How to Argue Like an Italian (and Which Topics to Avoid)

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This post originally appeared on The Iceberg Project – check it out here

Just like in English, conversations among Italian friends can quickly turn to “hot” topics, such as politics or current events.

In this situation, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and out of your element, but it’s actually a great opportunity to get to know people better and stretch your Italian skills.

Below are some guidelines for how to argue like an Italian and what topics to avoid (or discuss, if you’re brave!).

The first step in any good debate is getting it going. You can start one by asking the following:

— Avete sentito quella notizia…? – Have you heard the news?
—– Example: Avete sentito quella notizia sulla situazione in Siria?

— Hai letto l’ultimo articolo su Repubblica? – Did you read the latest article in the Reppublica?
(Hint: “La Repubblica” is a popular Italian newspaper.)

— Hai visto il telegiornale? – Did you see the TV news?

— Cosa ne pensi di….? – What do you think of…?
—– Example: Cosa ne pensi del matrimonio gay in Italia?
(Hint: The next part of this question is made by di + the article. For example:
– Della decisione – Of the decision
– Della notizia – Of the news
– Del fatto – Of the fact (that)

If, instead, you’re asked one of the questions above, it is crucial to know how to respond.

To err on the side of politeness, you can respond in the conditional tense, especially if you’re not very familiar with the person asking.

To reply, start with:

— Io farei… – I would do…
—– Example: Io farei qualcosa sulla situazione della spazzatura nel Sud Italia!

— Io direi… – I would say…
—– Example: Io direi che noi italiani, dobbiamo fare attenzione prima sulle cose qui nel nostro paese.

— Credo che sarebbe meglio…. – I think it would be better if…
(Hint: this is the most polite version of all the options above!)
—– Example: Credo che sarebbe meglio se Angela Merkel cambiasse tutto!

If the group is made up of close friends or family, or you feel particularly fiery, you can reply with the present tense and imperative.

For example:

— È un cretino! – S/he is an idiot!
— Non capisce niente! – S/he doesn’t understand anything!
— Non sa fare niente! – S/he doesn’t know how to do anything!

Using the above, you can begin to hold your own in heated discussions (after all, Italians are known for their passion).

However, a word of warning, there are some topics that will really ignite the Italian fire and they should be approached with caution (or not at all).

These topics are:

— Mamma o famiglia – Mother or family
(Hint: Never insult an Italian’s mother or family!)

— Immigrazione dal continente Africano e dai paesi dell’Est – Immigration from Africa or other countries
(Hint: this topic is especially hot right now)

— Rifiuti tossici e spazzatura nel Sud Italia – Toxic waste and the trash situation in Southern Italy

— Sud v. Nord Italia – South vs. North Italy, some Italians feel very strongly about this divide

— Mala politica in generale e corruzione – Bad politics/politicians and corruption

— Caso Grecia e politiche europee – Greek and European politics in general (especially concerning the European Union)

— Matrimoni gay – Gay marriage

— Cattolici vs. non Cattolici – Catholics vs. non Catholics

— La lenta macchina della giustizia – The slow justice system

Now that you know what topics to avoid, or approach cautiously, here are some topics that can lead to passionate discussions, but likely won’t get you thrown out of the house:

— Il cibo – Food
— Le feste – Holidays
— Musica, cultura, libri, arte – Music/culture/books/art

Have you ever gotten into an argument about the above topics with an Italian? How did it go? Share your experiences dealing with hot topics below!

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