Lezioni Italiano

Argomenti

Lessons for topic Grammar

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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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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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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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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A Tricky but Useful Pronominal Verb Volerci

It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.

 

As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!

 

This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.

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Volerci = volere + ci

With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.

 

Ci vuole molta pazienza

You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].

It takes a lot of patience.

A lot of patience is required.

Caption 25, Professioni e mestieri Belle Arti -Tecniche di decorazione - Part 1

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One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural. 

Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?

How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?

How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?

Caption 17, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2

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We can use it in the negative:

Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.

You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.

The article is not necessary in the singular.

Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6

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The Passive Voice can Help 

If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.

 

I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali e ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.

The pine nuts, which are really special, and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.

Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1

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Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or you need."

 

Common Expressions with Volerci

Volerci is very popular in the expression:

 

Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).

That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.

 

Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."

A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla e un numero di magica magia era proprio quel che ci voleva per chiudere in bellezza la festa.

At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing and a number with magical magic was exactly what was needed to conclude the party nicely.

Captions 30-33, Dixieland La magia di Tribo

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Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say,  "How hard can it be?"

Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?

Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè? Vanno munte. Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa. -Sei sicura? -E sì, che ci vuole? L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.

The cows are mooing. -So what? They have to be milked. Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Are you sure? -Yeah, how hard could it be? I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.

Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 11

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one). 

 

If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva!  (that's exactly what I needed!).

 

TIP

We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!

 

In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.

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Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 3

We've been looking at conjugated verbs followed by verbs in the infinitive. Some can be connected directly as we saw in Part 1, some are connected with the preposition a, as we saw in Part 2, and others are connected with the preposition di, which we will look at in this lesson. 

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Verbs that take di before a verb in the infinitive:

Let's start with an example. 

 

Ti ho portato il millefoglie. Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi e poi usciamo, eh?

I brought you a millefeuille. While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready and then we'll leave, huh?

Captions 18-20, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 13

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Finisco is the conjugated verb (finire) and preparare is in the infinitive. We have the formula: conjugated verb + di + verb in the infinitive. Attenzione: The verb preparare is attached to the personal pronoun mi (myself) because in this case, the verb prepararsi is reflexive and means "to get [oneself] ready." 

 

One important verb we use with the preposition di is decidere (to decide).

Anita, per migliorare il suo livello di italiano, ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia, dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.

Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy, where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing with my friends, my family, my relatives, and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.

Captions 36-41, Adriano Adriano e Anita

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There are plenty of important and useful verbs that take the preposition di before the infinitive, and you can find a list here, but here are a few more examples from Yabla videos:

 

Oppure: chiudo l'ombrello, perché ha smesso di piovere.

Or else, “I close the umbrella because it has stopped raining.”

Caption 7, Marika spiega Il verbo chiudere

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Let's remember that although cercare basically means "to look for," "to seek," it also means "to try" or, we could say, "to seek to." We use the preposition di in this case.

 

Quando vai in paese, cerca di scoprire qualcosa di interessante.

When you go into town try to find out something interesting.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 4

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Another great verb is credere, which basically means "to believe," but when it's used in conjunction with a verb in the infinitive, we often translate it with "to think," as in:

 

Ferma! Sta ferma! Dove credi di andare?

Stop! Stand still! Where do you think you're going?

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 15

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In fact, you could say the exact same thing with the verb pensare, which also takes the preposition di before an infinitive. 

Dove pensi di andare?

 

Sperare is another great verb that works the same way, and to close, we'll say:

Speriamo di vedervi presto su Yabla (we hope to see you soon on Yabla)!

 

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Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 2

When we talk about verbs, we distinguish between conjugated verbs and verbs in the infinitive. In Italian, verbs in the infinitive are easily recognizable most of the time because they end in either -are, -ire, or -ere. Exceptions occur when verbs in the infinitive are combined with particelle (particles), when they are reflexive, or when they are truncated. Then, admittedly, they may be harder to recognize.

In this lesson, we are talking about the specific case of when we want to use a conjugated verb followed by a verb in the infinitive. How do we connect them?

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In some cases, we connect them directly

In part 1, we talked about combining a conjugated verb with an infinitive where no preposition is necessary. This typically occurs with the modal verbs potere (to be able to), volere (to want to) e sapere (to know how to, to be able to). Here's an example that can be useful if you are traveling in Italy.

Posso andare in bagno?

May I use (go to) the bathroom?

 

But there are also other, non-modal verbs where we don't need a preposition. See Daniela's series for examples.

Lascia fare a me!

Let me do it!

 

 

In other cases, we need a preposition between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive

If we want to say the same thing we did above with a different verb, we might need a preposition, as in this example:

Permettimi di aiutarti.

Let me help you (allow me to help you).

