Difference between dire and parlare: Italian grammar lesson 122


Key Takeaways

Get the lowdown on two Italian verbs that trip up beginners: parlare (to speak) and dire (to say). Discover their unique uses and never mix them up again with our clear-cut guide!

  • Speak Up with Parlare: Use parlare when you’re talking about the act of speaking itself. It’s your go-to for general chit-chat or boasting about your language skills. 🗣️
  • Get Specific with Dire: Whip out dire when you’ve got something specific to say or spill. It’s all about the deets, so make sure you’ve got an object to pair it with. 📣
  • Grammar Geek Alert: Remember, parlare is the cool intransitive verb that doesn’t need an object. Dire, on the other hand, can’t go anywhere without its object buddy. 📚
  • Convo Cravings: Feeling chatty? Use parlare when you’re itching for a convo or need to vent to your BFF about your day. 💬
  • Truth Bombs with Dire: Dropping a truth bomb or a little white lie? Dire is your verb for moments when honesty (or the lack thereof) is the policy. 🤐
  • Set Phrases: Get cozy with set expressions like “Dimmi tutto!” (Tell me everything!) or “A dir la verità…” (To tell the truth…). They’re like your Italian cheat codes. 🎮
  • Language Mastery: Impress locals by knowing when to parlare your way through a language and when to dire exactly what you mean. Flex those linguistic muscles! 💪

Quick facts

What's the primary difference between "parlare" and "dire" in Italian?

"Parlare" means to express oneself generally through speech, while "dire" refers to stating something specific and often requires a direct object.

Can "parlare" and "dire" be used interchangeably?

No, "parlare" and "dire" are not synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably in Italian.

How is "parlare" used in a general sense?

"Parlare" is used to describe speaking in a broad or metaphorical way, like speaking a language well or having a conversation.

What is an example of "parlare" in conversation?

An example is "Possiamo parlare?" which means "Can we talk?"

How does "dire" differ in its usage compared to "parlare"?

"Dire" is more immediate and situational, often requiring a direct object, such as "dire la verità" (tell the truth).

What grammatical structure does "parlare" follow?

"Parlare" is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object, except when referring to speaking a foreign language.

What grammatical structure does "dire" follow?

"Dire" is a transitive verb and always requires a direct object, for example, "dire qualcosa a qualcuno" (say something to someone).

Can "parlare" take a direct object?

"Parlare" can only take a direct object when referring to a foreign language, like "parlare una lingua" (speak a language).

What is a common expression using "dire"?

A common expression is "A dir la verità," which means "To tell the truth."

What is a typical idiom using "parlare"?

A typical idiom is "Parlare a vanvera," meaning to talk nonsense or off the top of one's head.

My Thoughts

Parlare vs. dire in Italian: Explained

In this lesson, we will talk about two verbs that always confuse learners of Italian: parlare (to speak / to talk) and dire (to tell / to say).

These verbs, unlike in many other languages, are not synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably.

Non parliamo di politica.

Let’s not talk about politics.

Non dire a Giacomo che sono uscita.

Don’t tell Giacomo I went out.

Parlare vs. dire in Italian: How to use

So, what’s the difference between the two, and, most importantly, how do we know when to use one or the other?


Parlare means to express oneself with the use of words in a more absolute sense. We will then use it to say “speak” in a general or metaphorical sense.

Let’s see some examples:

  • Parlare bene una lingua = to speak a language well
  • Imparare a parlare = to learn to speak
  • Parlare velocemente/lentamente/male/bene = to speak quickly/slowly/badly/well

Parlare also has the meaning of having a conversation:

  • Possiamo parlare? = Can we talk?


On the other hand, the meaning of dire is more immediate and linked to the moment we are describing.

It is similar to the verbs “to state”, “to enunciate”. Unlike parlare, dire almost always takes an object:

  • Dire qualcosa = to say something
  • Dire la verità/una bugia = to tell the truth/a lie

Parlare vs. dire in Italian: Rules

As we have mentioned above, there is an important grammatical difference between parlare and dire.

Parlare is an intransitive verb, which means it does not take a direct object. Its constructions are as follows:

  • Parlare (di qualcosa) con qualcuno
    Speak (of something) with someone
  • Parlare + adverb (bene, male, velocemente ecc.)
    Speak + adverb (well, badly, quickly etc.)

The only exception here is when you talk about a foreign language, in which the language becomes the direct object of parlare: Parlare una lingua (to speak a language).

Dire, on the other hand, is a transitive verb, and it always requires a direct object:

Parlare vs. dire in Italian: Examples

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Here are some more examples of the use of these two very important verbs:

Come si dice “____” in inglese?

How do you say ____ in English?

Giovanna parla cinque lingue!

Giovanna speaks five languages!

Aspetta, devo dirti una cosa.

Wait, I need to tell you something.

Non mi va di parlare con i miei genitori, sono arrabbiata.

I do not feel like talking to my parents; I am upset.

Parlare vs. dire in Italian: Expressions

Here are some useful set expressions that use parlare and dire:

Dimmi tutto!

Tell me everything!

A dir la verità…

To tell the truth…

Non se ne parla nemmeno!

Absolutely not!

Parlare a vanvera

Talk off the top of one’s head, talk nonsense

Parlare and dire: main differences

The Italian verbs parlare (to speak/talk) and dire (to tell/say) are always difficult for beginners to understand.

They are not synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably, unlike in many other languages.

How do we decide which to use and when?

In a more literal sense, the verb parlare means to express oneself through language. Because the verb “parlare” is intransitive, it does not take a direct object.

The word dire has a more direct meaning that is connected to the situation we are describing. The transitive verb dire always calls for a direct object.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

What is the difference between parlare and dire in Italian?

Parlare means to express oneself in a broad and/or metaphorical sense. Dire, on the other hand, has a meaning that is more instant and has to do with the present.

Is parlare a regular verb in Italian?

Parlare is a regular ARE verb, which are the most common verbs in Italian.

Is dire a transitive verb?

Dire is a transitive verb with a direct and indirect object.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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4 Responses

    1. Ciao Anna, I’m glad to hear that you found the lesson on “Parlare vs. Dire” helpful. It’s always our aim to provide clear and comprehensive explanations to help you understand the nuances of the Italian language. Your positive feedback is much appreciated. If you have any more questions or need further clarification on any aspect of the Italian language or culture, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here to help!

    1. Bene! 🙂
      Ci sono altre cose che vorresti sapere?
      Posso aggiungere delle lezioni.

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