When Marika showed us her balcony, she used a couple of long words that may have seemed a bit daunting. There are certainly plenty of long words in Italian that are just plain difficult, like farmaceutico (pharmaceutical). The meaning is clear, but pronouncing it takes some practice (don’t snub any of the vowels). Other words, though, have common abbreviations that make life easier. And some long words can be broken down into their parts, making them easily comprehensible as well as pronounceable.
One of the words Marika used in her video was stendibiancheria. It’s long but there’s help.
First of all, most people just say lo stendino (the drying rack).
Second of all, if we start breaking down stendibiancheria into manageable parts, the next time it comes up, you’ll know what it means from the inside out, and you will probably be able to pronounce it as well.
We start out with the verb stendere. It’s a very useful verb that means to spread, to lay out, to stretch out, to extend over space. Thinking of “extend” can help recall this verb.
An interesting extra fact is this:
In the eighteenth century, in Tuscany at least, the (transitive) verb was tendere, that is, to stretch out, to unfold (after washing and wringing out) so that the laundry would dry faster.
As we have learned in a video, and a written lesson, adding an s at the beginning of a word can give it an opposite meaning. So, stendere used to be the opposite of tendere, and meant taking in the now dry laundry, or rather taking it off the clothesline.
Later on, stendere and tendere lost their distinction (dictionaries indicate that in many contexts, stendere and tendere mean the same thing).
Stendere survived as the most common term for hanging up the laundry. Let’s also remember that lacking a clothesline, some people would also have spread their clean laundry on bushes or rocks to catch the sun, so stendere—“spreading it out” makes a certain amount of sense.
Another important context for stendere is cooking.
In the following example, we start out with little balls of pizza dough, but then we spreadthem out to cover a larger area. So when you are following a recipe in Italian for making fresh pasta or pizza, stendere la sfoglia is when you roll out the dough, spread it out by hand, or use a pasta machine to make wide, flat strips.
Queste pallette [palline] poi vanno fatte lievitare circa due ore e si stende la pizza.
Then these little balls are left to rise about two hours and you roll out the pizza.
Captions 12-13, Anna e Marika: Pizza al taglio romana - Part 2 of 2
The past participle of stendere, steso, which can also pass for an adjective, is useful for when you are talking about positions in space.
Stavo, mi ricordo, guardando le olimpiadi, stesa sul divano come una balena spiaggiata.
I was, I remember, watching the Olympics, lying on the couch like a beached whale.
Captions 12-13, Anna presenta: Il mio parto
In the above example, “stretched out” could have worked just as well to translate Anna’s position.
When referring to muscles or just how someone feels, we can use teso (tense), the past participle of tendere, also used as an adjective.
Ha notato qualcosa di strano? Se era teso, preoccupato?
Did you notice anything strange? If he was tense, worried?
Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara 1: Morte in paradiso Ep 9 - Part 3 of 13
The prefix dis is also used to give a word the opposite meaning. In fact, disteso, the past participle of distendere and adjective, can mean either “relaxed,” “unwound,” or “out,” as in the following example.
Per dire: "ci sentiamo per telefono", si porta la mano all'altezza dell'orecchio e si simula la cornetta, tenendo pollice e mignolo distesi.
To say, "we'll talk by phone," you bring your hand up to the height of your ear and imitate a receiver, holding your thumb and little finger out.
Captions 9-11, Arianna spiega: I gesti degli Italiani - Part 2 of 2
Tendere also means “to tend” as in tendenza (tendency). That’s a nice cognate, isn’t it?
Le piante tendono, quando si inselvatichiscono, a fare i frutti molto più piccoli.
Plants tend, when they become wild, to produce much smaller fruit.
Captions 17-18, Gianni si racconta: L'olivo e i rovi
It’s easy to be confused by all these words that are so close in meaning. Context is key, so just keep watching, listening, and reading, and piano piano ce la farai (little by little you’ll make it), one word at a time!
It’s almost funny how many times the verb capire (to understand) was used in last week’s episode of Commissario Manara. It’s not really funny because it was about Iolanda Sorge’s tragic murder. But it’s an excellent example of how often capire is used in everyday speech. And since in casual conversation, this past participle can stand alone, it’s very handy and easy to use. It can fill up the time between one phrase and the next. It’s almost as common as “you know” in English.
As mentioned in previous lessons, capire is most often used in the past participle, capito, even when English would call for the present tense, as in the following example.
La gente si fida di me, capito?
People trust me, you understand?
Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 7
In the following example, the speaker is getting more specific (and angrier), and uses the verb with its subject and auxiliary verb.
Te [tu] mi usi per ricattarli, hai capito?
You're using me to blackmail them, do you understand?
Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 7
Later on in the episode, Manara is in a meeting with his chief. Here, they use the present indicative of capire. In this case, we’re talking about understanding something or someone on a deeper level. It’s used transitively, and means something like, “Do you understand where I’m coming from?” or “Do you understand what I’m really trying to tell you?”
Ci sono i segreti di mezzo paese in quelle registrazioni, mi capisce?
There are secrets from half the town in those recordings, do you understand me?
La capisco perfettamente.
I understand you perfectly.
Caption 44-45, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 7
When arguing with her husband, Iolanda could have used the second person indicative present tense capisci (do you understand), and it would have been correct and maybe equally as effective, but using the past participle of this verb is just how people usually talk.
In the following example, the speaker could have used va bene (all right) or even the loan word “OK” in place of capito.
Ma non ti devi preoccupare, capito?
But you're not to worry, understand?
Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 12 of 14
But capito is a great and user-friendly alternative.
When listening to someone tell you something, instead of just nodding your head and sayingsì sì (yes, yes), it’s very natural to say ho capito (literally, “I have understood/I understood,” or “I get it”). People will say it to you when you are speaking, even if they don’t quite get what you’re saying. It’s basically another way of saying “I’m listening.”
