25 Italian idiomatic expressions with the verb “FARE” that you DON’T know

In this lesson we are going to talk about a topic which is really useful to improve your Italian, especially  your speaking skills. In fact, as you are well aware, one of the the most common verbs of the Italian language is the verb “fare”. It is also part of many fixed expressions that do not allow variations and  can often have nonliteral meanings, thereby creating a bit of confusion for non-native Italian speakers.

Fixed expressions with the verb “Fare”

There are plenty of expressions with the verb “fare” and it’s impossible to mention them all, therefore I’m going to introduce to you the most useful and curious ones among them.

1. Fare a meno (di)

It means “to be able to be without someone or something”.

Example: Non posso proprio fare a meno di te. (I can’t do without you)

When the genitive case,  in this instance di te, has already been mentioned, therefore is known, it can be implied, replacing it with the particle “ne”, which gives us the expression “farne a meno”.

For instance: Adoro fumare. Non riesco a farne a meno. ( I love smoking. I can’t help it.)

2. Farcela

It means “to be able to do something, to succeed in doing something”.

Example: Vorrei smettere di fumare, ma non ce la farò mai. (I would like to quit smoking, but I’ll never be able to.)

This verb can also be found in its negative form, which shows that we are completely sick and tired of something.

Example: Non ce la faccio più, ho lavorato tutto il giorno e sono stanchissima! (I can’t do this anymore, I worked all day and I’m exhausted!)

3. Fai da te (DIY)

It refers to all the things that are home-made, except for food.

For example: Ho trovato un blog che insegna a costruire un comodino fai da te con i barattoli di latta. Bella idea, no? ( I found a blog that teaches you how to build your DIY nightstand with tin cans. A great idea, isn’t it?)

4. Fare storie

It means “to complain”.

Example: Finisci di mangiare i broccoli e non fare storie!  (Finish your broccoli without making a fuss!)

5. Fare bella/brutta figura

It means “to do something that can make us look good or bad in front of other people”. Basically, it’s used when we do something good or bad while caring about what other people might think.


– Sembri nervoso… (you look nervous)
Lo so, è che vorrei fare bella figura con lei. Mi piace molto. (I know, I just want to make a good impression on her. I really like her.)

-Lascia sempre una piccola mancia quando vai al ristorante, o rischi di fare brutta figura. (Always leave a small tip at the restaurant, otherwise you might risk making a bad impression)

6. Fare buon viso a cattivo gioco

It basically means “to pretend something is fine for us when it’s actually not” or in other words “trying to adapt and tolerate an unconfortable situation”

Example: Il fidanzato di mia sorella è una persona molto sgradevole, fa continuamente battute sul mio ragazzo, ma non voglio litigare con lei, perciò non dico nulla. Sono costretta a fare buon viso a cattivo gioco. (My sister’s boyfriend is a really unpleasant person, he always jokes about my boyfriend, but, since I don’t want to argue with her, I’m keeping silent. I’m forced to grin and bear it.)

7. Fare breccia (nel cuore di qualcuno)

It means “to win someone over or to make someone fall in love”.

Example: Siamo usciti insieme solo una volta, ma ha già fatto breccia nel mio cuore. (We went out only once, but s/he has already made me fall in love.)

8. Fare carte false

It means “to do everything in your power in order to reach your goal”.

Example: I miei genitori mi amano molto: farebbero carte false per esaudire ogni mio desiderio. (My parents love me so much: they would do anything to fulfill my wishes.)

9. Fare caso

It means “to notice”, “realize something”.


-Hai visto come ti guardava Roberto? Ti ha fissata per tutta la sera. (Did you notice the way Robert was looking at you? He stared at you the whole night)
– Davvero? Non ci ho fatto caso! (For real? I didn’t even notice!)

10. Fare fronte

It means “to face”.

Example : Questo è stato un anno molto duro per noi. Abbiamo fatto fronte a tante difficoltà, ma le abbiamo superate tutte con successo. (This has been a pretty tough year for us. We faced many difficulties, but we  overcame them successfully.)

11. Fare fuori

it means “to eliminate” o “to kill”.

Example :La sua azienda è riuscita in soli due mesi a fare fuori tutta la concorrenza. (His/her company managed to take out the competition in just two months.)

12. Fare i conti senza l’oste

It means “to take a decision without considering the opinions of the other people involved”.

Example: Se pensi che tuo padre ti darà i soldi per comprare una nuova macchina, hai fatto i conti senza l’oste. Non te li darà mai. (If you think your dad is going to give you the money to buy a new car, you reckoned  without your host. He’ll never give it to you.)

