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How one can Use 50+ Enjoyable, Expressive Italian Idioms in On a regular basis Dialog


Maybe you solely see your bestie as soon as in a blue moon. You’ve been pals by thick and skinny, nevertheless it’s often your fault that plans go down in flames. Her upcoming debut efficiency is at hand, so you propose to reach by the pores and skin of your enamel, simply in time to inform her to interrupt a leg.

To a non-native English speaker, that total paragraph might need been so complicated because it’s crammed with idioms. An idiom is an expression that has that means past the literal definition of the fundamental phrases making up the phrase. Each language has them, together with Italian. They are often tough to be taught with out some assist, which is why the stay classes from Rosetta Stone are so useful since you may observe talking with a local Italian!

What’s an idiom? 

An idiom or idiomatic expression, is a set phrase or expression that may’t be understood actually or phrase for phrase. Idioms generally translate pretty intently between languages however not at all times.

The English language is filled with them, however all languages use idioms as a shorthand approach to categorical a extra complicated concept. Contemplate these idioms in English: 

  • Is it costly? Don’t fear, the corporate will foot the invoice. 
  • You look exhausted! It is best to hit the hay (or hit the sack)!
  • I’d be so careworn, however she’s cool as a cucumber. 

Studying idioms will be numerous enjoyable and aid you to

  • keep away from confusion
  • keep away from embarrassing conditions
  • catch on to humor and tone of a dialog
  • be taught some folklore
  • perceive cultural beliefs
  • be accustomed to historic occasions
  • slot in with a gaggle of native audio system

After getting a superb understanding of what an idiom means and when it’s applicable to make use of, you may impress native audio system along with your use of Italian idioms. They could even let you know the story of how this idiom developed of their language!

two women standing and talking in an office lobby

Enjoyable Italian idioms and expressions for any dialog 

Cane non mangia cane 

The literal translation of cane non mangia cane is “canine doesn’t eat canine.” The Italian expression is the way you would possibly say that loyalty is necessary, particularly amongst these in a specific group who wouldn’t search to hurt each other. Maybe the same expression in English may be that there’s honor amongst thieves.

It’s also possible to say the alternative in Italian, identical to in English: Cane mangia cane would imply canine eat canine. In different phrases, somebody you anticipated to point out loyalty due to your similarities or widespread objectives betrays you as a substitute. 

Stare da cani 

Typically, any idiom that makes use of da cani has a adverse connotation. Maybe there have been so many uncared for road canines previously that they acquired a repute for having a depressing life. That’s why stare da cani means to really feel depressing or sickly with a translation of “to really feel like a canine.” English audio system will typically use “canine drained” or “sick as a canine” with the identical intent.

Italian Idiom Literal English Translation English Idiom or Idea
fa un freddo cane it’s canine chilly “a three-dog night time” which signifies that it’s very chilly
un cane in chiesa a canine in church an unwelcome visitor
fare una vita da cani to guide a canine’s life to have a horrible life
essere come cane e gatto to be like cats and canines to be enemies; to struggle incessantly
can che abbaia non morde a canine that barks doesn’t chew “His bark is worse than his chew.” When somebody is all speak or present however doesn’t take motion.
non svegliare il cane che dorme don’t get up a canine who’s sleeping “Let sleeping canines lie.” Don’t create an issue the place there isn’t one.
menare il can per l’aia to beat the canine across the barnyard “to beat across the bush” which suggests to take too lengthy to get to the purpose
non c’è un cane there’s not even a canine a spot could be very empty

If you happen to’re a starting language learner nonetheless studying primary Italian sayings, you would possibly really feel that a few of these idioms are over your head, nevertheless it’s nonetheless worthwhile to see them in context. You might need observed some repeated phrases akin to: 

  • un cane = a canine
  • un can = a canine (literary type) 
  • il cane = the canine
  • i cani = the canines

Maybe you’ve began noticing Italian articles (un, una, il, lo, la, l’, le, i, gli) in every single place and began utilizing them in context to solidify your information. As you’re employed by the listing, attempt to discover teams of comparable phrases and the ways in which verbs are fashioned. If you happen to’re finding out Italian already, it’s a good way to help your information of conjugation and different patterns you may be memorizing. It’s additionally useful to immerse you within the cultural background.

