Learn Italian Idioms: “lavarsi le mani” vs. “lavarsene le mani”!

 In Blog, Featured, Learn Italian words

In these troubling times, experts from all over the World are unceasingly calling us to a stricter attention to our personal hygiene, especially when it comes to washing our hands properly. For Italian language students, though, the Italian expression used to designate the action of washing one’s hands can lead to misunderstandings and puns, as not everyone gets the subtle difference between the standard Italian form lavarsi le mani and the Italian idiom lavarsene le mani.

As we usually do when it comes to shedding light on the most common Italian Idioms and Italian Words, here you find two infographics that will help you distinguish between the use of lavarsi le mani and lavarsene le mani!

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Learn Italian Basics: Lavarsi le mani in italiano L2

The reflexive verb lavarsi is used when we want to designate the action of washing a part of your body:

lavarsi i denti, lavarsi i capelli, lavarsi le mani

When conjugating this Italian verb, the pronoun si has to be flexed according to the person which is performing the action:

io mi lavo le mani
tu ti lavi le mani
lui\lei si lava le mani
noi ci laviamo le mani
voi vi lavate le mani
loro si lavano le mani

Click here for an infographic about the most common Italian reflexive verbs and here for a downloadable lesson about the passato prossimo of the verbi riflessivi!

Learn Italian Idioms: Lavarsene le mani!

This Italian Idiom refers to a passage in the Gospel, in which Pontius Pilate, washing his hands before the people, declares that he was not responsible for the death of Christ. Therefore the English for the Italian lavarsene le mani is literally “disclaiming all responsibility”. For those wishing to deepen the subject, here is a list of other Italian idiomatic expressions taken from the Bible. In the case of lavarsene le mani too, the reflexive pronoun si has to be used according to the subject, but the presence of the partitive pronoun ne poses an additional challenge, as it modifies the original form of the reflexive pronoun as follows:

io me ne lavo le mani
tu te ne lavi le mani
lui\lei se ne lava le mani
noi ce ne laviamo le mani
voi ve ne lavate le mani
loro se ne lavano le mani

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