 

There are two main prepositions we will use to connect a conjugated verb to a verb in the infinitive: di and a. Roughly, di corresponds to "of" or "from," while a corresponds to "to" or "at." These translations are not much help, though. One general rule (with many exceptions) is that verbs of movement use a to connect with a verb in the infinitive. The bottom line is, however, that you basically just have to learn these combinations little by little, by reading, by listening, and (sigh) by being corrected. 

In some cases, the same verb will change its meaning slightly by the use of one preposition or the other.

 

Non penserai mica di andare via senza salutare!

You're not thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, are you?

 

Ci penso io a comprare i biglietti.

I'll take care of buying the tickets.

 

Verbs that take the preposition a before an infinitive

In this lesson, we'll look at some important verbs that need the preposition a.

Here's the formula:

verbo coniugato + preposizione "a" + verbo all’ infinito (conjugated verb + the preposition [to, at] + verb in the infinitive)

 

aiutare (to help)

Per esempio, io ho un amico e lo aiuto a fare qualcosa dove lui ha difficoltà, lo aiuto a riparare la bicicletta, lo accompagno in aeroporto...

For example, I have a friend and I help him in doing something he has difficulty with, I help him repair his bicycle, I take him to the airport...

Captions 28-30, Corso di italiano con Daniela Approfondimento Verbi Modali - Part 2

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cominciare (to begin)

Comincia a fare il nido il povero cucù

The poor cuckoo starts making his nest

Caption 8, Filastrocca Il canto del cucù

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continuare (to continue, to keep on) 

E si continua a pestare.

And you keep on crushing.

Caption 53, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 2

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riuscire (to manage, to succeed, to be able)

Così riesco a seguire meglio la faccia eh... e le labbra di chi sta parlando.

That way, I manage to follow the face better, uh... and the lips of whoever is speaking.

Captions 41-42, Professioni e mestieri il doppiaggio - Part 1

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insegnare (to teach) 

Oggi, ti insegno a cucinare la parmigiana di melanzane.

Today, I'm going to teach you to cook eggplant Parmesan,

Caption 2, Marika spiega La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 1

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andare (to go)

Sì, lo diciamo a tutti e dopo andiamo a ballare. Andiamo anche a ballare.

Yes, we'll tell everyone, and afterwards we'll go dancing. We'll go dancing, too.

Captions 11-12, Serena vita da universitari

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Practice

We've talked about several verbs that take the preposition a before a verb in the infinitive. Why not try forming sentences, either by improvising ad alta voce (out loud) or by writing them down? Take one of these verbs (in any conjugations you can think of) and then find a verb in the infinitive that makes sense.

Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

Mi insegneresti a ballare il tango (would you teach me to dance the tango)?

Non riesco a chiudere questa cerniera (I can't close this zipper).

 

To find charts about verbs and prepositions, here is an excellent reference.

Go to Part 3 where we talk about verbs that take the preposition di.

 

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What are virgolette? How to use punctuation terms in speech

How do we refer to punctuation or use punctuation terms when speaking Italian?

When we start a new paragraph, we say punto e a capo (period, new paragraph). This can happen if we are dictating.

Punto is how we say "full stop" or "period" in Italian.

Capo means "head," and so we are at the head of a new paragraph.

But we also use punto e a capo and similar terms metaphorically in everyday speech. Here's a lesson about that!

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A comma, on the other hand, is una virgola. While a comma works somewhat similarly between English and Italian, there is an important peculiarity to note, as we see in the following example. Instead of a decimal point, Italian employs the virgola (comma). If we look at it numerically, it's like this: English: 5.2 km, Italian: 5,2 km. 

 

Con i suoi cinque virgola due chilometri quadrati, Alicudi è una delle più piccole isole delle Eolie,

With its five point two square kilometers, Alicudi is one of the smallest islands of the Aeolians,

Captions 9-10, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 18

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By the same token, Italian employs the comma in currency: $5.50, but €5,50.

In English we use a comma in writing "one thousand": $1,000.00, but in Italian, a point or period is used. €1.000,00.

It can also be omitted. 1000,00.

 

Virgolette, on the other hand are little commas, and when we turn them upside down, they become quotation marks, or inverted commas.

So, in conversation, we might make air quotes if people can see us talking, but in Italian it's common to say tra virgolette (in quotes, or literally, "between quotation marks"). We can translate this with "quote unquote," or we can sometimes say "so-called" (cosìdetto).

 

...cioè delle costruzioni, tra virgolette temporanee

in other words, quote unquote temporary buildings —

Caption 38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12

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e perché poi erano facili da smontare, tra virgolette,

uh, because they were in any case easy to quote unquote dismantle,

Caption 45, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12

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Versace è nata da un ritorno alla tradizione, tra virgolette,

Versace was created as a, quote unquote, return to tradition,

Caption 13, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 1

 Play Caption

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One more important thing about virgolette: In American English, most punctuation marks go inside quotation marks, but in Italian, they go on the outside. If you pay attention to the captions in Yabla videos, you will see this regularly.

