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Fare (to do, to make), a top Italian verb

We always say that the verb fare means "to make" or "to do."  But the truth is that fare is used in all sorts of contexts to mean all sorts of things. In our weekly newsletters, we like to point out interesting words or expressions in the week's videos, which range from 5 to 9 new videos. This week there were plenty of instances of fare, so we focused on some of them in the newsletter. Here in the lesson, we do basically the same thing, but we give you video examples so you can hear and see the context for yourself. And maybe you will want to go and watch the entire video, or even better, subscribe if you haven't yet!

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Fare meaning "to act like."

As we mentioned above, the verb fare can mean "to make" or "to do." But it is also often used to mean "to act like." In English, we might simply use the verb "to be."

Ma non fare lo scemo, dai!

But don't be an idiot, come on!

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP3 Un cugino in fuga - Part 8

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Fare meaning "to let"

Fare is often used to mean "to let."

Mi può fare avere un piatto di minestra?

Can you let me have a bowl of soup?

Caption 3, Non è mai troppo tardi EP1 - Part 18

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The director of the reformatory was being polite. Here, the English verb could have been "to have" as in "have someone bring me a bowl of soup." Or it might even be "to make," as in, Fammi portare un piatto di minestra (make someone bring me some soup) or "to get" as in, "Get someone to bring me some soup." See the lesson Making It Happen about this very common use. 

 

Fare with adverbs of time

Here, fare is used with adverbs of time, for example: Facciamo tardi (we'll be late). Facciamo presto (we'll be quick).

Professo', però se andiamo così facciamo notte.

Professor, but if we keep going like this, we'll go into the night.

Caption 15, Non è mai troppo tardi EP1 - Part 18

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Fare sì che

The previous example was from a conversation. This next one is from an interview. It's a bit trickier and uses the subjunctive after che (that).

Questo rapporto ha fatto sì che una volta terminato l'intervento sul Polittico, l'attenzione si sia spostata sulla Resurrezione.

This relationship meant that once the work on the polyptych was finished, the focus would have shifted to the Resurrection.

Captions 17-19, La pittura più bella del mondo La Resurrezione di Piero della Francesca - Part 3

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The literal translation of this might be "to make it so" or "to assure."

 

Lascia fare

We may have heard the expression lascia stare (leave it alone, leave him/her alone, leave him/her/it be), but we also sometimes hear lascia fare. They are similar in meaning but they employ two different verbs. In English, we would say, "let him/her be" or "leave him/her alone." Sometimes, it can mean "let him do what he's going to do," but not always. 

Lascia fare, non gli da [dare] retta.

Let them be, don't listen to them.

Caption 36, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 5

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Fare: "to do" or "to be"

Below is a common question asked of young people:

Cosa vuoi fare da grande?  -Mi piacerebbe fare l'attrice o avere un lavoro sempre in quell'ambito.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up?  -I would like to be an actor or to have a job in that area.

Captions 59-61, Le Interviste I liceali - Part 1

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And here is a conjugated version:

E da grande farò il maestro.

And when I grow up, I'm going to be a teacher.

Caption 11, Non è mai troppo tardi EP1 - Part 18

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Here, at least in the question, fare is the equivalent of both "to do" and "to be." We have to pay attention to the context to know which it is, but we also see that fare can be used in so many contexts that perhaps we don't have to worry about it too much. Just listen, repeat, and assimilate!

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3 faces of realtà

Let's look at 3 ways the cognate realtà is used in Italian. Two of these are relatively easy to grasp.

 

La realtà

The most common way to use the noun la realtà is when it means "[the] reality." 

 

E poi, con il blocco totale in casa, lì è stata [sic: stato] il vero confronto con la realtà, della serie "noi dobbiamo organizzarci qui, in questo spazio che abbiamo".

And then, with the total lockdown at home, in that case, it was about really facing reality, like, "We have to get organized here, in this space we have."

Captions 45-48, Fuori era primavera Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown - Part 5

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Giada aveva completamente perso il senso della realtà, non erano solo i barbiturici il problema.

Giada had completely lost her sense of reality, the barbiturates were not the only problem.

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 3

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In English, we often leave out the article, but in Italian, we leave it in. With or without the article, the meaning is clear.

 

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In realtà

The other very common way to use realtà is when we say in realtà, which we can translate literally as "in reality" but in English, we'd more likely say, "actually."

Massimo, senti, io in realtà sono venuta per un altro motivo.

Massimo, listen, I actually  came for another reason.

Caption 54, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 8

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Here too, we can easily understand what in realtà  means.

 

Una realtà

But there is another way Italians use realtà, and it is to indicate something that exists. It's a bit trickier to translate because it is a very wide-ranging word and doesn't have a single English equivalent. We've listed some possible translations, but there may be more. The important thing is to understand the sense of it when you hear or see it being used. 

 

In a recent episode of La linea verticale, a patient is thinking about the hierarchy of the hospital personnel, as he is being wheeled through the halls to the operating room.

Come in quasi tutte le realtà professionali di questo Paese, anche in un ospedale la rabbia viene scaricata sempre verticalmente...

As in almost all the professional organizations of this country, in a hospital, too, anger is always unloaded vertically...

Captions 1-3, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 3

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We could also use other nouns, such as "the entities," "the institutions," "the situations,"  or even "environments." This use might be difficult to wrap our heads around, but we can recognize it because of the context and also what words it is or isn't surrounded by. We won't find the preposition in before it, and we might likely see an indefinite article or a plural article or adjective as in our example above, and in the following ones. 

Si andava dall'Alemagna o dal Motta, due realtà che oggi non esistono più.

One would go to Alemagna or to Motta, two enterprises which today no longer exist.

Captions 10-11, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

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La cucina contadina, eh, è una realtà culturale molto forte, nella tradizione del nostro Paese.

Country cooking, uh, is a very strong cultural presence in the tradition of our country.

Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 13

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We hope that, even though it's hard to grasp, you have been able to learn a new meaning for the noun realtà

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Being fixated in Italian

There are lots of ways to talk about being obsessed with something or someone, being fixated or having a thing about or for something, or being "into" something. "Obsession" is a pretty strong word, so we often like to use softer, more positive terms. In Italian, too, there are various words we can use. In this lesson, we will explore just one way Italians commonly talk about being intensely interested in something. It uses the verb fissare which, in this context, may be translated as "to fixate," even though that might not be the word we would choose in many cases.

