Okay - Here is the context. I have found it helpful in my quest to speak Italian to think about things I want to say, and then to attempt translations of them. I have been relying heavily on the dictionary, Google Translator (dangerous, but helpful) and something called Reverso-Contexto, which is very helpful, if confusing. (It shows me actual usages of whatever phrase I am using, pronunciation, and (sometimes very wrong) translations.

I decided that I wanted to say "My mouth is fighting back. It is a problem." in re; the difficulty I have in pronouncing some words and phrases in Italian.

My translation, I think, would be as follows; La mia bocca sta contrattaccando. È un problema. BUT - I keep seeing the following treatment Si tratta di un problema.

WHY would I add those extra words? Which version of the sentence most nearly captures the intent of the one I am trying to translate?


I'd say that, in this context, the two forms are equivalent. Your version, "È un problema", is more colloquial than the other, but both are commonly used. È un problema is more direct: generally speaking, when you use it you're not going to provide further explanation on what you're talking about. It's more like a consideration (it is a problem, stop). Si tratta di un problema leaves the question half open: it is generally followed by some words about the problem you're talking about (but this is not a rule).

The verb trattarsi, followed by the preposition di, comes from trattare and is usually translated by the English forms to deal with, to concern, to be about. From the Treccani entry (4):

Molto com. l’espressione impers. trattarsi di ... (e spec. si tratta di ...) per indicare l’oggetto di un discorso, l’essenza di una questione, la vera natura di un fatto, la cosa che più importa in un determinato momento: 1. vi dirò subito di che cosa si tratta; 2. posso sapere anch’io di che si tratta?; 3. devi pensarci tu, perché è del tuo avvenire che si tratta; 4. non si tratta soltanto di te, ma di tutti noi;
[The impersonal expression trattarsi di... (and mainly si tratta di...) is a very common one and is used to illustrate the subject of a speech, the essence of a matter, the real nature of an issue, what matters most in a certain moment: 1. I'll tell you what it is about; 2. May I know what it is about?; 3. You have to take care of it since it concerns your future; 4. It's not only about you, but it concerns all of us.]

Here you may find more examples.

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    Thank you. The added examples link was great, as well. Sometimes, I find it helps if I read a LOT of different examples... It slowly sorts itself out in my brain, apparently. – Msfolly Feb 5 '16 at 16:54
  • @Msfolly glad to be of some help! – mrnld Feb 5 '16 at 16:56

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