As you go through your day, try mentally using capire in its past participle to ask the question “do you get it?” (capito?) or to replace “you know?” (capito?), or to say, “I heard you, I’m listening” (ho capito).
One of our subscribers has asked about the difference between il fine and la fine.
It’s an excellent question, and one many of us surely wonder about from time to time.
Both il fine and la fine refer to “the end,” more or less.
Italian has its origins in Latin. Finis is both masculine and feminine in Latin, depending on the meaning. These meanings have, for the most part, been carried over into Italian.
When referring to periods, ranges, and intervals of time, the masculine is used. A good example of this is il fine settimana. Here we’re not talking about “the end of the week,” by which we often mean Friday or Saturday, a specific moment in time, but rather “the weekend,” a period that lasts from, say, Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. That’s why Italian uses the masculine il fine settimana. It’s an interval of time. Of course, oggi come oggi (today, literally “today as today”), “weekend” has been adopted into Italian and lots of people just say buon weekend rather than buon fine settimana.
Questo è proprio un lungo weekend. Un fine settimana lunghissimo.
This is really a long weekend. A very long weekend.
Captions 19-20, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico
One useful expression that uses the masculine form of fine is andare a buon fine (literally: to go to a good ending, to be successful).
Bene, la prenotazione è andata a buon fine.
Good, the reservation was successful.
Caption 24, Marika spiega: Fare lo spelling
Another popular expression with the masculine form of fine is il lieto fine (the happy ending) when talking about stories. Note that the English translation, in this case, is “ending,” not “end.” When we are talking about the final phase of something, we generally use the masculine.
In genere, questi film romantici hanno un lieto fine.
In general, these romantic films have a happy ending.
Il fine can also correspond to the goal or the purpose. In this case, we use the masculine.
Al fine di permettere un'accelerazione del processo di compostaggio, si cercherà di ridurre il materiale di grosse dimensioni da collocare nella compostiera.
In order to enable the speeding up of the process of composting, one will try to break down the larger pieces of material to place in the composter.
Captions 22-23, Raccolta differenziata: Campagna di sensibilizzazione del Comune di Alliste (LE)
In English, we also use this sense of fine meaning “goal” sometimes: “to what end?” meaning “for what purpose?” or, “the end justifies the means.”
When referring to the end or conclusion of something, or the moment in which something ends, then the feminine is used. With the exception of the above-mentioned cases, most of the time, fine is feminine: la fine. You’ll find a great many examples if you do a Yabla search.
Le fettine così sottili com'è successo a me, faranno un po' una brutta fine.
The really thin little slices, like what happened to me, will come to a bad end.
Caption 42-43, Marika spiega: La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 2 of 4
In the Yabla search you will also see fine with no article at all. This is used when two nouns stand next to each other to express one idea, but are not attached, rather like fine settimana. In fact, many compound but detached words imitate “weekend” or fine settimana and are masculine, even when their actual meaning may also be interpreted as referring to completion, such as:
Fine corso (the end of a course, end of the line, as for a bus or train)
Fine anno (the last part of the year)
Fine stagione (end of season)
A fine pranzo and alla fine del pranzo are both correct. They mean almost the same thing (at the end of the midday meal), but fine pranzo, for all intents and purposes, is a compound word (or concept) whereas alla fine del pranzo uses prepositions and articles. They’re set up differently.
This detail can be handy, especially when you’re not sure whether to use la or il.
Quando ti devo pagare? -Fine mese.
When do I have to pay you? -End of month.
No need to say alla fine del mese (at the end of the month).
There is more to say about fine, especially since it has some ambiguities both as an adjective and as a preposition, so stay tuned!
Let’s talk about some other common Italian words containing written accents. In case you missed last week's lesson, where we started talking about accents, read it here.
The accent on the u at the end of più (more) tells us that the accent of the word doesn’t fall on the i, which is where it would naturally fall.
Più gli ingredienti sono freschi e più è buono.
The fresher the ingredients, the better it is.
Caption 14, Andromeda: in - Storia del gelato - Part 2 of 2
A similar-looking word is pio (pious) where the accent does fall on the i, and indeed there is no accent on any letter.
È pio, eh di, di nome e di fatto.
He's Pio [pious], uh in, in name and in fact.
Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 1
In the same manner, ciò (that, what) has an accent on the o to tell us the accent is not on the i where it would normally fall.
È uno che di fronte a una bella donna si dimentica di ciò che è giusto e ciò che è sbagliato.
He's someone who, faced with a beautiful woman, forgets what's right and what's wrong.
Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara 1: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 10
All the days of the week except il sabato (Saturday) and la domenica (Sunday) have an accent on the i at the end: lunedì (Monday), martedì (Tuesday), mercoledì (Wednesday),giovedì (Thursday), venerdì (Friday). In fact, dì is another word for "day" (normally giorno).
Un bel dì vedremo.
One beautiful day we'll see.
Caption 12, Anna presenta: Madama butterfly di Giacomo Puccini
Without the accent on the i, it's di (of).
Similarly, da (of, from, to, at) has no accent, but when we conjugate the third person singular of the verb dare (to give), we use an accent to distinguish it from da: dà.
Invito una mia studentessa a farvelo sentire in modo da mettere in evidenza ogni sillaba chedà il nome alle note.
I invite a student of mine to let you hear it such a way as to highlight each syllable that
gives its name to the notes.
Caption 37-39, A scuola di musica: con Alessio - Part 1 of 3
Remember that except for e, where the accent may be either grave (è) or acute (é) to distinguish between an open (è) or closed (é) e, all the accents will be “grave,” that is, going down from left to right (à, ì, ò, ù).
Try learning these words one by one, making the accent part of the word as you learn it. Needless to say, taking advantage of the Yabla games, from multiple choice to Scribe, will help you nail it.
