I have read that "portare" may mean "to wear" (a clothing) in southern Italy, but it is not usual in northern Italy. As this statement had no evidence supporting it and Word Reference's definition of "portare" (https://www.wordreference.com/iten/portare) says nothing about it, I don't trust it. Is it true?

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    Never heard it to be regional. Your friend the monolingual dictionary gives it as one of the normal meanings of portare: “In partic., e per lo più con valore estens., di parti del vestiario o d’altre cose che si mettono addosso: porta sempre abiti molto eleganti; non porto mai il cappello; continua a p. una pelliccia passata di moda; porta la divisa solo quando è in servizio; p. la camicia sbottonata;”
    – DaG
    Oct 28 '19 at 16:30
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    Where have you read that? I come from Northern Italy, and for me this usage is a bit formal, but not particularly strange.
    – Denis Nardin
    Oct 28 '19 at 16:52
  • @DenisNardin in a forum for Italian language learners. I don't know if the author is Italian. Based on your answers, I guess not. Oct 28 '19 at 17:37
  • @DenisNardin Much less formal than indossare.
    – egreg
    Oct 28 '19 at 18:28
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    @egreg Sure. At least where I'm from the "colloquial" version is avere indosso (which might or might not be "correct" Italian, I'm not sure)
    – Denis Nardin
    Oct 28 '19 at 21:16

Portare is a synonym of indossare (to wear) as you can read here. In an English semantic perspective you can think at Indossare as the Latin verb, while "portare" as the phrasal one, so you should use the latter only if you and your listeners have a good knowledge of Italian, otherwise it can be confused with bring (like Mario brings a coat [to s.b. else]). Indossare, on the other hand, tends to be pretty more formal but not so much that you cannot use in an everyday conversation.

In everyday language these two verbs are widely used: portare and the reflexive mettersi but the second one is even more informal than the first one and is literally referred to the action of getting dressed (to put on). It is commonly used in the past tense as you can read in the examples.

The following two sentences can both be used in an informal conversation and have exactly the same meaning:

  1. Maria oggi porta il cappotto rosso;
  2. Maria oggi si è messa il cappotto rosso (past, reflexive). In the past, because she put her coat on early this morning when she left home.

Different meaning:

Maria si mette [adesso] il cappotto rosso (present, reflexive): Maria is about to leave her home and is putting her coat on now.

  • Thanks for the answer! The analogy with "Latin verb" is confusing, as both a English non-phrasal verb and its derived phrasal verbs may or not be derived from Latin. IMHO "non phrasal verb" would be clearer. It would be also useful to make it explicit that the feature you are comparing between "portare"/"indossare" and English phrasal verbs/non phrasal verbs is that the former of both pairs is more usual than the latter and not the presence/absence of a preposition. Nov 7 '19 at 16:07

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