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Past participle as adjective

If you look at the link we have provided, you will see that there are quite a few meanings for the verb fissare. We'll address those in another lesson.

 

Keep in mind that sometimes we translate fissare with "fixate" because it's a cognate that works, making the Italian word easy to understand. But in English, we have lots of other ways to express the same thing. "Fixated" can come across as being a negative thing in English, but Italians use the word pretty casually. Let's also keep in mind that, as in English, we're using the past participle as a sort of adjective.

 

Anche Lei fissato con la cucina italiana?

You're also fixated with Italian cuisine?

Caption 44, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 13

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We might not use the term "fixated" but we can understand it well enough. We might sooner say someone obsesses over something, such as "Oh, you obsess over Italian cooking, too?"

 

Papà era fissato.

Dad was obsessed.

Caption 3, La Tempesta film - Part 10

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Sometimes, as in the previous example, we're really talking about an obsession, but sometimes it's about being set in one's ways. We might recognize a character flaw in a light-hearted way. In the example below, Marika and Anna are talking about the Italian tradition of having bread at a meal when there is already a wheat-based carbohydrate in the form of pasta. Italians love to scrape the remaining pasta sauce off their plate with a piece of bread. They call this fare la scarpetta (to make a little shoe). 

Comunque... -Siamo un po' fissati. Quello della scarpetta è... Sì, è un rito, quasi.

Anyway... -We're a little fixated. The "little shoe" thing is... Yes, it's almost a ritual.

Captions 48-50, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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So even though we have translated it as "fixated," we'd more likely say that Italians love  to sop up the sauce with a piece of bread. 

 

Reflexive verb

Fissare is also used reflexively. In this case, it's not being used as an adjective but rather as a verb, as if to say, "to become fixated," or "to get obsessed." 

Mio marito si è fissato con Jacques Brel

My husband has become obsessed with Jacques Brel

Caption 55, La Ladra EP. 9 - L'amico sconosciuto - Part 10

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Noun form

We can also use the noun form la fissa, the equivalent of "fixation."

Joy ha sempre avuto la fissa per la cucina.

Joy has always had a thing for cooking.

Caption 60, JAMS S1 EP 1 - Part 1

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Which preposition?

You might ask, "What preposition do I use after fissato, fissata, fissate, or fissati?" Because, as in English, we do use a preposition when there is an object. So in this context, fissare is an intransitive verb.

 

In Italian, there seem to be two main ones: con (with) or per (for). When we use la fissa or una fissa we'll likely choose per (for). Keep your eyes and ears open to see how Italians handle this. Often, as we have seen, there is no object at all. 

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Making sense of the passato prossimo tense

In learning a new language, when we are able to latch onto parallels with our own language, it can be comforting, but sometimes we have to let go and realize things work differently in the new one. That is the case with il passato prossimo. It has a name that makes us think that this tense is about a past that isn't very far away, because prossimo (with its cognate "proximate") does mean "near," "next," "close," etc.).

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A different perspective

So when we learn that we use this tense to express things that have happened in the past and are already finished (as we use the simple past in English), it doesn't necessarily make sense. But let's look at it from another point of view. Let's look at it relatively. Because, although you can mostly get away with not using it, there is another past tense in Italian called il passato remoto. Here, too, we can detect the cognate remoto meaning "remote" or "far away." This is a simple tense in which the verb itself is conjugated. In general, it is used to express finished actions happening in the past that don't have any effect on the present. It means that there is a clear chronological and psychological distance between the fact expressed with the Passato Remoto and the present.

 

So compared to the passato remoto, the passato prossimo is closer, or less remote. 

 

The passato remoto itself is not within the scope of this lesson, but let's mention that even when the passato remoto would be the preferred tense, we can usually get away with using the passato prossimo  and lots of people do. 

 

The passato prossimo is a compound tense that takes an auxiliary verb (avere  or essere) and a past participle, but in a way, it is easier to use because we don't have to remember how to conjugate the verbs in the passato remoto. People will understand us and that's the most important thing. In addition to this, it's not always easy to know when to use the passato remoto. There are some grey areas.

 

Confusing names for tenses

The name "passato prossimo" refers to an action's place on a timeline. The name "present perfect," on the other hand, deals with the tense of the auxiliary verb we use ("to have" is used in the present tense in the present perfect). In the past perfect, the auxiliary verb is in the past tense. So the naming of the tenses has two different parameters, not to be compared.

 

Il Passato Prossimo can play a dual role

 

The passato prossimo can express past actions that are over and done with (as the simple past does in English). But can also coincide with the present perfect in some instances. 

 

To get an idea about when we use certain tenses, let's take a look at this video where two young women talk about their friendship. They talk about the past when they were in secondary school. They use the passato prossimo even though they are clearly talking about a time when they were younger. 

E poi, dopo la maturità, abbiamo deciso di partire da sole con altri sei ragazzi di [sic: della] classe e siamo andati a Malta.

And then, after graduation, we decided to leave on our own with six other kids from the class and we went to Malta.

Captions 28-30, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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As we mentioned above, sometimes the passato prossimo does coincide with the present perfect, as in this comment about their continuing friendship. Note that there is an adverb of frequency.

Ci siamo trovate sempre molto bene, in questi sei anni non abbiamo mai litigato.

We've always gotten along really nicely — over these six years we've never argued.

Captions 46-47, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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Perhaps the trickiest part

 

But here, in the following example, they use the present tense to express what in English, we would express using the present perfect. Note the use of da (since, for).

Siamo amiche da sei anni,

We've been friends for six years.

Caption 3, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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The above use of the present tense in Italian to express a "present perfect" situation is perhaps one of the trickiest tense differences to wrap our heads around. And it's just as tricky for Italians trying to speak English!

 

The two young women go on with the present perfect to talk about the past. Here, we find fa (ago), putting the action clearly in the past. 

Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa, il primo giorno di scuola.

We met, in fact, six years ago, on the first day of school.

