I'm used to "se" meaning "if" or "whether", but I recently came across cases where "se" can instead be translated "that" in such a way that the meaning can become the exact opposite.

I was trying to understand the answer to this Italian Driving Theory test question*:

Il conducente che può effettuare l'inversione di marcia su una strada a doppio senso deve accertarsi se la linea di mezzeria è continua.

As shown in the animated gif below, the google sheets translate function translates "se" in this sentence as "if":

The driver that can perform a U-turn on a two-way street has to make sure if the centerline is continuous

enter image description here

By contrast, google translate App and DeepL translate "se" using "that" for this sentence:

The driver who can make a U-turn on a two-way road must ensure that the center line is continuous

In this case, it is sensible to conclude from the "if" translation that the answer to the question is TRUE, while just the opposite conclusion is reached for the "that" translation.

The correct answer, by the way, is FALSE. So you can see it's important for me to learn why "se" is translated by "that" in this case. But I'd like to know a general rule, if there is one.

A reverso.net search for accertarsi se returns many examples of both "if" and "that" translations, although most are "if/whether".

*For those not familiar with it, the driving test I'm referring to is the test given to all in Italy to obtain the standard driving license. egreg, a regular contributor to this forum, mentions knowing about it. It consists of 40 True/False questions drawn from over 7000 which are widely published on the internet by driving schools, etc... For example, a google search for the phrase "deve accertarsi se" turns up mostly websites like that. .

  • The second SE must be translated as WHETHER (OR NOT). Ciao!! :) Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


I don't know anything about this test, its answers, the site quoted or Google Translate, but a sentence saying X deve accertarsi se Y undoubtedly means "X must ascertain whether it is the case that Y (or not)". See for instance part 2. of http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/se2/ ; you'll see that in none of the described uses, even when the context is ironic or emphatic, se can be substituted with che.

  • It's a true/false question and should be answered false.
    – egreg
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 19:49
  • @DaG Because of your initial sentence, I added a note to my post to provide more info on the driving test. It seems you are saying the translation for this question should be "if" and not "that" and you even seem to be implying the "that" translation is simply wrong. If you are right, I'm confused by all the "that" translations I found (see my post) and the fact that the accepted answer for this question falls in line with the "that" translation. I appreciate your help.
    – Tony M
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 20:09
  • @DaG I added my comment just for information, because you said you know nothing about the test. But it can actually affect the interpretation. If the text had been “deve accertarsi che la linea di mezzeria sia continua”, the interpretation would be the same (not the meaning, though). Anyway, it's bad Italian nonetheless.
    – egreg
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 20:11
  • @egreg: Indeed. Not sure how this affects my answer.
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 20:12
  • @TonyM and egreg: I am Italian and have a driving licence. I meant that the test may be misphrased, that that website may be giving a wrong question text or answer, that we don't know about the test's exact meaning (for instance, if "il conducente può effettuare l'inversione", maybe they may ignore the centerline: how knows?), and above all commenting a driving test would be OT here.
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 20:17

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