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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Here’s how to talk about love, sex, and dating in Italian

The language of love is unsurprisingly full of words and phrases that might come in handy this Valentine's Day - although you may not have heard these in Italian class.

Here's how to talk about love, sex, and dating in Italian
A couple at the famous carnival of Venice. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Flirting

Italians have a reputation for being flirty, so these phrases could well come in handy if you’re navigating the Italian dating scene.

There are a few different terms for flirting: the reflexive verb ‘provarci‘ (roughly ‘to try it on with’), the phrasal verb ‘fare il filo a‘ or ‘corteggiare‘ (literally ‘to court’) are more formal alternatives, or you can use the Anglicism ‘flirtare‘, or ‘civettare‘, though the latter is generally restricted to women. 

The noun ‘una civetta‘, which means ‘owl’, is used to talk about flirty women (in English you might say ‘vixen’), while for men you could say ‘un donnaiolo‘ for a heterosexual man (it translates more or less as ‘womanizer’) or ‘un cascamorto‘, which comes from the term ‘cascare morto‘ (to fall down dead), suggesting dramatic swooning.

You can also use the verbal phrase ‘fare il cascamorto‘ to refer to a man who is flirting, usually in an over-the-top way, with someone.


Italy’s elaborate piazzas provide a suitably romantic backdrop. Photo: londondeposit/Depositphotos

Buttarsi‘ (literally ‘to throw oneself) means ‘to have a go’ and is often used in a romantic context, while ‘abbordare‘ means ‘to approach’ and ‘rimorchiare‘ (literally ‘to haul’) is ‘to pick someone up.

And if someone isn’t responding to your flirting? The phrase ‘fare il prezioso/la prezioso‘ (literally ‘being precious’) translates as ‘to play hard to get’.

Dating

The usual term for a date is ‘un appuntamento‘, but this also means ‘a (non-romantic) appointment’, so make sure you don’t get your wires crossed. 

If you’re talking about one date, you’d say ‘ho un (primo) appuntamento con un ragazzo/una ragazza‘ (I have a (first) date with a guy/girl), but if you’re dating regularly, you can say ‘sto uscendo con qualcuno‘ or ‘mi sto vedendo qualcuno‘ (I’m going out with/seeing someone). 


A couple kiss in front of Rome’s Colosseum on Valentine’s Day 2017. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Some other useful dating vocabulary to have up your sleeve: ‘un appuntamento al buio‘, literally ‘date in the dark’ is the Italian term for a blind date; ‘pagare alla romana‘ (to pay the Roman way) is to split the bill equally, and ‘bidonare‘ or ‘dare buca a qualcuno‘ is ‘to stand someone up’.

And if you’re feeling like a spare part on someone else’s date, you might need the phrase ‘essere l’ultima ruota del carro‘ (to be the last wheel of the cart) or ‘reggere la candela‘ (to hold the candle) which both refer to being the third wheel.

READ ALSO: Ten of the corniest Italian chat-up lines

Hugs and kisses

If the date goes well, you might find yourself engaging in any one of the following. ‘Andare a braccetto‘ is to walk arm in arm; ‘abbraciare‘ is ‘to hug’, also used in the platonic sense; ‘accarezzare‘ means ‘to caress’; ‘palpeggiare‘ is ‘to fondle’; and ‘coccolare‘ is ‘to cuddle’. ‘

Spooning’ uses the same imagery in Italian as in English: ‘fare il cucchaio‘ (literally ‘to do the spoon’).

The verb ‘baciare‘ means ‘to kiss’ and is related to the noun ‘un bacio‘ (a kiss). But if you want to get more descriptive, Italian has a rich vocabulary for talking about kisses. ‘Sbaciucchiarsi‘ is derived from ‘baciare‘ and might be rendered in English as ‘smooch’ or perhaps ‘snog’; it implies lots of repeated, romantic kisses.

A couple kiss in Milan. Photo: peus/Depositphotos

READ ALSO: Here’s how to do the Italian cheek kiss

French kissing is referred to either as ‘baciare alla francese‘ or ‘baciare alla fiorentina‘ (to kiss the Florentine way) — in fact, the latter variant has been recorded as early as the 17th century, when it appeared in an Italian erotic novel. There’s a good fact to impress your date with.

Some linguists actually believe that the term ‘French kiss’ arose from a misunderstanding by British and American soldiers during the Second World War who began to refer to the Florentine kiss as French, while others argue there’s a difference between the two types of kiss, with the French variety being more passionate.

To skip the etymological debate, you can always say ‘baciare con la lingua‘ (to kiss using tongues) or ‘slinguare‘ which means the same but is more fun to say.

Limonare‘ (literally ‘to lemon’) is another way of talking about a somewhat sloppy kiss, and probably derives from the action of lemon squeezers, while ‘pomiciare‘ comes from the noun ‘la pomice‘ (pumice stone), which gives some idea of the technique described.