Captions 4-5, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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If you are a subscriber it might be useful to watch the entire video to get a better feel for how the tenses are used. Looking at the transcript can help, too.

 

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Questo and Quello: How do they work?

Many of us know that questo means "this" and quello means "that." They work similarly to English when they are adjectives. 

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When they function as pronouns, things change somewhat. When it comes to things and ideas, Italian and English can work similarly.

 

È quello che voglio dire (that's what I mean). Literally, "It's that that I mean".

 

But when it comes to certain constructions, English has some usage rules that differ from Italian. Sometimes it helps to look at one's native language to get more insight into the differences. Check out this WordReference article about this and that. But with that in mind, let's focus on how Italian works.

 

When we are choosing something in a shop or at a bancarella at the market, instead of saying, "I'd like that one," we can just use quello or quella. In this case, if there is no noun following them, quello and quella are pronouns.

Vorrei quello (I'd like that one).

Vorrei quello lì (I'd like that one over there).

 

In the same vein, when talking about people, Italians often use questo/a or quello/a to talk about "this guy," that guy," "this lady/girl/gal/woman," "that lady/girl/gal/woman"). Italians don't need to use "that" as an adjective in this case. They can use questo/a or quello/a as a pronoun. We determine the gender of the person or animal referred to by the ending a or o

 

Further, where we might think of using "that" because the person we're talking about is not close by, Italians might use questo (this) anyway, when it is close to them in mind, but not necessarily spatially. 

 

In the example below, the speaker uses both quella and questa to refer to the same person (a girl in a certain class at school). In the first case, it's a pronoun referring to "that girl." In the second case, questa is being used as an adjective describing the same girl. 

Quella di quinta C. 'Sta [questa] stronza.

The one from five C. That bitch.

Caption 29, Provaci ancora prof! S2E3 Dietro la porta - Part 2

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Let's also note that the speaker truncates questa to 'sta, something that is very common, but doesn't really work with quella

 

So in English, you might say, "That idiot!" but in Italian, it might very well be Quest'idiota! It could also be Quell'idiota.

 

To sum up, it's good to keep in mind that Italians don't always have the same parameters English speakers do when it comes to questo/a and quello/a — this and that.

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4 ways to say, "I don't think so" in Italian

Let's look at some different ways people say, "I don't think so." In English we have "so" at the end, and we might wonder how to translate it. In some cases, we can add a pronoun, but often, it's left out entirely. As you will see, different verbs work a bit differently from one another, so we need to keep them straight. Of course, it's perfectly OK for you, as you learn, to say it the same way every time, but someone might use one form or another, so you'll want to be prepared to understand them. There's more than one way to skin a cat! 

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We're talking about responding (in the negative) to questions such as:

*Hai il mio numero di telefono (do you have my phone number)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't believe so).

Non penso (I don't think so).

 

*Quella donna è sua moglie (is that woman his wife)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (I don't think so, it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't think so, I don't believe so).

Non penso proprio (I really don't think so).

 

Let's look at these verb choices one by one.

 

Parere

You might remember a lesson where we talked briefly about the verb parere. In addition, let's remember that il parere is also a noun, meaning "the opinion."

So if you want to answer a question in the negative, you can say, Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non lo so, cambiamenti nell'atteggiamento, nell'umore, nel modo di vestirsi, cose così. -No... no, non mi pare.

I don't know, changes in her behavior, in her mood, in the way she dressed, stuff like that. -No... no, I don't think so.

Captions 15-16, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 5

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Sembrare 

Sembrare (to seem) is a bit tricky because, like parere, it's often used with an indirect object or personal pronoun. In everyday conversation, we often find the construction mi sembra che... or non mi sembra che...  (it seems to me that... it doesn't seem to me that...). Or we just find non mi sembra. Here we have to keep in mind that sembra (the third person singular of sembrare) includes the subject pronoun "it" or possibly "he/she." Translating it literally is just a bit awkward. In English, we tend to simplify.

 

Ma non ti sembra un po' affrettato? -Affrettato?

But doesn't it seem a bit rushed to you? -Rushed?

Captions 10-11, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 17

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We couldn't find an example in Yabla videos with the simple answer non mi sembra, but we can answer the question "Rushed?" in the previous example with it: Affrettato? Non mi sembra  (rushed? I don't think so). We can dress up the answer with proprio or, since it is in the negative, with affatto ([not] at all) Non mi sembra affatto (I really don't think so, I don't think so at all).

 

So with parere and sembrare, we often use the indirect personal pronoun (to me, to him, to them, to you) but with our next words, credere (to believe) and pensare (to think) we don't. They are just "normal" verbs.

 

Credere

Another word that is used a lot in this context is the verb credere  (to believe). It goes together nicely with proprio (really). Proprio means lots of things, so see our lesson  about it for more information. In English, we often use "think" instead of "believe" out of habit. In many cases, "believe" would be fine, too.

Forse un imprenditore americano non le parlerebbe così. -No, non credo proprio.

Maybe an American industrialist wouldn't talk about it like that. -No, I really don't think so.

Captions 40-41, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 13

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Pensare

We have seen this verb many times before, but we include it here, because it might be the easiest to remember, corresponding to the English verb "to think."

Cos'è, bigiotteria? Non penso. Rubini e filigrana d'oro.

What is it? Costume jewelry? I don't think so. Rubies and gold filigree.

Captions 70-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 4

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We've provided some quick and easy negative answers to questions asking our opinion or judgment about something. When we use any of these verbs in longer sentences, we might need the subjunctive if the verbs are followed by the conjunction che  (that, which).  There are other ways to use these verbs without the subjunctive and we will explore these in a future lesson.

 

Practice:

Try asking yourself some questions and experiment with the different verbs. Here's a start:

 

Pioverà (is it going to rain)?

Arriveremo in tempo (will we get there in time)?

Hai abbastanza soldi per pagarlo (do you have enough money to pay for this)?

La pasta è cotta (is the pasta cooked)?

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4 ways to say "everywhere" in Italian

Just as the English word "everywhere" comes from two words, "every" and "where," Italian uses the same technique, in many cases. Sometimes the two (or multiple) words become one, such as dappertutto (everywhere).

