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Being supportive in Italian by staying close by

When someone is having a hard time, we often try to be supportive. Or we can give someone some support. That's how we say it in English, but Italians say it a bit differently. They use more words.

 

In Italian, we are supportive by staying close to someone, we are by their side. We're there for them. 

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Being supportive by staying close

So in the following exchange between Ugo and Nora, he is actually accusing her of not having been there for him, not having been supportive.

 

Non mi sei stata molto vicina in quel periodo, lo sai?

You weren't really by my side in that period, you know that?

Caption 19, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

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A less literal translation would be:

You weren't very supportive [of me] during that period, you know that?.

or

You didn't give me much support during that period, you know that?

or 

You weren't really there for me during that period, you know that? 

 

A little further on in the dialogue, there is a play on words because Nora goes on to accuse Ugo of having had the American woman (the one he was having an affair with) literally by his side — in bed!

 

E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?

But the American was by your side?

Caption 25, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

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Sometimes the meaning is literal, so we need to be aware of the context. It can also be a mix of being physically nearby and being there for someone, being supportive.

 

How to use this expression

Now that we have looked at the meaning, we can look at how to use the expression. The formula is stare (to be, to stay) + vicino (close) + a (to) + qualcuno (someone). When we use pronouns, they can get attached to the verb, as in the following example.

 

Here are a few more examples:

Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.

Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 11

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The translation is pretty clear, but, depending on the intention of the speaker, it could also be:

 Adriano is ill and I want to be there for him.

 

Note that since there is a modal verb, in this case, volere (to want to), the verb stare will be in the infinitive and volere will be conjugated.

 

1) What about a version where the verb stare is separated from the pronoun?

2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?

3) What if you were talking directly to the person who is ill?

 

Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous

In the following example, the staying close is more physical, since Paola asks Adriano to hold her close, but she is also asking Adriano to be there for her, to give her some support because the entire conversation is about her problems and the fact that she feels alone. She uses the second person informal imperative of stare with the personal (indirect object) pronoun attached to it.

Senti, facciamo così, dormiamoci sopra. Poi domani mattina sarai più lucida. -Tu stammi vicino, però. Stringimi.

Listen. Let's do this. We'll sleep on it. Then tomorrow morning, you will be more clear-headed. -You stay close to me, though. Hold me tight.

Captions 32-35, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14

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4) As an exercise, what if Paola were using the polite form of address? 

 

Attenzione: Let's avoid the temptation to use the suspiciously similar sopportare in this case, because it means "to bear," "to tolerate."

Ma non ce la facevo più a sopportare i suoi deliri.

But I couldn't bear to tolerate her ravings anymore.

Caption 63, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 3

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We hope this little lesson will help you understand the discussion Nora and Ugo have about their past in Sposami. And let's hope they can make up and move on!

 

1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.

2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.

3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino

3b) Tu stai male e ti voglio stare vicino.

4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.

 

 

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Che as a conjunction

The more Italian you learn, the more you start noticing the little words. Often these are little words that could be used in English but are frequently omitted. We'll be looking at several of them, but let's start with the conjunction che. It is, indeed, a conjunction, but it can also be a pronoun or even an adjective in some cases. Most of the time it will mean "that" or "which," but it can also correspond to the relative pronoun "that" or "who." It can also mean "what?".

 

Che: Optional in English

In Italian, we can't omit che, but in English, we can omit its equivalent, sometimes.

Mi dispiace che m'hanno bocciato.

I'm sorry they flunked me.

Caption 22, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 13

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The translation could have been:

I'm sorry that they flunked me.

 

1) There is a little error in the previous example. Maybe you can see why he flunked! What should he have said? (It's an error that lots of people make every day, so don't worry if you don't see it.)

 

Ma come faccio a entrare nella divisa che m'hai dato? Eh?

So how am I supposed to fit into the uniform you gave me? Huh?

Caption 38, La Ladra EP.11 Un esame importante - Part 7

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So how am I supposed to fit into the uniform that you gave me? Huh?

 

While this second translation isn't wrong, we don't need the "that." 

 

2) What if the speaker were talking to more than one person. What might she have said?

 

Here's another example:

Supponiamo che stiamo preparando una pasta alla carbonara per quattro persone, quindi ci serviranno trecento grammi di pancetta, cinquecento grammi di pasta.

Let's assume we're preparing some pasta alla carbonara for four people, so we'll need three hundred grams of bacon, five hundred grams of pasta.

Captions 1-3, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 2

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We could have translated it like this: 

Let's assume that we're preparing some pasta alla carbonara for four people, so we'll need three hundred grams of bacon, five hundred grams of pasta.

 

Typical contexts

Typically, one of the cases where Italian uses the conjunction che and English does not is when using the verb "to know." Let's look at some examples. 

Lo sai che abbiamo bisogno di te. -Sta sbattuta, Elisa.

You know we need you. -She's in bad shape, Elisa.

Caption 33, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 20

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It would be just as correct to say:

You know that we need you. -She's in bad shape, Elisa.

We just tend not to.

 

Here's an example in the imperfetto (simple past):

Sapevi che ti stavamo cercando.

You knew we were looking for you.

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 9

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It could have been translated as:

You knew that we were looking for you.

 

Another typical but "hypothetical" context

We have to keep in mind that in many cases, the conjunction che takes the subjunctive. This happens primarily with verbs that indicate uncertainty. This may be new for you, in which case, go ahead and check out the several lessons Yabla offers about the subjunctive.

 

So if instead of using the verb sapere (to know) which indicates certainty, we use the verb pensare (to think), we are in another grammatical sphere, or we could say, "mood." The congiuntivo (subjunctive mood).

Io... io penso che Karin sia andata via apposta.

I... I think that Karin went away on purpose.

Caption 43, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 19

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In this case, the translator did use "that" in English, but she could have chosen not to (which might have been more natural):

I... I think Karin went away on purpose.

 

3) What if you were to use the verb sapere in the above sentence?

4) What if the person were named Alfredo instead of Karin? Use both sapere and pensare.

 

Che meaning "who" or "whom"

When che means "who" or "whom," we are probably talking about a (relative) pronoun, not a conjunction. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter. What we do need to keep in mind is that, while we also have the pronoun chi meaning "who" or "whom" (with a preposition), when it's a relative pronoun, it's che

 

Sì, al TG della sera hanno parlato di quel ragazzo che hanno ucciso. Assomiglia molto a uno che viene spesso...

Yes. On the evening news they talked about that boy they killed. He really looks like someone who often comes...

Captions 39-40, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 10

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This is a bit tricky because in the example above, it would be a little bit awkward to fit in "whom" or "who." But it's interesting that we need the che in Italian to make the sentence make sense.

 

Yes. On the evening news they talked about that boy whom they killed. He really looks like someone who often comes...

 

Of course, a lot of Americans use "that" instead of "who" or "whom." It would still be awkward. It should be mentioned that in the previous example, "the boy" is the object, and that's when the che is omitted in English. But when it's the subject, we do need it. 

Be', scusa se... se non t'abbiamo avvertito prima, ma c'è Valeria che deve dirti una cosa.

Well, sorry if... if we didn't let you know beforehand, but here's Valeria who has to tell you something.

Captions 37-38, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 10

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Of course, the purpose of Yabla translations is to help you make sense of the Italian you hear and read. Sometimes taking a look at how our own language works can help, too. And when we are translating from English to Italian, we need to call on words we are omitting, so it can get tricky.

Hopefully, this lesson has helped you to be just a bit more aware of the word che. It's a word that means plenty of things, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. And if you have some particular questions about che, please let us know and we'll try to shed some light on them. newlsetter@yabla.com

Quiz solutions

1) Mi dispiace che mi abbiano bocciato.

This may be open to question because the kid knows they flunked him, but some would argue that the subjunctive should have been used.

2) Lo sapete che abbiamo bisogno di voi. -Sta sbattuta, Elisa.

3) Io... io so che Karin è andata via apposta.

4) Io... io penso che Alfredo sia andato via apposta.

4b) Io... io so che Alfredo è andato via apposta.

 

 

 

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Rispondere: to answer or to respond?

Rispondere, with its English cognate "to respond" seems like it would be a very easy verb to use, and sometimes it is, indeed, easy. The verb rispondere translates as both "to respond" (its cognate) and "to answer" (a verb English inherited from the Old Norse "andsvar").

 

As with many verbs, by using a modal verb, we can keep the main verb in the infinitive, thereby avoiding the need to remember how to conjugate it. 

Senti... Posso parlare con Luca? No, Luca non può rispondere, ha avuto un problema.

Listen... Can I speak with Luca? No, Luca can't answer, he had a problem.

Captions 49-50, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9

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If we don't include an object in the sentence, there are no complications. In the following example, we could also have translated rispondere with "to respond."

Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima di rispondere chiamo il mio avvocato.

All right, then I will also follow normal procedure and before I answer, I'll call my lawyer.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 6

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1) What if the speaker used the conjunction che (after prima) as an alternate way to say the same thing?

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An important detail

Once we start involving an object in our sentence (such as "the question"), we have to keep in mind that rispondere is an intransitive verb (meaning it doesn't take a direct object), so if I want to say, "I answer the question" in Italian, I have to use a preposition after the verb followed by an indirect object (in this case, la domanda (the question). Think: "I respond to the question."

 

Rispondo alla domanda (I answer the question/I respond to the question).

 

Se la sente di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.

Do you feel you can answer a few questions? -Yes.

Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 2

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2) Can you ask this same question to someone you are on familiar terms with?

Non ha risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuole?

You haven't answered my question. What do you want?

Caption 40, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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3) Can you say the same thing informally?

 

2 Ways in English, 1 way in Italian

In English, "to respond" is intransitive and "to answer" is transitive, so we use them two different ways and we rarely have to think about it. We might think of using "to respond" in more formal situations.

I can respond to your letter or I can answer your letter. 

 

But when we are translating from English to Italian, we have to remember that we need a preposition after rispondere.

