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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Non ci casco’

Here's one for our readers who are too savvy to be taken in.

Italian expression of the day non ci casco
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you’ve ever befriended a prankster, you learn to start questioning suspicious claims or invitations to improbable sounding events. Non ci casco, you say to yourself: I’m not falling for that.

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It’s from the prepositional verb cascarci, to fall for something. That’s not ‘fall for’ in a romantic sense – it means to get taken in by someone, to be hoodwinked.

Ci is a handy preposition that can stand in for words like ‘there’ and ‘it’, and in this context means ‘for it’. Cascare literally means ‘to fall’ (you might recognise it from the word cascata, which means waterfall) – so it’s one of those phrases that translates pretty cleanly into English.

Ci caschi ogni volta, amico mio.
You fall for it every time, my friend.

Tu sei l’ultima persona al mondo che pensavo potesse cascarci.
You’re the last person in the word I thought would fall for that.

Non ci cascare, è una trappola!
Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap!

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It’s a verb that takes essere rather than avere, so remember to use the right auxiliary verb and to agree with the sentence subject when using the phrase in the perfect tense.

Questo era il loro piano e voi due ci siete cascati.
This was their plan, and you two fell for it.

Cascare isn’t the only or even the most widely used Italian verb for ‘to fall’ – that would be cadere. Cascare comes from Tuscan dialect and is a bit more informal and expressive than cadere, and is more commonly used in metaphors and turns of phrase.

Both cadere and cascare, for example, can be used to mean ‘fall over’:

È cascato per le scale.
He fell on the stairs.

Sono caduta dalla bicicletta.
I fell off my bike.

But only cascare can mean to ‘fall for’ a trick.

One other verb that can be used to talk about falling for something is abboccare – to bite. When used in a literal sense it usually refers to fish ‘taking the bait’, and it means the same in a figurative sense when applied to humans.

Sembra che Laura abbia abboccato.
It looks as though Laura’s taken the bait.

Va bene, abbocco.
OK, I’ll bite.

Ora vediamo se abbocca.
Now let’s see if he takes the bait.

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Now you know these phrases, hopefully you can avoid getting taken in the next time you receive an offer that seems too good to be true – at least if it’s in Italian.

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

Member comments

  1. Ciao I like the expression ‘da noi’. I use it a lot Also, da voi Da loro Group words of the day!
    Ciao ciao Anita

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Si tratta di’

What's this phrase all about?

Italian expression of the day: 'Si tratta di'

Today’s expression is one you’ll hear a lot in spoken Italian.

It’s also a tricky one for anglophones to wrap our heads around, because although it appears simple – ‘si tratta di’ basically means something along the lines of ‘it concerns/discusses/deals with/is about’ – it actually doesn’t translate very cleanly into English most of the time.

Let’s start with the use that’s easiest for us to grasp: asking and answering what something’s about/what it concerns.

– Pronto, sono l’ispettore Jackson, posso parlare con la signora Hoffman?
– Sì, sono io – posso chiedere di cosa si tratta?

– Hello, this is Inspector Jackson speaking, can I speak with Mrs. Hoffman?
– Yes, this is she – may I ask what this is concerning?

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We can also use the phrase to say that something is ‘a matter of’ or ‘a question of’:

Se si tratta di qualche ora, rimarremo qui ad aspettarla.
If it’s a question of hours, we’ll stay here and wait for her.

Ora si tratta solo di scoprire dove ha lasciato le chiavi.
Now it’s a just a matter of figuring out where she left the keys.

And si tratta di can also be as a translation for ‘when it comes to’.

Adoro mangiare bene, ma quando si tratta di cucinare sono una frana.
I love eating well, but when it comes to cooking I suck.

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Where things start to get a bit more complicated is that you’ll often see the phrase used where the English translation doesn’t require anything.

For example, you might hear the following exchange at work:

– Michela non viene al lavoro oggi perché la sua bambina è malata.
– Spero che non si tratti di nulla di grave.

– Michela’s not coming into work today because her little girl’s sick.
– I hope it’s nothing serious.

You could say ‘I hope it doesn’t consist of anything serious’, which would get you closer to a direct translation – but in English this would sound oddly formal and overblown (in the above example we use tratti rather than tratta because spero che requires the subjunctive).

What if you want to say that a certain thing – a song, a book, a film, a speech – discusses or ‘deals with’ certain themes or issues?

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Firstly, note that impersonal si there. It’s standing in for a subject, which means we can’t have both the subject and the si in the same sentence together – one of them has to go.

You can say, for example, ‘Il suo terzo libro tratta delle idee di pressione sociale e di libertà personale‘ – ‘her third book deals with ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom.’

Or you can say, ‘Nel suo terzo libro, si tratta delle idee di pressione sociale e di libertà personale‘ – ‘In her third book, she discusses ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom” (a more literal translation would be ‘in her third book, ideas of societal pressure and personal freedom are discussed’, which sounds a bit awkward in English).

You could ask:

Di cosa tratta il libro?
What does the book discuss?

or

Di cosa si tratta nel libro?
What’s discussed in the book?

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What you can’t do is say, ‘Il libro si tratta di…’ or ask ‘Di cosa si tratta il libro?’. Neither of these constructions work because you can’t have both the impersonal si and the subject (in this case, il libro) together.

What if you want to say, for example, ‘the book/film is about…’?

The easiest way to do that is either to just say ‘il film parla di…‘ – ‘the film talks about…’ ; or ‘il film racconta la storia di…’ – ‘the film tells the story of…’:

Il film parla di un robot che vuole distruggere la razza umana.
The film’s about a robot who wants to destroy the human race.

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Il libro racconta la storia di un ragazzo che scopre di essere un mago.
The book tells the story of a boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what this phrase is all about!

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

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