le false speranze

Le false speranze alimentano il dolore.

"False hopes nourish pain." Wow, poetic!

Here you get a lot of grammar reminders in one pithy phrase - definite articles (il dolore, le speranze), -are verbs (alimentano) and agreement of nouns and adjectives (false speranze - feminine plural). Believe me, sometimes when you're in a grammar jam, a proverb will bail you out. So keep learning proverbs! C4N.


il lupo

Il lupo perde il pelo, ma non il vizio.

The wolf sheds his fur, but not his vices.

In other words, "A leopard cannot change its spots." Or in a similar vein, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

The meaning of this one is pretty clear - habit is the boss of us all! (Good to keep in mind with resolutions around the corner!)

Grammatically it's a good reminder of the -ere verbs - perdo, perdi, perde, perdiamo, perdete, perdono. C4N!


acqua passata

Acqua passata non macina più.

"Water that's flowed past the mill grinds no more." It's no use crying over spilled milk. "Water under the bridge." In other words don't regret a lost opportunity that can't come back.

Grammatically this is a great proverb for the double negatives. C4N!


chi la fa

Chi la fa l'aspetti.

We reap as we sow. What goes around comes around. "Let he who does it expect it."

This form of aspettare (to wait for, expect) is a subjunctive (not covered in the grammatica section yet). It's not a present indicative tu-form!

What a great reminder of the direct object pronouns though - chi la fa. Notice it goes before the verb. C4N!


la gallina vecchia

La gallina vecchia fa buon brodo. "The old hen makes a good broth." In other words, "There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle."

Grammatically this week's Italian proverb is a handy reminder of the irregular verb fare - faccio, fai, fa, facciamo, fate, fanno. C4N!


i propri limiti

L'unico modo per non far conoscere agli altri i propri limiti, è di non oltrepassarli mai.

- Leopardi

This week's proverb isn't really a proverb but an aphorism by Italy's greatest poet, Giacomo Leopardi. "The only way not to let others know your limits, is never to go beyond them." Che genio! Here you see a great fare causativo in action - "far conoscere." Ciao for now!


l'uomo propone

L'uomo propone - ma Dio dispone. Humans can dream and scheme, plot and plan - but God, fate and nature decide the outcome. More good old Italian pessimistic fatalism!

I guess grammatically you get a bit of a reminder of the definite article - l' before a singular noun that starts with a vowel. Ciao for now!


la bellezza

La bellezza ha una verità tutta sua.

Beauty has a truth all its own.

So true.

And so beautiful!

Grammatically you get a review of avere (ho, hai, ha, abbiamo, avete, hanno) and the indef articles (un, uno, un', una). C4N!


o di paglia

O di paglia o di fieno purché il corpo sia pieno.

Whether by straw or whether by hay, as long as we all get full some way.

A reminder that for much of its history, much of Italy has been desperately poor.

Grammatically we see the o...o construction. This usually translates as either...or. For example, O ci vieni o non ci vieni - per me è uguale. (Either you come or you don't - to me it's the same.) C4N!


chi cammina diritto

Chi cammina diritto campa afflitto.

Those who walk straight live distressed. In other words, doing the right thing is never easy.

Grammar-wise you get two good reminders of the -are verbs - cammino, cammini, cammina, camminiamo, camminate, camminano. (And of course campare.) C4N!


due piccioni

Prendere due piccioni con una fava. (Pigliar due piccioni con una fava.)

This is Italy's version of "to kill two birds with one stone." Literally "to take two pigeons with one bean" (or to catch) - I guess the fava bean is the bait in a trap. Or maybe it's a dry bean as hard as a rock you throw?

Grammatically you get a bit of an indefinite article reminder- "una fava." C4N!


chi vuole va

Chi vuole va e chi non vuole comanda.

This is advice to go get it yourself if you really want something. Literally, if a person wants something, he'll go get it himself; if not, he'll get someone else to.

Grammatically it's a great reminder of the modal volere - voglio, vuoi, vuole, vogliamo, volete, vogliono. C4N!


occhio che non vede

Occhio che non vede, cuore che non duole.

What you don't know won't hurt you. ("Eye that doesn't see, heart that doesn't hurt.")

Grammatically this is a good proverb for remembering the relative pronoun "che" which means "that" or "which" in Italian. C4N!


paese che vai

Paese che vai, usanza che trovi.

This is Italy's equivalent of, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Grammatically it's a good reminder of the irregular verb andare - vado, vai, va, andiamo, andate, vanno. C4N!


i potenti

Tre sono i potenti: il Papa, il Re e chi non ha niente.

This proverb tells us that the three great powers in society are the Pope, the King and the have-nots - I guess because they have nothing to lose (e.g. think terrorists).

Grammatically it's a great proverb to help you remember the double negatives - "chi non ha niente." C4N!


can che abbaia

Can che abbaia non morde.

Barking dogs seldom bite. His bark is worse than his bite.

Actually the Italian for dog is cane - I think this is an archaic version, or poetic licence.

I guess grammatically this proverb is a good reminder of the -ere conjugation - mordo, mordi, morde, mordiamo, mordete, mordono. C4N!


non è tutt'oro

Non è tutt'oro quel che luccica.

All that glitters is not gold.

Pretty self-explanatory! And not much grammar to extract. I guess a reminder of essere (sono, sei, è, siamo, siete, sono) and the -are verbs (luccico, luccichi, luccica, luccichiamo, luccicate, luccicano). And negations - to negate a verb just put "non" in front of it. So we get "non è tutt'oro." C4N!



Accade più in un'ora che in cent'anni.

More happens in an hour than in a hundred years.

So true! Endless days of the same old same old stream by. Then, in an instant, your life is transformed. Most big changes happen in a flash - from meeting Mr. Right to 9/11.

This is a great proverb for helping you remember when to use di in comparisons, and when to use che. You use di when your comparison can be recast as two separate sentences, and each sentence has a different subject. (Remember the first two letters of different are di.) In the case of this proverb, there are no explicit subjects - it's an impersonal statement. So you use che (which you also use when your two separate sentences have a single subject, or when comparing verbs).


il pesce puzza

Il pesce puzza dalla testa.

This proverb from Napoli, famous for its fishermen, means, "The fish stinks from the head." (Corruption starts at the top.) A good proverb for remembering the basic difference between dalla (from the) and della (of the). C4N! (Ciao for now!)


male e bene

Male e bene a fine viene.

"Evil and good, both will conclude." (Literally, "Evil and good come to an end.")

I guess the idea is, "This too will pass." Just take things as they come.

A good proverb for remembering viene, the third person singular (lui/lei form) of the irregular verb venire (to come). Ciao for now!