I have read the following sentence in an Italian language learning tool:

Oggi ricordiamo le vittime degli eserciti.

This sentence seems ambiguous to me. May this possibly refer to the victims in the armies and to the victims caused by the armies' acts?

  • 3
    It refers to all people (soldiers and common people) who were killed in wars.
    – user519
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 5:20
  • 1
    I’d certainly not utter that sentence
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 7:52
  • Of connected interested (but not a duplicate): italian.stackexchange.com/questions/2331/…
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 8:31
  • I don't understand the downvote: it seems a legitimate question to me.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:44
  • This Italian learning tool looks dubious to me. Many of these sentences you are asking about sound unnatural to my ear. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


It is ambiguous indeed. This is why context is, as always, of paramount importance.

For example, in

25 Aprile: commemorazione al Cimitero di Guerra degli Alleati a Trenno

Nel 70esimo della Liberazione, sabato 25 aprile 2015, i Radicali - come ogni anno - si sono ritrovati al Cimitero di Guerra degli Alleati al Parco di Trenno per la commemorazione delle vittime degli eserciti anglo-americani, che hanno partecipato alla guerra di liberazione dal fascismo e dall'occupazione nazista in Italia. “

the reference is clearly to the victims among the British and American soldiers.

In another context, this structure can be used to mean victims caused by the armies' actions.

AI trattamenti degradanti si somma il terrore della guerra. Di restare cioè vittime degli eserciti contrapposti senza nessun governo o organizzazione internazionale in grado né di raggiungerli né tantomeno di evacuarli.

I agree with @egreg's comment: I would hardly use this sentence. To avoid misunderstandings, I would use "vittime presso gli eserciti" in the former case, and "vittime civili" in the latter case.

  • 4
    Even in the first quotation there would be ambiguity, weren't for the following relative clause. Without it, the “vittime” could be people killed by the Anglo-American armies (the place where the commemoration is held might be sufficient, though). Probably caduti instead of vittime would be better.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:43
  • Could it be possibly classified as a metonymy (figure of speech)? Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 10:08

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