Sorry! Search is currently unavailable while the database is being updated, it will be back in 5 mins!

Fare i conti (Taking Things into Account) Part 1

There's a word that Italians use every day in various contexts, with different nuances.  If you follow Yabla's instagram account, you will have seen a reference to this recently. Poi facciamo i conti is something parents might say to their kids. The kids did something bad, but they are out in public, maybe having a good time. "We'll settle this later," is what they are saying with Poi, facciamo i conti


Il conto

But let's unpack this phrase, and to start with, the noun involved: il conto. If we look up conto  in the dictionary, this is what we get: So one very common meaning of il conto is "the bill" or "check" you ask for after eating in a restaurant. It suffices to say:

Il conto per favore (the check please).


Here is another example from authentic conversation:


Eh, Marika, chiediamo il conto allora? -Sì.

Uh, Marika, so shall we ask for the bill? -Yes.

Scusi, posso avere il conto, per favore?

Excuse me, can I have the bill please?

-Vi porto subito il conto. -Grazie. -Grazie.

-I'll bring you the bill right away. -Thanks. -Thanks.

Captions 60-61, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

 Play Caption


Rendersi conto

Another way in which Italians love to use the noun conto is in the reflexive phrasal verb rendersi conto (to realize):


Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui.

I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him.

E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?

And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption


This is such a common Italian modo di dire that it is definitely worth learning. Even though there are various ways we translate this into English depending on the context, it's a good idea to pay attention to hearing it and to try and get a sense of when it's used, without trying to figure out its precise English equivalent. We translators are obliged to, but learners can just learn by listening.


Ti rendi conto is what you say when you are shocked and surprised by something and find it hard to believe and it can even stand alone as a value judgment, often negative.

Ma ti rendi conto? Can you fathom that? Do you have any idea?


Of course, if you are speaking formally, to your boss, for example, it's a bit different: We use the third person singular (= formal second person) reflexive.


La stampa locale ci sta addosso.

The local press is on our backs.

È trapelata quella storia assurda

This absurd story has leaked

degli incontri clandestini della De Santis a casa Sua.

about De Santis's clandestine meetings at your house.

Ma si rende conto?

Do you have any idea?

Captions 1-4, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola

 Play Caption


But apart from that expression, rendersi conto di qualcosa is "to realize something."


Viene definita sindrome della mantide religiosa;

It's called the "praying mantis" syndrome;

consciamente non si rende conto di essere un'assassina.

she doesn't consciously realize that she's an assassin.

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

 Play Caption


This is something you can say in the negative when you failed to notice something or were unaware of something you did. In our next example, the speaker uses that little particle ne, which stands for "it" or "about it." Note that when we use rendersi conto in the present perfect, we use the auxiliary verb essere (to be) because the verb is reflexive. Forming these turns of phrase is a bit of a challenge for learners!


E quindi l'ha uccisa.

And so you killed her.

Ma io non volevo, io...

But I didn't want to. I...

non me ne sono neanche reso conto.

I didn't even realize it.

Una notte ho deciso di affrontarla.

One night I decided to confront her.

Captions 4-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia

 Play Caption


Un conto

Un conto can often be translated as "thing," when you are talking about evaluating a situation: Here the dialogue is about stealing items from a hotel room.


Un conto è se ti pigli una saponetta,

It's one thing if you swipe a soap

che non se ne accorge nisciun [nessuno]...

because no one will notice...

Captions 75-76, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 10

 Play Caption


Ci siamo resi conto che c'è tanto da dire sul conto della parola

We've realized that there is a lot to say on the subject of the word

"il conto", insieme ad il suo plurale, "i conti".

il conto and its plural: i conti


To be continued! We will talk about fare i conti, sul conto di, fare conto, and more!  Thanks for reading!



Fregarsene: To Not Care

The following Italian expression paints a picture of an outside force, either making us do something, or preventing us from doing something. It’s out of our hands.


È più forte di me, non ce la faccio, non ce la faccio.

It's stronger than me [I can't help it], I can't do it, I can't do it.

Caption 90, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

 Play Caption


The expression is used when you know that what you’re doing is a bit overboard, but you still do it. You can’t help it, there's a stronger force at work!


In the expression below, you are throwing your cares to the wind. You might be able to do something about the situation, but you choose not to worry about it!


E se entrano, chi se ne frega?

And if they come in, who cares?

Caption 80, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

 Play Caption


Fregare (to rub, to scrub, to steal, to rip off) is a widely used word, acceptable in casual speech, but should be avoided in formal situations or in writing to anyone but close friends. Originally it meant “to rub” or “scrub” but now, sfregare is more common for those meanings. Nowadays fregare has various colloquial meanings, and has become part of a very popular expression, fregarsene (to not care about something). This long verb with pronouns attached is called a verbo pronominale (pronominal verb). See this lesson to learn more about pronominal verbs.


Grammatically speaking, fregare is used reflexively in this expression, with an indirect object included that means “of it” or “about it.”


fregar(e)se (oneself) + ne (of it)


This tiny ne is quite important, but a bit tricky to use. When the expression crops up in a video, listen carefully and read the captions to assimilate it, as it goes by rather quickly. You won’t hear Daniela and Marika using this expression in their lessons, but you will often hear it in Commissario ManaraL’oro di ScampiaMa che ci faccio qui? and others.


Since the expression is tricky, let’s look at some examples in different conjugations and constructions.


Indicative first person singular/third person singular:

Me ne frego (I don’t care about it).
Se ne frega (he/she/it doesn’t care about it).

Imperative informal:

Fregatene (don’t be concerned about it, ignore it)! [Attenzione, the accent is on the first syllable!]


Che mi frega (what do I care?)
Che ti frega (what do you care?)

Passato prossimo (past tense):

Se n’è fregato (he didn’t care about it, didn’t do anything about it). [Here the accent is on the second syllable.]


Non me ne può fregar di meno (it can’t affect me any less, I don't give a hoot about it).

Note: In English we often use the conditional to say the same thing: "I couldn't care less."

Note the troncamento or shortening, from fregare to fregar. See Marika’s lessons on troncamento!


Avere la puzza sotto al naso or avere la puzza sotto il naso (to have a stink under their noses): These are both ways of saying “to have one’s nose in the air” (to avoid smelling the stink below). It’s a way of calling someone stuck up, or a snob.

The difference between sotto il naso and sotto al naso is a bit like the difference between “under” and “underneath.”  We can use either one.


Va be', però c'hanno la puzza sotto al naso.

OK, but they have the stink underneath their noses [they're stuck up].

Caption 46, L'oro di Scampia - film

 Play Caption


So, now you have a few more expressions to use when the situation calls for it.


Signup to get Free Italian Lessons sent by email