Ferragosto (August 15th) is one of the most important and respected holidays of the year in Italy. It's also a religious holiday, the Feast of the Assumption, a very important holiday for Catholic countries like Italy, and so there's something for everyone: beach, barbecues, religious processions, fireworks, horse races—you name it.
In recent years, things have changed somewhat. Lately, people have had less money to spend on long vacations, and laws have changed, allowing stores to stay open on holidays, so there's a bit more city life than there used to be. Still, Ferragosto is not when you want to get a flat tire (forare), or a toothache (mal di denti).
Le strade sono deserte, le serrande sono chiuse (streets are deserted, stores are shuttered). You'll see signs on those closed serrande saying chiuso per ferie (closed for vacation). Ferragosto is also one of the hottest holidays, full of sun and blue skies. People want to be at the seaside.
In a video about the culinary arts, an art critic mentions gli anni di piombo (the years of lead), the sad and scary seventies when terrorism was an everyday reality in Italy, and there was gunsmoke in the air. He gives us this image of Milan:
Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse anche a Ferragosto.
It seemed as though there was fog even at Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).Play Caption
Luckily, these days Ferragosto is much calmer. In fact, Ferragosto (which can also refer to the days around the 15th of August) is the time of the year in Italy when it's hard to get certain things done because so many shops and services are chiusi per ferie. Small commissioni (errands, tasks) can get complicated, such as:
comprare il pane (buying bread)
portare la macchina all'elettrauto (taking the car to the auto electrician)
farsi i capelli dal parrucchiere (getting your hair done at the hairdresser's)
mangiare al tuo ristorante preferito (eating at your favorite restaurant)
andare in palestra (going to the gym)
comprare l'aspirina per quel mal di testa (buying aspirin for that headache)
pagare l'assicurazione sulla macchina (paying your car insurance)
prendere un appuntamento col dentista (making a appointment with the dentist)
spedire un pacchetto alla posta (mailing a package at the post office)
chiamare un corriere (calling a delivery service)
fare riparare la lavatrice (getting your washing machine repaired)
Italians worry about what supermarkets might or might not be open on and around Ferragosto, and they stock up on acqua minerale (bottled mineral water), birra (beer),salumi (cold cuts), carbonella (charcoal), crema solare (sunblock), and molto ancora (lots more) before heading for il mare (the seaside).
Before wishing you buone ferie, a quick reminder about le ferie. It's a noun, always used in the plural to indicate time off, leave, or vacation.
If you've kept up with Commissario Manara, you'll know how thrilled he was to finally have some ferie (time off), but invece (instead) he had to stay put and solve a crime.
Ho dovuto sudare sette camice, ma alla fine la tua settimana di ferie eccola qua.
I had to sweat seven shirts [I had to go to a lot of trouble], but in the end, your week of vacation, here it is.
Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a CatenaPlay Caption
It's very easy to confuse the meaning of the adjective feriale, which refers to just the opposite situation. Giorni feriali (workdays) include Saturdays, but not giorni festivi (Sundays and holidays). These terms are very important when you're parking your macchina (car) in order to avoid getting una multa (a fine or ticket).
So whether you're spending your ferie (time off) a casa (at home) or going in vacanza (on vacation) someplace exciting, or even if you're working, here's hoping you can relax and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Yabla non è chiuso per ferie! (Yabla is not closed for vacation!)
Just for fun:
Here are some visuals to help you get a feel for the Ferragosto spirit:
Before getting to il nocciolo (the kernel) of this lesson, let’s get a little background.
Dunque is primarily a conjunction similar to allora (in that case, at that time, so, well), quindi (therefore, so), and perciò (for this reason).
E dunque dovrei andare con il sette.
And so (therefore) I should go with the seven.
Caption 27, Briscola - Regole del gioco - Part 2Play Caption
E dunque, per me essere madre vuol dire parecchio...
And well, for me being a mother means a lot...
Caption 18, Essere... - madrePlay Caption
But to get to the point, the crux, the heart of this lesson: dunque is also used as a noun in the expressions venire al dunque (to come to the point), andare al dunque (to get to the point), and arrivare al dunque (to get to the point). It means getting to the reason for the conversation, or the real subject. It’s a good expression to know when the conversation is dragging on, or if you need a quick conclusion. In this episode of Commissario Manara, Luca is questioning someone and doesn’t want to waste time beating around the bush.
Le dispiace se andiamo subito al dunque?
Do you mind if we get right to the point?Play Caption
Be careful how and when you use this expression, because it implies impatience. However, you can also use it to refer to yourself, when you want to be concise.
Vengo subito al dunque.
I’ll get right to the point.
Dunque stands for “the reason for this conversation or this meeting,” and is part of an idiomatic expression. When referring to the point itself, punto (point) does the trick just fine.
Però non è questo il punto, zia.
But that's not the point, Aunt.
Caption 63, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Another alternative is nocciolo. Il nocciolo is the kernel or pit of a peach or other fruit. It’s the heart of the matter. Note that the accent is on the first syllable. If we put it on the second syllable it becomes a hazelnut tree!
Arriviamo al nocciolo della faccenda.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Try starting out your thoughts with an introductory allora (well, so), and then repeat the sentence using dunque, to get the feel of that. In this case, dunque becomes one of those words to use as a filler, when you’re thinking of what to say. See this lesson on using allora as a filler word. Then try using dunque in a sentence, where you might put the more common quindi (therefore, so). Do a Yabla search for some examples.
Pretend you’re in a meeting that’s getting out of hand. Learn some of the expressions above (using the verbs arrivare, andare, venire) so that they’re ready when you need them.
Just for fun:
Dunque, sarebbe meglio arrivare presto al dunque, perché siamo già andati fuori orario. Qual’è il nocciolo della questione, dunque?
Well, it would be better to get to the point soon, because we’ve already gone overtime. So, what’s the crux of the matter?
We talked about the subjunctive together with the conditional in a previous lesson. But there are other cases in which we need to use what’s called il congiuntivo (subjunctive mood). Certain verbs, usually having to do with some kind of uncertainty, “kick off” the subjunctive. This means that they are conjugated normally in the indicative themselves, but if they precede a conjunction like che (that), then the subjunctive comes into play with the verb that follows.
These particular verbs express wishes, thoughts, beliefs, worries, and doubts. Here are some of them:
accettare (to accept), amare (to love), aspettare (to wait), assicurarsi (to insure), attendere (to wait for), augurare (to wish for), chiedere (to ask), credere (to believe), desiderare (to desire), disporre (to arrange), domandare (to ask), dubitare (to doubt), esigere (to require), fingere (to make believe), illudersi (to delude oneself), immaginare (to imagine), lasciare (to leave), negare (to negate), permettere (to permit), preferire (to prefer), pregare (to pray), pretendere (to expect), rallegrarsi (to rejoice), ritenere (to retain), sospettare (to suspect), sperare (to hope), supporre (to suppose), temere (to fear), volere (to want).
