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When Is an Adjective Not an Adjective?

In Italian, as in English, there are past participles that are also adjectives.

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Let's take the example of verbs rompere (to break) and vendere (to sell), which are both transitive verbs (verbs that take a direct object), and take avere as an auxiliary verb.

In the first example, we have the masculine noun il vaso (the vase). The adjective and the past participle are identical: rotto.

Hai rotto il vaso (you broke the vase or, you've broken the vase). 
L'hai rotto (you broke it, or you've broken it).
Ora è rotto (now it's broken).

In the next example, la casa (the house) is feminine, so the ending of venduto/venduta will change when we use a pronoun in place of la casa, and when we use it as an adjective, which has to agree with the noun casa (feminine in this case).

Hai venduto la casa (you sold your house). 
L'hai venduta (you sold it, or you've sold it).
È venduta (it's sold).

The verbs in the above examples take avere (to have) as a helping verb. When we have a verb that takes essere (to be) as a helping verb, like morire (to die), it can cause confusion, because the participle and the adjective look totally identical, including the verb essere (to be), but their function, and consequently their translation, are in fact slightly different.

In this week's episode of Commissario Manara, someone, as usual, has died, and is therefore dead. In English there are two distinct words, but in Italian the word is the same. 

In the first example below, morto (dead) is an adjective:

 

È morto da almeno tre giorni.

He's been dead at least three days.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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But morto is also the participio passato (past participle) of the (irregular) verb morire.

 

E allora come è morto?

So how did he die?

Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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The context will help you determine which translation to use, but it can be a bit ambiguous.

 

To add a bit of confusion, morto can also be used as a noun: il morto (the dead man, the dead person). In this case, there will be an article.

 

Le posso spiegare tutto, però non subito perché c'è un morto che ci aspetta.

I can explain everything to you, but not right now because there's a dead man waiting for us.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption

 

In the case of morto as a noun, it tends to be masculine, but if we know the dead person is a woman, it's correct to say una morta, or if there are multiple dead people, i morti

 

La morte (death) is not a pleasant subject, but it's important to know how to talk about it. Unfortunately, it's a word that's used too often oggigiorno (these days).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further practice:
Do a Yabla search of morto, and try to determine whether it's an adjective, a participle, or a noun.  Let the context help you.
 

Grammar

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