Italian Word of the Day: Ricordare (to remember)

November 11th is Remembrance Day (Giorno della Memoria) in many parts of the world, so what better word to choose than ricordare, the verb that means to remember in Italian. If you have trouble remembering this verb, I find it helps to associate it with the English word record.

/ri·cor·dà·re/

Based on the Latin recordari, it is a combination of the prefix re- (back, again) and cor (heart). (At the time of the Romans, the heart was considered the seat of memory rather than the brain.)

Here is how you would conjugate this verb in the present tense:

Io ricordo
(I remember)

Tu ricordi
(You remember
informal)

Lui ricorda
(He remembers)

Lei ricorda
(She remembers)

Lei ricorda
(You remember – formal)

Noi ricordiamo
(We remember)

Voi ricordate
(You remember – plural)

Loro ricordano
(They remember)

Diamole un po’ di tempo per ricordare cos’è accaduto.

Let’s give her some time to remember what happened.


Besides to remember, ricordare has other meanings in Italian including to resemble, to mention, to recall and to remind.

  • Il viso di Andrea ricorda molto suo padre. = Andrea’s face greatly resembles that of his father.
  • Lo ricordo sempre nei miei discorsi. = I always mention him in my speeches.
  • Non ricordo dove ho messo il portafogli. = I can’t recall where I put my wallet.
  • La mamma ricorda al figlio di prendere la cartella. = The mother reminds her child to get his schoolbag.

Ricordare vs Ricordarsi

Equally common is the pronominal verb ricordarsi which also means to remember or to remind oneself.

Choosing ricordare instead of ricordarsi or vice versa might not come intuitively to learners because in many cases both are correct, but they’re not always completely interchangeable.

The easiest way to distinguish the two is to think of ricordarsi as the preferred form when talking about people you know, personal affairs or emotionally charged topics. It is often (though not always) followed by the preposition di (of).

Ricordare, on the other hand, tends to be used when discussing impersonal events and academic topics, or when you aren’t referring to a specific person.

Let’s see a few examples:

Ti sei ricordato di chiamare tua nonna?
Hai ricordato di chiamare tua nonna?
Did you remember to call your grandmother?

The first sentence is much more personal and is the one Italians will always use. The second definitely sounds odd.

Ti sei ricordato di chiamare tua nonna?

Did you remember to call your grandmother?


Questo evento è stato organizzato per ricordare un grande personaggio dello spettacolo.
Questo evento è stato organizzato per ricordarci di un grande personaggio dello spettacolo.

This event was organised to remember a great show business celebrity.

In this case, the event and its purpose do not concern us personally, especially if the celebrity being remembered was a stranger to us. The first sentence is the preferred one.

Questo evento è stato organizzato per ricordare un grande personaggio dello spettacolo.

This event was organised to remember a great celebrity of the show business.


Ricordiamo alla nostra gentile clientela che il negozio chiude alle otto.
We remind our kind clientele that the shop closes at 8.

Ricordatevi che il negozio chiude alle otto.
Remember that the shop closes at 8.

In this case we have a formal versus informal situation. The first sentence is directed toward the shop’s clients, so the formal form is always used. The second sentence uses the imperative. It works when a manager is talking to a group of employees she knows and works with, or if the customers are talking amongst themselves.

Ricordiamo alla nostra gentile clientela che il negozio chiude alle otto.

We remind our kind clientele that the shop closes at 8.


Ricordatevi che il negozio chiude alle otto.

Remember that the shop closes at 8.

As we mentioned above, in some cases ricordare and ricordarsi are completely interchangeable as in the following example:

Non riesco a ricordare il suo viso.
Non riesco a ricordarmi del suo viso.

I can’t remember his face.


Although the second sentence sounds a little more natural, you could safely get away with using either form.

Non riesco a ricordare il suo viso.
Non riesco a ricordarmi del suo viso.

I can’t remember his face.


My lovely granddaughter remembers about me
Ti sei ricordata del mio compleanno! – You remembered my birthday!