What to Study This Week: Che stai combinando?

How did you do with our phrase of the week last week? Avete avuto un sacco di cose da fare? I know I did!

This week, continuing with our phrases from Il Commissario Manara: Un morto di troppo on Yabla we have:


Che cosa stai combinando?
What are you up to?


If you were to translate this one literally, it would look something like this:

What are you mixing up?

In English maybe we’d ask you what you were cooking up. You’re planning something – you’re involved in machinations. You get it. You’re up to something. Below are some examples from Reverso:


Non so che cosa sta combinando.
I don’t know what he’s up to.

Ma poi saprà che sto combinando qualcosa.
But then she will know that I’m up to something.

Vai a vedere cosa stanno combinando.
Go see what they’re up to.


Generally, you’ll hear this in the gerund form, as it is above, but the verb combinare, which literally means to combine, mix, blend, match, is sometimes used in other tenses with this meaning to be up to something. Here are a few more examples:


Vediamo cos’hanno combinato di recente.
Let’s see what they’ve been up to lately.

So tutto quello che hai combinato…
I know everything you’ve been up to…

Volete sapere che cosa combinava di recente?
You want to know what he’s been up to lately?

Non ero l’unica a sapere cosa stava combinando.
I wasn’t the only one who knew what he was up to.


A quick note on che cosa: Depending on who’s talking they may drop either the cosa or the che. Don’t let that confuse you. It’s typical of colloquial speech. We do it English a lot, too. All three, che, che cosa, and cosa, in this context, mean what.

Eh, così, che cosa state combinando questa settimana? Studiate italiano? Spero di sì!


Yabla now has 11 full episodes of Il Commissario Manara. With Yabla you will have:

  • verbatim subtitles in Italian
  • access to English subtitles when you need them
  • the ability to turn the subtitles off as you improve

And… this is especially useful… you can slow the video down! Yes! We all know how fast the Italians talk. You know a lot of the words. If you just had a little more time to process them…. Well, now you do!

If you feel your Italian is good enough to watch without Italian (or English) subtitles, this episode of Il Commissario Manara is also available for free from RAI. You will need to fast forward to exactly 48 minutes for the start of Un morto di troppo.



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