Italian Lessons


Qualifying adverbs: troppo, tanto

Troppo (too, too much, too many) is an essential word to know. It's also easy because its meaning is clear even if you use it by itself, even if you use it incorrectly. It is a word that will serve you well if you travel to Italy, and especially if you do any shopping. But let's remember that it can be used as either an adverb or an adjective. So it's just one more thing to think about when using it (correctly). 


Troppo caro! is an important phrase to memorize. Too expensive!



The question you might ask before saying that is:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

If you don't understand the answer, try to get the vendor to write down the price.


Here below, troppo is used as an adverb. We see there is an adjective following it: caro (expensive, dear).


Ma è troppo caro, ma questo vasetto qua...

But that's too expensive, but this little pot here...

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

 Play Caption


You can also just say È troppo (it's too much) or Costa troppo (it costs too much).


Typical uses of troppo as an adverb:

Troppo difficile (too difficult)

Troppo forte (too loud, too strong)

Troppo caldo (too hot)

Troppo complicato (too complicated)


Even when the adjective modifies a feminine noun, troppo (as an adverb) remains the same.

Lei è troppo ansiosa (she is too anxious).

I miei professori sono troppo esigenti (my teachers are too demanding).



But we can also use troppo as an adjective. Attenzione! When we use troppo as an adjective it has to agree, or correspond, to the noun it is modifying. We have to consider gender and number and thus, in translating troppo as an adjective, we have to think of whether it's "too much" or "too many."


So let's say we are again finding an item to be too expensive. We can say: 

Sono troppi soldi (that's too much money) .


Remember money is countable in Italian. Un soldo (a penny) or i soldi (the money).


Chances are that when you see troppo (with an o at the end) it will be an adverb but look around to see if there is an adjective or a noun after it.

C'è troppo aglio.

There's too much garlic.

Caption 1, Dafne - Film - Part 18

 Play Caption


When you see troppi or troppe, then you know they are adjectives.


Tu ti fai troppi problemi, troppi.

You're having too many scruples, too many.

Caption 16, Sposami - EP 3 - Part 20

 Play Caption


Ti ho perdonato... ti ho perdonato troppe volte.

I've forgiven you... I've forgiven you too many times.

Caption 43, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee

 Play Caption


Let's also be aware that troppo is often used by itself: È troppo! to mean, "that's too much!" in a figurative way.



Tanto is another word that is very useful and very common, although it does have various meanings and uses that we won't cover here.  We'll limit ourselves to talking about its function as an adjective or adverb to mean "a lot," "much," "many," or "very."


Ben presto però si sviluppò in Europa, dove ebbe tanto successo.

Quite early on, it spread to Europe, where it had a lot of success.

Caption 7, Adriano - balla il Tango Argentino

 Play Caption


In the example above, there's a noun after tanto, so we can see it's an adjective. But in the following example, there's an adjective after tanto, so it's an adverb. When translating, we'll need "very" when tanto is used as an adverb.


Il problema principale è che Boss era un gatto,

The main problem was that Boss was a cat...

era ed è un gatto tanto socievole.

he was, and is, a very sociable cat.

Captions 31-32, Andromeda - La storia di Boss

 Play Caption


We use tanto a lot in negative sentences too, or we can use poco the same way:

Non è tanto bello (it's not very nice).

È poco bello (it's not very nice).


When tanto is used as an adjective, we have to watch the endings, just as we did with troppo.


Si può aggiungere il caffè, si possono aggiungere tanti ingredienti...

One can add coffee, one can add many ingredients...

Caption 10, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato

 Play Caption vista di tante passeggiate all'aria aperta. anticipation of many walks in the open air.

Caption 35, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

 Play Caption


So basically troppo and tanto work the same way, in terms of grammar. As we said before, tanto has other meanings or nuances, so we suggest doing a search of tanto in the lessons tab, to see multiple lessons about the word. Check them out! 


Continue Reading

When 2 doesn't mean 2

We have seen before that Italians use the number 2 or sometimes the number 4 to indicate "a small number" or a small amount.


Due passi

Due passi indicates a short distance: a hop, skip, and a jump, for example.

È qua, siete fortunato, è proprio qua a due passi.

It's here, you're lucky, it's right here, a couple of steps away [very close by].

Caption 6, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 20

 Play Caption


Due passi can also indicate a short or brief walk. 


Faccio due passi.

