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Italian word of the day: ‘Problema’

Italian word of the day: 'Problema'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Have you had any problems using this word in Italian?

It’s true that no problemo sounds plausibly like it could be Italian. I hear English-speaking visitors say it all the time, for example to waiters in restaurants.

But il problema is that it doesn’t work.

Before you accuse me of having my grammar muddled up, let’s have a closer look:

Problema is one of a surprisingly long list of Italian nouns that are actually masculine, and take a masculine article (il/un), despite having a feminine-looking form (ending in a).

This can all get very confusing for English speakers, who are having enough problemi (yep, the plural is masculine) already just getting to grips with the concept of words having a gender.

– Sto avendo dei problemi con questo

– I’m having some problems with this

The thing to remember is that this rule usually applies to nouns that end in ’ema’, because these words usually come from ancient Greek.

Other words that fit into this category include un dilemma (a dilemma), un sistema (a system), un poema (a poem), un fantasma (a ghost), and il clima (the climate).

So, how do you really say “no problem” in Italian…?

– Nessun problema

– No problem

Nessun, or nessuno, is a way of saying “none” and can also be used to mean nobody, no-one, anyone or anybody.

Because we can use double negatives in Italian, that means you can end up with phrases like:

– Non ho nessun problema con nessuno

– I haven’t got a problem with anyone

Similarly, you could also say

– non c’e problema

– it’s not a problem/that’s fine.

We hope these little lessons are helping to solve your problems with Italian!

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

 

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