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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Come ti pare’

Give this easygoing expression a go.

Italian expression of the day: 'Come ti pare'
Photo: DepositPhotos

When you're new to a country, there's a lot to be said for doing 'whatever you like'. I don't mean whatever grabs you at the time, I mean greeting the things that might seem strange to you with a shrug and a live-and-let-live attitude.

That's why today's phrase is a great one to live by: come ti pare, 'whatever you like'.

It translates literally as 'how it seems to you', and is based on the useful verb parere – 'to seem' or 'to look', and by extension, 'to think' or 'to feel like'.

Pare facile ma non lo è.
It looks easy but it’s not.

Mi pare ovvio.
It seems obvious to me.

Mi pare che sia già arrivato.
I think he's already here (or: it seems to me that he's already here).

Che te ne pare? 
What do you think? (or: how does it seem to you?)

È ora di andare, non ti pare?
It’s time to go, don't you think?

Fa quello che le pare.
She does whatever she feels like.

If you don't quite follow the jump from 'seem' to 'feel like', try thinking of it as something that 'seems good' to you, or her, or them, or whoever the subject of the sentence is.

So come ti pare is 'however seems good to you' – in other words, 'whatever you feel like'. 

Since it's an impersonal construction, you don't need to change the verb (come… pare, the 'how it seems' part) depending on who you're speaking about. But you will need to alter the 'to me/you/her/him/us/them' bit as appropriate, by choosing the right indirect pronoun to go in the middle.

Fai come ti pare.
Do as you like. (singular)

Fate come vi pare.
Do as you like. (plural)

Siamo tutti liberi di vivere come ci pare.
We're all free to live as we please.

Il re fa come gli pare.
The king does as he pleases.

La regina fa come le pare.
The queen does as she pleases.

Hanno il diritto di vestirsi come pare a loro.
They have the right to wear whatever they like.
(NB: you can also swap the indirect pronoun for the direct personal pronoun + a: in this case “a loro”.)

While the phrase might describe someone acting selfishly, it can also leave things generously open. If someone describes a harebrained scheme and you reply “come ti pare“, it's a judgement-free 'Hey, whatever you're into' – and maybe, just maybe, a sign that you're onboard for whatever adventures they cook up.

Of course, there are times when someone says 'it's up to you' and it's really not. But you can't blame the phrase for that.

Do you have an Italian word 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: ‘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.

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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.

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