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Italian expression of the day: ‘Fa un freddo cane’

Italian expression of the day: 'Fa un freddo cane'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's an idiomatic phrase to get you through the winter in Italy.

If you've only ever visited Italy in summer before, it can be quite a shock to find out just how cold it can get across the country in winter.

When the cold is really biting, simply saying fa freddo (it's cold) doesn't feel like enough.

Today's idiomatic phrase is used in spoken Italian on those freezing cold days.

– Fa un freddo cane!

– it's freezing cold!

The phrase literally translates as “It makes a cold dog”, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. But it means something more like “it's dog cold!”

But what have dogs got to do with it?

Much like with the English phrase “it's raining cats and dogs”, clearly no household pets are involved – it's just a (polite) way of emphasising how awfully cold it is.

You might already know that instead of using the verb essere (to be), Italians use fare (to do or make) when talking about the temperature. So the phrase fa freddo literally translates as “It makes cold” rather than “it is cold”. Same with fa caldo.

You might also hear the variation fa un freddo da cani.

It means exactly the same thing, but uses the plural cani (dogs)

Other ways to comment on the low temperature in Italian include:

– “fa freddissimo!”

– It's very cold

– si gela
– It's freezing (literally “one freezes”)
 
– si muore di freddo
– It’s terribly cold (literally “one dies of cold”)
 
Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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