Quando il gatto non c’è i topi ballano 

The literal translation of quando il gatto non c’è i topi ballano is “when the cat isn’t there the mice dance.” The thought expressed right here is that when somebody isn’t supervised, they are going to benefit from the liberty. 

We categorical the identical concept in English: “When the cat’s away, the mice do play.” This sounds fairly playful, however the origins would possibly properly be literal. It will have been necessary to maintain cats in your property to regulate the rodent inhabitants. 

Avere sette vite come un gatto

Sette vite means “seven lives,” so avere sette vite come un gatto would imply “to have seven lives like a cat.” It might shock you to know that many cultures differ on the variety of lives attributed to our feline pals. Whereas English audio system are accustomed to 9 lives, Italians lean in the direction of simply seven.

Italian Idiom Literal English Translation English Idiom or Idea
giocare come il gatto col topo to play like a cat with the mouse “to play cat and mouse”
essere in quattro gatti to be in (a gaggle of) 4 cats only a handful of individuals are current
qui gatta ci cova right here the feminine cat broods “one thing fishy is happening right here” which suggests one thing is suspicious and feels unfaithful
avere una gatta da pelare to have a cat to pores and skin “to have a troublesome nut to crack” or to have a really tough job forward

Animals are utilized in sayings and expressions in most languages. Let’s check out among the most enjoyable and colourful ones in Italian!

Essere un lupo solitario 

Similar to English, un lupo solitario means a lone wolf. The thought signifies somebody who lives in a solitary and unbiased means, whether or not they’re extra introverted or somebody who prefers to stay in their very own means. It might have a constructive or adverse connotation relying on the context.

In bocca al lupo 

One other wolf expression is in bocca al lupo or within the mouth of the wolf. Whereas this would possibly look like a decidedly unfortunate state of affairs to be in, this idiom expresses simply the alternative: You say it to want somebody good luck! And there’s a specific response that’s finest with this idiom! As an alternative of utilizing grazie, one of the best reply can be crepi, or crepi il lupo, that means “could the wolf die.” The roots of this expression go means again to the superstition that wishing somebody buona fortuna (good luck), would finally jinx the particular person and convey misfortune. 

Prendere due piccioni con una fava 

This can be a very comparable expression to our “kill two birds with one stone,” which suggests to perform two objectives with one effort. As an alternative of stones, the Italian idiom refers to a searching method. You might prendere due piccioni con una fava. It means to take two pigeons with one fava bean by luring a gaggle of them with the fava beans with a view to get a couple of with a single shot.

Italian Idiom Literal English Translation English Idiom or Idea
essere una vipera / essere una serpe to be a viper / to be a snake mentioned to somebody who’s vicious or sly and unreliable
fare l’uccello del malaugurio to be the chook of dangerous omen to be a “Debbie downer” or somebody who is particularly pessimistic
essere sano come un pesce to be wholesome like a fish “to be as wholesome as a horse,” “to be as match as a fiddle,” or to be in good bodily form
non vola una mosca not a single fly is flying “You might hear a pin drop.” It’s extraordinarily quiet in what might be a loud place.
versare lacrime di coccodrillo to pour crocodile’s tears “to cry crocodile tears” or to show insincere sorrow
il cavallo di battaglia the horse of the battle probably the most spectacular piece or strongest asset
a caval donato non si guarda in bocca Don’t look into the mouth of a horse given to you. “Don’t look a present horse within the mouth.” If you happen to obtain an sudden success, don’t query it.
andare a letto con le galline to go to mattress with the chickens to go to mattress early
la gallina dalle uova d’oro The hen provides him/her golden eggs. mentioned of an individual who is usually fortunate or creates lucky alternatives 
chi dorme non piglia pesci They who sleep don’t catch fish. “The early chook will get the worm.” Individuals who rise early and are productive reap the advantages.
una rondine non fa primavera one swallow doesn’t make spring Simply because one good factor has occurred doesn’t imply that the entire state of affairs will enhance.
sputare il rospo to spit out the toad “to spit it out” or “to get it off your chest” which suggests to say the uncomfortable factor
conosco i miei polli I do know my very own chickens I do know what I’m speaking about.

