EURO 2020

Italian word of the day: ‘Tifoso’

We think you’ll be a fan of this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: ‘Tifoso’
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you’re following the Italian news at the moment, you’ll know this word is everywhere.

It might be easy to tell from the context of news reports that the word tifoso means “fan” or “supporter”. But do you know how to use the word correctly?

The verb tifare means to support, cheer for, or to root for, and it’s pretty much exclusively used when talking about sports..

– Sono qui a tifare per l’Italia

– I’m here to support Italy

So a supporter, then is un/a tifoso/a. The plural tifosi is used to describe a group of supporters (all-male or mixed gender – an all-female group would be tifose). 

These are probably going to be fans of football teams. But you may also hear people talking about tifosi in relation to other sports, too.

According to the Collins dictionary. in English the word tifoso is more often associated with motor racing fans. While in Italy, we’ve also heard it used in conversations about the Giro d’Italia.

Whatever the sport, the word implies that these particular fans will be particularly dedicated – perhaps truly fanatical.

You can also say fare il tifo, which also simply means ‘to support’ or ‘to cheer for’.

– Facciamo il tifo per voi in questa maratona

– We’ll cheer for you in this marathon

An online search may give you the impression that the word tifo, derived from the ancient Greek typhos, means typhus, or typhoid fever. This often leads people to believe that the word tifoso means “feverish”, perhaps suggesting that fans have come down with “football fever”.

But several Italian dictionaries note that it’s more likely to be connected to the other meaning of the ancient Greek typhos: smoke. As Treccani explains, enthusiastic spectators at the ancient Olympics used to celebrate the victories of their heroes by gathering around a bonfire.

You could also describe these supporters as appassionati, but you wouldn’t call them fans – even though the Italian language has adopted this English word.

‘Fan’ is more commonly used in Italian when talking about admirers of musicians or other famous people. So while you could be un fan di Madonna, you would be un tifoso di calcio (a football fan).

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Ti conviene’

It's in your best interests to familiarise yourself with this handy verb.

Italian expression of the day: 'Ti conviene'

When someone tells you “ti conviene…” they might be doing any of offering a friendly piece of advice, giving instructions, issuing a veiled threat, or complaining – whichever it is, you’d better (ti conviene) pay attention.

The phrase – the second person indirect object pronoun ti followed by the third person singular conjugation of the verb convenire – can mean any of ‘It is advisable to you/ it is convenient to you/ it suits you/ you should/ you’d better’, but sounds more natural than most of those options do in English.

Ti conviene darti una mossa, il treno parte fra un’ora.
You’d better get a move on, the train leaves in an hour.

Non ti conviene andare a quest’ora, l’ufficio sarà già chiuso.
You don’t want to go at this hour, the office will already be closed.

Ti interessi alle nostre vite solo quando ti conviene.
You only take an interest in our lives when it suits you.

You’ll notice it’s always followed by an infinitive verb, and you can switch out the pronoun with any of mi/ti/le/gli/vi/ci depending on who you’re talking about (or to).

Non mi conviene accettare questo lavoro se si tratta di un viaggio di due ore a tratta.
It’s not worth it for me to take this job if it involves a two hour commute each way.

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Gli conviene dirci la verità.
It’s in his best interests to tell us the truth.

or simply dispense with it altogether:

Conviene prenotare in anticipo, gli alberghi si riempiono rapidamente in questo periodo dell’anno.
It’s worth booking ahead, the hotels book up quickly this time of year.

Non conviene andare in spiaggia in agosto, sarà strapiena di gente.
It’s not worth going to the beach in August, it’ll be packed to the gills.

The verb’s infinitive form convenire, can, used differently, also mean ‘to agree upon’, ‘to gather or assemble’, or ‘to be cheap’ (conveniente is an Italian false friend, meaning ‘affordable’ rather than ‘convenient’).

Comprare le cose dal mercatino dell’usato conviene sempre.
It’s always cheaper to shop at the second hand market.

Now you know how to use this phrase, ti conviene try it out in a conversation at the first opportunity.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.