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  • Writer's pictureTeacher Stefano ENG

These words DON'T MEAN what YOU think they mean ⚠️ | Italian for Beginners

You use these Italian words in English all the time but do you actually know what they mean, in Italian?

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Ciao a tutti and welcome to a new article. In today’s lesson we will go over some words that you use very often in English, but in Italian they have a similar meaning, the same meaning with additional meanings or a completely different meaning.

So use them with caution and since you are studying Italian, you better know what they mean in my language! Let’s get started!


Very famous word, used all the time! The meaning is pretty similar: it means “well done” when used as an exclamation. Of course be careful with the pronunciation. You gotta roll that R if you can! Now remember that “bravo” in Italian is an adjective therefore it changes according to the subject it refers to. You will have:

  • Bravo → masculine singular

  • Brava → feminine singular

  • Bravi → masculine plural

  • Brave → feminine plural

For example, if you’re little sister is singing and she’s done very well, you could shout: BRAVA!

Remember that “bravo” also means good, but a specific kind of good. It’s usually used for people being good at something. For example:

  • Io sono bravo a spiegare l’italiano.

  • I miei fratelli sono bravi a disegnare.

Always remember to put the preposition A when you’re saying to be good AT something.

Al fresco

I am sorry to say this, but al fresco is not Italian. I mean, it is, but it does not mean what you think it does. If you want to dine al fresco just say:

  • Cenare fuori

  • Pranzare fuori

  • Mangiare fuori

Where fuori means outside. We do have the expression al fresco in Italian, but it does not mean the same thing. It is a bit old-fashioned and I don’t hear very often but it actually means to go to jail! For example:

  • A quel ladro farà bene stare al fresco → going to jail will be good for that thief.


This word is pretty much the same thing! It’s either a complete failure as in English, but it’s also used to describe these bottles where people used to store their wine. They’re probably still used though!


First of all, the pronunciation in Italian is a little different. We say fee-nah-le, not fee-nah-lee. In English, this word is very specific as it refers to the final part of a piece of music, event or TV series.

In Italian it can also mean that, we actually finale di stagione (season finale). But finale in Italian also means just final, end. For example:

  • La parola finale spetta al direttore → the director gets the final word.

  • Questa è la nostra decisione finale → this is our final decision.


Love this word. Unfortunately the pronunciation is very different! We pronounce it this way she-nah-ree-o (please, this is very awkward to write, watch the YouTube video above to listen to the pronunciation 🤣).

This word has a very specific meaning in English. It is a written outline of the plot and scenes of a novel film, or play. Or it might also mean a possible situation.

In Italian, we do have the second meaning but it does not mean plot outline. For that, we use the word canovaccio. But the most important thing is that in Italian, scenario also means scenery or landscape. Keep that in mind!


If you’ve been studying Italian for a while you know that solo means many different things. First of all, your solo means assolo in Italian. For example:

  • Questo brano è un assolo → this piece is a solo.

But solo also means only, just, alone and lonely. Let’s see some examples:

  • C’è solo uno studente → there’s only one student.

  • La ragazza è sola a casa → the girl is alone at home

  • Mi sento solo. Mi fai compagnia? → I feel lonely. Will you keep me company?


Although it has the same meaning in Italian, opera means a lot of different things! it means work (like construction project), creative work (like a book), work or piece for art projects.

  • Le opere di Manzoni sono molto interessanti → Manzoni’s works (books) are very interesting

  • Questa opera del Brunelleschi è stata recentemente restaurata → this work by Brunelleschi was recently restored


Yes, panini means pretty much the same thing. But, why is it plural? In Italian, 1 panino means 1 sandwich, and 2 panini means two sandwiches. So, why would I ask for panini if I want just one. Boh!


You’ll tell me: “This is a trick! There’s not way, pasta means something different!”. Ok, of course pasta means pasta, BUT pasta has several additional meanings! It also means dough (also impasto in Italian), and pastry. For example:

  • Aggiungi l’acqua alla farina per avere una pasta morbida → Add water to flour to have a soft dough.

  • Prendo una pasta alla crema → I’ll get a cream puff pastry.


Last word of today! Confetti is definitely not confetti in Italian. Your confetti is our coriandoli. Our confetti is your... I don’t know! I don’t think they exist, I am not sure, correct me if I am wrong, but they are a sugared almond. They come in different colors and are usually given as a small gift at weddings or graduation parties (at university only!).

Alright, we are done for today’s article. Did you know what these words meant in Italian and do you know any other? Let me know by contacting me via the contact section of my website.

Un abbraccio dall’Italia,

Teacher Stefano



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