Essere al verde

Essere al verde in Italian

Essere al verde
To be flat broke

Literal translationTo be in the green
MeaningTo have very little or no money
IPA pronunciation/ˈessere al ˈverde/

Where does this come from? This saying is thought to have originated in the past when special burning candles were used to track time in auctions. A candle would be lit to begin an auction. These candles were special because they had a green base: if the flame reached that point, no one could bid anymore on that auction, and the auction itself was considered closed. Those who didn’t bid were considered poor. That is why the idiom includes the word for green in Italian.

worried woman emptying a wallet

For example, you can say…

Sono completamente al verde. Mi presteresti 20 euro?
I am flat broke. Could you lend me 20 euros?

Mia sorella compra troppe cose e si lamenta di essere al verde.
My sister buys too many things and complains about being broke.


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