In a previous lesson, we joined Anna and Marika at the famous Trattoria al Tevere Biondo in Rome, where they were having lunch... Later on, after their meal, they start chatting with the owner Giuseppina, who has plenty of stories to tell. She uses an expression that’s kind of fun:
Ma chi me lo fa fà [fare], io m'alzo due ore prima la mattina e la faccio espressa. Ho fatto sempre stò [questo] lavoro. -Così si cura la qualità.
But who makes me do it? I get up two hours earlier in the morning and I do it to order. I've always done it this way. -That way you make sure of the quality.
Captions 24-26, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo TeverePlay Caption
“Who makes me do it?” is the literal translation, but the gist is, “why should I go to all that trouble?” And with her Roman speech, she shortens the infinitive fare (to make, to do) to fà. As a matter of fact, as she tells her stories Giuseppina chops off the end of just about every verb in the infinitive. This way of speaking is popular all over Italy, so get some practice with Giuseppina!
Giuseppina may chop off her verbs, but the characters in Commissario Manara chop off the end of the adverb bene (well), turning it into bè. To agree to something, va bene (literally, "he/she/it goes well") is the expression to use. But when the conversation gets going, and it's a back and forth of "OK, but..." or "All right, all right!" or "OK, let's do this," like between Luca Manara and his team, va bene often becomes vabbè. This simple expression, depending on what tone of voice is used, can say a lot. A Yabla search with vabbè will bring up many examples in Manara videos, and plenty of other videos as well.
In one episode, two detectives on Manara’s team think they’ve made a discovery, but of course the Commissario has already figured things out, and they’re disappointed.
Vabbè, però così non c'è gusto... scusa. -Vabbè, te l'avevo detto io, 'o [lo] sapevo.
OK, but that way there's no satisfaction... sorry. -OK, I told you so, I knew it.
Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Vabbè is an expression that gets used about as often as “OK.” Sometimes, though, we really do need to know if things are all right. In this case we use the full form, va bene? (is it all right?):
Eh, guardi, pago con la carta. Va bene? -OK.
Uh, look, I'll pay by credit card. Alright? -OK.
Captions 38-39, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
In her reply, the salesperson uses the international, “OK” but she could just as easily have said, va bene (that’s fine).
It’s important to understand abbreviated words when you hear them, but in most situations, when speaking, use the full form—you can’t go wrong.