How to say “can’t help doing”: Italian grammar lesson 240

Progress
Takeaways
Facts
Article
Quiz
FAQs

Key Takeaways

Unlock the secret to expressing irresistible urges in Italian! 🇮🇹 Dive into our guide and learn how to convey “can’t help doing” with authentic Italian flair. Perfect your conversational skills with these must-know phrases and verb conjugations.

  • Grasp the phrase: Get the hang of non potere non and non potere fare a meno di to express that pesky “can’t help doing” feeling in Italian. 🤷‍♂️
  • Conjugate like a pro: Master the verb potere in the present tense. It’s your golden ticket to nailing this expression. 💪
  • Double negatives: Don’t shy away from the double negative non posso non – it’s not a grammar faux pas in Italian, it’s pure gold! ✨
  • Context is key: Use non posso fare a meno di when you’re itching to say you can’t live without doing something. It’s drama, Italian style! 🎭
  • Expand your vocab: Fare a meno di isn’t just for actions – throw in nouns to spice up your sentence. Can’t do without your glasses? Say it in Italian! 🕶️

Quick facts

How is "can't help doing" expressed in Italian?

"Non potere non" and "Non potere fare a meno di" both convey this concept.

What does "non potere non" literally translate to in English?

It translates to "cannot not," creating a double negative for emphasis.

How do you conjugate "potere" for the first person singular?

The first person singular of "potere" is "posso."

What structure is used for "non posso non"?

It's structured as "non" + conjugated "potere" + "non" + infinitive verb.

Can you give an example using "non posso non"?

"Non posso non pensare che sia colpa mia!" means "I can't help thinking it’s my fault!"

What does "fare a meno di" literally mean?

It means "to do without" or "to manage without."

How would you use "non posso fare a meno di" in a sentence?

"Non posso fare a meno di chiedere" translates to "I can't help asking."

What is the plural first person conjugation of "potere"?

The plural first person conjugation is "possiamo."

How do you modify "fare a meno di" for plural objects?

Use del, della, dell', dei, delle, or degli based on the noun's gender and number.

Can "fare a meno di" be used for people?

Yes, for example, "Dovresti imparare a fare a meno di lui" means "You should learn how to do without him."

My Thoughts

How to say can’t help doing in Italian?

Can’t help doing is a way of saying that we don’t want to do a particular thing because we know it’s not good, but we can’t stop ourselves from doing it.

In Italian, there’s no direct translation for this useful expression. But there are two useful expressions for expressing can’t help doing in Italian.

You’ll understand them better in context, but for now, have a look at them on their own:

  1. Non potere non
  2. Non potere fare a meno di

Here are some examples:

Non posso non pensare che sarà peggio.

I can’t help thinking it’ll be worse.
Literally: I can not think it’ll be worse.

Non posso fare a meno di pensare a lei.

I can’t help thinking of her.
Literally: I can’t do without thinking of her.

To use these expressions, you need to know how to conjugate the verb potere in the present tense:

Here’s its conjugation:

io posso
tu puoi
lui / lei può
noi può
voi possiamo
loro possono

How to use non posso non?

In Italian we use this structure for expressing can’t help doing: non + conjugated form of the verb potere + non + verb in the infinitive.

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Non posso non pensare che sia colpa mia!

I can’t help thinking it’s my fault!

Non possiamo non venire con te!

We can’t help coming with you!

Non posso non mangiare questa torta!

I can’t help eating this cake!

As we showed you above, the literal translation of non potere non would be “cannot not”, as in I cannot not eat this cake!

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Here’s another structure: non + conjugated form of potere + fare a meno di + verb in the infinitive.

Non posso fare a meno di chiedere.

I can’t help asking.

Non possiamo fare a meno di provare pietà per lei.

We can’t help feeling sorry for her

What does fare a meno di mean in Italian?

 Fare a meno di means:

  • To manage without and accept the lack of
  • To do without and accept the lack of

To put it simply, fare a meno di means to do without. We can also say fare a meno di + something or someone.

Also, instead of di, we can say del, della, dell’, dei, delle, and degli depending on what we’re referring to.

Here’re some examples:

Dovresti imparare a fare a meno di lui.

You should learn how to do without him.

Non posso fare a meno dei miei occhiali.

I can’t do without my glasses.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How to say can’t help doing in Italian?

In Italian, there’s no direct translation for this expression. But "non potere non" and "non potere fare a meno di" are two sentences used for conveying the same meaning.

How to use "non posso non"?

By using "non" + conjugated form of the verb "potere" + "non" + verb in infinitive or by using "non" + conjugated form of "potere" + "fare a meno di" + verb in infinitive.

What does "fare a meno di mean"?

It means to do without. We can use it by adding "fare a meno di" + something or someone. Also, instead of di, we can say del, della, dell’, dei, delle, and degli depending on what we’re referring to.

Italian word of the day
strada
Example
Come vado alla stazione? Prendi questa strada.
How do I get to the station? Take this road.
Follow me to fluency​

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free courses and other resources.

2 Responses

  1. Lesson 240 Non poteva non sapera

    I stumble a little with this expressions because it seems to create double negative sentences. Will have to practice with it. We do make such double negatives in English as well.

    1. Ciao @donaldbell09@gmail.com!

      Usually, in Italian, the double negatives are present in common negative expressions.

      If you need a selection of them, please let us know.

Leave a Reply

Try my courses for free​
Stefano
[TheChamp-Login redirect_url="https://www.thinkinitalian.com/app/"]
Click to learn Italian words in the text

Click any highlighted Italian word to hear its pronunciation, see its translation, and ask the AI assistant to explain it.

clickable sentence
clickable sentence 2
How long to fluency?

Find out how long it will take you to master Italian!
Get on the right track in 3 minutes.

dolce vita logo

We're already friends!

Coming from Luca and Marina?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
all language resources

We're already friends!

Coming from All Language Resources?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
GRAB A COUPON NOW, REDEEM IT LATER
50% OFF

To receive free resources once a week together with my best offers, just tell me where to send everything. Opt out at any time.

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lesson and other resources.