Lezioni Italiano

Argomenti

Let's talk about the Italian preposition a

In a previous lesson we talked about the preposition in, and in a subsequent lesson we talked about how we modify the preposition in when a definite article follows it. The preposition a works in a similar way, and sometimes means the same thing as in, but certainly not always. 

Places

A is used to refer to places, both going somewhere and being somewhere. Sound familiar? Yes. Just like in, a can mean "to" (indicating direction to a place) or "at" (indicating being in a place). Consider this short example.

 

OK, ho finito. Vado a casa (OK, I'm done. I'm going home).

Che bello! Finalmente sono a casa (how great! I'm finally home)!

 

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Note that if I say sono in casa, I imply that I am inside the house, whereas if I say sono a casa, it might mean I am at home, but outside in the garden!

 

If we look at the preposition a in the dictionary, there's a long list of meanings, or rather, uses. But in this lesson, we'll look at just a few of the most common ways you need to know how to use this preposition.

 

 

We also say a scuola with no article. This is similar to English.

 

Sono a scuola (I'm at school)

Sto andando a scuola (I'm going to school).

 

Although these locations without an article are exceptions, they are important ones, since most of us have a home and many of us go to school or have kids or friends who go to school. Another perhaps less crucial one is a teatro ("to" or "at the theater").

 

In most other cases regarding places, we do need a definite article after the preposition, as in:

A me e a Vladi piace andare a ballare la sera, uscire con gli amici, andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema e fare molto sport.

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night, going out with our friends, going to see a good film at the movies and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano la sua ragazza

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Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

From Umbria to Tuscany, it's but a short way.

Caption 2, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 4 - Part 6

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Watch this space!

  • In the next lesson we will give you the rundown (with videoclip examples) on how we modify a when followed by a definite article, just as we did with the preposition in. However, even in this lesson, we can't avoid looking at some examples where we do use a definite article.
  •  
  • We will also devote a specific lesson to the prickly topic of prepositions preceding cities, states, countries, and regions. Knowing when to use in and when to use a is a common challenge for those of us learning Italian, even if we have lived in Italy for years and years.

 

But for now, let's look at some other ways we use the preposition a.

Time

We use a to talk about "when" or "until when." 

For example, when we talk about "at what time" something is going to happen, we use a and in this case we use a definite article when talking about "at what time." 

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano Giornata

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Why is it le otto? Isn't that plural? Yes. We use the feminine plural definite article (lebecause there's a "hidden" word: le ore (the hours). Think of a clock striking the hours. So, yes. Time, when considered by the clock, is expressed in the plural, and of course, it takes some getting used to. For more about telling time, see this video from Marika.

 

But if we are talking about noon or midnight, then it's in the singular and there is no article. 

Io mi ricordo che a casa mia si mangiava, allora, il, a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo, la carne, il contorno e la frutta,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the, at noon we'd eat: the first course, meat, vegetable and fruit,

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

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We also use a when we talk about until what time something will go on.

Sì, ma fino a mezzanotte il commissario sono io.

Yes, but until midnight, I'm the commissioner.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

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When we mention the months or a holiday, we use a:

Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse anche a Ferragosto.

It seemed as though there was fog even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 5

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E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme. Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre, perché l'anno dell'u'... l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri. -Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio, e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once. Different installments that are due every semester, because the school year... the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters. -The first that goes from September to January, and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena sistema universitario italiano

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How?

And finally, we use a when we say what something is like, what something is made of, or in what way something is done. We often use "with" for this in English, or we use an adjective. This topic is addressed in the Yabla lesson: A Righe or a Quadretti?

 

We talk about olio di oliva spremuto a freddo (cold-pressed olive oil).

 

In the following example, Monica Bellucci is describing how she goes about her career. Note that since istinto (instinct) starts with a vowel, she adds a d to the a!

 

Ma io non ho una formula, guarda, vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

Well I don't have a formula, look, I go... I go along very much by instinct.

Caption 47, That's Italy Episode 1 - Part 3

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Expressions

Here are two expressions, one with a and one with in, that essentially mean the same thing. You just have to remember which is which. They are worth memorizing.

Ad ogni modo, mi piace tanto.

In any case, I like her a lot.

Caption 36, Adriano la sua ragazza

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In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle, ho deciso di prendere Ulisse,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing, I decided to take Ulisse,

Captions 28-29, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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Looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson. A presto!

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Using the preposition in with a definite article

We recently talked about the preposition in: what it means and how to use it. While we don't always use an article with the noun following it, we often do. And when we do use in with a definite article, we combine the preposition and the article to form what we call una preposizione articolata (an "articled" preposition). 

 

Basically, the n, instead of being at the end of the preposition in, gets moved to the beginning of the word and is followed by an e. After that, the ending will change according to the gender and number of the definite article, as well as whether the word following it starts with a vowel.

 

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Here's the list:

 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

in plus a masculine singular article il

Nel frattempo, riempiamo una pentola d'acqua

In the meantime, we'll fill a pot with water

Caption 21, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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We say nel because it's il frattempo. But here's a tip. Actually, we rarely say il frattempo. Most of the time you will find the noun frattempo together with the preposition nel. It's curious because the noun frattempo already comes from another preposition fra (between) and the noun tempo (time). In English we can say "in the meantime" or "meanwhile," which mean almost the same thing. But we need to translate both of these as nel frattempo or, alternatively, nel mentre, which means the same thing.

 

in plus the masculine singular article lo

Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.

This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.

Captions 16-17, Arianna e Marika Il lavoro di doppiatrice

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We say nello because we say lo studio (the studio). So here, you have to pay attention to the first letter of the word following the preposition. It will start with an S plus a consonant, or a Z, and sometimes Y.

 

"Quanti libri hai nello zaino?

"How many books do you have in your backpack?

Caption 9, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2

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Oppure nello yogurt, la mela sciolta diciam'... ridotta a polpa nello yogurt, sempre sul viso, è idratante.

Or else in some yogurt, an apple dissolved, let's say... reduced to a pulp in some yogurt, again on the face, is moisturising.

Caption 22, Enea Mela - Part 2

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Il tasto "play" e "pause" si trova esattamente nello stesso punto del pannello di controllo.

The "play" and "pause" button is located in exactly the same spot on the control panel.

Captions 15-16, Italian Intro Serena

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in plus the masculine or feminine singular definite article l'

We use l' when the first letter of the word following the article starts with a vowel. We double the L and add an apostrophe.

Nell'ultimo ventennio, i coronavirus si sono imposti all'attenzione del mondo in tre momenti precisi:

In the last twenty years, coronaviruses have caught the attention of the entire world in three precise moments:

Captions 27-29, COVID-19 Domande frequenti - Part 1

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Allora, può intagliare così, può intagliare un pomodoro così, mettere una pentola d'acqua a bollire e tenere i pomodori nell'acqua bollente per dieci minuti.

So, they can make an incision like this, they can cut a notch in a tomato like so, put up a pot of water to boil, and keep the tomatoes in the boiling water for ten minutes.

Captions 10-14, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 2

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in plus the feminine singular article la

È da circa otto minuti che i nostri spaghetti stanno cuocendo nella pentola.

It's been about eight minutes that our spaghetti has been cooking in the pot.

Caption 38, Adriano Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

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in plus the masculine plural definite article i

E due luoghi sacri si trovano proprio nei punti più alti della città:

And two sacred places are found right at the highest points of the city:

Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 10

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in plus the feminine plural definite article le

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi e poi i dodici apostoli sono suddivisi in gruppi di tre.

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids and then, the twelve apostles are divided into groups of three.

Captions 10-13, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

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Olivetti è sempre riuscito nelle cose che ha intrapreso.

Olivetti has always succeeded in the things he has undertaken.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 23

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

In future lessons, we will talk about other common prepositions that follow these same principles.

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Let's talk about the Italian preposition in

One thing that's always tricky when learning a new language is how to use prepositions. We are especially aware of this when we hear Italians speaking English, since they often get prepositions mixed up. 