In a recent video, Marika shows us the balcony of her apartment in Rome, so let’s talk about a couple of details concerning Italian life that come to the fore as she takes us around.
Il bucato (the laundry):
In the United States, there are laundry rooms in the basement of a house or apartment building, but this is rare in Italy. People have their own washing machines, usually in the kitchen, bathroom, or on the balcony.
Quando ho finito di usare la lavatrice e devo stendere i miei panni, userò lo stendibiancheria, che è questo.
When I've finished using my washing machine and I need to hang out my laundry, I'll use the drying rack, which is this one.
Captions 39-40, Marika spiega: Il balcone
Some people have dryers but most ordinary people don’t. That’s why Marika talks about the drying racks. You buy the one that suits the space you have. The weather is usually such that you can dry your clothes outside. Occasionally, you do need to put the drying racks inside because of inclement weather, or you can place a plastic tarp over the rack to keep the rain out. There are laundromats in town, so if the weather is too bad, you can dry your clothes at the laundromat. Laundry in Italy is something that takes a little thought and planning. Electricity costs less at night, on weekends, and on holidays, so people who want to save do their laundry on the weekend, or at night. Newer washing machines have timers so you can schedule the wash to start at an appropriate time. A load of wash takes a lot longer to finish than you may be used to. It’s not unusual for a cycle to take an hour and a half.
La raccolta differenziata (recycling):
We say “recycling” but actually, what raccolta differenziata (differentiated collection) actually means is separating our garbage into different types to be collected, thus the term “differentiated.” It’s a bit tricky for people who live in apartments.
All the wrappers for food and other materials, usually made of plastic, but also including Tetra Paks and cans, go in one bin. Paper and cardboard go in another, glass in another, and most importantly, the wet stuff, usually food waste, goes in a separate container. What cannot be recycled in any way goes into the general, mixed garbage, or indifferenziata. We are encouraged to keep this type of waste to a bare minimum. Separating the different kinds of waste makes it much easier for the sanitation department workers to go through it and sort it further. Appropriate material will then be actually recycled. People who live outside the city, and have enough space, can get a bio-composter (usually free of charge) so they can recycle their own food and gardening refuse.
The European Parliament has set goals for reducing waste as far as possible. The method that has had the most success is what is called porta a porta (door to door) collection. Every day, a different kind of waste is picked up. At the outset, it costs more, but as it takes hold, people can actually save money.
Zanzariere (mosquito screens):
In the United States, most houses have screen doors and screens on the windows, but in Italy, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. There are all kinds of solutions, from screen curtains with magnets or velcro, to mosquito nets, to proper screens fitted into the windows and doors. They are usually the type that can be easily raised and lowered so people can air their bedspreads and pillows, and shake out their rugs, rags and dust mops from the windows.
Questa alle mie spalle si chiama zanzariera e serve per proteggermi dagli insetti.
This, behind me, is called mosquito netting [screen] and serves to protect me from insects.
Captions 5-6, Marika spiega: Il balcone
If you travel to Italy in the summer, it can be wise to make sure the hotel or Bed and Breakfast you are staying in has screens on the windows and French doors. It may not be a given.
Most of us have dealt with custodians at one time or another. They’re the ones who take care of a place, like a school, church, or museum. And while custode is a good bet for the equivalent of any kind of “guardian,” there are other words that are more specific.
When referring to someone as a “custodian,” Italians often do use il custode, especially in the realm of museums and such places, and may even use custode to refer to the more prestigious role of “curator.” The curator of a museum is often called il direttore. In the following example, it’s impossible to know the professional level of the custode in question.
Il custode del museo mi mostra due carrozze restaurate di recente...
The curator of the museum shows me two carriages, recently restored...
Caption 27, Dottor Pitrè: e le sue storie - Part 1 of 15
In referring to custodians, Italian also uses il guardiano (the guardian), or in schools, ilbidello or la bidella (the janitor) in addition to custode. In a Catholic church, on the other hand, a word similar to “sexton” or “sacristan” is used: il sagrestano or il sacrestano.
“Custody” in English often refers to divorce settlements. But when a parent is given custody of a child, then Italian employs l’affidamento, from the verb affidare (to entrust).
Suspects or criminals can be “taken into custody.” In this case, detenere is the verb meaning “to take into custody.” Once taken into custody they’re in detenzione. A prisoner is also known as un detenuto. “Detention” at school, after all, is a form of punishment, and “imprisons” the student after school hours.
So, we need only stretch our imagination very slightly to understand what custodire means.
In this week’s episode about Giuseppe Pitrè and Sicilian traditions, a couple of variations of custodire are used. Custodire is often used to refer to conserving or taking care of something. In Pitrè’s case, we’re talking about stories and traditions.
Il modo migliore di custodire la tradizione è quello di saperla adattare continuamente.
The best way to preserve tradition is to know how to adapt it, continually.
Caption 26, Dottor Pitrè: e le sue storie - Part 1 of 15
Il dato positivo di Pitrè è che, in fondo, ama questo popolo a cui dà voce,
da cui raccoglie racconti, testimonianze e in qualche modo le vuole custodire, le vuole salvaguardare.
The positive fact about Pitrè is that, deep down, he loves this populace to which he gives a voice, whose stories and remembrances he gathers, and he somehow wants to conserve them, he wants to safeguard them.
Captions 30-32, Dottor Pitrè: e le sue storie - Part 6 of 15
The person who does the conserving can be called il custode (the custodian), as in the following example.
Ora, credo che Pitrè sia uno dei custodi della tradizione.
No, I believe that Pitrè is one of the custodians of the tradition.
Caption 23, Dottor Pitrè: e le sue storie - Part 6 of 15
We can talk about conserving physical objects, too. Custodire is a verb often used in conjunction with works of art in museums, castles, and churches.
