"Si dovrebbero fare i propri compiti da soli"

One should do one’s own homework…

Ciao a tutti. Are we a happy with “dovrebbero” here? I would have thought “dovrebbe” more correct as we’re talking about si and not the compiti.

A dopo… Floria7

Ps. I think it is in Grammar exercises Di or Da?

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This exact sentence is the first in Reverso dictionary for this phrase translation, which I do trust so far. They use “dovrebbero”. Well, they have “da soli” there.


Ciao@barcarolle Ah, da soli might make all the difference. Reverso is very trustworthy, I agree. I’ll wait till it comes round again in Reviews to see if I put da solo by mistake.

Nel frattempo, tanti saluti… Floria7

Ps. My error, mi sabagliavo - it is da soli!


@barcarolle: That’s what I would have said: dovrebbero >> da soli.


I believe the source of confusion here is “si”, meaning “one” usually, but here it has a plural meaning. (I saw it in other sentences). The translation still says “one should do one’s homework by oneself”.

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My eminent grammar book tells me it’s because of compiti, which is in the plural. The book doesn’t say so, but I think you can consider i compiti to be the subject of the sentence.

It might be clearer if you change the word order: “I propri compiti si dovrebbero fare da solo.”


Ciao @morbrorper and @barcarolle Mille grazie per questo. In my compiti for the day I had answered many “Si dovrebbe” questions and that’s where my head took me on this one. Comunque switching the sentence order round makes it a lot clearer. Interesting discussion!

Tanti auguri…!


The original sentence says “da soli” . Floria7 admitted to making a mistake there. Now, does your sentence with the changed order have the same meaning if “da soli” is put in the end? ( I will probably laugh at my question later. Well, I am learning)


I admit I didn’t take that into account, but to me plural da soli doesn’t make much sense, unless it follows from the other plurals.

Update: after looking through the other occurrences of da soli, I’ve changed my mind: I think it can mean that each student should do them alone. It is just being consistent with the rest of the sentence.


I like your update. Do you think this discussion would not exist to begin with if the translation of this sentence were different.( i.e. each student meaning one of many, not “one”?)


If I understand this correctly it is indeed affected by the exercises being plural, even though “one” can still refer to one or more people in general:


The impersonal use of ‘si’ allows us to form sentences without referring to a subject or agent. The idea is that the verb is ‘done’ by ‘la gente’, ‘le persone’, ‘qualcuno’ or ‘uno’, but it doesn’t need to be said.

‘Si’ can be used either with or without a direct object. In the first case the verb is always conjugated following the number and the gender of the object. For example:

In Italia si mangia molta pasta.
In molte scuole si indossano le uniformi.

If there’s no direct object, though, the verb is always conjugated as the 3rd singular person. For example:

In Italia si mangia bene.
A scuola si deve essere attenti durante la lezione.

So the corresponding translation of “one should do their own homework” still stands, it’s just that because the homework is plural that the we get “si dovrebbero … da soli”

Had it just been for example “One should sing alone/by oneself” it would have used 3rd person singular.

Though I have to admit I still find it a bit confusing overall, having never really encountered this construction before, so perhaps I misunderstood, or the above source isn’t an authoritative one.


@sindaco Ciao! Interesting reading. It is a very confusing sentence construction that I haven’t come across in many years of learning, regardless of the lovely da soli:-)

I like your Si mangia and Si deve examples. It’s good to be able to make errors and also discuss. A dopo…


You are probably right, but my understanding of "da soli " in this particular sentence has to do with “si”, not compiti. I could be totally wrong and definitely will take another look at this sentence later with the fresh eye.


Just to let you know that I’ve changed my original solo to soli, as it was annoying me lol :wink:


Yes, the “da soli” according to me also always has to do with the “si”, because the homework doesn’t do itself by itself (unfortunately?) :wink:

It’s just that this source I found said that if there is a direct object associated with the “si”, the verb is conjugated following the number and gender of that object, hence in the case of the homework being plural, we got “dovrebbero” instead of “dovrebbe”.

I guess it then makes sense that the “da soli” follows form (because we already have a sentence with the “si” being plural and the “compiti” being plural), though that has not been explicitly addressed in that particular source. I’ll see if I can find some other sources that perhaps address the full construction explicitly.

However, if you try to imagine the reverse, a sentence where the “si” does take the singular form, with the direct object also in the singular form, I think we would all be agreed that it would be strange to have the “da soli” in the plural form, no? For example “Si sogna un sogno da solo.”, instead of “Si sogna un sogno da soli.”?


This is another surprising instance of the plural (attenti) in a si sentence.

The mystery deepens :wink:

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Sì sì sì sì, è vero:-) unless “attenti” is the imperative (you must pay attention!!)
Isn’t language fun;-D

@sindaco @morbrorper @barcarolle Ah, ho la spiegazione da Piero. Give me a good few minutes and I’ll copy it. Just watching Andy Murray at Wimbles… Allora, the reply from our madrelingua is so good, I will leave it in Italian…

La frase sembra riferita ad un singolo studente: “(lui sottinteso) si (himself) dovrebbe fare i compiti da solo (sempre lui, alone)”. Il soggetto è lui, lo studente, quindi lui si dovrebbe. Ma invece c’è “da soli” quindi le cose cambiano, non è Cosí, il soggetto diventano i compiti, plurale! Quindi “si dovrebbero fare i propri compiti da soli !” Il soggetto diventa “i compiti”, non piú lo studente. Capito la differenza ? (Anni di studio di analisi logica forse sono serviti a qualcosa :-D).

In pratica, dipende dal soggetto: è lo studente che si dovrebbe o sono i compiti che si dovrebbero? Qui però si parla dei compiti, non dello studente: quindi “Si dovrebbero” plurale.

So, “da soli” was indeed the key. What fun we’ve had;-) A dopo… Floria7


I was just reading elsewhere that when the impersonal pronoun is used, if we use an adjective it is always in the plural masculine form

Example given: “Si è stanchi dopo una giornata di lavoro.”

So perhaps in this case “da soli” is treated as an adjective? It seems an adverb.


I would like to see two different translations of two different sentences: 1. the student is the “soggetto” and 2. i compiti being the “soggetto” in the sentence with ,yes, da soli in the end. The English translation of these two sentences can not be the same. My take of “si dovrebbero fare i propri compiti da soli” would be : the homework has to be done by oneself. I am talking about more accurate translation when i compiti is the “soggetto”. I hope my statement is not confusing.

I think you could call it an adverbial expression, but solo is an adjective, so I think the rule applies.