It’s time for a new round of English-Italian false friends.
As I told you in my previous post about English-Italian false friends, there are so many of them that I had to split the topic in two to avoid writing an incredibly long post.
After focusing on nouns in my previous post, this time I have made a list of the most common English-Italian false friends when it comes to adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns.
I am sure there are still a lot of false friends out there that make the Italian language for English speakers a bit tricky, but I’ve decided to select only the most common and the ones I hear the most in conversation.
Let’s now dive into the list, shall we?
Casual: this adjective is commonly used in English to describe something that is not formal, a place where the vibe is super relaxed. In Italian, though, “casuale” loses this meaning and is used only to describe something random, fortuitous. The Italian adjective you need to use to describe something that is informal and relaxed is “informale“.
Excited: this English adjective can lead you into a bit of fun trouble. As a matter of fact, the adjective excited, in English, means really happy and enthusiastic but the Italian “eccitato” means horny. So the phrase “sono molto eccitato” can cause you a bit of embarrassment if you use it when speaking with an Italian. It’s definitely better to replace it with “felice”.
Graphic: one of the meanings of this adjective, in English, is raw, explicit, something that gives a strong idea of something. The Italian “grafico“, instead, does only refer to illustrations and paintings, something that uses images and pictures rather than text. The proper Italian adjective that translates the other meaning of graphic is “crudo” or “esplicito“.
Lunatic: in English, this adjective is used to describe someone who is mentally ill or behaves in a silly and dangerous way. In Italian, this adjective has a lesser strong meaning and basically is used to describe someone who is moody. The Italian translation of lunatic is “pazzo” or “folle“.
Morbid: this is another English adjective that has a very unpleasant meaning. In fact, it refers to something or someone characterized by an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing subjects, especially death and disease. The Italian “morbido“, instead, has much nicer meaning: it just means soft! The adjective you need to properly translate the English morbid is macabro or morboso.
Noisy: I have heard many people use the Italian “noioso” to translate this English adjective. Actually, “noioso” means boring while noisy in Italian is “rumoroso“. So pay attention if you say “questa festa è molto noiosa” because someone might be a bit disappointed.
Sensitive: this is another adjective I see some students struggle with. If you speak English, it is very easy to use the Italian adjective “sensitivo” referring to someone who is easily upset by the things people say or do, or to something that needs to be dealt with carefully to avoid upsetting people but it has a completely different meaning: “sensitivo” means sensory or someone who is a psychic. The Italian for sensitive is “sensibile” or “delicato”.
Actually: this is one of the many adverbs that cause problems to English speakers when they speak Italian. It easy to use “attualmente” to translate this adverb but the Italian adverb means something completely different: “attualmente” means currently, at the moment, while the English adverb actually needs to be translated with “in realtà“.
Currently: as I said above, currently means at the moment or now but you can’t use “correntemente” with the same meaning in Italian: “correntemente” means either fluently or normally, usually, while the Italian for “currently” is “al momento“.
Definitely: here’s another tricky adverb. In English, “definitely” means for sure, without any doubt. In Italian, the similar adverb “definitivamente” has a completely different meaning: “definitivamente” means for good, forever while the Italian for definitely is “sicuramente“.
Eventually: the English meaning of this adverb is in the end, especially after a long time or a lot of effort. It could be very easy to use “eventualmente” to translate it in Italian but it is wrong. “Eventualmente” in Italian means possibly, potentially, while the right way to translate the English eventually is “alla fine” or “infine“.
Finally: this is one of the trickiest adverbs and I see it used wrongly all the time. In English, finally either means at last or at the end, lastly but the Italian “finalmente” doesn’t have this second meaning. So, “finalmente” just means at last while you need to use “alla fine” to translate the other meaning of finally.
Ultimately: it would be super easy to think that the Italian adverb “ultimamente” has the same meaning as “ultimately” but unfortunately it hasn’t. “Ultimamente” means lately, recently, while the proper Italian translation of the English ultimately is “essenzialmente”, “fondamentalmente” when ultimately is used used to emphasize the most important fact in a situation, or “alla fine“, when it means finally.
To Annoy: here’s a very tricky verb. To annoy in English means to make someone angry but the similar Italian verb “annoiare” doesn’t have anything to do with this meaning. In Italian, “annoiare” means to bore someone, so the right Italian verb you need to use to translate to annoy is “infastidire“.
To Attend: this is a tricky verb for Italians learning English too. To attend, in English, means to go to an event or to go regularly to a certain place (school for example), while the similar Italian “attendere“, means to wait. The Italian verb you need to use to translate to attend is “frequentare“.
To Confront: again, it would be very easy to think that the Italian for this verb is “confrontare“. Unfortunately, this is another false friend. “Confrontare“, in Italian, means to compare, while the right Italian verb you need to use to translate the English verb to confront is “affrontare” or “fronteggiare”
To Pretend: wouldn’t it be easy if the Italian verb “pretendere” was the right translation of the English one to pretend? It would but unfortunately learning languages is challenging. To pretend, in English, means to behave as if something is true when you know that it is not, while “pretendere” in Italian means to demand, to claim. So, the Italian verb you need to properly translate it is “fingere“.
To Retire: one last false friend that causes a bit of trouble. This verb, in English, means to leave one’s job or stop working because of age or illness. The similar Italian verb “ritirare“, instead, means to withdraw or to recall. The right Italian verbs you need to use to translate to retire is “andare in pensione“.
I hope you’ll find this list useful and interesting for your learning purposes. To make things easier, I have created a downloadable pdf file with a chart that summarizes all false friends mentioned in this post and in the previous one I posted.
As usual, you can find this file in Your Italian Toolbox, the private page on my site where I upload all language-learning materials. Access to Your Italian Toolbox is for newsletter subscribers only. If you want to subscribe, you can do so by filling out this form with your name and email address.
And now tell me: are there other English-Italian false friends that come to your mind?
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