Dire and Parlare: The Difference

How do you say ‘to talk’ in Italian? Is it ‘dire’ or ‘parlare’? Let’s see.

Dire and parlare are two Italian verbs frequently mistaken for each other, yet they have distinct meanings.

In this post, I will go over the two words and provide you with a few examples of correct usage.

Dire

dire = to say or to tell

Dire is usually translated as ‘say’ or ‘tell,’ and it’s the verb to use when someone else says something to you or you say something to someone else. Unlike ‘parlare,’ ‘dire’ doesn’t involve an exchange or a conversation.

‘Dire’ is also a transitive verb and takes both a direct object and an indirect object. In fact, we say, ‘to say something to someone.

Dire qualcosa (direct object) a qualcuno (indirect object)

  • Ho detto a Maria di telefonarmi quando torna a casa – I told Maria to call me when she’s back home
  • Mi hai detto la verità? – Did you tell me the truth? 

Parlare

Parlare = to speak or to talk about (or with someone)

Parlare can be translated as either ‘talk’ or ‘speak’ and is the verb to use when you converse with someone else; you have a conversation. It also denotes the general idea of speaking.

Parlare‘ is an intransitive verb, which means it is typically followed by prepositions. ‘Parlare‘ is typically followed by the prepositions ‘con’ and ‘di.’

Parlare con‘ means to speak or talk with someone:

  • Ieri ho parlato con Graziella di quel fatto lì – Yesterday I talked with Graziella about that thing.

Parlare di‘ means to speak or talk about someone or something. The preposition ‘di’ translates to the preposition ‘about’ in the English ‘talk about’:

  • Non ci piace parlare degli altri – We don’t like to speak about others.
Common phrases and idioms using the verb ‘dire‘ 
  • Come si dice? – How do you say it?
  • Dire cavolate (colloquial) – to talk nonsense
  • Dire una bugia – to lie
  • Dire la verità – to tell the truth 
  • Devo dire che – I must say that..
  • Dire di sì – to say yes
  • Dire di no – to say no
Common phrases and idioms using the verb ‘parlare
  • Parlare a gesti – to gesture 
  • Parlare a raffica – to talk non-stop 
  • Parlare una lingua straniera – to speak a foreign language
  • Parlare bene o male di qualcuno – to speak well or badly of someone 
  • Parlare al telefono – to speak or talk on the phone 
  • Parlare del più e del meno – to speak about everything and anything 
  • Parlare ad alta voce – to be loud
  • Parlare a bassa voce – to speak softly, to be soft spoken

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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