Nell'Auditorium comunale di Norcia, è custodita, invece, una bellissima pala d'altare.
In the Municipal Auditorium of Norcia, is housed, instead, a very beautiful altarpiece.
Captions 12-14, Itinerari Della Bellezza: Umbria - Part 3 of 6
Someone who owns a musical instrument, or some other kind of precious or fragile object, will usually keep it in una custodia (a case).
Custodire and “custody,” with their various derivatives, stem from the Latin custos, meaning “the guard.” So it all makes a certain amount of sense, doesn’t it?
It’s interesting how a word in Latin or other ancient language evolves to mean different things in different languages. Finding the connections can be fun, all the time remembering that there may be a few false friends waiting around the corner.
Some of you may already have begun experimenting with the new Scribe game. Although Italian is relatively easy to pronounce and spell, there are a few typical stumbling blocks. Let's talk about one in particular.
Let's say you are playing Scribe. You feel like you've have written all the words correctly but the game doesn't let you go on to the next caption. It can be quite frustrating.
This often happens because you have neglected to insert an accent.
In English, we are not used to writing accents, but in Italian, it’s something we have to pay attention to whether we're playing Scribe or not. Be patient with yourselves. It's just something you have to learn little by little.
So where do we usually find these accents? If we know a bit more about them, we can be prepared for them in the Scribe game and elsewhere, so let's have a look.
Perhaps the most frequent error is the accent on the i of sì (yes). It certainly sounds about the same with or without the accent, and it’s not always easy to see. But if we omit the accent when writing, we can mean any number of other things, from the note si (B), to the personal pronoun si (himself/herself/itself). In the following example, the si with no accent is part of the reflexive verb allontanarsi (to leave).
Sì, non era la prima volta che Giada si allontanava di casa senza avvertirmi.
Yes, it wasn't the first time Giada left home without letting me know.
Caption 49, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un morto di troppo Ep. 10 - Part 3
In two-syllable words, the accent usually falls on the first syllable, so when that is not the case, there will generally be an accent on the second syllable to let us know.
Let’s take the word però (however, but). The accent is there to signal that the accent falls on the second syllable, a departure from the basic rule about accenting the first syllable. The accented version of the word però is the one you’ll usually see because it’s such a common word.
Sembra banale, però mi aiuta.
It seems banal, but it helps me.
Caption 25, Amiche: Filosofie
Però is one word you’ll use often in casual conversation. And with that long ò at the end, you can buy yourself some time while thinking of what to say next.
Without the accent, we’re talking about un pero (a pear tree)! Note that names of fruit trees frequently end in o (with no accent) whereas the fruit itself ends in a, like la pera (the pear), la mela (the apple), la ciliegia' (the cherry). A proposito (speaking of which), Marika explains this here and here.
We also have to pay attention to which way an accent is facing, but fortunately, this applies primarily to accents on “e.” On “o,” “ a,” “i,” and “u,” the accent is almost always “grave,” meaning down-facing from left to right. One of the most basic accents to remember is the grave accent on è, the third person conjugation of the basic verb essere (to be). This particular conjugation is extremely common, but for foreign ears, can easily be confused with e with no accent. Hearing and pronouncing the difference between e (and) and è (to be) is one thing, but writing it is another, so Scribe is a great chance to assimilate this aspect of Italian spelling.
Another important word that has an accent is perché (because, why). This is an acute or upward facing accent from left to right, which indicates a closed e. However you pronounce the é in perché, people will usually understand you, but if you’re writing, you need to get it right. Think of perché in its question form: why. The accent goes up (to the right), just like the inflection of a question.
The other place accents crop up is in the future tense. There will usually be an accent on the last vowel of the word in the first and third person singular. Let’s look at the irregular but very common verb venire (to come).
lui/lei verrà (he/she/it will come)
io verrò (I will come)
the verb andare (to go):
io andrò (I will go)
lui/lei andrà (he/she/it will go)
And essere (to be):
io sarò (I will be)
lui/lei sarà (he/she/it will be)
Be on the lookout for these accents when playing Scribe and when watching videos in general. You'll start to recognize them and become more comfortable with them sooner than you think.
Even though Marika has talked about the particles ne and ci in her recent video lessons, using them takes some practice. Let’s have a quick look at a few examples in this week’s episode of Commissario Manara.
We often don’t even hear these particles, because we aren’t looking for them. In English, equivalents for them are often superfluous.
This one little word ne represents a preposition plus an indirect object. In the following example, Lara could have said much the same thing leaving out the ne, but using it is more precise. It’s the difference between “I’m sure” and “I’m sure of it.” But in Italian, the particle goes before the verb, as if it were “of it I’m sure.”
Comunque ne sono sicura, non si è uccisa.
Anyway, I'm sure of it. She didn't kill herself.
Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13
In the following example, we have ci in the first part, which represents “onto the furniture” and then, ce ne. Ce represents “there (on the furniture)” and ne represents “of them” (the prints). Remember that when we have a direct object together with the indirect object ci, theci changes to ce!
Se lei ci fosse salita sopra, sarebbero rimaste le impronte, e invece non ce ne sono.
If she had climbed up on it, the prints would have remained, but there aren't any [of them].
Caption 8-9, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13
In the following example, ci represents a noi (to us).
Senti, prima ho trovato il diario di Iolanda, forse può esserci utile.
Listen, earlier I found Iolanda's diary. Maybe it could be useful to us.
Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13
Ci is complicated. It means different things in different contexts. So we will keep on talking about ci.
The new Yabla feature, Scribe, is not just a game, even though you'll find it in the "Games" tab (blue button) in the lower right-hand corner of the Player video window. Playing Scribe can be a big help in getting accustomed to particles like ne and ci/ce, because in Scribe we have to try to write down what we hear. And once we start hearing these particles, it will be easier to start using them and putting them in the right place. Stay on the lookout for further information about how to make the most of Scribe to boost your Italian comprehension and spelling skills. Meanwhile, perché non farci un giro (why not give it a whirl)?