 

Rispondere with an indirect object personal pronoun

We can also use rispondere where the indirect object is a person, perhaps expressed with a personal pronoun, as in the following example. In this case, we use "to answer" in our translation. "To respond" wouldn't work.

 

Toscani, per favore rispondimi. È importante, dai.

Toscani, please answer me. It's important. Come on.

Caption 56, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 9

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Memorizing rispondimi is a good idea. You never know when someone is going to faint and it's also handy to have when arguing with someone. Above all, remember that mi stands for a me (to me) so we do have a preposition (in this case a (to).

 

4) How would you say the same thing to a person you don't know very well? And for the record, you wouldn't say dai. Can you think of an alternative?

 

Cases of Incongruence between Italian and English

In the following clip, we have an indirect object pronoun in the Italian, but none in the English. These days, we might say "I didn't pick up,"  "I didn't answer the phone," I didn't answer your call," "I didn't return your call." But we probably wouldn't say "I didn't answer you" unless it were an email or a letter. In this context, we think of answering the phone, not the person.

Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ti ho risposto perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.

Yes, I know, you called me a hundred times, but I didn't answer because I had a bunch of things to do, Teresa.

Captions 23-24, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 1

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5) The above clip is very informal, between brother and sister, but he could have said he hadn't answered the phone. How could he have phrased it?

 

There are plenty of instances in which Italians insert an indirect object pronoun, where in English, none is called for. It's just something to be aware of.

 

We hope this lesson has provided some clarity about using the verb rispondere. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Risposte Answers

1) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda, chiamo il mio avvocato.

1b) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda io, chiamo il mio avvocato.​

2) Te la senti di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.

3) Non hai risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuoi?

4) Agente Toscani, mi risponda, per favore. È importante, la prego.

5) Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ho risposto al telefono/alla tua chiamata perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.

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A little quirk concerning the verb sapere

We talked about the important verb sapere (to know) in a previous lesson. You might have also figured out that even though sapere means "to know," in English, "to know" isn't always translated into Italian with sapere. It can also be translated as conoscere (to know, to be familiar with, to meet for the first time). We have a lesson about that, too.

Sapere (to know how)

Another nuance of the verb sapere is that it often means "to know how." In this case, just as "to know how," in English, is followed by a verb in the infinitive (such as in "to know how to do something"), sapere, when it means "to know how" is also followed by a verb in the infinitive. We can see an example of this in the following clip.

 

Ma come, l'hai inventata tu la Lettera Ventidue e non la sai usare?

But how come? You invented the Lettera Twenty-two and you don't know how to use it?

Caption 38, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 24

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An alternative translation

But there is another similar way to translate this sense of sapere. And that is with "can" or "to be able to." Just as with "can," sometimes it's about being capable of doing something (as in the previous example), and sometimes it is about being able to or kind enough to do something (as in this next example).

Mi scusi, buon uomo. Mi sa dire l'ora, per favore? -Le cinque e trentacinque. -Ma è sicuro? E trentasei mo, eh! -Ah! Grazie, eh! -Prego.

Pardon me, my good man. Can you tell me the time, please? -Five thirty-five. -But are you sure? -[And] thirty-six now, huh! -Ah! Thanks, huh! -You're welcome.

Captions 1-7, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'ora

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Literally, this might have been translated as: "Do you know how to tell me the time?" But that's not really what he means. Of course, the guy on the scooter could have said something else, such as:

Sa che ore sono (Do you know what time it is)?

 

but that isn't actually asking for the person to share the information. He also could have said:

Mi può dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

Mi può dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?

Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?

Può dirmi che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

 

So we can use the verb potere (to be able to), but using sapere to mean "can" in certain contexts, especially with verbs such as dire (to say) indicare (to indicate), consigliare (to recommend), is a very typical way to ask if someone can do something. It is ever so slightly round-about and gives an impression of informal politeness. We might say it's a cross between "Can you?" and "Do you know how?"

 

Exercises

1) Can you ask the above questions using the informal form of address?

 

2) How about transforming these sentences by replacing potere with sapere?

-2a) Mi puoi dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?

-2b) Non poteva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva l'orologio (she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

-2c) Non ti posso consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).

 

Answers to exercises:

 

1) 

Sai dirmi l'ora (can you tell me the time)?

Sai che ore sono (do you know what time it is)?

Mi puoi dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

Mi puoi dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?

Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?

Puoi dirmi che ora sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

2)

2a) Mi sai dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?

2b) Non sapeva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

2bb) Non ha saputo dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

3c) Non ti so consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).

 

Let us know if you have any questions (newsletter@yabla.com), and thanks for reading!

 

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Italians know their chickens

Here's a great expression Italians use all the time. We can figure out the meaning easily, but finding a specific English equivalent is not all that straightforward. The important thing is to understand what Italians are trying to get across when they say it, and to be able to use it ourselves in Italian when the situation calls for it.

The expression itself:

When you know who you are dealing with and can predict an outcome based on how well you know that person or type of person, that's when you say:

 

Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens).

E gli ha detto di farsi operare nella sua clinica privata. -E tu come lo sai? -Perché conosco i miei polli.

And he told him to have the operation in his private clinic. -And how do you know? -Because I know my chickens [I know who I'm dealing with].

Captions 24-25, La Ladra EP.11 Un esame importante - Part 4

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Some attribute this expression to Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a great lover of animals and nature, so it seems it goes way back to the 13th century as well as being alive and well today.

 

Italians are known for setting up orti (vegetable gardens) and pollai (chicken coops or henhouses) whenever and wherever they have the opportunity. So chickens, in many cases, are part of everyday life. These days, this is a less frequent phenomenon, but in the past, during the war, for example, raising chickens and having a little vegetable garden was a question of survival. 

 

Taking the expression apart:

Let's just mention that conoscere can have a few different nuances of meaning. Check out this lesson all about the verb conoscere. In the present case we are talking about knowing a person well, being familiar with their habits. It may be a friend who is always late, so you won't be surprised when they arrive with a 15 minute delay... It may be someone who never offers to pay, or always offers to pay. It may mean making an extra amount of pasta because you know your dinner guest is a good eater. It can be positive or negative, and can be said before someone does something, or as a justification afterwards. 

Ci butto un etto di pasta in più perché conosco i miei polli. Gianni è una buona forchetta.

I'll throw in one hundred grams more pasta because I know my chickens. Gianni is a big eater.

1) If you were to say this after the fact, to explain why you made so much pasta, what could you say?

 

Even if we are talking about one person, as in the video clip included above, the plural is generally used — it's a fixed expression. 

And this might be a good time to remember that we need the article before the possessive pronoun in Italian, but not in English. I miei polli. The singular would be il mio pollo

You can also use the expression in reference to someone else knowing their chickens.

Conosci i tuoi polli, eh? (you know who you're dealing with, I guess).

2) Let's say someone is telling you that they would always make more pasta than usual for this particular guest. How would you modify the question?

 

Practice:

As you go about your day, think of people you know and try predicting what they will say or do. As they prove you right, with a little chuckle, you can say to yourself, "Conosco i miei polli."

One more thing:

One more word about chickens. A chicken is young, and a hen is old. In English we can say "henhouse" or "chicken coop." In Italian, it's usually pollaio but naturally, the pollaio is full of both polli (chickens) and galline (hens). 

 

Another expression using galline describes people who go to bed early:

Alle otto se ne vanno a casa e non escono più, come le galline.

At eight o'clock they go home and don't go out again, like hens.

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 12

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3) What if the person were talking about one other person, not a group of people? What might he say?

 

The translation we have provided here is literal, and therefore "hens," but in English we would sooner say "chickens" when we want to be generic. The only time you really need to know the difference between galline and polli is when buying them to eat. We want pollo for most dishes, but Italians love broth and it's common to use certain cuts of beef plus a piece of gallina or fowl to make il brodo (the broth).

 

A proposito... (speaking of which...)

There's another famous expression in Italian, often referring to a woman of a certain age who might be feeling old. It's a compliment of sorts.

Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo ([An] old hen makes good broth).

 

More about brodo (broth) in this lesson.

 

And let's not forget the male member of this group of animali da cortile (barnyard animals) : il gallo (the rooster).

Ho provato ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

I tried to imagine the classic ending where she leaves everything and moves to the country, because she discovered how wonderful it is to be woken up by the rooster.

Captions 5-7, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 30

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1) C'ho buttato un etto di pasta in più perché conosco i miei polli. Gianni è una buona forchetta.

2) Conoscevi i tuoi polli, eh? 

3) Alle otto se ne va a casa e non esce più, come le galline.

4) Sto provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Provavo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Proverò ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Stavo provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Provo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo,

 
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How to Wear Clothes in Italian

In this week's segment of Sposami, there is talk of modelling wedding gowns. The verb used at one point is indossare. If we look closely, we might recognize the root word dosso, which in Dante's time, was a variant of the noun dorso, meaning "spine," or "back."

 

We can make the clothing connection with the English hyperbolic idiom "giving someone the shirt off one's back," referring to generosity. The noun dosso is no longer used to mean "back," exactly, but it means "bump," such as a bump in the road or a speed bump.

 

In a previous lesson we talked about the adverb addosso or di dosso (which bring images of someone on your back). So even though we don't use dosso to mean "back" anymore, it has been incorporated into other words and phrases that have become crystalised as standard.

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In this lesson, we will look at the verb indossare and other verbs that have to do with putting clothes on. We talked about taking clothes off in this lesson!

 

Practice: At the end of some video examples, there's a little grammar question, giving you the chance to expand on the example itself. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page. Don't worry if they give you trouble, as they are aimed at more advanced learners. It may be an opportunity to find out what you don't know and to ask us questions! We'll be glad to give you some answers. Make sure to read the full lesson before answering the questions, as they might refer to examples further down the page.

Modeling an outfit

If we have to model an outfit, we have to wear it, but in this case, it's wearing something with the specific purpose of displaying it. Indossare is the best choice if we are looking for a verb. 

