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Ways to talk about death in Italian

 

Many of those who subscribe to Yabla Italian have enjoyed the TV series Commissario Manara. In the first season, Luca Manara had a romantic relationship with Lara, a fellow police investigator. It just so happened that she had an aunt who was very kind and sociable, and would often contribute in her special way to solving a case, along with her dog, Brigadiere. The character was Zia Caterina.

 

Valeria Valeri, the actress who played Zia Caterina, passed away just a week ago, at the ripe old age of 97, and so we remember her here.

 

As a matter of fact, Commissario Manara was one of her last TV performances.

 

Zia Caterina was a character along the lines of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Caterina was always wearing outlandish earrings, funny straw hats and always had a smile on her face. She had a dog that was a good investigator too.

 

Speaking of Murder She Wrote, did you know the Italian version of Murder She Wrote was called La Signora in Giallo? Read about the special meaning of giallo in Italian.

 

In Italian, there’s a tradition of calling someone Zia (aunt) or Zio (uncle) without their name attached.

Solo tu potevi salvarci zia...

Only you could have saved us, Aunt...

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

Note that Italians don't capitalize affectionate names like zia, zio, signora.

 

Let's now take the opportunity of Valeri's passing to talk about how Italians talk about death. It's never easy, and it's not a happy subject, but sometimes knowing how to talk about death can save you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here is what the headlines have been saying about Valeria Valeri's death.

Purtroppo è venuta a mancare Valeria Valeri.
Sadly, Valeria Valeri has come to be missing.

 

It’s an elegant and indirect way to say someone has died, and the verb mancare is often used in this sense.

 

We also use mancare to miss someone, but this verb works in a completely different way from the English verb "to miss." More about that here.

 

A 97 anni, dopo una vita spesa in palcoscenico, si è spenta ieri a Roma Valeria Valeri, una grande attrice e una grande voce del teatro italiano ...
At ninety-seven years, after a life on the stage, Valeria Valeri died in Rome. She was a great actress and one of the great voices of Italian theater.

Si è spenta.
Spegnere means "to turn off."
Her light went out.
She stopped living.

È morta Valeria Valeri.
Valeria Valeri died.
Valeria Valeri is dead.

 

Morire is the classical, literal word for “to die.”

 

Let’s not forget that morto/morta can be either the past participle, as in "she has died," or it can be an adjective, as in "she is dead." More about that here.

 

One more way to say someone died is to say they are gone, or they have gone. They have taken their leave.

Valeria Valeri se ne andata.
Valeria Valeri has left. Valeria Valeri is gone.

Ci mancherà.
We will miss her

 

Most will agree that Zia Caterina was a great addition to the cast of Manara, and that knowing she is gone for good is a little sad, although she lived to be almost a hundred!

 

Thanks for reading!

Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

 

A presto!

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