There are many ways in which you can improve your Italian: by listening to podcasts or songs, by watching tv series or movies, by speaking to native speakers, etc.
One of the things you’ll notice when you do one of the activities mentioned above to improve your Italian is that Italians use many words in everyday language that you’ve never heard of.
Another one is that you hear a word you thought you knew but you realize that it has a totally different meaning from the one you recalled.
If that’s the case, chances are you’ve come across an Italian word used informally.
So, to improve your Italian, today I’d like to tell you about Italian words that are commonly used in informal Italian: cavolo and mollare.
If in standard Italian the word cavolo has only one meaning, cabbage, in informal Italian it has several meanings.
1. The first meaning of the word cavolo in informal Italian is nothing.
a. Non capisci un cavolo!
You understand nothing!
b. Non me ne frega un cavolo di quello che pensa la gente!
I don’t give a damn of what people think!
2. Another use of the word cavolo is to express surprise, wonder, or annoyance.
a. Cavolo! Hai visto che bella vista da qui!
Wow! The view is amazing here!
b. Cavolo! Tu non ascolti mai!
Damn! You never listen!
3. Cavolo is also used to give more emphasis to a sentence.
a. Che cavolo vuoi?
What the hell you want?
b. Che cavolo fai?
What the hell are you doing?
4. The word cavolo is also used in many other Italian expressions:
Testa di cavolo
Ex: E’ una testa di cavolo = E’ un imbecille
He’s an idiot
Farsi i cavoli propri
Ex: Fatti i cavoli tuoi! = Fatti i fatti tuoi
Mind your own business
Another Italian word that can have several meanings when used informally is mollare.
1. The first meaning of mollare is lasciare, to leave.
a. Ha mollato il lavoro e la famiglia per andare in Australia
He left his job and his family to go to Australia
b. Marco mi ha mollata. Adesso sono single
Marco left/dumped me. I’m single now
2. The second use of the Italian verb mollare is to give up.
Ex: Francesco è uno che non molla facilmente. Continua a provare finchè non ci riesce
Francesco isn’t a guy who gives up easily. He keeps trying until he succeeds
3. Mollare in informal Italian can mean tirare, assestare
Ex: Mia madre mi ha mollato un ceffone quando le ho detto che avevo preso una multa
My mother slapped me when I told her that I got a fine
4. Finally, another use of the verb mollare in informal Italian is to say “stop bothering me, leave me alone”
Ex: Mi telefona sempre, mi segue ovunque, ma mollami!
He keeps calling me, he follows me everywhere, leave me alone!
Original image by MichaelGaida