E poi, se proprio servisse di indossare un abito, posso farlo io. -No, tu no.

And besides, if it were really necessary to model a dress, I can do it. -No, you can't.

Captions 32-33, Sposami EP 2 - Part 3

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1) Nora starts her sentence in the subjunctive but finishes it in the indicative rather than the conditional (not really correct). What if she were to finish it in the conditional? What would she have said?

 

Regarding the video clip, the translation of indossare could also have been "to put on," or "to wear," but we thought it was important to make the distinction regarding the purpose: not putting something on to go and buy milk, but to put it on display. And let's remember that "to model" in this context can't be translated into Italian with modellare. That doesn't quite work (false friend). 

 

A bit of cultural background relative to indossare

When we talk about modeling a dress or outfit, it's sometimes done by a professional model. Although the term modella (usually in the feminine version) is used to mean "fashion model," the more "Italian" term is indossatrice. During the period of Italian fascism, foreign words were rooted out, including the commonly used French noun mannequin. By law, it had to be replaced by indossatrice.

 

If you haven't seen the documentary about the Italian Language and Italian Fascism (on Yabla), check it out. Ne vale la pena (it's worth the effort). There is mention of removing words like modella or the French "mannequin" from the language and using a more Italian word.

Parole straniere e borghesia sono mali da estirpare. [Mannequin - Indossatrice]

Foreign words and the bourgeoisie are evils to be rooted out. [Mannequin – indossatrice] (fashion model)

Captions 6-7, Me Ne Frego Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 5

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That said, the verb indossare is used all the time by Italians. It's transitive, so we can use the question word "what."

Al momento della scomparsa, indossava un paio di jeans chiari, delle scarpe da ginnastica anonime...

When she went missing, she was wearing a pair of light colored jeans, unbranded sneakers...

Captions 37-38, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7

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2) How would you say this using the adjective vestito?

 

Getting dressed

The basic verb for getting dressed is vestire (to dress), used in the reflexive, vestirsi

Eh, scusate, commissario, ma come ci dobbiamo vestire? -Eh, infatti. Il tema della festa è anni ottanta, quindi regolatevi.

Uh, sorry Commissioner, but how should we dress? -Yeah, exactly. The theme of the party is the eighties, so act accordingly.

Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 11

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The question word in our example is come (how), which we commonly answer with an adverb or adverbial phrase. We can't follow it with a noun, as with indossare.  Sometimes we choose one word over the other depending on how we want to construct the phrase, or what we want to include or exclude.

3). But what if he had used the question word "what?" How could he have posed the question?

 

A related adjective

The verb vestire is often transformed into the adjective vestito. In this case, the person is already dressed.

Mamma è morta sei mesi fa e papà aveva organizzato una messa in suffragio. Ecco perché era vestito così elegante.

Mom died six months ago and Dad had organized an intercession mass. That's why he was dressed so elegantly.

Captions 20-22, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 2

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4) Maybe we could modify the second sentence in the example above — to say something similar — using the verb indossare. You will have to come up with a direct object noun to make it work. 

 

Let's keep in mind that vestito is also a noun meaning "dress" or, for a man, "suit."  

 

Putting clothes on

Just as in English, Italian uses the verb mettere (to put). But whereas in English, we say "to put on," Italian uses the reflexive form mettersi (to put on).

Tu che cosa ti metti? Io avevo pensato di mettermi il vestito rosso.

What are you going to wear? I thought of wearing my red dress.

Caption 34, Anna e Marika Il verbo pensare

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In this last example, the question is che cosa (what [thing]?). So we will need a noun as an answer. The formula is reflexive verb mettersi + noun.

5) We can do 2 exercises with this example. 

a) Use the transitive verb indossare in the question and in the answer. In this case it is a learning exercise, but an unlikely real-life option!

b) Ask the question with come. You can still use mettersi or indossare in the answer, or you can come up with something using the same verb as in the question. In this case you'll need to be creative.

 

We'll often hear someone giving this order to someone else. 

Dai, forza, vestiti.

Come on, get dressed.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 10

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6) If you were giving this command to a bunch of kids, what would you say? Tip: Don't worry that dai is singular. it's an expression that stays in the singular.

 

But attenzione. As you can hear in the example, in the previous example in the imperative, the stress is on the first syllable. It looks exactly like the plural of the noun vestito, (dress, suit) as in the following example, but sounds different. When used in the plural, i vestiti means "clothes."

Eh, andate a cercare i vestiti per la festa. Forza, via, via.

Yeah, go find some clothes for the party. Go on, get going, get going.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 11

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Once you're dressed

Once you have dressed, you are wearing something. We can use indossare, of course, but we can also use the verb portare (to carry).

 

7) Let's say you are asking this question, not to a friend, but to your boss, or to your Italian mother in law, with whom you are on formal terms. What would you say?

 

Secondo me dovresti portare la gonna più spesso perché ti sta molto bene.

In my opinion, you should wear a skirt more often. It looks very good on you.

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 6

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8) What's another way to say the same thing? There's more than one!

 

We've talked about different verbs we can use to talk about getting dressed and wearing clothes: vestire (used reflexively) indossare (transitive), mettersi un vestito (reflexive with a direct object), portare (transitive). Find out more about clothing in this video from Marika. Adriano also talks about clothes to wear in the different seasons.

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Now to some solutions for the quiz questions scattered throughout the lesson:

 

1) E poi, se proprio servisse di indossare un abito, potrei farlo io. -No, tu no.

2) Al momento della scomparsa, era vestita con un paio di jeans chiari, delle scarpe da ginnastica anonime...

3) Eh, scusate, commissario, ma cosa ci dobbiamo mettere?

4) Ecco perché indossava un vestito così elegante.

5a) Tu che cosa indossi/indosserai? Io avevo pensato di indossare il vestito rosso.

5b) Come ti vesti? Io avevo pensato di vestirmi di rosso. 

Io avevo pensato di vestirmi con il vestito rosso.  

Io avevo pensato di mettermi il vestito rosso.

6) Dai, forza, vestitevi!

7) Secondo me dovrebbe portare la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.

8) Secondo me dovrebbe indossare la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.

Secondo me dovrebbe mettersi la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.

 

Afterword: When we use the reflexive verb vestirsi, it's tricky because we can't use a direct object after it as we can with mettersi. We need the conjuction con (with) after it, or an adverbial phrase, which answers the question come (how).

One such phrase that comes to mind is: Vestirsi a cipolla (to dress in layers).

Quando vado in montagna, mi vesto sempre a cipolla (I always dress in layers [literally, "onion-style") when I go mountain climbing).

 

Send your questions or comments to newsletter@yabla.com and thanks for reading!

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What's up with Italian nicknames?

These days, even in Italy, you name your child however you choose. But at one time, in this historically Roman Catholic country, the names of saints were among the most popular ones. As a result, many children had the same name. By far the most popular names were Giuseppe (Joseph), Giovanni (John), Pietro, Piero (Peter), Paolo (Paul), Filiippo (Phillip), Marco (Mark), Matteo (Matthew), Domenico (Dominick), Antonio (Anthony), Leonardo (Leonard), Francesco (Francis), Maria (Mary), Giovanna (Jean, Joan), Paola (Paula), Anna (Anne), Elisabetta (Elisabeth), Simona (Simona), among others.

 

Note: You will find some little quiz questions throughout the lesson. Although each question refers to the video example preceding it, you might need information from further on in the lesson to answer it properly. So it would be wise read the entire lesson before trying to answer the quiz questions.

 

Abbreviating a name

We have seen in many Yabla videos that family and friends will use just the first syllable or two of the name, to make it easier and quicker to say, primarily when speaking directly to the person. The person's name is actually Martino. These are not nicknames, they're abbreviations.

Che stai facendo, Marti'?

What are you doing, Marti'?

Caption 50, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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1) If, instead of abbreviating your friend's name, you wanted to give it an affectionate touch, what could you call Martino and what would you say?

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The nickname can be longer than the given name

Nicknames are a bit different, and can be longer than the given name, so it's not just an expedient. It's common to use nicknames, partly to distinguish one Giovanni from another, but also to distinguish the size and stature of the person or some other characteristic. For these, suffixes are commonly used. 

If a boy or man named Paolo is a hefty guy, we might call him Paolone, using the accrescitivo (augmentative suffix). If he is kind of short or thin, or young, he might be called Paolino using the diminutivo ino/ina.

Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.

But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.

Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17

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2) Maybe I don't know this guy very well, so I am not about to use a nickname. What would I say?

 

There is even a street called via San Paolino in the historical city of Lucca, so nicknaming this way is a pretty old tradition!

Poi arrivi fino a Piazza San Michele, continua con Via San Paolino e finisce in Piazzale Verdi. Quindi è una via unica che ovviamente cambia nome.

Then you get to Piazza San Michele, it continues with Via San Paolino, and it ends in Piazzale Verdi. So it's one street, which obviously changes its name.

Captions 50-52, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 2

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Sometimes a nickname sticks and becomes the name someone goes by for their entire life. Simonetta is a common nickname for Simona, but it might also be a person's given name. Whoever gave her the name or nickname used the diminutivo (diminutive) suffix etto/etta to name her.

E comunque mi chiamo Simonetta. -Grazie, Simonetta. Sei proprio un'artista.

And anyway, my name is Simonetta. -Thank you, Simonetta. You really are an artist.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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3) Let's assume Simonetta is the name this woman has gone by her whole life, but I want to emphasize the fact that she is young and slender. We also need to assume I am on familiar terms with her. How could I thank her? 

 

How Italians introduce themselves

It's interesting to note that in Italian, people generally use the formula mi chiamo __________ (literally, "I call myself __________"), in conversation and introductions, rather than il mio nome è __________ (my name is __________). This gives them room to provide you with their nickname, not necessarily the name on their birth certificate.

 

In the following example from the story of Puccini's La Bohème, the main character introduces herself by using the nickname other people have given her, but she goes on to explain her real name.

Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.

They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.

