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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Andare a manetta’

Today's phrase has us firing on all cylinders.

Italian expression of the day andare a manetta
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Are you ready to put pedal to the metal and go full bore when it comes to learning this expression?

Andare a manetta (and-AH-rreh a mann-ETT-ta) in fact means just that: to go at top speed, flat out, at full pelt. 

Conveniently for English speakers, it translates pretty directly from the phrase ‘to go full throttle’. Andare is of course the verb ‘to go’ and manetta is the Italian word for a throttle, an old-fashioned sort of lever used in vehicles to regulate the amount of fuel being fed into the engine. 

To go full throttle was to channel the maximum amount of petrol possible into the motor so that the car could reach top speed, which is where both phrases come from.

Running Late On My Way GIF by Minions

Like in English, it can be used refer literally to, e.g., F1 drivers, but is often used in a metaphorical sense. It’s the kind of colloquial phrase that you’re more likely to hear in spoken conversation than see written down in a book, and is most widely used among young Italians.

Se vuoi arrivare entro un’ora dovrai andare a manetta.
If you want to get there in an hour you’ll have to go full tilt.

Stiamo andando avanti a manetta con questo progetto, non mi importa quello che dice Stefania.
We’re going full steam ahead with this project, I don’t care what Stefania says.

You don’t need to restrict yourself to the verb andare: there are various actions that could be done a manetta, such as parlare a manetta (talk at top speed), alzare il volume a manetta (turn the sound up to top volume – e.g. on the TV or radio), or piovere a manetta (tip it down with rain).

Parla sempre a manetta, è estenuante.
She always talks at full throttle, it’s exhausting.

È la mia canzone preferita, alza la radio a manetta!
This is my favourite song, turn the radio up as loud as it’ll go!

Relaxing Season 3 GIF by The Simpsons

You might wonder if there’s a connection to manette (handcuffs) but the two aren’t to be confused: the etymological link comes simply from the word hand (mano), a manetta being a hand-controlled thrust lever and manette being, well, handcuffs.

To help you differentiate, aside from context, you’ll almost always only see manette in the plural form, whereas a manetta is only used in the singular form.

Toglietemi immediatamente queste manette!
Take these handcuffs off me at once!

Parlavi a manetta ieri sera.
You were talking at a 100 miles an hour yesterday evening.

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

Italian word of the day: ‘Ragazzi’

Guys, seriously. You have to know this word.

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

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: you’ll never fit in among Italians if you don’t start using the word ragazzi.

Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find a simple enough definition: un ragazzo is a boy, una ragazza is a girl, i ragazzi are boys and le ragazze are girls.

All valid uses, but trust me, they’re not the whole picture. Ragazzi (if you’re talking to an all-male or mixed group), ragazze (if you’re talking to women), or the shortened version raga’ (good for both) are terms you’ll hear all the time in Italy, with no kids in sight.

They mean, roughly, ‘guys’, ‘folks’, ‘lads’, ‘ladies’, ‘you lot’ – anything you’d use to address a group of people at once.

Ciao raga’!
Hi guys!

OK ragazze, cosa facciamo stasera?
OK ladies, what are we doing tonight?

Forte, eh ragazzi?
Cool, right lads?

It helps that Italians’ definition of what constitutes a ragazzo/a is extremely broad.

To illustrate: when movers started carrying boxes into the empty apartment next to mine, I was informed that my new neighbour was “un ragazzo”. Upon meeting him, I discovered that he was over 50. With grey hair. And yet, because he’s unmarried and lives alone, in Rome (by the standards of my building at least) he’s considered a lad.

Ragazzo/a/i/e can be a casual way to refer to people of (almost) any age, even when you’re not talking directly to them.

È venuto il ragazzo di Napoli.
The guy from Naples came.

Lei vive con due ragazzi.
She lives with two guys.


‘Girls in Beverly Hills’, better known in English as Clueless.

That said, ragazzi still implies a certain youth – and above all, familiarity – so it’s advisable to choose another term when you’re speaking to people to whom you need to show respect, such as bosses or new in-laws. Basically, if they’re part of your gang, they’re ragazzi; if not, best call them something else.

And there’s one more reason to be careful: if you call someone your ragazzo, you’ve just implied that you’re romantically involved.

La mia ragazza mi ha lasciato.
My girlfriend left me.


‘Her boyfriend calls her fat and she decides to change her life. Here’s how’ (headline on clicknotizie.it) – hint, it involves a diet.

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