It’s a daunting (and partial) list, but you can learn them gradually, on a need-to-know basis.
The issue of the subjunctive arises when we have a main clause and a dependent clause. The two clauses, or parts of the sentence, are often connected by che (that). There are other conjunctions, but once you learn how to use che, it’ll be easier to use the other conjunctions.
Let’s focus on a relatively simple sentence from this informative and popular Yabla interview with Silvia D’Onghia, a journalist, who obviously loves her job. At the end she says:
Credo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
I believe that it's the greatest job in the world.Play Caption
Note that in English no subjunctive is necessary here, and we could leave out “that.” Sia is simply the subjunctive of essere in the present tense. If you look at any conjugation chart, for example here, the subjunctive conjugation is the same in the first, second familiar, and third persons. Silvia’s comment provides us with a convenient formula to work with:
verb kicking off the subjunctive (credere) + che + verb in the subjunctive (essere)
Try using different verbs from the list above in place of credere. You can have fun with this while trying to have the sentence make sense. You’re simply replacing the main verb (conjugated normally), while the rest of the sentence stays the same. The idea is to get used to using the subjunctive so that it feels natural to you when using the appropriate verbs. Once it feels natural, you can go on to change other elements of the model sentence.
We can easily change the person in the main clause (this time it’s a reflexive verb!), but the subjunctive part of the sentence stays the same as in the model:
Ci illudiamo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
We’re deluding ourselves that it’s the greatest job in the world.
Spera che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
She hopes that it’s the greatest job in the world.
Advanced learners might want to replace the verb in the subjunctive with fare (to do, to make) or avere (to have), for example:
Credo che faccia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I do the greatest job...
I believe that he does the greatest job...
Credo che abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I have the greatest job
I believe that she has the greatest job...
As mentioned above, the subjunctive is the same in the third person and the first person (which makes it easy, but can also cause confusion). You can add the personal pronoun for clarity if need be:
Credo che lui abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that he has the greatest job...
Do a Yabla search of sia. Does che or some other conjunction precede it? Look for the verb that kicks it off. You’ll recognize many of the verbs from the list above.
Noi di Yabla speriamo che tu abbia capito questa piccola lezione sui verbi che prendono il congiuntivo, ma immaginiamo che non sia facilissima da mettere in pratica. Desideriamo che tutti voi siate felici di imparare con noi!
We at Yabla hope that you have understood this little lesson about verbs that take the subjunctive, but we can imagine that it isn’t all that easy to put into practice. We would like you all to be happy to learn with us!
When you’re feeling things in such a way that they seem to be “on top of you,” they’re addosso, like in this Lorenzo Jovanotti’s song.
Summer [is] upon us
Un anno è già passato
A year has already gone by
He’s talking about the summer season, but also the weight (and heat) of summer. We might even say he feels it on his shoulders or back. Addosso can mean on top, right nearby, but definitely close (in time or space), close enough to be breathing down your neck. It can even be so close as to be inside you.
This somewhat peculiar word has a little history. Dosso is a rather archaic way of saying dorso (back, spine). Remembering this will help in assimilating addosso and di dosso (off of). As a noun, dosso by itself is used when talking about geological formations (bumps or hills), or in la segnaletica stradale (road signs) to indicate a bump or a rise.
Dosso usually gets together with a preposition to be transformed into a compound preposition/adverb: addosso. If there’s an indirect object in the form of a noun, as in the following example, we need the preposition a (to).
Il ramo è caduto addosso ad un bambino.
The branch fell onto a child.
If we use an object pronoun, we have:
Il ramo è caduto addosso a lui.
The branch fell onto him.
To make the sentence flow better, we can turn it around, employing the famous combination: indirect object pronoun + preposition (if this is unfamiliar to you, see Ci Gets Around: Part 1 and Ricordare: Remembering and Reminding). A lui (to him) becomes gli (to him):
Gli [a lui] è caduto il ramo addosso.
The branch fell on top of him.
In this case, we generally find addosso at the end of the sentence or clause, and the object pronoun will be elsewhere.
Eh sì. Infatti, lui ci ha rovesciato tutto il vassoio addosso.
Oh yes. In fact, he even spilled the contents of the tray on top of us.
Caption 36, Anna e Marika - Il verbo essere - Part 1Play Caption
Di dosso (from your back, off your back), usually used with a word meaning “to remove” such as togliere or levare:
Me lo sono levato di dosso.
I got it off my back [I got rid of it].
Toglimi le mani di dosso.
Take your hands off me.
Addossare isn’t very common in normal conversation, but means something along the lines of “to lean.” It’s used when talking about blame or responsibility:
addossare la colpa
to lay the blame
addossarsi la responsabilità
to take responsibility
Indossare (to wear, to put on, literally “to put on one’s back”):
Indossava una sciarpa rossa.
She was wearing a red scarf.
In a nutshell:
When referring to “on,” we use addosso
When referring to “off,” we use di dosso
Addosso will need the preposition a (to), which may be hidden in the object pronoun.
Di dosso, on the other hand, already has its (detached) preposition: di (of).
The most common related verb form is indossare (to wear).
A Yabla video search of addosso will give you some good examples of how it’s used.
Just for fun:
Stavo facendo un giro in bicicletta. Indossavo una maglia colorata, e quindi ero ben visibile, ma nonostante ciò, una macchina mi è venuta proprio addosso e sono cascato. Poi la bici stessa mi è cascata addosso. Non sono riuscito subito a togliermela di dosso. L’autista non mi ha aiutato e neanche voleva addossarsi la responsabilità. Ogni tanto, questa cattiva esperienza me la sento ancora addosso.
I was taking a bike ride. I was wearing a bright jersey, and so I was quite visible, but in spite of that, a car bumped right into me and I fell off. Then the bike itself fell onto me. I wasn’t able to get it off me right away. The driver didn’t help me, nor did he want to take responsibility. Every now and then, I still feel this bad experience inside of me.
Allora (so, then, well) is one of those filler words that’s highly useful when thinking of what to say in Italian. It buys you a little time and tells the listener you’re thinking things over, especially when used by itself, or to introduce a sentence. Used by itself, it can express impatience:
Allora! (Come on!, Hey!)
or can be introductory:
Allora, vediamo. (Well then, let’s see.)
But what does it really mean? The word actually comes from the Latin ad illa horam (at that time). And, not surprisingly, allora can indeed mean “at that time,” when it refers to the past. It’s true that we can use “then” as a translation, but “then” has other meanings as well, so it helps to have an idea of allora’s underlying meaning.
