Lezioni Italiano

Argomenti

If at First You Don't Succeed: riuscire

Daniela has taken us through different kinds of verbs and how they interact with verbs in the infinitive.

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Here’s a quick overview so you can get up to speed.

 

She started out by explaining modal verbs and other verbs that work like modal verbs. These verbs don’t need any preposition between the conjugated (modal) verb and the verb in the infinitive. See: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito and following. Here’s an example.

Non posso andare al cinema stasera. Devo studiare.
I can’t go to the movies tonight. I have to study.

She then gave us some examples of verbs that take the preposition di (of) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito +preposizione “di”

Ho deciso di andare al cinema da sola. Ho dimenticato di ritirare dei soldi al bancomat.
I decided to go to the movies alone. I forgot to get some money at the ATM machine.

 

In her most recent lessons, she has talked about verbs that take the preposition (to) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione “a”

Se non ho gli occhiali, non riesco a leggere.

If I don't have glasses I can't manage to read.

Caption 19, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione A

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Daniela talks about several verbs in this context but let’s take a closer look at the verb riuscire because, although commonly used in Italian, it can be tricky to translate and has some important nuances.

 

Riuscire means “to succeed.” In the following example, it makes sense to us.

Sono riuscito a convincerlo della mia innocenza.
I succeeded in convincing him of my innocence.

But Daniela’s example above would sound a bit stilted with the verb “to succeed”:

If I don't have my glasses on, I don't succeed in reading.

In English, we would likely use the modal verb “to be able” or “to manage.”

I can’t read without my glasses.
I’m unable to read without my glasses.
I can’t manage to read without my glasses.

Remember this saying when thinking about the verb riuscire: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

 

Non riesco (I can’t) implies that I am trying, but I’m not succeeding. Non posso (I can’t) on the other hand, could mean any number of things having to do with permission, ability, money, etc. So riuscire (to succeed) is a bit more specific than potere (to be able to).

Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.

Are you able to get a shot of it? -Yes.

Caption 22, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 4

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You could use the verb “to succeed” here, but it would sound a bit odd in conversation.

Are you succeeding in getting a shot of it?
Will you succeed in getting a shot of it?

Here’s another example:

...e poi, quando riuscivamo [ad] avere due lire,

...and then, when we succeeded in having two liras [a couple of dollars],

Caption 13, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 15

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We could also say, “when we were able to get a hold of two liras...” or “when we managed to get a hold of two liras...”

 

In the negative, riuscire can be used for saying “I give up.”

Non ci riesco (I am not succeeding in it/I can’t manage it).

The ci here refers to “in it,” or “at it.”

 

But using riuscire in the negative implies that you gave something a try. If you say non posso, we don't know anything about why you can't. Your mother won’t let you? You don’t know how? It’s against your religion? Riuscire, on the other hand, implies you are willing, but unable.

 

Riuscire is one of those verbs you might not use immediately while learning Italian because it’s easier to use potere (to be able to). Understanding how Italians use riuscire is handy, however, and once you are accustomed to hearing and reading it, you will probably start using it, too!

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Marika uses riuscire in her presentation of Yabla. Her advice is sound!

Se invece non ci riesci, non ti preoccupare, ti devi solo allenare.

If you don't succeed, don't worry, you just need to practice.

Caption 36, Yabla-Intro - Marika

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Grammar

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