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3 Ways to Get It Wrong in Italian

When you're wrong you're wrong. There are various Italian words connected with being wrong or making a mistake. Let's look at the various ways to be wrong and the nuances that set them apart.

 

The cognate errore (error)

Fare un errore. This works fine when you need a noun. If you have trouble with rolling your r's, this word can be a challenge.

Fai errore dopo errore.

You make mistake after mistake.

Caption 53, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Sbagliare (to make a mistake) is more flexible

The verb sbagliare (to make a mistake) plus reflexive form sbagliarsi (to be mistaken), and its noun form lo sbaglio (the mistake, the error) are very common. 

Io c'entro, c'entro eccome, perché lei è una mia allieva. E se lei sbaglia, vuol dire che anche io ho sbagliato qualcosa con lei.

I'm involved, I'm absolutely involved because she's my student. And if she makes a mistake, it means that I also made a mistake with her.

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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There's a fine line between the normal verb and its reflexive form. One reason for this is that sbagliare as a normal verb can either be transitive or intransitive.

Ho sbagliato strada (I took the wrong route, I went the wrong way).

Ho sbagliato (I made a mistake, I made a wrong move, I did something wrong).

Sbagliare è umano (making mistakes is human).

Tutti sbagliano (everyone makes mistakes).

Piove, o sbaglio (It's raining, or am I mistaken)?

The reflexive form sbagliarsi, tends to be more about being wrong than making a mistake — a bit less active, we could say — and the sentence structure changes as well. The reflexive form is intransitive, so we need a preposition between the verb and the indirect object. As a result, it's a bit more complicated to use. 

Mi sono sbagliato (I was wrong, I was mistaken)

Mi sbaglio o sta piovendo (am I mistaken or is it raining)? 

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In the following example, the preposition is a (to) and rather than "being wrong," it's "going wrong." 

Mi creda, a puntare sul pesce non si sbaglia mai.

Believe me. With fish you can never go wrong.

Caption 2, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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This is a great expression to have in your collection: 

Non si sbaglia mai (one can't go wrong).

Non ti puoi sbagliare (you can't go wrong).

 

As you watch Yabla videos, you will see countless instances of sbagliare, sbagliarsi and lo sbaglio. See if you can sense when people use one or the other. In many cases, there are multiple possibilities. 

Il torto (the wrongdoing, the injustice)

Some of us may recognize the cognate: "tort." When you study law, one course you take is "torts." In English a tort is simply a civil wrong.

 

How to use the Italian noun torto, however, is a different story. 

 

In a recent episode of Sposami, a divorcing couple is forced to get along and work together, even though they can't stand each other. But each of them wants to keep the dog, and therefore they each have to be on their best behavior. They go crying to their divorce lawyer each time the other does something wrong. And in one such conversation, the word torto comes up.

Ugo, cerca di essere collaborativo, se no, tu capisci, mi passi dalla parte del torto.

Ugo, try to be collaborative, otherwise, you understand, you'll end up being in the wrong.

Captions 68-69, Sposami EP 1 - Part 13

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So this is a lawyer talking, but we also use torto or its plural torti in everyday conversation. A son is complaining to his mother, and her boyfriend chimes in:

 

A ma' [mamma], ti prego. Ce tratti come du [romanesco: ci tratti come due] ragazzini! -Va be', non ha tutti i torti. Io alla loro età, nemmeno lo chiedevo più il permesso.

Oh Mom, please. You treat us like a couple of little kids! -Well, he's not totally wrong. At their age, I no longer even asked for permission.

Captions 69-72, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 2

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Here are some other expressions with torti. Remember that we use the verb avere (to have) in this expression. 

Avere torto (to be wrong).

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With all these word choices for making mistakes and being wrong, non ti puoi sbagliare!

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2 Expressions with the verb credere

Credere is a very common verb. It basically means "to believe," but not 100% of the time. There are some sfumature (nuances) to this verb, and it so happens that in a recent episode of Sei mai stata sulla luna, it's used in 2 ways that deviate from the norm.

Non ti credere

In one scene of the segment of Sei mai stata sulla luna, we see a single father (Renzo) having a conversation with his son. His son wishes he had a mother, and Renzo is downplaying it.

It plays out like this:

No, per starci insieme. -Ma perché non stiamo bene insieme io te? -Sì, ma magari staremmo meglio. -Non ti credere, eh. Una fidanzata ti manderebbe tutte le sere a dormire presto.

No, to be together. -But aren't we fine together, you and me? -Yes, but maybe we'd be even better. -Don't be so sure, huh. A girlfriend would send you to bed early every night.

