Italian Lessons

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Cavare, Scavare, and Ricavare

 

In a previous lesson, we talked about the popular pronominal verb cavarsela (to get by), and the verb it comes from, cavare (to extract, to get something out of something). Consider the noun il cavatappi. It's a corkscrew for extracting the cork from a bottle.

Scavare

We also have scavare (to excavate, to dig, to dig up). The s- prefix often gives an opposite meaning to a word. In this case, we are extracting the soil or rock by digging.

 

Il primo passo consiste nel scavare una cavità nella pietra, nella roccia.

The first step consists of digging a cavity in the stone, in the rock.

Caption 6, Meraviglie - EP. 2 - Part 13

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Naturally, there are other words related to cavare that can be easily understood:

una cavità (a cavity)

concavo (concave)

la cava (the mine, the quarry)

 

Cave

You might be asking yourself: What about the English word "cave?" There are a few choices.

 

Allora, questa casa, questo ambiente, in realtà è per il settanta percento

So, actually, seventy percent of this house, this space,

costituito da una grotta.

consists of a cave.

Captions 8-9, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 12

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la caverna (the cave, the cavern)

la grotta (the cave, the grotto)

la spelonca (the cave)

 

Have any of you ever gone spelunking?

Ricavare 

But we also have ricavare as a common verb. Sometimes this ri- prefix means "again," just as "re-" in English can mean that, as in rifare (to re-do).

 

Sometimes this prefix does double duty and may or may not mean "to do something again," if we consider verbs like tornare - ritornare (to return)suonare - risuonare (to sound, to resound)chiedere - richiedere (to ask - to request). There are subtleties.

 

Ricavare can mean a couple of things. It might be helpful to think of "carving out," as in making a cave. Often ricavare is used when you are carving out material to make something new, especially if we think of the second meaning of ricavare: "to obtain." The following example gives us an image of what ricavare can mean in a concrete sense. Surely a lot of rocky material was extracted (cavato, scavato) to build the amphitheater.

 

Fra gli edifici per lo spettacolo,

Among the buildings for events,

l'anfiteatro ricavato nelle pendici est della Collina di San Pietro

the amphitheater built into the eastern slopes of the Hill of Saint Peter,

occupava un'area a sud della città.

occupied an area south of the city.

Captions 41-43, Itinerari Della Bellezza - Abruzzo

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One meaning of ricavare is "to obtain," as in making a profit: The past participle is often used as a noun: il ricavato.

 

L'avrei costretto a dividere il ricavato con me.

I would have forced him to share the proceeds with me.

Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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Current context:

It's easy to envision a situation in which you have to work from home. But you might have to carve out a space in your small apartment. Ricavare is a great verb for this, and it can be used figuratively, too, as you can see in the final example.

 

Devo ricavare uno spazio in questo apartamento per lavorare tranquillo (I need to carve out some space in this apartment to work in peace).

Ho ricavato una stanza in più, trasformando questo locale di sgombro (I built an additional room by transforming this storeroom).

Mia sorella è riuscita a ricavare un po' di tempo la sera per fare yoga (My sister managed to carve out some time in the evening to do yoga).

 

Carving out and obtaining something "new."

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