In this lesson we are going to talk about a topic often considered tricky by those who are learning Italian. In fact, we are going to talk about the countless expressions with the particle NE Italians use daily. I’m going to present them to you always alongside their definitions and some examples, in order to be as clear as possible.
The most commonly used expressions with NE in Italian
ANDARSENE A SPASSO / A ZONZO / IN GIRO (To stroll around/To gallivant/ to wander around)
This expression has various alternatives, all with the same meaning: they all refer to the action of strolling around for pleasure, relaxation or as a way to spend time.
–Se te ne vai sempre a zonzo, non concludi mai niente e lavori male. → If you always wander around, you never get things done and you do a bad job.
-Dopo il pranzo, se n’è andato a spasso e non ci ha nemmeno chiesto se ci servisse una mano. Che maleducato! → After lunch, he went strolling around without even asking us if we needed help. How rude!
This has the meaning of “need”, “be useful”, but is mainly used to indicate that something is useless or serves no purpose.
For example, the question “Che me ne faccio?” –What do I do with it? (or “Che te ne fai?” – What do you do with it?, “Che se ne fa?”- What does s/he do with it? and so on) is a rethorical question to say “I don’t need it”, “I have no intention of using it”.
Other common phrases with this verb are “Non me ne faccio niente” – It does me no good, “Non so che farmene” –I have no use fot it, which have the meaning of “I don’t know how to use it”, “It’s useless to me”.
Here are some examples to provide more context:
-Mia zia mi ha regalato un tiragraffi. Cosa me ne faccio? Non ho neanche un gatto! → My aunt gave me a cat tree. What do I do with it? I don’t even have a cat!
-Ho deciso di vendere la mia tv. Io non me ne faccio niente. – I decided to sell my tv. It does me no good.
Anyway, two interesting idioms derive from this verb!
The first one is FARNE A MENO (to do without something) (yes, obsiously the verb farsene is reflexive, but in this expression it loses the reflexive form): it means “to give up”, “to deprive oneself of something”.
-Da quando ho bevuto per la prima volta il caffè, non ne posso più fare a meno. →Since I drank coffee for the first time, I can’t do without it anymore.
-So che ami le patatine fritte, ma se non ne fai a meno, non dimagrirai mai!→ I know you love french fries, but If you don’t give them up, you will never lose weight!
Another idiom with the same verb is:
FARSENE UNA RAGIONE (To get over it)
It means “to give up”, “to rationally accept something unfortunate”, “ to realize some negative or painful events are inevitable”.
-Io capisco che tu ora sia triste perché il tuo fidanzato ti ha lasciata, ma sono sicura che prima o poi te ne farai una ragione. → I get that you’re sad right now because your boyfriend broke up with you, but I’m sure you will get over it sooner or later.
-Tutti prima o poi ci troviamo a vivere la morte di una persona cara, ma dobbiamo farcene una ragione, purtroppo.→ Everyone sooner or later will experience the death of a loved one, but we have to deal with it, unfortunately.
FREGARSENE o FREGARNE (a qualcuno) (Not to care)
The meaning is “to care”, “to be important”, “to be relevant”.
Let’s see some examples:
–Non me ne frega niente delle tue scuse. Non ti perdonerò mai.→ I don’t care about your excuses. I will never forgive you.
-Perché ti frega ancora del tuo ex? Lascialo perdere! Meriti molto di più! →Why do you still care about your ex? Forget about him! You deserve so much more!
It’s possible to reinforce this verb, in the negative form, by adding “DI MENO”.
-Può chiamarmi quante volte vuole. Non me ne può fregar di meno. Non gli risponderò mai. → He can call me as many times as he wants. I couldn’t care less. I will never answer him.
ESSERCENE PER TUTTI (I GUSTI) (There is something for all tastes)
It means there is a large amount of something, enough to satisfy all the people who might want it.
–Oggi a tavola ce n’era per tutti i gusti: carne, pesce, frutta, dolci…→ Today at the table there was something for all tastes: meat, fish, fruit, desserts…
NON POTERNE PIÙ (di qualcosa) (Not being able to take something anymore)
This expression means “to be fed up, to be sick and tired of something, someone or of a situation”, “not to have the strength to carry on”.
