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Italian expression of the day: 'Fare a meno'

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Italian expression of the day: 'Fare a meno'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Once you've started using this simple phrase, you won't be able to do without it.


Everyone has certain things they feel can't do without: morning coffee, regular access to sunshine and nature, high-speed internet...

In Italian to do without or live without is fare a meno, so it follows that to be unable to do without something is non poter fare a meno (di qualcosa).

Se non vuole aiutarci vabbè, possiamo fare a meno dei suoi soldi.
If she doesn't want to help us, fine, we can do without her money.

Sono un cuoco, non posso fare a meno di un forno nella mia cucina.
I'm a cook, I can't manage without an oven in my kitchen.

Posso fare a meno delle tue prediche.
I can live without your lectures.

You don't just use it to talk about things - if you want to tell a person you can't live without them, can't spare them, or can't get enough of them, you'll use the same phrase.

Davide ha chiesto il giorno libero, ma siamo già a corto di personale, non credo che possiamo fare a meno di lui.
Davide asked for the day off but we're already short on staff, I don't think we can spare him.

Non posso fare a meno di te.
I can't get enough of you.

If you want to simply say 'live/do without it', you can replace the thing you're referring to with the pronoun ne.

Elisa ha preso la macchina? Va bene, per oggi possiamo farne a meno.
Did Elisa take the car? All right, for today we can manage without it.

Il piano cottura non sarà riparato almeno fino a luglio, dovrete imparare a farne a meno.
The stove won't be fixed until at least July, you'll have to learn to live without it.

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It's important to note, however, that farne a meno has another meaning: to help oneself/help it.

So che non dovrei arrabbiarmi con lui, ma a volte non riesco a farne a meno.
I know I shouldn't get angry with him, but sometimes I can't help it.


Non puoi proprio farne a meno, vero?
You just can't help yourself, can you?

If you want to say you can't help doing something in particular, you say non posso fare a meno di... followed by the infinitive of a verb.

Non poteva fare a meno di sentirsi dispiaciuta per lei.
She couldn't help feeling sorry for her.

Non posso fare a meno di chiedermi come sarebbe stata la mia vita se fossi rimasta.
I can't help but wonder how different my life would have been if I'd stayed.

Elvis's Can't help falling in love (with you)? In Italian that's Non posso fare a meno di innamorarmi di te.


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