Man and woman talking cartoon

Popular Italian phrases

Italians are famous for their expressiveness in everything they do. It involves gestures when they speak, the food they prepare, the art they produce, and, of course, the language they speak.

Here are 10 popular Italian phrases that exemplify that expressiveness. Imagine yourself using them in common situations with your friends or family. Mamma mia! You’re becoming an authentic Italian!

In bocca al lupo

Italians often say this to wish good luck to another person, especially before an exam or some important occasion. The literal translation is “to be in the wolf’s mouth.” The most common response is “Crepi” or “Crepi il lupo” which, in this sense, means “thank you”.

Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala!

This is a sarcastic Italian expression that translates as “You wanted the bike? Well now you have to pedal it”. It’s something like the expression “I told you so.”

Acqua in bocca!

The expression is often used to ask someone to keep a secret. In Italian, you say, “to keep water in the mouth” when you don’t want somebody to reveal a confidential matter.

Non vedo l’ora!

The expression translates to “I don’t see the time”. When Italians say “Non vedo l’ora”, what they mean is that they are excited about something. At that moment, time is of no importance, they just want to do that certain thing they are waiting for. They want time to fly by to do it soon!

Essere in gamba

In Italy, if you want to tell someone, “You are very smart or you know a lot,” you would say “Essere in gamba,” which literally means “to be in the leg.” Although it doesn’t translate well, it’s enough to know that if something is “in the leg” it’s a good thing.

Prendere due piccioni con una fava

It literally would be “to kill two birds with one stone”. Which means that we have achieved two things with one action.

Non mi va

This expression literally translates as “it doesn’t suit me”. It can be interpreted as “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t want it”. This popular Italian phrase is also used when you don’t agree with something. 

Essere in alto mare

“To be at high sea”, means that you still have a long way to go to finish a task or action. This phrase is often used when someone is dragging their feet on a project they have to finish. For example, in the illustration below, Clara’s boss tells her “Sei in alto mare!” because she has been wasting time and has not finished her assignment.

Bald man and woman talking cartoon

Non avere peli sulla lingua

It translates as “to not have hair on the tongue.” And it means that a person does not mince words or that the person is direct and says what they think without beating around the bush. Italians are quite open and not afraid to say what they think, so this popular Italian phrase applies to them!

Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto

And finally, we end with a saying that you will hear more than any other in Italy. It means “Eat well, laugh often, love much”. 

Would you like to continue learning Italian?

To continue learning these Italian phrases we invite you to check out the free trial of the Italianpod101. It is packed with these everyday life phrases and gives cultural insights into many of them.

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