"Non si sa mai cosa può succedere."

Translation:You never know what can happen.

July 10, 2013

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What is the meaning of 'si' in this sentence?


If "si sa" = one knows, then why not translate as "One never knows what can happen", or "It is never known what can happen"? Where does the DL translator find "YOU" in the Italian?


Because that's a normal English way to say the same thing: "You never know". I haven't checked but I'm pretty sure "One never knows" would also be accepted.


like in German "man weiß nie..." or in French "on ne sait jamais..."?


It is sort of like the passive voice (but it isn't). For instance I passed this question with this: "One never knows what can happen".


yeah, I also used that sentence in order not to lose a heart because I was once corrected for using "you" instead of "one" even though both uses are correct in English with similar meaning.


"Si" in this case is a formal third person pronoun. It's easier if you think of the sentence in English as "one never knows what can happen". It's third person in the sense that the conjugation of "potere" is the same as he/she/it (i.e. "puo"), but when you use the word "one" in English, it's a polite, formal way of discussing either yourself, the person you're talking to directly, or a third person not involved in the conversation. In this sense the word one can refer to many people.


I understand all this. But it's a pity that when I gave an incorrect answer DL gave me the suggested translation "We never know what can happen", which confused me!


Leo_Maguire - thank you for this explanation - for me it is/was the best one yet. Have some lingots. Ciao.


I'm afraid Leo and you are fooling yourselves. Did you check the linked doc in the first thread? Italians and Duo capitalise the formal pronoun.


It is never known what can happen ?


(Amer. Engl. sp.) not said in English


have we always got to translate these impersonal construction with 'you'? I prefer to say It is never known . . . but DL is having none of it!


Good point. "You" is an informal and colloquial way to do it, and can be misinterpreted by listeners as referring to them.

The grammatically correct usage is 'one' (singular verb) and 'they' (plural verb). "One never knows what may happen"; "they say that ..."; etc. @oktaya above says "one" is accepted here, and I've had both accepted elsewhere.

To the objection that it sounds formal or posh - well, it's supposed to! It's the si impersonale for goodness sake! Even so, it often sounds better than the passive voice.

I recall Montalbano and Livia flirting purely by tone of voice: Lui: Si può? Lei: Si può. Lui: Si può!, and off they go to bed. That doesn't translate well into either "you" or the passive.


"He never knows himself what can happen" Can this be correct?


This needs a bit explaing


I though with you it went "sai" not "sa"


Thomas - its a bit of a generalised statement, not necessarily addressed at only one person. In fact, its almost introspective. Its one of those idiom things, so we have 'sa' (for either he she or it). There is much discussion on the use of 'One' instead of 'You', here. Whilst it might sound a tad formal and not what everyone would choose to use, 'One' gets you over the hurdle safely and with the right verb conjugation!


Why is cosa used here rather than cio che or quello che?


The Italian doesn't translate logically.


I wrote "It is never known what can happen." What's wrong with what I wrote?


I'm starting to understand these impersonal constructions when I see them. They're so neat!

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