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Crafting Common Idiomatic Expressions in Italian

Part of the Italian All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Whether you're learning Mandarin, Farsi, German, or Italian, idioms enrich communication — but can't be translated literally. In Italian, the most common idioms use the following verbs: fare (to do), avere (to have), essere (to be), and andare (to go).

Idioms using fare (to do)

Here's a list of the most common idiomatic expressions with fare (to do):

  • fare gli auguri (to give one's wishes)

  • fare il bagno/la doccia (to take a bath/shower)

  • fare bello/brutto/caldo/freddo/fresco (to have good/bad/warm/cold/cool weather)

  • fare il biglietto (to get a ticket)

  • fare buon viaggio (to have a good trip)

  • fare colazione (to have breakfast/lunch)

  • fare i compiti (to do homework)

  • fare una conferenza (to give a lecture)

  • fare la conoscenza di (to meet; to make the acquaintance of)

  • fare il conto (to add up the total)

  • fare due, tre, . . . chilometri (to cover 2, 3, . . . kilometers)

  • fare un favore (to do a favor)

  • fare un giro (to take a tour)

  • fare male (to hurt; to ache)

  • fare una partita di calcio (to play soccer)

  • fare una passeggiata (to take a walk)

  • fare la pasta (to cook pasta)

  • fai pure! (go ahead!)

  • fare un regalo (give a present)

  • fare una sorpresa (to surprise)

  • fare la spesa (to go grocery shopping)

  • fare le spese (to go shopping)

  • fare lo spiritoso (to joke; to clown)

  • fare tardi (to be late)

  • fare una telefonata (to make a call)

  • fare le valige (to pack)

  • fare vedere (to show)

  • fare un viaggio (to take a trip)

  • fare una visita (to pay a visit)

Idioms using avere (to have)

Notice that most of the idiomatic expressions with avere are translated with the verb to be in English.

  • aver caldo (to be warm)

  • avere . . . anni (to be . . . years old)

  • avere la corda al collo (to have no way out)

  • aver fame (to be hungry)

  • avere fegato (to be brave)

  • aver freddo (to be cold)

  • aver fretta (to be in a hurry)

  • avere grilli per la testa (to have fancy and unrealistic ambitions)

  • avere la luna storta (to be in a bad mood)

  • avere una memoria di ferro (to have a good memory)

  • avere molto caldo (to be hot)

  • aver paura (to be afraid of)

  • aver ragione (to be right)

  • aver sete (to be thirsty)

  • aver sonno (to be sleepy)

  • aver torto (to be wrong)

  • aver vergogna (to be ashamed of)

Idioms using essere (to be) and andare (to go)

Here's a list of the most common idiomatic expressions with essere (to be) and andare (to go).

  • essere a cavallo (to find a good solution to an issue)

  • essere al settimo cielo (to be very happy)

  • essere come il diavolo e l'acqua santa (to be extremely different)

  • essere nelle canne (to be broke; to be in difficulty)

  • essere un carciofo (to be credulous/awkward)

  • andare all'aria (to disrupt the plans; to be unsuccessful)

  • andare liscio (to go smoothly)

  • andare via (to leave; to go away)

  • andare a trovare (to pay a visit to someone)

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