 

In your own language you rarely get it wrong. You just know. 

What's confusing for English speakers learning Italian, is that in can translate as different prepositions depending on the situation.

 

In can mean "in"

 

Lots of times in means "in." 

Buongiorno. Oggi siamo in Toscana.

Hello. Today we're in Tuscany.

Caption 1, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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OK.  "We're in Tuscany - Siamo in Toscana. That's easy, but look at the title of the video. In cucina. In Italian, there is no article in this case, but in English there is. 

Dov'è Arianna (where is Arianna)?

È in cucina (she's in the kitchen).

 

The kitchen is a place in the house. The same goes for lots of other places.

 

  • Il mio capo è in ufficio (my boss is in the office).
  • C'è qualcuno in bagno (there is someone in the bathroom).
  • Ho messo l'acqua in frigo (I put the water in the fridge).
  • Durante la pandemia, sono stata chiusa in casa (during the pandemic, I was stuck in the house).
  • Ho una cyclette in camera (I have an exercise bike in the bedroom).

 

The following example uses in zona, a great way to say "in the area." You might ask someone on the phone it they are in zona. Then you can meet up! Zone - zona is a nice true cognate, even though we will translate it as "area" in many cases.

Siamo nati qui in zona, in un paese qui vicino di Praia a Mare.

We were born in this area, in the nearby village of Praia a Mare.

Captions 3-4, Gente al Porto di Maratea

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The seasons

We also use in to mean "in" when talking about the seasons:

Probabilmente preferirei una bella vacanza in montagna, allora. Un po' d'aria fresca, i boschi, i ruscelli. -Eh be', qualcosa della montagna piace anche a me. Ad esempio, in autunno, andare a prendere i funghi.

I'd probably rather have a nice vacation in the mountains, then. A bit of fresh air, the woods, streams. -Oh well, I like some things about the mountains too. For example, in autumn, going to get mushrooms.

Captions 21-24, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 2

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We can also note from the previous example that to talk about going on vacation in the mountains, Italians not only leave out the article, they use the singular: "mountain" — montagna. Also, not in the example, Italians use in vacanza to mean "on vacation." They could also say in ferie to mean the same thing.

 

Andiamo in vacanza la settimana prossima.

Were going on vacation next week.

 

In can sometimes mean "at"

Lavora in banca (he works at the bank). 

In can sometimes mean "on"

Sono in spiaggia (I'm on the sand by the waterfront)

In can mean "by"

 

In can mean "by" when we are talking about a means of transportation:

 

A Parigi ci vai in treno o in aereo (are you going to Paris by train or by plane)?

Vado al lavoro in bici (I go to work by bike) ma quando piove vado in macchina (but when it rains I go by car).

 

In can mean "to"

This is where it gets tricky because Italians use in when they are going someplace but they use the same preposition when they are already there!

 

Devo andare in banca (I have to go to the bank).

Non posso parlare al telefono perché sono in banca (I can't talk on the phone because I'm at the bank).

Le donne anziane del villaggio vanno in chiesa tutte le sere (the elderly women of the village go to church every evening).

Quando sono in chiesa, mi copro le spalle (when I am in a church, I cover my shoulders).

 

All the cases above have in common the absence of an article between the preposition in and the noun following it. They mostly have to do with places, seasons, or means of transportation.

 

In followed by an article

But sometimes we do need need an article, for example:

in un attimo (in an instant)

 

When we have an indefinite article following in, both the preposition in (in, at, by, to) and the indefinite article un or una (a) stay separate and intact.

However when in is followed by a definite article in the singular or plural, the in gets combined with the article as follows: 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

Ciao ragazzi e benvenuti nella mia cucina.

Hi guys and welcome to my kitchen.

Caption 1, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 1

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These prepositions merit a lesson of their own, so stay tuned!

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What does salutare actually mean?

In a previous lesson, we talked about how to say hello and goodbye in Italian:  There are formal and informal ways of doing so. And the very first lesson Daniela teaches in her popular series of classroom lessons is about how to greet people: salutare.

 

Oggi impariamo le forme di saluto.

Today we're going to learn ways to greet people.

Caption 5, Corso di italiano con Daniela Salutare - Part 1

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Before looking at the everyday meanings of salutare, we should acknowledge that it does also mean "to salute," as one would salute in the military, or salute the flag. But that is a very small part of the picture!

 

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In addition to knowing how to greet people — a very important thing in Italian — we also use the verb salutare itself, quite often, to talk about greetings and greeting someone, as well as within the greeting or leavetaking itself, but what exactly does it mean?  In fact, it's a little tricky. Just as ciao can mean "hi" or "bye," salutare can mean "to say hello" or "to say goodbye." Let's look at the verb salutare in context to get a better idea of how it's used.

Goodbye

Saying goodbye can be tough.  

È arrivato il momento di salutarci, mi pare, no? -Eh. -Sì.

The time has come to say goodbye [to each other], I think, right? -Yeah. -Yes.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

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The previous example is just one instance of the verb within the segment of the Commissario Manara episode, an episode in which Luca Manara is about to leave his present job and go back to Milan.

 

Here's another little scene from the same episode and segment about saying goodbye. One thing to notice is that while in the previous example, salutarci means "to say goodbye to each other" (reciprocal reflexive), in the example below, salutarci means "to say goodbye to us." That pesky ci again!

Brigadiere, ma che sei venuto a salutarmi? Caterina. -Povero cagnozzo, gli mancherai, eh. Io non posso credere che te ne saresti andato senza salutarci. -No, veramente... sono passato davanti a casa Sua, -Eh. -ma Lei non c'era. Comunque, io sono veramente contento che Lei sia venuta a salutarmi, perché voglio dirLe grazie.

 

Brigadiere, what, did you come to say goodbye to me? Caterina. -Poor doggy, he'll miss you, yeah. I can't believe that you would leave without even saying goodbye to us. -No, actually... I came by your house, -Huh. -and you weren't there. Anyway, I'm very happy that you came to say goodbye to me, because I want to say thank you to you.

Captions 42-47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

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When we want to take our leave, or end a phone call, we can say:

Ti devo salutare (I have to say goodbye, I have to hang up, I have to go).

Ti saluto, vado a casa. (I'll be going. I'm going home).

 

Hello

So salutare often means "to say goodbye." But it also means "to say hello," "to greet."  In the following example, a grandpa is telling his grandchildren to say hello to their grandmother.

 

Quanto mi siete mancati. -Salutate la nonna.

How I've missed you! -Say hello to Grandma.

Caption 9, Un medico in famiglia S3EP1 -Ciao famiglia - Part 8

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In the following example, Olivetti is greeting an old, estranged friend (he says ciao) who pretends not to see him.

Mauro! Ciao, Mauro. Cos'è? Non mi saluti?

Mauro. Hello, Mauro. What's the matter? You're not saying hello to me?

Captions 12-14, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 9

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But in the next example, the people conversing are being formal with each other. The speaker calls the lady signora. And thus, he uses the formal, second-person imperative.

Arrivederci, signora. E mi saluti suo marito, eh. Ci tengo tanto, ah. Me lo saluti tanto, eh?

Goodbye, ma'am. And greet your husband, huh? It means a lot to me. Greet him warmly, huh?

Captions 74-77, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 3

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As we said, Manara is speaking formally. He says me lo saluti (greet him for me) using the imperative. He could also be saying "Give my regards to your husband." But if he were talking to a friend, he could put this all in one single word including two pronouns stuck to the verb. Saluta (greet) + me (for me) lo (him) / la (her).

 

Salutamelo. 

 

Salutamela.

 

The noun form il saluto

 

In some contexts, (and as we saw in the very first video example), we use the noun form il saluto or un saluto (a greeting, a salutation) instead of the verb salutare.

Parliamo ora dei saluti informali.

Let's now talk about informal greetings.

