Lezioni Italiano


Two Expressions: nel senso and la volta buona

In the new film on Yabla, La Tempesta, a conversation takes place down on the street. Paolo has had his car towed and doesn’t quite know how to get to work. His neighbor comments:

Nel senso, magari è la volta buona che ti fai una bicicletta pure tu.

I mean, maybe this will be the time that even you get yourself a bike.

Captions 4-5, La Tempesta - film - Part 2

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Without spoiling the story, let’s talk about two different expressions occurring in the same sentence. Actually there are three if you count the fact that instead of using the verb prendere (to take, to get) or comprare (to buy), the girl uses the verb fare (to make, to do), which is wrong unless she built her own bicycle and thinks Paolo might, too (extremely unlikely). Fare is a catch-all verb like "to do” in English.


Nel senso literally means “in the sense,” but Italians use it these days much as we use “I mean” in English. Lots of times they don’t even finish the sentence. Nel senso just stands alone, and you have to guess the rest. Nel senso can be likened to cioè (that is, meaning), but technically, nel senso in this context should be followed by che (that) as in the following example.

Conoscendolo in che senso...? Nel senso che in paese le voci girano.

Knowing him in what way...? In the way that in town word gets around.

Captions 48-49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 2

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Without a che (or any other conjunction) following it, it's decidedly less grammatically correct.


La volta buona literally means “the good time.” But volta means several things, as does buono. “Time” also has several connotations. So let's take a closer look.

Here are some examples of how volta is commonly used:

Sarà la volta buona (this time you’ll make it)!

Ancora una volta (one more time, or “once again).

Un'altra volta (one more time, or “once again”).


But, the protagonist of La Tempesta, thinking only of himself, offers this comment in a meeting:

Va bene, delle disavventure tropicali di mio fratello ne parliamo un'altra volta.

All right, about the tropical misadventures of my brother we'll talk about it another time.

Captions 31-32, La Tempesta - film - Part 2

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So, sometimes un altra volta means “one more time,” but sometimes it means “another time: not now.”


From a lesson of Daniela's, there’s an expression with the plural of volta—volte:

A volte tengono la loro "a". OK?

Sometimes retain their "a," OK?

Caption 46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il futuro - Part 4

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A volte is another way of saying qualche volta. They both mean “sometimes.”  A volte can be also translated as “at times.”


We can use una volta in thinking about the future:

Una volta mi piacerebbe andare a Londra. 
Sometime I’d like to go to London.


But it can also mean “once.”

Io ci sono stata una volta.
I went there once.


And we can use it to refer to the past:

C'era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) is a famous film from 1968 by Sergio Leone.

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