“Italians can be very expressive”, so they say abroad. We are known around the world for using our hands quite a bit and our facial expressions do not leave any space to misinterpretations. However, we are not afraid to use words too; in fact when you ask “come stai” how are you to an Italian be ready to listen to the full story, do not assume you can get by with a “tutto bene” everything is ok.
Are Italians extremely emotional?
We certainly cannot fall into stereotypes and speak on behalf of 60 million of Italians. However, l’italiano surely echoes with emotionalism which translates in Italian into emotività emozionalità e temperamento emotivo.
The verb emozionare translates as “to excite or to thrill” and the dolce vita language definitely does.
While native English speakers “feel” an emotion, Italians can “try” an emotion too. As a matter of fact, we do use the verb “provare” which also translates as to experience, to try on and to test. For instance we can say “Provo disgusto nei tuoi confronti” (I feel disgust towards you), which is a really strong way to express outrage. In Italian we can also “have” emotions, as in avere paura (to have fear), avere vergogna (to feel ashamed), avere rabbia (to feel angry), avere terrore (to feel terrorised)
Today we will explore how to express positive and negative emotions in Italian
Please read and read again whilst listening to the audios below
Sono felice – I am happy
Sono contento/a – I am happy/pleased/ content
Sono allegro/a – I am joyful
Sono entusiasta – I am enthusiastic
Sono sereno/a – I am peaceful
Sono rilassato/a – I am relaxed
Sono di buon umore – I am in a good mood
Sono orgoglioso/a – I am proud
Sono al settimo cielo (lit. I am at the seventh sky). (I am over the moon).
Sono felice come una Pasqua (lit. I am happy as an Easter) (I am happy as a clam).
Non sto nella pelle (lit. I am not in the skin). (I am so excited/I can hardly wait).
Ho una cotta per te – I have a crush on you.
Sono innamorato/a – I am in love
Ti amo – I love you (only used to express love towards a partner, lover, wife, husband, boyfriend and girlfriend). To express love towards a relative or a friend we use ti voglio bene.
- Che bello!– How beautiful/How nice
- Che buono!– How good!
- Che dolce!– How sweet!
- Che piacere! – How nice!
- Che carino/a – How cute
- Che bel film! – What a great movie!
- Che donna fantastica! – What a fantastic woman!
- Che giornata meravigliosa! –What a marvellous day!
Phrases which indicate well-being
- Mi sento benissimo – I feel very well
- Mi sento al top – I feel at the top
- Mi sento pieno/a di energia – I feel full of energy/I am full of beans
- Mi sento al massimo delle forze – I feel at my peak
- Mi sento carico/a – I feel energised – I feel excited
Please note the English excited is a false friend of eccitato/a, which in Italian means to be sexually aroused.
Positive encouragement phrases
- Bravissimo/a! – Well done!
- Ottimo! – Excellent!
- Bello! – Beautiful!
- Figo! –Cool! (very informal)
- Eccezionale! – Outstanding!
Sono triste – I am sad
Sono arrabbiato/a – I am angry
Sono furioso/a – I am furious
Sono ansioso/a – I am anxious
Sono nervoso/a – I am nervous
Sono scontento/a – I am unhappy
Sono infastidito/a – I am annoyed
Sono stressato/a – I am stressed
Sono stanco/a – I am tired
Sono deluso/a – I am disappointed
Sono scandalizzato/a – I am shocked/outraged
Sono sconvolto/a – I am upset
Non sono di buon umore – I am not in a good mood
Idiom: ho la luna storta – I am in a bad mood
Non ti amo più – I no longer love you
Non sono più innamorato/a di te – I am no longer in love with you
Che tristezza! How sad!
Che stanchezza! How tired!
Che stress! – What a stress!
Che scocciatura! – What an annoyance/ what a pain in the neck!
Che ansia! – So anxious!
Che disastro! – What a disaster!
Che maledizione! – What a curse!
Che cazzo! (Vulgar) What the fuck!
Phrases which indicate frustration
Non ne posso più – I can’t stand it any longer
Ne ho abbastanza – I’ve had enough
Ne ho le palle piene (vulgar) – I’ve had enough
Mi sento frustrato/a – I feel frustrated
Mi sento giù – I feel down
Non ce la faccio più – I cannot handle it any longer
- Direct Communication: Italians are not afraid to express their emotions and put their point across pretty clearly. They are not afraid to disagree and are open to confrontation. They expect their interlocutor to be honest and open too; therefore, they may fail to read between the lines. Some good advice is to avoid ambiguity and indirect speech.
- Communication style:
- Expect Italians to be open, inquisitive and direct. They will talk about their story and background and they will ask you to do the same. Italians are opinionated and they will not hesitate to give you advice. Foreigners may interpret this way of communicating as judgmental or nosey, however, avoid shutting down their questions and comments, especially if you want to close a deal.
- For Italians silence can be uncomfortable. If the periods of silence are prolonged Italians will tend to speak to fill them.
- Raised Voices: Italians speak loudly to make themselves heard over one another. A raised voice is not necessarily a sign of anger, but can be an expression of excitement or conviction.
- Humour: Italians are not very politically correct, at least not as much as the British. They often make jokes making fun of sensitive topics speaking their mind openly. Their humour can be cynical and sarcastic. In Central and Southern Italy, jokes can be offensive towards women without any offence intended. Sexism is still ingrained in the Italian culture even if it has gotten better in the last two decades.
- Online Communication: older generations consider online communication impersonal and limit its use to helping organise face-to-face meetings or interactions. On the other hand, younger generations are more involved in the digital world and are keen users of social media platforms.
- Personal Space: it might feel awkward for people of different cultures to be in close proximity to an Italian when talking. In fact, Italians generally stand less than a metre away from their interlocutor. Avoid moving away as they might think there is something wrong going on.
- Physical Contact: most of Italians a definitively tactile people, that is the way they express interest and affection. It is very common to see people hugging, kissing, back slapping and hand holding in public. During a conversation it is not unusual to see physical contact used by the interlocutors to show engagement. Friends and family might also walk arm-in-arm in public.
- Eye Contact: during conversations direct eye contact is expected, however, staring is considered to be rude and can also represent an act of defiance when talking to one’s boss for instance. In small towns, people might stare out of curiosity or to criticise especially the way you are dressed. The latter happens everywhere in Italy. Men use direct eye contact also to show their interest in a woman. See our article how to flirt in Italian https://www.languagesalive.com/how-to-flirt-in-italian/
- Gestures:there are so many gestures in the Italian body language that this subject deserves a post of its own.
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