Top 10 Italian Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Local

posted in: Vocabulary & Idioms | 0

No matter how much you study a language, there will always be things you can’t learn in a coursebook or a classroom.

That’s because Italian has its unique idioms and colloquialisms that, when translated literally, frequently don’t make any sense at all.

Slang is a huge part of regular interactions among native speakers. To help you improve, we’ve compiled the top 10 Italian Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Local.


If you want to practise speaking these Italian phrases FOR FREE, you can record yourself using SpeakPipe voice recorder and post a link to the recording in your comment below.

We’d love to hear from you!

Voice recorder

Recordings are kept on SpeakPipe’s server. Please don’t include any music in your recording.

1 – In bocca al lupo (Good luck!)

Perhaps you have a friend facing a difficult task and you want to wish him good luck. “Buona fortuna” would work, but “In bocca al lupo” really makes you sound Italian. It means “in the wolf’s mouth!” Your friend will probably answer “Crepi il lupo“, which means “Hopefully the wolf will die!” or “viva il lupo” meaning “Long live the wolf” as used more recently to avoid offending wolves!

in bocca al lupo Top 10 Italian Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Local


Complimenti a tutti i partecipanti ed in bocca al lupo. (Congratulations to all participants and good luck.)

2 – Acqua in bocca! (Don’t say a word!) 🤐

When you want to share a secret with someone but want to make sure that he/she won’t tell anyone else, say” Acqua in bocca”, which means “water in the mouth” (literal translation) but the English translation is mum’s the word.


Mi raccomando, fino a domani, acqua in bocca! (Please, until tomorrowmum’s the word.)

3 – Salute! (Bless you!) 🥂

When someone sneezes, you say “Salute!”, which means “health.” Saying this word is a way to wish the person good health. Beyond a simple “cheers,” or “cin cin” in Italian, this phrase is also a cultural expression of good wishes before enjoying a drink with friends.

4 – Macché! (Of course not! / Certainly not!) 🙅‍♂️

Italians love to talk, but in some situations, they prefer to say just one word: macché! It’s a strong and determined way to say “Of course not!” or “Certainly not!”


Macché, fa bene ad andare avanti nel suo progetto. (Forget that, he’s right to move forward with his project.)

5 – Neanche per sogno! (In your dreams!) 🌙

“Neanche per sogno” literally means “not even in a dream.” It’s a way“ to say “No way! A vivid way to express that something is utterly impossible. Embrace the drama, and let this phrase roll off your tongue.


Neanche per sogno, è troppo rischioso. (No way, it’s too dangerous.)

6 – Peggio per te! (Too bad for you!)😏

You don’t show much sympathy when uttering this phrase, but if you’re looking for the Italian equivalent of “too bad for you,” then “peggio per te” is what you need. A sly expression is used when someone is about to face consequences for their actions. A hint of friendly warning.


Se non vuoi questo lavoro allora, peggio per te! (If you don’t want this job then too bad for you)

7 – Piantala! (Stop it!) 🤚

The literal translation of “piantala “, an informal expression, is “Plant it!” The meaning of this expression is “stop it“. A firm but informal way of telling someone to stop saying or doing something. Ideal for keeping the warmth and forthrightness that define Italian culture.


Piantala finché sei in tempo.  (Stop it while you’re ahead)

8 – Vacci piano! (Slow down! / Take it easy!) 🚶‍♂️

Use “vacci piano!” when you feel that somebody is going too fast or being overly enthusiastic about something. “Go slow!” – A friendly advice to take things easy.


Vacci piano con la torta al cioccolata o ti verrà un mal di pancia! (Take it easy on the chocolate cake or you’ll get a stomach ache!)

9 – Gatta ci cova! (There’s something fishy going on!) 🐱

“La gatta” is the female cat, and “covare” means “to brood.” When Italians say “gatta ci cova” they mean “There’s something fishy going on here.” A phrase with a mysterious twist, implying that someone has a hidden agenda or is up to something.


Non trovo più le chiavi della macchina. Qui gatta ci cova! (I can’t find my car keys anymore. There’s something fishy about this!)

10 – Sono (essere) nel pallone! (I’m flustered!)

People say “sono nel pallone” to indicate that someone doesn’t know what to do or how to behave in a difficult situation, unsure of how to behave in a challenging situation. A creative method of expressing confusion or overwhelming.


Decidi tu cosa fare, io sono completamente nel pallone! (You decide what to do, I’m completely lost!)

Now that you have these expressions in your language collection, feel free to add some local characters to your Italian dialogues. Which of these phrases speaks to you the most? Let’s celebrate the beauty of Italian creativity by sharing your ideas in the comments section below!

What’s next?

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free resources:

10 Favorite Italian Expressions

Top 10 Italian Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Local

Facebook group


Join and visit our Facebook Group for Italian Learners



Leave a Reply