Daniela’s lesson this week explains how to form the conditional with verbs ending in “-are.” But endings notwithstanding, the first person plural of verbs will always have a single “m” in the future, and a double “m” in the conditional. So, aside from learning the conjugations, it’s important, as Daniela mentions, to be able to distinguish between -emo, and -emmo. Let’s focus for a moment on the first person plural of the future and the conditional. It’s a good chance to practice double “m’s.”
Here’s the future tense of potere (to be able to) and riuscire (to manage to), with one “m.” The narrator is about to show us some film clips, so it’s a sure thing.
In una serie di filmati, eh, nella [sic] nel tempo di una pausa caffè,
potremo vedere alcuni eh castelli, alcuni anfiteatri, alcuni templi, della regione della Campania.
In questo modo appunto riusciremo a parlare di tutte [sic] questi siti archeologici
e di quello che hanno significato su questo territorio.
In a series of film segments, uh, in the time of a coffee break,
we'll be able to see some, uh, castles, some amphitheaters, some temples, of the region of Campania.
That way, we'll be able to talk about all of these archaeological sites
and about what they represented in this territory.
Captions 9-12, Escursioni Campane: Castello Normanno - Part 1 of 2
In the following example, we find the conditional, so in this case there are two “m’s.” Can you hear them? Try practicing the difference between potremo and potremmo!
Se ti invito a cena questa sera potremmo leggerli tutti.
If I invite you for supper tonight we could read all of them.
Caption 54, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 2
Let’s look at some more examples. Try rolling them around on your tongue, making sure that the double “m” sits there a moment before pronouncing the “o.”
In the next examples, the meaning is clear. The autopsy is going to take place, so they will find out what they need to know. They use the future.
Se ci sono altre cose lo scopriremo dopo l'autopsia. -Qualcosa la sappiamo già adesso.
If there are other things, we'll find that out after the autopsy. -We already know something right now.
Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 2
In the following example, chef Gualtiero Marchesi uses se (if) plus the subjunctive in one clause, and the conditional in the other. This is a classic combination.
Noi finiamo sempre con l'aggiungere delle cose che saranno anche buone,
ma se provassimo a [sic: ad] approcciare il prodotto per il prodotto,
credo che scopriremmo un mondo nuovo.
We always end up adding things that may well be good,
but if we tried approaching a product for the product itself,
I think we'd discover a new world.
Captions 18-20, L'arte della cucina: Terre d'Acqua - Part 2
For more about the conditional and subjunctive together see this lesson.
To hear more words in the future and conditional, look them up on a conjugation chart, at WordReference, for example, and then do a Yabla search of the conjugation you want to examine, so you can hear the verbs in context pronounced by Italians.
English speakers think of school when they hear the word “education.” But educazione in Italian usually means something a bit different. Check out what Italian words correspond to the English “education.” Istruzione is a common one. This sounds like “instruction,” so we can understand it well enough, although we usually think of instruction as in “instructions” for how to do something. Titolo di studio is another one. This is about what diplomas or degrees you have. Formazione is another. This refers to what one has been trained in. Gli studi corresponds to “studies,” and refers to the schools one has attended, and what someone has majored in, but English speakers can easily forget that educazione is more about upbringing, and teaching one’s children (or pets) to behave, than about going to school.
Here are some reminders from Yabla videos.
If you’ve been following La Tempesta, you know that Paolo, a Venetian unemployed wealthy factory-owner’s son has suddenly taken on, against his will, responsibility for his brother’s adopted son, an orphan from Russia. They are both having a rough time of it. The following comment (from this week’s new video) is from a meeting with the school principal after the kid got in a fight. They are not talking about book learning here.
Ma prima di metterlo in classe con i bambini normali,
But before putting him in a class with normal children,
one should teach him some manners.
Caption 10, La Tempesta: film - Part 11 of 26
In the following example, we’re talking about a dog. For Caterina, the dog is part of the family so she talks about him as if he were a person (with bad manners).
Sempre in giro a ficcanasare questo cagnazzo... Lo devi scusare Malvina, è un gran maleducato...
Always snooping around this old dog... You have to excuse him, Malvina, he's really bad-mannered...
Captions 42 - 43, Il Commissario Manara 1: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep. 2 - Part 6 of 17
In the following example, Manara has called his boss in the middle of the night for something he thought was molto importante and urgente. His boss didn’t appreciate it per niente (at all)!
Non si azzardi più a chiamarmi a quest'ora, maleducato!
Don't you dare call me again at this hour, how rude!
Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara 1: Il Raggio Verde - Ep 5 - Part 12 of 14
In actual fact, his boss uses maleducato as a noun, as is common in Italian. Indeed, it’s a common insult to somebody who is not being polite. It implies that the person was brought up badly—maleducato—and therefore has no manners. The adjective “rude” in English gives the idea. “Disrespectful” could have worked, too.
Male (evil, badly) is often used as a prefix, lending its "badness" to other words. It’s often truncated to mal. Male is both a noun and an adverb. Technically the adjective form is malo, as in: ha reagito in malo modo (he reacted in a bad way). But colloquially, people do say non è male to mean something’s not bad, even though male isn’t an adjective. A correct way to describe something as "not bad," would be with malvagio (wicked). These days, malvagio is usually used in the negative, to say “not bad,” in talking about something you’re eating or drinking, for example:
Non è malvagio questo vino (this wine isn't bad = it's drinkable).
Or a movie you’ve seen:
Quel film non era malvagio (that movie wasn't so bad).
Maledire (to curse someone, to wish someone ill)
Maldestro (maladroit, clumsy)
There are plenty more words with mal where these come from. Take out your dizionario!