I'm going to step out/I'm going to take a walk.

Caption 26, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 22

 Play Caption


We use due passi when we want to suggest taking a little walk with someone, often to talk about something private while walking. 

Facciamo due passi (shall we take a walk)?



Due spaghetti

Due spaghetti indicates a simple, humble meal featuring pasta. It can also indicate a plate of spaghetti.


Let's remember that in Italian, spaghetti is the plural of spaghetto, a certain shape of pasta, resembling string. In fact, the name of the pasta comes from the noun lo spago, the word for "twine." Literally, due spaghetti is "two spaghetti strands." But obviously, two is just a symbolic amount meaning "some."


Due chiacchiere

Due chiacchiere, expressed in the plural, is a chat, with the idea that it will be brief. It also implies that it will be rather informal. 


Va bene, allora voglio fare due chiacchiere con quella cameriera.

All right, then I want to have two chats [a little chat] with that waitress.

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 13

 Play Caption


Due palle

In this case, the number is accurate, because whoever is using this expression is referring to balls or testicles (which usually come in twos). But the figurative meaning is that something is a pain in the ass or a real bore. It's colloquial, and not for polite conversation, but it is common enough that we thought it was important to mention it here.


Che due palle means, "what a pain,"  "what a bummer," "this sucks," or "this is so boring."

Questa proprio du' palle, nun poi capi' [romanesco: due palle, non puoi capire].

This lady is a real pain in the ass, you can't imagine.

Caption 41, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 18

 Play Caption


Sì? -Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] fatto du' [romanesco: due] palle così.

Yes? -I was bored out of my mind.

Caption 37, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 17

 Play Caption


In this lesson, we have considered the number two as an adjective before certain nouns, combinations that are particularly common, but we can use the number 2, when referring to any countable noun, just about. It can mean "a few," "some,"  or "not too many," so keep your eyes open for the number 2 and think about whether it is literal or figurative...


And of course, if you think of other expressions or word combinations with the number 2, we are happy to expand our library of examples, especially if you find them in Yabla videos. Write to us at or as a comment in the video you find the example in.



Continue Reading

Qualifying adverbs: molto, poco, abbastanza, piuttosto

Let's talk about adverbs we can use to add a qualifier to an adjective. We can say someone is gentile (nice). But we can qualify that with an adverb such as molto (very), poco (not very), abbastanza (rather, enough), and others.


Adjectives or adverbs

Molto (very) and poco (not very) go hand in hand. They can be either adjectives or adverbs. When they're adjectives, we change the ending according to what they modify.  But when they're used as adverbs, they are invariable.


Molto is perhaps the one we hear most often. In our first example, molto becomes molti to agree with negozi (the plural of negozio). This is because it is functioning as an adjective. For more on this topic, see Daniela's lessons.


A qui [sic], a Mondello ci sono molti negozi.

Here in Mondello there are many shops:

Caption 18, Adriano - a Mondello

 Play Caption



In the next example, however, molto is an adverb modifying forte (strong). As an adverb, the ending doesn't ever change. And in English, the meaning changes to "very."


In estate qui il sole è molto forte.

In summer, the sun here is very strong.

Caption 40, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

 Play Caption


Poco works the same way as molto and can be used as an adjective or an adverb. Here, poche agrees with ore (the plural of ora).


Poche ore fa, non più di tre.

Just a few hours ago, no more than three.

Caption 43, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara

 Play Caption


But here, it's an adverb modifying chiaro (clear).


C'è sicuramente qualcosa di poco chiaro là sotto.

There is for sure something not very clear underneath it all.

Caption 40, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone - EP1 I Bastardi - Part 15

 Play Caption


Molto and poco are opposites, more or less, but we have some "in-between" words, too. 



Abbastanza is interesting because it comes from the verb bastare (to suffice). So the most logical translation for abbastanza might be "sufficiently" — to the degree of being sufficient, or "enough," which in English comes after the adjective it modifies. In everyday speech, however, we often equate abbastanza with "rather," "fairly," or in colloquial speech, "pretty." 


Era abbastanza timida, abbastanza riservata.

She was rather shy, rather reserved.

Caption 2, Illuminate - Rita Levi Montalcini

 Play Caption


Certo, Lojacono mi sembra uno abbastanza sveglio,

Of course, Lojacono seems quite smart to me,

ma per quanto riguarda il resto della squadra,

but regarding the rest of the team,

Lei è messo male, io lo so.

you are in bad shape, I know.

