Italian Phrase of the Week: Ma dai! (Oh, come on! / Seriously?)

If you want to express absolute disbelief in Italian, an exclamation you simply cannot afford not to learn is Ma dai!

Ma dai!

Oh, come on! / Seriously?

cover image with the phrase and its translation written on a notepad

Ma is the word for but, whereas dai is a catch-all exclamation used when:

  • encouraging someone to do something (Dai, forza! = Come on, you can do it!)
  • trying to get someone to hurry up (Dai, sbrigati! = Come on, hurry up!)
  • you feel that someone has said or done something wrong, foolish or unbelievable (Dai, perché fai così? = Oh come on, why are you behaving like that?)

It is in this final sense of the word that the expression Ma dai! is used.

Marco esce con Camilla. – Ma dai? Non ci credo!

Marco is dating Camilla. – Seriously? I don’t believe it!

surprised african american man standing with opened mouth on yellow background, emotionally reacting to online news
Ma dai! Che figata! Non ci posso credere! = Seriously! How cool! I can’t believe it!

If you are really having trouble believing what the other person is saying, or wish to communicate annoyance, you can elongate the a sound (daaaai).

Qualcuno ha avvistato un UFO a Torino! – Ma dai! Piantala di dire scemenze!

Somebody spotted a UFO in Turin! – Oh, come on! Stop saying silly things!

Non riesco a collegarmi. Mi sa che è caduta la linea. – Ma dai, di nuovo? Non è possibile!

I can’t log on. I think the connection is down. – Seriously, again? It’s not possible!

Annoyed office manager explaining something to client on the phone while sitting by desk in office
Ma dai, non prendertela!Oh come on, don’t get mad!

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