13. Fare il bello e il cattivo tempo

It means “to do whatever you want, to change mood whenever you feel like”, often without caring about other people.

Example: Sono stufo delle tue richieste insensate! Non puoi fare il bello e il cattivo tempo con me! (I’m tired of your senseless requests! You can’t do whatever you like with me!)

14. Fare le ore piccole

It means “to stay up late”.

Example: Ieri ho fatto le ore piccole. Ho lavorato al nuovo progetto e sono andato a dormire alle 4. (Yesterday I pulled an all-nighter. I worked on the new project and I went to sleep at 4 a.m.)

15. Fare leva (su)

It means “to take advantage of a particular situation or someone’s weakness, in order to obtain something”.

Example: Per convincerla, potresti provare a far leva sui suoi sentimenti. Farebbe qualsiasi cosa per te. (To convince her, you could use her feelings. She would do anything for you.)

16. Fare luce (su)

It means “to clarify”, “to expose the truth about something”.

Example: Grazie al prezioso contribuito della polizia, sono riusciti a fare luce sulla vicenda e ad individuare l’autore dell’omicidio. (Thanks to the precious contribution of the police, they were able to shed some light on the case and identify the killer.)

17. Fare mente locale

It means “to focus”  on reaching a conclusion or  in order to remember something.

Example: Non ricordo quante persone ho invitato alla mia festa di compleanno… Fammi fare mente locale e ti dico il numero preciso. (I don’t remember how many people I have invited to my bitday party… Let me think about that and I’ll tell you the exact number.)

18. Fare presente

It means “to point out something to someone”.

Example: Il mio capo mi ha fatto presente che questa settimana sono arrivata tardi già 3 volte. Credo che la prossima volta mi manderà un richiamo. (My boss pointed me out that I have been late 3 times this week. I think next time I’ll get a warning.)

19. Fare senso

It means “to disgust”.

Example: Non ci tengo a vedere la tua tarantola domestica, i ragni mi fanno senso! (I have no desire to see your pet tarantula, spiders disgust me!)

Attention!: fare senso” is a false friend of the English expressionto make sense”, which in Italian is “avere senso”.

20. Fare sul serio

It means “to be serious”, “to work hard” on something.

Esempio: Quando mio fratello mi ha detto che avrebbe fondato la sua azienda, credevo stesse scherzando. Invece faceva sul serio. (When my brother told me he was going to found his own company, I thought he was joking. He was actually serious.)

21. Fare un buco nell’acqua

It means “to fail”, “to not succeed”.

Esempio: Credevo di aver trovato il modo perfetto per conquistarla, ma ho fatto un buco nell’acqua. (I thought I had found the perfect way to win her over, but it was a total bust.)

22. Farla franca

It means “to escape a punishment”, “to get away with something”.

Example : Ha rubato più volte oggetti di valore dai suoi colleghi, ma nessuno l’ha mai colto in flagrante: è sempre riuscito a farla franca. (He stole valuables from his coworkers more than once, but no one has ever caught him red-handed so he has always gotten away with it.)

23. Farsi in quattro

It means “to work hard, to do everything possibile to gain something”.

Example: I tuoi genitori si sono sempre fatti in quattro per te, non ti hanno mai fatto mancare niente. (Your parents have always bent backwards for you,so that you could have everything.)

24. Farsi vivo

It means “to show up”, generally when no one is expecting it or after a long time.

Example: Dopo due anni da quando mi ha lasciata ha deciso di farsi vivo. Troppo tardi: ormai sono felicemente sposata. (Two years after braking up with me, he decided to show up. Too late, I’m already happily married.)

25. Fare orecchie da mercante

It means “to turn a deaf ear/blind eye”.

Example: Gli ho ricordato già tre volte che deve pagare l’affitto, ma lui continua a fare orecchie da mercante. (I reminded him 3 times already that he needs to pay rent, but he insists on turning a deaf ear.)

As you have seen, there are many expressions, but these were the most important and the most common ones used while speaking. Some of them have complex meanings which are not easily understadable, therefore it is important to be able to recognize them and use them correctly.

If you want to revise some grammar, I advise you to watch the video about the differences between the words qualche, qualsiasi, qualunque e ogni.

Moreover, here on the website you can also find our book Italiano Colloquiale: Parole ed Espressioni per tutti i Giorni which I suggest reading if  you’re serious about studying Italian!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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