Italian word of the day: ‘Manovra’

Italian word of the day: 'Manovra'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
You'll need to work this word into your vocabulary if you want to follow the Italian news.

This is a word you may have seen in the headlines in Italy recently.

As you might guess, manovra can be translated simply as ‘manoeuvre’, a word we’ve borrowed ito English from French to describe a tricky or artful movement.

It has several uses in Italian, the most obvious being the same as in English:

C’era ampi spazi di manovra

There was ample space to manoeuvre

The verb in the infinitive in manovrare, and you can follow the standard grammar rules when using it.

lui manovra la barca abilmente

He manouvres the boat skilfully

But often you’ll need to add the verb fare (to do). 

fare manovra

to manoeuvre (a car)

fare manovra di parcheggio

To park – literally ‘to do a parking manouvre’

Una volta ho fatto la manovra di Heimlich a mia sorella

I once did the Heimlich manouvre on my sister

So far, so easy to talk about tricky movements.

But then it all gets a little bit murky when you realise that manovra as a verb also translates as ‘manipulate’, ‘steer’ or ‘influence’; and as a noun, ‘measure’ ‘ruse’, ‘tactic’ or ‘ploy’.

No wonder then that it’s used so often in a political context.

Especially as it can be used to talk about la nuova manovra fiscal, or new fiscale measures. Meanwhile, a manovra finanziaria describes a financial plan, or the budget – which has dominated headlines lately.

And while it’s close enough to the meaning in English, it doesn’t always translate exactly:

Il presidente ha manovrato il Congresso per far passare il programma.

Literally: The president manoeuvred congress in order to pass the bill.

It’s all in the context. This word can have many shades of meaning, but by using it and noticing it you should, in time, gain an understanding of what exactly the speaker or writer means in different contexts.

This is always a useful word to know, whether for describing your latest hair-raising Italian driving incident or following political conversations between Italian friends.

And as you can see, finding ways to use this word in a sentence doesn’t have to be una manovra difficile.