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Scattare and Staccare

Staccare and scattare, two somewhat look-alike words, appear in the same episode of Commissario Manara, and scattare also appears in a music video. The meanings of both words are not always immediately clear.


We use the word scattare when taking pictures:

Ti scatterò una foto

I'll take a snapshot of you

Caption 8, Tiziano Ferro - Ti scattero' una foto

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But scattare can mean to “click,” “to release a spring,” or “to spring into action.” It can also mean “to click” figuratively, as in the following example from one of this week’s videos.

Lo ringrazi tantissimo per i fiori e gli dici:

You thank him profusely for the flowers and you tell him,

"non è scattato quello che doveva scattare."

"What should have clicked didn't click."

Captions 7-8, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 8

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Scattare has to do with setting something in motion at a certain moment.

C'è stata una storia che ha fatto scattare la carriera.

There's been a story that made this one's career take off.

Captions 16-17, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca

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Staccare on the other hand generally means “to detach” as we can see by the prefix attached to the word attaccare. The prefix s often negates a word, or changes its meaning to the opposite, or to something a bit different. In some cases it can be comparable to the prefix "de," “dis,” “in,” or “im.”

Staccare la spina is “to pull out the plug.” This expression transfers to other situations like someone’s phone being off, or having the electricity go off. The adjective or past participle staccato can also mean “disconnected” or “separate.”


In this week’s episode of Commissario Manara, Lara tries to call Massimo, but his phone is off:


Informazione gratuita: il clien'... [cliente] -Staccato.

Free message: the client... -He's turned off.

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 8

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Here are a few common examples to give you an idea of how the prefix s works.


Corretto (correct)/scorretto (incorrect, or improper)
Cotto (cooked)/scotto (overcooked)
Finito (finished)/sfinito (dead tired)
Fame (hunger)/sfamare (to remove hunger, or to feed)
Parlare (to speak)/sparlare (to speak badly of someone)
Congelare (to freeze)/scongelare (to defrost)
Intonato (in tune)/stonato (out of tune)
Ricordare (to remember or remind)/scordare (to forget)


See also Marika’s video about prefixes.


Marika spiega: La formazione dei contrari 



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