Tirare acqua al proprio mulino is an amazing Italian idiom to learn!

If you heard someone using the expression “tirare acqua al proprio mulino“, understanding its meaning might have been a real challenge.

Sometimes idioms are very figurative and translations don’t help much.

Even though they are a complex part of the language, at Happy Languages we gradually introduce idiomatic expressions to discover some hidden meanings that can turn very useful when interacting with native speakers.

Do you know what does this idiom mean?

Literally, it means “to draw water to your mill”.

In the past, water was an important resource for all those millers who worked with watermill.

So they tried to make water arrive to their mill to be able to work more.

It is as to say that you do something for selfish reasons, pursuing your personal interest no matter what that implies.

In English we could use “have an axe to grind”.

Some examples will help you understand how to use this idiom!

Italian English
I due candidati politici cercano ciascuno di tirare l’acqua al proprio mulino. The two political candidates have their axe to grind.
Luca e Mario hanno iniziato una discussione che è divampata in un acceso dibattito perché entrambi volevano tirare acqua al proprio mulino. Luca and Mario started a casual discussion which flared up into a heated debate because both of them had an axe to grind.
Quando vedo Laura che supporta qualcuno che potrebbe essere un suo rivale, penso che in qualche modo stia tirando acqua al suo mulino. When I see Laura supporting someone who could be her rival, I think that somehow she has an axe to grind.


Do you have another example?

You can refer this idiom to very common situations, so it’s not too complicated!

If you want to learn more Italian idiomatic expressions follow this link.

And don’t forget to check our online resources to learn more!