15 Italian Idiomatic Expressions with ‘Fare’ (to do / make)

Fare (to do or to make) is one of the most frequently used verbs in Italian along with avere (to have) and essere (to be), so it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that it appears within a plethora of idiomatic expressions.

In this article, you’ll find 15 of the most commonly used idioms with fare in Italian. All of them can be heard in daily conversation and will help you sound like a fluent speaker if you manage to use them properly! 🙂


1. Fare le corna (a qualcuno)

Literal meaning: to make horns (to someone)

English translation: to cheat (on someone)

Lorenzo ha fatto le corna a sua moglie.

Lorenzo cheated on his wife.


2. L’abito non fa il monaco

Literal meaning: The habit does not make the priest.

English translation: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving.

Lui si presenta bene ma l’abito non fa il monaco.

He looks good but looks can be deceiving.


3. Fare un freddo cane

Literal meaning: to make a cold dog

English translation: to be freezing cold

In questi giorni fa un freddo cane. La temperatura continua a scendere!

These days it’s freezing cold. The temperature keeps dropping!


4. Fare i conti in tasca (a qualcuno)

Literal meaning: to do the math in (someone’s) pocket

English translation: to meddle in someone’s financial affairs

Non puoi permetterti quella macchina! – Che ne sai tu? Mi fai i conti in tasca?

You can’t afford that car! – What do you know? Are you sticking your nose into my financial affairs?



5. Il vino fa buon sangue

Literal meaning: Wine makes good blood.

English translation: wine is good for you, a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away

Il vino fa buon sangue ma senza esagerare!

Wine is good for you but only in moderation!


6. Fare il doppio gioco

Literal meaning: to do the double game

English translation: to play both sides, to be two-faced, to double-cross, to two-time

Sono abituato a fare il doppio gioco perché sono un agente dei servizi segreti.

I’m used to playing both sides because I’m a secret agent.


7. Tutto fa brodo

Literal meaning: everything makes broth

English translation: every little bit helps

Non ho fatto molti soldi con quel lavoro, ma sai…tutto fa brodo!

I didn’t make much money with that job, but you know…every little bit helps!


8. Fare il diavolo a quattro

Literal meaning: to do the devil by four

English translation: to raise hell, to kick up a row

Ho fatto il diavolo a quattro fino a quando mi è stato pagato lo stipendio intero.

I kicked up a row until I was paid my entire salary.


9. Farsi in quattro

Literal meaning: to do yourself in four

English translation: to bend over backwards, go out of one’s way

Roberta si e’ fatta in quattro perché tutto andasse bene.

Roberta went out of her way to make sure everything went well.


10. Fare acqua da tutte le parti

Literal meaning: to make water all over the place

English translation: to be full of holes, to not hold water

 La sua teoria faceva acqua da tutte le parti.

His theory was full of holes.



11. Fare l’avvocato del diavolo

Literal meaning: to be the devil’s advocate

English translation: to play the devil’s advocate

Sono d’accordo con te ma lasciami fare l’avvocato del diavolo solo per un minuto.

I agree with you but let me play the devil’s advocate for a minute.


12. Fare il passo più lungo della gamba

Literal meaning: to take a step that’s longer than your leg

English translation: to bite off more than you can chew

So che vuoi studiare tante lingue diverse ma non fare il passo più lungo della gamba.

I know you want to study many different languages but don’t bite off more than you can chew.


13. Fare una brutta figura

Literal meaning: to make a bad figure

English translation: to make a bad impression

Ho fatto una brutta figura quando ho chiamato sua figlia con un nome sbagliato.

I made a bad impression when I called his daughter the wrong name.


14. Far cadere le braccia

Literal meaning: to make the arms fall / drop

English translation: to disappoint/exasperate someone, to put someone’s nose out of joint, to make someone despair

Gli atteggiamenti di certe persone mi fanno cadere le braccia.

The attitudes of certain people really disappoint me.


15. Fare il cascamorto

Literal meaning: to be a flirt

English translation: to flirt

Il cliente faceva il cascamorto con la cameriera.

The client was flirting with the waitress.


How to Conjugate the Italian Verb ‘Fare’ in the Present Tense

In order to use some of these idioms in conversation, it is useful to be able to conjugate the verb fare. Below you can find the full conjugation in the present tense but for an even more complete list, we suggest checking out WordReference.

Io faccio

Tu fai

Lui fa

Lei fa

Noi facciamo

Voi fate

Loro fanno

I do / make

You (singular) do / make

He does / makes

She does / makes

We do / make

You (plural) do / make

They do / make

Leave a Comment