The following example gives you the idea:
Io penso che tu lo sappia che prima di allora... eh, Roma aveva un grandissimo problema proprio per le alluvioni.
I think that you know that before that time... uh, Rome had indeed a huge problem with flooding.
Captions 36-37, Anna e Marika - Il fiume TeverePlay Caption
In a video series about the recent history Italian cuisine, Chef Gualtiero Marchesi is telling the story of his restaurant. He uses allora twice in the same sentence, but to mean different things: the first instance is the filler that gets used so often; the second instance is a bit more specific.
E allora proponevo questo piatto, il grande antipasto di pesce, che allora aveva tre versioni.
And so I offered this dish, a large fish antipasto, which at that time had three versions.
Captions 12-13, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole RivoluzioniPlay Caption
Allora can also mean “in that case.” In fact, the second instance of allora in the above example could also possibly have meant “in that case.” In the following example, the meaning is less ambiguous. You might be asking, can’t we just say “then”? In this case, yes, because it’s clearly an “if/then” situation, but “in that case” helps us understand allora more fully.
Quindi, la differenza è minima, però capirete quando vedete: è un aggettivo o un avverbio? Se io parlo di un avverbio, allora è sempre "bene", una situazione, se parlo di un aggettivo uso "bello" o "buono".
So, the difference is minimal, but you'll understand when you see: is it an adjective or an adverb? If I'm talking about an adverb, in that case it's always "bene," a situation, if I'm talking about an adjective I use "bello" or "buono."
Captions 24-27, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Le parole: bello, buono e benePlay Caption
In place of allora, Daniela could have used in tal caso or in quel caso to mean “in that case,” but since she is speaking informally, she has used allora.
We use allora a lot in speech without even thinking about it, so being aware of where it comes from may give us una marcia in più (“an edge,” literally “one more gear”).
In a nutshell:
Allora is a filler word much of the time (well, so, then).
Allora comes from the Latin ad illa horam (at that time) and means precisely that, when talking about the past. Allora means “then” in several senses of the word (well/so, at that time, in that case).
Just for fun:
Allora, vi racconto un po’ della mia storia. Da bambina portavo una gonna per andare a scuola. Allora era vietato alle ragazze mettersi pantaloni. Il sabato, per giocare, allora potevano mettere anche i pantaloni. Allora! Mi ascoltate? No? Allora, non vi dico più niente.
Well, I’ll tell you a bit about my past. As a girl I wore a skirt to go to school. At that time girls were not allowed to wear pants. But on Saturdays, to play, then (in that case) they could wear pants, too. Hey! Are you listening to me? You’re not? In that case, I won’t tell you anything more.
There are a great many instances of allora in Yabla videos. By doing a search and just scrolling through, now that you’re in the know, you’ll be able to figure out if someone’s thinking of what to say, or if he or she is being more specific.
The basic meaning of the verb vivere is “to live.” In this case it’s intransitive, meaning it doesn’t take a direct object.
Non è per niente male vivere in Italia, anzi!
It's not at all bad living in Italy, on the contrary!
Caption 54, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 3Play Caption
But Italian also uses vivere to mean “to go through,” “to experience.” In this case, it’s transitive, meaning it takes a direct object. In this first example, Gualtiero “lives” the problem (direct object) of having to eat out every day.
Quindi ho vissuto in prima persona il problema del pranzo fuori casa.
So I experienced firsthand, the problem of lunch away from home.Play Caption
In talking about how he experienced this problem, he could have said, ho vissuto personalmente, but he used in prima persona (in the first person, firsthand) which is a very common way to say the same thing.
As a guest in a foreign country like Italy, you'll often be asked about your esperienze (experiences). If you use the noun form, then esperienza is your friend.
È stata una delle esperienze più intense della mia vita.
It was one of the most intense experiences of my life.Play Caption
When instead you want to use the verb “to experience,” then vivere is a good choice:
Nel ristorante che stavo ideando, la cucina e l'ambiente stesso avrebbero dovuto risvegliare emozioni da vivere e condividere con il cliente.
In the restaurant I was designing, the kitchen and the space itself would have to awaken emotions to experience and share with the customer.
Captions 14-15, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole RivoluzioniPlay Caption
And here’s Jovanotti in his song about positive thinking, with a verb and a noun that both mean “experience”!
...e vivere le esperienze sulla mia pelle...
...and live out the experiences on my own skin [personally]...
Caption 32, Lorenzo Jovanotti - Penso PositivoPlay Caption
It wouldn’t sound good to say “experience the experiences” in English (using “experience” as both a verb and a noun in the same line), but it wouldn’t be incorrect! And now, you've discovered still another way to say “personally.”
In a nutshell:
There are two important (related) meanings of vivere:
vivere (to live)
vivere (to experience, to live out, to go through)
There are different ways to express “personally.” Both Gualtiero and Jovanotti could have used any of the following to mean pretty much the same thing:
sulla propria pelle (on one’s own skin, firsthand, personally)
in prima persona (in the first person, firsthand, personally)
“Experience” as a noun is pretty much the same as esperienza. There’s no verb form of esperienza.
“To experience” is most frequently translated as vivere. Check out some of the other possibilities here.
Just for fun:
Non sono italiano ma vivo in Italia. Vivere qui è un’esperienza straordinaria. Hovissuto dei momenti fantastici, però ho anche vissuto sulla mia pelle cosa vuol dire essere extracomunitario. La procedura delle impronte digitali l’ho vissuto in prima persona. Non è stata un’esperienza per niente simpatica, e personalmente, ne avrei fatto a meno di viverla.
I’m not Italian, but I live in Italy. Living here has been an extraordinary experience. I’ve experienced some fantastic moments, but I’ve also experienced, firsthand, what it means to be non-European. The procedure for fingerprinting I experienced firsthand. It wasn’t a nice experience at all, and personally, I could have done without going through that.
One way to get someone’s attention is to use the imperative command form of a verb. Two useful verbs for this purpose are ascoltare (to listen) and sentire (to hear). In Italian it’s important to know to whom you are giving the command; this will determine both the word choice and its conjugation.
Commissioner Manara has a familiar relationship with Lara and uses the informal form of address: He’s getting her attention by saying ascolta (listen). There’s a slight urgency with ascolta.
Ascolta Lara, a volte bisogna prendere delle scorciatoie, no?
Listen Lara, sometimes you have to take shortcuts, right?
Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio VerdePlay Caption
In the next example, there’s a bit of urgency, but this is Manara’s boss talking to him. They use the polite or formal form of address:
Manara, mi ascolti bene.
