Italian Language Blog

Esprimiti! part 3 Posted by on Jul 24, 2009 in Italian Language

So far, in the first two articles of this series, I’ve been concentrating on the positive aspect of expressive vocabulary. What a wonderful world it would be if we only ever needed to talk about good and beautiful things! But of course life isn’t always so kind and sometimes we need to express distaste or disappointment.

Now don’t get excited, this is a respectable web site and I’m afraid I can’t teach you any parolacce (swear words), but don’t worry, you won’t have any trouble learning those once you spend a bit of time in ‘Il Bel Paese’ (‘The Beautiful Country’ or Italy) because we use them abundantly!

Hopefully you have come to grips with using the verb piacere to express the concept of ‘to like’, if not you should have a look at my article A different point of view

There are a couple of things to look out for however when using piacere in the negative:

To simply say ‘I don’t like it/this/that’ etc. you should use non mi piace, and use non mi piacciono, to mean ‘I don’t like them/these/those’ etc.. For example: non mi piace questa gonna (I don’t like this skirt), and non mi piacciono queste scarpe (I don’t like these shoes).

However, be careful with the verb dispiacere. If you say non mi dispiace questa gonna you are saying I don’t dislike this skirt, or literally ‘this skirt doesn’t displease me’. But if you simply say mi dispiace without the non, you mean ‘I’m sorry’, e.g. mi dispiace per la gonna (I’m sorry about the skirt). If on the other hand you say se non ti/le/vi dispiace what you mean is ‘if you don’t mind’, e.g. se non ti dispiace me ne vado fra dieci minuti (if you don’t mind I’m leaving in ten minutes), or if you are speaking to two or more people use se non vi dispiace. You can put dispiacere into the conditional by changing dispiace to dispiacerebbe, e.g. non mi dispiacerebbe comprare quella gonna! (I wouldn’t mind buying that skirt!), or ti dispiacerrebe se me ne vado fra dieci minuti? (would you mind if I leave in ten minutes?).

So much for displeasure! Many of the words and phrases that we looked at in parts one and two can easily be put into the negative by the simple addition of non. For example non essere entusiasta means not to be keen on, enthusiastic about, or happy with: non sono entusiasta della tua idea (I’m not enthusiastic about / keen on your idea). Likewise with non essere appasionato/a/i/e, e.g. non sono appassionata del calcio (I’m not keen on football).

Now for a few useful descriptive words and phrases. The first three are pretty obvious and have the same meaning as their English equivalent:

orrendo = horrendous

terribile = terrible

ripugnante = repugnant

brutto = bad / ugly, for the correct usage I recommend that you read my article The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

noioso = boring, e.g ‘è stata una riunione molto noiosa’ (it was a very boring meeting).

sgradevole = disagreeable, e.g. è stata una giornata sgradevole! (it’s been a disagreeable day!)

fastidioso/a/i/e = annoying, irritating, troublesome, e.g. come sono fastidiose queste mosche! (how annoying these flies are!), or basta con le domande fastidiose! (that’s enough of the irritating questions!).

We also use dare fastidio, which literally means that something annoys or irritates you, for example: mi da molto fastidio quel chiasso! (that racket / noise really annoys me!), or ci da fastidio il puzzo del traffico nella città (the stink of the traffic in the city bothers us).

N.B. fastidioso is a so called ‘false friend’ because it sounds like it should mean fastidious, but it doesn’t. In fact we use the word pignolo/a to mean fastidious, or fussy, e.g. lui è una persona molto pignola (he is a really fastidious / fussy person).

Another expression very similar to dare fastidio  is scocciare which means ‘to annoy’, ‘to bother’, or ‘to bore’, e.g. ti scoccia la televisione? (does the TV bother you?).

deludere is another false friend because it sounds like it means ‘to delude’ but instead means ‘to disappoint’. When you are disappointed with something you can use the past participle deluso, e.g. l’ultimo libro di Pinco Pallino mi ha deluso (Pinco Pallino’s last book disappointed me). Deludente means disappointing, e.g. l’ultimo libro di Pinco Pallino è stato deludente (Pinco Pallino’s last book was disappointing).

Last but not least we have that wonderfully expressive word schifoso/a/i/e, which means disgusting, e.g. che tempo schifoso! (what disgusting weather!). We also have una schifezza and uno schifo which both mean ‘a disgusting thing’, e.g. pulisci la tua camera, è una schifezza! (tidy up your room, it’s disgusting!). Then we have the expression che schifo! which means how disgusting!, e.g. hai visto quello scorpione, che schifo! (have you seen that scorpion, how disgusting!).

If you want to say that something disgusts you, use the expression fare schifo, e.g. i ragni non mi danno fastidio ma gli scorpioni mi fanno schifo! (spiders don’t bother me but scorpions disgust me!)

And now have fun with your new expressive vocabulary. Esprimiti!

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  1. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    Can you please tell me if the phrase “solo un momento che sa di noioso” is idiomatic? Does it really mean, “only a moment that it knows of boring?”

    Do you consider Italian speech to be highly idiomatic compared to other languages?



  2. cinzia:

    Doesn’t “noioso” also mean “annoying” similar to “fastidioso”? Do you (personally) only use it to express “boring”? I know gli italiani usano anche la parola “seccante” per “annoying”. Che confusione tutte queste scelte di parole! C. 😉

  3. Serena:

    Ciao Vince, “solo un momento che sa di noioso” doesn’t mean anything to me I’m afraid, where did you hear it? However ‘sa di’ could also mean’ feels like’, ‘tastes of’, or ‘smells of, yet another bit of confusion I’m afraid because we use ‘sapere di’ to mean all of these things but the meaning comes from the context, e.g. questo te’ sa di menta (this tea tastes of mint), l’aria sa di fiori (the air smells of flowers).
    I find English to be a very idiomatic language, but maybe because Italian grammar is much more complicated and we use it in often ‘irregular’ ways it seems particularly idiomatic. This is why it is particulary important to try and follow the advice I gave before about conversing with native speakers, and reading topical magazine articles etc.

    A presto, Serena

  4. Serena:

    Ciao Cinzia, Yes noioso can also mean bothersome, tedious etc. so in that sense it is quite like fastidioso. Per esempio, ‘smettila di fare il noioso’ or ‘non essere noioso’ can mean ‘stop being boring, tedious, or annoying’. Seccante is another way of saying ‘annoying’ e.g. per me la musica elettronica e’ un rumore molto seccante’ (I find the sound of electronic music very annoying / tedious).

    A presto, Serena

  5. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    I’m relieved that the line “solo un momento che sa di noioso” did not mean anything to you either. Maybe it’s not just me. 🙂

    The line comes from the last stanza of Adriano Celentano’s: “C’è sempre un motivo”.

    I think Adriano is fantastic and I have followed his career ever since 1964 when I lived in Italy. I always try to figure out what his songs mean. However, knowing what each word means often provides no help at all in knowing what the sentence means.

    I hope ‘fair use’ will let me quote 4 lines from the song below.

    “Se penso e mi sento un pò più nervoso
    è solo un momento che sa di noioso
    poi passa poi torna non so come dire
    c’è sempre un motivo…per tornare a capire”

    Does it make any sense now?


  6. Serena:

    Ciao Vince!

    “Sa di noioso” definitely means “feels boring”. Adriano Celentano is a great artist, but his texts have always been a bit …. strange. His Italian language is very particular, imaginative, but not always grammatically correct.


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