To form a sentence, we need a subject and a verb. For the moment, let’s stick to the most normal kinds of subjects: nouns and pronouns.
At the beginning of the following example, it’s fairly easy to find the subject and verb:
Dixi uscì di casa leggero più di una piuma leggera, perché non aveva ancora fatto merenda.
Dixi left the house, lighter than a light feather because he had not yet had a snack.
Captions 3-4, Dixieland: Il singhiozzo
If we look at the second part of the sentence, however, we see the verb avere (to have) in its simple past tense aveva (had). But where is the equivalent of the pronoun “he” that we see in the English translation?
That’s one of the tricky things about learning Italian. The pronoun is included in the verb.
It can be hard to find the subject if we can't see it! How can we tell what the pronoun would be if we can’t see it? Conjugation tables help in finding out what person the verb is expressed in but we also have to get used to the fact that we "get" more than we "see."
Here are a few examples of how this works:
Ho (I have)
Hai (you have)
Ha (he, she, it has)
Abbiamo (we have)
Avete (you [plural] have)
Hanno (they have)
We can’t always know if the implied pronoun is masculine or feminine, because “he” and “she” have the same conjugation. We have to rely on previous information in the sentence or paragraph to know more precisely which it is. In the example above, the subject is Dixi, the flying elephant, who, for our purposes, is a male. Since we’ve already mentioned him by name at the beginning of the sentence, we don’t need to repeat it. Aveva means “he had.” But we could also say:
Dixi non aveva ancora fatto merenda (Dixi had not yet had a snack).
So, the verb is identical whether the noun is present or not. The noun will only be repeated if we want to emphasize that it’s Dixi, and not someone else.
By the same token, if we wanted to include a pronoun, we could. If we needed to stress “he,” we could say:
Lui non aveva ancora fatto merenda (he had not yet had a snack).
If Dixi were a female, we’d say:
Lei non aveva ancora fatto merenda (she had not yet had a snack).
So aveva could mean “he had,” “she had,” “it had,” or just “had.”
In the present tense, it can be tricky to perceive or use the verb avere (to have) or essere (to be) in the third person singular because they’re both such short words, and not only that: Ha (has, he has, she has, it has) is written with an H but that H is silent! So what are we left with? A lonely “Ah” sound. È (is, he is, she is, it is) is short, too, and you need to be careful to use an open “E.” Otherwise, without the grave accent, it means “and.”
So not only do these two verbs go by quickly, but the pronoun “he,” “she,” or “it” may also be hidden within it!
In the following example, we see that the subject of the paragraph is Villa Borghese. Once it has been mentioned by name, we don’t need to repeat it, as long as no other word gets in the way to cause confusion. We use a pronoun, just as we would in English, but it’s important to remember that in Italian, the pronoun is included in the verb itself, so we don’t see it. The second sentence uses the verb essere in the third person singular, and the third sentence uses avere in the third person singular.
Villa Borghese è un grandissimo parco.
Villa Borghese is a very large park.
È il più grande di Roma dopo Villa Doria Pamphilj e dopo Villa Ada.
It's the biggest park of Rome after Villa Doria Panfili and after Villa Ada.
Ha nove ingressi. Tutti diversi naturalmente.
It has nine entrances. All different, obviously.
Captions 2-4, Anna presenta: Villa Borghese - Part 1
In one of Daniela’s recent lessons, she covers an important modo di dire (figure of speech): stare per (to be about to).
Sto per cadere (I'm about to fall).
But let’s also take a closer look at the verb stare (to be). It’s so similar to essere (to be) and translates much the same way, but if we think of the word “state,” as in “the state of things,” so close in spelling to stare, it might help us see what this verb is about.
The state can be physical—how someone looks:
Anche tu, stai proprio bene. -Grazie, però tu hai un volto molto riposato.
You look really good, too. -Thanks, but you have a very rested face [you look rested].
Caption 2, Anna e Marika: Villa Torlonia - La Casina delle Civette
Come sto con questo vestito?
How do I look in this dress?
It can be about how someone feels—about their state of health or happiness.
Come stai? How are you?
Sto bene (I’m good, I’m fine, I’m well, cured, healed).
Sta male. (He/she is ill, distraught, overtired, etc.)
Stare is often used in command forms that translate as “to be.”
Stai attento. Bene, bravo, bravo!
Be watchful [be careful]. Good, brilliant, brilliant!
Caption 29, Il Commissario Manara 1: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep. 2 - Part 6
Lara, io... -Stai zitta, non dire niente.
Lara, I... -Be quiet, don't say a thing.
Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 13
We use stare for other commands like:
Stai tranquillo (be in a state of tranquillity [don’t worry])
Stai fermo (be still)
Stai qui (stay here)
We also use stare to construct the presente progressivo (present continuous/progressive) in Italian. We conjugate the verb stare and follow it with the gerundio (gerund) of the verb of our choosing.
Stiamo cercando di risalire al proprietario attraverso il numero del telaio.
We're trying to trace the owner through the chassis serial number.
Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Vendemmia tardiva - Ep. 2 - Part 7
Questo posto mi sta distruggendo.
This place is destroying me.
Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Vendemmia tardiva - Ep. 2 - Part 7
Although Italian tenses don’t always correspond to English ones as we would expect, the present progressive is an important tense in Italian. Marika explains it here.
Stare is an ever-present, very important verb to be familiar with. When you get up in the morning, think about how you feel, how you look, what you’re doing at the moment, and what you are about to do. You can use stare for all these considerations. Here’s an example to get you started.
Ho dormito bene, quindi sto abbastanza bene, ma di sicuro non sto bene con i capelli così in disordine. Sto pensando alla mia colazione. Sto per mangiare gli ultimi biscotti, quindi ne dovrò comprare degli altri. Tutti questi biscotti mi stanno facendo ingrassare.