Manara, listen to me carefully.Play Caption
Note that the imperative verb can stand alone, or be paired with an object personal pronoun as in the above example. It adds to the urgency, and makes it more personal. Manara’s boss could have added mi raccomando (make sure) for extra urgency:
Manara, mi ascolti bene, mi raccomando!
This next example is between two people who really don’t know each other at all. It’s a formal situation, so the Lei form of “you” is used. Senta is more passive and less intrusive than ascolti. In fact, it means “hear” or “listen,” but is actually a way of saying “excuse me.”
Senta Signora, oltre a Lei, chi lo sapeva di queste lettere?
Excuse me ma'am, other than you, who knew about these letters?Play Captionì
Senta (listen, excuse me, or hear me) is a command you’ll use in a restaurant when wishing to get the attention of the cameriere (waiter).
Senta, possiamo ordinare?
Excuse me, may we order?
Often, senta (listen) goes hand in hand with scusi (excuse me), to be extra polite.
Buonasera. Senta scusi, Lei conosceva il dottor Lenni, giusto?
Good evening. Listen, excuse me. You knew Doctor Lenni, right?Play Caption
And in a familiar situation, such as between Marika and the mozzarella vendor in Rome, there’s no urgency but Marika wants to get the vendor’s attention before asking her a question.
Senti, ma quante mozzarelle dobbiamo comprare per la nostra cena?
Listen, but how many mozzarellas should we buy for our dinner?Play Caption
Without necessarily studying all the conjugations of sentire and scusare, it’s a good idea to just remember that in polite speech, the imperative has an “a” at the end of senta, but an “i” at the end of scusi. The familiar command form would be senti, scusa. These endings can be tricky for beginners because they seem wrong, being the opposite of the indicative endings. It’s quite easy to get mixed up. The command form originally comes from the subjunctive, which is why it has a different, special conjugation.
Getting someone’s attention is part of the basic toolkit you need to communicate in Italian, so why not practice a bit, in your mind? Look at someone and get their attention using the correct verb and correct form.
If you don’t know the person, or you address them formally for some other reason, you use:
Senta! Senta, scusi.
Senta, mi scusi.
[Mi] ascolti. (Not so common, and a bit aggressive, useful if you’re a boss.)
If you’re trying to get the attention of a friend, you’ll use:
Senti... (It’s almost like saying, “Hey...”)
Ascoltami... (This can be aggressive or intimate depending on the tone and the context.)
Learn more about the imperative in Italian here.
In this week's lesson, Daniela shows us how different colors behave differently according to gender and number. Some of the colors are easy to understand, and to find equivalent names for, but when it comes to blue, Italians make some important distinctions. The three basic shades of blue are blu, azzurro, and celeste.
Blu is the most basic and can have an adjective attached to it such as in blu notte (midnight blue, dark blue, or navy blue) or blu elettrico (electric blue) or blu petrolio (oil blue or teal blue). It's the darkest of the three and also the "bluest." Think of the American or French flag. That's blu.
Azzurro isn't just any blue. It's a blue that reminds us of the transparent waters of the Mediterranean Sea along a rocky coast, the sky when it's so incredibly clear, that it seems unreal, with the sun shining high in the sky. It's a blue that has a tiny bit of green in it, tending more towards turquoise than deep blue, or even royal blue. Azzurro is also the name given to the Italian national sports teams. They wear jerseys or shorts of this color. The color azure exists in English, but it's not commonly used to describe the color of everyday items.
Celeste is a kind of sky blue (think: "celestial"), like the sky in the early evening or early morning on a summer day. There's not a whole lot of sun, and the sky is clear but not intense. That's celeste. Baby blue is quite close to celeste.
In describing Sicily, Adriano uses both blu and azzurro:
Ma quello che di più colpisce è il contrasto spettacolare tra il colore azzurro, blu del mare che si staglia sul verde della montagna di Monte Pellegrino.
But what is most stunning is the spectacular contrast between the blue color, the blue of the sea that's outlined on the green of the mountain of Monte Pellegrino.
Captions 42-44, Adriano - Monte PellegrinoPlay Caption
Milena is showing us some items at the supermarket. There may be some discussion as to whether the cap on the milk container is azzurro or celeste, but it's clear that it's a blue that's on the light side, to indicate "light" milk.
Questo è il latte parzialmente scremato. Di solito ha il tappo celeste.
This is partially skimmed milk. Usually it has a sky-blue cap.
Captions 23-24, Milena - al supermercatoPlay Caption
These two lines from Adriano Celentano's hit song, Azzurro, sung by Milena and friends, give you an idea of what azzurro is all about:
Cerco l'estate tutto l'anno e all'improvviso, eccola qua
I've been looking for summer all year long and all of a sudden, here it is
Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me
Blue, the afternoon is too blue and long for me
Captions 2-5, Amiche - È tempo di cantarePlay Caption
Another famous Italian song known as Volare, by Domenico Modugno, uses blu, notazzurro, to describe the sky. It must be said that blu rhymes with a lot more words than azzurro!
Nel blu dipinto di blu
In the blue painted blue
Felice di stare lassù
Happy to be up there
Take a look around at all the blue items you can see. Try to say which color they are in Italian, and, after following Daniela's lesson, use the colors as adjectives in both the singular and the plural. Blu, azzurro, or celeste?
Maggio e giugno, falce in pugno.
May and June, sickle in hand.
This detto (saying) or proverbio (proverb) reflects the fact that in May and June, plants grow at an amazing rate, and need to be kept under control. It's very Italian to have un pezzetto di terra (a little piece of land) on which to plant un orto (vegetable garden), not to be confused with un giardino (garden), which is ornamental, or which can refer to the back or front yard. Many kinds of piante (plants) can also grow in vasi (pots) in terrazza (on the terrace).
L'erba (the grass) is what you mow. You can use a tagliaerba (lawnmower) if you have a pratino (little lawn), or adecespugliatore (brush cutter) when the terreno (terrain) is uneven, or even a falce (scythe) or falcetto (sickle) if you cut it by hand. However, if we use the plural, le erbe, then we're talking about herbs used in cooking. Erbe commestibili (edible greens) are what you gather in fields and woods; erbe medicinali (medicinal herbs) are used by erboristi (herbalists) to make medicines.
In this week's video about composting as a way to recycle, three closely related words having to do with la terra (the earth) are used in three consecutive lines of text.
L'humus compost è un terriccio che ha la capacità di trattenere e liberare lentamente gli elementi nutritivi necessari alle piante,
Humus compost is a soil that has the capacity to retain and slowly set free nutritive elements necessary to plants,
e di assicurare la fertilità del terreno.
and to assure the fertility of the soil.
Il rifiuto umido può essere una risorsa per la nostra terra.
Wet garbage can be a resource for our land.Play Caption
Terriccio (soil, potting soil). This usually implies rich soil or loam, suitable for growing plants.
