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  5. "Non decideva lui."

"Non decideva lui."

Translation:It was not up to him to decide.

November 18, 2013



I don't understand how they can say the answer is "it was not up to him to decide" from the given phrase. Is this an idiom?

  • 2571

It's not an idiom, just a natural use of emphasis that is only intuitive to natives. In the present, you'd say "io non decido" to simply state a fact (I don't decide or I'm not deciding), but "non decido io" to mean "it's not me who decides", "I'm not the one making the decision", "it's not up to me to decide": the strong implication is that the action (deciding) is not (cannot be) performed by me, but someone else. You could do the same with other verbs, e.g. "pago io" (I'm the one who's paying - i.e. no one else dare pay): typical sentence when paying a round at a café or a pub. Now transfer the action to the past, and you have either "non ha deciso lui" (it wasn't him who decided, that one time), or "non decideva lui" (it wasn't him who decided, over a period of time, i.e. he wasn't the one making decisions).

To quote a recent example from an Italian newspaper: "Sopra di sé aveva il sindaco e la giunta. Le decisioni non le ha mai prese lui. [...] Contava tantissimo, non crede? - Ma non decideva lui." (above him he had the mayor and the council. He was never the one to make the decisions. [...] He was very important [lit. he counted a lot], don't you [formal] think? - But he wasn't the one who decided). Note that here the interviewee used emphasis twice, first with an Object-Verb-Subject order (doubled by the clitic) and then with Verb-Subject (which is a subcase).


I understand how the sentence emphasises that it was HE who did the not-deciding. But in English there is a definite difference between 'it was not he who decided' (neutral, just factual) and 'it was not up to him to decide' (carries a judgement about whether he should have been deciding or not). Does Italian not make the same distinction?


I wonder if this is also an imperfect/present perfect distinction.


Present perfect: "Non ha deciso lui." = "it was not he who decided"

Imperfect: "Non decideva lui." ~= "It was not he who was deciding" (or, "who was doing the deciding")

In which case, the second one seems like less of a stretch to the translation here, "It was not up to him to decide."

I'm just a learner, though, so someone else please correct me if this seems unreasonable!


Thanks. A good explanation.


Does it follow that: Non cucinava lui = it was not up to him to cook Non pensava lui = it was not up to him to think.... Etc etc?


So it's an idiom...


No, they just said that it isn't. Placing subject pronouns after verbs is the Italian way of emphasising the subject of a sentence, for which a direct English translation does not exist. Not an idiom.


When five words are missing that, in English, would change "He didn't decide" to "It was not up to him to decide..." it's an idiom, irrespective of subject pronoun placement, and the specious argument above notwithstanding. Give me "Non era per lui a decidere," or something, perhaps "Non stava a lui decidere." Don't give me three words in Italian that mean eight words in English and tell me it's "just a natural use of emphasis that is only intuitive to natives." There's nothing natural about it. That's what's called "an idiom."


I think there are two separate issues in this sentence which are getting confused. No 1. Putting the lui, the subject of the verb which would more usually go before the verb, at the end of the sentence. This is what f.formica, moderator, explains at the top of this thread, is "not an idiom, just a natural use of emphasis that is only intuitive to natives." It emphasises that it was HIM we are talking about.
No 2. The translating of a short simple sentence 'non decideva lui' - not as 'it was not he who was deciding' but as 'it was not up to him to decide'. This introduces extra meaning which is not obvious on the surface, i.e. the idea that it was not his responsibility or privilege or business to make the decision. That's why people are asking 'is this an idiom?' . And it raises the interesting question posed by PhillipBur below, does it apply to all verbs in sentences phrased like this?


Sorry, Keith352848, but I believe ForgetUmbrella is correct: The translation could have been written as "HE didn't decide" (emphasising the he). The given answer, "It was not up to him to decide" is just a rephrasing of this, not an idiom.


just dumb to have to intuit what the sentence says!


You don't have to intuit anything. Just read f.formica's explanation - it's the second comment on this page.