I slept well, so I feel all right, but for sure I don’t look good with my hair so messy. I’m thinkingabout my breakfast. I’m about to eat up the last cookies, so I will have to buy more of them. All these cookies are making me gain weight.
No, papà è che c' ho parecchio lavoro da fare, sono un po' sotto pressione.
No, Dad, it's that I have quite a lot of work to do; I'm under a bit of pressure.
Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 7 of 11
Parecchio might be less familiar to you than molto.
Ho molto lavoro (I have a lot of work).
Like molto, parecchio is used as an adjective and in this case has different endings depending on whether it modifies a masculine or feminine noun and depending on whether it’s plural or singular.
Il lavoro is masculine, so it’s parecchio lavoro or molto lavoro.
Ci sono parecchie cose strane.
There are a lot of strange things.
Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 7 of 14
La cosa is feminine and it’s plural, so we say parecchie cose or molte cose.
But like molto, parecchio is also an adverb. In the following example, parecchio could easily replace molto.
Mi piace molto il posto e poi ho ritrovato vecchi amici e la zia è deliziosa come sempre.
I like the place a lot and then I met up with old friends and Aunt is charming as always.
Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 7 of 11
Un sacco is quite colloquial, as is “bunch!” Sacco translates as “bag,” or “sack, so imagine a big bag of something!
Non fare questa faccia, vedrai che ti farai un sacco di amici.
Don't make that face. You'll see that you'll make a bunch of friends.
Caption 9, Caption La Tempesta: film - Part 9 of 26
Tanto is another word for a lot. Like the other words above, it can be used as an adjective:
E... insomma, dopo un tempo che in quel momento non sapevo stimare se era tanto o poco
And... in short, after a time, which in that moment I couldn't assess whether it was a lot or a little
Caption 53, Anna presenta: Il mio parto
Certo che firmo per la barella, non avevo tanta scelta.
Ofcourse I'll sign for a gurney. I didn't have much choice.
Caption 30, Anna presenta: Il mio parto
Tanto can be used as an adverb as well.
Non andavo tanto veloce, ma mi hanno fatto la multa.
I wasn’t going very fast, but they gave me a ticket.
It’s always good to know several different ways to say something. Variety is the spice of life!
Daniela has taken us through different kinds of verbs and how they interact with verbs in the infinitive.
Here’s a quick overview so you can get up to speed.
She started out by explaining modal verbs and other verbs that work like modal verbs. These verbs don’t need any preposition between the conjugated (modal) verb and the verb in the infinitive. See: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito and following. Here’s an example.
Non posso andare al cinema stasera. Devo studiare.
I can’t go to the movies tonight. I have to study.
She then gave us some examples of verbs that take the preposition di (of) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito +preposizione “di”
Ho deciso di andare al cinema da sola. Ho dimenticato di ritirare dei soldi al bancomat.
I decided to go to the movies alone. I forgot to get some money at the ATM machine.
In her most recent lessons, she has talked about verbs that take the preposition a (to) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione “a”
Se non ho gli occhiali, non riesco a leggere.
If I don't have glasses on I can't manage to read.
Caption 19, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione “a” part two
Daniela talks about several verbs in this context but let’s take a closer look at the verb riuscire because, although commonly used in Italian, it can be tricky to translate and has some important nuances.
Riuscire means “to succeed.” In the following example, it makes sense to us.
Sono riuscito a convincerlo della mia innocenza.
I succeeded in convincing him of my innocence.
But Daniela’s example above would sound a bit stilted with the verb “to succeed”:
If I don't have my glasses on, I don't succeed in reading.
In English, we would likely use the modal verb “to be able” or “to manage.”
I can’t read without my glasses.
I’m unable to read without my glasses.
I can’t manage to read without my glasses.
Remember this saying when thinking about the verb riuscire: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Non riesco (I can’t) implies that I am trying, but I’m not succeeding. Non posso (I can’t) on the other hand, could mean any number of things having to do with permission, ability, money, etc. So riuscire (to succeed) is a bit more specific than potere (to be able to).
Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.
Are you able to get a shot of it? -Yes.
Caption 16, Anna e Marika: Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 4
You could use the verb “to succeed” here, but it would sound a bit odd in conversation.
Are you succeeding in getting a shot of it?
Will you succeed in getting a shot of it?
Here’s another example:
We could also say, “when we were able to get a hold of two liras...” or “when we managed to get a hold of two liras...”
In the negative, riuscire can be used for saying “I give up.”
Non ci riesco (I am not succeeding in it/I can’t manage it).
The ci here refers to “in it,” or “at it.”
But using riuscire in the negative implies that you gave something a try. If you say non posso, we don't know anything about why you can't. Your mother won’t let you? You don’t know how? It’s against your religion? Riuscire, on the other hand, implies you are willing, but unable.
Riuscire is one of those verbs you might not use immediately while learning Italian because it’s easier to use potere (to be able to). Understanding how Italians use riuscire is handy, however, and once you are accustomed to hearing and reading it, you will probably start using it, too!
Marika uses riuscire in her presentation of Yabla. Her advice is sound!
When asking for confirmation of what you have said, here’s one way:
The prefix ri is similar to “re” in English: it's used to repeat something:
Niente di niente is colloquial but used quite a bit in everyday speech. In fact, there are two instances in this segment. We can translate it colloquially: “no nothing,” or, in correct English: “nothing at all.”
E poi a Sara non è successo più un incidente. -No, no, niente di niente.
And then Sara hasn't had any more accidents. -No, no, nothing at all.
Captions 62-63, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17
Stra is a prefix meaning “extra” or “over.” It’s used quite a bit to mean “super” or “mega” in colloquial speech, although there are more mainstream words with this prefix, such as stravecchio (very mature or old), stracotto (as an adjective, “very well-cooked”; as a noun, “meat stewed a long time”), stravedere (to think the world of), straviziare (to overindulge).