Caption 24, Marika spiega Saluti verbali e a gesti

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In the following example, we see a typical way of saying, "I won't ever talk to you again." But Italians give it a different twist. They say they are going to "take away" "saying hello," as in, "I'm not even going to greet you!" The verb is togliere (to remove).

La chiamo e gli [sic: le] dico che non ci vado. Ch'aggia fa' [napoletano: che devo fare]? -Fallo e ti tolgo il saluto.

I'll call her and tell her I'm not going. What can I do? -You do that and I won't talk to you anymore.

Captions 36-38, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 5

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Un saluto or saluti is what you might write on a postcard while you're on vacation somewhere. It's often in the plural:

 

Ciao vecchio. Saluti da Rio, Max.

Hi, old timer. Greetings from Rio, Max.

Caption 40, La Ladra Ep. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 7

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Salutare can also be interpreted to mean "to give one's regards to" so we often see saluti at the end of a short business email.

 

It can appear by itself or be embellished as follows:

Distinti saluti ([best] regards)

Cordiali saluti (kind regards)

 

That's it for this lesson, and we'll see you soon. A presto.

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Bilancio or Bilancia?

This business of gender in Italian can be so tricky for non-native speakers. When we hear a word, we don't always pay attention to the ending of a noun. It can easily get lost, so when we then have to actually say the word, for example, when looking for something in a shop, the doubt surges up. Which is it: a or o? So yes, we basically know the word, but the gender, and thus, the ending, escapes us. It's a great reason to learn a noun with its article, as we try to help you do in our Yabla vocabulary reviews at the end of our videos.

 

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Alas, even people who have been living in Italy for years and years still have these doubts from time to time and get it wrong sometimes.

 

Let's look at one such word, or rather two. Because the same word with a different ending can mean something quite different. At the same time, we can usually find a connection between the two words through its root, or through the verb the noun came from, and that's always kind of fun (for us nerdy-type learners among us).

 

I go into a shop to buy a new bathroom scale. Is it un bilancio or una bilancia????? There's that embarrassing moment when you can't remember which it is. At that moment, you desperately try a workaround, using a different word like una cosa per pesarsi (something for weighing oneself). In fact, we can also call a bathroom scale a pesapersone (which luckily, can be either masculine or feminine!).

 

To get to the root of a word, which can sometimes help us understand it, we look to Latin, the source of most Italian words. We often look to the verb, but it turns out that in this case, the noun came first. 

 

We have the late Latin noun "bilanx," made up of "bi-," meaning "two" and "lanx" meaning "plate." Picture an old fashioned type of scale that is made up of precisely that: two suspended plates on which to place the weights and the items you want to weigh.

 

With this image, you can remember the feminine goddess of justice, holding up the scale. And that can help you remember that the word for scale is la bilancia and it's feminine.

La bilancia

Prego, alla bilancia. Bene, abbiamo finito. Rivestitevi.

Please, on the scale. Good, we're done. Get dressed again.

Captions 11-12, La Tempesta film - Part 19

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Certainly, Italians get on a bathroom scale just as often as anyone, but they also use a little scale in the kitchen, to weigh items like la pasta, la farina (flour), lo zucchero (sugar), il riso (rice), etc.

Bilanciare

From the noun la bilancia, we derive the verb bilanciare (to balance). You can balance the books or accounts, or you can balance the weights on an old-fashioned mechanical scale. The following example is from an explanation of the economy with the board game Monopoly as a model. It's describing the role of the Bank.

Cioè, immette liquidità nella partita per bilanciare la sfortuna dei giocatori o semplicemente l'eventuale mancanza di contante.

That is, it issues liquidity into the game to balance the misfortunes of the players, or simply the potential lack of cash.

Captions 26-27, l'Economia Spiegata Facile Perché le banche ci prestano i soldi?

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Bilanciare also has a reflexive form bilanciarsi. In this case it's intransitive. You might use this form if you are walking a tightrope, or carrying packages.

Il bilancio

If it's about money, you are probably looking for the masculine il bilancio. It can mean the budget, the balancing of the budget, or the accounts.

This example is about cooking the books. 

Che cosa ha fatto? Che cosa non ha fatto? Fallimento, falso in bilancio, bancarotta fraudolenta,

What did he do? What didn't he do? Bankruptcy, tampering with the books, fraudulent bankruptcy,

Captions 63-64, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 10

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Here are some common phrases with bilancio, which is used a bit differently from English.

fare il bilancio, chiudere il bilancio (to draw up the balance sheet)
far quadrare il bilancio (to balance the books)
chiudere il bilancio in attivo/passivo (to make a profit/loss)
fare il bilancio della situazione (fig) (to assess the situation)

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

This lesson is dedicated to an old friend who had trouble with bilancia and bilancio. Are there words you have trouble remembering? Words that change meanings between masculine and feminine? The next lesson could be dedicated to you! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com. 

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L'estate (Summertime)

There are a lot of things to do in the summer, but Italians talk about them a bit differently than English speakers do. The word we will hear all the time in Italy, at least if we're within a two hour drive from the coast, is il mare.

Il mare — the beach

As you can see from the following example, we talk about the beach, because for the most part, we have sandy beaches. But Italy, being a peninsula (penisola in Italian) is surrounded on three coasts by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, so it's a vital part of the country itself. The sea has different names depending on what part of Italy it touches on. 

 

Infatti, io e Giorgia siamo andate insieme al mare.

In fact, Giorgia and I went to the beach together.

Caption 21, Francesca e Marika Il verbo andare coniugazione

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

For more vocabulary about the beach, check out these videos: 

This one is about a beach very close to Pisa, something to keep in mind if you visit Pisa in the summer.

In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3

 

Finalmente siamo arrivati al mare. [Marina di Pisa]

We've finally arrived at the seaside. [Marina di Pisa]

Caption 1, In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3

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Here's a wonderful series about the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. They are breathtakingly beautiful and well worth a visit. If you can't visit, watch the video!

https://italian.yabla.com/videos.php?program_id=1680

La località isolata e selvaggia di grande bellezza naturale, si può raggiungere solo via mare.

The wild and isolated village, with its great natural beauty, is only reachable by sea.

Caption 11, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 8

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But let's say you like to swim, but in a pool rather than in the sea. 

Fare nuoto — to swim 

When you go to a pool regularly, to swim laps, then you can say faccio nuoto (I'm a swimmer, I swim): In the following example, Annamaria Mazzetti trains for Olympic triathlons. 

Facciamo nuoto, bici, corsa tutti i giorni.

We swim, cycle, and run every day.

Caption 14, Le Olimpiadi 2012 Annamaria Mazzetti

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But let's say you want to go kayaking (andare in canoa), the instructor will ask you:

Sai nuotare?

Do you know how to swim?

Caption 68, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 11

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If not, they will give you a life jacket or life preserver (un salvagente).

Fare il bagno — to go swimming (or splashing in the waves)

But let's say you're at the beach and you just want to go in the water and play in the waves. It sounds strange to us, because many of us have learned that bagno means bathroom...

noi amici, trascorriamo il tempo giocando, oppure nelle giornate estive facciamo il bagno e... invece, in quelle invernali veniamo qui per chiacchierare,

we friends pass the time playing, or else, on summer days we go swimming and... and on winter ones we come here to talk,

Captions 16-18, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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So if someone asks you: "Facciamo il bagno?" you will know they want you to go in the water at the beach or at the pool (in piscina).

Il Caldo  – the Heat

Finally, one thing Italians say all the time during the summer is:

Ah, che caldo!

Oh, it's so hot!

Caption 1, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 1

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Caldo is an adjective meaning "hot", but also a noun meaning "heat": il caldo.

 

Enjoy your summer, or looking forward to summer, depending on where you are.

 

 

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Diritto, Dritto, and Dritta

In a previous lesson, we looked at some Italian words that have to do with "right": retto and its feminine form retta. We mentioned that there are other words that can mean "right" and so in this lesson, we will look at two more: diritto, dritto. Sometimes they mean "right" and sometimes they don't, but they are very good words to know! 

