Is there any difference of meaning between the reflexive form and the non-reflexive form of the verb "sbagliare"? Examples:

  • Lui ha sbagliato.
  • Lui si è sbagliato.
  • 6
    Please, note that the subject pronoun is rarely used in Italian, unless special emphasis is needed.
    – egreg
    Sep 10, 2019 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


The differences are subtle, IMHO, and this is by no means a complete answer. However, I will list common situations where these expressions are used, and how it can often be confusing.

The two can in many cases be used interchangeably, as in

Qui ho sbagliato.

Qui mi sono sbagliato.

The former expression tends to have a "stronger" meaning, and is more used in situations where the subject is particularly involved and the subject of the mistake is "broad".

Ho sbagliato tutto nella vita.

The above sentence would hardly be used with a reflexive form.

The reflexive form is instead used more often when performing a wrong evaluation, a concrete mistake. Also, it gives the feeling that the subject which has done a mistake is particularly involved in terms of personal action.

Mi sono sbagliato di grosso sul tuo conto!

In the above example, one could use

Ho sbagliato di grosso sul tuo conto!

(with a litte bit of a stretch) and it would sound a bit more solemn.

  • What is the difference between "the subject is particularly involved" (ho sbagliato tutto nella vitta) and "the subject is particularly involved in terms of personal action" (mi sono sbagliato di grosso sul tuo conto) ? I see the same subject involvement with the error in both examples. Sep 10, 2019 at 15:46
  • 3
    Treccani dictionary says: "quasi esclusivam. intr. pron. nel sign. di giudicare in modo non corrispondente alla realtà: lo credevo un amico, ma mi sono sbagliato; ci siamo sbagliati a considerarlo un imbroglione; se pensi questo, ti sbagli di grosso". This explains also the example "Mi sono sbagliato di grosso sul tuo conto".
    – Charo
    Sep 10, 2019 at 18:18
  • Thanks, @Charo! So the difference is simple: the non-reflexive form can mean both "to make a mistake" or "to get sth wrong" (= fare qualcosa di sbagliato), the reflexive form means only the former. Sep 16, 2019 at 15:04

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