Lezioni Italiano

Argomenti

The "Otherness" of Altrui

We have recently come to the end of the disturbing but fascinating documentary about Italian Fascism and the Italian language. We hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two about Italian history.

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One important concept put forth in this final segment is that language is an equalizer, allowing us to express ourselves and understand others.

Uguale è chi sa esprimersi e intendere l'espressione altrui.

An equal is one who is able to express himself and understand how others express themselves.

Caption 9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 15

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There’s a curious little word in that caption: altrui. It’s an odd word, not following the usual rules for adjectives. In earlier times, the three famous fourteenth-century Florentine "authors" of the Italian language (Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio) also used it as a pronoun to mean “others.” It was used with various prepositions: di (of), a (to), or con (with).

 

More commonly, altrui is used as a possessive adjective to mean “of others” or “belonging to others/someone else.” So we might say the preposition is built-in. And once you're in the know, it's also easy to use because it doesn’t change according to number or gender. To translate altrui into English, we would most likely use the possessive form with an apostrophe.

 

In the first episode of Commissario Manara, Toscani is looking at his new boss with a bit of envy. His wife calls him on it. 

Toscani, non essere invidioso del posto altrui.

Toscani, don't be jealous of other people's positions.

Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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The meaning of altrui is also fairly easy to guess. In Italian, you can think of the noun or adjective altro-altra-altri (other/others) or think of “altruism” or “altruistic” and you’ll get it! Just remember you don’t need a preposition.

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Further learning:
Check out these examples of sentences with altrui.

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