Italian expression of the day: ‘Far cadere le braccia'

Karli Drinkwater
Karli Drinkwater - [email protected]
Italian expression of the day: ‘Far cadere le braccia'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Keep your chin up, there's no need to feel disheartened about this phrase.


If you've felt disappointment, exasperation or discouragement at any point during your time in Italy, you may be able to relate to the imagery this phrase conjures up.

Far cadere le braccia (click here to hear it pronounced) literally means to 'make your arms drop'.

It's the phrase for those times when you're so fed up of a situation that you might drop your arms, defeated and demoralised.


In idiomatic English, we might say, 'Words fail me' or 'I'm absolutely speechless'.

Mi fai cadere le braccia. Perché sei così testardo?

Words fail me. Why are you so stubborn?

It's likely to be accompanied by a sigh or a groan, just to really emphasise the level of discontentment with a situation.

As noted, it can be translated as feeling fed up or being at the end of your tether.

Mi fa cadere le braccia - ma perché capita tutto sempre a me?

I'm fed up - why does it always happen to me?

Queste stupide storie mi fanno cadere le braccia

These stupid stories are exasperating

To put it into the past tense, we need to use the auxiliary verb essere, because when we are dealing with verbs of motion such as cadere (to fall), Italian uses essere rather than avere.

Quando ho fallito il mio esame di guida, mi sono cadute le braccia

When I failed my driving test, I was down in the dumps

The phrase could also be translated to a single word in English in some contexts, conveying the idea of helplessness.

Talvolta ci siamo sentiti cadere le braccia

Sometimes we felt helpless

The reflexive verb sentirsi expresses the feeling - ci sentiamo (we feel) cadere le braccia ('helpless' in this context).

La guerra è così travolgente. Ci sentiamo cadere le braccia di fronte ad avvenimenti che sembrano superarci

The war is so overwhelming. We feel helpless in the face of events that seem beyond us.

On the positive side, you can also use the phrase to cheer somebody up, to give them a pep talk and tell them to hang in there.

Non farti cadere le braccia

Don't get downhearted!

Keep your chin up!

Don't give up!


An Italian song, Non farti cadere le braccia by Neapolitan singer Edoardo Bennato, talks about keeping going and not feeling downtrodden despite the hardships.

Non so se ti è capitato mai
di dovere fare una lunga corsa
e a metà strada stanco
dire a te stesso: adesso basta!
Eppure altri stan correndo ancora
intorno a te... allora:

Non farti cadere le braccia...

I don't know if it ever happened to you
that you had to go for a long run
and halfway through, tired, you say to yourself: that's enough!
And yet others are still running
Around you... then:

Don't give up

Keep your chin up (and your arms) and have a go at using this phrase in your Italian conversation this week.

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