 

Thanks for reading and a presto!

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How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 2

 
As we mentioned in part one, the first thing we need to consider about adjectives is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?

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We said that there are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular, masculine form of the adjective.
 
This lesson will discuss the second type of adjective: the aggettivo neutro (neutral adjective). Neutral adjectives only change according to number (singular or plural). They do not change according to gender. To refresh your memory about positive adjectives, those ending in "o," see the first part of this lesson
 
Adjectives that end in "e" are trickier in one sense, but easier in another. Indeed, with adjectives that end in "e" we don't have to concern ourselves with gender, just number. We have only two types of endings: one for the singular (e), and one for the plural (i).
 
Masculine/feminine + singular = e.
 
Il mare è grande (the sea is big).
La casa è grande (the house is big).

Il talento è un dono enorme. Il talento è... è un dovere morale coltivarlo.

Talent is an enormous gift. Talent is... it's a moral duty to cultivate it.

Captions 75-76, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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Piazza del Popolo è una piazza molto importante di Roma,

Piazza del Popolo is a very important square of Rome,

Caption 1, Anna presenta Piazza del Popolo

 Play Caption
 
 
Masculine/feminine + plural = i.
 
I ragazzi sono tristi. (the boys are sad).
Le ragazze sono tristi. (the girls are sad).
 

...e che invece adesso è una delle parti più eleganti, più signorili della capitale, dove ci sono le case più belle

...and which now though, is one of the most elegant, most exclusive parts of the capital, where there are the most beautiful houses

Captions 4-5, Anna presenta il ghetto ebraico e piazza mattei

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What are some other common Italian adjectives ending in "e?"
 
forte (strong, loud)
verde (green)
giovane (young)
triste (sad)
intelligente (intelligent)
gentile (nice)
semplice (easy, simple)
facile (easy)
felice (happy)
importante (important)
interessante (interesting)
dolce (sweet)
normale (normal)
pesante (heavy)
naturale (natural)
elegante (elegant)
 
Some learners and non-native speakers have trouble using the common Italian adjectives in this second group, especially when using the plural. These need a bit more practice and consideration. The good news is that some of these common adjectives are similar to their English counterparts and therefore easy to guess the meaning of, for instance,  interessanteelegante, normale, and intelligente.
 
Practically speaking:
 
You can now take the common adjectives in the list and apply them to any nouns you can think of. The following examples will get you started. Remember to use both singular and plural nouns, and make sure to say your examples ad alta voce (out loud).
 
Il bambino è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, forte, etc.
La bambina è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, etc.
I bambini sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Le bambine sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Il libro (the book) è interessante, facile, elegante, triste, etc.
I libri sono interessanti, facili, eleganti, tristi, etc.
La serata (the evening out) è stata elegante, pesante, interessante, etc.
Le serate sono state eleganti, pesanti, interessanti, etc.
La lezione (the lesson) era interessante, pesante, importante, etc.
Le lezioni erano interessanti, pesanti, importanti, etc.
 
Exceptions: We also come across plenty of exceptions regarding endings and gender. For example, il pane (the bread) is masculine but ends in "e." Feminine nouns, on the other hand, often end in but not always. La mente (the mind) is feminine but ends in e. These kinds of nouns should probably get memorized, but the good news is that there are a great many nouns that are predictable and as a result, their adjectives are predictable, too.
 
Nouns and adjectives go together like salt and pepper, so this might be a great time to review nouns and their genders. Being sure of the gender of a noun will help you make the right decision regarding the adjective ending. Marika gives us some categories that makes gender learning a bit easier.
 
 
Take advantage of Yabla's features:
 
Interactive Subtitles:
By switching the dual subtitles on and off while viewing, you can really make them work for you. In other words, sometimes you need to understand what's happening, so you want to see captions in your own language. However, there will be times when you want to test your limits, to have fun trying to understand the Italian, with no safety net. Still other times, you will want to work on your spelling or adjective endings, and in this case, following along with the original language subtitles will be an invaluable tool.
 
Exercises:
With each video, there are exercises to help reinforce the material in the video itself. In short, by doing the vocabulary reviews and other listening exercises, including the patented dictation exercise called Scribe, you will really nail it.
 
Search:
In the videos tab, you can do a search of a word and see where it appears in the various videos in context, resulting in an immediate idea of how the word is used in everyday speech. As applied to this article about common Italian adjectives, it can be extremely helpful to see those adjectives in context! Subscribers have access to all of the videos as well as the transcripts and all the associated exercises.

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How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 1

 
How do adjectives work in Italian?
 
First off, let's review what an adjective is and what it does. An adjective describes or modifies a noun, as opposed to an adverb, which describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

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The distinction is important because in Italian, adjectives need to agree with the nouns they describe, whereas adverbs don't. This means that the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender and number of the noun it describes. In English, we don't have this problem, so it can be tough to learn in a language where it does matter.
 
