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4 ways to say, "I don't think so" in Italian

Let's look at some different ways people say, "I don't think so." In English we have "so" at the end, and we might wonder how to translate it. In some cases, we can add a pronoun, but often, it's left out entirely. As you will see, different verbs work a bit differently from one another, so we need to keep them straight. Of course, it's perfectly OK for you, as you learn, to say it the same way every time, but someone might use one form or another, so you'll want to be prepared to understand them. There's more than one way to skin a cat! 

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We're talking about responding (in the negative) to questions such as:

*Hai il mio numero di telefono (do you have my phone number)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't believe so).

Non penso (I don't think so).

 

*Quella donna è sua moglie (is that woman his wife)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (I don't think so, it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't think so, I don't believe so).

Non penso proprio (I really don't think so).

 

Let's look at these verb choices one by one.

 

Parere

You might remember a lesson where we talked briefly about the verb parere. In addition, let's remember that il parere is also a noun, meaning "the opinion."

So if you want to answer a question in the negative, you can say, Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non lo so, cambiamenti nell'atteggiamento, nell'umore, nel modo di vestirsi, cose così. -No... no, non mi pare.

I don't know, changes in her behavior, in her mood, in the way she dressed, stuff like that. -No... no, I don't think so.

Captions 15-16, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 5

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Sembrare 

Sembrare (to seem) is a bit tricky because, like parere, it's often used with an indirect object or personal pronoun. In everyday conversation, we often find the construction mi sembra che... or non mi sembra che...  (it seems to me that... it doesn't seem to me that...). Or we just find non mi sembra. Here we have to keep in mind that sembra (the third person singular of sembrare) includes the subject pronoun "it" or possibly "he/she." Translating it literally is just a bit awkward. In English, we tend to simplify.

 

Ma non ti sembra un po' affrettato? -Affrettato?

But doesn't it seem a bit rushed to you? -Rushed?

Captions 10-11, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 17

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We couldn't find an example in Yabla videos with the simple answer non mi sembra, but we can answer the question "Rushed?" in the previous example with it: Affrettato? Non mi sembra  (rushed? I don't think so). We can dress up the answer with proprio or, since it is in the negative, with affatto ([not] at all) Non mi sembra affatto (I really don't think so, I don't think so at all).

 

So with parere and sembrare, we often use the indirect personal pronoun (to me, to him, to them, to you) but with our next words, credere (to believe) and pensare (to think) we don't. They are just "normal" verbs.

 

Credere

Another word that is used a lot in this context is the verb credere  (to believe). It goes together nicely with proprio (really). Proprio means lots of things, so see our lesson  about it for more information. In English, we often use "think" instead of "believe" out of habit. In many cases, "believe" would be fine, too.

Forse un imprenditore americano non le parlerebbe così. -No, non credo proprio.

Maybe an American industrialist wouldn't talk about it like that. -No, I really don't think so.

Captions 40-41, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 13

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Pensare

We have seen this verb many times before, but we include it here, because it might be the easiest to remember, corresponding to the English verb "to think."

Cos'è, bigiotteria? Non penso. Rubini e filigrana d'oro.

What is it? Costume jewelry? I don't think so. Rubies and gold filigree.

Captions 70-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 4

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We've provided some quick and easy negative answers to questions asking our opinion or judgment about something. When we use any of these verbs in longer sentences, we might need the subjunctive if the verbs are followed by the conjunction che  (that, which).  There are other ways to use these verbs without the subjunctive and we will explore these in a future lesson.

 

Practice:

Try asking yourself some questions and experiment with the different verbs. Here's a start:

 

Pioverà (is it going to rain)?

Arriveremo in tempo (will we get there in time)?

Hai abbastanza soldi per pagarlo (do you have enough money to pay for this)?

La pasta è cotta (is the pasta cooked)?

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Verso: a word with too many meanings to count

Looking at the word verso, we can detect a couple of cognates: "verse" and "versus," abbreviated as "vs" or "v." We can also see the word in words like "reverse..."

Verso is actually a wonderful word that can be used in so many circumstances. But where to start? Let's start in earlier times.

