Italian Lessons


When Things Don't Matter

Saying something doesn’t matter is a little like saying it’s not important. This can be helpful when examining one way to say “it doesn’t matter” in Italian. The adjective “important“ has an Italian cognate, importante—easy enough—but importare (to matter, to be important) is the original verb. In fact, the third person singular of the intransitive verb importare is used in the negative when something doesn’t matter: non importa! It’s a great little phrase, because there’s an impersonal subject (hidden in the third person singular conjugation of the verb) just like in English: it doesn’t matter. It just works, and is easy to say (give or take the “r” which some English speakers have trouble with).  Add a little shrug of your shoulders, and you’ll fit right in!


Che non importa ciò che dice la gente.

And it doesn't matter what people say.

Caption 12, Tiziano Ferro - Il regalo più grande

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Importare can also be used reflexively (but here it gets more complex and much more personal) as in non m’importa (I don’t care, it’s not important to me), non t’importa niente di me (you don’t care about me at all, I’m not important to you), or non m’importa niente (I don’t care at all). For some great examples, do a search of importa in Yabla videos.

There’s also the question, “What does it matter?” Che importa?


Che importa se questo è il momento in cui tutto comincia e finisce?

What does it matter if this is the moment in which everything begins and ends?

Captions 12-13, Neffa - Passione - Part 1

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Another easy way to say something doesn’t matter is fa niente, or non fa niente (remember that Italian thrives on double negatives!). In this case the verb fare (to make, to do) is used. We need to stretch our imaginations a bit to find a viable word-by-word translation. Something like: it doesn’t make a difference, no big deal!


Va bene, non fa niente. Focalizziamoci sulla lezione di oggi.

All right, it doesn't matter. Let's focus on today's lesson.

Captions 4-5, Marika spiega - La forma impersonale

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Learning Italian does matter!

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Si, Si, and Ci - L'impersonale - Part 3

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Where's the Subject? - Part 2


There's still a lot more to talk about regarding the impersonale. Review previous lessons here.  

Sometimes the verbs we use in the impersonal form, happen to be reflexive verbs as well. Before tackling reflexive verbs in the impersonal, it's a good idea to be familiar with how reflexive verbs work. But we're in luck because this week, Daniela happens to be talking about just that in her video lesson!  

As also mentioned in previous lessons, reflexive verbs have si attached to them in the infinitive, for example, lavarsi (to wash oneself). When conjugated, the verbs are commonly separated into si + verb root: 

Mario si lava ogni mattina.
Mario washes [himself] every morning.

Daniela explains that if you know how to conjugate the verb root, then you know how to conjugate the reflexive verb.

In the above example, Mario is the subject, and Mario is also the object (si), which is what reflexive verbs are all about. 

So we've seen that the reflexive form uses si, (as part of the infinitive, and in the third person singular conjugation) but it's not the same as the si in the impersonal, so this is where things get a bit tricky. To avoid using si twice in a row, we use ci for the impersonal.

Marika gives us the rule:


La forma impersonale dei verbi riflessivi invece si forma con:

The impersonal form of reflexive verbs on the other hand is made with:

"ci "più il verbo alla terza persona singolare.

"ci" plus the verb in the third person singular.

Per esempio: in Italia ci si sposa sempre più tardi,

For example: In Italy one gets married later and later,

quindi il verbo sposarsi più "ci", più "si".

so the verb to get married plus "ci" plus "si."

Captions 45-48, Marika spiega - La forma impersonale

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So where you might think: si (impersonal) si (reflexive) sposa (verb in the third person), you need to use ci in place of the impersonal si. Here's a practical example:


Con loro non ci si annoia mai.

With them you are never bored.

Caption 41, Acqua in bocca - Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

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Attenzione! Ci also has a long list of uses, which you can check out in these lessons.

The good news is that you can get by most of the time without using the impersonal plus reflexive. Don't let it prevent you from trying to express yourself in Italian. One workaround is to avoid using too many pronouns at once. Common expressions using both can be learned one by one, con calma (without rushing it).


You could say for example, remembering that "people" is singular in Italian (the si is reflexive):

La gente si sposa sempre più tardi.
People get married later and later.

For more about what’s been discussed in these lessons, see these very helpful blog entries:

Si impersonale part 1
Si impersonale part 2

We're still not entirely finished with the impersonal, but there's already plenty to digest.
We'll be back!


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