Unless it's an idiom, I don't think this makes sense either. They don't mean the same thing in English at all. to "be up to him to decide" would imply some measure of responsibility, not merely inaction. As it reads, it seems like only "he didn't decide". That doesn't hint one way or the other whether it was up to him (i.e. his responsibility) to do that. I'd also love it if a native speaker could clarify if this is idiomatic.

Further down in this thread someone seems to explain it as being about syntax, which makes sense. Because "lui" comes last, the emphasis is on him, whereas if lui came first, it would be the simpler "He didn't decide". Hope I've understood that correctly.

  • 1716

I would also like a native speaker to chime in - is this construction an idiom, and can it be used with other verbs?


See f.formica's explanation above.


I wrote “he would not decide” and it was accepted. I guess you could take that to mean “he [was not the one who] would decide.” But it is confusing.


It's because duo rephrased the direct translation "He was not deciding".


I get dhunteroz's explanation but would never have guessed it on my own. Tricky. In other words HE was not deciding, but someone else was - therefore, it was not up to HIM to decide.


"It was not him deciding" seems a legitimate translation, but was not accepted 11/11/17


Could one say "Lui non decideva"?


Yes, but the meaning is slightly different: "non decideva lui" is more like "he was not the one who could decide", while "lui non decideva" expresses true incertitude.


We would say "It was not for him to decide". I wonder if Duo would accept that.


Report it if not.


+1 for 'incertitude'!

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Angele di Liscia

"He was not decide " is wrong English


"wrong English" is bad English, and "he was not deciding" is just fine - you would finish that sentence with 'so I decided instead'


(American English speaker) Yes- we would either say "he was not deciding" or "he did not decide."


I've reported. My answer 'He has not decided' was not accepted!


I believe that would be "Lui non ha deciso."


OK, but "He was not deciding" needs a context or should be replaced by "He didn't decide" and that only. I don't know yet when you use the imperfect tense in Italian and when you use the perfect tense. It differs in languages, so I am careful about simply transferring the tenses to another language, as it is done here in the course.


I know. It's been a pain so far. You can try reporting it, but I try to make it sound different from other tenses to avoid confusion. And so far, what I've learned is that you use the past imperfect for continuing or habitual actions in the past. Perfect for a one time deal that happened and stopped. That's the best explanation I can give. They have the tips and notes in the category now.


How do get "up to him" in this sentence?


"He would not decide" accepted Mar. 25, '15. Captures the "continuing" or "repeating" quality of the past imperfect, as in "We asked him if he wanted to be buried or cremated, but he would not decide."


I know the moderators are busy but an explanation of how this sentence or this structure works would be appreciated. ie could we say "non cucinava lui" to mean "cooking was not for him to do"?


I think having the "lui" at the end makes the difference and emphasizes him as not being the one to decide. It's quite convoluted, but I've seen this construction before and it makes the pronoun stronger.


'He did not decide' is accepted


What about "it was not for him to decide"?


Could "He wouldn't decide" not work?


I wrote this and it was accepted. April 26, 2015.


It was not accepted 11.12.14 but it is surely the exact meaning, and good English.


He wouldn't decide = accepted Nov 2019


What's wrong with "It was not up to him"?


The position of the subject, "lui," emphasizes that it was HE who did not decide. But there is nothing in the sentence that indicates his responsibility to do so. The given translation is an error.


Is this an idiom, a common phrase, a proverb or something else?


Souldn't "he was not deciding it" be marked correct?


Io la tradurrei " non era lui a decidere"

  • 2571

Il senso è più "non spettava a lui decidere".


Since we are dealing with an idiom, why can't DL accept, "It was not his to decide"? It is as "il"literal as theirs but has the exact same meaning.


'He was not deciding' is a very strange sentence in English. Maybe 'he was undecided' or 'he could not decide' or 'he would not decide' or 'he did not decide' or ...........?


"He was not deciding" is a valid English sentence within context. e.g. If the topic was about joining a gym. He may want do delay the decision until later.


I prefer "He was not making a decison"


Or maybe- "He was not deciding, he was merely pretending to decide."