Captions 38-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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Come crede/come credi

At the beginning of the segment, the townsmen are hanging out in the piazza and Guia is there, too. Someone says to her, being polite:

Comunque, signora, Lei faccia come crede.

In any case, Ma'am, you do as you think best.

Caption 1, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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If it were an informal situation, it would be fai come credi. It can mean "do as you think best" or "do as you wish." It's often said when there is a disagreement about what to do or how something should be done. The person who says it doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. It's a little different from, fai come vuoi (do as you like), where the verb is volere. Credere gives the person a bit more credit for thinking things through. Fai come vuoi  (or in the polite form faccia come vuole) can also come off as judgmental, depending on the tone with which it is said. 

A variation

A common variation on this expression is with the verb parere (to seem, to appear):

Noi ci sposeremo e soprattutto divorzieremo. Tu stasera vai in albergo, da tuo fratello, dove ti pare, lontano da me.

We'll get married and above all we'll get divorced. This evening, you will go to a hotel, to your brother's, wherever you want, far from me.

Captions 32-33, La Tempesta film - Part 21

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Note that parere is one of those verbs, like piacere, where the subject is not the person doing the liking or the wanting. So, thinking literally, the gist would be "go where it seems to you that you should go." 

Dove ti pare is a very common way to say dove vuoi (wherever you like).

Come ti pare is a very common way to say come vuoi (however you like. 

It's interesting that both parere and piacere are also commonly used nouns: il parere and il piacere

Parere (both the noun and the verb) come from the verb apparire (to appear, to emerge).

 

For more about piacere see this lesson:

and see this video:

 

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Strappare: to tear, to rip

 

Strappare (to tear, to yank, to rip) is an interesting Italian verb, with a useful, related noun uno strappo (the act of ripping up) that goes hand in hand with it.

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Sembrerebbe un tuo capello. Va be', dai, strappami il capello, forza. Strappa 'sto capello. Dai, ai!

It seems like one of your hairs. OK, come on, pull out a hair, come on. Yank this strand out. Come on, ow!

Captions 37-40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 2

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The previous example is literal and you can easily visualize the act. The following example could be literal, but not necessarily. It describes a somewhat violent act, but this grandfather might be speaking figuratively.

Insomma, mi hanno strappato via la mia nipotina dalle braccia.

In short, they tore my little granddaughter from my arms.

Caption 84, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

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Even when we're talking about hair, strappare can be used figuratively. 

Guarda, mi strappo i capelli da, proprio...

Look, I'm really tearing my hair out from, right...

Caption 24, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 14

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In this week's segment of La Ladra, there is a wonderful Italian expression with the noun strappo

Ma sono vegetariano. Ma non fai mai uno strappo alla regola? -Qualche volta. E... allora potresti venire nel mio ristorante, naturalmente saresti mio ospite. -Con piacere.

But I am a vegetarian. But don't you ever make an exception to the rule? -Sometimes. And... so you could come to my restaurant, you'll be my guest, naturally. -With pleasure.

Captions 61-64, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 1

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Did you hear the percussive T, the well-articulated R, and the double, percussive P? It's a fun word to say. Remember that in Italian a double P sounds different from a single P. To hear the difference, go back to the examples about hair. There's a double P in strappare, or strappo, but there is a single P in capello or capelli. Tricky!

Strappare (to tear, to rip, to yank) is very close to rompere (to break) or even spezzare (to break, to snap, to split)So fare uno strappo alle regole, means "to break a rule," "to make an exception." 

 

Another expression with the same noun — strappo — is dare uno strappo (to give [someone] a lift). 

Ti do uno strappo a casa?

Shall I give you a lift home?

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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The more conventional word would be un passaggio. Read more about passaggio here.

 

Practice:

Here are some situations in which you might want to use the verb strappare or the noun strappo:

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You want someone to tear off a page from their notebook or pad. Mi strappi una pagina? (Would you tear off a page for me?)

You want someone to give you a lift home. Mi dai uno strappo? (Will you give me a lift?)

You hardly ever eat ice cream, but today, you'll make an exception. Faccio uno strappo alla regola. Mangerò un gelato! (I'll make an exception. I'm going to have ice cream!)

You are very frustrated with listening to someone complain. Quando comincia con certi discorsi mi viene voglia di strapparmi i capelli. (When he/she starts up with that story, I get the urge to tear my hair out.)

 

Try fitting in these new words to your Italian practice. Send in your suggestions and we'll correct them or comment on them.

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