Ciao a tutti gli amici di Dianne Hales! If you open your Italian dictionary and check the verbs “figurarsi” and “fare una figura” you will see they both have different meanings. Learn how we use those words in conversational Italian. Listen to the Podcast.
Recently, a student asked me the difference between “figurati” “figuriamoci”, and “fare una figura”, all very common expressions. Perhaps you heard the idiom “che figura!”. Let’s “figure” out what they mean.
* Special thanks to Mariko, our Japanese friend, for recording part of this podcast.
Figurati and Figuriamoci.
- Ti ringrazio per il tuo aiuto.
- Figurati! Non c’è di che.
It’s pronounced figùrati and it literally means “imagine that, picture that”. If you read or hear it after a “grazie”, it simply means “you are very welcome, don’t mention it”. Another interesting way to say you are welcome in Italian is non c’è di che, literally, there’s nothing to be (thankful) about. But again, just like welcome in English, when we say that we don’t think about the actual, literal meaning. It’s just an interiezione, an automatic answer.
- La ringrazio per il suo aiuto
- Si figuri!
This is the polite version of the informal thank you-welcome formula above. You are going to change Figurati in Si figuri when you say you “are welcome” to a stranger, using the formal Lei.
- Mario ti ha telefonato?
- Figurati! (Figuriamoci!)
That’s yet another meaning of figurati and figuriamoci. Of course Mario didn’t call me, “you can picture that”, we know how he is, figurati! In this case, it will always mean “of course not, don’t even mention that”, you know the answer.
We can use the plural Figuriamoci (noi – we) with the same meaning, but with an impersonal tone. Figuriamoci se il capo mi darà un aumento, my boss will never give me a salary increase, we already know that, don’t we?
A substantial difference between Figurati and Figuriamoci is that we don’t usually say the latter to mean “you are welcome”.
- Non mi piace molto il pesce, figuriamoci quello crudo.
I don’t like fish that much, let alone when raw. Figurati and Figuriamoci can also reinforce a previous statement, like in English “let alone…” . Another example: Non ho tempo per leggere il giornale, figuriamoci un libro!
- Come al solito Stefano non si è ricordato del nostro anniversario, figurati.
Stefano forgot about our anniversary, “tell me about it!” That’s exactly what Figurati or Figuriamoci mean in this case. Firenze in estate è piena di turisti come al solito, figuriamoci! Tell me something I don’t know.
If you have a chance, try to use figurati and figuriamoci. Your spoken Italian will sound more natural. Next, we are going to explain “fare una figura”
Fare una brutta/bella figura
- Che figura!
That’s kind of tough to translate in English. If we go for “to make a bad impression” we may think of someone who didn’t impress positively other people, for some reason.
Che figura! is different, it refers to an embarrassing event, a single episode. Mentre parlavo avevo la cerniera aperta, che figura! when I was talking the fly of my pants was open, Che figura! In Italian, we add the suffix –accia to give a negative meaning to almost every word. Che figuraccia! what an embarrassment! Che (brutta) figura!
The opposite is fare una bella figura. In this case we can safely translate it in “to make a good impression”, not necessarily related to a single event.
This post is hosted on Dianne Hales’ blog and is part of a series dedicate to conversational Italian. Dianne is a passionate writer, italophile and best selling author of La bella lingua and Mona Lisa, a life discovered. She patiently fixes my bad English when I write on her site. Grazie!