The next verb in my ongoing irregular present tense verb series is the verb ‘dire’. This verb often means ‘to say’, but it can also mean ‘to tell’’. A verb can be defined as a doing or action word. Here you can see three example sentences with today’s verb ‘dire’:


Io dico di no - I say no

Tu dici ‘ciao’ - You say ‘hello’

Noi non diciamo niente - We don’t say anything


Italian verbs are grouped into three types, -are verbs, -ere verbs and -ire verbs. Italian verbs can be either regular or irregular. Regular verbs follow a pattern, whereas irregular verbs don’t follow one. So, we just have to learn them individually. You may already have done this with two very common irregular verbs – ‘essere’ (to be) and ‘avere’ – (to have). If you need a reminder, have a look here and here


I have also covered some other common irregular verbs, check them out: ‘fare’ (to do), ‘stare’ (to be),‘dare’ (to give) and ‘bere’ (to drink).


So, returning the verb ‘dire’ (to say) - see it in full below:


Io dico - I say

Tu dici - You (singular) say

Lui / lei dice - He / she says

Noi diciamo - We say

Voi dite - You (plural) say

Loro dicono - They say


As you can see, the endings are the same as regular -ere verbs. It’s the beginning of the word which is different, in grammar terms this is called the root.


Here are some sentences using the verb ‘dire’:


Io dico una preghiera – I say a prayer

Tu non dici la verità – You don’t tell the truth

Lui dice che è un bel film – He says that it’s a good film

Lei dice di essere una brava studentessa – She says that she’s a good student

Noi non diciamo una parola – We don’t say a word

Voi dite che qui la pizza è buonissima – You say that the pizza here is really nice 

Loro dicono che è vero – They say that it’s true


There are some common expressions with the verb ‘dire’ that it can be useful to learn. 


For example ‘un modo di dire’ is a ‘common saying’ in Italian. 


Another common expression is ‘voler dire’: to mean. Here are some examples:


Cosa vuol dire ‘un verbo’ – What does ‘a verb’ mean?

Non ho capito. Cosa vuoi dire? – I don’t understand. What do you mean?

Vuoi dire che non partiamo domani? – Do you mean that we’re not leaving tomorrow?


Let’s look at some other expressions and idiomatic phrases with the verb ‘dire’:


Dire la propria

Literal meaning: to say one’s own

Real meaning: to express your opinion, to give your opinion, to have a say

Example: Certo che Marco ha voluto dire la propria! – Of course Marco wanted to give his opinion!


Dire pane al pane e vino al vino

Literal meaning: to say bread is bread and wine is wine

Real meaning: to call a spade a spade i.e. to call something by its true name


Dirne quattro

Literal meaning: to say four of them

Real meaning: to give someone a telling off, to give someone a piece of your mind


Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare

Literal meaning: There is the sea between what is said and what is done


Real meaning: It’s easier said than done