 

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Dappertutto

If we think about it, dappertutto comes from 3 words: the preposition da (from, at, by);  the preposition per (for); and tutto (everything, all), an adjective, noun, or pronoun, depending on the context.

I cani cercano dappertutto, ma non riusciamo a trovare nulla.

The dogs are searching everywhere, but we can't find anything.

Caption 63, Fulvio Benelli Crimine Infinito, romanzo - Part 2

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Of course, you don't need to think about the three words making up dappertutto, you just have to remember that it means "everywhere."

 

Ovunque

In literature, for the most part, we might see the word ove used to mean "where," rather than the word we are familiar with: dove (where). And this leads us to another word for "everywhere": ovunque. We can detect the stem -unque that is part of words like comunque (however), dunque (so, therefore). 

Perché non solo la libreria, ma ovunque in città ha avuto danni incredibili.

Because, not just the bookshop, but everywhere in the city had sustained incredible damage.

Captions 63-64, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 2

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Dovunque

But we can also say dovunque, using the normal word for "where," to mean the same thing. 

Vedi il crimine dovunque, anche dove non c'è.

You see crimes all over, even where there aren't any.

Captions 3-4, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 16

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Ogni dove

We can also say  ogni dove. This word has remained as two words, which might confuse some people. But if we take it apart, we see the word ogni (each, every) and dove  (where).

Per secoli nobili, studiosi, artisti venivano qui da ogni dove per capirne l'essenza.

Over the centuries, noblemen, scholars, and artists came here from all over in order to understand its essence.

Captions 2-3, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 1

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Caring with the verb tenere

The verb tenere translates, much of the time, as "to hold," "to keep." But we also use the verb to talk about things or people we care about, that matter to us, and consequently do not want to lose. 

 

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We use it intransitively with the preposition a (to, in, about...) to mean to care about, to consider important. We can use it with things or people.

 

Io ci tengo al mi [mio] lavoro. E il mi [mio] capo nun [non] vuole grane.

I care about my job. And my boss doesn't want trouble.

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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In a way, the person wants to keep his or her job, so tenere makes sense. When you care about a person, but it's not the moment for talking about actual love, tenere is a good verb to use. You care about someone and you don't want to lose them. 

 

Io ci tengo a te.

I care about you.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 1

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Another way to think about it is that "it matters."

Oh, mi raccomando, non mi fate fare cattive figure perché ci tengo, capito?

Oh, and I mean it — don't make me look bad, because it really matters to me, you get it?

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 11

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We can also use tenere when we want to make sure to mention something.  So we can follow the preposition a with either a noun or a verb.

Ci tengo a dire una cosa,

I feel the need to say one thing,

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

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So when something or someone means something to you, try saying, Ci tengo (it matters to me).

 

You can turn it into a question:

Ci tieni davvero tanto a mangiare al ristorante stasera? Perché io sono molto stanca” (do you really care about going out to eat tonight? Because I am really tired).

 

Since tenere is used so much in various contexts, it may be hard to search for examples, but the more you watch and listen, the more you will notice that Italians use this turn of phrase all the time.

 

What are some of the things a cui tieni (that matter to you)?

È una fotografia alla quale tengo molto.

It's a photograph I'm very attached to.

Caption 27, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 9

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Innanzitutto (a long word that is no big deal)

In a recent episode of Un medico in famiglia, Guido (the doctor who is staying at the Martini residence) is having a conversation with Maria (a family member who is studying medicine and is also attracted to Guido). Her grandfather is trying to listen in on the conversation. Guido uses the word innanzitutto. It's a long word, and can be a bit daunting, but if we take it apart, we'll see that it is no big deal. Let's look for the words within the word. 

Be', innanzitutto bisogna vedere se è veramente un'amicizia, perché...

Well, first of all, we have to see if it's really a friendship, because....

Caption 62, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 12

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Innanzitutto, scriviamo il luogo e la data in alto a destra.

First of all, we write the place and the date in the upper right hand corner.

Captions 12-13, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera informale - Part 1

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Maestra, tantissime cose. Innanzitutto, Firenze con gli Uffizi, ma non solo.

Teacher, many things. First of all, Florence with the Uffizi, but not only.

Captions 72-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Toscana

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Perhaps the first word that jumps out is tutto. Many of us know that means "everything" or "all."

 

What might not jump out as a word is innanzi.  It means "in front of" or "before." It's not all that common, but it is used in literature and formal speech quite a bit. It's another way to say davanti (in front of) and has a variant, dinnanzi.

 

"Alla parola "comizio", d'ora innanzi, prego di sostituire la parola "raduno di propaganda".

"For the word "assembly," from now on, please substitute the word "propaganda meeting."

Caption 44, Me Ne Frego Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 7

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It's also another way to say in avanti (henceforth), as in the previous example (from the 1930s).

 

One way to say you are surviving is:

Si tira avanti or si tira innanzi (one is pulling forward, or pushing forth).

 

A more common word we can detect as part of innanzitutto is anzi. We use this word a lot when we contradict ourselves, change our minds, or reiterate something with emphasis. See our lesson about anzi.

 

Interestingly, anzi comes from the Latin word (also an Italian word) ante  meaning "before." We find this in words like anteprima (preview) or antenati  (forefathers). It basically means "before." As we can see in the lesson mentioned above, anzi  means a lot of things now, but originally, its meaning was "before," or, in Italian, prima. Many of us know that prima can mean either "before" or "first." 

 

So, innanzitutto just means, "first of all," or if you want to get a bit fancier, "first and foremost." It's really no big deal. And the good news is that if it's too hard to pronounce, you have some alternatives, some of them similar but not exact synonyms.

Prima di tutto (first of all)

Per cominciare (to start with)

Soprattutto (above all)

 

There may be more! Let us know if you discover new ones. Meanwhile, if you can manage it, innanzitutto is something to say when beginning a speech and acknowledging the sponsor.

Innanzitutto, vorrei ringraziare... (first and foremost, I would like to thank...)

 

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Appresso vs presso

In a previous lesson, we looked at the preposition presso. It's used, for example, when you are staying with someone and can stand for "c/o." You can use it to say in which organization you are working. It's always followed by a noun.

 

Lavoro presso la biblioteca comunale (I work at the public library).

 

Please see this lesson to get more information about presso.

