Italian Word of the Day: Sbaglio (mistake / error)

The noun sbaglio in Italian, which means mistake or error, is a derivative of the verb sbagliare (to make a mistake), which itself is a combination of the subtractive prefix s- and abbagliare (to blind, to dazzle).

/ṣbà·glio/
cover image with the word “sbaglio” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

Sbaglio is a masculine noun, but because it starts with s + consonant, the definite and indefinite articles are as follows:

lo sbaglio = the mistake
uno sbaglio = a mistake

gli sbagli = the mistakes
degli sbagli = (some) mistakes

Although the verb sbagliare is perfectly legitimate, there are two alternative ways of saying “to make a mistake” in Italian that crop up in conversation quite a lot:

  • fare uno sbaglio = to make a mistake
  • commettere uno sbaglio = to make a mistake (lit. to commit an error), more serious than sbagliare / fare uno sbaglio

Da giovane, commisi uno sbaglio che cambiò per sempre la mia vita.

When I was young, I made a mistake that forever changed my life.


If you want to say it was a mistake, you can use the verb essere (to be) instead of fare (to do), just like in English.

È stato uno sbaglio venire qui.

It was a mistake to come here.


Young confident teacher explaining schoolgirl some mistakes in her essay at lesson
Il tuo compito è pieno di sbagli. = Your homework assignment is full of mistakes.

Sbaglio can also be used to explain a misunderstanding related to a person or thing. For example, uno sbaglio di persona means that a person has been mistaken for somebody else.

Per sbaglio is a frequently used expression that means by mistake.

Scusami, ho preso per sbaglio le tue chiavi.

Sorry, I took your keys by mistake.


The verb sbagliare can also be useful if you are looking for confirmation or reassurance. You can use the expression O sbaglio? (lit. Or mistake?) at the end of the phrase, which is a tag question that can equate to a number of English expressions, including but not limited to:

  • Isn’t it? / Aren’t they?
  • Am I wrong / mistaken?
  • Isn’t he? / Isn’t she?
  • Or what?
  • Right?
  • Isn’t there? / Aren’t there?

Questo letto è un po’ troppo piccolo, o sbaglio?

This bed is a bit on the small side, isn’t it?


Rear view of young man in full suit using smart phone to check the map while driving a car
Ci siamo persi, o sbaglio? = We’re lost, aren’t we?

Another way to express the same concept is with Ma sbaglio o… (lit. But mistake or…) placed at the beginning of the sentence. It mainly works in colloquial situations.

Ma sbaglio, o ci siamo già incontrati da qualche parte?

Am I wrong, or have we met somewhere before?


The longer form of these expressions is Correggimi se sbaglio ma… (informal) / Mi corregga se sbaglio ma… (formal) which means Correct me if I’m wrong but...

Correggimi se sbaglio ma, è il tuo compleanno oggi?

Correct me if I’m wrong but is it your birthday today?


The most common synonym for sbaglio is errore (error), and the two can be swapped in many of the example sentences above:

  • È stato un errore venire qui. = It was a mistake to come here.
  • Il tuo compito è pieno di errori. = Your homework assignment is full of mistakes.
  • Scusami, ho preso per errore le tue chiavi. = Sorry, I took your keys by mistake.

Although the verb errare exist, you cannot use it in the place of sbagliare in the expressions o sbaglio? and Ma sbaglio….

Caucasian Engineer Made Mistake While Programming CNC Machine.
Caspita! Ho fatto un grosso errore! = Damn! I made a big mistake!

Subsonica – Tutti i miei sbagli

The rock/electronic band Subsonica, originally from Torino, was one of the Italian groups my husband listened to during his youth. Here is one of their most popular songs that talks about mistakes.

Tu sai difendermi e farmi male
Ammazzarmi e ricominciare
A prendermi vivo
Sei tutti i miei sbagli

A caduta libera
in cerca di uno schianto
Ma fintanto che sei qui

posso dirmi vivo

Tu, affogando per respirare
Imparando anche a sanguinare
Nel giorno che sfugge
Il tempo reale sei tu
A difendermi e farmi male
Sezionare la notte e il cuore
Per sentirmi vivo
In tutti i miei sbagli

Non mi importa molto se
niente è uguale a prima
Le parole su di noi

si dissolvono cosi

Tu affogando per respirare
Imparando anche a sanguinare
Nel giorno che sfugge
Il tempo reale sei tu
A difendermi e farmi male
Sezionare la notte e il cuore
Per sentirmi vivo
In tutti i miei sbagli

Tu affogando per respirare
Imparando anche a sanguinare
Nel giorno che sfugge
Il tempo reale sei tu
Sai difendermi e farmi male
Sezionare la notte e il cuore
Per sentirmi vivo
In tutti i miei sbagli tu

Il mio orgoglio che può aspettare
E anche quando c’è più dolore
Non trovo un rimpianto
Non riesco ad arrendermi
A tutti i miei sbagli

Sei tutti i miei sbagli
Sei tutti i miei sbagli
Sei tutti i miei sbagli

You know how to defend me and hurt me
to kill me and start again
to take me alive
You are all my mistakes

In a free fall
searching for a crash
But as long as you are here
I can say I’m alive

You, drowining in order to breath
Also learning to bleed
In the day that slips away
The real time is you
In defending me and hurting me
To dissect the night and the heart
To feel alive
In all my mistakes

I don’t care a lot if
nothing is the same as before
The words about us
dissolve like that

You, drowining in order to breath
Also learning to bleed
In the day that slips away
The real time is you
In defending me and hurting me
To dissect the night and the heart
To feel alive
In all my mistakes

You, drowining in order to breath
Also learning to bleed
In the day that slips away
The real time is you
In defending me and hurting me
To dissect the night and the heart
To feel alive
In all my mistakes

My pride that can wait
And even when there is more pain
I don’t find a regret
I can’t surrender myself
to all my mistakes

You are all my mistakes
You are all my mistakes
You are all my mistakes


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