Terra (earth, land, ground). This is a very general term and can refer to our planet, a piece of land, the ground, and more. In caption 7, terra leaves some room for interpretation.
Terreno (plot of land, ground, terrain, soil). This often refers to something you can measure, but is used generically as well.
When we talk about raccolta differenziata, as in the title of the above-mentioned video, we're talking about recycling. Raccolta (gathering, collection, picking up, harvest or harvesting) differenziata (differentiated) means that trash gets divided into categories such as carta e cartone (paper and cardboard), vetro e plastica (glass and plastic), umido (organic waste) and rifiuti indifferenziati (general rubbish). Every town has its own rules and collection methods concerning this. There are either big dumpsters for each kind of garbage, or small plastic containers for different material (glass, plastic, paper, organic, general) which each family manages, and puts out on the appropriate day of the week to get raccolto (picked up), door to door.
More videos on the subject of ecology:
L'unione fa la forza: Cooperativa La Quercia
Inno all'acqua: un bene prezioso da difendere
Enel intervista: Tiziano Ferro - Part 1
Enel intervista: Tiziano Ferro - Part 2
L'unione fa la forza - Ecovillaggio Habitat
If you knew the Italian subjunctive well, life would be easier, right?
The above is a simple conditional statement. It happens to use the subjunctive, but in English we don’t really notice it because “knew” just looks like the past tense of “to know.” If you think about it, though, it’s an “unreal” past tense. We’re talking hypothetically (unless of course you’re already an expert on the Italian subjunctive), not about the past.
If we put the above conditional sentence into Italian, we still use a past tense, but it’s a subjunctive past tense called congiuntivo imperfetto (imperfect subjunctive).
Se sapessi bene il congiuntivo italiano, la vita sarebbe più facile, no?
The imperfect subjunctive has different endings from the other conjugations, so it’s impossible to fake! Sapessi is the first person congiuntivo imperfetto of the verb sapere (to know). Here’s the conjugation chart for sapere (to know).
The second part of the sentence uses the conditional, which in English is formed with “would” or “could” (“life would be easier”). Here again, Italian has its own special conjugation for the conditional, called il condizionale, and only needs conjugating in the present. Sarebbe is the third person singular condizionale presente of essere (to be).
The little princess in Il principe ranocchio (The Frog Prince), new at Yabla this week, is wishing she had her golden ball back, but the reality is that it’s at the bottom of the pond and she doesn’t believe she’ll get it back. So we have another hypothetical situation.
Se solo avessi indietro la mia palla d'oro! Darei tutti i miei bei vestiti e gioielli per lei!
If only I had my golden ball back, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels for it!
Captions 15-16, Ti racconto una fiaba - Il Principe RanocchioPlay Caption
In a nutshell:
If we break down a conditional statement into its two clauses, we come up with these basic elements.
In the subordinate, or dependent clause:
se (if) +
a verb in the congiuntivo imperfetto
And in the main clause:
a verb in the condizionale presente
Here are some examples where the person is the same in both parts of the sentence. The verb conjugated in the subjunctive is essere (to be). The verb conjugated in the conditional is comprare (to buy).
Se io fossi ricca, comprerei una casa.
If I were rich, I would buy a house.
Se tu fossi ricca, compreresti una casa?
If you were rich, would you buy a house?
Se lei fosse ricca, comprerebbe una casa.
If she were rich, she would buy a house.
Se loro fossero ricchi, comprerebbero una casa.
If they were rich, they would buy a house.
Se noi fossimo ricchi, compreremmo una casa.
If we were rich, we would buy a house.
Se voi foste ricchi, comprereste una casa.
If you (pl.) were rich, you would buy a house.
Note that you can switch the two clauses around like this:
Lei comprerebbe una casa se fosse ricca.
She would buy a house if she were rich.
Try the same thing with avere (to have). Here’s an example to get you started.
Se avessi tanti soldi, lavorerei molto meno.
If I had a lot of money, I would work much less.
To get even more practice, keep on using the model, but change the adjectives, the subjunctive verb, and the conditional verb along with the person. If you’re a bit unsure, just change one element in one clause at a time (the person, the subjunctive verb, or the conditional verb). If you’re more advanced, be adventurous!
Keep in mind that the personal pronouns are present when they need to clarify who’s doing what, or for emphasis. Otherwise, they can be included in the verb in both the conditional and the subjunctive. It can get tricky between the first and second person, which have the same endings, and between the third person and polite second person, which have the same endings (see conjugation charts). It’s a good idea to practice it both ways.
Don’t worry. Even though the grammar itself might seem daunting and complicated, before you know it, verbs in the subjunctive will become part of your everyday Italian speech.
In English we use the present (simple or progressive) to indicate the future, or we use the auxiliary verbs "going to" or "will." In Italian, the present tense is sometimes used to express the future, as in the following example.
Dico, ma io vengo anche subito, vado a casa, mi cambio e torno!
I say, but I'll even come right away. I'll go home, I'll change, and I'll come back!
Caption 45, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del MondoPlay Caption
The actual future tense, however, is constructed by conjugating the verb itself.
If you look at this song title: Cambierà, you might guess that it's a verb in the future tense. The accented vowel at the end gives it away. The verb is cambiare (to change), and we know by its ending, à, that it's in the third person singular, (see conjugation chart for cambiare). but we don't know, without the context, what or who is going to change. Try listening to Cambierà to find out, and see how many future tense verbs you can pick out. Attenzione: not all words with accents at the end are verbs. The second line in Italian ends with verità. It's is preceded by an article, helping us to see that it's a noun.
Here's part of the song:
Di questi tempi si vende
These days you sell
Qualsiasi cosa, anche la verità
Anything, even the truth
Ma non sarà così sempre
But it won't always be like that
Perché tutto cambierà -Cambierà
Because everything will change -It will change
Captions 5-8, Neffa - CambieràPlay Caption
For a concise but comprehensive explanation of the Italian future tense, see this article.
Once you feel somewhat confident, here are some great flashcards and exercises to seriously practice the future tense.
See these Yabla lessons about the future tense. Il tuo italiano migliorerà! (your Italian will improve!)
When we talk casually, there are words we use to fill up silences while thinking of what we want to say next, or words that just sound good and seem to help with the flow. Everyone has preferences and as you watch Yabla videos, you’ll start to recognize each person’s pet words.
The aunt (la zia) in Commissario Manara, whether she’s talking to her dog or to other people, tends to start her sentences with ma (but). You can see it doesn’t really mean “but” in every case; it’s just something to start a sentence with. Using words like the ones in the list below can be quite habit forming, even if you have a limited Italian vocabulary. Used judiciously, they can help you keep up your side of a conversation or make small talk.
