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Forza, per forza, and a forza di

In this lesson, we look at three expressions with the noun la forza, which basically means "force" (easy cognate) or "strength." The meaning might help us grasp the expressions somewhat, but let's take the opportunity to shine a light on each one. They are all very common, and good to have in your repertoire of idioms.

1) Forza!


We have seen this a million times in Yabla videos. It usually has an exclamation point following it. We can best translate it with "come on." It's funny because there are several Italian expressions that are translated the same way, such as Dai! Su! Vai! Coraggio! 


Dove stiamo andando? -Forza!

Where are we going? -Come on!

A lavoro, forza!

To work, come on!

Captions 35-36, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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But it can also just be another way to say "come on" or "go on."  Another way to say dai, as Italians often do at the end of a sentence. It's a bit stronger, but the inflection matters a lot, too.


Vabbè entra. Chiudi la porta, forza.

All right, come in. Shut the door, go on.

Caption 3, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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2) Per forza

This is a kind of adverbial phrase. We can get the sense of what it means: literally "through force." We use it to mean "necessarily," "inevitably," "begrudgingly" — in other words, "there's no choice." "That's the way it has to be." It might even mean "obviously," "clearly," in certain cases.

Let's look at some examples in context.


Allora, noi le tasse di successione,

So, the inheritance taxes,

quelle dobbiamo pagarle per forza.

those we are obliged to pay.

Caption 25, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

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C'è che tua madre vuole per forza

It's that your mother wants, at all costs,

trasformare il nostro matrimonio in un evento.

to transform our wedding into an event.

Caption 31, Sposami - EP 1 - Part 19

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Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso.

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room.

-Ma ti sei fatta visitare?

-Did you get examined?

-Per forza!

-I had no choice!

Captions 1-3, La Ladra - Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro

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Tu non mi hai visto a me!

You haven't seen me!

Io so' [sono] sparito. Tu mi vedi? No, per forza, so' [sono] sparito.

I've disappeared. Do you see me? No, of course not. I've disappeared.

Captions 36-37, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 10

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Two further idiomatic sayings come to mind using this adverbial phrase:

Per amore o per forza (one way or another, one way or the other)

O per volere o per forza (by hook or by crook)


3) A forza di...

The image we can glean from this expression is of a hammer that keeps hammering. Or a lie someone keeps repeating so many times that in the end you believe it. 

In the first example below, the police are looking for a DVD that could be really anywhere... a needle in a haystack. But they keep looking for it. They're saying they'll go into retirement before they find the DVD, it's taking so long.


Mi sa che ci [sic: ce ne] andiamo in pensione

I think that we'll go into retirement

a forza di cercare 'sto [questo] DVD.

from all the looking for this DVD.

E speriamo che ci andiamo in pensione,

And let's hope that we retire at all,

prima che ci sbranano [sic: sbranino] i topi.

before the mice chew us up.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio

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In this example, we have another modo di dire: mettersi la mano sulla coscienza (to examine one's conscience).


Non lo so, mettiti una mano sulla coscienza.

I don't know. Put a hand on your conscience [examine your conscience].

-Senti, a forza di mettermi la mano sulla coscienza,

-Listen, by putting my hand on my conscience so much,

quella è morta soffocata.

it died from suffocation.

Captions 49-51, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 25

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Although both of these examples are humorously expressed comments, a forza di is also used in serious matters. 

Mi fanno male le gambe a forza di stare seduto (by sitting so much, my legs hurt).


Structurally, we note that after a forza di comes a verb in the infinitive. In the English translation, we often find a gerund.


Let's also mention an expression that uses the noun forza. L'unione fa la forza. We can translate it loosely as "Many hands make light work." Or we could say "Strength is in teamwork."


Just for fun:

Forza! Andiamo via. Dobbiamo per forza arrivare al supermercato prima della chiusura perché è finito il caffè. -Per forza è finito il caffè. Tu ne bevi a litri. A forza di bere tutti questi caffè non dormirai mai più.

Come on, let's leave. We have to absolutely get to the supermarket before closing time because we're out of coffee. Of course we're out of coffee. You drink gallons of it. By drinking so much you will never sleep again.


A forza di studiare l'italiano e guardare dei video su Yabla (e facendo gli esercizi, bene inteso), imparerai la lingua!