Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 3

1. a group of words which, when used together, have a different meaning from the one suggested by the individual words, eg it was raining cats and dogs
2. linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to native speakers

Every language comes with its own set of idioms, slangs, and sayings.Learning and understanding them can prove to be a difficult part of the language learning process.An idiom here is not going to translate word for word to an idiom from another country.So how does one effectively learn idioms?I guess that would be the tricky part.

Probably the most popular idiom in the Italian language is “in bocca al lupo” which if literally translated into English means “in the wolf’s mouth”. The English equivalent of this saying would probably be “break a leg”. However, if you were to translate “break a leg” and use it in the same context in Italy you would probably get some really strange looks.

Let’s take a look at some other Italian idioms I have managed to track down:

A chi dai il dito si prende anche un braccio” – translated means, “To whom you give a finger will also take an arm”. This is similar to the English saying “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”

Tocca ferro” – translated means “touch iron”. This follows the same idea as the English expression “knock on wood”.

Se fossi nei tuoi panni” – translated means “If I was in your clothes”. In English, we would say “If I were in your shoes” which in Italian would be “se fossi nelle tue scarpe”. Very similar but would it be understood by Italians?

For those of you reading my blog from la bel paese, what sort of idiom, slang, or sayings have you encountered that were similar to or had an English equivalent? Leave a comment and maybe down the road I can add another blog entry of popular idioms for those learning Italian. 🙂


  1. Adventures of Learning a Language - Part 5 « Calabrisella Mia

    November 15, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    […] other “Adventures of Learning a Language”: Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 4 Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 3 Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 2 Adventures of Learning a Language – Part […]

  2. Jessica Sztaimberg

    July 3, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    This one I found out from someone else-

    In English we have “To kill two birds with one stone”

    In Italian they have “prendere due piccioni con una fava”


    “to catch two pigeons with one bean”

  3. LuLu

    June 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Cherrye – I have never heard “no vedo l’ora” at least not that I can recall…but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard “non me va” before but just wasn’t quite sure what it meant. I’m keeping my ears open for more…I’m sure there are tons! 🙂 Thanks for throwing a couple my way!!

  4. Cherrye at My Bella Vita

    June 15, 2008 at 12:51 am

    These are good ones! I was confused on these two… (don’t quote me on spelling!)

    No vedo l’ora … I don’t see the hour (or the time). It is like our “I can’t wait!” Which seems odd to me.


    Non me va … I don’ t actually “get” this 100%, so if anyone does they can correct me, but they use it like “I don’t feel like it” or “These clothes don’t fit.” Strange, indeed. When my father in law tries to get my hubby to eat more he says, “Non voglio … non me va!” Or if I try on a pair of pants and they don’t fit, I could say “non me va.”

    Boh! 😉

  5. Leanne

    June 8, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I’ll have to let you know when I think of one as you have covered the main ones above. It is funny you say this as I was trying to explain to my mum just the other day that sometimes my boyfriend is the only one who understands MY italian as he speaks English and understands what I am saying. So if I were to say ‘break a leg’ in Italian, he knows I am saying good luck as he knows this is a saying in English, and he knows that (even though I shouldn’t) I still translate from English to Italian in my head. I have said so many things that just DO NOT translate but now I cannot think of any 🙂

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