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I'm just starting out learning Italian, so I do not know too much about it just yet. Onto the problem... In a few songs I've heard the phrase "non fermarti mai", which supposedly means "do not ever stop [yourself]", directed at singular 'you'. This phrase doesn't make sense to me at all. Should it not be "non ti ferma mai"? Because ferma is the singular 'you' imperative and it is reflected at themself (the 'you' person), hence ti.

I've also seen the phrase "non ti fermare", which is also weird. Why is there an infinitive of fermare?

Could someone explain how these phrases work? Or are these applications of 'artistic license' and thus technically incorrect, but used anyway to make the songs better? If so, what is or are the correct phrase or phrases? Thanks a lot!

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Just adding a clarifying article from Treccani – user193 May 8 '14 at 1:47
up vote 10 down vote accepted

No poetic licence, no error. In Italian, in the second singular person, the negative form of the imperative is exactly as you have seen, non + infinitive. Compare:
mangia / non mangiare
vai (or va') / non andare
guarda / non guardare

(The plural form is like you'd guess: mangiate / non mangiate and so on.)

When there is a pronoun, for a reflexive verb as in your example or for other reasons, it can, in general, be either a separate word between non and the infinitive or attached to the infinitive (the first construction being the more traditional): non ti fermare and non fermarti are both correct, as are non lo mangiare and non mangiarlo, and so on.
In the affirmative form, modern Italian only admits the forms with the enclitic pronouns at the end (fermati, mangialo), while ti ferma, lo mangia is currently wrong (while actually an old form you could find in some opera libretto).

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You're right, I didn't cover this. Let me add it to my answer. – DaG May 7 '14 at 16:54
@randomatlabuser Why is it "Smettila!" rather than "Smettilo!"? I thought refering to it would be lo, just like "lo so" means "I know it". I'm unfamiliar with smettere though; is there a reason why you used this instead of fermare? – Joffysloffy May 8 '14 at 5:52
@Joffysloffy That is a very good question indeed! As reported in Treccani's article, "la" is sometimes used to indicate a generic situation (which is feminine). «La smetti con questa cosa? Smettila! Finiscila! Piantala!». – user193 May 8 '14 at 8:03
You use "la" when it is clear that you are referring to something that is feminine, "situazione", "cosa", "vicenda", "realtà", etc. – user193 May 8 '14 at 20:54
@randomatlabuser: Actually, I would not be able to point out what exactly is referred to by “la” in such expression as “finiscila” and the like. I'd simply say that they are idioms meaning “No more of it!” or whatever. “Finiscilo”, on the other hand, needs a clear object (e.g., “il piatto di pasta”) and is not an idiom but an “actual” sentence. – DaG May 8 '14 at 23:03

"Non fermarti mai" is technically "Never Stop"

"Non ti fermare" is "Don't Stop"

"Non ti ferma mai" is "He/she/it never stops you".

The song author probably is just saying that you should never stop doing something, not that someone should never stop you.

Fermare, as you said, is indeed the infinitive of fermare (to stop).

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I don't quite see why though. Wouldn't you use the imperative for that, not the infinitive? That seems really odd. Moreover, what kind of conjugation is fermarti; I cannot find it anywhere? I know that "non ti ferma mai" means "It/He never stops you", because ferma is the 3rd person singular indicative form of fermare, but it is also the 2nd person singular imperative form of fermare, so why is that not used in these cases, since the song makes it clear that it is the intention of the author to say that. Thanks! – Joffysloffy May 7 '14 at 16:17
Fermarti is "fermare te". It is a negative reflexive form. It is build with an infinitive and a personal pronoun. The positive reflexive form is built with imperativee + personal pronoun: Fermati – Bruno9779 May 7 '14 at 16:22
Ooh, I see! Thank you. Does this mean that one would solely use the 2nd singular person imperative ferma if it is used non-reflexively and non-negatively? – Joffysloffy May 7 '14 at 16:39
@Joffysloffy correct, if you mean to say that the person you are addressing to is mean to stop something or somebody – user1301428 May 7 '14 at 21:20
Yes, that's what I meant. Thank you! – Joffysloffy May 8 '14 at 5:47

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