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  5. "È difficile conoscere se ste…

"È difficile conoscere se stessi."

Translation:It is difficult to know ourselves.

February 25, 2013



I'm still confused, if someone could help me. I've read that stesso is an emphatic form of reflexive pronoun. "Stessi" is plural and "se" is 3d person. So it would seem to me that "se stessi" would translate to "themselves". "Ourselves" is 1st person plural and "oneself" is 3d person singular. If it is an idiomatic expression which can cover any of the cases, then that is fine too. I'd just like to know. Thanks.

March 23, 2014


as you have said, "se" is a third person reflexive pronoun, but as f.formica pointed out, this sentence emphasizes more on the "self" idea of "se" while "stesso" adds strength to it. I hope that helps... when translating these kind of sentences, I find it easier to first think of how you might say it in English, and then go back and look at the context to see if it makes sense. :)

April 12, 2014


So why is 'It is difficult to understand each other' wrong? Isn't stessi plural?

June 6, 2014


Ahhhh. Io capisco! You may be confusing "se stessi" as an Italian reciprocal verb (to get to the English translation of each other)! "In Italian we express reciprocal actions by using a plural reflexive pronoun (ci, vi, si), plus a corresponding plural verb form (noi, voi, loro)." (e.g., noi ci baciamo.) I hope I solved your confusion... maybe someone else can verify?

Here's a link on Italian reciprocal verbs: http://tutorino.ca/grammatica/2007/4/2/saying-each-other-italian-reciprocal-verbs.html

June 7, 2014


thank you, I did misunderstand. I thought from the conversation above that you and f. Formica were saying that this is reflexive .. after rereading I see that he is saying 'se' is not the stressed clitic reflexive si, but rather just part of se stessi. Correct?

June 7, 2014


Giusto! Bravo! :)

June 9, 2014


Very helpful! grazie di Amburgo con un lingot

February 17, 2015


I looked up "si stessi" and nowhere did it say "ourselves"!! Yourself or oneself only. A bit of randomness here???

May 28, 2015


I think "se stesso" would be "oneself" but the plural "se stessi" would basically be "oneselves" which in English we'd say as "ourselves" or "themselves"...

May 29, 2015


If "It is difficult to know oneself" is correct, then why is "It is difficult to know yourself" incorrect? Yourself can mean both another person's self, or your own.

February 22, 2014


April 5th, 2015, "It is difficult to know yourself" is accepted. Happy Easter!

April 6, 2015


Know thyself? If I knew myself I would run away. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

September 20, 2015


Sorry - being very thick here - can someone give me the translation of "se"/tell me what part of the language it is?

February 26, 2014

  • 2264

It's the reflexive third person pronoun "sé": it can be spelled without the accent when followed by "stesso" and derivatives. Being reflexive, sé already includes the "self" idea, and "stesso" only strengthens it.

February 26, 2014


Thanks for the reply formica. I have a list of reflexives but can find in mine only "si" which is what puzzled me. "se" isn't by any chance a "personal object pronoun - strong" is it, where I have found se (excuse lack of accent here). A grammar of mine says "These pronouns are called "strong" because they create emphasis in the sentence.They are used only after a preposition or a verb"

Apologies again if I'm being thick - entirely possible.

February 27, 2014


PS - have also found it in another grammar listed as a "disjunctive pronoun". Oh the horrors of grammar, and in particular Italian pronouns!

February 27, 2014

  • 2264

Haha, you have a point :)

"Si" is the clitic version of the reflexive pronoun, so for some examples:

  • Io mi lavo (I wash) -> Io lavo me stesso
  • Lui si lava (he washes) -> lui lava se stesso

  • Io faccio da me (io do by myself, i.e. I don't need help)

  • Lui fa da sé (here "stesso" would be redundant).
February 27, 2014


Many thanks formica - back to the pronoun tables for me, though I have a feeling that lots of DL exercises to give me context might be more useful.

February 27, 2014


My question is wouldn't it be a more correct equivalent for "ourselves" to say "È difficile conoscere noi stessi," or even "È difficile ci conoscere"? I'm just comparing the Spanish "Es difícil conocernos."

March 26, 2015

  • 2264

"È difficile conoscerci"; the clitic is affixed to infinitives, as in Spanish I guess. If you were translating from English that would be correct, but that's just one of the possible interpretations of this Italian sentence; English simply doesn't have any equivalent impersonal pronoun.