Captions 1-2, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1

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4) Let's say Mimì is saying that she calls herself Mimì, not that others call her that. What could she say?

5) How could we talk about her name, using a common formula?

 

Vezzeggiativi (affectionate terms)

And of course, in the mix of nicknames are what we call i nomi vezzeggiativi  — affectionate names for people. These affectionate names can also involve words that aren't strictly names (such as tesoruccia), but we'll get to these in another lesson.

In Un medico in famiglia, we have the little girl, Annuccia. Her real or given name will undoubtedly be Anna. Sometimes lengthening a name gives it prominence, makes it more audible, or warms it up. In Annuccia's case, her family uses the vezzeggiativo or affectionate suffix uccio/uccia to form her nickname. Since everyone calls her Annuccia, there's a fine line between calling a name a nickname or just someone's name. It's only going to matter on her carta d'identità (ID card) or other official documents.

E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.

And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sister

Caption 34, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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In the popular Yabla series, Provaci Ancora Prof!, Camilla's young daughter, Livietta, was surely named Livia, but Livietta stuck. Who knows if they will keep calling her that when she grows up. 

Pronto? -Mamma? Senti, non è che potresti andare a prendere Livietta alla lezione di danza?

Hello. -Mom? Listen, you couldn't go to pick up Livietta from her dance lesson, could you?

Captions 1-2, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Nicknames can change according to region

The name Giuseppe, a favorite, is interesting because, depending on the region, the nickname will be different. In Tuscany, the nickname for Giuseppe is Beppe

Beppe! Guardami. Me.

Beppe [nickname for Giuseppe]! Look at me. Me.

Caption 35, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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We can take that nickname one step further and say Beppino, especially if the Beppe in question is not too tall.

 

Beppino is typical in Tuscany, but further south, Peppe or Peppino would be used. In this case the diminutive probably has nothing to do with the size of the guy. In the following example, Peppino's nickname is used, but is then abbreviated by his friend, who's calling him.

Peppino? Peppi'! Ao [Ehi]! Me [forza], muoviti. Scendi, Peppi'. Ti devo dire una cosa importante. Scendi.

Peppino? Peppi'! Hey! Come on, get moving. Come down, Peppi'. I have to tell you something important. Come down.

Captions 40-43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7

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Here is yet another nickname for Giuseppe, this time using an affectionate suffix on top of a nickname. In contrast to the above-mentioned Annuncia, the only name we have heard for the little girl in Medico in Famiglia, Peppuccio is probably a temporary (affectionate) nickname.

Ma'! -Peppuccio! Ho saputo che vai in Brasile, ma che ci vai a fare, la rivoluzione?

Mom! -Peppuccio [nickname of endearment for Giuseppe]! I heard that you're going to Brazil, but what are you going to do there, start a revolution?

Captions 4-5, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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Especially in the south, the nickname for Giuseppe can take a more roundabout route. We take Giuseppe and make it a diminutive: Giuseppino. Then we just use the end of it and call someone Pino.

Pino Daniele, the famous singer-songwriter has always gone by the name Pino

Tu dimmi quando quando

You tell me when, when

Caption 9, Pino Daniele Quando

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We do the same for the feminine version, so a woman named Pina was almost surely christened as Giuseppina

Fun fact: Although the feminine version of Giuseppe does technically exist, and it would be Giuseppa, most of the time the feminine version is already a diminutive: Giuseppina.

Come si chiama questa nonna? -E allora... Come si chiama? -Giuseppina. Nonna Giuseppina. -Detta Pina. Detta Pina. -Sì.

What's this grandmother's name? -And so... What's her name? -Giuseppina. Grandma Giuseppina. -Nicknamed Pina. Nicknamed Pina. -Yes.

Captions 34-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 15

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Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:

Pinu', be'? Ti sei ricordato? No. Pinuccio, stammi a sentire.

Pinu', well? Do you remember? No. Pinuccio, listen to me.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 16

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We started out with Giuseppe, which can become Beppe, Beppino, PeppePeppino, or Pino.

 

6) If we wanted to use an affectionate form for Giuseppina, detta Pina, what could we call her?

 

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How do we refer to a nickname?

Un soprannome in Italian is often a common noun turned into a name (which we'll discuss in another lesson). The nicknames we have been discussing here can be considered to be in the category of diminutives, augmentatives, or, as we mentioned, affectionate versions of names. But we can also use the formula as in the previous example. For example, we can say Giuseppe, detto Peppino (Giuseppe, called Peppino). 

 

Here are some common Italian names with their common nicknames. The list is partial as there are countless others.

 

Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.

Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.

Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.

Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.

My name is Enzo. I need a job.

Caption 52, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 10

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Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.

Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.

Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.

Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.

Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.

Giovanni can become Gianni.

 

7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?

 

Feast Day Names

Sometimes babies are named because they are born on a saint's day, or another special feast day. 

 

Annunziata might become Nunzia.

Natale might become Natalino.

Pasquale might become Pasqualino.

 

Here are some answers to the quiz questions above. There may be additional answers. If you have doubts, write to us!

 

1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?

2) Invece la perfezione, caro Paolo, non esiste.

3) Grazie, Simonettina. Sei proprio un'artista.

4) Mi chiamo Mimì, ma il mio vero nome è Lucia.

5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.

6) Pinuccia.

7) First we apply the diminutive suffix: Leonardino, then we take the last part and turn it into Dino.

 

 

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7 Ways to Share Information in Italian

We've talked about noticing things or not in various ways.

And we mentioned a couple of standalone phrases or expressions regarding noticing things, such as:

Ti rendi conto (do you realize)?

C'hai fatto caso (did you notice)?

Non c'ho fatto caso (I didn't notice).

 

There are other ways to call someone's attention to something, give them information, or a warning about something. Here are 7. We note that these verbs are almost always followed by the conjunction che (that). Since we are not talking about hypotheses, but rather statements of fact, we don't use the subjunctive in this case, as we often do after che

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New feature: At the end of each example, there's a little grammar question, giving you the chance to expand on the example itself. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page. Don't worry if they give you trouble, as they are aimed at more advanced learners. It may be an opportunity to find out what you don't know and to ask us questions! We'll be glad to oblige.

1) Far notare

We looked at notare in another lesson. Instead of using notare (to notice) by itself, in the imperative, for example, we can say far notare (to "make someone notice," to point out). There is often a particle representing the object pronoun and the preposition in the mix. In following example, Daniela is pointing out something to her class so she uses the second person plural vi (to you). Note that it comes before the verb!

Infine, vi faccio notare che "in effetti", come espressione a sé stante, come espressione singola, senza aggiungere altre parole dopo, si usa per affermare che si è convinti di qualcosa.

To finish up, I will point out to you that "in effetti," as a standalone expression, as an expression on its own, without adding other words after it, is used to affirm that we are convinced of something.

Captions 47-51, Corso di italiano con Daniela Infatti - In effetti - Part 4

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Q1) If Daniela were giving a private lesson, and thus were speaking to just one person, what do you think she would say? 

2) Far presente

Similar to far notare is fare presente. I'm calling your attention to some fact or situation. I'm presenting you with some information. I'm making you aware of it.

Ottimo lavoro, Arianna. Ti ringrazio per avermi fatto presente la situazione.

Great work, Arianna. Thank you for letting me know about the situation.

Captions 45-46, Italiano commerciale Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 3

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Q2) If I were speaking on behalf of my company, how could I change this sentence?

3) Segnalare

Ma anche la città di Genova, con i suoi vicoli, è molto affascinante e da segnalare anche l'Acquario di Genova, che è molto famoso.

But also the city of Genoa, with its alleys, is very appealing and one should also mention the Genoa Aquarium, which is very famous.

Captions 79-80, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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In the previous example, we could have translated it with "to point out" or "to call attention to."

 

Q3) If you were telling one other person about about the Genoa acquarium, what could you say? This is harder than the previous example, and there is not only one possibility.

4) Avvertire

Signor Pitagora, La volevo avvertire che per trovare i soldi per la sua operazione, mio fratello ha rinunciato a tutti i diritti sull'azienda.

Mister Pitagora, I wanted to let you know that to get the money for your operation, my brother gave up all his rights to the company.

Captions 95-97, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 15

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There are other nuances of avvertire, but for now we will stick with the one that means "to warn," "to let someone know."  You are turning someone's attention to something. Avvertire can be used with a menacing tone, as a warning.

 

Q4) The example uses the (singular) polite form (which is actually the third person singular), but what if you were telling a colleague or friend the same thing? What might you say?

5) Comunicare

I fratelli Troisgros, quando comunicai loro che volevo tornare a Milano, ci rimasero male.

The Troisgros brothers, when I communicated to them that I wanted to return to Milan, were disappointed.

Captions 45-46, L'arte della cucina I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 17

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This is a cognate that is easy to understand, but in addition to its meaning "to communicate" in general, Italians often use it to let you know something, sort of like avvertire. It might have been more authentic to translate it as "when I let them know that I wanted to return to Milan..." or "when I informed them..."

This is an interesting example because it contains the verb comunicare (to communicate) in the passato remoto (remote past tense), first person singular. And in addition, the object personal pronoun is the third person plural. We don't see this very often in everyday conversation.

 

Q5) It would be perhaps more common these days to hear this kind of sentence expressed in the passato prossimo, which, we recall, is used, not as the present perfect in English, but as the simple past tense: something over and done with. Try conveying this same message using the passato prossimo.

6) Avvisare

Be', ma allora dobbiamo subito avvisare qualcuno, eh.

Well, so then we should alert someone right away, huh.

Caption 35, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 8

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Q6) In the previous example, we don't know who to alert. But we do have to alert someone. What if we do know who to alert? Let's say we have already been talking about that person, say, someone's father— Masculine, singular. How could we construct this sentence? There's more than one correct solution.

7) Informare

Another cognate is of course, informare. So if nothing else comes to mind, informare works as a great verb for letting someone know something.

Be', ho dovuto informare tutti i nostri attuali inserzionisti che tutti i contratti futuri subiranno un aumento del prezzo del trenta per cento.

