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Upkeep and Keeping Up with Mantenere

Mantenere (to maintain, to keep)

The primary meaning of mantenere is “to maintain” (a true cognate) or “to keep.”

But it doesn’t mean “keep” as in keeping a lock of someone’s hair. For that, we can use tenere (which is also part of mantenere) or conservare. It’s more about keeping a promise, as in the following example, where the subjunctive of mantenere is used. Affinché (so that, in order for) is the conjunction that requires the subjunctive in this sentence.


Il ranocchio le gridò dietro affinché lei mantenesse la sua promessa.

The frog shouted after her, so that she would keep her promise.

Caption 33, Ti racconto una fiaba - Il Principe Ranocchio

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Mantenere can also imply keeping or maintaining something in a certain condition or position.


Fermo restando che insieme al, alla tintura viene richiesta [sic: vengono richiesti] spesso,

Taking for granted that together with the dye, often we get a request for

i pigmenti colorati che servono per mantenere anche il colore.

color revitalizers that are also used to maintain the color.

Captions 46-47, Professioni e mestieri - Rivenditore per parrucchieri

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È un ballo molto veloce, ritmato, in quattro quarti,

It's a very fast dance, rhythmic, in four four,

dove la caratteristica è mantenere le ginocchia sempre in movimento e alte.

whose characteristic is to always keep the knees moving and up high.

Captions 12-13, Adriano - Jive

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We use mantenere to mean “to support,” too. We use the reflexive form, mantenersi,  to refer to making a living, to supporting oneself.


Si era messo a lavora' da un fornaio pe' mantenesse [per mantenersi], di notte.

He started working at a baker's at night to support himself.

Caption 21, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

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Un mantenuto is someone who is “kept” or supported by someone else.

Giorgio non ha un lavoro, fa il mantenuto a casa di sua mamma.
Giorgio doesn’t have a job, he is supported by his mother.


Or we could say:

Si fa mantenere dalla sua fidanzata
He gets supported by his girlfriend.


See also these other nouns that come from mantenere:

Mantenimento, which is more about financial support of people or animals.

Manutenzione which is more about maintenance and upkeep.


The following example uses both mantenere and manutenzione in a single sentence.


E fornisce molto lavoro, soprattutto per i ragazzi più giovani

And it provides a lot of work, above all for the younger people

che possono lavorare con le barche, possono affittarle, possono

who can work with the boats, (can) rent them, (can)

mantenerne la manutenzione, possono venderle.

keep up with the maintenance, (can) sell them.

Captions 8-10, Milena - al porto di Maratea

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Just for fun:


Ho mantenuto lo stesso giardiniere per vent’anni, perché era molto bravo nellamanutenzione degli atrezzi da giardino, e nel mantenere pulito e rigoglioso il giardino stesso. Inoltre, doveva mantenere cinque figli. Si manteneva con il giardinaggio.


kept on the same gardener for twenty years because he was very good with the upkeep of the gardening utensils and in keeping the garden itself neat and flourishing. Besides, he had to support five children. He supported himself by doing gardening.


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