 
The first thing we need to consider is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?
 
There are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in e in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular masculine form of the adjective. 
 
If you would like to learn about adjectives in Italian, see Daniela's lessons: Don't forget: you can turn English and Italian captions on and off!
 

In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi: noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.

In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives. We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.

Captions 23-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 1

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An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).

An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).

 
The second thing we have to consider is: What's the gender of the noun we are describing? Masculine or feminine?
 
The noun that the adjective describes may be masculine or feminine. Often, a masculine noun will end in o when in the singular, but not always.
 
Il forno (the oven, the bakery) ends in "o" but il pane (the bread) ends in "e." Both are masculine, singular nouns.
 
Tip: It's always a good idea to learn the article that goes with a noun when you learn the noun. It will make using adjectives easier.
 
The third thing we have to consider is: Is the noun we are describing singular or plural?
 
This factor, together with the gender and the type of adjective (o or e/positive or neutral) will determine the ending of the adjective. That's a lot to think about, so let's look at each of the four possible endings one by one in the "positive" adjective category.
 
Adjectives that end in "o":
This is the more common of the two kinds of adjectives, so let's see how these adjective endings work.
There can be 4 different endings for this kind of adjective if the noun it describes has both a masculine and a feminine form (like il ragazzo (boy) / la ragazza (the girl) / i ragazzi (the boys/ le ragazze (the girls).
 
 
Masculine + singular = o.

È un tipico teatro diciamo shakespeariano, con il palco rotondo al centro

It's a typical, let's say, Shakespearean theatre, with a round stage in the center

Caption 18, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 2

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Feminine + singular = a.

La spiaggia è molto pulita.

The beach is very clean,

Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3

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Masculine + plural = i

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

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Feminine + plural = e.

Si aggiustano le scarpe rotte, se ne creano nuove su misura.

They repair broken shoes; they custom make new ones.

Caption 5, Marika spiega Il nome dei negozi - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 
Bambino means "child" or "baby. Piccolo means "small.  Bambino is the type of noun that can change according to gender, so as a consequence, it's quite easy to see the different endings of the adjective piccolo.
 
Il bambino è piccolo (the little boy is small).
La bambina è piccola (the little girl is small).
I bambini sono piccoli (the little boys are small).
Le bambine sono piccole (the little girls are small).
 
This noun - adjective combination is straightforward. In other words, you see a certain letter at the end of the noun, and the adjective ends the same way. But don't be fooled into thinking all nouns and adjectives are like this. They often are, so it may be a good guess, but not all the time.
 
What are some other common positive Italian adjectives (ending in "o")?
 
bello (beautiful or handsome)
brutto (ugly or bad)
buono (good)
cattivo (bad)
duro (hard, difficult)
caro (dear, expensive)
crudo (raw, uncooked)
cotto (cooked)
creativo (creative)
pulito (clean)
sporco (dirty)
rosso (red)
grosso (big)
pieno (full)
vuoto (empty)
bianco (white)
bravo (good)
 
To sum up about adjectives that end in "o," if the noun is masculine and singular, like, for example, il cielo (the sky) which also happens to end in "o," the adjective will end in "o," as well: un cielo nuvoloso, cielo scuro (cloudy sky, dark sky), not because the noun ends in "o" but because it's masculine and singular. Even if the noun ends in "e," such as il pane (the bread), or in "a" such as il sistema (the system), the positive adjective will still end in "o."
 
Il pane duro (the hard bread)
Il pane vecchio (the old bread)
il pesce fresco (the fresh fish)
il vecchio sistema (the old system)
il ponte nuovo (the new bridge)
 
By the same token, if you have a singular feminine noun such as la giornata (the day), the positive adjective will end in "a." La giornata nuvolosa (the cloudy day). Una giornata scura (a dark day), la strada vecchia (the old road), una fine inaspettata (an unexpected ending), la mano ferma (the steady hand).
 
Practically speaking:
You can now take the positive adjectives in the list above and apply them to any appropriate noun. Remember, both gender and number count, but, as you will see, not all nouns are like bambino/bambina. Not all nouns have both masculine and feminine versions.
 
Here's a short list of nouns and adjectives to get you started.
 
La casa (the house) pulita, sporca, vecchia, nuova, rossa, grossa, etc.
Le case (the houses) pulite, sporche, vecchie, nuove, rosse, grosse, etc.
Il lavandino (the sink) pieno, vuoto, sporco, pulito, bianco, etc.
I lavandini (the sinks) pieni, vuoti, sporchi, puliti, bianchi, etc.
Gli spaghetti crudi, buoni, cotti, duri, cattivi, etc.
La pasta cruda, buona, cotta, dura, cattiva, etc.
Il prosciutto crudo, cotto, buono, cattivo, etc.
 
