Lecciones de Italiano

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3 Ways to Get It Wrong in Italian

When you're wrong you're wrong. There are various Italian words connected with being wrong or making a mistake. Let's look at the various ways to be wrong and the nuances that set them apart.

 

The cognate errore (error)

Fare un errore. This works fine when you need a noun. If you have trouble with rolling your r's, this word can be a challenge.

Fai errore dopo errore.

You make mistake after mistake.

Caption 53, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Sbagliare (to make a mistake) is more flexible

The verb sbagliare (to make a mistake) plus reflexive form sbagliarsi (to be mistaken), and its noun form lo sbaglio (the mistake, the error) are very common. 

Io c'entro, c'entro eccome, perché lei è una mia allieva. E se lei sbaglia, vuol dire che anche io ho sbagliato qualcosa con lei.

I'm involved, I'm absolutely involved because she's my student. And if she makes a mistake, it means that I also made a mistake with her.

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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There's a fine line between the normal verb and its reflexive form. One reason for this is that sbagliare as a normal verb can either be transitive or intransitive.

Ho sbagliato strada (I took the wrong route, I went the wrong way).

Ho sbagliato (I made a mistake, I made a wrong move, I did something wrong).

Sbagliare è umano (making mistakes is human).

Tutti sbagliano (everyone makes mistakes).

Piove, o sbaglio (It's raining, or am I mistaken)?

The reflexive form sbagliarsi, tends to be more about being wrong than making a mistake — a bit less active, we could say — and the sentence structure changes as well. The reflexive form is intransitive, so we need a preposition between the verb and the indirect object. As a result, it's a bit more complicated to use. 

Mi sono sbagliato (I was wrong, I was mistaken)

Mi sbaglio o sta piovendo (am I mistaken or is it raining)? 

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In the following example, the preposition is a (to) and rather than "being wrong," it's "going wrong." 

Mi creda, a puntare sul pesce non si sbaglia mai.

Believe me. With fish you can never go wrong.

Caption 2, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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This is a great expression to have in your collection: 

Non si sbaglia mai (one can't go wrong).

Non ti puoi sbagliare (you can't go wrong).

 

As you watch Yabla videos, you will see countless instances of sbagliare, sbagliarsi and lo sbaglio. See if you can sense when people use one or the other. In many cases, there are multiple possibilities. 

Il torto (the wrongdoing, the injustice)

Some of us may recognize the cognate: "tort." When you study law, one course you take is "torts." In English a tort is simply a civil wrong.

 

How to use the Italian noun torto, however, is a different story. 

 

In a recent episode of Sposami, a divorcing couple is forced to get along and work together, even though they can't stand each other. But each of them wants to keep the dog, and therefore they each have to be on their best behavior. They go crying to their divorce lawyer each time the other does something wrong. And in one such conversation, the word torto comes up.

Ugo, cerca di essere collaborativo, se no, tu capisci, mi passi dalla parte del torto.

Ugo, try to be collaborative, otherwise, you understand, you'll end up being in the wrong.

Captions 68-69, Sposami EP 1 - Part 13

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So this is a lawyer talking, but we also use torto or its plural torti in everyday conversation. A son is complaining to his mother, and her boyfriend chimes in:

 

A ma' [mamma], ti prego. Ce tratti come du [romanesco: ci tratti come due] ragazzini! -Va be', non ha tutti i torti. Io alla loro età, nemmeno lo chiedevo più il permesso.

Oh Mom, please. You treat us like a couple of little kids! -Well, he's not totally wrong. At their age, I no longer even asked for permission.

Captions 69-72, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 2

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Here are some other expressions with torti. Remember that we use the verb avere (to have) in this expression. 

Avere torto (to be wrong).

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With all these word choices for making mistakes and being wrong, non ti puoi sbagliare!

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