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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Lo stesso’

Things just wouldn't be the same without this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Lo stesso'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

One of the Italian phrases you'll probably use every day in Italy is lo stesso. It’s one of those extremely useful expressions that you’ll get plenty of wear out of.

Lo stesso means “the same”, and there’s quite a lot you should know about this apparently simple phrase.

Here's the simplest way to use it:

– Siamo nati lo stesso giorno

– We were born on the same day

– Non sarebbe lo stesso senza di te

– It wouldn't be the same without you

Lo stesso can also be used to mean “anyway” or “all the same”, the meaning changing slightly depending on context.

– grazie lo stesso

– Thanks anyway

– Lo avremmo trovato lo stesso senza di lui

– We would’ve found it just the same without him

– per me fa lo stesso

– It’s all the same to me

Or you could say per me è uguale. Uguale, which usefully sounds a lot like “equal”, is a frequently-used synonym of lo stesso.

– Quale preferisci?

– È uguale

– Which do you prefer?

– It's all the same to me (literally: It's the same)

You will often hear Italians ask if something would be va bene lo stesso, literally meaning “ok all the same”. For example:

– Ti va bene lo stesso un caffè istantaneo?

– Do you mind it it’s instant coffee?/Is instant coffee ok for you?

While lo stesso if often used on its own, when it refers to a noun you may need to use the feminine or plural forms.

– La stessa cosa succede ogni giorno

– The same thing happens every day

– Ha usato esattamente le stesse parole

– She used exactly the same words

And you might be wondering why the definitive article here is “lo” instead of “il”. After all, isn’t “lo” used for masculine nouns beginning with a Z or Y?

“Lo” is also used for masculine nouns beginning with s + consonant, like lo stesso (and for quite a few other things too.)

That little “lo” is important, and you can’t drop it. You’ll also come across stesso with a reflexive prounoun instead, for example: me stesso, ti stesso, se stesso (myself, yourself, itself), etc.

– Non posso perdonare me stesso

– I can't forgive myself

– Pensa solo a se stesso

– She only thinks of herself

Check out a few more of the most useful Italian words you need to know.

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

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Scarabocchio’

Can you fathom the meaning of this word?

Italian word of the day: ‘Scarabocchio’

If you haven’t yet found a proper Italian word to describe the unintelligible collection of dots, wonky lines and swirls that Italian doctors often nonchalantly passes off as a prescription, scarabocchio might do the trick.

Scarabocchio is the Italian equivalent of ‘scribble’ or ‘scrawl’ and it describes to any piece of writing or drawing whose meaning can’t be fathomed. 

Ho lasciato la lista della spesa sul tavolo!

Si, l’ho vista ma non ci ho capito niente. Era tutto uno scarabocchio…

I left the shopping list on the table!

Yes, I saw it but couldn’t understand any of it. It was all a scribble…

From a five-year-old’s abstract artworks to a colleague’s poor excuse for a handwritten note, you can use scarabocchio for pretty much anything – as long as it figures on a piece of paper. 

Though it is a bit of a mouthful (pronunciation available here), Italians love to use the word in daily conversations, especially so when it comes to mocking the unfortunate author of the scribble. 

Ti ho fatto uno schema per farti capire meglio.

Ma cos’e’ ‘sta cosa? Mi sembra proprio uno scarabocchio…

I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand.

What on earth is this? It looks like a scrawl to me…

The word comes from the fusion of scarabeo (beetle) and the pejorative suffix -occhio (also used in ranocchio, meaning ‘ugly frog’, and marmocchio, meaning ‘bratty kid’). 

Though today’s scribbles may not resemble the shape of a beetle, they most likely did back in the days when poor handwriting skills would result in your quill creating circular blots of ink on the paper.

That’s why, to this day, Italians refer to scribbles as ‘ugly beetles’. 

Funnily enough, sgorbio, one of scarabocchio’s synonyms, also takes its name from an animal, namely the scorpion. But that’s a story for another time.

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

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