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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Purtroppo’

When misfortune strikes, sadly this is a word you'll need.

Italian word of the day: 'Purtroppo'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Regrets: we've had a few.

Not upping and moving to southern Sicily before the Italian winter (finally) bites, for instance. Failing to wear a scarf and being struck down by the dreaded colpa d'aria. Declining that third helping of lasagna out of misplaced politeness.

When mistakes or misfortunes happen, as – alas! – they always will, the word you need is purtroppo.

It means 'unfortunately', 'sadly' or 'regrettably'.

Purtroppo non posso venire.
Unfortunately I can't make it.

È vero, purtroppo.
Sadly it's true.

As well as adding to your sentence, you can also use purtroppo in response to someone else's question, when you want to show you're not happy about whatever the answer is.

– Hai preso l'influenza?
– Purtroppo!

– Did you catch the flu?
– Unfortunately!

Just remember that if you're answering in the negative, you'll need to add no to make things clear.

– La Roma ha battuto la Lazio?
– Purtroppo no.

– Did Roma beat Lazio?
– Unfortunately not.

… so Roma must be struggling this season, right? We'll let the great Francesco Totti answer that one:

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

 

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Farla franca’

You won't get away with neglecting to learn this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Farla franca'

If you like Italian detective or murder mystery novels, sooner or later you’re bound to encounter the phrase farla franca: to get away with something.

Con Poirot alle calcagna, l’assassino non riuscirà mai a farla franca.
With Poirot on the scent, the killer will never get away with it.

Pensavi davvero di potermi derubare e farla franca?
You really thought you could steal from me and get away with it?

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According to the Treccani dictionary, the expression comes from the bureaucratic use of the adjective franco to mean ‘free’, describing either people that are exempt from carrying out their duties (like off-duty naval officers) or goods that are exempt from tariffs and duties.

One of the first recorded uses of farla franca as a phrase comes from the early 14th century.

The Florentine historian Giovanni Villani wrote that in June 1322, the city of Florence celebrated the Feast of San Giovanni with a big fair, ‘la quale feciono franca’ for non-citizens – in other words, foreign merchants who came didn’t have to pay the usual taxes.

By the mid-1800s, the expression to mean escaping from some illicit act or risky endeavour without having to pay a penalty. In English (if you were being old-fashioned) you might talk in the same way about someone ‘getting off scot free’.

The la in farla franca is the part of the phrase that stands in for the ‘it’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be attached to fare but can go somewhere else, as long as it’s there.

Non possiamo permettere che la faccia franca.
We can’t let him get away with this.

Pensa di poterla fare franca.
She thinks she can get away with it.

With this phrase now in your repertoire, there’s no telling what you’ll get away with.

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

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