The MOST USEFUL Italian Expressions!

If you want to speak a language properly, like Italian, as a true native speaker you need to know not only a large number of words, but also a bunch of expressions that are present in every conversation. For this reason, we selected and gathered for you the 12 most used expressions by Italians!

The 12 most used Italian expressions

1) Si chiama Pietro! (It’s name’s Jack and I want it back!)

This expression is used, in a joking way, especially when you borrow something to somebody and you want to underline the fact that this thing must be returned to the rightful owner.
In fact, when we borrow something, it often happens that the person who has received the object from us, doesn’t give it back because they forget to or don’t want to.

Example: “Si chiama Pietro… e torna indietro!” (It’s name’s Jack and I want it back!)

2) Mettere troppa carne al fuoco (Have to many irons in the fire)

This expression is used when someone wants to do way too many things, more than they’re actually capable of.

Example: “Non mettere troppa carne al fuoco: dovresti prima terminare i tuoi compiti e poi dedicati alla scrittura del tuo libro.” (Don’t have too many irons on the fire: you should finish your homework first and then you can spend your time writing your book).

3) Cadere dalla padella alla brace (From the frying pan into the fire)

This expression is used when we move from a bad situation to another one even worse. The expression comes from the tale of a little fish that after being caught and put in a pan to be cooked, the little fish manages to jump out the pan. But unfortunately it dies falling on the burning embers.

This story is perfect to move to the expression number 4:

4) Passare a miglior vita (Passing away)

This expression is an euphemism that is used to replace the verb “morire” (to die).

Example: “Il pesciolino, cadendo sulla brace, è passato a miglior vita!” (The little fish, falling on the grill, has passed away)

5) Volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (Have one’s cake and eat it too)

This expression means “volere tutto senza rinunciare a nulla” (a person wants everything without giving up anything)

Example:“Voglio andare a Dubai spendendo solo 200€! – Tu vuoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca… ma non è possibile!” (I want to go on holiday in Dubai spending only 200€! You want to have one’s cake and eat it too…but that’s not possible!)

6) Battere il ferro finché è caldo (Strike while the iron is hot)

This expression means that you should take advantage of the circumstances until they’re favorable, taking action at the right time in order to avoid losing a good occasion.
It’s a saying related to the world of work, in particular to the profession of blacksmith.

Example: “L’hai conquistata con le tue battute, perché non la inviti ad uscire? Bisogna battere il ferro finché è caldo!” (You won her with your jokes, why don’t you invite her to go out? You have to strike while the iron is hot!)

7) Mandare all’aria (Blowing up (in the face)/ going up in smoke)

This expression means “rendere vano” (to render vain), “far fallire” (to thwart) or “impedire che qualcosa si realizzi” (to prevent something from happening).

Example: “Greta ha mandato all’aria i piani di suo fratello” (Greta made her brother’s plans blow up in his face) .

or, if there’s not a well-defined subject, we could say:

Il suo piano è andato all’aria” (His plan went up in smoke)

8) Battere la fiacca (Slacking off/ being a couch potato)

This expression means “fare le cose svogliatamente e lentamente” (doing things listlessly and slowly)

Example: “Antonio batte tutti i giorni la fiacca” (Antonio slacks off everyday/is a couch potato)

9) Piantare in asso (To ditch/ bail on)

This expression means “abbandonare qualcuno da un momento all’altro, senza preavviso” (abandoning someone from a moment to another, without notice)

Example: “Massimo ha piantato Lucia in asso proprio nel momento più importante della presentazione” (Massimo ditched Lucia right at the most important moment of the presentation)

10) Vendere l’anima al diavolo (Selling the soul to the devil)

This expression means  “fare qualsiasi cosa pur di raggiungere uno scopo”  (doing whatever it takes in order to reach a goal).

Example: “Mio suocero venderebbe l’anima al diavolo pur di diventare il CEO della sua azienda” (My father-in-law would sell his soul to the devil in order to be the CEO of his company)

11) Non sapere che pesci prendere (Not knowing which way to turn)

This expression means “non sapere che cosa fare, quale comportamento tenere, come cavarsela” (not knowing what to do, how to behave, how to get around).

Example: “Non so proprio che pesci prendere con mio figlio: non vuole né studiare né lavorare” (I really don’t know which way to turn with my son: he neither wants to study nor to work)

12) Essere come il prezzemolo (Turning up like a bad penny)

This expression means “essere dappertutto, essere presente in luoghi e situazioni diverse, mettersi sempre di mezzo, intromettersi in tutto” (being everywhere, being present in different places and situations, meddling in/with everything)  like parsley, that is commonly used in many dishes of Italian cuisine.

Example: “Filippo è come il prezzemolo: si intromette in tutti i discorsi” (Filippo is like a bad penny: he meddles in every talk)

Alright, these are the most common expressions, but if you know more about Italian language in all its aspects, you can take a look at our video on Italian slang, it’s very interesting and funny!

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