Well, I've had to inform all our current advertisers that all future contracts will undergo a thirty percent increase in cost.

Captions 21-22, Italiano commerciale Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 2

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Eh... -Va bene, va bene, va bene, tenetemi informato.

Uh... -OK. OK. OK. Keep me informed.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 3

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In the previous example, we have a new element: the verb tenere (to hold, to keep). It's pretty close to how we do it in English, which is great news, vero?

 

Q7) What if you are telling just one person to keep you informed? How would you say that?

 

As you can see, each verb has a slightly different meaning, but all are used to call attention to something and to share information. 

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Answers:

A1) Ti faccio notare che...

A2) Ti ringrazio per averci fatto presente la situazione.

A3) e ti segnalo anche l'acquario...

e ti posso anche segnalare l'acquario...

A4) Susanna, ti volevo avvertire che...

A5) I fratelli Troisgros, quando ho comunicato loro che volevo tornare a Milano, ci sono rimasti male.​

A6) Be', ma allora lo dobbiamo  avvisare subito, eh.

Be', ma allora dobbiamo  avvisarlo subito, eh.

A7) Tienimi informato (or if you are a female: tienimi informata).

 

What are some expressions you use everyday that you wish you knew how to say in Italian? Let us know and we'll try to provide some answers. 

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Come si suol dire (as they say)

A learner has written in about a curious expression, found in the example below, wondering if it was an error.

 

It wasn't an error, but it certainly bears looking at. Sometimes learning the origins of an expression can help us make connections to other words we might wonder about. In this lesson we'll talk about a case in point.

 

In the video clip, young Lorenzo is using the verb organizzare in a slightly different sense from the primary one, which is merely "to organize," or if it's reflexive as in our example, "to get organized." He means that he has figured some things out. He has "organized" his thoughts into something logical and is acting on them. He has gotten his act together.

A ma', te volevo informa' [romanesco: ti volevo informare] che mi sono, come si suol dire, organizzato.

Hey Mom, I wanted to inform you that I've, as they say, gotten my act together.

Caption 6, La Ladra EP. 9 L'amico sconosciuto - Part 15

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The expression

If we do a Yabla search, we actually find more examples of come si suol dire. In these examples the expression is clearer than in the one above, because we can see from the context that come si suol dire is being used to introduce a saying or modo di dire (idiomatic expression). 

Io penso che Lei dovrebbe, come si suol dire, prendere il toro per le corna.

I think that you should, as they say, take the bull by the horns.

Captions 47-48, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 10

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Queste galline la mattina, che [sic: quando] vengono messe fuori dal pollaio, vanno a razzolare un po' a destra e a sinistra, quindi una volta che hanno scoperto queste fragoline, eh, faranno, come si suol dire, una vera man bassa.

These chickens in the morning, get put out of the henhouse, they go and scratch about a bit to the right and to the left [here and there]. So once they have discovered these young strawberries, uh, they'll will, as they say, ransack the area.

Captions 25-28, La campagna toscana Il contadino - Part 1

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A volte si chiude una finestra, ma si apre un portone o, come si suol dire, bicicletta nuova, vita nuova. -Questo, però, non l'ho mai sentito, te lo sei inventato.

Sometimes a window closes but a door opens or, as they say, "New bike, new life." -This one, however, I have never heard. You made it up.

Captions 46-48, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 7

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Tip: You can memorize come si suol dire and use it in the middle of a sentence without worrying about conjugating it. 

 

What does suol mean?

Let's discover it together.

 

You can see the Engiish translation in the video clip, but it's hard to make complete sense of it. What is this suol? We might be wondering, "Is it a verb?" "If so, what kind of verb is it and what does it actually mean?" "Is it reflexive?"

 

We know from the phrasal verb vuol dire (it means) that a verb will often have its final vowel omitted. Vuole dire > vuol dire. And so it's logical to posit that suol dire is actually suole dire. From this ending we can surmise that the verb is an -ere verb. So let's try out solere

 

Hey! It exists: solere — to be in the habit of, to have the habit of. It's a verb you will rarely hear in any other context but the one we are discussing here.

 

Solere isn't reflexive, but in the expression si suol dire, the si is an impersonal third person singuar we might translate with an impersonal "they" or "one."

 

So suol means "is in the habit of."

 

If we keep in mind that sometimes the combination uo gets transformed into a plain o, we might be reminded of the adjective solito (usual) or the adverbial phrase di solito (usually) and rightly so. Di solito or solito has to do with "being in the habit of." In fact if you go to the WordReference entry on solito, you will find solere towards the bottom of the page.

E di solito, tradizionalmente, il Trullo, è sempre stato utilizzato come ricovero. Ricovero per bestiame, ma anche per attrezzi agricoli,

and usually, traditionally, the trullo has always been used as a shelter: shelter for livestock, but also for agricultural equipment,

Captions 23-24, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 12

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The verb solere has mostly gone out of fashion except for the expression si suol dire (one is in the habit of saying). But since we are talking about the verb solere, we should mention that some (well-read) people might also say something like:

Solevano rientrare tardi (they used to come home late/they were in the habit of coming home late).

Chiese come in quel paese solevano/solessero fare (He/she asked how they usually did things in that town).

 

And for those who are interested...

Solere is the kind of verb we might find in Renaissance poetry, where spelling and pronunciation were not yet standardized, and where, in the following cases, it is spelled without the v, becoming solea instead of soleva, just as the verb volere was often written volea instead of voleva in the third person singular imperfetto. 

 

The first example is from Petrarca, whose poetry was frequently set to music in the form of madrigals.

 

Mia benigna fortuna e ’l viver lieto,
i chiari giorni et le tranquille notti
e i soavi sospiri e ’l dolce stile
che solea resonare in versi e ’n rime,
vòlti subitamente in doglia e ’n pianto,
odiar vita mi fanno, et bramar morte.

My kindly fortune and my life, so happy,
the clear-lit days and all the tranquil nights,
the gentle-flowing sighs and the sweet style
that would resound in all my verses and rhymes—
all of a sudden turned to grief and tears,
make me hate life and make me yearn for death.

 

This example is from Claudio Monteverdi's opera Orfeo. The libretto was written by Alessandro Striggio.

 

Pregoti, per quel foco
Con cui già la grand'alma Amor t'accese,
Fa ch'Euridice torni
A goder di quei giorni
Che trar solea vivend'in feste e in canto,
E del misero Orfeo consola 'I pianto.

I implore you, by that fire
with which Love set your great soul aflame,
Let Eurydice return
to enjoy those days
that she used to spend in festivity and song,
and console the grief of the wretched Orpheus.

 

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Another way to notice something (or not), in Italian

In a previous lesson, we discussed a couple of ways to talk about noticing things, or not. Each expression or verb that says roughly the same thing comes with its particular grammatical feature and each has nuances that can determine when people use one or the other.

 

Notare

The easiest and most direct way to notice things is with the transitive verb notare

E Lei non ha notato niente di strano?

And you didn't notice anything strange?

Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 4

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Accorgersi

Accorgersi (to notice) is reflexive and comes with its grammatical baggage especially when using it in the present perfect (a very common way to use it). Accorgesene (to notice it) adds the complication of the ne particle. So it gets complicated, especially for beginners. 

Abbiamo parcheggiato in divieto di sosta, e io purtroppo non me ne sono accorto.

We parked in a no parking zone, and I, unfortunately, didn't realize it.

Captions 12-13, Francesca alla guida - Part 4

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Rendersi conto

In a previous lesson we also talked about rendersi conto or rendersene conto as a way to realize something. It's a bit deeper than just noticing. It's to become aware of the significance of an oberservation. There are relevant discussions of accorgersi vs rendersi conto, on WordReference so check it out if you want to know more.

E allora ripensando a quella mattina, io mi sono resa conto che Lei entrò nello studio soltanto pochi secondi dopo di noi.

And so thinking back to that morning, I realized that you entered the study just a few seconds after us.

Captions 54-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 11

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Farci caso or fare caso di qualcosa

Here's another modo di dire that Italians use quite a bit in conversation, especially when they fail to notice something or they want to fail to notice something on purpose, that is, to ignore something.

 

This expression is not reflexive so that's one point in its favor (on the easy-to-use scale), but we do have to contend with the particle ci which in this case stands for "about it" or "to it".

 

Let's look at the make up of this expression. Basically we have the verb fare (to make, to do) and the noun caso (case) and then we have ci which in this case stands for "about it" or "to it," or just  "it."  We can think of farci caso as "making a case out of something," "making an issue of something," "giving something importance." 

 

And in some cases, that's what it means.

Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza... era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco. Ma io non c'ho mai fatto caso.

If we really want to call it a weakness... he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it. But I never made an issue of it.

Captions 73-75, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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But before making an issue of something, we notice it, we pay attention to it. And that's one common way it's used in everyday conversation. Here's a little scene from Commissario Manara between Sardi and her husband, Toscani.

Io da ieri sera sto ancora aspettando i pannolini, grazie. -Sardi, io da ieri sera, non so se ci hai fatto caso, non sono rientrato neanche a casa. Ci hai fatto caso, spero, sì? -Come non c'ho fatto caso?

I've been waiting since last night for the diapers, thank you. -Sardi, since last night, I don't know if you noticed, I haven't even gone home. You noticed, I hope, didn't you? -What do think, that I didn't notice?

Captions 6-10, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 10

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Here, we should keep in mind that in English we don't add an object pronoun or preposition, but in Italian, that's what the c' stands for, and is actually ci.

 

We should mention that another way to use this expression is when you are telling someone not to notice something, not to make an issue out of something. In other words, to ignore something. This can come up, for instance, when you hear someone saying bad things about you. A friend will say:

Non ci far caso. Non farci caso.

Don't pay attention to that. Ignore it.

 

If you watch Commissario Manara, you know that the coroner, Ginevra, has a personal way of talking about the dead people she examines. Someone is explaining that fact to a newcomer. The speaker is using the third person singular imperative which is used to address someone formally.

