A substantial portion of most translation is fairly clear-cut. "Zimbabwe" is pretty much always "Zimbabwe" and "cinque" is usually "five". Then, there's the rest of the text that takes extra thought, creativity and research. If I write "gastronomy", will English-speaking readers imagine "gastrointestinal disorders" rather than fine food? What is the English title of the movie starring Winona Ryder rendered in Italian as Young, Cute, and Unemployed? [Reality Bites]. When they say gadget in Italian, is it still "gadget" in English, or some new mongrel word? 

Some well-loved phrases pop up in every other Italian document and have no clean, catch-all English translation. Take, for instance, vero e proprio(literal: "true and really"; non-literal: see table below). Each context calls for a fresh translation. These are some recurring sticking points that make Italian-to-English translators worldwide screw up their faces and pull out an eyebrow hair or two. Unhappy with my cache of possible solutions to some of these common problems, I turned to my colleagues on the IT-EN list, generous, seasoned professionals. Together, we came up with suggestions to these sticking points.

The driving force behind translator decisions is always context, from that of the society at large to that of the sentence. Many of the words and phrases below, especially those not nouns and adjectives, are often absorbed into reworked sentences or paragraphs that could not be represented here. The main intent of the table is to inspire context-appropriate, new solutions.

This is an ongoing project. To expand your mind or save you some hand-wringing, the current table can be found below. Please email me if you have any suggestions, new solutions or new pet peskies.


Pesky words

Possible solutions

a fronte di

in spite of, compared to, while, although, notwithstanding, in light of, in the face of, faced with, confronting, related to, for, against, over, with


details, stratagem, devices, special solutions were devised to, special care was taken in, careful attention, special elements, special techniques, special consideration, design feature, technique, tricks of the trade, style touches, technological touches, [positive adjective, e.g. "elegant" with insight/touch/feature, etc.], approach, contrivances, strategies, considerations, tactics, shrewd application of, contrivance, ploy, ruse, special expedient


leading-edge, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, hi-tech, up-to-the-minute, groundbreaking, at the forefront

all'insegna di

marked by, characterized by, of, featuring, full of, that are all about, in an atmosphere of


sphere, realm, context, within, domain, area, scope, in terms of, with a view to, will also include, for that purpose/on that occasion, as part of, as far as the ... is concerned/with regard to, through/by, in the case of, in the ___ place, within the scope/according to, in their sphere of activity, purview, within the framework of, for the purposes of, extent, range, compass, field, as part of, in the context of, in, environment, circle, ambit, confines, region, area, orbit, province


not only... but also, [ignore], ".....including", [explicitly state the options that "anche" implies, if known. e.g. "Pizza anche a mezzogiorno!" "Pizza for lunch and dinner"], that include, that also include

anche perché

partly due to, due in part to, in part because


enhanced, adds a further dimension, additional highlight/feature/benefit/strong point, lift [wine], round off, complete, complement, integrate, lend resonance/vibrancy, expanded, added attraction, round out, enliven, punctuate


structure, layout, complexity [wine], configuration

artigiano (artigianale, etc.)

small-business, craftsman, amateur, traditional, small-scale, local, small and medium-sized enterprises, hand-crafted

basta pensare a

such as, for example, as can be seen in, such as we find in, a classic/prime example being, consider


charming, enchanting, delightful, trademark, hallmark, signature, distinctive, picturesque, eye-catching, attractive


captivate, cosset, delight (sby with sth), indulge (sby with sth), pamper, pet, soothe, spoil/spoil rotten, tempt, treat (sby to sth),[switching subject and object,] luxuriate, enjoy, indulge in


engaging, enthralling, engrossing, fascinating, absorbing, touching, appealing, involving, intriguing, exciting, seductive, alluring, tempting, inclusive, impressive


therefore, thus, thereby, so, consequently, in this way


philosophy, ethos, education, culture, tradition, credo, heritage

curato nei dettagli

carefully/accurately/meticulously/finely styled/designed/crafted, with great care, down to the last detail

da __ a ___, da __ a __

from x to y, z and a, from x and y to z and a, "including" or "such as" + a whole range/vast collection/series, run the gamut

di cui

according to, as per, as referred to, in accordance with, under


miscellaneous, sundry, various, different, varying, several, a variety of, assorted, numerous, a number of

elegante, raffinato, etc.