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Appresso

In a recent video, we find a related word, appresso, usually used as an adverb, but also as a preposition. In this particular case, Alberto Manzi has been sent to a juvenile detention center to try to teach kids how to read and write. They are unwilling, and prefer to follow the "leader of the pack."

Tutti appresso a lui come delle pecore.

All of you following him like sheep.

Caption 52, Non è mai troppo tardi EP1 - Part 8

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Our translation, "following," doesn't really do the word justice. It might be easier to have a visual cue. Think of how sheep really act. They don't follow each other neatly in a line. They kind of crowd one another without thinking.

 

In the following example, Lara's father is talking about an ancient tomb he has been studying for years. Again, the translation doesn't do it justice, but the preposition appresso gives you the feeling that he has been obsessing over that tomb, that it has been consuming his time and energies.

Sono quattordici anni che sto appresso a quella tomba!

I've been on that tomb for fourteen years.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 8

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The "prefix" A can provide a word with a new dynamic 

Let's consider for a moment the addition of an A to the beginning of the preposition presso. It is very reminiscent of the relation between dosso and addossoor poggio and appoggio.  The prefix A can change a noun into a different part of speech.

 

But whereas  addosso has to do with the back as a body part, often used figuratively, appresso is more about being nearby.

Cucina contadina che emigra nelle città, portandosi appresso conoscenze e tradizioni.

Country cooking that emigrates to the cities, taking along with it knowledge and traditions.

Captions 15-16, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 13

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In terms of clothing and accessories, addosso might have to do with the clothes you have on, and appresso will be more related to your briefcase, laptop, carry-on bag, or handbag.

 

Speaking figuratively, when you are keeping at someone to do something, or just coming too close, addosso and appresso can practically coincide.

Non mi stare così addosso (get off my back)!

Non mi stare così appresso (give me some space)!

 

Addosso may be more common in this context, but the example can serve to see what the difference is.

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Anticipare and Anticipo

We have already talked a bit about the verb anticipare because it is the opposite of posticipare (to postpone). But let's look at some examples to get a feel for the verb and then look at the noun.

 

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Anticipare (to move up)

Eh, c'è un caso delicato e ho dovuto anticipare il rientro.

Uh, there is a delicate case and I've had to move up my return.

Caption 65, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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We might just say, "I had to go back earlier" or "I had to return ahead of schedule." 

 

Ma no, sulle prime sembrava che fosse quel giorno, poi invece gli scritti li hanno anticipati e li ho dati un mese fa.

But no, at first it seemed like it was that day, but then they moved the written exams up and I did those a month ago.

Captions 5-6, Sposami EP 4 - Part 25

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If I answer your question before you ask it, you might say:

Mi hai anticipato (you preceded me, you beat me to it).

 

When I have told you something earlier and refer to it now, I might say something like:

 

Vediamo un po' in quale altro modo si usa, perché, come ti avevo anticipato, ci sono vari modi.

Let's look a bit into what other way it's used. Because, as I told you earlier, there are various ways.

Captions 2-3, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 2

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Sometimes, instead of words or information, it's money!

 

Walter m'aveva chiesto di anticipare i soldi per il viaggio ai Caraibi...

Walter had asked me to advance him the money for the trip to the Caribbean...

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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L'anticipo

It's also common, when talking about money, to use the noun form we mentioned earlier: un anticipo

Ma il nostro accordo era un anticipo subito e il resto alla consegna.

But our agreement was an advance payment right away and the rest upon delivery.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 9

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We could also use "down payment" to mean anticipo here.  You might ask your boss for un anticipo (an advance). 

 

In anticipo 

And when something or someone is early, or arrives early, ahead of schedule, most of the time we say in anticipo. It functions as an adverb.

Sono in anticipo?

Am I early?

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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Con anticipo

We can also say con anticipo when we want to say "in advance." Here anticipo is a noun, and it has an adjective in front of it. 

Il problema è che spesso le strutture sono sovraffollate, per cui, eh, devi agire con molto anticipo rispetto agli esami che vuoi fare

The problem is that often, the facilities are overcrowded, so uh, you have to act long in advance with respect to the exams that you want to do

Captions 8-10, Anna presenta La gravidanza - Part 2

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But we can also say in netto anticipo (well in advance) and here it again functions pretty much like an adverb. It is more important to be able to use this word than to know its part of speech. Sometimes the confines are blurry.

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Scaffolding in Italian

One word leads to another. Since some of Yabla's videos have included scenes of construction, the topic of scaffolding has come up from time to time, even though it's certainly not a topic you run into every day.  But there is a false cognate we may run into whenever we go to a supermercato (supermarket) or grande magazzino  (department store), so a closer look might be merited.

 

Ponteggio / Ponteggi

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One word for "scaffolding" is il ponteggio or, more often, i ponteggi. We can detect the noun il ponte (the bridge) in the word, and can easily imagine the wooden planks as "bridges" from one set of poles to the next. 

 

Ha ceduto un ponteggio.

Some scaffolding collapsed.

Caption 35, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 3

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L'impalcatura 

Impalcatura is often used in the singular, as a generic term, but can also be used in the plural. Here, we might detect the noun il palco, which can mean "the stage" (as in a theater) or "the platform." L'impalcatura is a series of platforms on top of each other.

È caduto da un'impalcatura del cantiere.

He fell from a scaffold at the construction site.

Caption 9, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 3

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No, Spartacus, non credo che gli faccia piacere avere un ricevimento in mezzo a impalcature e betoniere.

No, Spartacus, I don't think he is happy to have a reception in the middle of scaffolding and cement mixers.

Captions 66-67, Sposami EP 4 - Part 24

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"Platform" has a cognate, too: la piattaforma (the platform, the board).

La parte centrale del Colosseo, dove accadeva tutto, era una piattaforma lignea che veniva, eh, riempita di sabbia,

The central part of the Colosseum, where everything took place, was a wooden platform that was, uh, filled with sand,

Captions 25-27, Marika e Daniela Colosseo, interno - Part 1

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Scaffale

But, when we find the word scaffale in Italian, it doesn't mean "scaffolding." It is, instead, the kind of shelving you find in a store, supermarket, or department store. 