What is wrong with "It was not his to decide"?


he didn't used to decide


Why not "It was not his decision" which is better idiomatic English?


"he did not use to decide" should be a correct translation, right?


"He did not used to decide" sounds very clunky in English. A better option would be "He would not decide". Also the phrase is "used to", not "use to". :)


What MadelynWri wrote sounds 'clunky' because it's not correct. We writes & say "used to" for positive statements, but "use to" for negative statements (with not) and with questions (with did or didn't). Didn't you use to be taller? Did you use think that? I used to think so. In speech the d & t sounds run together, so it's not important, but we should be correct when we write.


Sorry, I left out a word: "use to" with negative statements (with DID not) ...


Context is everything. "...Did not used to decide" fits well in a then vs. now discussion, when the emphasis is on a change in behavior.


18SEP'16 I can guess* how you can end up with "It was not up to him to decide." but as there are 49 comments on this sentence and no native speaker has yet supported this translation I have reported to DL that there are these many comments and requested them to please explain their translation so we don't have to guess anymore.

*The subject "lui" is after the verb and therefore stressed. Imperfetto is used when the action was continuous (was not deciding) or repeated (did not use to decide, used not to decide, would not decide). Other uses of imperfetto: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/it/Verbs%3A-Past-Imperfect

So then I end up with: "He, he was not deciding," which could imply(!) it was not up to him to decide (= it was not his task), but could also mean that he just took too long to come to a decision and maybe someone else was more decisive (=he did have the right to decide but failed to do so).


Read f. Formica's response. He is a native speaker. In my lesson the DL question is to translate from English to Italian: It was not up to him to decide. The correct answer given by DL is: Non stava a lui decidere. IMHO I think the correct ENGLISH translation should be: It was not for him to decide.


Really lost here on this one.......... The verb in the sentence is " was ** not "To Decide ?? right ??


If this sentence is "only intuitive to natives" I suppose there are many others. Would it be possible to have a separate lesson including all these, as well as you did with "flirtings" and "proverbs"?


I don't know what the exact intention of this sentence is to a native Italian speaker, but if it is as suggested, I would use the simple sentence "It' was not for him to decide". Using the preposition 'up' with secondary preposition 'to' really makes it impossible to explain logically, except to say that's how it is.


I wrote "it is not decided by him." But was marked wrong?


Your sentence is in the present tense, but the Italian one here is in the past. Your sentence is in the passive mood, but the Italian one is in the active.


Wow, this is colloquial right!!!


He was not used to deciding still seems right and legit


I like the English translation, simply, "Was not his decision." We use this in English, just as in Italian, to indicate that it was not up to him to decide.


Do we have to invent a translation? where does it was not up to him come from?


I do not understand the syntax. This is where a literal translation would help!


If I translate it literally, it's "He was not deciding." It's a bit of a stretch, but I can see how that could be paraphrased (and elaborated on) as "It was not up to him to decide." Thanks, f.formica.


You added the word " di " when speaking slower perche?


"Non stava a lui decidere," was accepted.


I wish there was a way to go back and practice this whole section over without progressing to the next level.


Duo also gives the following as an acceptable translation: Non stava a lui decidere.


I pronounced it properly and was marked wrong.


People seem to be investing too much in this. In English I can say "He didn't decide" with a rising inflection on the first word and the listener will understand that" it was not up to him to decide"


Taking a poll - is it FAIR or NOT FAIR of Duolingo to mark you wrong when the only issue is a spelling error? I am a Gemini, thus always of (at least) two minds. Depending on my mood, I can go either way ;)


I think "He wasn't the one deciding" would be the best translation.


Would "it was not his decision" be a closer translation?

I don't understand where you get "upto him to" from the Italian sentence?


does "it was not his decision" have a different meaning


"I was not decide" :-)


It should be, " He decided not". The DL over interpretation is not supported by phrase and is very confusing for the learner.


"He decided not" is archaic English and would never be heard nowadays.


He did not decide is the best translation


No. This would be in passato prossimo.

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