Italian word of the day: ‘Provare’

Have go with this popular verb.

Italian word of the day provare
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

One of the main definitions of the common Italian verb provare is ‘to try’, and if you’ve been in Italy for any length of time, you’ve probably heard it used in this sense on multiple occasions.

It can mean anything from ‘trying’ a food or drink (assaggiare, ‘to taste’, also works here):

Vuoi provare questo gelato? È buonissimo.
Do you want to try this ice cream? It’s very good.

to ‘trying on’ clothing (note that you’ll often see the reflexive form of the verb, provarsi, used in this context, but it’s not necessarily required):

Ti sei provata tutti i vestiti nel negozio.
You’ve tried on all the clothes in the shop.

Hilary Duff Clothes GIF

Ho provato il vestito in vetrina ma era troppo grande.
I tried on the dress in the display window but it was too big.

to simply attempting any activity:

Ieri ho provato a sciare per la prima volta.
I tried skiing for the first time yesterday.

Perché non provi a parlarle?
Why don’t you try talking to her?

The Italian word for a test or quiz is una prova – literally, ‘a try’.

Penso che abbiamo tutti fallito la prova di matematica.
I think we all failed the maths test.

And testing a mic? You guessed it:

Prova, prova.
Testing, testing.

Prova Prova Audio Test Mi Senti Non Ti Sento Non C'è Campo Connessione Ti Richiamo Microfono GIF - Mic Test Mic Tap Mic Tapping GIFs
Along those same lines, a prova can also be a rehearsal for a performance and provare to rehearse:

Ho dovuto accompagnare mio figlio alla prova per la recita scolastica.
I had to drop my son off at the rehearsal for the school play.

Lo avrà provato un centinaio di volte.
He must have rehearsed it a hundred times.

while a provino – something along the lines of ‘little try’ – is an audition.

Provarci, with the pronoun ci added on the end, means to ‘try it’ (either to literally attempt something or push boundaries) or to ‘try it on’ with someone (to flirt with them and see if you get anywhere).

Non lo saprai mai se non ci provi.
You’ll never know if you don’t try (it).

Non ci provare Francesco, la mamma è stanchissima oggi.
Don’t try it Francesco, mum’s extremely tired today.

Ci ha provato con tutte le ragazze nel quartiere.
He’s tried it on with all the girls in the neighbourhood.

Paolo Ciavarro Non GIF - Paolo Ciavarro Non Ci GIFs

Got all that?

Take a deep breath, because while that concludes the list of main uses of provare for anything related to ‘try’, its multifarious definitions don’t end there.

Provare can also mean to prove, verify, or demonstrate something, particularly in a legal context:

Te lo proverò, lo giuro.
I’ll prove it to you, I swear.

Posso provare la mia innocenza.
I can prove my innocence.

In this situation, prova becomes proof:

Non hanno mai trovato alcuna prova del suo coinvolgimento nel caso.
They never found any proof of his involvement in the case.

Finally, to provare qualcosa is to feel some kind of emotion. 

Note that provare should be used differently to sentire, which also means ‘feel’. While sentire can be followed by an adjective – you would sentire triste (‘feel sad’) or sentire felice (‘feel happy’) – provare needs to be followed by a noun or noun phrase:

Ho provato un senso di sollievo.
I felt a sense of relief.

Non avrei mai pensato di poter provare una cosa simile.
I never thought I’d feel that way.

Have a go at using provare in conversation this week, and see if you can prove yourself.

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: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.