Non ci faccia caso, è fatta così.

Don't mind her, that's how she is.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 6

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Practically speaking

A really handy phrase to learn right now is Non c'ho fatto caso (don't forget that the c is pronounced like "ch," the h is silent, there's a nice double t in fatto, and the s in caso sounds like z):

Non c'ho fatto caso. 

I didn't notice.

I didn't see that.

I didn't notice that.

I didn't pay attention to it.

It didn't jump out at me.

It didn't catch my eye.

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4 more ways to use conto

Let's look at 5 more ways to use the noun il conto in everyday conversation. The first two involve prepositions:

 

1) Per conto di

When we do something on someone's behalf, we use per conto di

La leggenda racconta di miniere dove a scavare erano dei nani per conto del re Laurino.

The legend tells of mines where dwarfs were excavating on behalf of the king Laurin.

Captions 23-24, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 5 - Part 10

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Oltre a questo lavoro giornalistico più specifico, lavoro anche come, come responsabile di uffici stampa per conto di varie realtà.

Besides this more specific journalistic job, I also work as head of press offices on behalf of various organizations.

Captions 1-3, Francesca Vitalini Fare la giornalista pubblicista - Part 2

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An expression we might see in a contract about power of attorney is:

agire in nome e per conto di (to act in the name of and on behalf of)

 

This expression can also mean "of one's own" and is used quite frequently as in the following example.

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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It can also mean on one's own:

Non faccio in tempo a venire a casa per pranzo. Mangio per conto mio.

I don't have time to come home for lunch. I'll eat on my own.

 

2) Sul conto di 

If we use the preposition su (on) then it can mean "about." We usually use it in reference to people.

No, io devo smentire delle cattiverie che girano sul mio conto.

No, I have to prove wrong the maliciousness that's circulating about me.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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Anche se ultimamente si dicono un sacco di cose sul suo conto...

Even though lately they've said a lot of things about her...

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4

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These next examples involve a verb plus conto:

3) Tener conto di

Mah, la libertà è una grossa parola, perché bisogna sempre tener conto delle persone che abbiamo intorno.

Well, freedom is a strong word, because we always have to take into account the people we're surrounded by.

Captions 22-23, Che tempo che fa Monica Bellucci

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Here's an example using the particle ne (about it, of it) as well. It takes the place of di qualcosa (about/of something):

Tu vedrai che i giudici ne terranno conto, ascoltami.

You will see that the judges will take it into account, listen to me.

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 13

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4) Fare conto

When someone is telling you to listen to how things add up, or how things fit together, they might say:

 

Fai conto... (take this into consideration, do the math..., let's see... figure this in...)

 

Like many expressions, there are some people who use this expression regularly, and others who never use it. It can be added into a sentence as is, on its own. Instead of doing the math oneself, the speaker is having you participate. It's a modo di dire.

 

Ci vogliono,  fai conto,  tre ore per andare da Pisa a Bologna in macchina. 

It will take — you should count — three hours to go from Pisa to Bologna by car.

 

Cammina, cammina. Sai quanti chilometri faccio io al giorno?  -Quanti? -Fai conto tre pedinamenti, per dire, eh.

Yeah, walk. You know how many kilometers I do per day?  -How many? -Figure three tails, to give you an idea, huh.

Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 1

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Fare conto can also be used with che (that) to make a more complex sentence.

 

Fai conto che io faccio tanti kilometri al giorno.

Take into account that I do three kilometers per day.

 

Fare conto doesn't necessarily have to do with numbers or counting. It can also mean "to assume that" or even "to pretend that" in certain contexts and in this case it takes the subjunctive.

Fai conto che io sia tua madre (anche se sono la zia), e devi fare quello che dico io.

Think of me as your mother (even though I am your aunt) and you have to do as I say. 

 

We hope these ways for using il conto will be useful to you. Maybe you will hear them used in a movie, or when an Italian is explaining something to you. Now you know!

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Can you think of other ways this noun is used? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Fare i conti (taking things into account) Part 2

In a previous lesson, we talked about the noun conto as part of the phasal verb rendersi conto (to realize). A learner has written in asking if this can be synonymous with accorgersene (to notice, to realize). The answer is yes, sometimes, depending on the context. There is a lesson on the pronominal, reflexive verb accorgersene, so check it out.

 

Fare i conti (coming to terms, reckoning)

In this lesson, we will continue to look at the noun il conto and how it fits into various expressions, with meanings that might seem to depart from the cognate "account." But let's keep in mind that in many cases, although English speakers prefer different turns of phrase, we can connect these with "account," if we look hard enough. After all, in English, we use the word "account" in lots of different ways, too.

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Here are some examples from Yabla videos of how people use conto or conti in authentic speech.

 

Dopotutto bisogna fare i conti con i propri limiti ogni tanto, o no?

After all, one has to come to terms with one's own limits, every now and then, right?

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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The previous example is from the biopic about Adriano Olivetti, which has been proven to be quite popular with subscribers. At the Olivetti typewriter factory, they're talking about selling it!

 

In the example below, the subject is Covid-19, and the fact that we have to come to terms with it, to reckon with it. Different translations but a similar concept. 

 

Come ormai tutti sapete, non solo l'Italia, ma tutto il mondo sta cominciando a fare i conti con questa [sic: questo] assassino invisibile.

As everyone knows by now, not only Italy, but the whole world is starting to have to reckon with this invisible killer.

Captions 7-9, COVID-19 Andrà tutto bene

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So we're talking about dealing with something, facing something, taking something into consideration, taking something into account, or even taking stock.

 

Practically speaking

Here's a practical situation in which one might use fare i conti. This time it does have to do with money.

 

Let's say I have someone do a job for me, say, getting a swimming pool up and running after the winter, and afterwards, I want to know how much I have to pay for it. Instead of just saying quanto ti devo? (how much do I owe you?), I can be a bit more roundabout. I can leave the door open for a conversation and allow for a justification of the fee I will be paying, compared to the initial preventivo (estimate), or for talking about a discount. I am letting the person I hired know that I am ready to settle up or at least to determine how much it will come to.

Dobbiamo fare i conti (we have to tally up, or "Let's figure out how much I owe you").

 

Making it casual

We can make the act of tallying up more casual, perhaps less about money, by using un po'  (a little, a few) or due (two), which doesn't really mean the number 2, but is a generic low-grade plural to mean "some." In the following example, the number due (two) could replace un po'

 

Che poi se facciamo un po' di conti, sono sempre io a perdonare per prima.

Which, after all, if we do the math here, I'm always the first one to forgive.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Uno si fa due conti e inizia a pensare che se tutti si vogliono innamorare, un motivo ci sarà.

You add things up and start thinking that if everyone wants to fall in love, there must be a reason.

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 2

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All things considered

Another expression with conti comes from math and accounts, but has to do with summing up. It's a way of saying, "All in all," "in the end," "all things considered," "after all is said and done..." 

Be', in fin dei conti, si tratta solo di ratificare uno stato di fatto.

Well, in the end, it's just a matter of ratifying a state of affairs.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 5

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Something's fishy

An expression that is used both in talking about money and about pretty much anything, is the the equivalent of "things don't add up."

E hai scoperto qualcosa? -Non ancora, ma i conti non tornano.

And did you discover anything? -Not yet, but things don't add up.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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There is still plenty to say about the noun conto, but we'll save it for next time!  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

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Fare i conti (taking things into account) Part 1

There's a word that Italians use every day in various contexts, with different nuances.  If you follow Yabla's instagram account, you will have seen a reference to this recently. Poi facciamo i conti is something parents might say to their kids. The kids did something bad, but they are out in public, maybe having a good time. "We'll settle this later," is what they are saying with Poi, facciamo i conti

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Il conto

But let's unpack this phrase, and to start with, the noun involved: il conto. If we look up conto in the dictionary, this is what we get: So one very common meaning of il conto is "the bill" or "check" you ask for after eating in a restaurant. It suffices to say:

Il conto per favore (the check please).

 

Here is another example from authentic conversation:

Eh, Marika, chiediamo il conto allora? -Sì. Scusi, posso avere il conto, per favore? -Vi porto subito il conto. -Grazie. -Grazie.

Uh, Marika, so shall we ask for the bill? -Yes. Excuse me, can I have the bill please? -I'll bring you the bill right away. -Thanks. -Thanks.

Captions 60-61, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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Rendersi conto

Another way in which Italians love to use the noun conto is in the reflexive phrasal verb rendersi conto (to realize):

Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui. E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?

I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him. And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 17

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This is such a common Italian modo di dire that it is definitely worth learning. Even though there are various ways we translate this into English depending on the context, it's a good idea to pay attention to hearing it and try to get a sense of when it's used, without trying to figure out its precise English equivalent. We translators are obliged to, but learners can just learn by listening.

Ti rendi conto is what you say when you are shocked and surprised by something and find it hard to believe and it can even stand alone as a value judgement, often negative.

Ma ti rendi conto? Can you fathom that? Do you have any idea?

 

Of course, if you are speaking formally, to your boss, for example, it's a bit different: We use the third person singular (= formal second person) reflexive.

La stampa locale ci sta addosso. È trapelata quella storia assurda degli incontri clandestini della De Santis a casa Sua. Ma si rende conto?

The local press is on our backs. This absurd story has leaked about De Santis's clandestine meetings at your house. Do you have any idea?

Captions 1-4, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 8

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But apart from that expression, rendersi conto di qualcosa is "to realize something."

Viene definita sindrome della mantide religiosa; consciamente non si rende conto di essere un'assassina.

It's called the "praying mantis" syndrome; she doesn't consciously realize that she's an assassin.

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 13

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This is something you can say in the negative when you failed to notice something or were unaware of something you did. In our next example, the speaker uses that little particle ne, which stands for "it" or "about it." Note that when we use rendersi conto in the present perfect, we use the auxiliary verb essere (to be) because the verb is reflexive. Forming these turns of phrase is a bit of a challenge for learners!