Get the idea? Can you find positive adjectives to go with these nouns?
 
La verdura (the vegetables) (this noun can be used in the plural, but is generally used as a singular collective noun).
Una stanza (a room)
Le mele (the apples)
Gli alberi (the trees)
Un letto (a bed)
Un fiore (a flower)
Una pianta (a plant)

Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.

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Write to us if you have questions!

Stay tuned for the next part of this lesson about adjectives, when will discuss aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives), or those adjectives that end in "e" and do not change according to gender: they only change according to singular and plural. Thus, they have only 2 possible endings.

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How to Get Mad in Italian

Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.

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Review pronominal verbs here.

 

Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.

You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.

 

The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.

 

When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:

Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)

 

Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself. 

Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.

 

There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentirebut as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!

 

Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).

 

If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss. 

 

Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.

Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14

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Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.

 

But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly." 

Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).

 

Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.

Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).

 

One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).

 

E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,

And this made him extremely angry.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 12

 Play Caption

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Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.

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Everyday Negatives

 

Let’s look at turning positive sentences into negative ones in Italian. We might have to switch gears a bit because the word order for negatives is different from what we have in English. We have to think negative. The negative word, in this case non (not), generally comes before the verb, and that means it is frequently the first word in a sentence.

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Let’s consider some simple negative expressions we use every day.

 

******************

 

Problems: We all have problemi (problems), but sometimes we have to say "no problem." We certainly use it to mean "You're welcome" after someone says "Thank you." In English, it's so easy! But in Italian we say, "there's no problem." It's part of the expression. Non c'è problema is an important phrase to have ready for any situation. 

 

Sì, non c'è problema. -Grazie. -Prego.

Yes, no problem. -Thanks. -You're welcome.

Caption 24, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Actually, there is another way to say this, more similar to English.

 

Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).

 

Or we can put both expressions together and say, with the wonderful double negative we can use in Italian:

 

Non c'è nessun problema (there's really no problem).

 

or even:

 

Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!

 

**************

 

Time: Nobody has any time anymore! So negative sentences about time can come in handy.


Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).
Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).
Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).
Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).
Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).


and a possible comment to that:

Non stanno male, però (your hair looks pretty good, though/it doesn't look bad,though).

 

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Knowing stuff: There are plenty of things we know and understand but plenty we don’t know or understand! Let’s remember that whereas in English we just say "I don’t know," Italians usually add the object pronoun lo (it), so they are literally saying "I don't know it."


Non lo so (I don’t know).
Non so a che ora devo venire (I don’t know what time I should come).
Non ho capito! Puoi ripetere (I didn't get it. Can you repeat)?

Remember, Italians often put this phrase in the past tense even though they are saying "I don’t get it."

 

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Forgetting stuff, or rather, not remembering things: The verb ricordare is often but not always in its reflexive form ricordarsi when it means "to remember" and in its regular form when it means "to remind." See these lessons.

 

Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.

Right now, I can't remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.

Caption 24, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 4

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And if you need an object pronoun instead of a noun, don't forget to change mi (to me) to me (me):

 

Adesso non me lo ricordo.
Right now, I can't remember [it].

 

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Doing stuff, or rather, not doing stuff: We procrastinate.

 

Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l'ho fatto (I was supposed to write an article but I didn't do it).
Non l’ho ancora fatto (I haven't done it yet).

 

Here we have the object pronoun lo (it) but it is partially buried in the contraction. So you have to listen carefully!

 

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Speaking of listening, a great way to hone your listening skills is to use Scribe (in the games menu in the Yabla player). It will definitely help you start recognizing and hearing these short words and little but important details. And although some Italian you hear is rapid-fire (like Luca Manara, to name one example), most of the time, all the syllables are pronounced. You can slow down the speech to be able to hear better. Have you tried Scribe? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let us know!

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As we learn to speak Italian with disinvoltura (nonchalance), it’s easy to forget to add these little words. Don’t worry, you will most likely be understood anyway! Foreigners spend years speaking Italian leaving out the little words, and they get by just fine. (It takes one to know one.)

 

If you get your word order wrong, people will understand anyway, but now you have a chance to get it right!

 

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A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

 

After telling us about the different relative pronouns, which in some cases are interchangeable, Daniela finishes up by telling us that in certain cases, when we are talking about a place or situation, we can use dove (where) instead of in cui (in which)To back up a moment, we're talking about object relative pronouns, indeed, indirect object pronouns, because in the case of cui (which), we often need a preposition right before it. Here's how she summarizes cui. If you can watch the lesson it might be helpful!

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Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", che è invariabile, sempre preceduto da una preposizione semplice, quindi da "di", da "da", o da "a".

Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," which is invariable, always preceded by a simple preposition, so by "of," by "from," or by "to."

