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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Figurati’

Once you’ve mastered this versatile phrase, we’ll bet you find a use for it at least once a day.

'Figurati' written on a black chalkboard with the italian flag.
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Figurati might look at first glance like one word, but it’s actually two words stuck together: the imperative form of the verb figurare – figura – coupled with the reflexive pronoun, ti, to make a command: figurati.

Its roots are in the Latin word figurare, meaning to form or shape something, and it comes from the reflexive form of the verb, figurare a sé: to create or form something to oneself. It essentially means ‘imagine it for yourself’ or ‘figure it out for yourself’, but its uses have expanded far beyond that.

While it’s most commonly seen in its informal form, figurati can also be used in the polite form (si figuri), in the first person plural, (figuriamoci), or in the second person plural (figuratevi). Note that while with tunoi, and voi we can tag the reflexive pronoun onto the end of the verb – figurati, figuriamoci, figuratevi – with the formal Lei it needs to go separately at the start: si figuri.

Got that? Buckle up, there’s a lot to cover here:

1) Don’t worry about it!

This is the most common use of the phrase and one you’ll quickly become familiar with if you live in Italy.

When used in this way, figurati can be used to reassure someone they’re not bothering you, as a way to respond to thanks, or to politely turn down an offer of help. While these are all slightly different uses of the phrase, they come under the banner of ‘don’t worry about it/it’s no problem’.

– Scusa, ti disturbo?
– No, figurati.

– Sorry, am I disturbing you?
– No, don’t worry about it.

– Grazie mille dell’aiuto di ieri.
– Figurati!

– Thanks so much for your help yesterday.
– Don’t mention it!

Vuole sedersi, signora?
– No, si figuri.

– Would you like to sit down, madam?
– That’s kind, but I’m fine.

– Vuoi che ti accompagni a casa?
– No, figurati!

– Do you want me to accompany you back home?
– No need, thanks!

2) Imagine that!

The second major use of the phrase most closely approximates to the English ‘can you believe it?!’, or ‘fancy that!’

Figurati che al ristorante ieri sera ho visto Chiara con uno dei calciatori della Roma!
– Yesterday evening at the restaurant I saw Chiara with one of the Roma players, imagine that!

– Figurati che il mio capo mi ha offerto il doppio dello stipendio se rimango con lui e non accetto questo nuovo lavoro!
– Can you believe it, my boss offered to double my salary if I stay with him and don’t accept this new job!

3) That figures

Feeling a bit salty?

When you’re entirely unsurprised by a situation because it’s in line with what you’ve been led to expect from someone or something, you can use figurati to somewhat sarcastically make your point.

It’s roughly equivalent to ‘I’m not surprised’, or ‘it figures’.

Gabriella mi ha scritto che non può uscire con noi stasera.
Figuriamoci, non vuole mai uscire con noi.

– Gabriella wrote to me to say she can’t come out with us tonight.
– What do you expect, she never wants to come out with us.

– Aspetta, non trovo la mia borsa, penso che l’abbia lasciata a casa.
– Eh, figurati….

– Wait, I can’t find my purse, I think I left it at home.
– Well, that’s a surprise…

4) There’s no way

The fourth major use of figurati, which again is somewhat sarcastic, is as a way of saying ‘it’s not true’/’there’s no way’.

It’s a bit like the English, ‘you seriously think…?’ or ‘how do you figure that?!’.

– Figuriamoci se Daniele viene per le dieci, sono già le 9.30 e non è ancora uscito da casa.
– There’s no way Daniel’s getting here for 10 o’clock, it’s already 9.30 and he’s not left his house yet.

– Ho visto la tua nuova macchina, è bellissima!
– Ma figurati, dove troverei io i soldi per comprare una macchina nuova?! Quella è di mia sorella.

– I saw your new car, it’s beautiful!
– You must be joking, where would I find the money for a new car?! That’s my sister’s.

– Hanno detto che pioverà più tardi.
– Figurati! Non ho visto nemmeno una nuvola nel cielo tutta la mattina.

– They said it’s going to rain later.
– No way! I’ve not seen one cloud in the sky all morning.

5) Much less/let alone

The final use of figurati (that we’ve found, anyway…) is for when you want to emphasise how difficult or improbable something is, in the way that in English we use ‘let alone’ or ‘much less’.

– Non sono riuscita a leggere il primo capitolo di Ulysses di James Joyce, figurati il libro intero.
– I didn’t manage to get through the first chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses, let alone the whole book.

Non abbiamo abbastanza soldi per andare in vacanza ad Ostia quest’anno, figurati andare a Parigi.
– We don’t have enough money to go on holiday to Ostia this year, much less Paris.

See? You can fit figurati into more conversations than you thought.

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

This article was originally published in 2019

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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

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