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Managing with farcela

There's a common Italian pronominal verb you'll be glad to have in your toolbox. It's used a lot in conversation, as an expression, but understanding how it works can be a little tricky. But first...

What's a pronominal verb?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles). Particelle or particles are those tiny, usually, 2-letter pronouns we find in Italian, such as ci, ne, ne, la.

 

The pronominal verb of the day: farcela (to manage to do something)

 

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Let's unpack this pronominal verb. In the infinitive, it's farcela. 

The verb contained in this pronominal verb is fare = to make, to do.

Alessia può farcela da sola.

Alessia can manage on her own.

Caption 57, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 5

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Usually in a pronominal verb, one of the pronouns is an indirect pronoun, In this case, it's ce. Ce means the same thing as ci, (to it/him/her," "at it/him/her," "about it.") but when there is a direct object with it, ci changes to ce! As we have mentioned in previous lessons, the particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne,  but in that case, it becomes ce. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.
 

To make things even more complicated, ci, and consequently, ce, can mean any number of things. The basic thing to remember is that ci or ce usually represents a preposition + complement. Learn more about ci
 
 

The second pronoun in the expression farcela is la. This is a direct object pronoun meaning "it." It's always used in the feminine — we could say la stands for la cosa, a feminine noun.

 

In the previous example, farcela stands on its own to mean "to manage." It's also possible to add another verb, so as to mean, "to manage to do something."

 

Ehm, pensa di farcela a recuperare le chiavi della mia auto?

Uh, do you think you can manage to retrieve the keys of my car?

Caption 35, Psicovip Il tombino - Ep 2

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In both of our previous examples, the conjugated verb (potere = to be able to, pensare = to think) precedes the pronominal verb, resulting in the pronominal verb being in the infinitive. 

Posso farcela (I can manage it).

Penso di farcela (I think I can manage it).

 

Learning the infinitive is a good starting point, as it's fairly straightforward. Use the common verbs in their conjugated forms to "push" the pronominal verb over into the infinitive. 

 

Conjugating farcela

Farcela is the infinitive of the pronominal verb, and as we have seen above, sometimes it can stay that way. More often than not, however, it is conjugated, so it's a good idea to have a few expressions memorized and ready to use. As you can see from the following example, it can be used when you're falling behind.

 

Piano, piano, piano. Piano, cagnozzo! Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Slow down, dear little dog! I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

Captions 1-2, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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Eh, basta, croce. Non ce la faccio più.

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't go on.

Caption 17, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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Some other common conjugations:

Ce la fai? (Can you manage it?)
Non ce la fa. (He/she can't manage it, He/she can't make it).
Ce la faremo? (Are we going to make it?)
Ce l'ho fatta! (I did it, I made it).

 

If we want to add another verb, we use the preposition a (to) before the (second) verb, which will be in the infinitive (arrivare, mangiare, finire). Here are a few examples:

 

Ce la faremo ad arrivare in tempo? (Are we going to manage to arrive in time?/Are we going to make it in time?)
Ce la fai a mangiare tutto? (Can you manage to eat it all?)
Ce l'ha fatta a finire il progetto? (Did he/she manage to finish the project?)

 

As you can see, this kind of sentence usually starts with ce la, unless it's in the negative, in which we start with non followed by ce la + the conjugated verb fare.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

1) Fare is a verb that takes avere (not essere) in perfect tenses. In perfect tenses, the particle la will become l'  because it will be attached to the conjugated form of avere, which will have a vowel sound at the beginning (even though written with an h: ho, hai, ha, abbiamo, avete, hanno). So when you just hear it, you might not perceive it. Lookking at Italian captions or doing Scribe can help with this.

 

2) One more tricky thing to remember when using perfect tenses:

 

You might be tempted to say ce l'ho fatto. But that would be wrong. Why? It's about verb-object agreement. 

 

The rule is that when the object pronoun comes before the verb (in this case, la before ho), then the past participle of the verb will agree with the object (la), not the subject (in this case io [I]). 

 

So it has to be Ce l'ho fatta.

 

It is complicated, so be patient with yourself. Even those of us who have been living in Italy for years still have doubts sometimes, when conjugating these pesky pronominal verbs. Over time, the grammar will start making a little more sense to you and you will say, "Ah ha!" Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta a capire! (I finally managed to understand). Or, simply, Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta!

 

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