Captions 43-46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 3

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The good news here is that we don't have to consider gender when we use cui.  Getting stuck mid-sentence looking for the right article can hamper the telling of a good story. So cui is a good relative pronoun to be familiar with. But many of us might not feel so comfortable using cui. Indeed, you don't need to think about gender, but you do have to think about which preposition to use: There is an alternative that you might like.

 

Using dove (where) can simplify life, actually. Certainly, Italians use dove (where) as a relative pronoun, even when we're not strictly talking about places and situations. And we do this in English, too, so it won’t seem too odd!

 

Following are some examples from Yabla videos. Let's remember that dove (where) is not always a relative pronoun, and it is not always a relative pronoun taking the place of in cui, but the following examples have been selected because they do fit into this category.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla dove si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

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Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, dove potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

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Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo dove si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

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Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, dove si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, dove ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

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Poi c'è un giorno a settimana dove i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

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Un altro caso dove uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

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Now that you have looked at all these examples, why not try transforming them into sentences with in cui? If that is too easy, try the same thing with nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, or nelle quale. For this, you will need to consider gender and number! Here’s the link to suggested solutions. Non barare (don't cheat) — unless you have to! 

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Let us know if you like this system of exercises and their solutions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

 

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How Do Relative Pronouns Work in Italian

Relative pronouns allow us to combine two shorter sentences that are related to each other into a longer one made up of two clauses. Similarly to English, we distinguish between main or independent clauses and subordinate dependent clauses. And when there is a relative pronoun present, it is part of what's called "a relative clause."

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The first relative pronoun that Daniela describes is che (that/which).

In questo esempio, quindi, il pronome relativo fa vece di pronome perché sostituisce la parola "casa" ma fa anche vece di congiunzione perché unisce le due frasi [sic: proposizioni].

In this example, therefore, the relative pronoun stands in for the pronoun because it replaces the word "house," but it also

takes on the role of a conjunction, because it joins two clauses.

Captions 44-48, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 1

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After watching the video, let's look at some further examples of what Daniela is talking about.

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani.

We're on the beach at Mondello, which is the beach used by Palermo's inhabitants.

Caption 3, Adriano - a Mondello

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Let's take this sentence apart and put it back together again.

 

The first sentence could be:

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello.
We're here on the beach at Mondello.

 

The second sentence could be:

La spiaggia di Mondello è la spiaggia dei palermitani.
The Mondello beach is the beach of the inhabitants of Palermo.

 

In order to combine these two short sentences, we use a relative pronoun to connect the clauses. We replace la spiaggia di Mondello with che (which), so it's both a pronoun that replaces a noun, and a conjunction that connects two parts of the [new] sentence.

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani. 

 

Let's look at an example in which che translates nicely with "that," but can work fine with "which," too. In English, "that" and "which" are often interchangeable, but we need to keep in mind that "which" needs a comma before it, and "that" doesn't (most of the time). 

C'è un ballo tradizionale che si chiama il "salterello" [saltarello].

There's a traditional dance that is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].
There's a traditional dance, which is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].

Caption 38, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulle Marche

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Gli alpeggi sono le attività agricole zoologiche che si svolgono in estate in montagna.

Alpine grazing is an agricultural, zoological activity that take place in summer in the mountains.

Caption 27, L'Italia a tavola - Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 1

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In Italian, the relative pronoun che can refer to things or people. So in the following example, we can translate che as "who."

C'è sempre tantissima gente che aspetta di salire su.

There are always plenty of people who are waiting to go up.

Caption 17, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Continua a leggere

Making Sense of Comparatives and Superlatives

This week, Daniela concludes her lessons on the comparative and the superlative. Let's take a moment and review the series because, coming from English, we might want to put the lessons together in a different way.

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As we have seen, the comparative and superlative work a bit differently than in English. In English we have two ways of the comparative and superlative of an adjective: by changing the adjective itself (as in "big," "bigger," "biggest") or by adding "more" or "less" before the adjective, as with the adjective "beautiful." But in Italian, comparatives and superlatives are formed using più (more) or meno (less) plus the adjective. Attenzione! The adjective buono is an exception to this. Learn more here.

 

In the first lesson, Daniela explains the comparativo di maggioranza (majority), which corresponds to “more” plus the adjective in English. If it's meno (less), we call it comparativo di minoranza (minority).

 

Even though we don't use these terms in English, they are fairly self-explanatory. In English, after the comparative adjective, we use the conjunction "than" before the second part of the comparison: This book is bigger than that one.

 

But in Italian, there are two different conjunctions we use when comparing things: di (than, of) or che (than). This is a big deal and somewhat tricky. Daniela starts explaining it in the first video and continues explaining here and here.

 

Daniela then explains all about comparing things that are equalcomparativo di uguaglianza. We discuss this further here. This is tricky in any language, and Italian is no exception. Daniela begins talking about it here and continues herehere and here.