Ma, nah, ma cosa fai?! Ma che stai combinando? Brigadiere! Ma stai fermo, ma cosa combini?!
But, no, but what are you doing? But what are you up to? Brigadiere! But keep still, what are you up to?!
Captions 46-48, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardivaPlay Caption
When she gets the least bit excited, la zia uses ma to glue her sentences together:
Ma dove, ma dove... ma no, ma tu non andrai da nessuna parte. Devi rimanere a letto. Eh, ma che scherziamo.
But where, but where... but no, but you're not going anywhere. You have to stay in bed. What, are you kidding?
Captions 6-8, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardivaPlay Caption
Below is a partial list of filler words you’ll hear quite often. Their translations change somewhat depending on the contesto (context), so check them out in both WordReference and the Yabla dictionary.
- ma (but)
- appunto (indeed)
- invece (instead, on the other hand, but)
- magari (maybe)
- proprio (really)
- sai (you know)
- vedi (you see)
- allora (well, so)
- cioè (that is)
- quindi (therefore, so)
- capito (understood)
- poi (then)
- così (like this)
- via (away)
- insomma (all in all, well)
- in pratica (basically)
- praticamente (practically)
- comunque (however, in any case)
Insomma (to conclude), each of the filler words could fill up an entire lesson, and appunto (indeed), a few have already gotten some special attention in Yabla lessons. Appunto, which roughly translates as “indeed,” but which has other sfumature (nuances), is featured in Making Connections With Appunto (Indeed). Magari is either used as a one word answer, or slipped in among other words, as discussed in this lesson: Magari - A Magic Word.
Insomma is an especially tricky word in that the inflection significantly changes its meaning. It's hard to pin down a specific meaning in English, and goes from meaning "so-so," (such as in response to being asked about a film or a book) to an expression of frustration or impatience (used with an exclamation point), or to a filler similar to "you know" or "like." (slipped in among the other words in a phrase). Do a Yabla search of insomma and you'll laugh at how often it crops up as a filler, rounding out the phrase, helping the flow, reinforcing the meaning, without having a pinpointable meaning in itself.
Pick a word from the list above, and listen for it as you watch Yabla videos. Or see how many of these filler words appear in a single video. Listen carefully for the inflection, which is important. And, of course, as you talk to yourself each morning in italiano, try each of these words on for size. You may sound ridiculous at first, but that’s OK. No one's listening.
While talking to yourself, you might come up with something like the following, just to get the feeling of these filler words.
Allora, insomma... magari...
Well, kind of iffy... if only...
Ma poi... cioè sai... praticamente... sai... capito? -Appunto.
But then... that is, you know... practically... you know... get it? -Exactly.
Quindi, vedi, in pratica... proprio così... comunque...
So, you see, basically... really... in any case...
In Italian there are different ways of saying "I love you." Romantic love is expressed with the verb amare (to love). Ti amo (I love you) is what a person will use when he or she is quite serious about a romantic relationship. But to express the kind of amore (love) parents have for their children (and vice versa), as in the following example from a video on essere madre (being a mother, or "motherhood"), an important phrasal verb to go for is voler bene (to care about, to care for).
A mia madre invece vorrei dire... ti voglio bene! Un bacio!
To my mother, on the other hand, I'd like to say... I love you! A kiss!
Captions 30-40, Essere... - madrePlay Caption
While English speakers may send love at the close of a letter to a friend or loved one, Italians will more likely send kisses and hugs, both in writing and verbally, as in the previous example. Here are some variations:
un bacio (a kiss)
un bacione (a big kiss)
un abbraccio (a hug, an embrace)
If you really like someone, but are not in love, or just not ready to say ti amo, then voler bene can be used to mean "to be very fond."
Look at the lesson I like it - Mi piace to integrate even more degrees of affetto (affection) using the verb piacere (to please) and the adjective simpatico (likeable, nice).
When falling in love, Italians have a reflexive verb all ready: innamorarsi (to become, or fall, in love). Once having fallen in love, a man is innamorato and a woman is innamorata. Note that the preposition is di (of), not con (with).
Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui. E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?
I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him. And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?
Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardivaPlay Caption
Two people may be molto innamorati (very much in love) and refer to each other as his or her amoroso. The noun form stays in the masculine, although the adjective form (much less common) changes according to gender and number.
To sum up some of the words having to do with love:
amoroso (beloved, sweetheart)
amare (to love)
voler bene a (to really care for)
innamorarsi (to fall in love)
piacere (to please)
innamorato (in love)
affezionato (attached to, fond of)
amoroso (affectionate, amorous)
Look around you at home and outside, and try to choose the word that best expresses your affetto (affection) for the people intorno a te (surrounding you).
Enjoy this lighthearted article about voler bene.
Whether you need something or need to do something, you need to know what words to use in Italian to express that need, especially since there's no simple, one-word equivalent of the verb "to need." In the following example, Marika uses a highly irregular verb that’s quite common in Italian, but which causes quite a bit of confusion for non-native speakers, both because it doesn't get conjugated and because it's so similar to its related noun form. It's practically useless to mention the infinitive because it doesn't ever get used.
Marika gives a news report about a school perched high on a hill. Let's see what she says:
Per arrivare nella scuola più piccola d' Europa bisogna fare trecentocinquanta scalini.
To get to the smallest school in Europe, you need to go up three hundred fifty steps.
Caption 3, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e MeteoPlay Caption
In talking about the search for the right location for his restaurant, here's how Gualtiero Marchesi uses bisogna:
Bisognava inventarsi tutto.
I had to invent it all.Play Caption
The infinitive of this indispensable verb is bisognare, but you never see it in this form, nor in any conjugation except the third person, where it is used impersonally. Marchesi uses it in the past tense: bisognava, and it will often appear in the conditional (bisognerebbe) or the future (bisognerà) as well.
Bisogna is a quick and neutral (sometimes maddeningly neutral) way to talk about what needs doing. For example, one housemate might say to the other:
Bisogna comprare il pane. (One needs to buy bread.)
Clearly, bread needs to be bought, but who's going to buy it? That detail is left to our imagination (or sense of duty).
This statement can also easily be expressed in the conditional:
Bisognerebbe comprare il pane. (Someone should buy bread.)
or in the future:
Bisognerà comprare il pane. (Someone will have to buy bread.
This way of using bisogna is easy: bisogna + verb in the infinitive
The other and more complicated way is: bisogna + che + verb in the subjunctive, but that's a topic for a future lesson.
Another way to express need is with the related noun bisogno (need), which is also easy to use, since the only verb you need to conjugate is avere (to have).
In fact, Gualtiero could have said:
Avevo bisogno di inventarmi tutto. (I had need of inventing everything for myself.)
