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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Secondo me’

Today's phrase will help you express your opinions just like an Italian.

Italian expression of the day: 'Secondo me'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

I don’t know about you, but the Italians I know have no qualms about letting rip with their opinions, whether asked for them or not. And there’s no sugar-coating things.

My Italian friends can have a raging argument about politics for half an hour, then simply shrug and say “let’s go for gelato.” Italian relatives deliver a crushing insult and, seconds later, invite me for lunch.

Because you’re not supposed to take offence. It’s just an opinion.

And yet, having an opinion is paramount. Italian friends and family insist I must have one, on every topic; whether there’s any conviction behind it seems less important. You just need to take a stance.

In fact, my English tendency to veer towards (what I think is) politeness, diplomacy or general fence-sitting when it comes to heated debates among people I barely know has been derided as “fake” or “annoying”.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that today’s phrase is one of the very first Italian phrases I picked up after moving here

When introducing your latest opinion, you’d say secondo me, which literally means “according to me” and is used like “I think…” or “It seems to me…”

– Secondo me, pioverà stasera.
– I think it will rain tonight.

– Secondo me, il prezzo è troppo alto.
– In my opinion, the price is too high

– Secondo me è una persona rispettabile.

– He seems like a good person to me.

You also use secondo to ask other people for their opinions simply by changing the pronoun.

– Secondo te, questa maglietta è brutta?

– Do you think this shirt is ugly?

– Dove cade l’accento secondo te?

– Where do you think the accent falls?

As you can see, when you’re asking a question like this you have to structure your sentence very differently than you would in English.

After a while, it might have a strange effect on your English. Once or twice I’ve accidentally said “According to me…” when I meant to say “I think…”.  That got me some very strange looks indeed.

READ ALSO: The 12 ways speaking Italian will mess up your English

If you’re sharing information from someone or somewhere else, you can use secondo like this:

– Secondo le previsioni, pioverà stasera.

– According to the forecast, it will rain tonight.

The word secondo comes from the Latin secundum, which means “following”, and has the same etymology as ‘second’ (as in second place.)

    Secondo is also used to mean “following” or “in compliance with” in Italian – much like “according to” can also be used in English.

    – Dovremmo guidare secondo il codice della strada.
    – We should drive according to the traffic laws.

    It might take some time to get used to Italians’ insistence on sharing unasked-for opinions on everything from politics to how you should dress, cook, or decorate your house.

    Nevertheless, secondo me, being able to give your own opinions in Italian is absolutely vital.

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

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    For members

    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.

    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.

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