4 Italian Idioms Every Learner Should Know

Today, we have a few more Italian colloquialisms, or idioms, or slang... or whatever you like to call them — I still don't know (or care) what the difference is.

These are fun little phrases because they don't mean what they say, and it's important to understand them correctly when you hear or see them used. Also, these are the kind of phrases that will give you trouble if you've been relying on Google Translate.

Stare alla larga da

One can easily imagine the word "distanza" implied here, as this phrase means to keep a distance from, or to steer clear of something or someone.

Dov'è Anna? (Where is Anna?)
Lei sta alla larga dal sole. (She avoids the sun.)

Ma ti pare

Literally, this translates as something along the line of but it seems that way to you, but it's best to think of this phrase in the same way as think nothing of it, or don't mention it, said in response to a "thank you" or to an apology.

Grazie per avermi aiutato. (Thanks for helping me)
Ma ti pare. (Don't mention it.)

Mi è toccato

Literally I was touched, or I was chosen. When used in this way (with the auxiliary verb essere), it means the duty fell upon me, or it's my turn.

Mi è toccata togliere la spazzatura. (I had to take out the trash.)

Mi ha dato buca

Here, the literal phrase means [s/he] gave me a hole, which doesn't make much sense. But this little colloquial phrase actually means I was stood up, in the sense that someone didn't show up when and where they were expected.

Il commercialista mi ha pure dato buca! (Even my accountant stood me up!)


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  • How do you know how to spot slang in a language?

  • for "to stand someone up" I've also heard "fare il bidone a qualcuno"

  • The same what I spot it in English. Once you reach a certain level of proficiency in a language, these details take care of themselves.

  • Good to know!

  • "She gave me a hole"? Lol, that didn't turn out as dirty as I thought it was going to...

  • these are great! it reminds of a time my friend was trying to annotate (?) the largest number he could imagine. Since I don't know anything about advanced math annotations, to me it looked like it spelled out "suck it".

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