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Italian expression of the day: ‘Di cotte e di crude’

Here’s why Italians talk about ‘cooked and raw’ things all the time.

Italian expression of the day di cotte e di crude
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It’ll hardly come as a surprise to any of you, but Italians have a very special relationship with food. 

As such, many terms and expressions that originated within the confines of Italy’s vast culinary lingo have over time spilled over into other areas of life and are now regularly used to describe situations that have little or nothing to do with cuisine.  

That’s certainly the case for ‘di cotte e di crude’ (pronunciation available here).

Now, the expression literally translates into English as ‘[anything] from cooked to raw food’, thus hyperbolically referring to the wide spectrum of dishes a cook could possibly prepare.

But, while its original meaning doesn’t really require any further explanation, what does the idiom mean outside of the cooking world?

Briefly, Italians use ‘di cotte e di crude’ to refer to all sorts of odd, surprising or unexpected things they might have done or experienced while also slyly avoiding going into great detail about them. 

For instance:

Com’e’ andata ieri sera?
Ah, credimi, ne ho veramente fatte di cotte e di crude.

How did it go last night?
Oh, believe me, I really did all sorts of things. 

Dove sei andato in vacanza la scorsa estate?
Sono andato a Ibiza. Ne ho combinate di cotte e di crude…

Where did you go on holiday last summer?
I went to Ibiza. I got up to all kinds of things there…

As you can see from the above examples, ‘di cotte e di crude’ is generally used together with the verb ‘combinare’ (to get up to) or ‘fare’ (to do). 

However, verbs such as ‘raccontare’ (to tell), ‘sentire’ (to hear), ‘vedere’ (to see) or ‘passare’ (to live through) can also be used.

Regardless of the verb one chooses to use, it’s worth keeping in mind that the verb must always be preceded by the pronoun particle ‘ne’ (e.g. ne ho fatte, ne ho combinate, ne ho sentite, etc.).

And some native speakers might choose to use ‘di tutti i colori’ (which literally translates into English as ‘[things] of all colours’) instead of ‘di cotte e di crude’. 

Ne ho sentite di tutti i colori ultimamente.
I’ve heard all sorts of things lately.

The two expressions have exactly the same meaning and they require the same grammatical construction (‘ne’ plus verb plus idiom). As such, they’re totally interchangeable.  

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

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For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘A meno che’

You might want some help mastering this phrase, unless your Italian is already advanced.

Italian expression of the day: 'A meno che'

It’s always helpful to have a little caveat up your sleeve when making plans – just in case something crops up and you need to change course.

In English, there’s a pretty simple way to express this idea: we just use the word ‘unless’ followed by the present simple.

Italian, however, is a bit more complicated. We need to add a non after a meno che – something that can trip up anglophones – and then follow this with a subjunctive, since we’re talking about a hypothetical situation.

Potremmo andare a fare un giro in bicicletta, a meno che tu non abbia da fare?
We could go for a bike ride, unless you’re busy?

La festa si terrà all’aperto, a meno che non piova.
She’ll have the party outdoors unless it rains.

To wrap your head around this addition of a negative, it can help to think of the Italian translation less as “unless XYZ is the case” so much as something along the lines of “as long as XYZ weren’t the case.”

A meno che is the most common variant you’ll hear, but if you want to mix things up a bit, you could instead use any of salvo che, tranne che, or eccetto che.

Il rimborso sarà effettuato entro 24 ore, signora, salvo che Lei non cambi idea prima di allora.
The refund will be processed within 24 hours, madam, unless you change your mind before then.

L’intervento chirurgico non è necessario, tranne che i sintomi non causino dolore.
Surgery isn’t necessary unless the symptoms are causing you any pain.

Unless you’ve been watching TV throughout this explainer, we’re sure you’ll be confidently using a meno che and its equivalents in no time.

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