Italian football supporters kiss while cheering on their team. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Sex

Having sex can simply be referred to as ‘fare sesso‘ or ‘fare l’amore‘ (to make love). Much more vulgar alternatives, not to be used around Italian in-laws, are ‘scopare‘ (which also means ‘to sweep’), ‘fottere‘ (also meaning ‘to steal/swipe’), and ‘chiavare‘ (from ‘la chiave‘ meaning key, so more or less translating as ‘to unlock’).

In Italy, a one-night stand is known as ‘una botta e via‘, literally meaning ‘a bang and go’.

And if you’re short on time, it could be helpful to know that ‘farsi una sveltina‘ or ‘fare una cosina veloce‘ are two translations for ‘to have a quickie’.


Unfortunately we don’t know the Italian term for this manouevre. Photo: Stokpic/Pexels

Falling in love

Just as in English, in Italian it’s common to say ‘mi piace qualcuno‘ (I like someone) to talk about someone you have romantic feelings for. And just as in English, there’s a risk that the romantic undertone might not be picked up on, so if you want to be clearer, you can say ‘mi sono presa una cotta per qualcuno‘ (I have a crush on someone) or, stronger still, ‘mi sono innamorarto/a in qualcuno‘ (I have fallen in love with someone). Meanwhile, ‘sono pazzo/a per lui/lei‘ means ‘I’m crazy about him/her’.

If you’re talking directly to the object of your affections, make sure not to get confused by the verb ‘piacere‘, which is often tough for non-native speakers. ‘Mi piaci‘ is ‘I like you’, while ‘ti piaccio‘ means ‘you like me’. ‘Ti amo‘ or ‘ti adoro‘ are more emphatically ‘I love/adore you’, while if you’re letting someone down gently, you might say ‘ti voglio bene‘ (I like you a lot), which is generally reserved for platonic love. 

Two of the most common pet names in Italy are ‘amore‘ (love) and ‘tesoro‘ (treasure), but there are plenty of more evocative alternatives, from ‘patatina‘ (little potato) to ‘cucciolotto‘ (little puppy).  It’s also common just to modify the person’s name with an Italian suffix, so a ‘Stefano’ could become ‘Stefanino’. 

READ ALSO: How we found each other through The Local Italy

This article was originally published in 2019.

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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Può darsi’

This might be just the Italian phrase you need.

Italian expression of the day: 'Può darsi'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today’s expression is one I learned courtesy of my Italian in-laws, who frequently use it as a non-committal response to my suggestions.

This isn’t a phrase that ever came up in Italian class, and at first I wasn’t sure what they were saying. But from the context it was obvious that it meant something like “perhaps” or “possibly”.

– Forse sono in ritardo a causa del traffico

– Può darsi

– Maybe they’re late because of the traffic

– Possibly

When può darsi is used alone as a response, it’s not always clear just how likely the speaker thinks something is.

In fact, it can mean anything from “maybe” to “probably”.

Literally translated, the phrase doesn’t make much sense to English speakers. It’s a combination of può (the third-person singular form of the verb potere, ‘to be able‘) and darsi (the reflexive form of the verb dare ‘to give‘). It could be translated literally as “it can be given”.

As well as being used alone, this phrase can be used within sentences instead of forse (maybe) or magari, which is altogether more complicated.

With può darsi you’ll need to pay more attention to the grammar. But it’s worth mastering, as the phrase is very commonly used in spoken Italian.

Unlike forse and magari, sentences using può darsi need to be constructed in a particular way.

The formula you’ll need is può darsi + che + a verb in its subjunctive form.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

– Può darsi che Gianni sia in ritardo.

– Maybe/it’s possible that Gianni is late

Compare that to the simpler structure of:

– Forse Gianni è in ritardo.

– Maybe Gianni is late

Both sentences effectively mean the same thing.

In the first example, the form of the verb ‘to be’ used is sia because we’re speaking in the subjunctive.

Understandably, language learners often want to run for the hills when they start hearing about the subjunctive mood (congiuntivo). But it doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Put very simply, it’s used whenever you’re not stating a fact. It expresses doubt, possibility, or uncertainty. It may also be used to talk about emotions, or when making suggestions – so for most normal everyday conversations, then.

So, while this is often taught as a more ‘advanced’ bit of grammar, you may want to get on friendly terms with it ASAP in order to partake in everyday chit-chat with Italians. Read a more detailed explanation of it here.

It pays to remember that with può darsi you don’t need to use the verb in the subjunctive form if you’re speaking in the future or conditional tense.

For example, you could also say:

Può darsi che Gianni sarà in ritardo

– Maybe Gianni will be late

Here, the verb refers to the future, so we used sarà – the future simple form of essere (to be).

And once you’ve got the hang of that, you can take things a step further by inserting the word anche (also) in between può and darsi to add emphasis.

Può anche darsi che sia un disastro totale.

– It may well be a total disaster

As mentioned earlier, this phrase is used for things you think are possible or likely.

If you’re a bit more certain about something, it would be better to use probabilmente or è molto probabile (‘probably’ or ‘it’s very likely’).

Will your Italian friends be impressed if you master the use of può darsi?

Sì, è molto probabile!

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

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