I'm a little bit ahead of my Italian lessons, but I hear people using forms of cosare, but don't fully understand it. I'm trying to figure out what it means in English (or even Spanish, although English is my native tongue). The closet thing I could think of was do (when used generically, not as an auxiliary)

I understand that it's used in Che cosa? to mean What?, but I don't understand why it's necessary. I'd always thought that it meant What happened?, but my grandfather (born in Abruzzo, but a terrible teacher!) says it just means What?

I'm not entirely sure whether cosa is used as a noun or a verb in that question, but it seems like it would be a verb.

It reminds me of the do in the English Let's do lunch, but my grandfather said that idiom really doesn't translate into Italian very well. He suggested Facciamo il pranzo, but said that it would be Cosiamo il pranzo if I insisted on using cosare. Even though he didn't like that, he said I can use it generically for any verb, and he did give me some examples, but I don't understand it semantically.

I've tried figuring this out using Google Translate by translating sentences from both English and Spanish, but Google doesn't recognize the word cosare.

For example, I started with Possiamo mangiare il pranzo di domani? I then substitued cosare for mangiare and got Can we cosare tomorrow?

I thought that maybe it just doesn't translate well into English, so I tried translating it into Spanish first (in my head, not with the translator). I replaced first comer with cosare and then almorzar as an alternate and got ¿Podemos cosare mañana? in Spanish for both. I tried using a 3rd phrasing in Spanish with the original question and got avere for the verb, but I ended up with another meaningless translation, which you could probably guess.

After getting frustrated, I decided maybe I should try something more basic and tried entering Coso quello for Voglio quello, but it still just gives me the translation of Coso that in English, and CosA ese in Spanish. That would mean thing that in English, but it's nonsense in Spanish too.

I tried Io coso buono for Io sono buono and Coso bene for Sta bene, and got good thing I for both, at which point I decided that was about as basic as I could possibly get and gave up.

Are there any English phrases, idioms, words, or expressions that can approximate the meaning of cosare in Italian? Am I at least attempting to use this verb properly?

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    John, can thingamajig and whatsit be used as verbs? If so, I think cosare, as a colloquial verb, is close enough to 'to thingamajig' and 'to whatsit'. Dec 8, 2013 at 9:08
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    If you ever saw "The Smurfs", "cosare" is essentially "puffare" ("to smurf"), so you understand that it's something you don't want to use in normal conversation, besides as a placeholder for a verb you don't remember. Related: in high school we were told that Umberto Eco suggested to use "smurf" & co. (as a verb, noun, adjective, ...) as placeholder in a latin/greek translation to glue together the sentence structure before looking up the meanings of the words. A friend of mine took this too literally and in his next translation almost everything was "smurf"; the teacher was not amused. =) Dec 8, 2013 at 14:17
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    (in dialects placeholders are usually more graphic, though) Dec 8, 2013 at 14:28
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    @KyriakosKyritsis Unfortunately, no they cannot, but thank you for the analogy. I understand your point. Dec 8, 2013 at 18:25
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    @JohnQPublic: it's not a verbization like "to Google" in English (which, BTW, exists in Italian as the (ugly) "Googlare"), it's really just a placeholder for a verb we don't immediately remember at the moment. It's not used for anything else, especially not as a translation for a "real" do (which in general becomes "fare"); also, I'd say it's not used much in general, since the verb must be immediately clear from the context, otherwise the whole sentence becomes unintelligible. Dec 8, 2013 at 18:37

6 Answers 6


First, cosa in Che cosa? is indeed a noun, used to reinforce the question. Since cosa means generally any object or action (analogue to "something" or "anything" in English), you can omit it without losing the meaning:

Che? Cosa? Che cosa?
Che (cosa) sta succedendo?
What's (that, that is) happening?

The verb cosare is used only if you don't remember the proper word to describe an action. In English, it'd be like saying "do that thing," assuming that your listener knows or can guess what you are talking about. You can't translate it directly with "to do" or "to have."

Ieri ho cosato una cosa.
Yesterday I, you know, did that, you know, a thingy.

It's better not to use cosare in any other context and certainly not to try to use it as generic "to do," unless you intend it to be ironic. Taking your example, cosiamo il pranzo: it's unclear whether you'd mean facciamo il pranzo "let's have lunch," saltiamo il pranzo "let's skip lunch" or, maybe, buttiamo il pranzo "let's throw the meal away."
Italian comedian Paolo Cevoli, for instance, has made popular the sentence:

Con questo cosa voglio dire? Non lo so, però c'ho ragione e i fatti mi cosano!
What do I mean by that? I have no idea, but I'm right and the facts do me you-know-what!

In this case, the intended expression would be i fatti mi danno ragione "the facts support me" (hence I'm right). But since it's not clear from the verb cosare what exactly those facts do, it might as well be i fatti mi contraddicono "the facts disprove my opinion" (because I'm an arrogant idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about). The uncertain meaning of cosare, thus, results in a joke.