Captions 36-38, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone - EP1 I Bastardi - Part 9

 Play Caption



A synonym for abbastanza is piuttosto, usually translated as "rather." It's on the positive end of the scale but not at the top. When you say abbastanza, you might be saying something is lacking, that something is just sufficient, especially when coupled with a positive adjective such as buono (good) bene, (good, well) or bello (beautiful, nice).


Come ti senti?

How do you feel?

Abbastanza bene. -Ce la fai?

Pretty good. -Can you manage?

Captions 72-73, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia

 Play Caption


But with piuttosto, it's usually positive relative to what it's modifying and serves to reinforce the positive aspect of something without actually going to the point of saying molto (very). So it's generally (but not always) higher on the scale than abbastanza.


Anche se, su certi argomenti, se la cava piuttosto bene devo dire.

Even though, on some subjects, she manages rather well, I must say.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

 Play Caption


So of course it can also modify a negative adjective, and reinforces its characteristic, as in this example:


La gestione all'interno della casa

The running of the household

è stata piuttosto complicata, i primi giorni,

was quite complicated, the first days,

Captions 2-3, COVID-19 - 3) La quarantena

 Play Caption


Nella memory card ce n'erano anche altre, piuttosto sfocate.

On the memory card there were others too, and rather blurry.

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma

 Play Caption



This adverb is similar to piuttosto, but is often another way of saying molto (much, very). But it can also be just a short step lower than molto, depending on the context and the region the speaker is from.


Ma in realtà, pensate, dopo praticamente sette secoli e più,

But actually, just think: After practically seven-plus centuries,

questi colori si sono leggermente sbiaditi. Sono assai meno brillanti.

these colors have faded somewhat. They are much less brilliant.

Captions 26-27, Meraviglie - EP. 4 - Part 4

 Play Caption


Another qualifying adverb is parecchio (a great deal). It's used a lot as an adjective, but works fine as an adverb, too. See this lesson.


Quindi, quando sarà finito, sicuramente mi riposerò,

So, when it's all done, I'll take a break, for sure,

perché sto parecchio stressata.

because I am totally stressed out.

Captions 50-51, Fuori era primavera - Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown

 Play Caption


See this video for some explanations in Italian about qualifying adverbs, now that we've given you some pointers in English.

People have their personal favorites when it comes to adverb qualifiers. So keep your eyes and ears open. Listen for the variable endings when these qualifiers are adjectives, and the invariable ending when they're adverbs. This takes patience and experience. But little by little, you will put two and two together. 

This list isn't set in stone, as these adverbs can be used differently by different people, but it can help give you an idea. 


  • molto, parecchio
  • assai
  • piuttosto
  • abbastanza
  • poco
  • per niente (at all)  — We didn't discuss this here but you will find it mentioned in other lessons if you do a search of niente.


Continue Reading

When the Letter X Seems to Be Missing in an Italian Word

In a previous lesson we looked at words that look similar in Italian and English, and which have an N in English, but not Italian. Now it's time for the letter X. In many cases, the X in English is "replaced" by an S. Sometimes it's "replaced" by a double S. In fact, X is used very infrequently in Italian.



Esatto (exact)


Cioè, dopo quattro anni, Voi vi ricordate il giorno esatto

That is to say, after four years, you remember the exact day

in cui abbiamo aperto il Lido delle Sirene?

I opened the Mermaids' Beach?

Captions 56-57, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1EP1 L'estate del dito

 Play Caption


Tossico (toxic)


La mattina mi aveva detto che

That morning he had told me that

voleva far mettere questi rifiuti tossici nella mia terra.

he wanted to let them put this toxic waste in my lands.

Captions 16-17, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi

 Play Caption


Esplorare (to explore)


Stiamo continuando a esplorare quest'oasi verde...

We are continuing to explore this green oasis...

Caption 2, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 7

 Play Caption


Esempio (example)


Qui abbiamo un esempio di scrittura di note sul pentagramma.

Here we have an example of notes written on a staff.

Caption 3, A scuola di musica - con Alessio

 Play Caption


Ausiliare (auxiliary)


Nei tempi composti,

In perfect tenses,

il verbo "piacere" è sempre coniugato

the verb "to delight" is always conjugated

con il verbo ausiliare "essere".

with the auxiliary verb "to be."

