Words and Phrases They DON’T Teach You in Italian Class

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Going to Italy? Here are a few words and phrases that will come in handy that you may not have learned in introductory Italian.

una batteria – battery: a common word that you think you know until that time comes when your mind blanks and you can’t remember the right Italian term.

un detersivo – detergent: in Italy detergent is sold separately from fabric softener so keep in mind that you will need to buy both when doing laundry, unless you don’t mind your clothes to be a little rough.

ammorbidente – fabric softener: in Italy, fabric softener is not already in detergent. If you want your clothes to be as soft as they are in the U.S. remember to buy this additive.

un ago da cucire – sewing needle: clothes may rip or tear while abroad and a sewing needle is the easiest way to fix a favorite shirt without having to go out and buy a new one. There is usually a spot in every grocery store with some small sewing supplies.

un filo – thread: as always you will need thread to patch up any rip or tear. Thread is usually by the sewing needles.

lo non ho i sold – “I don’t have any money”: from time to time beggars or gypsies will come up to you asking for money. If you don’t want to give up your money you can use this phrase.

un convertitore – converter: in case you forgot to bring a converter for your electronics, you can go to the grocery store or an electronics store and ask for this completely necessary item.

un adattatore – adaptor: adaptors are another handy item that are easily lost or forgotten. You can also go to a grocery store or an electronics store and ask for these.

mi lasci in pace per favore – “leave me alone, please”: if you want someone to leave you alone, ask nicely for them to leave you be, using this phrase.

effettuare cibo – carry-out/to-go food: if you want to take your food to go,  just tack on this phrase at the end of your order.

sta attento – be careful/watch out: if someone walks by you and says this phrase, he or she is saying to watch out. Take notice and pay closer attention to those around you.

carta igienica – toilet paper, sapone – soap, rasoi – razors, shampoo – shampoo, condizionatore – conditioner: in Italy, the amount of toiletries available is considerably less than in the U.S. If you are open to trying new products and want to leave more room in your bag, use these nouns to get what you need at a local grocery store.

mi dispiace – “I’m sorry”: In Italy, this phrase  is only used if there is a death in the family or if you are truly sorry about something.

scusa – “I’m sorry”: this is the casual form of “I’m sorry.” Use this if you bump into someone on the sidewalk.

caffe latte – American latte: in the U.S. when you go to Starbucks and order a latte, that usually means that you will get a coffee with some milk added in. In Italy, if you order a latte at a bar or café, you will get a cup of milk or sometimes steamed milk. To get your order of coffee with milk, you’ll want to use this specific phrase.


By: Caitlin Banbury

Caitlin is a senior English major and Education Abroad Peer Ambassador at UK. She studied abroad in Italy for an academic year (one semester each in Rome and Florence) with the partner program API.

For more information about the program that Caitlin completed, follow this link to the program page.