 

E quindi l'ha uccisa. Ma io non volevo, io... non me ne sono neanche reso conto. Una notte ho deciso di affrontarla.

And so you killed her. But I didn't want to. I... I didn't even realize it. One night I decided to confront her.

Captions 4-7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 14

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Un conto

Un conto can often be translated as "thing," when you are talking about evaluating a situation: Here the dialogue is about stealing items from a hotel room.

Un conto è se ti pigli una saponetta, che non se ne accorge nisciun [nessuno]...

It's one thing if you swipe a soap because no one will notice...

Captions 75-76, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 10

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Ci siamo resi conto che c'è tanto da dire sul conto della parola "il conto", insieme ad il suo plurale, "i conti".

We've realized that there is a lot to say on the subject of the word il conto and its plural: i conti

 

To be continued! We will talk about fare i conti, sul conto di, fare conto, and more!  Thanks for reading!

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Using prepositions a and in with cities and countries

We have talked about the prepositions in and a separately in previous lessons. Let's finally talk about when to use the preposition in and when to use a when referring to places like cities, countries, continents, regions, etc. This is tricky for lots of us, and it's easy to make mistakes. 

 

If you are subscribed to Yabla, you will want to check out these two lessons on this topic:

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 1 of 2

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2 of 2

 

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We generally use the preposition a (to, at) with names of cities and minor islands.

Bologna is a city, so we use a.

 

Perché è partito da Roma ed è arrivato qui a Bologna.

Because it left from Rome and it arrived here in Bologna.

Caption 17, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 2

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Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

For example: "When are you going to Bologna?"

Caption 26, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 1

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We use in with the names of continents, states, nations, regions, and larger islands.

 

The regions of Italy

In Toscana, come in altre regioni d'Italia, molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.

In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy, many families have olive trees of their own.

Captions 1-2, L'olio extravergine di oliva Il frantoio

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Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'aperitivo

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Continents, nations

Africa is a continent, so we use in.

Vorrei tanto andare in Africa.

I would very much like to go to Africa.

Caption 6, Marika spiega Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2

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Canada is a country, so we use in.

Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare, poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada,

Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting, then we went two more times to Canada,

Captions 31-32, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 4

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Sometimes a city and a state or country will have the same name, so it can get confusing.

La città di New York è nello stato di New York (New York City is in New York State).

 

So If I am planning to go on vacation to visit New York City, I might say: 

Vado a New York per le vacanze di Natale (I'm going to New York for the Christmas vacation).

 

In Italian it's clear that I mean the city because I am using a as a preposition, but in English, we have to guess, or specify. New York, in this case, is a city. But New York is also a state. Since it's easy to get confused, Americans will usually specify if they're not talking about the city, and will say New York State. If we translate that into Italian, it will be lo Stato di New York

Buffalo è in New York (Buffalo is in New York State).

L'empire state building è a New York [City] (the Empire State Building is in New York [City]).

 

Someone who has family on Long Island will still say New York as if it were the city. The airport is certainly in the city, at least officially. And incidentally, Long Island is a relatively small island, so we would say:

Ho vissuto a Long Island per sedici anni (I lived on Long Island for sixteen years).

 

Here are some quick, mixed examples:

 

Sei mai stato a Parigi (have you ever been to Paris)?

Sei mai stata in Francia (have you ever been to France)?

Vivo a Vienna (I live in Vienna).

Un mio cugino è appena andato in Giappone (a cousin of mine just went to Japanma non andrà a Tokyo (but he isn't going to Tokyo). 

Quasi quasi mi trasferisco in Nuova Zelanda (I might just move to New Zealand).

Da dieci anni vivo a Como, in Lombardia.​ (I've been living in Como, in Lombardy, for ten years).

Arianna ha studiato in Inghilterra per qualche anno. Arianna studied in London for a couple of years.

 

The U.S.A.

Since the United States is a coveted destination for Italian tourists, at least in normal times, it's important to know how to refer to that country in Italian, and what prepositions to use.

 

When we say the name of this country, we include the article "the." The United States of America. So when we use the proper Italian preposition (in since we are talking about a nation), we have to modify it to include the definite article: 

Vado negli Stati Uniti [d'America]. (I'm going to the United States [of America].

 

The d'America part is usually left out in both Italian and English, and to make it even easier, Italians also often just say America to mean the United States.

Vado in America per le vacanze (I'm going to America for the vacation).

 

Some Italians use USA as a word and pronounce it as they see it. For example, here is a headline from Google. It may or may not be correct, but you will hear it said plenty of times:

Come trovare un lavoro negli USA (how to find work in the USA)?

 

Remember that in contrast to English where "in," "to," and "at" are entirely different, Italian uses the same preposition (be it a or in) to mean any or all of these.

 

Please let us know what cities, countries or other places you are confused about when using Italian prepositions, and we will answer as soon as we can.

 

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Using the preposition a with a definite article

We have talked about the main uses of the preposition a, and that it can mean "at," "in," or "to," as well as "in the manner of," so in this lesson, we will see how this preposition is transformed when it is followed by a definite article. 

 

Here is how we combine the preposition a with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"):

a + il = al

a + lo = allo

a + l’ = all’

a + la = alla

a + i = ai

a + gli = agli

a + le = alle

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Let's look at each combination in context:

Al is the combination of the preposition a and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.

E durante l'estate, il porto di Maratea diventa un ritrovo, soprattutto per i ragazzi, i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani, che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place, above all for the kids, the younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones, who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena al porto di Maratea

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is a possessive pronoun that has to agree with the noun, as well as an adjective.  The two people in the video are probably having a drink together. The clink their glasses and say "to your..." and in this case we use the preposition a

Allora al tuo prossimo concerto.

To your next concert then.

Caption 22, Milena e Mattia Al ristorante - Part 2

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Allo is the combination of the preposition a and the (masculine singular) definite article lo.

 

Oggi ci troviamo allo stadio comunale Renzo Barbera di Palermo.

Today we're at the municipal stadium Renzo Barbera of Palermo.

Caption 2, Adriano Forza Palermo

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In the following example, even though we say il modo, not lo modo,  we do use a plus the definite article lo and it becomes allo. This is because first we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.

Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk [in] the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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All' is the combination of the prepositon a and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Anche lui all'inizio pensava di essere un uomo libero:

At the beginning he also thought he was a free man,

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 5

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  This can be a headache for learners:

All'entrata del Palazzo Vecchio, ci sono due statue

At the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, there are two statues

Caption 23, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 5

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Alla is the combination of the preposition a and the feminine singular definite article la.

Here is what you say when you want to say, "See you next time!"

Ciao a tutti, alla prossima.

Bye, everyone, see you next time. [literally, "to the next"]

Caption 76, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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If you visit Bologna, you might want to try le tagliatelle alla bolognese.  There is a word that gets left out of this phrase but is implied: la maniera. So it is alla maniera (in the manner of) 

We use alla with an adjective in Italian where in English we might use an adverb or adverbial phrase:

alla cieca (blindly)

alla buona (in a laid back, casual way)

 

If, instead of saying allo stesso modo, we want to say alla stessa maniera, (which means something similar: "in the same way"), note that even though stessa begins with an s + a consonant, the noun is feminine and so we say la stessa maniera, alla stessa maniera. But if we think about the fact that la stessa is easy to say, and il stesso would be difficult, it makes a certain amount of sense:... it's easier to say. In fact if we think about it, the flow of a language is an important factor in its evolution.

 

Now we will move on to a plus a plural definite article.

Ai is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article i.

Come tutte le nonne, fa tanti regali ai nipoti.

Like all grandmothers, she gives many presents to her grandchildren.

Caption 28, Adriano Nonna

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Let's note that lots of times, Italians use a normal definite article, when in English, we would use a possessive adjective (as in the previous example). 

Agli is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Agli is hard to say for lots of people. And as an aside, agli is also the plural of aglio (garlic). Don't worry. We mostly use aglio (garlic) in the singular, just like in English.

Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo. Sì, agli amici.

Cristina told us that you were able to sell a few of his paintings. Yes, to friends.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 5

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Alle is the combination of the preposition a and the plural feminine definite article le.

One important way we use this combination preposition is when talking about time. The hour is said in the plural which makes sense if we think back to times when people would tell time by counting how many times the bell would chime.

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano Giornata

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Practice:

If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  

 

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Let's talk about the Italian preposition a

In a previous lesson we talked about the preposition in, and in a subsequent lesson we talked about how we modify the preposition in when a definite article follows it. The preposition a works in a similar way, and sometimes means the same thing as in, but certainly not always. 

Places

A is used to refer to places, both going somewhere and being somewhere. Sound familiar? Yes. Just like in, a can mean "to" (indicating direction to a place) or "at" (indicating being in a place). Consider this short example.

 

OK, ho finito. Vado a casa (OK, I'm done. I'm going home).

Che bello! Finalmente sono a casa (how great! I'm finally home)!

 

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Note that if I say sono in casa, I imply that I am inside the house, whereas if I say sono a casa, it might mean I am at home, but outside in the garden!

 

If we look at the preposition a in the dictionary, there's a long list of meanings, or rather, uses. But in this lesson, we'll look at just a few of the most common ways you need to know how to use this preposition.

 

 

We also say a scuola with no article. This is similar to English.

 

Sono a scuola (I'm at school)

Sto andando a scuola (I'm going to school).

 

Although these locations without an article are exceptions, they are important ones, since most of us have a home and many of us go to school or have kids or friends who go to school. Another perhaps less crucial one is a teatro ("to" or "at the theater").

 

In most other cases regarding places, we do need a definite article after the preposition, as in:

A me e a Vladi piace andare a ballare la sera, uscire con gli amici, andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema e fare molto sport.

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night, going out with our friends, going to see a good film at the movies and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano la sua ragazza

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Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

From Umbria to Tuscany, it's but a short way.

Caption 2, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 4 - Part 6

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Watch this space!

