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Where's the Subject? - L'impersonale Part 2

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Si, Si, and Ci - Part 3


We're continuing on about the impersonale. Review last week's lesson here. So far we've been dealing with intransitive verbs (verbs having no object):

Si guida a sinistra (you drive on the left).

and verbs taking singular objects:

Si mangia la pasta a pranzo (people eat pasta at lunch).

But when the "impersonal" verb refers to an object in the plural, such as pietanze (dishes) in the example below, the verb must agree not with its subject, because there isn't one, but with its object. Therefore it, too, must be in the (third person) plural: Pietanze is plural, so mangiano is plural. There are a few different ways to translate this in English:


Io la Vigilia di Natale la passo in famiglia ...

I spend Christmas Eve with my family ...

verso le sette,

around seven,

ci si mette a cena, e si mangiano pietanze a base di pesce.

we sit down to dinner, and one eats dishes with fish as their basis.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega - La Vigilia di Natale

 Play Caption


More possible options:

On Christmas Eve, seafood dishes are eaten.
On Christmas Eve, people eat seafood dishes.

If we were to change the object into a singular one like pesce (fish), our impersonal verb would change as well:

A Natale si mangia il pesce.
At Christmas fish is eaten.

This little word si can cause all sorts of chaos for learners, but little by little, you'll get it sorted out. 

This week, Daniela starts talking about reflexive verbs. Part 2 will follow next week. Pay close attention so that when we combine the impersonal with the reflexive, it will make more sense!

The following are some answers and possible translations for the exercise in last week's lesson.

cominciare (to begin) Si comincia alle undici.
It starts at eleven o'clock. 
We're starting at eleven.

guidare (to drive) A Londra si guida a sinistra.
In London, you drive on the left.
In London, one drives on the left.
In London, people drive on the left.

fumare (to smoke) Non si fuma a scuola.
You don't smoke at school.
People aren't allowed to smoke in school.
One doesn't smoke at school.
Don't smoke at school.

scrivere (to write) Come si scrive il tuo nome?
How do do you write your name?
How is your name written?

andare (to go) Non si va a scuola la domenica.
You don't go to school on Sundays.
We don't go to school on Sundays.
Kids don't go to school on Sundays.

fare (to do, to make) Come si fa il risotto?
How do you make risotto?
How does one make risotto?
How is risotto made?

parlare (to speak) In Francia si parla il francese.
In France, French is spoken.
In France, they speak French.
In France, you speak French.
In France, speak French!

dovere (to have to, should) Non si deve sprecare l'acqua.
dovere (to have to, should) Non si dovrebbe sprecare l'acqua.
One shouldn't waste water.
You shouldn't waste water.
People shouldn't waste water.
Water shouldn't get wasted.

finire (to finish) Non si finisce mai di imparare.
You never stop learning.
One never stops learning.
We never stop learning.


Little by little you'll become familiar with the different contexts for using the impersonal verbs with si. Tune in next week for the last part, when we combine the reflexive and the impersonal.


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