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Italian Lessons #1: Ma, Secondo Te…

March 21, 2011

Since I’ve been back in Italy, I’ve learned a few new words and expressions in Italian.  Some of them aren’t exactly new– they’re just colloquial expressions that are frequently used here in Sant’Ilario.

In this new series, I’ll teach you one expression or new word per post!

The first:

“Ma, secondo te, …”

The phrase secondo te literally means “According to you.”  You can use secondo in front of other pronouns too.  Examples:

Secondo lei, dobbiamo scendere alla prossima fermata. In her opinion (according to her), we must get off at the next stop.

Secondo me e` scemo. I think he’s an idiot.

Here in Sant’Ilario, though, I hear people say ma secondo te all the time.  From what I’ve deduced, linguistics detective that I am, it’s a rhetorical question used for emphasis.


I teach English at the elementary school of the little girl I take care of (D.)  When I first came to school, D’s English teacher introduced me to another teacher, who remarked that it was lucky for the kids to have a mother-tongue instructor like me visiting.  D’s English teacher responded, “Ma, secondo te, un’opportunita` come questa, la perderei?” (In your opinion, would I let an opportunity like this pass me by?”

When one of the kids suggests doing something that’s out of the question, their mom responds, “Ma, secondo te???” which I take to mean, “Are you kidding me?”

D’s grandmother frequently uses the phrase to express her disapproval over the behavior of others.  For example, the other day she recounted to me a situation in which a woman the next town over cheated on her husband with his brother.  Shaking her head, Grandma said in disgust, “Ma, secondo te?!”

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