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

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

Italian expression of the day: ‘Far cadere le braccia'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

When you think about the imagery of this Italian expression, it clearly demonstrates the feeling of disappointment, exasperation or discouragement.

Far cadere le braccia (Far cah-DAR-eh leh BRA-cha) literally means to make your arms drop, or fall off.

When you’re so fed up of a situation or of what someone is saying, you might drop your arms to the floor, 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 conxtext).

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 by not letting their arms drop.

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

Well that phrase wasn’t so exasperating to learn in the end! Keep your chin up (and your arms) and have a go at using it in your Italian conversation this week.

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

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For members


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.