 

If we look at the dictionary entry for dritto, we also find diritto, so they are very closely related and can often be used interchangeably. And sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is saying one or the other. But there are cases where you can't swap them. 

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Diritto as a noun

When you have rights (or not), then you use diritto as a masculine noun. Dritto won't work in this case!

Mi dice con che diritto ha fermato Stefano?

Will you tell what right you had to detain Stefano?

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 14

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As in English, we can talk about rights in general: equal rights, civil rights, etc., thus using the plural.

Anch'io ho i miei diritti e la mia dignità di lavoratore.

I also have my rights and my dignity as a worker.

Caption 6, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 9

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While a single law is una legge, law in general is referred to as diritto or giurisprudenza. Here, too, dritto won't do.

Mi sono appena iscritto alla facolta di Diritto.

I'm just enrolled in Law school.

 

Dritta as a noun

Although dritta as a noun almost surely derives from the verb dirigere, it has become a colloquial but widely used feminine noun in itself. In this case, someone is heading you in the right direzione (direction) by giving you some good advice or a tip. Diritta doesn't work here.

 

Gli ho solamente dato qualche dritta su come tenere pulito il lastricato dalla gramigna. -Ah!

I just gave him a few tips on how to keep the flagstones free of weeds. -Ah.

Captions 53-54, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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Further noun definitions of dritto and dritta.

 

We can use the noun form dritto/dritta to describe someone who is sly, a smooth operator.

 

La dritta can also indicate the right-[hand] side, the one used to direct (dirigere). On a ship, it's the starboard side. On a medal il dritto is the "front" side. In knitting, dritto is a plain stitch.

 

Dritto as an adverb

 

Just as with "right" in English, diritto can be either an adjective or a noun, but it can also be an adverb. 

 

One thing a parent might tell a child is:

 

Valentina, sta dritta.

Valentina, stand up straight.

Caption 10, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 14

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As we found in the lesson on retto, "straight" and "right" are close cousins in English. Think of the word "upright."

 

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Giving Directions

One way we use the adverb dritto or diritto is when we give directions, so this is super important. Whether you say diritto or dritto, people will understand you just fine.

 

Here, Daniela is teaching us about giving directions.

OK? Allora, andare a destra, andare a sinistra, andare dritto, andare sempre dritto, andare tutto dritto.

OK? So, "to go to the right," "to go to the left," "to go straight," "to go straight ahead." "to go straight ahead."

Captions 53-54, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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Here's an expression we have seen several times in Yabla videos, used in association with former criminals, wayward policemen, or with kids.  

 

In the following example, dritto describes the way you draw lines--you draw them straight. You behave.

"Rigare dritto" vuol dire comportarsi bene.

"To toe the line" [to make a straight line] means "to behave."

Caption 14, Marika commenta -La Ladra Espressioni idiomatiche - Part 1

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Check out Marika's video where she says a bit more about the expression rigare dritto or filare dritto

 

In the following example, we could also say the shot went right to the heart. 

Un colpo di pistola dritto al cuore a distanza ravvicinata, ma...

A gunshot direct to the heart at close range, but...

Caption 16, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 21

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There is certainly more to say about these fascinating and important words, but your head must be full by now. Keep your eyes and ears open as you watch Yabla videos. These words will be peppered all through them. Let us know your questions and doubts, and we'll get back to you. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Unico: What does it really mean?

Now that we have talked about uno, here's another related word that's handy to know. It's a word you can guess one meaning of because it looks similar to an English word you know.

 

Oggi Matera è un sito unico al mondo...

Today, Matera is a site that's unique in the world...

Caption 46, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 11

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UNIQUE

So when you want to say something is unique, now you know how. Don't forget that the adjective unico has to agree with its noun. You have 4 possible endings to choose from: unico, unica, unici, uniche.

 

One way Italians like to use unico is to give someone a certain kind of compliment (which can be ironic, too). 

 

Augusto, sei unico.

Augusto, you're one of a kind.

Caption 34, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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Again, if you are saying this to a girl or woman, you will want to use unica

Maria, sei unica!

Maria, you're special!

 

MOST COMMON

But the main way Italians use the word unico is to mean "only."  

È l'unico modo che ho per sdebitarmi.

It's the only way I have to settle my debt.

Caption 25, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Questa scuola è l'unica cosa che ho.

This school is the only thing I have.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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E saremo gli unici al mondo ad avere qualcosa di simile.

And we'll be the only ones in the world to have something like this.

Caption 18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19

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Tutte le volte che veniva a pregare per le uniche persone che amava.

Every time she came to pray for the only people she loved.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 10

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SPECIAL MEANINGS

If you travel to Italy and go clothes shopping, here's something you will definitely see on the racks or on a label.

taglia unica (one size fits all).

The noun La taglia comes from the verb tagliare (to cut).  

 

The other very important expression with unico is what you might see while driving your macchina a noleggio (rental car).

una strada a senso unico (a one way street)

 

People also just call a one way street: 

un senso unico (a one way street)

 

In these last two examples, we could say that unico stands for "one." The important thing is to understand what it means in the situation. You don't want to drive the wrong way down a road!

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Uno: a Number, an Article, and More

In English, we have the pronoun "one" and the number "one." They both refer to something single but do not mean exactly the same thing. We have a similar phenomenon in Italian, but it goes a step further. This lesson will explore the word uno in various contexts, and since this will take us to the subject of "indefinite articles," we'll take the opportunity to look at those, too!

Number

Uno (one) can be the number "one":

Adesso proveremo noi insieme un passo base di Tango. Uno, due, tre.

Now, together, we'll try out the basic steps of the Tango. One, two, three.

Captions 38-39, Adriano balla il Tango Argentino

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We can use uno as an adjective when we are talking about "how many?" One. 

Ho trovato solo uno stivale. L'altro l'ho perso (I found only one boot. I lost the other one).

 

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Indefinite article

Uno is an indefinite article, "a", used only when followed by a Z or by an S + a consonant:*

Uno scontrino, perché? Perché la parola inizia per s più consonante.

"Uno scontrino." Why? Because the word starts with "s" plus a consonant.

Captions 55-56, Corso di italiano con Daniela l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 2

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Uno scolapasta.

A colander.

Caption 27, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 2

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Other forms of the indefinite article

When the masculine word following the article begins with a vowel or single consonant (excluding Z) it's un.

Quello che è successo è un segnale.

What happened is a sign.

Caption 9, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 21

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This is the most common masculine indefinite article and as we mentioned above, it remains the same even when it comes before a vowel (no apostrophe).

Stiamo cercando un aviatore americano.

We're looking for an American pilot.

Caption 6, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 5

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When this article comes before a feminine noun (or the adjective that describes it), it's una.

Hai una bellissima voce.

You have a very beautiful voice.

Caption 9, Adriano Fiaba - Part 2

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If the feminine indefinite article una comes before a word that starts with a vowel, it becomes un'  so as not to break the flow.

Magari sarà per un'altra volta.

Perhaps, another time.

Caption 7, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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A Pronoun 

Here, instead of saying give me una borsa (a bag), Eva just says give me one of them.

Dai, dammene una. -No, no, so' [romanesco: sono] abituata.

Come on, give me one of them. -No, no, I'm used to it.

Caption 6, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 5

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Attenzione! In order to speak correctly, you have to know the gender of the noun you are replacing!

 

But uno can also mean the pronoun "someone." 

Allora, innanzitutto, quando uno studia a uni'... a una università, eh, per esempio in Italia, eh, a Firenze...

So, first of all, when someone studies at a uni... at a university, uh, for example, in Italy, uh, in Florence...

Captions 17-18, Arianna e Marika Il Progetto Erasmus - Part 1

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Uno quando ha un talento, lo deve coltivare,

When someone has talent, he has to cultivate it,

Caption 73, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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Generally speaking, the masculine form is used to mean "someone," however, if you want to specify that that someone is a female, then una can serve the same purpose.

