Italian Language Blog

Una Mela al Giorno – part 2 Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Italian Language

Grazie a tutti for the interesting responses to my blog ‘Una Mela al Giorno’

I asked you to help me out by finding English equivalents for five common Italian sayings or proverbs. Here below are those that  I consider to be the closest in meaning:

Proverb Meaning
chi fa per sè fa per tre ‘who does for themselves does for three’
meaning: Sometimes it’s easier or better to do a job on your own.
English equivalents: 1. If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself 2. Too many cooks spoil the broth
il diavolo fa le pentole ma non i coperchi ‘the devil makes the pans but not the lids’
meaning: the truth will come out in the end.
English equivalents: 1. Everything comes out in the wash 2.The truth will always out 3. If you make your bed, you have to lie in it
tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare ‘between the saying and the doing there is the sea in the middle’
meaning: it’s much easier to say something than it is to do it.
English equivalents: 1. Easier said than done 2. It’s easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk 3. Words are cheap
il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio ‘the wolf looses its pelt but not its vice’ i.e.
meaning: the external appearance may change, but not what’s inside.
English equivalents: 1. Old wine in new bottles 2. A snake may lose its skin, but it’s still a snake inside 3. The leopard cannot change his spots
la gallina che canta ha fatto l’uovo ‘the chicken that sings laid the egg’
meaning: the person who begins to make a fuss about something is probably the culprit.
English equivalent: She doth protest too much, methinks

Here are a few more detti (sayings) suggested by readers:

Detto English equivalent
campa cavallo che l’erba cresce when pigs have wings
o mangi questa minestra o salti dalla finestra beggars can’t be choosers
ogni morte di papa once in a blue moon
come il diavolo e l’acqua santa like oil and water

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Italian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Marta:

    Buon giorno! I love idioms! I have a question regarding “O mangi questa minestra o salti dalla finestra”, would a mother say that to her children or is it used as it’s used in English, in general contexts? Grazie!

    • serena:

      @Marta Salve Marta, when I was a child my mother always used the saying “o mangi questa minestra o salti dalla finestra” when I was being fussy. In my blog I translated it as ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, but you could also translate it as ‘like it or leave it’.

      Saluti da Serena

  2. Marta:

    Grazie, Serena! I love that idiom and will say it to my fussy son 🙂

Leave a comment: