Italian expression of the day: 'Parlare al muro’

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected] • 24 Feb, 2023 Updated Fri 24 Feb 2023 14:59 CEST
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Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

We’re sure the meaning of this phrase won’t be lost on you.


Very few things in life are as exasperating as trying to get your point across to someone who just won’t listen to the words coming out of your mouth. 

But while English has a very fitting expression for such situations – ‘it’s like talking to a brick wall’ – does Italian have a similar idiom?

Conveniently, the phrase also exists in Italian and works in practically the same way as in English.


Just like its English counterpart, the Italian parlare al muro must be preceded by come (‘like’), as in the following example:

Provare a discutere con Marco e’ come parlare al muro.

Trying to reason with Marco is like talking to a brick wall.

Italian speakers generally use parlare con il muro to refer to scenarios where their words are not getting through to a person because of the latter’s stubbornness or refusal to listen.

But the expression can also be used in situations where someone isn’t considered able to understand the meaning of a concept due to apparently limited intelligence.

Ho provato a spiegargli il teorema di Pitagora, ma è come parlare al muro.

I’ve tried to explain Pythagoras’ theorem to him, but it’s like talking to a brick wall.

As you can see, parlare al muro is a largely informal expression that should be avoided in formal settings. 

It can be used in many ordinary, daily-life situations, with Italian speakers using it particularly often when reproaching children.

E’ da anni che ti dico di non entrare in casa con le scarpe. Mi sembra di parlare al muro.

I’ve been telling you not to step into the house with your shoes on for years now. I feel like I’ve been talking to a brick wall all along.

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



Giampietro Vianello 2023/02/24 14:59

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