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Italian expression of the day: ‘Alla mano’

Here's a phrase that's worth keeping handy.

Italian expression of the day: 'Alla mano'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

You probably already know the word mano (‘hand’). You may even know the phrase man mano (‘little by little’). And if you’re a grammar pro you’ll also know that despite the ~o at the end, the noun is actually feminine (la manole mani). 

Click below to hear mano pronounced:

Of the many phrases the word features in, one of the most useful is alla mano: literally, ‘to hand’. 

You can use it exactly the same way we would in English, to say that something is close by and ready to use, either literally or figuratively.

Sono arrivata all’aeroporto con le valigie pronte, il biglietto alla mano.
I arrived at the airport with my suitcases ready, ticket in hand.

Bisogna parlare con i fatti alla mano.
We should speak with facts at the ready.

But you can apply the phrase to people as well as things, in which case it means something different: ‘affable’ or ‘easygoing’. 

Se hai bisogno di aiuto, puoi chiedere a Alessio. È un tipo molto alla mano.
If you need any help, you can ask Alessio. He’s a very affable guy. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the phrase suggests someone is ‘under the thumb’: it doesn’t mean they’re submissive or malleable, just that they’re approachable, down-to-earth and ready to help. In other words, just the kind of person you want to have on hand.

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

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For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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