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.
I do / make
You (singular) do / make
He does / makes
She does / makes
We do / make
You (plural) do / make
They do / make