 

When manuscripts had leaves, not pages:

If you look at a medieval manuscript, for example, and think of how they numbered the pages, it's pretty interesting.

 

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Instead of pages, they considered the whole sheet or leaf. Think of a looseleaf notebook. A leaf, or a sheet of paper (or parchment), has two sides. When scribes started numbering these leaves (in the twelfth century "foliation" became a rule. Before that there were different ways of keeping track), the number would be placed in the upper right-hand corner, for example: "XXX" (roman numerals were commonly used). This was the right side, the front side, the "recto." The backside of the leaf was called the "verso," the reverse side. So if you were indicating where a song or chapter started, you would say folio XXX r or XXX v. 

 

The word verso comes from the Latin verb "vertĕre," meaning "to turn" — in its past participle form, "versus." The Italian verb meaning "to turn" is voltare which has common origins with volgere, the Italian for Latin "vertere." So the backside of a sheet is the one you have "turned."

 

il verso

Considering the above, it seems appropriate to discuss the noun form il verso  next.

 

Il verso can certainly mean, as we have seen, "the reverse side," especially when talking about a coin, medal, or sheet or leaf of parchment. 

 

It can also mean "direction" or "way."

...e per trenta minuti si gira in un verso, lentamente,

...and for thirty minutes, you stir it in one direction, slowly,

Caption 35, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Le parti basse dell'ulivo vanno tolte perché sono secche e non permettono alla pianta di, di crescere nel giusto verso.

The lower parts of the olive tree have to be removed because they're dry, and they don't allow the plant to, to grow in the right direction.

Captions 25-26, Gianni si racconta L'olivo e i rovi

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In colloquial speech il verso can mean "the way," used figuratively. 

Pezzo di pane... -Bisogna saperlo prendere per il verso giusto.

Piece of bread... -You have to know how to handle him the right way.

Caption 65, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 16

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...ma non c'è stato verso di farla ragionare.

...but there was no way to get her to reason.

Caption 4, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 10

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When talking about marble, it means "the correct direction," or "the grain." 

Eh, il verso e il contro sono due termini, eh, conosciuti diffusamente tra gli art', gli artigiani del marmo,

Uh, the grain and against the grain are two terms, um, well known to art', marble artisans,

Captions 6-8, Claudio Capotondi Scultore - Part 1

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We also have the word inverso in Italian, meaning "inverse" or "opposite."

Quando "venire" è contrapposto esplicitamente ad "andare", indica movimento inverso, perché i due verbi esprimono insieme un movimento alternato e ripetuto nei [due] sensi.

When “venire” is explicitly juxtaposed with “andare,” it indicates an inverse movement, because the two verbs together express alternate and repeated movements, direction-wise.

Captions 42-45, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 2

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Other meanings of il verso as a noun are: 

-the sound an animal makes.

-a line of poetry

-a verse

 

Verso — the preposition

 

Verso is a preposition, too, again having to do with direction.

Verso can mean "towards." It can also be interpreted as "facing,"

Perciò ti volti verso di lui. -Certo.

So, you turn towards him. -Of course.

Caption 62, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 16

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Note that when we use personal pronouns as an object, we need the extra preposition di. If it's a noun, then no extra preposition is needed.

Poi andando sempre più verso il Duomo, si vede appunto il Duomo

Then still going towards the Duomo, you can see just that, the Cathedral,

Captions 27-28, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 4

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When we're talking about directions rather than concrete destinations, we use neither an extra preposition nor an article. 

Poi, andando verso sinistra si vede il Palazzo Vecchio,

Then, going towards the left you can see the Palazzo Vecchio [the old building]

Caption 34, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 4

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The English word "versus," has the same Latin origin as the preposition verso, but has come to mean "against." Two people or teams face each other when they are against each other. 

 

Verso can mean "around" especially when talking about time.

La signora ha cenato e poi verso le nove è uscita.

The lady had dinner and then around nine, she went out.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 5

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The verb versare

Finally, we mention the verb versare, because the first person singular happens to be verso. But versare deserves a lesson all to itself, because it's used often, but with various nuances in specific contexts. 

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Vocabulary

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