In its normal form, trattare (to treat) is transitive (meaning it takes an object).

Mi tratta male.   cane-e-gatto                        
He treats me badly.

Followed by the preposition di (about, with, of, from), trattare di (to be about, to deal with, to talk about) is intransitive.

Il libro tratta di come costruire una casa.
The book deals with how to build a house.

If you substitute the verb parlare (to talk, to speak), it’s easier to grasp:

Il libro parla di come costruire una casa.
The book talks about how to build a house.

Trattarsi di is commonly used to answer the question, “What’s it about?” or sometimes, “What is it?” In fact trattarsi di is often used in the question itself:

Di che cosa si tratta?
What does it concern?
What does it deal with? (note the similarity with avere a che fare)
What’s it about?
What is it?

Si tratta di una conferenza sul razzismo.
What it is, is a conference about racism.
It consists in a conference about racism.

When the subject is a generic “it,” we can use trattarsi di.

A good translation is tough to come up with, however, because in English we’d just say:

It’s a conference on racism.

It’s handy to be able to use trattarsi di in a question. When you get a phone call from someone you don’t know, or when strangers come to your house, your first question might be:

Di che cosa si tratta?
What’s this about?

Italian verbs: trattare (to treat)
Tagged on:         
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Pinterest