For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Farla franca’

You won't get away with neglecting to learn this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day farla franca
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you like Italian detective or murder mystery novels, sooner or later you’re bound to encounter the phrase farla franca: to get away with something.

Con Poirot alle calcagna, l’assassino non riuscirà mai a farla franca.
With Poirot on the scent, the killer will never get away with it.

Pensavi davvero di potermi derubare e farla franca?
You really thought you could steal from me and get away with it?

90 Day Fiance Ellie GIF by TLC

According to the Treccani dictionary, the expression comes from the bureaucratic use of the adjective franco to mean ‘free’, describing either people that are exempt from carrying out their duties (like off-duty naval officers) or goods that are exempt from tariffs and duties.

One of the first recorded uses of farla franca as a phrase comes from the early 14th century.

The Florentine historian Giovanni Villani wrote that in June 1322, the city of Florence celebrated the Feast of San Giovanni with a big fair, ‘la quale feciono franca‘ for non-citizens – in other words, foreign merchants who came didn’t have to pay the usual taxes.

By the mid-1800s, the expression came to mean escaping from some illicit act or risky endeavour without having to pay a penalty. In English (if you were being old-fashioned) you might talk in the same way about someone ‘getting off scot free’.

The la in farla franca is the part of the phrase that stands in for the ‘it’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be attached to fare but can go somewhere else, as long as it’s there.

Non possiamo permettere che la faccia franca.
We can’t let him get away with this.

Pensa di poterla fare franca.
She thinks she can get away with it.

With this phrase now in your repertoire, there’s no telling what you’ll get away with.

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Addirittura’

Never heard this one before? You don't say!

Italian word of the day: 'Addirittura'
Photo: DepositPhotos

A reader wrote to us asking what today’s word meant, and the simplest answer we can give is that addirittura adds emphasis. (You can hear it pronounced here.)

It does so in a few different ways. Say you’re telling someone something and you really want to hammer home just how extraordinary it is: slip in addirittura the same way we’d say ‘even’.

Si è messo addirittura due maglioni!
He even put on two sweaters!

Non solo ha vinto la gara, ha addirittura battuto il record del mondo.
Not only did she win the race, she even beat the world record.

Or, if you just want to stress your point, addirittura serves the same way ‘downright’ or ‘frankly’ does in English.

È una cifra addirittura ridicola.
It’s a frankly ridiculous figure.

I bus sono spesso vecchi e talvolta addirittura pericolosi.
The buses are often old and sometimes downright dangerous.

There’s a different way you might have heard the word used in conversation: as an expression of surprise. If you tell a friend something and they reply “Addiriturra!”, it probably means they can’t quite believe what you’re saying.

– Sono arrivata prima.
– Addirittura!

– I got here first. 
– Is that so!

– Pretendono due mila euro di risarcimento.
– Addirittura!

– They want two thousand euros in compensation.
– Really!

Warning: depending on what tale you’ve just told, addirittura may contain sarcasm.

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