Italian Word of the Day: Ridere (to laugh)

Today was a landmark in our son’s cognitive development. At just shy of 13 weeks, he figured out how to laugh (ridere) for the first time! Sadly it wasn’t directed towards either of us but rather a particular white wall in our house of which he’s grown very fond for some reason. Ah well, a misdirected laugh is better than no laugh at all! 🙂

/ˈri.de.re/

The verb ridere comes from the Latin of the same spelling. The conjugation in the present tense is as follows:

Io rido
I laugh

Tu ridi
You laugh

Lui ride
He laughs

Lei ride
She laughs

Lei ride
You (formal) laugh

Noi ridiamo
We laugh

Voi ridete
You (all) laugh

Loro ridono
They laugh

Another way of saying to laugh is to combine the verb fare (to do) with the noun for laugh (risata) to make fare una risata.

Happy laughing baby girl on her bed.
La bambina fa una risata per la prima volta. = The baby girl laughs for the first time.

Laughter (le risate) comes in all shapes and forms, from the hearty laugh (risata grassa) of an amused friend to the mocking laugh (risata beffarda) of an adversary. When describing different kinds of laughter, you’ll find that Italians often mention facial features and body parts in their expressions, as you can see from the following examples:

  • ridere sotto i baffi = to snicker, sneer (lit: to laugh under one’s beard)
  • ridere a denti stretti = to laugh halfheartedly (lit: to laugh with clenched teeth)
  • ridere di cuore = to laugh heartily (lit: to laugh with the heart)
  • ridere a crepapelle = to laugh uncontrollably (lit: to laugh with splitting skin)
  • ridere a mezza bocca = to laugh reluctantly (lit: to laugh with a half mouth)

To make (someone) laugh translates as far ridere (qualcuno) but far ridere without an indirect object normally translates as funny. You can see the difference by comparing the two phrases below:

Questo film fa ridere! *

This film is funny!
(No indirect object)


Questo film mi fa ridere!

This film makes me laugh!
(Indirect object pronoun mime‘ or ‘to me‘ is used)


*Note: in the example above, the fa ridere phrase with no indirect object can also be interpreted as ridiculous in the negative sense of the word. Questo film fa ridere = This film is ridiculous.

From far ridere we also get the very common expression far morire dal ridere. It literally translates as to make one die of laughter but a more accurate translation would be hilarious or extremely funny.

If you suddenly burst out laughing, you can use the expression scoppiare a ridere which literally means to explode laughing.

You may also hear Italian people exclaim Che ridere! (That’s so funny! / What a laugh!) when they encounter something amusing.

Mamma mia, che ridere questo spettacolo!

Oh my goodness, this play is so funny!


Women lying on the bed and laughing
Non riesco a smettere di ridere! = I can’t stop laughing!

Laughter isn’t always associated with positive emotions however. It can also communicate derision as you can see from the expressions below:

  • ridere in faccia a qualcuno = to laugh in someone’s face
  • ridere alle spalle di qualcuno = to laugh behind someone’s back
  • ridere dietro a qualcuno = to make fun of someone

And if you’re feeling indignant about someone laughing at you, you might respond by saying:

Che c’è da ridere?
Cos’hai da ridere?

What’s so funny? / What are you laughing at?


younger brother teasing his sister
Che c’è da ridere? = What’s so funny?

If you know someone who is a bit touchy and you want to reassure him or her that you just want to have a laugh, you can use per ridere.

Dai, era solo per ridere un po’.

Come on, it was just a joke / just for laughs.


In Italian, there are many different pronominal verbs, which are a combination of a basic verb and one or two pronouns, and whose meaning is slightly (or sometimes very different) from that of the original verb. From ridere, for instance, you can create the following:

  • si (ridersi) = to laugh at, to make fun of, to poke fun
  • si + la (ridersela) = to live carefree and not worry about anything
  • si + ne (ridersene) = to scoff at something, not care about something

Even more expressions featuring ‘ridere’

Ridendo e scherzando

Literal translation: laughing and joking
English meaning: between one thing and another


Far ridere i polli

Literal translation: to make the chickens laugh
English meaning: to be a laughing stock


Buttarla sul ridere

Literal translation: to throw it up laughing
English meaning: to take something lightly, laugh it off


Ride bene chi ride ultimo

Literal translation: he who laughs last laughs best
English meaning: he who laughs last laughs best

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