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2 Ways to Cheat in Italian

Whether you're cheating or being cheated, you'll want to know the words Italians use to talk about cheating. In this lesson we will discuss two words that have come up in Yabla videos.

Take your pick! Truccare or Taroccare

Whichever verb you choose, it's about cheating.


There are two fun words in Italian that mean essentially the same thing. They seem to come from different roots, but Italians use them pretty much interchangeably as we will see. But let's look at these two words separately.



The noun form trucco is better known to us with its English cognate "trick." Its usual meaning in Italian is "expedient," as in the following example.


Un buon trucco è quello di lavare i piatti

A good trick is to wash the dishes

usando l'acqua di cottura della pasta,

using the water from cooking pasta,

che ha un alto potere sgrassante e detergente.

which is a powerful de-greaser and detergent.

Captions 23-25, Non beviamoci su - Risparmio dell'acqua

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We also use il trucco to mean "makeup." We are, in a way, falsifying how we really look when we use makeup. We try to enhance our physical appearance. It's used as a collective noun, as is "makeup."


Bene. Allora vatti a provare il vestito e le scarpe.

Good. Then go and try on the dress and the shoes.

Ma non ho finito con il trucco.

But I haven't finished with the makeup.

Captions 53-54, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

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In fact, falsifying is what truccare is all about. Putting makeup on is a socially acceptable way of falsifying one's facial aspect, of course, but there are other more sinister ways to falsify things. In a recent episode of La Ladra, there is a corrupt mechanic who soups up cars for illegal races. The car has been enhanced.


Eh, che dice?

Hey, what does he say?

Dice che c'ha un giro de [romanesco: di] auto truccate e de [romanesco: di] corse clandestine.

He says he has an operation involving souped-up cars and illegal races.

Lo sospettavo.

I suspected that.

Captions 71-73, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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In shady businesses, the books will likely be falsified. There are colorful words we can use in English, such as "to doctor," "to cook," "to fix," "to load the dice." One choice in Italian is truccare.


Allora Natoli, Salmastri ha truccato i bilanci e questo è chiaro.

So, Natoli, Salmastri has doctored the financial statements and this is clear.

Però non capisco perché.

But I don't understand why.

Captions 1-2, La Tempesta - film - Part 23

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The verb taroccare, on the other hand, comes from the plural noun tarocchi, which means none other than "tarot cards." It's important to realize that tarot cards started out as cards to play card games with. It was only later that they were used specifically for divination. Tarot cards or tarocchi are still used throughout much of Europe to play conventional card games without divinatory associations. Learn more about this here

Cheating at cards and games has most likely always existed and this concept might contribute to the use of taroccare to mean "to falsify." As we can see in the following example and the one mentioned above, Paolo in La Tempesta uses both truccare and taroccare when talking about falsifying the books. They sound pretty similar, too. 


Paolo, che succede, eh?

Paolo, what's going on, huh?

Sei una serpe, sei una viscida serpe!

You're a snake, a slimy snake!

Hai taroccato i bilanci dell'azienda per spaventare gli azionisti.

You falsified the financial statements of the company to scare the stockholders.

Captions 12-14, La Tempesta - film - Part 23

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You can't go wrong, but...

Whichever word you decide to use, Italians will understand just fine. If we want to be more refined, we could say that if you are thinking of putting some fake license plates on a car, you would probably use taroccare, but if you are just beefing up a motor, or adjusting a few numbers in a register, you might go for truccare. If you are enhancing the sound of a recording by adding artificial reverb, or photoshopping a photo, truccare is fine to use without going to jail. Taroccare can be left to illegal or shadier enterprises.

The video example from La Ladra could have used the verb taroccare just as well, since it often refers to cars, motorcycles, etc. It's a matter of personal choice, as well as regional, local, societal tradition.



If you haven't seen La Tempesta, it's available in its entirety on Yabla, with subtitles in both Italian and English (that you can see or hide as you go), and plenty of exercises to help you retain what you hear in the video. It's a fun movie for learning Italian, and takes place in Treviso, a city in the Veneto region of Italy.


2 Words about Trying:Provare and Provarci

Provare is a verb that has so many meanings and nuances that it merits some attention. In one episode of La Ladra, it has a special meaning that is important to be aware of, especially for those who are thinking about dating.


But first, let's go to the basic meanings of this verb. Provare is one of several synonyms meaning "to try." See this lesson about this meaning of provare.

Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.

I'm going to try now. Let's see if I succeed.

Captions 50-51, Francesca neve - Part 3

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This exact same construction takes on a different meaning when we're talking about people being sentimentally interested in one another.  Every language has different terms that come into general use when talking about relationships, like "going out," "dating," "going steady" in English, and in Italian, stare insieme (to be together, to be a couple, to go steady).


But before that happens, there is usually an approach. We used to call this courting. These days it can be in person, by text, by phone or in person. It can start with a flirtation. But one person has to approach the other. He or she has to try to get the other person's attention. Because there isn't a true equivalent in Italian, flirtare (to flirt) has become a verb we find in the dictionary. 


But generally, this stage of the game, the approach, especialy when it's not very subtle, is described in Italian with provarci.


So if I want to say, "That guy was flirting with me!" I might say: Ci stava provando con me!


It can also mean something a bit more sexual, as someone trying to seduce someone. 


Literally, it means "to try it" as in our first example, but ci, as we know from previous lessons, means many things, and it can mean "to or with something or someone."

Ci vengo anch'io. I'll come with you [there].


In this week's episode of La Ladra, Barbara, an employee, is interested in her boss and she doesn't want any interference, and so she gives Alessia, her co-worker, a rough time and accuses her of flirting with him. In reality, poor, shy Alessia has no such intentions, and is quite shocked to be accused of anything of the sort. In this specific context, provarci means to try to get the sentimental attentions of someone (often by flirting).

Ma questo non significa che io... 

But that doesn't mean that I...
Ho visto come lo guardi, sai?

I've seen how you look at him, you know.
Ma tu, con Aldo, non ci devi neppure provare.
But you with Aldo, you mustn't even try to get his attention.
Io? Ma sei matta?

Me? But are you nuts?

Captions 20-23, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4

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On a general level, however, provarci just means "to try it," as in our first example. In English we leave out any object: we just say "I tried." In Italian, there is usually ci as a general, even neutral, object. It is often shortened to a "ch" sound in a contraction. C'ho provato (I tried). Provaci is an informal command: "Give it a try!"


The Italian title for an old Woody Allen film is Provaci ancora, Sam.

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