The first 2 “blue” meanings

The first two meanings of ci have to do with the pronouns him/her, it and them.
We will give them the color code blue

1. ci =  con lui/lei - with him/her, with it
2.  ci = con loro - with them

Lavori con lui? Si ci lavoro spesso. Do you work with him? Yes I work with him often.
Parli mai con lei? Si ci parlo sempre.  Do you ever talk with her? Yes I speak with her all the time.
 Hai usato la mia penna? Si, ci ho appena scritto una lettera. Did you use my pen? Yes, I just wrote a letter with it.

The 3 “green” meanings

The next 3 meanings have to do with verbs taking the pronouns to, in and on (a, in, su). These are verbs like credere a (believe), pensare a (think), contare su (count), scommettere su (bet), credere in,
We will give them the color code green.

3. ci = a questa cosa -  to this thing -(the word 'to' in Italian translates into 'a' but in this context it actually means 'about')
Pensi ancora a Giovanna? Si ci penso di tanto in tanto. Are you still thinking about Giovanna? Yes, I think about her from time to time.
Stai pensando all’esame? No, non ci sto pensando affatto. Are you thinking about the exam? No, I am thinking about it at all.

4. ci = in questa cosa - in this thing (not referring to a place)
Non credi nella politica? No, non ci credo.  Don’t you believe in politics. No, I don’t believe in it.

5 ci= on this - su questa cosa (not referring to a place)
Sei sicuro di volerlo fare? Ci puoi scommettere. Are you sure you want to do this? You can bet on it.

The 2 “red” meanings

Meanings number 6 and 7 have to do with the object pronoun us.
We will give them the color code red.

6. ci = noi - us
Guarda, Giovanni ci sta salutando. Look, Giovanni is greeting us.
7. ci = a noi - to us
Papa’ ci ha portato i regali. Daddy brought our presents to us.

The “purple” meaning

The last meaning of ci is the adverb there.
We will give it the color code purple.

8. ci = there
Sei andato in Italia? Si ci sono andato l’estate scorsa. Did you go to Italy? Yes, I went there last Summer.

Make your Italian better, book a lezione


Italian Expression of the Day#3

Non avere la piu' pallida idea (of/about something which calls for the use of ne in Italian) literally means Don't have the palest (faintest) idea.

But the English equivalent is Don't have a clue.

E adesso cosa facciamo? Non ne ho la piu' pallida idea.
What are we going to do now? I really don't have a clue .


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Italian Expression of the Day#2

Metterci and volerci are two expressions that seem to confuse some of you.

Let's take a look at them.
If you use volerci in a sentence such as It takes one hour to get to work. You should say ci vuole un'ora per arrivare a lavoro.
By translating it literally you can see what the sentence is actually saying:

One hour is needed to get to work.

One hour is the actual singular subject of the sentence and ci vuole must agree with it.
If you use a plural subject, you'll see that the verb will change accordingly.
Ci vogliono due ore per arrivare a lavoro - two hours are needed to get to work.

As you can see the time is needed to do something is always the subject when using volerci.

On the other hand with metterci the subject is always a person, not the time.
Ci metto un'ora per andare a lavoro, literally becomes I put an hour in it to get to work. So I (io) is the actual subject here.

When the person/subject changes so will the verb metterci - e.g. ci mettiamo un'ora per andare a lavoro. We put one an hour in it to get to work. We (noi) being the subject of the sentence.

To sum up, use volerci to say how much time is needed to do something. The subject here is always the time and the options are always two
1. ci vuole when the time is singular - one hour, one minute, one day and so on.
2. ci vogliono when the time is plural - two, three, four hours/day/months and so on.

With metterci a person or more than a person is always the subject and the verb is used to say how long that person takes to do something.

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Italian Expression of the Day#1

Non tutte le ciambelle riescono con il buco literally translates into not all the donuts come out with a hole in the middle.

What it really means is the not everything turns out as it should. You should use it when one of the things you do (not all of them) turns out to be wrong. For that reason, perhaps it could be also rendered with you can always get it right next time.

Il mio articolo non e' piaciuto al caporedattore. Pazienza, non tutte le ciambelle riescono con il buco.

My article didn't go down well with the editor-in-chief. Oh well, you can always get it right next time.


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tutti i nodi

Tutti i nodi vengono al pettine.

"All the knots come to the comb."

Meaning sooner or later our misdeeds catch up with us and we have to face up to put-off difficulties.

Grammatically we see the irregular verb "venire" (to come) in action...

io vengo
tu vieni
lei viene
noi veniamo
voi venite
loro vengono



chi tace

Chi tace acconsente.

Those who remain silent agree.

So in other words, if an unfair law is passed and you don't fight against it, you support it.

Grammatically a good reminder of -ere verbs (tace is the lui-form of tacere) and the -ire verbs (acconsente is the lui-form of acconsentire). C4N!



i fanciulli e gli uomini

I fanciulli trovano il tutto nel nulla, gli uomini il nulla nel tutto.

Kids find everything in nothing, grown-ups nothing in everything.

That wise maxim about the jadedness of age is by Giacomo Leopardi, Italy's second greatest poet after Dante (though my favourite) and a true pessimist.

It has a lot of great grammar reminders...

We see the masculine plural form - fanciulli (singular would be fanciullo).

We see the masculine plural definite article ("the") for words starting with a consonant other than gn, sc, sp or z, namely "i" - i fanciulli).

And we see the they-form (3rd person plural) of the regular -are verb trovare - trovano.

But most of all it's just a wise beautiful saying by a genius poet. C4N!



Tentar non nuoce.

"To try doesn't harm." I.e., "There's no harm in trying."

This proverb is a great reminder of how to make negative statements in Italian. Nuoce = it harms. Non nuoce = it doesn't harm. (Nuoce comes from the verb nuocere - to harm).

"Tentar" is just a more literary way of saying "tentare" - to try or attempt.



la speranza

La speranza è l'ultima a morire.

"Hope is the last to die." (Hope springs eternal.) Special thanks to Sonia for this one.

Here we see a very clear simple example of the feminine singular definite article (Italian for "the") - la. Also essere in action - è. And an agreement between noun and adjective - speranza and ultima. Ciao for now!



hai voluto la bicicletta

Hai voluto la bicicletta? Pedala!

You wanted a bike? Pedal!

An Italian version of the English, "You made your bed, lie in it!"

This proverb is a great reminder of volere in the past - hai voluto. It also shows the tu form -are imperatives (command form) in action - pedala! Ciao for now!


la fortuna

La fortuna aiuta gli audaci.

This is the Italian version of a Latin proverb meaning, "Fortune favours the bold." So let's be bold!

Grammatically it's a good reminder that the masculine plural definite article ("the") for nouns that start with a vowel is "gli." Ciao for now!


a caval donato

A caval donato non si guarda in bocca.

You don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

We all know the meaning of this proverb - just be grateful for gifts you receive without questioning their worth. Grammatically it's a good example of the impersonal si - "non si guarda." Ciao for now!


la madre degli imbecili

La madre degli imbecili è sempre incinta.

"The mother of imbeciles is always pregnant." The idea here is that there's no short supply if idiots in the world.

Grammatically this Italian proverb is a good reminder of the agreement between nouns and adjectives - "madre incinta." The adjective ends in "a" because it refers to the feminine singular noun "madre." C4N!