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I recently saw this phrase on Facebook, and I got very confused, because shouldn't it be:

Si non ne parla

?

I know that (or at least I was told; correct me if I am wrong) in Italian, you say:

Si non lo sa mai

("One never knows that/it") For example, this could be referring to:

Si non sa mai quando arrivano gli autobus in Italia-->Si non lo sa mai

I was told that you would not say:

Non se lo sa mai

So why can't the same be said for

Non se ne parla

?

Is it because the "si" is used as a reflexive here and not as the English "one" or the German "man"? But if so, what would that phrase mean? Would it mean that the person doesn't talk to himself/herself about something? Moreover, I have tried to look up the verb "parlarsene" and have come up with nothing. Please help; thanks!

  • Welcome to Italian.SE! – egreg Dec 2 '16 at 23:06
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    In spoken language, it simply means "no way" as in "no way I'm doing that", for instance. That is its most common use for this phrase, although litereally it means "we don't talk about it". – n0l4n Dec 3 '16 at 0:07
  • Actually, a literal translation would be more like, “One doesn’t talk about it.” – Tom S. Fox Dec 31 '17 at 20:29
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“Si non ne parla” is ungrammatical. The negation must go before the reflexive pronoun, which is changed into se because followed by another pronoun (ne):

non se ne parla

that is, we/people don't talk about that. It can be non se ne parla nemmeno: not even talk about it.

Similarly, it is non si sa mai, for the same reason.

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  • But then if what you're saying is true, why isn't it "non ce ne parliamo"? – user49558 Dec 2 '16 at 23:08
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    @user49558 Nobody would say “non ce ne parliamo”. – egreg Dec 2 '16 at 23:08
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    @user49558 No, it is a reflexive pronoun, it's the si impersonale. – egreg Dec 2 '16 at 23:11
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    @user49558 You don't use the pronoun when the object is expressed: non si sa mai quando passano gli autobus. – egreg Dec 2 '16 at 23:22
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    @user49558 Here it can be “qui non si sa mai” or also qui non lo si sa mai (colloquial). The form non se lo sa is ungrammatical. – egreg Dec 2 '16 at 23:46
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I recently saw this phrase on Facebook, and I got very confused, because shouldn't it be:

Si non ne parla ?

That sentence is ungrammatical, because Italian clitics always have to immediately precede, or be suffixed to, a verb or the word ecco:

Lo voglio vedere. / Voglio vederlo. — I want to see it.

Guardalo! (informal) / Lo guardi! (formal) — Look at it!

Avendolo trovato, se lo mise in tasca. / Having found it, he put it in his pocket.

Eccolo! — There it is!


I know that (or at least I was told; correct me if I am wrong) in Italian, you say:

Si non lo sa mai

That sentence is incorrect for the same reason. I think what you have been told is that you say, “Non lo si sa mai.” (Though this is rare. You usually just say, “Non si sa mai.”)

Now the question becomes, why do you say, “Non lo si sa mai” (si is in the second position), but, “Non se ne parla” (se is in the first position)?

Simple, because Italian clitics follow a certain order:

  1. mi
  2. gli, le (dative)
  3. vi
  4. ti
  5. ci
  6. reflexive si
  7. lo, la, li, le (accusative)
  8. impersonal si
  9. ne

The order of the clitics

(Patrizia Cordin & Andrea Calabrese, 1988, I pronomi personali, in Grande grammatica italiana di consultazione. Vol 1, p. 589)

As you can see, impersonal si goes before ne, but comes after lo.

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Non se ne parla is an idiomatic form that could be roughly translated as It's out of discussion as in absolutely not.

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As someone replied before me, "Non si sa mai" is a common idiomatic expression which is the equivalent of the English "You never know". Mainly used in colloquial language.

Notice that this sort of idiomatic expressions, of which there are a number in Italian language, usually don't follow a specific grammatical pattern, so they can be somehow an "exception" to the rules. I suggest you to learn them by heart, and focus instead on their usage in context rather than on the grammar.

In these specific expressions the si particle is not used as a reflexive pronoun, but as a non-personal pronoun ("pronome impersonale"), exactly as mann in German or on in French.

Said this, I'm going now to comment your questions:

No. 1

[...] shouldn't it be: "Si non ne parla"?

No. Let's analyze the phrase logically, and let's suppose by absurd that:

  • The subject would be "he/she" (it's implied, since "parla" is a III sing. person verb). (Hypothesys).

There would be a discrepance between the subject, the ne particle and the impersonal pronoun si, because if the subject is "he/she" it is then uncorrect to use a non-personal pronoun; this causes the phrase to sound weird, and to be semantically incorrect.

In other words, your mistake (which is perfectly understandable, as I said at the beginning) is simply logic: you did not negate the proposition properly.

Se ne parla --> Non se ne parla

Where se is exactly the same of si impersonal.

No. 2

I know that (or at least I was told; correct me if I am wrong) in Italian, you say: Si non lo sa mai

It's again a matter of logical analysys of the phrase, as described in question No. 1;

Lo si sa (sempre) ---> Non lo si sa (mai)

Please note that words order in Italian is, sometimes, particulary relevant, especially if you want to sound "natural".

No. 3

I was told that you would not say: Non se lo sa mai, So why can't the same be said for Non se ne parla.

  • Non (negative p.) se (subject, impersonal p.) ne ("of it") parla (predicate, III sing).
  • Non (negation) lo (object) si (subject, impersonal) sa (predicate) mai (adverb).

Same pattern. Note that the pattern Subject --> Predicate --> ... --> Adverb(s) is the standard sentences pattern in Italian.

I hope to have been helpful - and exaustive. Sorry for my English, though!

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