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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Non vedo l’ora’

We bet you can't wait to start using this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Non vedo l'ora'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you were to ask an Italian out on a date, they might respond with today’s expression: non vedo l’ora

But, since this literally translates as “I can’t see the time”, you might understandably think you’d just been turned down with an excuse about a busy schedule.

This is when it really pays to know your Italian idioms, since this phrase actually means “I can’t wait” or “I’m looking forward to it.”

As in, you’re just so excited about this future event that you can’t even “see”, or imagine, the time coming.

Isn’t that a bit more romantic than the impatient English “I can’t wait”?

The amorous Italian you met on your last trip to Italy, now separated from you by thousands of miles of ocean, is likely to send messages along the lines of:

– non vedo l’ora di rivederti amore mio

– I can’t wait to see you again my love

They don’t call it the language of love for nothing.

But, obviously, the phrase is also used all the time in all sorts of situations; some of them markedly less romantic.

Some other useful phrases might be:

– non vedo l’ora di finire il lavoro

– I can’t wait to finish work

– Non vedo l’ora di incontrare i miei nuovi colleghi

– I’m looking forward to meeting my new colleagues.

The second example might sound a little off to English speakers. While there’s a different between “I can’t wait” and “I’m looking forward to it” (the former would imply more yearning or excitement) Italians just use the same phrase for both.

So for English speakers, using non vedo l’ora when you want to politely express that you’re “quite looking forward to” getting started on a work project might feel a bit much. But really, it’s fine.

To use this phrase in any situation, you can simply add on verbs in the infinitive, just like in English.

Don’t forget that, In Italian, ora can be used to mean  both ‘hour and ‘time’, as well as “now”

Some examples:

– che ora è?

– what time is it?

– è ora di andare

– It’s time to go

– Stiamo mangiando proprio ora

– We’re eating right now

And now you know exactly how to tell people how excited you are about your next visit to Italy:

Non vedo l’ora di tornare in Italia!

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

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For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Si tratta di’

What's this phrase all about?

Italian expression of the day: 'Si tratta di'

Today’s expression is one you’ll hear a lot in spoken Italian.

It’s also a tricky one for anglophones to wrap our heads around, because although it appears simple – ‘si tratta di’ basically means something along the lines of ‘it concerns/discusses/deals with/is about’ – it actually doesn’t translate very cleanly into English most of the time.

Let’s start with the use that’s easiest for us to grasp: asking and answering what something’s about/what it concerns.

– Pronto, sono l’ispettore Jackson, posso parlare con la signora Hoffman?
– Sì, sono io – posso chiedere di cosa si tratta?

– Hello, this is Inspector Jackson speaking, can I speak with Mrs. Hoffman?
– Yes, this is she – may I ask what this is concerning?

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We can also use the phrase to say that something is ‘a matter of’ or ‘a question of’:

Se si tratta di qualche ora, rimarremo qui ad aspettarla.
If it’s a question of hours, we’ll stay here and wait for her.

Ora si tratta solo di scoprire dove ha lasciato le chiavi.
Now it’s a just a matter of figuring out where she left the keys.

And si tratta di can also be as a translation for ‘when it comes to’.

Adoro mangiare bene, ma quando si tratta di cucinare sono una frana.
I love eating well, but when it comes to cooking I suck.

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Where things start to get a bit more complicated is that you’ll often see the phrase used where the English translation doesn’t require anything.

For example, you might hear the following exchange at work:

– Michela non viene al lavoro oggi perché la sua bambina è malata.
– Spero che non si tratti di nulla di grave.

– Michela’s not coming into work today because her little girl’s sick.
– I hope it’s nothing serious.

You could say ‘I hope it doesn’t consist of anything serious’, which would get you closer to a direct translation – but in English this would sound oddly formal and overblown (in the above example we use tratti rather than tratta because spero che requires the subjunctive).

What if you want to say that a certain thing – a song, a book, a film, a speech – discusses or ‘deals with’ certain themes or issues?

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Firstly, note that impersonal si there. It’s standing in for a subject, which means we can’t have both the subject and the si in the same sentence together – one of them has to go.

You can say, for example, ‘Il suo terzo libro tratta delle idee di pressione sociale e di libertà personale‘ – ‘her third book deals with ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom.’

Or you can say, ‘Nel suo terzo libro, si tratta delle idee di pressione sociale e di libertà personale‘ – ‘In her third book, she discusses ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom” (a more literal translation would be ‘in her third book, ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom are discussed’, which sounds a bit awkward in English).

You could ask:

Di cosa tratta il libro?
What does the book discuss?

or

Di cosa si tratta nel libro?
What’s discussed in the book?

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What you can’t do is say, ‘Il libro si tratta di…’ or ask ‘Di cosa si tratta il libro?’. Neither of these constructions work because you can’t have both the impersonal si and the subject (in this case, il libro) together.

What if you want to say, for example, ‘the book/film is about…’?

The easiest way to do that is either to just say ‘il film parla di…‘ – ‘the film talks about…’ ; or ‘il film racconta la storia di…’ – ‘the film tells the story of…’:

Il film parla di un robot che vuole distruggere la razza umana.
The film’s about a robot who wants to destroy the human race.

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Il libro racconta la storia di un ragazzo che scopre di essere un mago.
The book tells the story of a boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what this phrase is all about!

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

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