We are able to guess that the that means of many of those barnyard idioms originated with the realities of nation life. Folks might perceive the conduct of their chickens, the arrival of the primary birds of springtime, and even the fact of selecting a couple of nits infrequently. A minimum of a few of these experiences may be significantly lowered in fashionable life however the expressions stay!

Esse buono come il pane  

This idiom expresses fact in each the literal and the figurative sense. Esse buono come il pane means “good as bread” and may check with the qualities of a sort or beneficiant particular person. We are able to assume the origin of this expression is just the truth that Italian bread (and pasta!) has at all times been the usual of what’s good on this life. 

Rendere pan per focaccia

Talking of bread, that is an idiom that began off as a neighborly gesture: to rendere pan per focaccia or give bread for focaccia. It signifies you’ll pay somebody’s generosity again in form—that’s what it used to imply within the Center Ages. The that means has shifted to one thing way more insidious, extra akin to getting even with somebody or returning a malicious deed with one thing equally unkind.

Prendere a pesci in faccia

“Getting fish within the face” or prendere a pesci in faccia is clearly an disagreeable thought. The expression is derived from a literal occasion as fishmongers had been recognized to throw or slap a fish throughout the face of somebody they didn’t like. Now it refers to being handled very poorly or humiliated. 

La minestra riscaldata 

You need to use minestra riscaldata (reheated soup) to check with a state of affairs that’s overly accustomed to a predictable, probably adverse final result—the identical previous story. One widespread instance might be a relationship that ends however is mended to attempt once more. Nevertheless, like reheated soup, it’s by no means the identical.

Tutto fa brodo  

If you happen to’re a enterprise proprietor or marketer, chances are you’ll really feel that you simply’re at all times making an attempt new methods for achievement. You would possibly say, tutto fa brodo which suggests “every thing makes broth” or “it’s all grist for the mill.” Any little element may be helpful, serve a goal, or help a perspective. When you concentrate on broth, it’s fabricated from somewhat of this, a pinch of that, and nearly something can go within the broth to provide it taste, so why not throw it in?

Italian Idiom Literal English Translation English Idiom or Idea
dire pane al pane e vino al vino to name bread bread and wine wine “name a spade a spade” which suggests to say it like it’s
avere poco / molto sale in zucca to have little / numerous salt in a single’s gourd to have somewhat / numerous widespread sense. When it’s rather a lot (or molto) you would use “to have a superb head on one’s shoulders.” 
essere tutto pepe to be all pepper This compliments somebody who is filled with life and character.
essere alla frutta to be on the fruit to be on the backside of the barrel; to hit all-time low
qualcosa bolle in pentola One thing is boiling within the pot “One thing is brewing.” That is often mentioned with suspicion. 
nella botte piccola, c’è il vino buono within the small cask is the great wine “Good issues are available in small packages.” 
avere le mani in pasta to have your palms within the dough This can be utilized to say that you simply’re concerned in numerous issues, typically referring to unlawful actions
(un piatto) da leccarsi i baffi (a meal) to lick your mustache “finger-licking good” to point a scrumptious meal
essere pieno come un uovo to be full like an egg to be stuffed or stuffed with meals
piangere sul latte versato to cry over spilled milk Similar expression in English: to be disproportionately upset a couple of small matter.
liscio come l’olio easy as oil “with out a hitch” or “easy crusing” which suggests, when one thing occurs as deliberate with out issues

We’ve barely scratched the floor of the depth of food-related idioms in Italian. As every area holds dearly to their beloved culinary heritage, there isn’t any restrict to utilizing meals to precise relatable life experiences. Some are simple to acknowledge by the imagery alone, just like the smoothness of the oil, or the chew of pepper, however others would possibly take some creativeness, like the within of an egg. 

It’s additionally attention-grabbing to think about the cultural context wherein these expressions originated since many had been actual experiences. Whereas we’d use a phrase like piangere sui latte versato (to cry over spilled milk) merely as an expression at present, spilling milk on a farm centuries in the past could have really meant that the household went with out milk that day. 

Costa un occhio della testa 

Inflation and excessive costs have at all times introduced complaints. In English we are saying that one thing prices an arm and a leg, however in Italian, costly issues are those who costa un occhio della testa (value a watch from the top)

Stare con le mani in mano 

Learners and observers of Italians typically be aware the way in which the language is enhanced with the gesticulating  palms. Non-verbal gestures and hand alerts can boost a dialog and sign all types of emotion. Ask an Italian speaker to cease transferring their palms and see how lengthy they final! 

