Italian Lessons

Topics

When Repeating a Word can Change its Meaning

 

We’ve begun releasing the first segments of a new movie at Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.

His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.

Here's what the agent says:

Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...

Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this..

Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.

 

We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!

 

So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts. 
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora

 

Let’s give the word a quick review here.

 

In the following example, ancora means "even." 

Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.

That way, you can understand me even better.

Caption 27, Italian Intro Serena

 Play Caption

 

And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.

ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.

And still today we're very close friends.

Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amicizia - Part 1

 Play Caption

È ancora vivo. He’s still alive.

 

If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."

Non è ancora morto. He's not dead yet.

 

In the example that follows, ancora means “more.” 

Ne vuoi ancora? -Eh?

Do you want some more of it? -Huh?

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti, perché mi hai fatto fare un tuffo nel passato!

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets, because it made me take a dive into the past!

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

 

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,

Caption 67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”

 

But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.

 

So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying  “it’s passable.”  Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t." 

 

There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:

Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.

 

Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.

 

Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:

Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.

 

If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,

Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.

 

You May Also Like