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For English speakers, getting the article right in Italian can be confusing, especially since in many cases, you have to know the gender of the noun you are using the article with and that can be daunting, too!

 

Translator's pitfall:

When translating, we often have to think twice. Does uno/un/una mean "one" or "a"? Since it's the same word in Italian, it's not always clear!

Tip

Doing the Scribe exercises at the end of the videos you watch can be a great way to learn how to use the articles — You ask yourself, "When do I use the apostrophe? And when not?" You'll make plenty of mistakes, but little by little it will sink in. 

 

If you want more lessons about using articles, let us know at newsletter@yabla.com.

 

*Here are some of the video lessons that might be helpful for learning about using indefinite articles (called articoli indeterminativi).

 

Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 1

Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 2

Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 3

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How to fix things in Italian part 3

We've talked about two words to use when we need something fixed: sistemare and riparare. Here's another: accommodare. This verb looks a lot like the English verb to accommodate and while they both come from the same Latin word "accomodare" they are not true cognates.

 

Accomodare

Questa bici è vecchia ma l'ho fatta accommodare da un amico esperto e sembra nuova.

This bike is old, but I had it fixed up by a friend who's an expert, and it's just like new.

 

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It could be that the verb accomodare is used less frequently than some others to mean "to repair" but it's good to know it exists, as you might hear it and get confused if you hadn't read this lesson!

 

When getting something repaired, it's common to use the verb fare (to make, to do) and the infinitive form of the verb accomodare as in our example above: fare accomodare (to get repaired). Let's keep in mind that used this way, accomodare is a transitive verb, in other words, it takes a direct object.

 

As with sistemare, accomodare can be used to mean to tidy up, to arrange, as in getting a bedroom ready for someone. 

Ho accommodato la stanza dove dormirai.

I got the room where you'll be sleeping ready for you.

 

Accomodarsi

As with many verbs, there is a reflexive form of accomodare, and in this case, it has come to mean something completely different from the normal verb. Here, we can also see a connection with the adjective comodo (comfortable, at ease). 

 

This verb is very important when someone invites you into their house. Of course, when you enter, it is always polite to say permesso. You're asking permission to come in. 

Con permesso? Permesso?

May I come in? May I come in?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 10

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One answer you might get is this, especially if you know the person well: 

Posso? -Vieni. Accomodati. Ti ho portato i prospetti che mi avevi chiesto.

May I? -Come in. Have a seat. I brought the forecasts you had asked me for.

Captions 19-20, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 14

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In the example above, the reflexive accomodarsi is used in the second person singular imperative. It can mean "Have a seat" but can also mean, "Make yourself comfortable," "Get yourself settled." 

 

If you are staying with someone, perhaps they will show you to your room. They might say:

Ti faccio accomodare qui.

You can get settled in here. 

 

 The same goes for when you have dinner. 

Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena, li faccio accomodare qui, su [sic: a] questo tavolo.

If I have guests for lunch or for dinner, I have them sit here, on [sic, at] this table.

Captions 34-36, Marika spiega Il salone

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Accomodarsi is used in the polite form as well, especially in offices, and is one way of inviting you in, but can also mean "please have a seat." In the following example, it's combined with venga  — the polite singular imperative form of venire (to come).

Commissario, c'è la signora Fello. Signora Fello, venga. -Permesso? -Venga, si accomodi.

Chief, Missus Fello is here. Missus Fello, come in. -May I? -Come in, have a seat.

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 3

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If you read our lessons regularly, you might have come across a lesson about the adjective comodo, which has a couple of different meanings. The lesson also discusses accomodarsi briefly, so check it out here.

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Using accomodarsi in sentences can be challenging, but it's important to have the verb comfortably in your vocabulary toolbox. So if you have questions such as "How do I say __________ in Italian," we are here to help! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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La bicicletta

In some parts of the world, la bicicletta (the bicycle) has gained popularity lately because of the coronavirus. Some people like to avoid i mezzi pubblici  (public transportation) and have begun opting for the bike. In Italy, bicycles have always been hugely popular, and la bicicletta is known affectionately as la bici. On weekends, you will see swarms of cyclists on country roads, so be careful if you're driving!

 

Per visitare al meglio il centro città di Lucca, ho deciso di prendere una bicicletta a noleggio. In questo modo, posso girare attraverso le vie del centro e addirittura pedalare sulle mura antiche.

To best see the city center of Lucca, I decided to rent a bicycle. That way, I can go around on the streets of the center and even pedal on the old walls.

Captions 13-16, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 3

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Curiously, the preposition used for saying "by bike" or "on the bike" is in (in), as we see in the following example.

Ti prometto che vado a scuola in bici. OK?

I promise I'll go to school by bike. OK?

Caption 54, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 4

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Il ciclismo (cycling) is also an excellent way to get exercise while being out in the fresh air and maintaining a certain distance from other people, so there's been a bit of a boom in recent months. 

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Let's take a look at some of the vocabulary that can be useful when talking about bikes.

Kinds of bikes

The kind of bike that an older person would ride just to get around town, a bike that has just one gear, is called una bici olandese. Olandese means "Dutch — from Holland," and describes the kind of bike that works well on flat terrain (as in Holland), not hills. We'd probably describe this kind of bike as a clunker. Maybe it's been in the family for years. It's pesante (heavy), robusta (sturdy), there are parafanghi (fenders), and even a chain guard, so you don't get grease on your clothes while you're riding your bike to work. These bicycles usually have un cestino (a basket) and un portapacchi (a rack) on the back.

This is the kind of bike you would normally rent to get around a city, although these days, regular bikes have more gears and are more fun to ride. Cities can be a little hilly, so gears really help! When the bike has a comfortable seat and handlebars, but five or so gears so that you can do the hills and build up some speed on level terrain or descents, it's called a city bike, which needs no translation.

 

Now we get to bicycles that are made for appassionati di ciclismo (bike lovers), for people who like to ride for fun or sport.

 

Here, too, Italians have taken over the English term and call a mountain bike la mountain bike. So that's easy! These bikes are hugely popular with just about everyone, and can go everywhere, from normal roads to strade bianche (unpaved roads), strade sterrate (dirt roads), and ghiaia (gravel). People take them to the beach, too. They have a special kind of manubrio (handlebars) with il cambio (the gear shift) right there so you can switch gears without taking your hands off the handlebars. 

 

Then we have road bikes: These are usually called bici da corsa because they are streamlined, made for going fast and are basically the kind of bike they use in races. They have curved handlebars that allow you to be aerodynamically positioned. These bikes have evolved over the years, but the basic design has remained the same.

Parts of a bicycle

Here are some of the words you might need when talking about bikes:

Nouns:

la sella (the saddle, the seat)
i parafanghi (the fenders)
il campanello the bell)
il manubrio (the handlebars)
il freno (the brake)
la ruota (the wheel)
la gomma (the tire)
i pedali (the pedals)
la catena (the chain)
la pompa (the pump) 
la camera d’aria (the tube) 

il cestino (the basket)

il portapacchi (the rack)

l’ingranaggio (the gear)

il cambio (the gearshifters)

i raggi (the spokes)

il cavalletto (the kickstand)

il gruppo* (the groupset) Note: the Italian word il gruppo means "the group" and has come to mean "groupset" — the mechanical parts of a bicycle. It's used in both Italian and English.

 

Verbs:

 

forare (to get a flat tire)

frenare (to brake)

salire (to get on)

scendere (to get off)

 

Other related words and phrases:

 

il ciclista (the cyclist)

noleggiare (to rent)

biciclette a noleggio (rental bikes)

il lucchetto (the lock)

alzare/abbassare la sella (to raise or lower the seat)

Quanto costa noleggiare una bici per un'ora (how much does it cost to rent a bike for an hour)?

 

Praticamente tutti i punti sono forniti di negozi per noleggiare le biciclette.

Pretty much all these points are equipped with shops for renting bicycles...

Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 1

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Let's look quickly at the verb noleggiare and its related noun il noleggio. Both of these words work when talking about renting a bike: noleggiare or prendere a noleggio. You might hear some people use another word for "rent" — affittare or prendere in aftitto. The meaning is the same, but affittare is used for things like an apartment or house, while noleggiare is used more for movable things. Affittare is never wrong, however, just less common in this context.

Infatti, ha affittato due biciclette, e così, andate in giro per la città.

In fact, he's rented two bicycles, and that way, you go around the city.

Captions 34-35, Marika spiega I veicoli

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We hope this lesson will be helpful to you next time you travel to Italy, for either work or pleasure. 

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Living Together: la convivenza

Some languages use one word to say something, another might need 2 or more to say the same thing. In the case of "living together," Italian has a word that sums it up nicely: la convivenza as a noun, or convivere as a verb. In modern English, we call it "living together," but a more official but perhaps outdated noun would be "cohabitation."  The question comes up in the TV movie Sposami, where a young couple is having trouble planning their marriage in a way that will satisfy both sets of parents.

La convivenza as opposed to marriage

 

Perché non pensi a una bella convivenza, eh? Dai!

Why not think about just living together, huh? Come on!

Caption 58, Sposami EP 1 - Part 18

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Taking apart this verb and noun makes it easy to understand:

vivere (to live) + con (with) = convivere (to live with, to live together)

 

Convivere is not always about people living together

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The verb convivere is used to mean "to coexist." So not necessarily "together," but at the same time, in the same space.

Ora, i resti dell'antico tempio e della primitiva cattedrale sono incastonati all'interno e all'esterno: elementi pagani e cristiani che si fondono, convivono...

Now, the remains of the ancient temple and the early cathedral are built-in on the inside and the outside: pagan and Christian elements that fuse together, that coexist...

Captions 9-10, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 4

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We also use convivere when we have to bear, endure, tolerate, accept, or live with a situation or condition. Right now people are "living with" the presence of the coronavirus.

Si convive (one lives with it).

Dovremo convivere con il coronavirus per parecchio tempo ancora (we will have to live with the coronavirus for some time yet).

 

Convivente: what kind of word is it? (for grammar nerds)

People who are living together may be called conviventi. It describes the state

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi siamo già conviventi.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we're already living together.

Captions 6-7, La Tempesta film - Part 16

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Conviventi is actually the present participle of convivere. We don't think about the present participle in English much, but it does exist. It is part of the present continuous or progressive tense and ends in "-ing." It looks just like a gerund but works differently.

 

We could put the previous example in the present continuous, but we would need a different verb (stare instead of essere, both translating to "to be").

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi stiamo già convivendo.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we are already living together.

 

Here's the difference:

A gerund is a form of a verb used as a noun, whereas a participle is a form of verb used as an adjective or as a verb in conjunction with an auxiliary verb. In English, the present participle has the same form as the gerund, and the difference is in how they are used.

 

Why is this important to know? In English it doesn't matter much--we know how to use these words and we don't much care what they are called. But it can help us understand the Italian present participle, which, unlike English, does have a different form, and often causes confusion for learners.

If you look at a conjugation chart, at the top you will see something like this:

 

convivere
It is conjugated like: vivere
infinite: convivere
gerundio: convivendo
participio presents: convivente
participio passato: convissuto
forma pronominale: (n/a)
 
We recommend reading this online article, just have a good clear idea about what a present participle is in English and how it is used. As Italian learners, we found it helpful for making some connections between the languages.

For those of you following Daniela's lessons, there is one about participles

 

Il participio anche ha due tempi, il presente e il passato. Al presente, il participio è "andante" e al passato sarebbe "andato".

The participle has two different tenses, the present and the past. In the present, the participle is "going" and in the past it would be "gone."

Captions 7-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Modi Indefiniti - Part 2

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

That's it for this lesson. We hope you have learned something useful, and we encourage you to write to us with questions, doubts or ideas. newsletter@yabla.com.

 

 

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How to fix things in Italian part 2

 

In the last lesson, we talked about the generic verb sistemare. Now, let's talk about a verb that is more specific when it comes to repairing things, but which has some surprising additional meanings.

Riparare

This true cognate is an easy word to remember since it is so close to the English verb "to repair." 

Io non ci metto le mani. La mandi a riparare in fabbrica.

I'm not going to touch it. You can send it to the factory to be repaired.

Caption 7, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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Ripara le ruote e le gomme delle automobili, delle biciclette e delle motociclette.

He fixes wheels and tires of cars, bicycles and motorcycles.

Caption 48, Marika spiega Il nome dei negozi - Part 2

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Riparo 

Riparo can be the first person singular of the verb riparare.

Venga, la riprenda. Mi spiace, ma io questa non la riparo.

Come, take it back. I'm sorry, but I'm not repairing this one.

Captions 4-5, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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But il riparo is also a noun. The following example gives us an idea of what it means.

Perché questo luogo è sempre stato in lotta con la sete dei conquistatori: Saraceni, Longobardi, Normanni. Ma è anche un luogo che ha offerto riparo,

Because this place has always been fought over due to the thirst of conquerors: Saracens, Longobards, Normans. But it's also a place that has offered shelter.

Captions 12-14, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 1

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So riparo means "shelter," but what's interesting is that we can also use the verb riparare to mean "to shelter," "to protect." We can also use it reflexively ripararsi to mean "to take refuge." In this case, it's intransitive. This meaning is closely related to that of a similar verb, parare (to protect, to shield, to fend off). 

Uè, però tirate piano, altrimenti non riesco a parare niente.

Hey, kick lightly though, otherwise I can't block anything.

Caption 41, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 8

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As a matter of fact, just as other Italian verbs with the prefix ri often have the same or similar meanings to the verb without the prefix (for example tornareritornare [to return]), sometimes, riparare and parare can mean the same thing. Parare is straightforwardly transitive. 

 

Para as part of a compound noun

 

Para, the third person singular of parare, is often used as part of the kind of compound noun that tells you what something does. 

On a car, we have il parabrezza (the windshield). It fends off the wind.

We have parafanghi (fenders) on bicycles (fango = mud). It fends off the mud.

Un parasole (an awning, a parasol) helps to block the sunlight.

 

Riparare (when it means protection or shielding) is often used in the context of protecting things from the elements — things such as plants, animals, objects, people, houses, camping spots, etc. The preposition of choice is da (from).

L'ombrellone ti ripara dal sole. The beach umbrella protects you from the sun.

 

The following example has to do with an animated elephant who needed to do something in private. The past participle of riparare easily becomes an adjective!

C'era da trovare alla svelta un angolino riparato.

A sheltered corner needed to be found quickly.

Caption 13, Dixieland La magia di Tribo

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Riparare can also mean "to remedy," "to make up for," "to put right." In English, we can use "to repair" in this case, too, but there are other, easier Italian verbs for these nuances.

What we have tried to provide here are the words you will most commonly hear in everyday speech, and the ones you will want to know if you need to choose a spot for a picnic in Tuscany, get your shoes fixed, or find some shelter when out hiking and it starts raining.

 

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Fixing things in Italian part 1

We often need to get things fixed, even if we happen to be on vacation. Things break: shoes, luggage, computers, etc. Let's look at some of the different words Italians use to fix things. 

 

A generic verb: sistemare

 

Sistemare is a great verb because it can be used in so many situations where you might not know a more technical or specific verb to use. It can mean "to make things right," as in sistemare una situazione (to resolve a situation), or "to take care of":

Certo, ma prima però ha il dovere di sistemare suo cugino Pino. E poi c'è il massaro. -Chi? Un vedovo che vive con il figlio nella dependance della fattoria. Andrebbe sistemato anche lui. Andrebbe o va? -Va. Va.

Of course, but first you have the duty of setting up your cousin Pino. And then there is the farmer. -Who? A widower who lives with his son in an outbuilding of the farm. He should get taken care of as well. He should be or he has to be? -He has to be. He has to be.

Captions 51-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

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 Sistemare can mean "to arrange," as in neatening up a room, or putting flowers in a vase:

 

Chiaramente dopo che avrai sistemato i tuoi fiori.