-Sono stufa delle sue continue lamentele! Non ne posso più!→ I’m sick and tired of his/her continuous complaints! I can’t take this anymore!
–Non ne posso più del mio lavoro! Ogni giorno c’è un problema e tutti se la prendono con me! Sto seriamente pensando di licenziarmi. → I’m sick of my job! Everyday there’s a new problem and everyone takes it out on me! I’m seriously thinking of quitting.
STARNE FUORI (To stay out of something)
No, it doesn’t mean “being outdoors”! It rather means “to be unaware about something”, “not to know something”, “not to be involved”.
-Ti ho già detto che questa è una faccenda mia! Stanne fuori! Non ho bisogno del tuo aiuto! → I’ve already told you it’s my own business! Stay out of it! I don’t need your help!
-Quando ho capito che quell’uomo faceva accordi con la malavita, ho deciso di starne fuori per il bene della mia famiglia→ When I understood that man was making deals with the underworld, I decided to stay out of it for the sake f my family.
Again with the verb STARE, but in its reflexive form, we have three other idioms:
STARSENE CON LE MANI IN MANO (To sit on your hands)
It means “doing nothing”, “not making any effort”, “not working hard”.
-Se vuoi diventare ricco, non devi startene con le mani in mano! Devi agire, produrre qualcosa! I soldi non piovono dal cielo!→ I you want to get rich, don’t sit on your hands! You need to take action, do something! Money doesn’t grow on trees!
–Te ne stai sempre con le mani in mano! Vieni ad aiutarmi piuttosto! → You’re always sitting on your hands! Come and help me instead!
STARSENE IN DISPARTE (to keep to oneself)
It means instead “to stay willingly in a secluded place”, “away from the action”, usually alone.
-Luca è molto timido: infatti alle feste se ne sta sempre in disparte. →Luca is really shy: in fact, at parties he always keeps to himself.
-Oggi verranno alcuni amici dei miei genitori, perciò dovrò starmene in disparte nella mia cameretta tutto il giorno.→ Today some of my parents’ friends are coming over, therefore I’ll have to be by myself in my room for the whole day.
STARSENE SULLE PROPRIE (To keep to oneself)
It means “being reserved”, “not treating others with familiarity”, “talking (and laughing) the bare minimum”.
-La fidanzata di Gianluca è proprio antipatica: se ne sta sempre sulle sue e non parla mai, anche se noi proviamo a integrarla nel gruppo. → Gianluca’s girlfriend is really unpleasant: she always keeps to herself and she never speaks, even though we try yo make her feel part of the group.
-Non potrai mai farti nuovi amici se ogni volta che andiamo in un locale te ne stai sempre sulle tue!→ You will never be able to make new friends if every time we go to a bar you always keep to yourself!
AVERNE ABBASTANZA / AVERNE PIENE LE SCATOLE / AVERNE FIN SOPRA I CAPELLI (To have enough of something/ to be fed up/ to have it up to here)
All these idioms mean “being fed up”, “sick and tired of something or someone”, “not being able to take something anymore”.
Here some examples:
-Ne ho abbastanza delle tue bugie. Ne ho fin sopra i capelli!→ I’ve had enough of your lies. I’m fed up!
–Ne ho piene le scatole dei vicini che fanno sempre rumore!→ I’ve had it up to here with my neighbours’ constant noise!
DIRNE DI TUTTI I COLORI / DIRNE DI COTTE E DI CRUDE (a qualcuno) (To hurl insults at somebody/ to say all sort of things to someone)
They simply mean “saying all sort of things (usually negative) to someone”, due to a feeling of anger towards that person or because s/he has made a mistake.
-Oggi sono arrivata in ritardo al lavoro e il capo mi ha rimproverato. Me ne ha dette di tutti i colori! → I got late to work today and my boss scolded me. He said all sort of things to me!
-Quando si arrabbia, ne dice di cotte e di crude a chiunque gli sia intorno. Lo trovo un atteggiamento molto immaturo.→ When s/he gets angry, s/he starts saying all sort of things to everyone around her/him. This attitude seems really immature to me.
SAPERNE UNA PIÙ DEL DIAVOLO (Having many tricks up one’s sleeve)
It is said of a very cunning person, who always has a solution and will always do anything to get their own way.
