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Fare i conti (Taking Things into Account) Part 1

There's a word that Italians use every day in various contexts, with different nuances.  If you follow Yabla's instagram account, you will have seen a reference to this recently. Poi facciamo i conti is something parents might say to their kids. The kids did something bad, but they are out in public, maybe having a good time. "We'll settle this later," is what they are saying with Poi, facciamo i conti


Il conto

But let's unpack this phrase, and to start with, the noun involved: il conto. If we look up conto  in the dictionary, this is what we get: So one very common meaning of il conto is "the bill" or "check" you ask for after eating in a restaurant. It suffices to say:

Il conto per favore (the check please).


Here is another example from authentic conversation:


Eh, Marika, chiediamo il conto allora? -Sì.

Uh, Marika, so shall we ask for the bill? -Yes.

Scusi, posso avere il conto, per favore?

Excuse me, can I have the bill please?

-Vi porto subito il conto. -Grazie. -Grazie.

-I'll bring you the bill right away. -Thanks. -Thanks.

Captions 60-61, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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Rendersi conto

Another way in which Italians love to use the noun conto is in the reflexive phrasal verb rendersi conto (to realize):


Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui.

I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him.

E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?

And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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This is such a common Italian modo di dire that it is definitely worth learning. Even though there are various ways we translate this into English depending on the context, it's a good idea to pay attention to hearing it and to try and get a sense of when it's used, without trying to figure out its precise English equivalent. We translators are obliged to, but learners can just learn by listening.


Ti rendi conto is what you say when you are shocked and surprised by something and find it hard to believe and it can even stand alone as a value judgment, often negative.

Ma ti rendi conto? Can you fathom that? Do you have any idea?


Of course, if you are speaking formally, to your boss, for example, it's a bit different: We use the third person singular (= formal second person) reflexive.


La stampa locale ci sta addosso.

The local press is on our backs.

È trapelata quella storia assurda

This absurd story has leaked

degli incontri clandestini della De Santis a casa Sua.

about De Santis's clandestine meetings at your house.

Ma si rende conto?

Do you have any idea?

Captions 1-4, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola

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But apart from that expression, rendersi conto di qualcosa is "to realize something."


Viene definita sindrome della mantide religiosa;

It's called the "praying mantis" syndrome;

consciamente non si rende conto di essere un'assassina.

she doesn't consciously realize that she's an assassin.

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

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This is something you can say in the negative when you failed to notice something or were unaware of something you did. In our next example, the speaker uses that little particle ne, which stands for "it" or "about it." Note that when we use rendersi conto in the present perfect, we use the auxiliary verb essere (to be) because the verb is reflexive. Forming these turns of phrase is a bit of a challenge for learners!


E quindi l'ha uccisa.

And so you killed her.

Ma io non volevo, io...

But I didn't want to. I...

non me ne sono neanche reso conto.

I didn't even realize it.

Una notte ho deciso di affrontarla.

One night I decided to confront her.

Captions 4-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia

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Un conto

Un conto can often be translated as "thing," when you are talking about evaluating a situation: Here the dialogue is about stealing items from a hotel room.


Un conto è se ti pigli una saponetta,

It's one thing if you swipe a soap

che non se ne accorge nisciun [nessuno]...

because no one will notice...

Captions 75-76, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 10

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Ci siamo resi conto che c'è tanto da dire sul conto della parola

We've realized that there is a lot to say on the subject of the word

"il conto", insieme ad il suo plurale, "i conti".

il conto and its plural: i conti


To be continued! We will talk about fare i conti, sul conto di, fare conto, and more!  Thanks for reading!



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