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    Added warning: use "cosare" in (very) informal speech only! Dec 8, 2013 at 10:52
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    @martina paoloalbani.it/Coso.html :)
    – I.M.
    Dec 8, 2013 at 11:03
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    @JohnQ i fatti mi danno ragione means the facts show/confirm my opinion is right. i fatti mi cosano ragione would mean the facts do something with my opinion. So, no, it doesn't mean the same, even in the same conversation. It might mean that the facts are in your favor, but it might mean just the opposite, too. The key point of cosare as a verb is that it may mean anything at all.
    – I.M.
    Dec 8, 2013 at 19:06
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    @JohnQ It seems that your question comes from the English usage of "do/have," avoiding repetition of the previously used verb (Did you read that book? - I did. / Have you prepared a guest list? - I have.) Please note that in this case in Italian, you must repeat the verb, or, if anything, use fare (Hai letto quel libro? - L'ho letto. / Hai preparato la lista degli ospiti? - Sì, l'ho già fatta.). In any case, it has nothing to do with cosare.
    – I.M.
    Dec 8, 2013 at 19:39
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    That it is not used is false: I heard it used many times, and I used it myself sometimes. It is not that common, but not absent either. I'm from Lombardy, Brianza. Anyway, this is a good definition in my opinion. And I guess puffare is a very good analogy. And @JohnQPublic I edited the Wiktionary entry to have it define cosare as to do something with, which codes the idea that this verb substitutes any transitive verb which won't come into one's mind but (should) be clear from context - as the link says.
    – MickG
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:38

The verb "Cosare" doesn't really exist in Italian. Or, at least, it isn't used. To translate the English verb "to do" in Italian, we use the verb "fare"; the verb "fare" is used to indicate generic actions. For example,
Facciamo matematica is a generic form for Studiamo matematica.
In this sense, the verb "cosare" is simply unused.
For this reason, Google doesn't give a translation for "cosare".
Used as "che cosa?" or "cosa?", it is equivalent to "what?", and its sense is neither of verb nor of noun, because in this context it is an adverb.

  • I do understand that fare is closer to to do as an action (this one is pretty easy because it's also used as fare in English: e.g. I fared well on my exam, I'm faring relatively well with my Italian lessons, Fare thee well, etc.). I'm having a hard time of grasping the concept of a generic verb. I made the connection through Wiktionary though; I'd never heard that prior to reading their entry for cosare. I'm thinking of it as something like to do in #9. As for Che cosa?, I just don't understand why Che? isn't sufficient. Dec 15, 2013 at 21:35
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    @JohnQPublic… I guess it actually is :). Che?, Che cosa? and Cosa? are all equivalent, though Che? is less common than the others at least in spoken language. Literally it would be What thing?. I do not know how this developed, but that's the way it is.
    – MickG
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:46
  • @Andrea in my opinion the cosa in che cosa? is a noun, as I said in the comment. When cosa? is alone, I guess it is a shortening of che cosa?, rather than an adverbial use of cosa.
    – MickG
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:47
  • @JohnQPublic I agree with you (as you can se from my vote). I will only add that "Che?" is certainly used in Tuscany, where I come from. And I trink also in some of our southern regions. I don't think I have ever heard it in Genoa or in Milan.
    – alsa
    Oct 9, 2015 at 18:08

Well, here is my 2 cents:

Cosare is very informal and slightly humorous in tone.

I find if very hard to capture its tone in English, and as a native speaker of Italian I think that "doing stuff with the thing" doesn't quite cut it, although it's pretty close.

The thing is, "cosa" is a noun which is used as a verb, which is somewhat less common in Italian than in English - e.g. we say "cercare su Google" instead of "Google it", "Googlare" still sounds wrong to the native ear - it is pretty much a deliberate act of grammatical sabotage, which is why it's both humorous in tone and low-registry.

It′s hard to give a translation of "cosare" because it basically doesn′t mean anything, it′s essentially a placeholder.

To convey the meaning as well as the tone I think one should rewrite the entire sentence in, well, pretty much this style, using a bit of creativity: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BuffySpeak:

Any of a variety of speech patterns used to indicate that a character, while intelligent, is perhaps too young, too inexperienced and/or insufficiently educated (or simply talks too fast) to properly express the complex ideas and thoughts that they clearly possess.

One of the most obvious elements is a lack of relevant vocabulary, leading to both unconventional adjectival-noun structures like "shooty-gun thing", and incomplete, floundering similes that turn back on themselves in frustration: "That idea went over like... like... like a thing that doesn't go over very well." Metaphorgotten is frequently a side effect. Often includes Oh God, with the Verbing! or similar. And sometimes Name McAdjective is employed.

Notice "lack of relevant vocabulary" (check) and "unconventional structures" (check).

Taking a (perhaps extreme) example from that wiki: "People Who Fight And Stuff For Money And It's Fake" (meaning professional wrestlers) would probably be aptly rendered in Italian as "i tizi muscolosi in costume che si cosano per finta" (~~the ripped, costumed guys who fake-cosano each other).

Hope it helps.


"Cosare" should, in my opinion, used only while joking or in really colloquial situations, otherwhise you will sound really slappy. Never use it while writing.

Only under this conditions, you can use it in place of any verb that can be related with doing something.


"che" and "cosa" are interchangeable and they can also be used both at the same time

A: I broke it!
B: what?

A: l'ho rotto!
B: cosa? (pronoun)

A: l'ho rotto!
B: che? (pronoun) (less common, depends on a zone)

A: l'ho rotto!
B: che cosa? (pronoun + noun)

"cosare" is terrible, and you should totally avoid using it, it doesn't have a real meaning and it doesn't have any rules, it's just a verb that can be used potentially as a substitute of any verb.

  • As far as actually using this verb goes, I'm thinking I'd only use it informally, and I think I'd probably limit it to people my own age or younger. This is a word that I'd use in contexts similar to those for which I'd use slang or colloquial words in English. I'd use it more to sound natural and informal. Dec 15, 2013 at 21:41



(transitive) To do; used in place of a verb one does not know or remember at the moment.

Provo a cosare la spina e vediamo che succede! - I try doing something with the plug and let's see what happens!


Used in informal spoken language only.

source "http://en.wiktionary.org/"

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