-Luigi, pur venendo dal nulla, è riuscito a farsi una bella posizione perché ne sa una più del diavolo e ha creato un’ottima rete di conoscenze.→ Luigi, despite coming from nothing, managed to climb the ladder thanks to the many tricks he has up his sleeve and he created an excellent network of contacts.
COMBINARNE DI TUTTI I COLORI (to get up to all sorts of mischief)
It means“to cause a lot of trouble”.
–Paola ha punito suo figlio perché durante la festa ne ha combinate di tutti i colori.→ Paola punished his son because during tha party he got up to all sorts of mischief.
VALERNE LA PENA (to be worth it)
It means there’s “definitely a valid reason to justify the action, but especially the commitment and the effort to complete it. ”
-Realizzare un video da 10 minuti per YouTube richiede molto tempo e impegno, ma ne vale la pena per tutti i bellissimi commenti che ci lasciate sempre! →Making a 10-minute Youtube video requires a lot of time and commitment,but thanks to all the beautiful comments you leave us, everything is worth it!
LAVARSENE LE MANI (to wash one’s hands of it)
It means “ getting out of an uncomfortable situation, in order to avoid making a decision”.
-Invece di preoccuparsi del futuro della sua azienda, il proprietario se n’è lavato le mani e ora rischia la bancarotta. → Instead of worrying about his company’s future, the owner washed his hands of it and now he risks going bankrupt.
VENIRNE A CAPO (to get to the bottom of something/ to figure something out)
This expression means “to understand a complex matter”, “to solve a problem or an enigma”.
-Sto provando a risolvere questo esercizio di fisica da ore, ma proprio non ne vengo a capo! → I’ve been trying to solve this physics exercise for hours, but I can’t seem to figure it out!
VEDERNE DELLE BELLE (things are about to get messy)
This expression is used when a situation is expected to be really complex or full of interesting events, with some people getting into trouble or putting on a show.
-Domani a casa di Salvatore arriveranno i suoceri, che proprio non lo sopportano. Siamo sicuri che ne vedremo delle belle! Staranno sempre a litigare!→ Tomorrow Salvatore’s in-laws are going to his house and they can’t stand him at all. Things are about to get messy for sure! They are going to fight all the time!
VOLERCENE / PASSARCENE (It takes a lot to…)
These verbs are usually used when we want to express the idea that, before something can actually happen, a lot of time will pass, or a lot of effort will be needed.
-Dal dire una cosa al metterla in pratica ce ne passa! Tutti siamo bravi a parlare!→ Between saying something and actually putting it into practice there’s a big gap! We’re all good when it comes to talking!
–Ce n’è voluto per conquistarla, ma ora siamo sposati da 30 anni e abbiamo 3 bellissimi figli. → It took a long time to win her over, but we have been married for 30 years now and we have 3 beautiful children!
You must be aware that there are also some expressions including NE which are more formal and are often used in written language or in particularly formal situations ( in the working environment, for instance.)
⁃ Ne deriva che…/ Ne consegue che… ( It follows that…)(=consequently, therefore) . Example: La terra gira intorno al sole. Ne deriva che non è il centro dell’universo. → The earth revolves around the sun. It follows that it is not the centre of the universe.
⁃ Ne prendo atto.(I’ll take note of it) (= I recognize the situation. I accept it and I take it into account). Example: Questi sono tutti i provvedimenti presi nei suoi confronti. Ne prenda atto.→ These are all the measures taken against you. Take note of them.
⁃ Ne va di…(something is on the line/at stake). Example: Non posso sbagliare! Ne va della mia credibilità!→ I can’t fail! My credibility is at stake!
⁃ Guardarsene (bene) (look out for/beware of) (= avoid doing something, protect oneself from something). Example: Guardatene bene da chi ti promette troppe cose.→ Beware of those who promise too many things.
As you have seen, there are tons of expressions with NE! These are the most common ones, but I’m sure you will be able to find many more of them. Leave a comment down here with your favourite ones and also some we haven’t mentioned. If you haven’t had enough of Italian expressions, don’t miss the lesson on the Italian expressions with the particle CI, a colleague of NE!