Bearing that in thoughts, the expression stare con le mani in mano means to stick with the palms in hand or to not be transferring in any respect. To accuse somebody of getting their palms in hand is to say they don’t seem to be being helpful, not lifting a finger, or to be twiddling their thumbs.

Non avere peli sulla lingua

Non avere peli sulla linga is an odd idiom which means to not have hair on one’s tongue. If you concentrate on it, hairs in our nostril and ears assist filter out undesirable particles, however we might not count on them on our tongue. Maybe the alternative intent is meant: to catch these undesirable ideas or phrases earlier than they depart our mouths. This can be why we are saying in English that somebody doesn’t have a filter in the event that they communicate what’s on their thoughts with out regard to well mannered manners or if they’re notably liable to gossip.

Non sei capace di tenerti un cece in bocca

Non sei capace di tenerti un cece in bocca interprets to “you aren’t in a position to maintain a chickpea in your mouth.” You’d describe a really gossipy one that can’t preserve a secret with this Italian idiom.

Acqua in bocca

When you have a secret to share and don’t need it unfold round, you’d remind your confidante to maintain acqua in bocca (water within the mouth). Plainly when you’ve got water in your mouth, you’d must preserve your lips sealed, so as to not spill the data! One other approach to say that is “mum’s the phrase.” 

Italian Idiom Literal English Translation English Idiom or Idea
avere il braccio corto to have a brief arm “to be a cheapskate” which refers to somebody who doesn’t wish to spend cash 
avere un diavolo per capello to have a satan for every hair “to see purple” or “to fume” with anger
stare sullo stomaco to get on one’s abdomen “to get on one’s nerves” which suggests, to bother somebody or be bothersome
ridotto all’osso to be lowered to the bone to be lower to the naked minimal
avere il cuore in gola to have the center within the throat to be very nervous 

Italian idioms won’t at all times have a deep historic context. Typically it’s simply imagery, like an individual who’s working so quick it seems their legs are levitating. Or it would merely be descriptive of a bodily sensation, like the sensation of getting your coronary heart in your throat.

L’abito non fa il monaco

You’ve possible heard the English equal of l’abito non fa il monaco (the garments don’t make the monk). It’s much like the sage recommendation: don’t decide a e-book by its cowl. This can be a widespread saying in lots of languages because it originated in Latin, with the Italian model showing in literature way back to 1847 with “I promessi sposi” (The Betrothed) by Alessandro Manzoni. 

How one can broaden your information of Italian idioms 

You might say that idioms are like at present’s memes—little bits of cultural information handed down from speaker to speaker till they evolve and are used another way. You don’t want a particular class to be taught idioms although. A few of the finest methods to be taught to make use of idioms appropriately is to talk with native audio system! You might discover and experiment your information of idioms by:

  • becoming a member of on-line boards of language learners  
  • discovering a language change accomplice
  • watching television exhibits in Italian
  • watching lyric movies of common songs
  • studying childrens’ books and graphic novels
  • wanting up expressions that you simply don’t acknowledge
  • evaluating English idioms to comparable Italian ones 
  • and studying tales and weblog posts on-line!

Regardless of how lengthy you examine, chances are you’ll by no means be completed studying idioms. Utilization varies amongst dialects and areas, throughout generations, and in numerous social contexts. The excellent news is studying idioms will be actually enjoyable and useful while you want extra than simply widespread Italian phrases for journey. Once you discover a language accomplice you may belief, attempt utilizing some idioms to get suggestions. Even in case you use an idiom in a means that doesn’t fairly match, you’ll be capable to regulate for the subsequent time it’s applicable.

Be taught Italian idioms by Dynamic Immersion

You’ll be able to change into a lifelong learner of idioms, including enjoyable and character to your language information each time you see an expression in use! You’ll by no means be executed studying idioms, since they exist in each dialect, era, area, and state of affairs.

Rosetta Stone will help you comprehend and see idioms in context utilizing the Dynamic Immersion technique. Somewhat than memorizing lengthy lists of single vocabulary phrases, you’ll use pure context and speech to understand and use vocabulary, phrases, and even enjoyable Italian idioms. 

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