Italian expression of the day: ‘Ci ha messo una vita’

It won't take you a lifetime to master this simple phrase.

Italian expression of the day ci ha messo una vita
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

From completing a simple bureaucratic task at the comune to waiting for the bus, sometimes it feels like things can take forever in Italy.

Fittingly, there’s a phrase for that: Ci ha messo una vita (chee-ah-MESS-oh-oo-nah-VEE-ta). It translates literally as ‘it took a lifetime’, or as we’d be more likely to say in English, ‘it took forever’. 

L’autobus ci ha messo una vita ad arrivare.
The bus took forever to get here.

Funny Laughing GIF - Funny Laughing GIFs

Ci ha messo una vita can mean ‘it took forever’ or ‘it took him/her forever’ – the meaning is understood from context.

Ci ha messo una vita per chiederle di uscire.
It took him forever to ask her out.

Sono appena uscita dalla banca, ci ha messo una vita.
I just got out of the bank, it took forever.

The messo (past participle of mettere) stays the same regardless of the sentence subject – but you can conjugate the avere differently depending on your subject to say ‘it took me/you/them/us forever’.

Ci ho messo una vita a risparmiare per questa vacanza.
It took me forever to save up for this holiday.

Sky Italia 1992 1993 1994 sky italia GIF

Ci hai messo una vita a fare la doccia.
You took forever in the shower.

Ci hanno messo una vita ad alzarsi.
It took them ages to get up.

You’ll notice that the phrase can be followed by either or per directly before the verb, and the expression doesn’t just work with una vita – you can switch that out for any time period, from a minute to a week to a year.

Ho fatto una domanda al comune e ci hanno messo un mese a rispondere.
I wrote to the comune and it took them one month to get back to me.

Ci abbiamo messo una settimana per trovare le piastrelle che volevi.
It took us a week to find the tiles you wanted.

You’re not restricted to the past tense: ci mette (along with the slightly more common ci vuole) can mean ‘it takes’ when followed by any time duration, and can also be conjugated in the future tense.

Ha detto che ci mette un’ora per arrivare in centro con l’autobus.
She said it takes an hour to get to the centre by bus.

Ci metterai 5 minuti per riscaldare gli avanzi che ti ho lasciato in frigorifero.
It’ll take you 5 minutes to heat up the leftovers I left in the fridge for you.

Have a go at mastering all the different variations of this phrase – we bet it won’t take you long!

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Fare una filippica’

When your best Italian mate is giving you an earful for being a couple of minutes late, tell him to quit the ‘philippic’.

Italian expression of the day: ‘Fare una filippica’

As far as idioms go, fare una filippica is one of the most popular ones used in Italian television and print media. Presenters and journalists use it every day as a way to give colour and panache to their reports.

But what is a filippica (literally, ‘philippic’ in English) and, above all, what does it mean to make one?

In Italian, the word filippica is generally used to describe a very impassioned invective: a tongue-lashing, if you will, aimed at a political adversary or any other opponent.

So fare una filippica means having a go at someone, and in a rather ferocious and hostile way.

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Il capo dell’opposizione ha fatto una filippica contro l’immobilità del governo nei confronti delle famiglie a basso reddito.

The head of the opposition harshly criticised the government’s inertia towards low-income families.


L’allenatore ha fatto una filippica contro i tifosi della squadra ospite per il loro comportamento sugli spalti.

The coach condemned the away side’s fans for their behaviour on the stands.

As you can see, on most occasions, the expression is followed by contro (‘against’) plus the person or people the invective is directed at. 

As previously mentioned, the expression is widely used in broadcast and print media. However, it is also frequently used in colloquial Italian as a way to mock someone who is being overly dramatic or getting unreasonably upset about trivial matters.

For instance:

Sei sempre in ritardo. Sei insopportabile.
Sono solo due minuti. Non farmi una filippica…

You’re always late. You’re insufferable.
It’s just a couple of minutes. Don’t you dare have a go at me…

So, now that you have a basic grasp of how (and when) to use the idiom, you may also be interested in knowing where it comes from. 

Like most Italian idioms, fare una filippica originated in the classical age.

Notably the expression dates back to 351 BC, when the independence of Athens, the richest and most technologically advanced city-state in ancient Greece, was being threatened by the expansionist designs of Philip II, king of Macedon.

Being conscious of the risks Macedon posed to his city’s autonomy, Athenian intellectual and statesman Demosthenes famously gave a number of fervid political speeches aimed at rallying his fellow citizens against Philip II and calling for a mobilisation of Athens’ military forces.

Such orations, whose eloquence and rhetoric are admired to this very day, were known as ‘philippics’ (‘filippiche’ in Italian), hence the very peculiar expression which, through the centuries, has made it all the way into modern Italian.

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