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When the noun pezzo (piece) is used to mean "time"

In one of Yabla's offerings this week, there is a curious little modo di dire we'd like to take a look at here. The expression da un pezzo involves the noun pezzo (piece), a word we don't necessarily think of when thinking of time.  So it's worth having a closer look.

 

Un pezzo has a cognate in "a piece," and in many contexts, that's the translation. But if you look in a dictionary, we find that pezzo also means "a while," "a long time." Who knew?

Io voglio un figlio mio, Orazio. Semmai nostro. -È ovvio. Altrimenti sarei già mamma da un pezzo.

I want my own child, Orazio. If anything, ours. -It's obvious. Otherwise I'd already have been a mom for a while.

Captions 28-30, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 2

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So when someone asks you,

Da quanto tempo vivi in Italia? (How long have you been living in Italy?)

 

You can reply using a period of time:

Vivo in Italia da dieci anni (I've lived here for ten years).

 

Or you can just be vague:

da molto tempo (for a long time).

 

But you can also say,

da un pezzo (for a long time, for a good while).

 

And another way we can translate this into English is with "for some time."

 

È per i piccoli spostamenti nella tenuta, però è ferma da un pezzo.

It's for small trips on the property. But it's been idle for some time.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7

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We don't necessarily need to use da (from, since).  We can use the verb essere in the present tense (third person singular), which in this case corresponds to the past continuous in English.

Sì. Ho pagato la protezione. È un pezzo che la pago.

Yes. I paid for protection. I've been paying for a while now.

Captions 21-22, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 16

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So let's say two friends get together after a long time. There are various ways we can comment. Note that we use the present tense in Italian, but we use the present perfect in English.

Non ci vediamo da un pezzo (we haven't seen each other in a while/in a long time).

È un pezzo che non ci vediamo (It's been a while/ a long time since we last saw each other).

Non ci vediamo da un sacco di tempo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

È un sacco di tempo che non ci vediamo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

Non ci vediamo da una vita (we haven't seen each other in ages [in a lifetime]).

È una vita che non ci vediamo (it's been ages [a lifetime] since we last saw each other).

 

We hope you can add this to your Italian conversational toolbox. It might save you trying to figure out how to say a year, or use some other complicated construction. Need more info? Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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