10 ITALIAN TRANSLATION MISTAKES – answers and grammar information



It's important to understand why you can't always translate directly from your own language into English. The translation of a word might have a different meaning in English (a 'false friend'), the word order can be different (English usually puts adjectives before a noun object for example), and some phrases are more 'idiomatic' in meaning or very specific to the context in English. If you want to improve your English skills and to avoid relying on translating from your language, try a course of one-to-one lessons with us where we can focus on the specific parts of English that you want to practice and improve.

Answers and grammar information

  1. Please say tell me how works this machine works.

We use the verb tell (not ‘say) when we want to inform or explain something, as in this request for information. As this is not a direct question the ‘how’ part of the sentence is a statement not a question form – How + subject + verb.

  1. I try not to don’t make any noise when my colleague is speaking on the phone.

When we want to use the negative form of verbs like try/attempt/intend/prefer/agree/promise/refuse – which are followed by to + (infinitive) verb we use not before the ‘to’. We use an indefinite quantifier or article before the noun noise. In the ‘when’ part of the sentence we prefer to use the continuous/progressive form to show an action that is in progress at the time of speaking.

  1. I know it is a problem, but what do you want that I me to do?

English sentence usually require a subject (it) before the verb. The second part of the sentence is a question, therefore we need to use the question form – question word + auxiliary verb + (infinitive) verb. This verb is want ‘to’; here it is split by the object pronoun me as the question is directed refers back to the speaker.

  1. They are good friends of me mine. We stay together all the time together at the weekend.

Mine is the possessive pronoun. ‘Me’ is an object pronoun. The adverb together comes after the main verb ‘stay’ and the time expression comes at the end of the sentence.

  1. I think to I’ll go to Greece for my vacation this year.

We often use ‘think’ before the simple future form will when we are talking about possible future decisions.

  1. I am have been here since Monday. I will leave tomorrow.

We use the present perfect simple to talk about the length of time that an action, or state, exists from the past up to the present time. 

  1. When you listen hear my history story you will laugh!

We prefer to use the verb hear when we are the passive receivers of what someone says. The verb form listen TO (something) is more active. The word story in English refers to a narrative about a event that happened in someone’s past – usually it is true but it can also be something ‘imagined’ as in a book/novel. A history (or ‘history’ – uncountable) refers to a record or the study of events that happened in a period of time in the past.

  1. If I would speak spoke English very well English, I would search look for a job in London.

This sentence is an example of the second conditional (if) form. The ‘if’clause (part of the sentence) is formed if + past tense form + infinitive verb. Remember that this does not mean the action happened in the past, but only that we are using the ‘past tense form’ to show an unreal or impossible ‘condition’ in the present. In this case, the speaker cannot speak English very well at the time of speaking but can hypothesise about it! We also put the adverbs ‘very well’ at the end of the clause here. The verb to search is very formal in English. It is more natural to use the phrasal verb look for.

  1. I don’t understand nothing anything when you speak very quickly.

We use the indefinite quantifier anything when we have a negative sentence formed with ‘not’. It is possible to say in the affirmative ‘I understand nothing’ but the negative form is more natural in English.

  1. You must stop to working now, it’s seven and half past seven.

When we want to completely stop or cease an action that is in progress at the time of speaking we use the form stop + verb-ing. We use the form stop to + (infinitive) verb when we want to show that we are going to interrupt an action in order to do something. For example: “I’m tired from driving for so long. Let’s stop to buy some coffee.” When we talk about clock time we use the expressions half past + hour to indicate 30 minutes past the hour (7.30). Similarly we say quarter past for 15 minutes past the hour (7.15). However, we say quarter to + the next hour to indicate 45 minutes past the hour (7.45).

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