He also could have said:
C’era bisogno di inventarsi tutto. (There was need [it was necessary] to invent it all for oneself.)
This is also easy because the verb essere will always be in the third person singular. In the above example, it's in the simple past.
It all has to do with sorting out the difference between bisogna (verb) and bisogno (noun) and remembering the simple rules about how they work. For a full explanation see this article.
In a nutshell:
Putting them together just for fun:
Bisogna andare in banca. In effetti, c'era bisogno di andare ieri, ma ieri bisognava fare tante altre cose. Bisognerà anche andare a fare la spesa questo pomeriggio, quindi, di che cosa abbiamo bisogno? C'è bisogno di fare una lista. Avrei bisogno di caffè, ma per quello, bisognerà andare in un altro negozio. C'è bisogno dello zucchero? No, non ce n'è bisogno, anche perché ho bisogno di dimagrire. Bisogna vedere, però, se riesco a berlo amaro.
We/I need to go to the bank. Actually, it was necessary to go yesterday, but yesterday we needed to do lots of other things. We'll also need to go food shopping this afternoon, so what do we need? We need to make a list. I would need coffee, but for that I need to go to different store. Do we need sugar? No, I don't need any, because I need to lose weight. We'll have to see if I'm able to drink it bitter [with no sugar].
See how you can mix and match these ways of needing things, or needing to do things. Just keep in mind the way they work, and which is which.
Now that you know the ins and outs of bisogna and bisogno, do a Yabla search and see for yourself how often these words get used in speech. Bisogna solo fare pratica! (You just need to practice!)
At Yabla Italian, there's been plenty of talk lately about nouns. Daniela has been talking about indefinite articles for both masculine and feminine nouns (see Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 1 of 3 and Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 2 of 3). Marika has talked about nouns that remain the same in singular and plural, and nouns that have two different plurals: one masculine and one feminine (see Marika spiega - Il plurale - Part 1 and Marika spiega - Il plurale - Part 2 of 2). It can be quite daunting! And to add to this, Alessio comes along with his rigo musicale, among other musical nouns!
Si tratta ora di fissarle sul rigo musicale, il pentagramma, formato da cinque linee.
Now we're concerned with placing them on the staff, the staff, made up of five lines.
Caption 2, A scuola di musica - con Alessio - Part 2Play Caption
If you're already familiar with the noun riga (line), you might be wondering if Alessio got his gender wrong. As a matter of fact, the feminine form, la riga (the line), is the word you'll use most of the time. But in music, il rigo is used to refer to a staff made up of five linee (lines), also called il pentagramma, and can also refer to each individual line within the staff. For a detailed explanation of rigo versus riga, see this article. Riga, rigo and linea are only a few of the Italian words that can translate as "line." See this link for many more!
There are other words that have special meanings when it comes to music:
In ordinary usage, la chiave means "the key," but in music, it means "the clef," a special symbol (actually a stylized letter C, G, or F) placed on a staff line in such a way as to indicate what note and pitch the line refers to. From that departure point, all the other notes can be recognized. A proposito, "clef" comes from the French word for key (clef or clé)!
In addition to being the name of a famous opera theater in Milan (La Scala), scala has several meanings, and they mostly have to do with going up and down: a staircase, a ladder, a level, and also a scale in music (a succession of musical notes at fixed degrees).
Di più, questa successione così omogenea, forma una scala discendente che poi, sempre in scala, risale.
In addition, this succession, homogeneous as it is, forms a descending scale which then goes back up, still as a scale [stepwise].
Captions 9-10, A scuola di musica - con Alessio - Part 2Play Caption
Uno scalino or un gradino can be a step in a musical scale, a rung on a ladder, a step up from the street to the curb, or a single step of many scalini, like the ones Marika talks about at the beginning of her latest newscast.
Per arrivare nella scuola più piccola d' Europa bisogna fare trecentocinquanta scalini.
To get to the smallest school in Europe, you have to go up three hundred fifty steps.Play Caption
Become more familiar with the different meanings of some of the above-mentioned nouns by looking them up in the dictionary of your choice, and then, learn their plurals! Daniela's recent classes on definite and indefinite articles and Marika's lessons on plurals will be of help in classifying them, as well as for finding the right indefinite article for each.
Here's a list to help you.
A key to learning these words might be to draw picture flashcards. There may be more than one valid answer for some of them.
We learned about saying we’re sorry using the verb dispiacere in Learning to Say You're Sorry. But that’s only one of its common uses. If we look closely at dispiacere we can detect two parts: the root piacere (to please) and the prefix dis, indicating negation or the opposite (very much like “dis-” in English). In a sense, dispiacere (to displease) is the opposite of piacere (to please, to be pleasing), so when I say “I’m sorry,” I’m saying that something displeases me:
Mi dispiace ma il tiramisù è terminato.
I'm sorry but we've run out of tiramisù.
Caption 17, Passeggiando per Roma - per RomaPlay Caption
Normally, dispiacere isn’t used as the opposite of piacere. See the lesson I like it - Mi piace where liking and not liking are discussed. In order to say I don’t like something, I say non mi piace, but if I say mi dispiace, it means “I’m sorry,” at least most of the time. Oddly enough, by negating dispiacere (non mi dispiace), it becomes a sort of via di mezzo (middle way) between liking something and not liking it. It’s as if to say non male (not bad) without the exclamation point.* Non mi dispiace can be the equivalent of “I like it enough” or “I don’t mind it.” In the end, it depends on the inflection and facial expression, and on the context. Tutto è relativo (it’s all relative)! Sometimes it serves to temper or soften a statement that might hurt someone’s feelings, as in the example at the end of this lesson.
*For more on saying “not bad” with an exclamation point, see the lesson Elegant and Not So Elegant Turns of Phrase.
Dispiacere is also used when asking someone if they mind something. Usually a positive answer is expected, especially when using the conditional as in the following example. As in English, the answer may or may not answer the actual question:
Ti dispiacerebbe aprire la porta? -Certo.
Would you mind opening the door? [Would it displease you to open the door?] -Sure.
In the example below, the answer is negative in meaning, but said in a positive statement.
Senta, Le dispiace se diamo un'occhiata in giro? -Eh, mi dispiace sì!
Listen, do you mind if we have a look around? -Eh, yes I do mind!
Captions 28-29, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardivaPlay Caption
In a nutshell:
When dispiacere has to do with minding, the pronoun will generally represent the person being addressed, in the second person:
Ti dispiace? (Do you mind?)
Le dispiace? (Do you mind? [formal])
Vi dispiace? (Do you mind? [plural])
When dispiacere has to do with liking something somewhat, the person doing the liking will be indicated by the pronoun:
Non mi dispiace (I like it pretty much)
Non gli dispiace (He likes it OK)
Putting the pieces together, just for fun:
Mi dispiace dirtelo, ma non mi dispiace la pubblicità della concorrenza. Non ti dispiace se ti dico la verità, vero?
