Italian expression of the day: ‘Ci siamo’

Are you up to speed with this useful phrase?

Italian expression of the day: 'Ci siamo'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

If you’ve ever agonised over an Italian menu – and frankly who hasn’t – the chances are a waiter has eventually attempted to bring your deliberations to a close by inquiring: “Ci siamo?

Made up of the verb essere (‘to be’) and the adverb ci (‘here/there’), it literally translates as ‘here we are’, but in the form of a question it can mean anything from ‘Are you ready?’ to ‘All good?’

You can use it to check that someone has understood you, that they agree with you, or that they’re good to go. When a waiter asks your party “Ci siamo?“, he’s checking if you’re ready to order, while if a teacher breaks off her lesson to ask the class “Ci siamo?“, she’s making sure that everyone’s following.

You can also use it as a statement: it’s like saying ‘Here we go’, ‘That’s settled’ or ‘All good!’

Think of ci siamo as a way to say you’ve arrived at a certain point, whether that’s a point of readiness (‘Good to go!’), a point of completion (‘All done!’), a point of understanding (‘Got it!’), or a point of departure (‘Here we go…’).

If you want to be really emphatic, you can say something like “ora sì che ci siamo” – ‘Now we’re talking!’ or ‘Now we’re really getting somewhere!’

Naturally, the opposite is non ci siamo – ‘that’s not it’, ‘this is going nowhere’, ‘that’s not on’.

You can even abbreviate it to NCS: ‘nope!’ or ‘nuh-uh!’

And if you’re closer to CS than NCS but not quite there yet, you can say ci siamo quasi: ‘we’re almost there’ or ‘we’re close’.

Do you have an 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: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

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