For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘A posto’

Memorize this phrase and you'll be all good.

Italian expression of the day: 'A posto'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

A posto is something we’d all like to be: it means ‘alright’, ‘sorted’, ‘settled’.

The phrase translates directly as ‘in place’. Think of it as describing a situation where everything is exactly where it’s meant to be: now isn’t that a nice image?

Se lo troviamo, siamo a posto.
If we find it, we’re sorted.

It’s not always figurative: a posto can also mean literally in the right place, i.e. ‘neat’ or ‘in order’.

Metti a posto la tua camera!
Tidy your room! (literally, get your room in order)

But all sorts of other things can be ‘in order’ too – like the way you think, the way you speak, even your hands.

Sai tenere la lingua a posto?
Can you hold your tongue? (literally, keep your tongue in place)

Non ha la testa tanto a posto.
He’s not right in the head. (his head’s not in place)

Tieni le mani a posto!
Keep your hands to yourself! (keep your hands in place)

Even a person can be ‘in order’, if they’re honest or decent.

Sembra veramente un tipo a posto.
He seems like a real stand-up guy.

È gente a posto.
They’re good people.

But the best way to be a posto, as far as we’re concerned, is when everything’s alright: tutto a posto.

– Ti serve qualcosa?
– Non grazie, tutto a posto!

– Do you need anything?
– No thanks, it’s all good!

– Tutto a posto?
– Perfetto, grazie.

– Everything alright?
– Great, thanks.

You might hear Italians pronounce this last one more like “tutto posto” or “tutt’a posto”: that’s fine in casual speech, but if you’re writing be sure to spell out all three words.

Nor is tutto a posto to be confused with tutto apposto, which is such a common mistake among Italians that the dictionary has a clarification on it: while the first, as you now know, means ‘everything in place’, the second translates as ‘everything placed’ or ‘everything affixed’. And that’s definitely not alright. 

Let this misspelled GIF be a warning to you, and keep that pesky ‘a’ in its place.

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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