Se andate a fare la spesa in un supermercato italiano, vi troverete davanti allo scaffale del riso indecisi sul tipo di riso da comprare,

If you go grocery shopping in an Italian supermarket, you'll find yourselves facing the rice shelf, uncertain about the type of rice to buy,

Captions 1-3, L'Italia a tavola Risotto alla milanese - Part 2

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It's used a lot in the plural as a general term: gli scaffali.  

Se voi mangiaste meno, il supermercato sarebbe sicuramente più pieno e io non troverei gli scaffali vuoti. -Esagerata, eh!

If you ate less, the supermarket would surely be fuller and I wouldn't find the shelves empty. -Over the top, huh!

Captions 44-45, Daniela e Francesca Il verbo mangiare

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We can also use the noun lo scaffale in a house. If the shelves are for books, we'll usually say, una libreria.

 

False friend alert:  Una libreria is also a bookshop!  A library, on the other hand, is una biblioteca.  If you have a dedicated room or lots of shelves for books, you can talk about una biblioteca in your house, too.

 

When we are speaking generically, we can use scaffale. Marika talks about lo scaffale, because, as she mentions, it contains all kinds of things.

A fianco alla televisione, ho un mobile. Questo mobile si chiama scaffale. Io lo uso per conservare tantissimi oggetti.

Alongside the television, I have a piece of furniture. This piece of furniture is called a shelving unit. I use it to store many objects.

Captions 26-28, Marika spiega Il salone

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If this web of words has brought you more confusion than anything else, just stick with learning gli scaffali. That's where you will find food and products at the supermarket, and eating is essential. 

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Aria fritta (fried air)

In many contexts, aria fritta is a way of saying, "hot air," for example, when someone, such as a politician, goes on talking and talking without saying anything. It's "empty talk." In English, we have various ways of saying this, such as "Yada, yada, yada" (from the popular TV series "Seinfeld").

 

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But in the context of a recent episode of Sposami, Nora is trying to sell what Iside, who is listening in, considers to be "fried air." In other words, she is making promises she won't be able to keep. Hype, but no substance. All talk and no action. You obviously can't fry air, so it is something with no substance, something that doesn't really exist.

Qui si vende aria fritta. -Ecco, esatto. Allora vengo subito lì e buttiamo giù l'accordo, va bene? -E il bello è che c'è qualcuno che se la compra [l'aria fritta].

Here we're selling fried air [empty promises]. -Right, exactly. So, I'll be right there, and we'll sketch out the agreement, all right? -And the good thing is that there is someone who buys it.

Captions 31-34, Sposami EP 4 - Part 23

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Nora is very good at what she does, and she might just pull off the deal she is making, and then it won't be aria fritta  anymore.

 

Another expression using aria (air) to indicate nothingness: campato in aria (surviving on air, far-fetched, based on nothing). 

Questa è tutta una sua ricostruzione totalmente campata in aria. -Campata in aria? Vuoi che ti dica le prove,

This is all her totally far-fetched reconstruction. -Far-fetched? You want me to tell you the evidence,

Captions 9-10, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 5

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Campato in aria is used as an adjective, whereas aria fritta is a noun. Aria fritta is given out intentionally, whereas campato in aria might just be an idea having no rational basis.

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Svolgere: a useful but mysterious verb

Svolgere is yet another verb starting with S, meaning there is likely a verb without the S, at its roots.

 

The use of the "prefix" S to give a word the opposite meaning is a common Italian phenomenon. It comes up frequently (see, for example this lesson). There is no fool-proof "rule," but knowing about the S-prefix can often give us a clue about a word. If we try a search of the word without the S, we might gain a deeper understanding of the word. Sometimes the S provides a different slant on a word, and isn't necessarily a negation or an opposite. 

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So if we look up volgere, we find that it does exist. We just don't use it very often in everyday conversation. Svolgere, on the other hand, is very common, but it's not easy to guess its meaning. 

 

Let's take a closer look. 

 

Svolgere

When the verb is in its non-reflexive form it can be translated as "to carry out," "to conduct," "to do," or "to perform." It's transitive. We use it a lot when the question is, "What does it do?" or "What do you do (as a job)?"

Ha una capacità di memoria elevatissima; può svolgere la stessa funzione di cinquemila calcolatori meccanici messi insieme, ma in un tempo infinitamente più breve.

It has a very high memory capacity; it can perform the same function as five thousand mechanical calculators put together, but in an infinitely shorter time.

Captions 3-5, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19

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Ci troviamo nel centro tartarughe WWF di Lampedusa, fa parte del progetto italiano del WWF, che svolge attività di conservazione sulle tartarughe marine,

We are at the WWF center in Lampedusa, it's part of the Italian WWF project, which conducts work on conserving sea turtles

Captions 36-38, WWF Italia Progetto tartarughe - Part 1

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Espressione del lavoro di ricerca che svolgono durante il loro soggiorno romano.

An expression of the research work they carry out during their stay in Rome.

Caption 10, Villa Medici L'arca della bellezza - Part 4

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Svolgersi

 

When we use the reflexive form of the verb, we often translate it as "to take place." We could also say "to unfold" in certain contexts. The reflexive form is intransitive. 

Una parte del film si svolge qua dove sembra veramente che il passato e il futuro siano coesistenti.

One part of the film takes place here where it really seems that the past and the future coexist.

Captions 34-35, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 6

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The reflexive form svolgersi, is extremely common, but not all that easy to guess at, since it's not a cognate... or is it?

If we look up the etymology of the verb svolgere, we do find volgere, but another, archaic, version of volgere — volvere, no longer in use, is mentioned as well. And if we try hard, we can see the verb "to evolve" as a sort of cognate. If we think of the verb svolgersi as something like, "to evolve," it might help us remember it.

 

How does this story evolveCome si svolge questa storia?

 

One confusing thing

If we look at the conjugation chart of the verb svolgere and we look at the conjugation chart of the verb svoltare (to change directions, to turn) there are some similarities, so this can be a bit confusing.

 

Another confusing thing

Both the non-reflexive and the reflexive form of the verb svolgere can mean "to unfold." So they intersect in a way. But we should just keep in mind that the non-reflexive form is transitive (it takes a direct object) and the reflexive form is intransitive (you won't find a direct object after it).

