quando il fico pende

Cervidimo a settembre quanno l'ua è fatta e lu ficu penne.

Ci rivediamo a settembre quando l'uva è matura e il fico pende.

Quite a poetical proverb from Le Marche where we'll be going on a class trip in July. Pretty self-explanitory. Grammar-wise we see a reflexive verb used for reciprocal action - ci rivediamo (we'll see each other again). So to convey "each other" in Italian, you put a verb in the noi, voi or loro form depending on who's doing the reciprocal action, and put ci, vi or si in front accordingly. Noi ci vediamo (we see each other), voi vi vedete (you see each other), loro si vedono (they see each other). C4N!


chi non va non vede

Chi non va non vede, chi non vede non sa e chi non sa se lo prende sempre in culo.

I can't think of an English equivalent for this one. It means...

If you don't go you won't see, if you don't see you won't know, if you don't know you'll take it in the ass every time.

Grazie to Andrea for this one!

Grammatically you get a good reminder of two irregular verbs - andare (vado, vai, va), and sapere (so, sai, sa).

Ciao for now!


mal che si vuole

Mal che si vuole non duole.

This is basically the Italian equivalent of, "You made your bed, now lie in it." Or it's kind of like when something bad happens to you that's your own fault and someone says, "You asked for it."

Basically it's a refusal to show pity towards someone, and to blame them for their problems.

Literally it means, "The bad that you want doesn't hurt."

Grammatically you get a nice reminder of volere - io voglio, tu vuoi, lui / lei vuole. Ciao for now!

(Thanks to Rachel's father Mr. Piccolotto for this one.)


al vecchio

Al vecchio non mancò mai di raccontare, né al sole, né al focolare.

The old man was never short of a tale to tell, neither to the sun nor to the hearth.

Pretty straightforward. Sounds better in Italian though because of the rhyme.


la parola

Il bue si stima per le corna, l'uomo per la parola.

An ox is esteemed for his horns, a man for his word.

So there you go, a guy who breaks his promises is like an ox without horns!

Grammatically this proverb is a good way to remember the "impersonal si" (si stima). The impersonal si is what you use when you want to make a sweeping, general, universal statement, without referring to anyone specific. In English we use "one", the generic you, or even we, they or people to get this idea across. E.g., "In Canada they play a lot of hockey." The "they" in this sentence is not referring to anyone specific. You're not pointing to an actual group of people playing hockey. You just mean it in a general way. To get this point across in Italian, you would use the impersonal si. "In Canada, si gioca molto a hockey." To form the impersoanl si you just take any verb in the lui/lei or loro form and put "si" in front of it. Si vede / si vedono: one sees, si parla / si parlano: one speaks, si capisce / si capiscono: one understands. So how do you know whether to use the lui/lei or loro form? If the noun that comes after the verb is singular, you use the lui/lei form, if it's plural, the loro form. A Roma si vede il Colosseo. A Roma si vedono molti turisti. Usually if there's no noun after the verb but an adverb instead, you use the lui/lei form - In Italia si mangia bene. C4N!


la troppa bonezza

La troppa bonezza finisce nella monnezza.

Nice guys finish last. (Literally, too much goodness ends up in the trash.)

Grammatically this one's a good reminder of the -isc verbs, the subset of -ire verbs that have an -isc- inserted between the stem and the ending of the io, tu, lui/lei and loro forms.


io finisco
tu finisci
lui / lei finisce
noi finiamo
voi finite
loro finiscono



chi si corica coi bambini

Chi si corica coi bambini si alza pisciato.

If you sleep with kids you get up pissed on.

This proverb warns against spending too much time with people younger or less mature than you. Less literally it can mean not to spend time with people on a lower rung than you in other ways (economically, intellectually, etc).

Grammatically it's a good reminder of the reflexive verbs, verbs where one and the same person both does and receives the action of the verb. We see this in "si alza" (gets up), which is the lui form of the reflexive verb "alzarsi". Reflexive verbs always go with a reflexive pronoun - mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si. Io mi alzo (I get up), tu ti alzi (you get up), lui si alza (he gets up), etc. C4N!


in un'ora

In un'ora Dio lavora.

"God gets a lot done in an hour."

You use this one when a bunch of things you've been working on for a long time suddenly all come together all at once. Like let's say you find a job, a girlfriend and an apartment all in the same day, you attribute your good luck to God and say, "In un'ora Dio lavora."

Grammatically it's a good example of the feminine indefinite article before a vowel - un'. Ciao for now!


tutte le scarpe

Tutte le scarpe diventano scarpone.

Hard to translate literally but the idea is that all nice new shoes eventually become old beat up ones. It's something you say to resign yourself to getting old.

Grammatically it's a good reminder of the -are verbs: diventare - divento, diventi, diventa, diventiamo, diventate, diventano.

The original is in napoletano - tutt' 'e scarpe diventano scarpone. Thanks to Luciano for this one! C4N...


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!


al povero

Al povero mancano tante cose, all'avaro tutte.

The poor man is lacking many things, the greedy man all.

To me that's a great proverb. It shows that when you're poor you could still be content but when you're greedy, even if you're rich it's never enough, there's always something you feel you're lacking.

Grammatically it's a great way to understand the verb "mancare" (to miss or be lacking). In Italian the "misser" is the indirect object and the thing missed is the subject.

So English: I (subject) miss her (object).
Italian: Lei mi manca. ("She is missing to me.") The object in English (her, the thing missed) becomes the subject in Italian (lei). And the subject in English (I, the "misser") becomes the indirect object (mi). Confusing right!



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 famiglia

La famiglia è la patria del cuore.

"Your family is the homeland of your heart." (Home is where the heart is.)

True say!

This Italian saying gives us a good example of the contracted preposition. When you put "di" before "il cuore" the "di" and "il" blend together to make "del". This happens with a, da, di, in and su when they go before any definite article (Italian for "the" - il, lo, la, l', i, gli, le) - the two blend together. So just using di as an example you get...

di + il = del
di + lo = dello
di + la = della
di + l' = dell'
di + i = dei
di + gli = degli
di + le = delle



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!




L'orgoglio dei piccoli consiste nel parlare sempre di sé, quello dei grandi nel non parlarne mai.

The pride of the small is to talk always of themselves, that of the great is to do so never.

Today's Italian proverb is not a proverb and was not originally Italian - it's an aphorism of Voltaire in translation. But I heard it on RAI International so I guess it counts. It's also apt in our confessional fame-obsessed age.

It's also a great reminder of how to use "ne". Ne replaces di + noun, in this case "di sé". Nel non parlarne mai = nel non parlare mai di sé. Using ne is less repetitive. 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!


meglio essere testa di alice

Meglio essere testa di alice che coda di tonno.

It's better to be the head of an anchovy than the tail of a tuna.

The Romans had a similar proverb: "Meglio essere il primo in provincia che il secondo a Roma." (It's better to me number one in the provinces than number two in Rome.)

The idea in both cases is that it's better to be an important part of something small than an insignificant part of something big. Ciao for now!


chi crede che il denaro

Chi crede che il denaro gli faccia tutto finisce a fare tutto per il denaro.

Those who think money will do everything for them, end up doing everything for money.

This is actually not an Italian proverb but an aphorism by Voltaire, I just really like it (and think it speaks volumes about the Camorra).

Grammatically you see a nice masculine singular indirect object pronoun - "gli faccia tutto". C4N!