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Making do with arrangiarsi

Here's another expression you will want in your toolbox: arrangiarsi (to make do). 


Oriana Fallaci uses this expression to express her exasperation at how things get done in Italy. 

Vorrà dire che si farà l'unica cosa che si può fare qui in Italia, la cosa che più detesto, quella che m'ha fatto fuggire da questo paese: arrangiarsi.

That means that we'll do the only thing that one can do here in Italy, the thing that I hate most, the thing that made me flee this country: make do.

Captions 42-43, L'Oriana film - Part 1

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Art form?

Italians joke about "making do" as almost an art form: L'arte di arrangiarsi (the art of making do). In fact, that's the title of a 1955 film with Alberto Sordi. L'arte di arrangiarsi (Getting Along) — possibily available on YouTube in your zone.


T'ho già detto che nun [romanesco : non] è un problema mio. Arangiate [romanesco: arrangiati].

I already said that that's not my problem. Figure it out.

Captions 55-56, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 1

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False friend alert!

We just have to be a bit careful because the verb arrangiare looks so much like the English verb "to arrange." They are close cousins, but not perfect cognates, except in some specific circumstances like arranging a piece of music. There, we use the noun arrangiamento (arrangement) most of the time.


In the example above, someone is telling someone to "figure it out." So that's a great expression to know. Of course, it's used when you know someone very well.


But arrangiarsi is perhaps most commonly used in the first person singular or plural to accept less than ideal conditions: You don't have the right equipment or tool for doing something, but you're going to try to make do with what you have. You can stay the night, but all we have is a sofabed... There are hundreds of situations that present themselves every day where one has to make do, so this expression is a great one to know and practice in the conjugations you might need. 

Mi arrangio [or m'arrangio] (I'll make do).

Ci arrangiamo (we'll make do).

Mi arrangerò (I'll figure it out somehow).

Mi devo arrangiare (I have to make do).


Marika and Anna didn't find the kind of bread they needed for the recipe, but they made do with something similar. 

Noi, purtroppo, non lo abbiamo trovato e quindi ci arrangiamo, si fa per dire, con questo pane che comunque è molto gustoso.

We, unfortunately, couldn't find that, and so we are making do, so to speak, with this bread, which is very tasty in any case.

Captions 27-29, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Real life situations for using this expression

When you are cooking, how many times have you had to make do with a different ingredient from the one the recipe called for? Ti devi arrangiare (you have to make do).


If you are the host you might have to ask your guest to accept less than ideal accomodations...

Vi arrangiate (can you make do)?

Se vi arrangiate (if you can make do)...


We can talk about someone else:

Si arrangia con qualche furto, qualche partita di coca, ma non credo che c'entri qualcosa con questa storia.

He gets by on the odd theft, a batch of coke now and then, but I don't think he is involved in this thing.

Captions 71-72, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Here, arrangiarsi is translated with "to get by." It can also mean "to make ends meet." 


A related word

A related reflexive verb is accontentarsi, which we have talked about in another lesson. It can also be translated with "to make do," but "to settle" and "to be content" work well, too.

"gli uomini, fino a che saranno sulla terra, dovranno accontentarsi del riso giallo di zafferano, poi, quando saranno in paradiso, mangeranno riso con l'oro".

"Men, for as long as they're on the earth, will have to settle for saffron yellow rice; later, when they're in paradise, they'll eat rice with gold."

Captions 7-10, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

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Arrangiarsi is more about doing something, where as accontentarsi is more about how you feel about something. (we can detect the word contento (happy, content) within the word. 


Which preposition to use

One last thing to remember is that with arrangiarsi, we use the preposition con (with). With accontentarsi we use the preposition di.