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Italian Language/use of "fare complimenti"


Dear Paolin,

My question is about the following expression:  “fare complimenti”

Will you please tell me if “fare complimenti” means:

“to give congratulations”  
“to congratulate”

Can you also please tell me if the following sentences are correct or not:

Ti faccio complimenti.   = I congratulate you.

Ti faccio i miei complimenti.   = I give you my congratulations.

Thank you



Hello Rich,

the two sentences are correct, but in the first one you must add the determinative article:
"Ti faccio i complimenti".

"Fare i complimenti" means also to praise, to give compliments. If somebody exaggerates with "complimenti" he will become flattering and adulatory (to flatter, "lusingare", "adulare"; those who adulate are "adulatori"). Compliments require the right measure, of course.
To translate "to give congratulations" you can use also a very similar expression: "fare le congratulazioni", "congratularsi".

The expression "fare complimenti", without the article, usually means something different. It indicates a specific behavior, namely that of somebody who politely refuses to accept something, not really because he doesn't want to accept, but because he fears to seem impolite in taking advantage of the giver's kindness.
I personally consider it a quite puzzling behavior: if somebody offers anything to you, that should be because of his free pleasure and will in offering and one should feel free to accept or refuse according to his own free pleasure and will. Anyway, that is only my opinion and that behavior is not uncommon in Italian culture.
That could be very puzzling sometimes, because it requires you to understand if an offer is sincere or if it is simply a courtesy that people is feeling "obliged" to offer. If the offer is sincere, you are expected to accept. If it's only a formal sign of courtesy, then you will instead be expected to politely refuse.
A good trick to understand if you can freely accept or if you should politely refuse is to consider the other person's attitude: it he or she is a very formal person, maybe the offer is only formal; if the other person is more simple and direct, the offer is probably made by heart and sincerely: he or she will be very happy if you accept (and could perceive as rude an eventual refusal).
Whatever it may be, politeness is the universally valid rule to give the right answer, of course.
Regarding the expression "fare complimenti", without the article, to sum up, if somebody refuses an offer just to seem polite the other person could gently insist and could invite the interlocutor not to behave like that: he or she will say "Non fare complimenti" or "Prego, non fare complimenti". It will mean that the person can feel completely free to accept.
These expressions can appear in a typical dialogue with a guest at a dining party:
"Vuoi dell'altra torta?" - "Would you like some more cake?"
"No... grazie..." - "No... thanks..."
"Sei sicuro?  Non fare complimenti " - "Are you sure? Feel free to accept, if you please..."
"Va bene... Allora ne prendo ancora una fettina, grazie..." - "Well... I'll have one more small slice then, please..."

If you need more explanation, as usual... "non fare complimenti " and feel free to ask, then!
Good bye,


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I'm mother tongue; I graduated at Classic Lyceum (100/100), studying classic Italian language and classic Latin and Greek. The 5 years long daily exercise in translation from ancient Latin and Greek to modern Italian taught me to appreciate a correct italian translation and/or text composition. I graduated at University in Law studies and Jurisprudence, learning to appreciate deep differences between a strictly specific and technical language and other styles. I'm currently PhD candidate in Philosophy of Law. I read fiction, classic novels, philosophical books and papers, legal books and papers.

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Italian mother tongue; diploma at Liceo Classico (100/100; year 2001); Laurea at University (110/110 cum laude; year 2008); PhD in Law: Philosophy of Law and Sociology of Law

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