Clearly, after you have taken care of your flowers.

Caption 53, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 4

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Here we have an example using the reflexive form of the verb. It can mean "to settle in" as in the example. It often means "to find a good job" or even "to find a husband/wife." It can also mean "to freshen up."

Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?

Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?

Caption 16, Sposami EP 1 - Part 8

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Sistemare can also be used for large-scale jobs like renovations:

 

 

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno, ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one, they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 15

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Here the passive voice was used perhaps because we don't really know who renovated the piazza. They could have said:

Quando hanno sistemato la piazza... (when they renovated the piazza...)

 

I might have a lawnmower that no longer works. I take it to be repaired. La porto a far sistemare. You ask the repairman,

Mi puoi sistemare questo tosaerba (can you fix this lawnmower)?

 

You go to the hairdresser:

Mi potresti dare una sistemata ai capelli (can you give my hair a trim)?

In this case, you are not asking for a major change. You just want your hair to look nice. And we've turned the verb into a noun, something Italians do all the time!

 

You bring some broken shoes to the calzolaio.

Mi potrebbe sistemare questo paio di scarpe (could you fix this pair of shoes)?

 

There might be more specific words to use in any of these situations, but sistemare is a go-to verb to have in your vocabulary toolbox.

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In future lessons we will look at some other verbs we can use when we want to fix something. Stay tuned for:

accomodare

aggiustare

riparare

mettere a posto

rammendare

ricostruire

 

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Spesso e Volentieri: 2 adverbs that go hand in hand

Let's talk about how we use adverbs in Italian.

 

Adverbs are easy because they don't change according to gender or number, as adjectives do. Knowing a few basic adverbs can help you ask and answer questions in general conversation with strangers or new friends. Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to modify, clarify, qualify, or quantify the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

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Kinds of Adverbs - quick overview

Adverbs can be categorized according to what they describe, or what questions they answer: Read more about Italian adverbs. 

 

avverbi di modo (how?)

avverbi di quantità (how much or many?)

avverbi di luogo (where?)

avverbi di tempo (when, how often?)

A few common adverbs to have at the ready

Here's a list of some of the common adverbs you need to know:

 

  • di solito (usually)
  • spesso (often)
  • mai (never)
  • qualche volta (sometimes)
  • dopo (later, afterwards)
  • dentro (inside)
  • fuori (outside)
  • volentieri (willingly)
  • qui (here)
  • bene (well, fine)

 

Let's concentrate on two adverbs that often go hand in hand, but for now, we'll look at them separately:

Spesso

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids

Captions 10-12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

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Spesso is a great adverb to know. Just tack it on to a verb and you're all set.

 

Vengo spesso in questo posto (I often come to this place).

Non viaggio spesso in treno (I don't often travel by train).

Volentieri

Volentieri is also a wonderful adverb to have in your toolbox. When someone invites you to do something, you can answer with one word: Volentieri! (I'd be happy to, I'd love to). It may be helpful to consider that this adverb comes from the verb volere (to want). We can also translate volentieri as "willingly." For more about volentieri, read this lesson

Spesso e Volentieri

This is an expression you will hear now and then, and it's an Italian favorite. Although we have looked at the two adverbs making up this expression, we might still be perplexed about what it might mean, exactly. "Often and willingly"??? It's not something we say, or not often anyway.

 

Although it can mean "often and willingly," it usually means "more often than not!" So when you are thinking about how to say "more often than not" in Italian, you might be tempted to translate each word: più spesso che non... but you might want to try to resist that temptation. Italians prefer to say spesso e volentieri. So we have two adverbs: one is an adverb of time: spesso = often. The other is an adverb of manner: volentieri = willingly. 

 

In the following example, Marika and Anna are making a wonderful frittata out of leftover spaghetti! Non si butta via niente (nothing gets thrown away)!

 

Tutto si ricicla e, spesso e volentieri, è più saporito, no, il piatto riciclato che quello originale.

Everything gets recycled and, more often than not, the recycled dish — you know? — is tastier than the original one.

Captions 8-10, L'Italia a tavola Frittata di spaghetti - Part 2

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

One thing to keep in mind is that in this case, volentieri doesn't necessarily refer to anyone being willing or glad to do something, although it might. It's that something happens easily, without extra effort: often and easily. In the following example, Daniela is talking about the special past tense, il passato remoto, which has gone out of fashion in many parts of Italy, but is still used, a lot of the time, in the south of Italy.

Se vi piace l'Italia del Sud, quindi Napoli... la Sicilia, la Sardegna, la Puglia, la Calabria, dovete conoscere il passato remoto perché nel sud Italia si parla molto spesso e volentieri al passato remoto.

If you like the south of Italy, in other words: Naples... Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, and Calabria, you should know the remote past because in the south of Italy people speak using, more often than not, the remote past tense.

Captions 21-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il passato remoto - Part 1

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Using spesso e volentieri to express a preference

In the following example, it is a matter of preference and willingness. 

Lavo i panni spesso e volentieri a mano (I often prefer to wash my laundry by hand).

Spesso e volentieri, mia mamma fa la spesa nelle botteghe (my mom often prefers to shop in the small grocery stores).

 

We hope you enjoy using this new expression, and that we have given you some insight into it. Let us know if you have any questions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Torto o Ragione (Wrong or Right)

We looked at the noun torto in a previous lesson. We can say hai torto (you're wrong). But what about when you're right? Being right uses the noun ragione, but let's first take a closer look at this versatile noun and related forms.

 

The reason, the motive

In Italian, la ragione is a partial true cognate. When used to mean "the reason," it makes sense to us because it's a true cognate:

E c'è una ragione molto precisa.

And there is a very precise reason.

Caption 21, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 2

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The verb form:

We also have a verb form: ragionare (to reason, to think, to reflect):

 

Cerchiamo di ragionare con calma.

Let's try to think about this calmly.

Caption 28, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 8

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The adjective form:

We have an adjective, too: ragionevole (reasonable):

Siccome mi sembra anche una persona piuttosto ragionevole, io spero non ci saranno problemi, ecco.

Since you also seem like a rather reasonable person, I hope there won't be any problems, that's it.

Captions 55-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 7

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Being right:

But we also use the noun ragione (without the article) together with the verb avere (to have) to mean "to be right."

avere ragione (to be right) -- literally, it would be "to have right."

 

In Italian, aver ragione has come to mean "to be right." And people use this expression countless times every day, so it's great to have it in your toolbox. The verb you need to conjugate is avere (to have), which is probably one of the first verbs to learn in Italian. Here's the conjugation chart for avere. But you don't need an article for ragione in this case, so it couldn't get much easier than that.  Abbiamo ragione (are we right)?

 

Avevi ragione tu. Gabriele s'era messo nei guai. Gare di cross illegali.

You were right. Gabriele got into trouble. Illegal dirt bike racing.

Captions 18-19, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

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Il cliente ha sempre ragione?

The customer is always right?

Caption 70, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 2

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Sono stufa delle tue promesse. Sono anni che aspetto che lasci tua moglie... -Hai ragione. -e io non... Hai ragione, hai ragione. Va bene.

I'm sick of your promises. I've been waiting for you to leave your wife for years... -You're right. -and I won't... You're right, you're right. All right.

Captions 68-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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"To prove someone right" can be dare ragione

 

Non ti interessa il parere di nessuno. -Ma poi i risultati mi danno ragione.

You're not interested in anyone's opinion. -But afterwards, the results prove me right.

Captions 21-22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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But we can also use dare ragione when we admit or agree that someone else is right. It's just an additional nuance to saying "you're right."

Su questo, ti dò ragione.

About that, I agree you're right

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Tip:

Do a search of ragione on the videos page and you will get plenty of examples in various conjugations and contexts, where ragione might mean "right" and where it might mean "reason." It's a great way to get lots of different examples all at once. Try repeating some of them out loud.

And remember: The trickiest thing to remember is that the verb to use is avere (to have), not essere (to be).

