When you worry about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. With this in mind, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that the Italian word for worrying sounds a lot like the verb “to preoccupy.” The infinitive is preoccupare (to worry), usually used reflexively—preoccuparsi (to worry about)—the adjective/participle is preoccupato (worried), and the noun is preoccupazione (cause for worry) with its plural, preoccupazioni (worries, troubles). We all do our share of worrying, so it’s a good word to be familiar with!
In the story of La Bohème, Rodolfo is worried about Mimì because she has tuberculosis.
l'ho sentito che si confidava con Marcello, il suo amico pittore, e gli diceva che era preoccupato per via della mia malattia.
I heard him confiding to his friend Marcello, his painter friend, and he told him that he was worried because of my illness.
Captions 30-31, Anna presenta - La Bohème di PucciniPlay Caption
Andiamo a casa, va'! Se no zia si preoccupa.
Let's go home, come on! Otherwise Auntie will worry.
Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Sometimes people worry for no reason, so we want to reassure them. In other words, we’re giving the negative command, “Don’t worry.” Negative commands in Italian are easy when you’re talking to friends and family: non + the infinitive of a verb.
So, if a friend or familiar person is preoccupato and they shouldn’t be, take after Adriano, who’s reassuring his grandmother. She’s family, so he speaks informally to her. As he sings her praises, she notices something off-camera and points to it. He doesn’t want her to worry about it, or even to pay attention to it:
Non ti preoccupare, nonna.
Don't worry Grandma.
Caption 26, Adriano - NonnaPlay Caption
Remember that preoccupare is generally used reflexively (preoccuparsi), so just like with other reflexive verbs, the personal pronoun can go in two different positions (both are equally grammatical): before the verb, as Adriano says it, or attached to the end of the verb as below. See this previous lesson, and this one, too, for more on reflexive verbs.
Scusa, eh, per le foto così brutte, ma le ha fatte mio marito, quindi... No, ma non preoccuparti.
Sorry, uh, for such bad photos, but my husband took them, so... No, but don't worry about it.
Captions 34-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7Play Caption
If, on the other hand, you need to tell someone you don’t know very well not to worry, use the polite form of the imperative (more on doing so here): Non si preoccupi. Without delving into a lot of grammar, just memorizing the phrase (with a nice accent on the “o”) will be helpful when you’re addressing someone like a salesperson, someone’s parent, a teacher, or a doctor, as in the following example.
Dottore non si preoccupi, ci occuperemo noi di lui.
Doctor don't worry, we'll take care of him.Play Caption
Gualtiero Marchesi forgets his troubles by going back to his childhood haunts. Pensieri (thoughts, worries) go hand in hand with preoccupazioni (worries, troubles):
Sono sempre tornato nei luoghi della mia infanzia, a volte, all'improvviso, lasciandomi alle spalle pensieri e preoccupazioni.
I've always returned to the places of my childhood, sometimes, suddenly, leaving my thoughts and worries behind.
Captions 16-17, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'AcquaPlay Caption
As an aside, the antidote to worrying is frequently to take care of something, and the verb for that is occuparsi (to take care of, to deal with), not to be confused with preoccuparsi.
When you meet people or pass them on the street, consider whether you would speak to them informally or formally, and tell them, in your mind, not to worry. Would you say non ti preoccupare or non si preoccupi?