 

Daniela dedicates three segments to the absolute superlative. There is no comparison with anything; it's absolute. We discuss this further here.

 

So if you are interested in getting the scoop on how to say "the best of all," then go straight to this week's lesson, where Daniela shows us how this — the regular old superlative — works in Italian. It called the superlativo relativo, since this superlative is relative to a group of elements. As she explains...

"È l'amico più generoso di tutti". Sto paragonando la qualità dell'essere generoso del mio amico all'essere generoso di tutti.
"He is the most generous friend of all." I am comparing the quality of being generous of my friend, to the generosity of all.
Caption 24, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Superlativo relativo

 

 

The superlativo relativo corresponds, roughly, to the superlative in English, in respect to the comparative, as when we add "-est" to an adjective: nice, nicer, nicest.

 

In Italian, we still use the modifiers più (more) and meno (less) but with the addition of the definite article before it, it becomes "the most" or "the least."

 

Let's take the adjective bello whose English equivalent "beautiful" needs "more" or "less" to make it comparative.

Margherita è bella (Margaret is beautiful). [positivo]
Margherita è più bella di Barbara (she is more beautiful than Barbara). [comparativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è la piu bella di tutte le quattro sorelle. She is the most beautiful of all four sisters. [superlativo relativo di maggioranza]

Margherita è intelligente (Margherita is intelligent). [positivo]
Margherita è meno intelligente di Barbara (Margherita is less intelligent than Barbara). [comparativo di minoranza]
Elisabetta è la meno intelligente di tutte le sorelle (Elisabetta is the least intelligent of all the sisters). [superlativo comparativo di minoranza]

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We hope this helps you make sense of the comparative and superlative in Italian. 

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Comparatives of Equality

We have seen that comparatives work a bit differently in Italian as compared to English. Read more here. For most adjectives and adverbs in Italian, there is no specific comparative form. We use the adverbs più (more) or meno  (less) to form the comparative. Notable exceptions are buono (good) and bene (well), which have their own comparative forms. We have discussed them here

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But things get tricky when we compare things that are equal. For the most part, in English, we use the same adverb or conjunction "as" in both parts of the comparison. 

 

You are as tall as I am. We are both the same height.

 

In Italian, there are basically two pairs of words that are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. Tanto (lots, as much) pairs with quanto (how much), and così (like, so) pairs with come (how, as).

Il comparativo di uguaglianza si forma facendo precedere l'aggettivo dall'avverbio "tanto", o "così", seguito dall'aggettivo, più "come" o "quanto".

The comparative of equality is formed by placing the adverb "tanto" [as much] or "cosi" [like, as], followed by the adjective, plus "as" or "as much."

Captions 23-28, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Comparativo - Part 3

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And sometimes we can omit one of the two words in a pair. Tutto sommato (all in all), it can be a bit confusing.

 

Here are some examples of complete sentences from Yabla that feature comparatives of equality, so you can become more familiar with them. 

Insomma, i ponti sono tanto frequentati quanto sconosciuti ai romani di oggi.

In other words, the bridges are as traveled as they are unknown to the Romans of today.

Caption 44, I Love Roma - guida della città - Part 8

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Ed è stata tanto colpa nostra quanto colpa sua.

And it was as much our fault as his fault.

Caption 55, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 3

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The following example uses che, another ingredient of comparatives, as described by Daniela, but here, it's used incorrectly. This just goes to show that comparatives of equality can be tricky for Italians, too.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto della vita che della cucina.

Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, as much in life as in cuisine.

Caption 18, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 10

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Here is what the speaker should have said.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto nella vita quanto nella cucina.
Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, in life as well as in the kitchen.

 

This next example compares two comparatives on equal terms (more=more). Can you wrap your head around it

Quanto più l'impasto è durotanto meglio viene la pasta.

The stiffer the dough, the better the pasta will be.

Caption 45, Marino - La maccaronara

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In the following example, Adriano is using così come to compare the adjective intenso (intense) on an equal basis between one day and other days.  

Spero che anche voi possiate avere delle giornate così intense come questa.

I hope that you too can have days that are as intense as this one.

Caption 56, Adriano - Giornata

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We often find così and come together in a sentence and it can often be translated as "just as" or "just like."

Al verso è docile e al contro è duro, così come la vita.

Along the grain it's soft and against the grain it's hard, just like life.

Captions 11-12, Claudio Capotondi - Scultore - Part 1

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Here are examples of the two types of pairings, along with versions where the first adverb is omitted, as described by Daniela.

Non conosco nessuno così bravo come te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo come te.
I don't know anyone smart like you.
Non conosco nessuno tanto bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.

 

Practice: 
Try looking around your home and comparing things. 

Questa stanza è più grande di quella (this room is bigger than that one).
Quella stanza è meno grande di questa (That room is smaller than this one).
Questo tavolo è tanto grande quanto quel tavolo lì (this table is as big as that one there).
Questo tavolo è grande quanto quello lì (this table is as big as that one there).
La mia poltrona è tanto comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).
La mia poltrona è comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).