refined, urbane, cultivated, cultured, educated, polite, accomplished/ posh, sophisticated, genteel, tasteful, delicate, elegant, polished, suave, chic, natty/cultivated person, refined person, stylish, graceful, smart, chic, classy, sleek, dainty, snazzy, fashionable, posh, swish


excite, thrill, stirs the heart, charms, endears you, draws you in, captivates, wins you over, stir feelings of __, style that appeals and excites


sleek, simple, basic, essential, unadorned, straight-forward, plain, austere, spare, clean, minimalist, humble, natural, no-frills, modest, lean, streamlined, indispensable, practical


if necessary (at end of sentence), as needed, rephrase with "which may", possible, any, [ignore]

fermo restando (che)

without prejudice to, without changing, without affecting, whilst maintaining , subject to..., it being understood (that)

grazie a

due to, with, thanks to, by virtue of, with the help of , [rephrase to make the object of "grazie a" the subject, e.g., "grazie alla professionalità dei..." becomes "their professionalism..."]

in particolare

specifically, particularly, notably, especially, for example, in fact, [leave out]


because, [split sentences and drop]


program, project, scheme, venture, step, measure, action, initiative


in other words, in a nutshell, .... indeed!, [ignore], in practice, in effect, basically


contact, representative, interviewer, ombudsman, stockholder, colleague, companion


reinterpret, interpret, express, give a new twist, take a new approach, take a different view, rethink, reinvent, envision, render, redefine, turn into, revolutionize


[leave out], e.g., "interventi di mantenimento", maintenance, measures, steps, actions, aid, assistance, attendance, presence, comment, remark, cut-off, drop off, help, intercession, agency, intervention, interjection, interference, operation, paper, participation, part, involvement, project, report, request to speak, speech, address, talk, to operate, work, paper, contribution, contributed paper


top, ultimate, utmost, highest level, optimum, optimal, best


mostarda [with explanation], pickled candied fruit in a spicy syrup [di Cremona], fruit/sweet pickles [di Cremona]

non a caso

significantly, of course, it's no accident that, not coincidentally, tellingly, predictably, not surprisingly, rather appropriately, it was rather appropriate that, it is no mere coincidence


new this [season], our latest developments, new [products], new additions, innovation, the latest, recent addition, recently introduced


operative, active, working, executive, enforceable


professional, specialist, trade member, operator, staff, those who operate (work), workers, experts, ancillary staff, trader, firm, user


monitoring centre, watch, observatory, observation post, window onto, watchdog, watchgroup


provide for, take into account, envisage, make provision for, [turn around sentence with] planned, considered, decided, anticipate, call for, contemplate, cover, entail, foresee, include, involve, is expected to include/involve, make available, mean, require, take into account


product, concept, availability, available, supply, opportunities, bid, offer, submission of tender, tender, offering, donation, contribution, proposal, proposition, public issue, quotation, bargain, overture
punto di riferimento provides a blueprint, framework, template, guidelines, benchmark, lodestar, outstanding landmark, fiducial points, path, a stable and reliable platform, frame of reference, last word, touchstone, source of advice/information, consultant, contact, resource, standard setter, top name, ne plus ultra, embodiment, reference, landmark, cornerstone, baseline


appropriate, carefully-planned, suitable, sensible, practical


complete, implement, put in effect, create


e.g., "Acme Supplies has become a force to be reckoned with ..., has firmly established itself..."

scandire, scansione

mark, underline, highlight, rhythms, scenes, accents


in concert, duet, in chorus, cross-pollination, accord, alliance, bonding, coalition, combination, combined efforts, compatibility, concord, teamwork, working together, team spirit, working in unison

strumenti culturali

sophistication, cultural wherewithal, cultural baggage, cultural background, cultural influences, orientation, education


technique, procedure, method


technician, specialist, engineer, expert, skilled worker, authority, professional

tra l'altro

include, run the gamut, range, encompass, incorporate [rewording the sentence and leaving it out], actually, in fact, moreover, besides, inter alia

unire, etc.

unite, join, mix, combine, link, blend, merge, bring together, couple, marry, mingle, fuse, meld, gel (jell), bond, incorporate, mate, team up with, coalesce, amalgamate


to develop, to increase the value of, to increase the prestige of, enhance the status of, increase the standing of, enhance the image of, to value, (waste) to recover, set value on, enhance, harness, adding or maximizing value, realize, promote


enjoy, benefit from, offer + [bragging adj.], [can] take pride in, [can] claim

vero e proprio

actual, full-blown, full(y)-fledged, true, proper, literally, true-bred, real, absolute, authentic, authenticated, bona fide, certain, certified, complete, complete and utter, dinkum, genuine, guaranteed, in every/the true/the generally accepted sense of the word, kosher, natural, official, prize, proper, pukka, real, recognised, right, total, true, undeniable, utter, valid, veritable, positive, out-and-out, through-and-through


Please sign in to leave a comment.