Smartphones and social media are a huge part of our daily life, nowadays.
We use them constantly and we probably couldn’t live without them. They play such an important role in our life that we undoubtedly talk about them quite frequently in our conversations and, if we do so in a foreign language, we need to know a specific set of words and phrases.
This is why I have decided to write this post focusing on the most common words and expressions you need to use if you want to have a conversation about this topic. Basically, my goal is building an Italian vocabulary for social media and smartphones, thinking that you may need to use it next time you come to Italy.
As I always do with this kind of posts, I have created a downloadable pdf file for you to keep for future reference, which you can find on Your Italian Toolbox, the password-protected page on my site where I upload all my materials for language learning. If you want to access it, you simply have to sign up for my newsletter.
Let’s now focus on the Italian words and phrases you need to know if you want to speak of phone-related matters.
First of all, our phone: we call it telefono, telefonino, cellulare or smartphone. The first thing we need to do is to switch our phone on: the Italian verb we used for that is accendere, while we use spegnere when we switch it off. Sometimes we may need to lower the volume of our phone (abbassare la suoneria), if the phone is too loud, or raise it (alzare la suoneria), in case we can’t hear it. Sometimes, in certain situations, we may need to put our phone on silent (mettere il telefono silenzioso or togliere la suoneria).
When you make a phone call, you say fare una telefonata, telefonare or chiamare, which simply means to call. When you answer a phone call, the Italian phrase is rispondere al telefono or simply rispondere. If the line is busy, we say that il telefono è occupato or la linea è occupata, or simply è occupato. If the phone rings but nobody answers, we say that il telefono suona a vuoto. If there is no signal, we say that il telefono non prende or non c’è campo.
We have a couple of verbal expressions to use when you end a phone conversation: one of them is attaccare il telefono, which literally means to hang the phone, and mettere giù il telefono, which means to put it down.
If somebody calls us, we say “Pronto!“, while if we call someone, when he or she picks up the phone we say “Parlo con…?” or “Posso parlare con…?” or simply the name of the person we are looking for.
In order to use your phone, you have to put money on it. There are basically two types of contracts (contratto) for your SIM card (scheda SIM): you can have una ricaricabile (pay-as-you-go) and so when you run out of money (finire il credito), you have to top up (fare una ricarica) or you can have un abbonamento (a subscription), which makes you pay a fixed amount of money every month.
Usually, each option has a fixed plan (piano tariffario) that includes phone calls and data. In some cases, the use of Internet data is unlimited but it is not so common. This is why we all dread the moment when we say “ho finito i Giga” (I have run out of data) and we have to look for a free wireless network (rete wireless gratis).
Another problem is when the battery goes down (la batteria si scarica) and you have to recharge (ricaricare la batteria). If you have your phone charger (caricabatterie), you can look for a place with a socket (presa elettrica or simply presa) that you can use: usually the most sought-after seats in public places and bars.
We use our phone to call but also to send messages (mandare messaggi). In the past, it was common to send text messages (mandare SMS) but nobody does it anymore. We all use WhatsApp, nowadays. So we say: “ti mando un WhatsApp” (I send you a WhatsApp message) or “ti mando un vocale” (I send you an audio message via WhatsApp). The verb we use when we exchange messages with someone is “messaggiarsi“. If you want to tell someone that you’ll keep in touch via WhatsApp, you say: “Ci sentiamo su WhatsApp“.
On WhatsApp you can chat (chattare), make videocalls (fare videochiamate), send photos (mandare foto) or send videos (mandare video). WhatsApp is super useful and we all like it a lot but there’s one thing we can’t stand and it’s group chats (chat di gruppo), especially those we have to be part of without really wanting to. Thank God, you can silence (silenziare) them for a while.
Smartphones, however, are also very widely used for social media. We all have Facebook and Instagram apps on our phones and we spend way more time than we should scrolling down (scrollare) and refreshing (fare il refresh) our feeds.
On Facebook, we normally update our status (aggiornare lo stato), we share photos or videos (condividere una foto o un video) and we leave comments on other people’s activities (lasciare un commento or commentare). We also use the verbal phrase postare su Facebook (to post on Facebook) or mettere su Facebook to mean that we post something on Facebook.
If you ask someone to be friends on Facebook, the Italian expression is chiedere l’amicizia or aggiungere su Facebook. Togliere l’amicizia, instead, means to stop being friends with someone on Facebook. While if you follow someone on Instagram, the verbal phrase is “seguire su Instagram“.
Normally, people use the expression “mettere una foto” (to post a photo) clearly referring to social media, without even saying which one. In the past, it was clear you were speaking of Facebook but nowadays Instagram is way more popular, so we end up specifying which social media we refer to – unless it is clear from the context. Sometimes we also simply use the verb “scrivere” referring to social media: if somebody says “ho visto che Mario ha scritto che è in vacanza“, it probably means he has shared it on social media.
When people share something on social media, we may like their photos or media in general and, for that, we say mettere il like or mettere mi piace. When you go somewhere, you can take a selfie (farsi un selfie) to share on social media and, if you share a photo on either Facebook or Instagram, you may tag (taggare) someone who is with you in such picture. Using social media, we commonly use DMs to communicate: in Italian, we say “mandare un DM” meaning to send a direct message.
Nowadays, Instagram Stories are really popular. The verbal expression we use when we refer to sharing something on Instagram Stories is “mettere nelle storie” or “mettere nelle stories“, so if you want to tell someone you have posted something there, you probably say: “l’ho messo nelle storie“, specifying “nelle storie di Instagram” if you want the listener to clearly understand what you mean.
Lots of new verbs have been invented: we use googlare (or cercare su Google) for googling, we use the verb pinnare, if we mean that we pin something on Pinterest, or twittare to mean to tweet. The English verb to screenshot has become screenshottare, to link something is linkare, to put something on Instagram is instagrammare, while if we look for a song on Shazam, we say shazammare.
Thanks to Instagram, a new adjective has been invented: it’s instagrammabile, which describes something that is worth sharing on Instagram.
One of my favorite stories about the Internet and smartphones was that of a friend’s 90-year old grandma who, whenever somebody wondered about something, would say: “Chiedilo a Internet!“, as if Internet were a person. Needless to say, I have now made this phrase mine!
In order to make this post more useful for you, I have created a downloadable pdf file, so that you can keep it for future reference, and an audio file for pronunciation purposes.
If you want to get it, you simply have to subscribe to my newsletter. By doing so, you will get access to Your Italian Toolbox, a library of Italian-related materials that includes the above-mentioned pdf and audio files as well (you’ll find it in the Miscellaneous section). I hope you’ll find it useful and interesting!]
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