  • In the next lesson we will give you the rundown (with videoclip examples) on how we modify a when followed by a definite article, just as we did with the preposition in. However, even in this lesson, we can't avoid looking at some examples where we do use a definite article.
  •  
  • We will also devote a specific lesson to the prickly topic of prepositions preceding cities, states, countries, and regions. Knowing when to use in and when to use a is a common challenge for those of us learning Italian, even if we have lived in Italy for years and years.

 

But for now, let's look at some other ways we use the preposition a.

Time

We use a to talk about "when" or "until when." 

For example, when we talk about "at what time" something is going to happen, we use a and in this case we use a definite article when talking about "at what time." 

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano Giornata

Play Caption

 

Why is it le otto? Isn't that plural? Yes. We use the feminine plural definite article (lebecause there's a "hidden" word: le ore (the hours). Think of a clock striking the hours. So, yes. Time, when considered by the clock, is expressed in the plural, and of course, it takes some getting used to. For more about telling time, see this video from Marika.

 

But if we are talking about noon or midnight, then it's in the singular and there is no article. 

Io mi ricordo che a casa mia si mangiava, allora, il, a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo, la carne, il contorno e la frutta,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the, at noon we'd eat: the first course, meat, vegetable and fruit,

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

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We also use a when we talk about until what time something will go on.

Sì, ma fino a mezzanotte il commissario sono io.

Yes, but until midnight, I'm the commissioner.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

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When we mention the months or a holiday, we use a:

Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse anche a Ferragosto.

It seemed as though there was fog even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 5

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E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme. Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre, perché l'anno dell'u'... l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri. -Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio, e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once. Different installments that are due every semester, because the school year... the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters. -The first that goes from September to January, and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena sistema universitario italiano

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How?

And finally, we use a when we say what something is like, what something is made of, or in what way something is done. We often use "with" for this in English, or we use an adjective. This topic is addressed in the Yabla lesson: A Righe or a Quadretti?

 

We talk about olio di oliva spremuto a freddo (cold-pressed olive oil).

 

In the following example, Monica Bellucci is describing how she goes about her career. Note that since istinto (instinct) starts with a vowel, she adds a d to the a!

 

Ma io non ho una formula, guarda, vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

Well I don't have a formula, look, I go... I go along very much by instinct.

Caption 47, That's Italy Episode 1 - Part 3

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Expressions

Here are two expressions, one with a and one with in, that essentially mean the same thing. You just have to remember which is which. They are worth memorizing.

Ad ogni modo, mi piace tanto.

In any case, I like her a lot.

Caption 36, Adriano la sua ragazza

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In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle, ho deciso di prendere Ulisse,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing, I decided to take Ulisse,

Captions 28-29, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson. A presto!

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Using the preposition in with a definite article

We recently talked about the preposition in: what it means and how to use it. While we don't always use an article with the noun following it, we often do. And when we do use in with a definite article, we combine the preposition and the article to form what we call una preposizione articolata (an "articled" preposition). 

 

Basically, the n, instead of being at the end of the preposition in, gets moved to the beginning of the word and is followed by an e. After that, the ending will change according to the gender and number of the definite article, as well as whether the word following it starts with a vowel.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Here's the list:

 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

in plus a masculine singular article il

Nel frattempo, riempiamo una pentola d'acqua

In the meantime, we'll fill a pot with water

Caption 21, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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We say nel because it's il frattempo. But here's a tip. Actually, we rarely say il frattempo. Most of the time you will find the noun frattempo together with the preposition nel. It's curious because the noun frattempo already comes from another preposition fra (between) and the noun tempo (time). In English we can say "in the meantime" or "meanwhile," which mean almost the same thing. But we need to translate both of these as nel frattempo or, alternatively, nel mentre, which means the same thing.

 

in plus the masculine singular article lo

Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.

This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.

Captions 16-17, Arianna e Marika Il lavoro di doppiatrice

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We say nello because we say lo studio (the studio). So here, you have to pay attention to the first letter of the word following the preposition. It will start with an S plus a consonant, or a Z, and sometimes Y.

 

"Quanti libri hai nello zaino?

"How many books do you have in your backpack?

Caption 9, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2

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Oppure nello yogurt, la mela sciolta diciam'... ridotta a polpa nello yogurt, sempre sul viso, è idratante.

Or else in some yogurt, an apple dissolved, let's say... reduced to a pulp in some yogurt, again on the face, is moisturising.

Caption 22, Enea Mela - Part 2

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Il tasto "play" e "pause" si trova esattamente nello stesso punto del pannello di controllo.

The "play" and "pause" button is located in exactly the same spot on the control panel.

Captions 15-16, Italian Intro Serena

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in plus the masculine or feminine singular definite article l'

We use l' when the first letter of the word following the article starts with a vowel. We double the L and add an apostrophe.

Nell'ultimo ventennio, i coronavirus si sono imposti all'attenzione del mondo in tre momenti precisi:

In the last twenty years, coronaviruses have caught the attention of the entire world in three precise moments:

Captions 27-29, COVID-19 Domande frequenti - Part 1

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Allora, può intagliare così, può intagliare un pomodoro così, mettere una pentola d'acqua a bollire e tenere i pomodori nell'acqua bollente per dieci minuti.

So, they can make an incision like this, they can cut a notch in a tomato like so, put up a pot of water to boil, and keep the tomatoes in the boiling water for ten minutes.

Captions 10-14, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 2

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in plus the feminine singular article la

È da circa otto minuti che i nostri spaghetti stanno cuocendo nella pentola.

It's been about eight minutes that our spaghetti has been cooking in the pot.

Caption 38, Adriano Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

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in plus the masculine plural definite article i

E due luoghi sacri si trovano proprio nei punti più alti della città:

And two sacred places are found right at the highest points of the city:

Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 10

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in plus the feminine plural definite article le

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi e poi i dodici apostoli sono suddivisi in gruppi di tre.

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids and then, the twelve apostles are divided into groups of three.

Captions 10-13, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Olivetti è sempre riuscito nelle cose che ha intrapreso.

Olivetti has always succeeded in the things he has undertaken.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 23

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

In future lessons, we will talk about other common prepositions that follow these same principles.

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Let's talk about the Italian preposition in

One thing that's always tricky when learning a new language is how to use prepositions. We are especially aware of this when we hear Italians speaking English, since they often get prepositions mixed up. 

 

In your own language you rarely get it wrong. You just know. 

What's confusing for English speakers learning Italian, is that in can translate as different prepositions depending on the situation.

 

In can mean "in"

 

Lots of times in means "in." 

Buongiorno. Oggi siamo in Toscana.

Hello. Today we're in Tuscany.

Caption 1, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

OK.  "We're in Tuscany - Siamo in Toscana. That's easy, but look at the title of the video. In cucina. In Italian, there is no article in this case, but in English there is. 

Dov'è Arianna (where is Arianna)?

È in cucina (she's in the kitchen).

 

The kitchen is a place in the house. The same goes for lots of other places.

 

  • Il mio capo è in ufficio (my boss is in the office).
  • C'è qualcuno in bagno (there is someone in the bathroom).
  • Ho messo l'acqua in frigo (I put the water in the fridge).
  • Durante la pandemia, sono stata chiusa in casa (during the pandemic, I was stuck in the house).
  • Ho una cyclette in camera (I have an exercise bike in the bedroom).

 

The following example uses in zona, a great way to say "in the area." You might ask someone on the phone it they are in zona. Then you can meet up! Zone - zona is a nice true cognate, even though we will translate it as "area" in many cases.

Siamo nati qui in zona, in un paese qui vicino di Praia a Mare.

We were born in this area, in the nearby village of Praia a Mare.

Captions 3-4, Gente al Porto di Maratea

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The seasons

We also use in to mean "in" when talking about the seasons:

Probabilmente preferirei una bella vacanza in montagna, allora. Un po' d'aria fresca, i boschi, i ruscelli. -Eh be', qualcosa della montagna piace anche a me. Ad esempio, in autunno, andare a prendere i funghi.

I'd probably rather have a nice vacation in the mountains, then. A bit of fresh air, the woods, streams. -Oh well, I like some things about the mountains too. For example, in autumn, going to get mushrooms.

Captions 21-24, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 2

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We can also note from the previous example that to talk about going on vacation in the mountains, Italians not only leave out the article, they use the singular: "mountain" — montagna. Also, not in the example, Italians use in vacanza to mean "on vacation." They could also say in ferie to mean the same thing.

 

Andiamo in vacanza la settimana prossima.

Were going on vacation next week.

 

In can sometimes mean "at"

Lavora in banca (he works at the bank). 

In can sometimes mean "on"

Sono in spiaggia (I'm on the sand by the waterfront)

In can mean "by"

 

In can mean "by" when we are talking about a means of transportation:

 

A Parigi ci vai in treno o in aereo (are you going to Paris by train or by plane)?

Vado al lavoro in bici (I go to work by bike) ma quando piove vado in macchina (but when it rains I go by car).

 

In can mean "to"

This is where it gets tricky because Italians use in when they are going someplace but they use the same preposition when they are already there!

 

Devo andare in banca (I have to go to the bank).

Non posso parlare al telefono perché sono in banca (I can't talk on the phone because I'm at the bank).

Le donne anziane del villaggio vanno in chiesa tutte le sere (the elderly women of the village go to church every evening).

Quando sono in chiesa, mi copro le spalle (when I am in a church, I cover my shoulders).

 

All the cases above have in common the absence of an article between the preposition in and the noun following it. They mostly have to do with places, seasons, or means of transportation.

 

In followed by an article

But sometimes we do need need an article, for example:

in un attimo (in an instant)

 

When we have an indefinite article following in, both the preposition in (in, at, by, to) and the indefinite article un or una (a) stay separate and intact.

However when in is followed by a definite article in the singular or plural, the in gets combined with the article as follows: 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

Ciao ragazzi e benvenuti nella mia cucina.

Hi guys and welcome to my kitchen.

Caption 1, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

These prepositions merit a lesson of their own, so stay tuned!

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