Italian with Cher
30 Minute Italian
[Italian Lesson] I can't afford that.

[Italian Lesson] I can't afford that.

Non possiamo permetterci una nuova macchina.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m a sucker for a well-targeted Instagram ad. I’m embarrassed to tell you about how many purchases I’ve made over the last few months that are a direct result of scrolling ad infinitum. And while I might want what is targeted at me via ads, that doesn’t always mean that I can afford it. (Now that we’re talking about this, I might need to take a break from the gram 😅)

COMUNQUE - I’m not just here to wax poetic about all of the ways I would like to contribute to capitalism. Rather, I tell you that story to set you up for today’s bite-sized lesson. When you want to talk about affording something in Italian, what’s one verb that you can use?

Let’s say you want to translate this sentence:

“I can’t afford a new apartment in the center of the city because it’s too expensive.”

The verb you’ll need for “to afford” is “permettersi.” 

In Italian, the sentence would be: Non mi posso permettere un appartamento in centro perché è troppo caro. 

“Permettersi” is a reflexive verb. If you need a refresher on how to conjugate those, click here: Present Tense Reflexive Verbs in Italian

Here are a few other examples:

  • Non posso permettermi una nuova borsa da Valentino. - I can’t afford a new Valentino purse.

  • Non possiamo permetterci una nuova macchina. - We can’t afford a new car.

  • Non puoi permetterti di chiedere un altro aumento! - You can’t take the liberty of asking for another pay rise!

In a different meaning, you could use the verb “permettersi” to talk about things you feel you can’t do or don’t want to do, like “Non mi posso permettere di portare questo vestito perché è troppo scollato. - I can’t wear this dress because it’s too low-cut.”

Buono studio!


Note of language love: All of our articles, lessons, and podcast episodes have been edited by a native Italian speaker. This one, in particular, was born and raised in Florence. However, if you find a mistake, let us know! We want these articles to be accurate, accessible, and easy to understand. Reach out directly at or leave a comment. Grazie in anticipo!

Italian with Cher
30 Minute Italian
Boost your confidence in speaking Italian in 30 minutes or less with the 30 Minute Italian Podcast. We cover expressions, sometimes sexy grammar, and culture through personal travel stories and detailed examples.