Jacopo’s client used very colloquial speech:
His use of cioè (that is) is very close in meaning to "I mean," in English, which some people sprinkle throughout their speech. Ciò is one of those words that in the beginning was two separate ones: ciò (this that) and è (is).
Quasi quasi literally means “almost almost.”
Quasi quasi non ci lasciavamo. -Ciccì, cicciò due palle dottore, a noi ci piaceva litigare.
We were seriously considering not breaking up. -Yatter, yatter what a downer, Doctor. We liked fighting.
Caption 52, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17
Some alternative translations:
We were seriously thinking of not breaking up.
We were of a mind not to break up.
Here’s an expression to justify asking someone a question. Most Italians know this expression or saying, and some use it automatically. In English, we might say, “There’s no harm in asking.”
Object pronouns can be very tricky to use because there isn’t just one way to construct a phrase. Especially when dealing with modal verbs, which go hand in hand with infinitives, the object pronoun can go either before the conjugated verb or after the infinitive. The trick is that, as we shall see, the pronoun actually gets attached to the infinitive, which loses its final e.
Let's look at an example.
Here, the object pronoun comes just before the conjugated verb volere, which is modal.
Possiamo dire: ho comprato un'auto nuova. La vuoi vedere?
We can say, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"
Caption 46, Marika spiega: I pronomi diretti
Here, on the other hand, the object pronoun not only follows the infinitive, it's attached to it. In order to attach it, the final e of the infinitive vedere is omitted.
Oppure: ho comprato un'auto nuova. Vuoi vederla?
Or else, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"
Caption 47, Marika spiega: I pronomi diretti
There are several pieces of dialogue in a recent episode of Commisario Manara that lend themselves to having their word order changed as explained above. Why not give it a try, and consult the solutions at the bottom of the page to check your answers. If this is new to you, then go right to the solutions, and see how they differ from the examples.
First, find the elements: the conjugated verb (likely modal), the infinitive verb, and the object pronoun. The next step is to rephrase the sentence, changing the position of the pronoun.
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Uh, you could have told me that at the office tomorrow, couldn't you?
Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
You said some very beautiful things. Don't forget them. They work.
Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
However, I don't want, I don't want to lose you.
Caption 10, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
Let me work on it. As soon as I have the results, I'll come to report them to you
Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.
All right, good night, and sorry for before. -You don't have to apologize.
Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
And what did you want to talk to me about?
I wanted to talk to you about a financial situation.
Caption 29-30, Il Commissario Manara 1: Beato tra le donne Ep. 11 - Part 4 of 11
Here are the examples and their solutions, for a quick comparison.
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Eh, potevi dirmelo anche domani in ufficio, no?
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non le scordare. Funzionano.
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
Però non voglio, io non ti voglio perdere.
Mi lasci lavorare?
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, vengo a riferirteli.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non ti devi scusare.
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
E di che cosa volevi parlarmi?
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
Volevo parlarti di una situazione finanziaria.
Don't forget to read the examples out loud to see how they feel!
As you follow this and other videos, and as you start speaking in Italian, hopefully, you'll start to feel comfortable with these different word order options.You’ll start noticing these constructions in most videos you look at.
Sapere sapere sapere. We keep coming back to the same verbs, but there’s always something more to learn!
We have already covered the verb sapere (to know, to know how to, to have the flavor/smell of) in previous lessons. But this week, Daniela talks about sapere once again. This time she discusses the most common meaning of sapere: to have knowledge of something. She explains how to use sapere in this sense, when followed by a verb in the infinitive rather than by a noun.
She explains about using the preposition di between conjugated sapere and the verb in the infinitive:
Allora diciamo: sappiamo di essere i più forti. I più forti.
So we say, "We know we're the strongest. The strongest."
Caption 22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito + preposizione DI - Part 3 of 3
So di essere in ritardo.
I know I am late. (Or, I know that I’m late.)
The preposition di is generally translated as "of," but the trick here is that in English we don’t use the preposition “of” in this kind of situation. We either use “that,” as in “I know that I am late,” or we don’t use any preposition at all, as in “I know I am late.” All in all, sapere plus di plus infinitive is a construction that is difficult to match up in English, so we just have to assimilate it as best we can.
Let’s look at some more examples of sapere plus di, so you can get a feel for it.
Uno stupido non sa di essere stupido (an idiot doesn’t know he’s stupid).
Sappiamo di doverti delle scuse (we know we owe you an apology).
Sai di essere l’unica persona in grado di risolvere il problema (do you know you are the only person able to solve the problem)?
Sapete di camminare in mezzo alla strada (do you know you are walking in the middle of the road)?
Sanno di infrangere la legge, ma non gli importa niente (they know they are breaking the law, but they don’t care).
Leonardo sa di essere stato scorretto con me (Leonardo knows he has not been fair with me).
One of the other ways sapere gets used is to mean “to know how to.” Daniela has explained this in another video lesson:
Per esempio, io posso dire: Luca sa nuotare.
For example, I may say, "Luca knows how to swim."
Caption 19, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito - Part 1
Here are some additional examples of this meaning. It should be mentioned that in this case, sapere acts like a modal verb, such as “can,” “must,” “may,” etc. Remember that with modal verbs, there is no preposition before the infinitive.
Non so parlare spagnolo (I don’t know how to speak Spanish).
Roberto non sa cucinare (Roberto doesn’t know how to cook).
Non sapete leggere fra le righe (you don’t know how to read between the lines).
I miei genitori non sanno ballare (my parents don’t know how to dance).
And let’s not forget that we can also use sapere before a noun.
Sai l’ora (do you know the time)?
So quello che dico (I know what I’m saying).
So l’inglese (I know English.)
Di quella canzone, Gianna non sa abbastanza bene le parole (Gianna doesn’t know the words to that song well enough).