March 26, 2015


I am not sure, but it seems to me the sentence is the general statement, that it is easier to know another person than to know the person in the mirror, because each of us is too biased, too afraid or too wishfully thinking and - too close.

In German I would immediately go for se stessi* means "sich selbst" in this context and if I had to translate that into English first choice would be "oneself" and in a more engaged dialog with a close friend may be "yourself". I wouldn't dare to make such a statement for "them", "her", "him" or "us". In my opinion the neutral (myself including) "oneself" fits best to the general statement.

*corrected from stesso to stessi

August 5, 2017


"understand" instead of "know" wouldn't work?

February 10, 2014


'Understand' is better translated from: 'capire' or 'comprendere'

March 11, 2014


I don't see why not... Both know and understand are synonymous in this sentence. Maybe try reporting it?

February 16, 2014


I don't know but I think "to understand" tends to have a psychologically deeper meaning rather than just "to know", doesn't it?


February 16, 2015


se stessi is this sentence's confusion. "Se" follows the verb to know (someome, etc compared to sapere to know (how to do something, etc) So reflective si changes to se when follows verb, or object of preposition or for emphasis. and the plural of stesso , stessi, follows se.

May 7, 2015


If the discussion of f.formica and silkwarrior above isn't enough, try the section called "Principal Translations" in this link. Se can be used with or without the accent to reflect upon oneself. http://www.wordreference.com/iten/se

May 12, 2015


I thought 'se' means 'if' also?

August 17, 2017


Why isn't it se stesso, se stessa, or noi stessi? "se stessi" is not included in the dictionary. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/italian-english/stessi

November 8, 2017


"It is difficult to know thyself " can this also be a possible translation?

EDIT : "It is difficult to know oneself" is also accepted.

February 25, 2013

  • 2264

"Stessi" is plural; although the subject is rhetorical, and the sentence can be intended as a quote, so I think your translation should work as well.

February 25, 2013


Thyself? That sounds extremely archaic. I don't think it's correct.

February 22, 2014


Why is "It is difficult to know yourselves" marked as wrong?

July 4, 2014


because it's se stessi and the se implies noi not voi

February 14, 2015



September 20, 2015


I've followed all these arguments, and I still haven't a clue what the sentence means. How can it possibly translated as "It is difficult to know themselves", as DL says? That is a total nonsense. Maybe the best translation is: "It is difficult to guess what the right answer is."

September 25, 2014


Is the "c" in "conoscere" really silent, or is it an audio error? I reported it anyway, since the silent "c" didn't make sense to me in Italian.

February 22, 2015


Non so se nel frattempo hanno sostituito la registrazione, ma io la "c" la sento eccome! :-)

March 26, 2016


So se is si but it is se since it follows the verb? If se is ourselves, and not noi version, then what is themselves?

May 12, 2015


Know thyself? If I knew myself I would run away. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

September 20, 2015


I thought conosco was I understand and so was I know. Shouldnt this be è difficile sapere se stessi?

September 26, 2015


It is my understanding that sapere = to know a fact, conoscere = to know about (equivalent to the difference between savoir and connaitre in French)

March 16, 2016


How does si stessi mean ourselves or oneself

January 29, 2016


Why does se imply noi here? Given that stessi is plural, couldn't it also imply voi?

December 23, 2016


what would be " it is difficult to know myself" the answer I go was "it is difficult to know oneself" isn't this the same meaning. ??

July 4, 2017


It seems more like an idiomatic expression to me.

July 13, 2017


DL said "themselves" which didn't make sense. (8/08/17)

August 10, 2017


9/25/17 It still doesn't.

September 25, 2017


How do I know when to use words that translate to know.

October 17, 2017


Philosophy with Duolingo.

March 5, 2018


how would you say themselves in this sentence? :)

December 25, 2018


"Noi stessi" wouldn't be more literally correct here???

October 7, 2019


So, would I be dead wrong if I wrote this is, "È difficile conoscere NOI stessi."? Duo allowed for, "It is difficult to know oneself." but that too seems to me that it might translate better as "se stesso/stessa."

October 25, 2019


Just for the record, Google Translator seems to believe that "È difficile conoscere NOI stessi" is just fine. If so, it tends to make a simpler sense and removes the need to labor over obscure grammar. Do any Italian speakers know if this is, in fact, and grammatically acceptable translation?

December 2, 2019



February 3, 2015


Know oneself in the Biblical sense? Not that hard really.

July 14, 2017
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