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Being Up to It, with “In Grado”

In the exciting first episode of the movie Stai Lontana da Me (Stay Away from Me), prima di tutto (first of all) we can see that someone is directing the title phrase at a woman because of the feminine a ending at the end of lontana (far, far away). The business of changing the endings of adjectives according to number, gender, and person is a little tricky but important. Learn about adjective endings both in Michela’s lesson about adjectives, and in Daniela’s lesson about adjectives.


In Stai Lontana da Me, the narrator uses the term essere in grado. It’s hard to find an easy-to-remember cognate for this, so let’s give it some attention. Il grado (the degree) is the basic noun, which is used for things like temperatures and burns, and not for college degrees. But together with the preposition in (at, in), it means “able to,” “capable of”:


Ci vuole solo un miracolo o qualcuno che sia in grado di farlo.

Only a miracle will do, or someone capable of working one.

Captions 46-47, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema

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In English, the adjective “capable” can describe the way a person is in general, but in Italian, in grado is specific to a task and is followed by the preposition di (of) plus a verb in the infinitive, which may or may not actually be expressed. It’s usually preceded by the verb essere (to be):


Io ti affido un compitino da fare a casa,

I'll entrust you with a little assignment to do at home,

e vediamo se sei in grado di farlo.

and let's see if you're able to do it.

Captions 36-37, Marika spiega - La divisione in sillabe

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Do a Yabla video search to see a nice list of examples with in grado.

In grado doesn’t only refer to people. A machine can also be in grado. It’s often used when referring to the capabilities of a car or other instrument.

Questa macchina è in grado di darti tante soddisfazioni.
This car is capable of giving you lots of satisfaction.

In grado has more to do with being trained or properly prepared for a task than merely being good or not good at something. It’s a bit less personal, more formal, maybe less judgmental.

Non sono in grado di usare questo software.
This software is beyond my capabilities (because I haven’t learned how).

Another way of thinking about this is “being up to a task.”

Il mio computer non è in grado di fare montaggi video.
My computer is not up to the task of editing video.

We can substitute in grado with capace (capable), remembering that capace is more personal.


In the following example, Marika has been asked to do a favor for a friend, and in this case in grado and capace are interchangeable, because there is a preposition + verb (present or implicit). non è in grado di montare la cassettiera.

...but she isn't capable of putting together the chest of drawers.

Caption 3, Marika spiega - Gli attrezzi

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E sapendo che invece io ne sono capace...

And knowing that I, instead, am capable of doing it...

Caption 6, Marika spiega - Gli attrezzi

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Capace, like “capable,” may also be used to describe a person, and in this case cannot be replaced with in grado because there’s no preposition + verb.

Daniela è molto capace come insegnante.
Daniela is very capable as a teacher.


But we can add:

È in grado di spiegare anche concetti complicati.
She’s also capable of explaining complicated concepts.


Sei in grado di trovare esempi in Yabla dove puoi sostituire

Are you able to find Yabla examples where you can replace

in grado con capace e vice versa?

in grado with capace and vice versa?



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