 

If you do a search of svolgere, and svolgersi on the Yabla videos page, you will have an overview of how these verbs are used. If you then go to the transcript for a given video where the word is used and hit command or control F to search the word there, you'll see the larger context, together with the English translation. You will see that the translation isn't consistent. Sometimes it's tricky to find the right word, since there really isn't a good, reliable English cognate. 

 

Certainly, the two forms of svolgere are great verbs to have in your toolbox. If you pay attention, you will start hearing both of them a great deal. And now you know what they mean!

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"I can't wait" in Italian: non vedo l'ora!

We have spoken from time to time about how to say, "I can't wait" in Italian. It's an informal way of saying, "I am very much looking forward to something."  In Italian, it's Non vedo l'ora. For the record, Non vedo l'ora! translates, literally, as "I can't see the hour," (which makes no sense). We can use the expression just as it is, conjugating the verb vedere.

Vuoi assaggiare un poco di... -Certo. -arancello? -Non vedo l'ora.

Do you want to taste a bit of... -Of course. -arancello? -I can't wait.

Caption 51, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Ma se anche lui non vede l'ora!

But if even he can't wait!

Caption 70, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 3

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Although we can use the expression as is, we can also continue it, specifying what it is we can't wait for. Here's where it can get a bit more complex. There are basically 2 ways to continue the phrase.

 

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1) We use di plus the infinitive of the verb in question:

Non vedo l'ora di vederti (I can't wait to see you).

Non vedo l'ora di partire in vacanza (I can't wait to leave on vacation).

 

Ma invece adesso sono convintissima, motivata e non vedo l'ora di cominciare.

But now however I'm totally convinced, motivated and I can't wait to start.

Caption 4, Francesca alla guida - Part 2

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These sentences are all about you, in other words, something you are going to or want to do. It can also be about another person but the structure of the sentence remains the same: 

Pietro non vede l'ora di cominciare il corso di francese (Pietro can't wait to start the French course).

 

Maybe you can come up with some on your own. Try using: 

 

visitare Firenze (to visit Florence)

vederti (to see you)

finire questo libro (to finish this book)

cenare (to have dinner)

 

2) We use the conjunction che (that). With che, we start a new (subordinate) clause and here, we need the subjunctive form of the verb.

 

So let's say you are on the train, traveling from Milan to Venice. It may be fun to look out the window, but you really want to get to Venice!

You can say:

Non vedo l'ora di arrivare a Venezia (I can't wait to arrive  in Venice).

 

You can also refer to the train or to "us.":

 

Non vedo l'ora che questo treno arrivi a Venezia (I can't wait for this train to arrive in Venice).

Non vedo l'ora che arriviamo a Venezia (I can't wait for us to arrive in Venice)

Non vedo l'ora che finisca il viaggio (I can't wait for this trip to end).

 

From a translating standpoint, when you use "for" plus a verb in English in this expression, you will likely need che + the verb in the subjunctive (agreeing with noun, expressed or implied) in Italian.

Noi li amiamo tantissimo e non vediamo l'ora che un giorno possano  anche giocare.

We love them very much and we can't wait for the day when they can also play.

Captions 59-60, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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There are various things we can imagine a couple expecting a baby to say, as they try to wait patiently.

One of them can say:

Non vedo l'ora di veder nascere questo bambino (I can't wait to see this baby be born).

We've used di + the verb vedere

 

Or, one of them can say:

Non vediamo l'ora che nasca questo bambino (we can't wait for  this baby to be born).

 

Here, we have used che + the verb nascere, which refers to the baby (third person), and thus we need the subjunctive. 

 

And if they happen to be expecting twins?

Non vediamo l'ora che nascano questi bambini (we can't wait for these babies to be born).

 

So, as you can see, there are easy ways to use the expression Non vedo l'ora: by itself, or with di + infinitive. There is also the harder way, which entails knowing the subjunctive form of the verb you want to use. But as you become fluent in Italian, you will find that we tend to say the same things over and over again, so maybe you might want to learn the subjunctive forms of certain verbs you might need, such as cominciare (to begin), finire (to finish), chiamare (to call).

 

Tip: You can sidestep the subjunctive by forming 2 different sentences. 

 

Comincierà presto la lezione? Non vedo l'ora (is the lesson going to start soon? I can't wait). 

 

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for this expression in Yabla videos. See how people use it — by itself, with di + infinitive, or with che + subjunctive. 

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Per conto mio: a double meaning

We've talked various times about the noun il conto. It can refer to "the bill" or "the account," but it's also used in expressions such as per conto di..., or to put it in more personal terms, per conto mio/suo.

 

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What's perhaps important to remember is that it has two distinct (but related meanings). It can mean "of one's own."

Nilde, tu c'hai già mille problemi per conto tuo, il ristorante, Enrica fra i piedi, lascia perdere.

Nilde, you already have a ton of problems of your own, the restaurant, Enrica on your back, forget about it.

Captions 10-11, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 5

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Perché la mi' figliola [mia figlia] c'ha già tanti problemi per conto suo.

Because my daughter has enough problems of her own.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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But it also means "on one's own."

Allora, lei è una che fa finta di starsene per conto suo, ma poi te la ritrovi sempre fra i piedi, una grandissima ficcanaso.

So, she is someone who pretends to be on her own, but then you always find her underfoot, hugely nosy.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 30

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Poi, se ne andarono ognuno per conto suo [sic: proprio].

Then they went away, each on his own.

Caption 33, Ti racconto una fiaba I tre porcellini - Part 1

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You will have to rely on the context to help decide what per conto means in each case.

 

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Using nouns as adjectives in Italian. How does it work?

In English, we can use nouns as adjectives to answer the question, "what kind?" For example, "dog days" are the hottest days of summer. In this case, it's not really comparing the dog to the heat, but comes from the star, Sirius, who was Orion's dog in the constellations. It rises at the same time as the sun on the hottest days in the northern hemisphere. The Romans got this from the Greeks, and called these days, "dies caniculares" (dog days). 

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In terms of grammar, we know "dog" is a noun, but here, we use it as an adjective to describe "days," without giving it a different ending. We don't say, "dogful" days, "doggy days," or even "dog-like days." So this is a phenomenon that is present in many situations in English.