 

We will close with a little expression that's also the title of this lesson:

a torto o a ragione (wrong or right), rimango della mia idea (I'm not changing my mind). 

 

In English, we would start with "right," but you get the idea! 

 

That's it for this lesson, and we hope that when someone else is right, you will be able to tell them so in Italian! If you have questions about this, just write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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How to offer condolences in Italian

One of our Yabla learners has asked about what to say when someone has died, or what to write in a condolence note. There have been so many deaths from the coronvirus that expressing condolences is an important thing to be able to do. 

 

The most important word is condoglianze, from con [with] and doglianza (lament). In other words, you are mourning with the person to whom you express your condolences. You feel their sorrow. The English cognate is a true one, which makes it easy to remember.

 

In Person or on the Phone

In the following example, the condolences are expressed as part of a conversation, and the person talking is not a close friend -- he's a sort of lawyer (and note that in Italian, a person's professional title is often used by itself to address him or her), so the condolences are very basic and quick, but perfectly acceptable and polite. The adjective to know is sentito. This comes from the verb sentire (to feel, to hear, to sense). Sentito can mean "sincere," "heartfelt," or "deep."

 

Buongiorno notaio, piacere. -Condoglianze sentitissime. -Grazie tante, tante grazie.

Hello, Notary, pleased to meet you. -My deepest condolences. -Thanks very much, many thanks.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

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Le mie condoglianze, dottor Del Serio. -Grazie.

My condolences, Doctor Del Serio. -Thank you.

Caption 26, La Tempesta film - Part 13

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So really, just two words were used, and it could have been just one: condoglianze. It's enough, especially when you don't really know the person who passed away.

 

If we're talking to a friend who has just lost a family member, for example, we can use the informal verb fare (to make, to do). You might not know the person who died, but you know that your friend is grieving: 

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze per la perdita di tuo padre/nonno/tua madre/nonna.

I'm sorry for the loss of your father/grandfather/mother/grandmother.

 

You can also keep this short and just say:

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze.

I'm sorry for your loss.

 

More Formally and in Writing

 

But if we want to say more, here's a common way to do it. It employs the verb porgere, to extend, to offer.

This first example is if you are speaking or writing formally to one person you aren't on a first-name basis with.

Le porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I extend my deepest condolences to you.

 

If you are talking or writing to more than one person, say, parents, or a couple, or an entire family, then it's:

Vi porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I offer you my deepest condolences. 

 

You can also leave out mentioning the person:

In questa triste circostanza porgiamo sentite condoglianze.

On this sad occasion, we offer heartfelt condolences.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Alternative terms

Another word people use when sending a condolence note is cordoglio (grief, sorrow, mourning, condolences).

Esprimiamo con grande dolore il nostro cordoglio.

We would like to express, with great sorrow, our condolences.

 

Another important word to know is il lutto (the mourning, the bereavement, the grief). This example describes an ancient Roman sarcophagus of a child.

 

E i due genitori sono affranti, di lato c'è la mamma che sembra ormai avvolta in un dolore profondo, irrecuperabile. E poi c'è il padre. Entrambi hanno il capo coperto con un velo in segno di lutto, non guardano più neanche il bambino.

And the two parents are overcome. At the side there's the mother who by now seems to be shrouded in deep, hopeless sorrow. And then there is the father. Both have their heads covered with a veil as a sign of mourning. They no longer even look at the child.

Captions 37-40, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 6

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You can use lutto in a condolence note:

 

Partecipiamo commossi al vostro lutto.

We take part, emotionally moved, in your grief [we feel/join in your grief].

 

A shop or restaurant, where a family member or employee has died, might have a sign that says:

Chiuso per lutto

Closed for bereavement

 

One more word you might see, for example, on the signs we see around in Italian towns, announcing the death of a citizen, is addolorato (aggrieved, distressed). It comes from the verb addolorare (to sadden) or addolorarsi (to be saddened).

 

Sei confusa, addolorata, ma lo sai che lui ti merita.

You're confused, aggrieved, but you know that he deserves you.

Captions 85-86, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 11

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You can use addolorato in a condolence note:

Sono addolorato per la tua perdita.

I am saddened by your loss.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope you won't need these words, but if you do, they're here. Feel free to send us questions or requests for further information. 

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3 Ways to Get It Wrong in Italian

When you're wrong you're wrong. There are various Italian words connected with being wrong or making a mistake. Let's look at the various ways to be wrong and the nuances that set them apart.

 

The cognate errore (error)

Fare un errore. This works fine when you need a noun. If you have trouble with rolling your r's, this word can be a challenge.

Fai errore dopo errore.

You make mistake after mistake.

Caption 53, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Sbagliare (to make a mistake) is more flexible

The verb sbagliare (to make a mistake) plus reflexive form sbagliarsi (to be mistaken), and its noun form lo sbaglio (the mistake, the error) are very common. 

Io c'entro, c'entro eccome, perché lei è una mia allieva. E se lei sbaglia, vuol dire che anche io ho sbagliato qualcosa con lei.

I'm involved, I'm absolutely involved because she's my student. And if she makes a mistake, it means that I also made a mistake with her.

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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There's a fine line between the normal verb and its reflexive form. One reason for this is that sbagliare as a normal verb can either be transitive or intransitive.

Ho sbagliato strada (I took the wrong route, I went the wrong way).

Ho sbagliato (I made a mistake, I made a wrong move, I did something wrong).

Sbagliare è umano (making mistakes is human).

Tutti sbagliano (everyone makes mistakes).

Piove, o sbaglio (It's raining, or am I mistaken)?

The reflexive form sbagliarsi, tends to be more about being wrong than making a mistake — a bit less active, we could say — and the sentence structure changes as well. The reflexive form is intransitive, so we need a preposition between the verb and the indirect object. As a result, it's a bit more complicated to use. 

Mi sono sbagliato (I was wrong, I was mistaken)

Mi sbaglio o sta piovendo (am I mistaken or is it raining)? 

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In the following example, the preposition is a (to) and rather than "being wrong," it's "going wrong." 

Mi creda, a puntare sul pesce non si sbaglia mai.

Believe me. With fish you can never go wrong.

Caption 2, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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This is a great expression to have in your collection: 

Non si sbaglia mai (one can't go wrong).

Non ti puoi sbagliare (you can't go wrong).

 

As you watch Yabla videos, you will see countless instances of sbagliare, sbagliarsi and lo sbaglio. See if you can sense when people use one or the other. In many cases, there are multiple possibilities. 

Il torto (the wrongdoing, the injustice)

Some of us may recognize the cognate: "tort." When you study law, one course you take is "torts." In English a tort is simply a civil wrong.

 

How to use the Italian noun torto, however, is a different story. 

 

In a recent episode of Sposami, a divorcing couple is forced to get along and work together, even though they can't stand each other. But each of them wants to keep the dog, and therefore they each have to be on their best behavior. They go crying to their divorce lawyer each time the other does something wrong. And in one such conversation, the word torto comes up.

Ugo, cerca di essere collaborativo, se no, tu capisci, mi passi dalla parte del torto.

Ugo, try to be collaborative, otherwise, you understand, you'll end up being in the wrong.

Captions 68-69, Sposami EP 1 - Part 13

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So this is a lawyer talking, but we also use torto or its plural torti in everyday conversation. A son is complaining to his mother, and her boyfriend chimes in:

 

A ma' [mamma], ti prego. Ce tratti come du [romanesco: ci tratti come due] ragazzini! -Va be', non ha tutti i torti. Io alla loro età, nemmeno lo chiedevo più il permesso.

Oh Mom, please. You treat us like a couple of little kids! -Well, he's not totally wrong. At their age, I no longer even asked for permission.

Captions 69-72, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 2

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Here are some other expressions with torti. Remember that we use the verb avere (to have) in this expression. 

Avere torto (to be wrong).

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With all these word choices for making mistakes and being wrong, non ti puoi sbagliare!

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