Irregular present tense verbs - How to use the verb ‘dire’ in Italian

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 03:37
Irregular present tense verbs - How to use the verb ‘dire’ in Italian

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