 

Let's remember here  — because we don't have to think about it — that in English, we put the noun-as-adjective before the noun it describes. Sometimes the noun-as-adjective merges with the noun and becomes a compound word and sometimes not: laundry room, dishwasher, picture frame, bicycle rack.

 

We have the same phenomenon in Italian. The big difference is that the order is inverse. First, we have the noun, then we have the noun-as-adjective. To connect with our example of "dog days," we turn to an expression that is very common in Italian, and in fact, it crops up in an episode of Sposami

E poi una notte, che io dormivo sotto il cavalcavia e faceva un freddo cane, quella notte io credevo che sarei morto...

And then, one night, when I was sleeping under an overpass, and it was freezing cold, that night, I believed I would die...

Captions 6-8, Sposami EP 4 - Part 19

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And here is a more mundane example:

Lo abbiamo fatto pure in conferenza stampa l'altro ieri

We even did it at the press conference the day before yesterday

Caption 22, Animalisti Italiani Walter Caporale - Part 2

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The real noun is conferenza (conferenza). What kind of conference? una conferenza stampa (a press conference). 

 

This difference in word order is tricky sometimes, and it is just as tricky for Italians attempting to speak English correctly. 

 

English is a popular language, and Italians use it in publicity and signage. But sometimes the word order difference escapes them. The name of a riding school in Tuscany is "Planet Horse." This is because, in general, for an Italian, the adjective (even if it is a noun-as-adjective, as in this case) comes after the noun. What they were trying to say, even though it sounds bad, is "Horse Planet" — the planet of horses. We might say, "Horse World." They, of course, translated it from Italian: Pianeta cavallo.

 

In some cases, both the noun-as-adjective and the adjective form of a noun can work:

 

Let's take the noun bestia (beast, animal).

 

We can say:  Fa un caldo bestia (it is incredibly hot) or Fa un caldo bestiale (it's beastly hot). Using the noun as an adjective in this case is more colloquial, but they are both acceptable.

 

Of course, in Italian, when answering the question, "What kind?" we often use a preposition, such as di or da, or an "articulated preposition," such as del, della, delle, or degli before the "descriptive" noun. These prepositions usually mean "of."

Il bidone della spazzatura (the garbage can)

Il professore di matematica (the math teacher)

Il forno da pizza (the pizza oven)

 

We can't always use a noun as an adjective, but it is important to know that it exists as a phenomenon, and to recognize it when it occurs.

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Forza vs Sforzo: What's the difference?

With sforzo, we have an S at the beginning of a word once again, and we might recognize the word without the S as looking like the noun forza. In fact, forza vs sforzo can cause confusion for non-native speakers of Italian, because they are both about strength, in a way.

 

Noun forms

In the popular detective series on Yabla, Imma Tatarannni is trying to get some information from the young woman whose boyfriend was murdered. She uses the noun sforzo as she talks to Milena. 

Allora, Milena, ascoltami. Ora tu devi fare un piccolo sforzo, va bene?

So, Milena, listen to me. Now, you have to make a little effort, all right?

Captions 23-24, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 16

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We have translated Imma's use of sforzo with "to make an effort" but we might more likely say, "Now you have to try a bit harder." "Now you have to really try."

 

The prefix S

We have seen that an S at the beginning of an existing word will often change it to an opposite meaning, but it can also reinforce it, and that is basically what is happening in the example above (although this is even clearer when looking at the verb forms forzare and sforzare  as we do below).

 

When you make an effort, you use some reserves of strength. The noun la forza is "the strength" or "the force" (easy cognate!). It's actually a very popular word, so see our lesson all about forza. It's a great noun to know because it's used so much, especially in conversation. 

 

Sometimes it's hard to remember that lo sforzo is a masculine noun and la forza is a feminine noun so let's keep in mind that lo sforzo is "the effort," and la forza is "the strength."  

 

The noun la forza is easy to understand, as it is a cognate of "the force," but is often translated as "the strength."

 

One example of this noun is the subtitle of a popular biopic about Adriano Olivetti, the man behind the well-known Olivetti typewriter. Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno (the strength of a dream).

 

Verb forms

Both lo sforzo and la forza are associated with verbs: sforzare and  forzare. Sometimes these two verbs mean the same thing, but sometimes we need to distinguish them and that's where it can get tricky. Which to use?

E mi prometti di stare tranquilla, di riposarti e di non sforzare il piede?

And promise me you'll stay calm, rest and not strain your foot?

Captions 1-2, Sposami EP 3 - Part 2

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In this case, we're talking about putting too much pressure on the injured foot. Some people might use the verb forzare to mean the exact same thing, as sometimes forzare means going too far.

 

In the following example, sforzare is used reflexively to mean "to make an effort," "to try hard."

Piggeldy si sforzò di camminare come si deve.

Piggeldy made an effort to walk properly.

Caption 14, Piggeldy e Federico Il cielo

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Sometimes forzare means "to use force" as implied in the following example.

Eh, qualcuno ha forzato i cancelli del canile comunale, sono scappati tutti i cani,

Uh, someone pried open the gates of the town dog pound, all the dogs escaped,

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 3

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Of course, as with many verbs, the past participle of forzare  may be used as an adjective, and often is. Sforzare, on the other hand, isn't commonly used this way.

La prima settimana di libertà dopo mesi di confino forzato!

The first week of freedom after months of forced confinement!

Caption 26, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 1

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When your car gets towed from a no-parking zone, in Italy, it's often called rimozione forzata. This is because they will remove the car without having to ask you. You want to avoid parking in these areas, so these might be a good couple of words to know! To see what these signs look like, here's a link

 

As to when to use one or the other verb, don't worry about it too much, as sometimes it depends on personal preference.  It's more important to remember about the noun, as we have mentioned above. Also, keep your ears open to notice which word people use in various situations. 

 

P.S. The use of S as a sort of prefix in Italian comes from the Latin prefix "ex!"
P.P.S. Sforza (with an "a" at the end) is not a noun, at least not a normal, common noun. It is used as a proper noun — as a family name, and in particular, it was the name of a Milanese ruling family in the Renaissance, and a power name at that. 

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