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Start simple and get comfortable. Hint: In comparisons of equality, it's more common to omit the first adverb than to include it, at least in everyday speech. Whew! 

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Meglio or Migliore?

In our last lesson, there was mention of the Italian comparative adjective migliore (better).  This brought up an excellent question on the part of one of our readers. What's the difference between migliore and meglio? They both mean "better." When should we use meglio instead of migliore?

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It's a great question, because the answer is not so simple. On a very basic level, migliore is an adjective and is the comparative of buono (good). It is also, with the addition of an article, the superlative of buono (good), as in the following example.

La moto è il mezzo migliore per superare il traffico.

The motorbike is the best means of transportation for getting past the traffic.

Caption 27, Adriano - Giornata

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Migliore stays the same in both the masculine and the feminine.

Io voglio solo una vita migliore di questa.

I just want a better life than this.

Caption 70, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 5

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La mia migliore amica.

My best [girl]friend.

Caption 53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7

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But in the plural it's always migliori, for both the masculine and the feminine.

Ed è uno dei vini migliori della Basilicata, è chiamato Aglianico.

And it's one of the best wines of Basilicata, it's called Aglianico.

Caption 2, Milena - al supermercato

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No, veramente le cose migliori le abbiamo fatte insieme, no?

No, actually the best things are the ones we've done together, right?

Caption 47, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7

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Migliore and its plural form migliori can also be nouns, just like in English. 

Sei il/la migliore!
You're the best!

 

Migliore is either an adjective or a noun — never an adverb.

 

Meglio, on the other hand, is basically an adverb, so it makes sense for it to be the comparative of bene (well). Meglio often means in modo migliore (in a better way).

Facciamo un esempio così capite meglio.

We'll provide an example, that way you'll understand better.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Approfondimento Verbi Modali - Part 1

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But meglio has a gray area, too, and is much more flexible than migliore. Unlike migliore, which is either an adjective or a noun, meglio, in addition to being an adverb, is often also used colloquially as an adjective or in some contexts as a noun. It's also used in a huge number of expressions. 

 

Note that the verb migliorare exists, too, to mean "to improve," to "get better."

Se posso migliorare, perché non farlo?

If I can improve, why not do so?

Caption 4, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 13

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Il mio italiano è molto migliorato.
My Italian has gotten much better.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We'll focus on meglio next week, but in the meantime, why not compare things with migliorein your home or workplace?

Think about food, movies, books, the time of day/year for doing something.

Per esempio:

In questo bar, fanno il miglior caffè della città.
In this bar, they make the best coffee in the city.

Il mio italiano scritto è migliore di qualche anno fa.
My written Italian is better than a few years ago.

Non ero la migliore della classe quando andavo a scuola. 
I wasn't the best in the class when I went to school.

Qual è la stagione migliore per visitare la Sicilia?
What's the best month for visiting Sicily?

Continua a leggere

Good News About Comparatives in Italian

Daniela is back with some more Italian lessons, classroom-style. This time she will be teaching us how to compare things. And the good news is that apart from a few exceptions like buono (good),  migliore (better), il/la migliore (the best), you won't have to learn the comparative forms of an adjective. Basically, you just have to use the adverb più (more) or meno (less). 

 

Sometimes this corresponds to the English, because in English, not all adjectives have a comparative form.

"Arrivederci" [quando vado via] è una forma di saluto più elegante, formale.

"Arrivederci" [when I leave] is a more elegant, formal form of saying "goodbye."

Caption 27, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Salutare - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

But in many cases, there is a specific comparative form in English.

 

In the following example, a recipe is being described.

Si può personalizzare: più piccante, meno piccante.

You can personalize: sharper or milder.

Caption 38, L'Italia a tavola - Il frico friulano - Part 1

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So, if you are translating, you have to find the "right" word in English. But as you become more familiar with Italian, you will start thinking in Italian, and the English equivalent won't really come into play.

 

One tricky thing is that you have to take into account whether you are comparing things or actions. The preposition you use, di (than) as opposed to che (than), will change accordingly. 

Lucca è una città più piccola di Firenze (Lucca is a smaller city than Florence). Lucca è meno grande di Firenze (Lucca is smaller than Florence).

 

A Lucca, è più comodo girare in bici che girare in macchina (in Lucca, it's easier to get around by bike, than to get around by car).

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Practice:

Watch Daniela's video, first of all. Then go around your house, or wherever you happen to be, and compare things. 

Questo libro è più grande di quel libro (this book is bigger than that book).

Gain confidence in comparing things using di (than). Then move on to comparing actions. It's a little trickier, with che (than).

Comprare online sarà più veloce che andare al negozio (purchasing online will be quicker than going to the store).

Continua a leggere