I’m sorry to tell you but I somewhat like the competition’s publicity. You don’t mind if I tell you the truth, do you?
Non mi piace quello che dici ma non mi dispiace se mi dici quello che pensi. Anzi...
I don’t like what you’re saying, but I don’t mind if you tell me what you think. On the contrary...
Check your comprehension:
Make a search of the different conjugations of dispiacere in a Yabla search and choose what you think the closest meaning is in each case. There’s no translation right there, so you won’t get any hints except context, but you can check your results by watching the video.
When talking about winning and losing, vincere (to win) and perdere (to lose) are the words you’re looking for. When talking about finding something and losing something, trovare (to find) and perdere (to lose) are useful, too. But perdere also has some other important common uses.
When you miss a train, you lose it: perdere il treno (to miss the train).
Il sette dicembre del duemila, io avevo avuto un grosso imprevisto che mi fece perdere il treno per Londra.
On the seventh of December of the year two thousand, I had had something unexpected happen that made me miss the train for London.
Captions 54-55, Anna e Marika - Il verbo averePlay Caption
When you waste time, you lose it: perdere tempo (to waste time).
Lo sapevo che non dovevo venire. Mi state facendo perdere solo tempo.
I knew I shouldn't have come. You're just wasting my time.
Captions 49-50, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di ideePlay Caption
When there’s a leaky faucet, it loses water: perde (it leaks).
Ma guarda che l'ho aggiustato il rubinetto, adesso perde poco!
But look, I fixed the faucet, now it leaks very little!Play Caption
When you let something go, you drop it, you forget about it, you let it get lost: lasciare perdere (to let it be).
Ti aiuto ad asciugare? -No, lascia perdere, sei stanco, lavati! Eh...
Shall I help you dry? -No, forget it, you're tired, wash up! Uh...Play Caption
Much of the time perdere means “to lose,” but, non perdere di vista (don’t lose sight of) the common expressions above!
Here are some more instances where perdere is used:
When you’ve missed the beginning of a movie:
Ho perso l’inizio!
I missed the beginning!
When you’ve lost weight:
Ho perso dieci chili!
I lost ten kilos!
When you don’t want to miss something:
Venezia è da non perdere!
Venice is not to be missed!
When you can’t find your way:
Be on the lookout for these particular meanings of perdere. You’ll find them cropping up often in Yabla videos, and in real life, if you’re lucky enough to listen to Italian conversation. Soon enough all these meanings will become familiar to you. And when you next miss a train, or a flight, or have a leaky faucet, or get lost, or waste time, ricordatevi (remember) that perdere is a word da non perdere (not to be missed).
One of Italy’s most beloved singer-songwriters ci ha lasciato (passed away): Pino Daniele. Italian uses the verb ricordare to express remembrance on such occasions.
Lo ricorderemo con affetto.
We’ll remember him with affection.
In Quando (When), one of his most famous songs, Pino sings about, among other things, ricordi (memories).
Fra i ricordi e questa strana pazzia E il paradiso che forse esiste
Among memories and this strange madness And a paradise that might exist
Captions 29-30, Pino Daniele - QuandoPlay Caption
Ricordare has another, closely related meaning—“to remind,” as in the following example.
Ah, un'altra cosa, scusami Anna, che volevo ricordare ai nostri amici di Yabla, come usanza, noi italiani a tavola non mangiamo mai pane e pasta insieme.
Ah, another thing, sorry Anna, that I wanted to remind our Yabla friends of, customarily, we Italians at table we don't eat bread and pasta together.
Captions 41-42, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a TrasteverePlay Caption
When using ricordare as “to remind,” it becomes ricordare a and gets used with an indirect object, as in the above example. The preposition a (to)—sometimes connected to an article, as above—goes between ricordare and the person getting reminded. In the above example, the direct object is cosa.
But when the indirect object is a personal pronoun, the spelling shifts, as in the following example, where ti stands for a te (to you). See an explanation and chart of Italian indirect object pronouns here.
E tra l'altro, ti volevo ricordare, che questa era una palude.
And besides, I wanted to remind you, that this was a swamp.
Caption 18, Marika e Daniela - Il Foro RomanoPlay Caption
Hm... Rosmini. -Hm. -Ricordami il nome? -Ginevra.
Hmm... Rosmini. -Uh huh. -Remind me of your [first] name? -Ginevra.
Captions 80-81, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfettoPlay Caption
In English we have two distinct but related words, “to remember” and “to remind,” while in Italian the difference is considered so minimal that the same word is used, but there are some subtle differences.
More often than not, when we’re remembering, ricordare is used reflexively: ricordarsi, as in mi ricordo (I remember). (See the lesson: Reflections on the Reflexive.) When using the past tense, as in the following example, essere (to be) is the auxiliary verb.
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 PucciniPlay Caption
If you think of ricordare as meaning “to call to mind,” it may be easier to see how one word can fill two bills. While ricordarsi (to remember) is reflexive, and involves the person who’s remembering, ricordare a (to remind) involves two or more people.
Things get a little tricky when personal pronouns are used (which is a lot of the time)! Notice the object pronouns and conjugated verb. When ricordare means “to remember” the conjugation of ricordare matches the object pronoun, such as in ti ricordi? (do you remember?), si ricorda (he/she/it/one remembers), vi ricordate (you remember), ci ricordiamo (we remember). But in ricordare as reminding, there are usually at least two different people involved: ti ricordo (I remind you), ci ha ricordato (he/she/it reminded us), mi poteva ricordare (he could have reminded me).
In a nutshell:
Ricordare and its reflexive form ricordarsi (to remember): takes essere (to be) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci siamo ricordati), can be reflexive (same person)
Ricordare a (to remind): takes avere (to have) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci ha ricordato), is two-way (different people)
Here are a few more examples to help you remember...
Ti ricorderai di comprare il pane, o te lo devo ricordare?
Will you remember to buy bread, or do I have to remind you of it?
Ricordamelo pure, ma forse non mi ricorderò!
Go ahead and remind me of it, but maybe I won’t remember!
Come faccio a ricordarmi di ricordarti?
How can I remember to remind you?
Ti ho già ricordato due volte.
I’ve already reminded you twice.
When we’re una squadra di uno (a team of one), then we need stesso (self) to remind ourselves of something:
Alla fine, sarà più semplice ricordare a me stesso/stessa di comprare il pane, che di ricordarmi di ricordare a qualcun altro.
In the end, it’ll be easier to remind myself to buy bread, than to remember to remind someone else.