Captions 18-19, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Piacere

 Play Caption


Testo (text)


Quali sono le parole nuove che vediamo in questo testo?

What are the new words we see in this text?

Caption 25, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Primi incontri

 Play Caption


We can include contesto (context), pretesto (pretext), and perhaps other words that include testo/text.


Ossigeno (oxygen)


Il fiume ha un'acqua ricca di ossigeno.

The river has oxygen-rich water.

Caption 20, Meraviglie - S2EP1 - Part 6

 Play Caption


Tasse (taxes)


io non sono per niente brava a compilare

I'm not at all good at filling out

il modulo per pagare le tasse.

the form for paying my taxes.

Caption 55, Marika spiega - I verbi cavare e togliere

 Play Caption


We hope this gives you the idea, and that it can facilitate remembering certain words. There are undoubtedly others in addition to these, so don't hesitate to write to us and we'll add them to this lesson. For the N lesson, we received some good feedback.


Thanks for reading!


Continue Reading

When the Letter N Seems to Be Missing in an Italian Word

Some words are very similar between Italian and English, and are often cognates, but sometimes there is a letter that seems to be missing and so if we follow our instincts, we might very well get it wrong. Let's look at some of the words that look like they are missing an N, or at least, if we follow our instincts, we might add it by mistake.



There is an example of this tricky phenomenon in a recent episode of Provaci ancora prof. In fact, little Livietta is still learning and she gets it wrong, so her father corrects her. He clearly understood what she was trying to say, but the word she used actually meant "to inspire."


Dai papà, alza la testa e fai resistenza

Come on Daddy, lift your head and press

mentre io ti spingo giù, ispirando forte.

while I push you down, inspiring deeply.

-Inspirando, con la enne, inspirando, ecco.

-Inhaling with an N, inhaling, that's it.

Captions 18-20, Provaci ancora prof! - S2E3 - Dietro la porta

 Play Caption


It's easy to get mixed up. In English the verb is "to inspire," but in Italian, it's ispirare. No N! To complicate matters, the verb inspirare does exist, as we see in the clip, but it means "to breathe in," "to inhale."




Another word that sounds like the English word — almost — is istruzione (instruction, education). There's no N in the Italian word.


È arrivata oggi dal Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione.

It came today from the Ministry of Public Education.

Caption 23, Non è mai troppo tardi - EP 2

 Play Caption



This one is easy to understand, as it sounds kind of like "instant " but there's no N.


oppure qualcosa di sgradevole

or something unpleasant

da cui stiamo scappando all'ultimo istante.

from which we escape at the last moment.

Captions 38-39, Marika spiega - Espressioni con i capelli

 Play Caption


Or we have the adjective istantaneo. Plenty of N's there, but not at the beginning between the I and the S.


È un effetto chimico istantaneo, temporaneo,

It's an instant chemical effect, temporary.

Caption 24, Andromeda - Marmellata anti spreco

 Play Caption




Però il mio istinto mi dice che non è così.

But my instinct tells me that's not how it is.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso

 Play Caption


Let's not forget the adjective form istintivo (instinctive) and the adverb istintivamente (instinctively).



Yet another one, not exactly the same word as in English, but close enough, is iscriversi (to register). We might expect there to be an N (inscriversi), but that would be wrong. Also, if we think of the word "inscription" we get a closer match. Your name is "inscribed" in the register.


Olga ha deciso di iscriversi all'università

Olga has decided to enroll at the university

Caption 64, Provaci ancora prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

 Play Caption


"Registration" or "enrollment" can be called l'iscrizione.




Dopo la morte della mi' moglie, avrei dovuto metterlo in un istituto.

After the death of my wife, I should have put him in an institution.

Caption 52, Marika commenta - L'ispettore Manara - Espressioni toscane

 Play Caption


Note that istituto can mean either "institute" or "institution." Also, istituzione exists, as well as adjectives such as istituzionale.

There may be other words we haven't covered here. Feel free to write to us with suggestions, and we will add them to this lesson.

Here's another word, sent in by a Yabla subscriber.




Poi settemila di materiale edile:

Then seven thousand in construction materials,

vernici, cemento, tegole... -Voleva costruire una casa, no?

paints, cement, roof tiles... -He wanted to build a house, right?

Captions 13-14, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

 Play Caption


We also have the noun form costruzione.


Questa è una delle più importanti chiese della zona di Pisa,

This is one of the most important churches of the Pisa area,

la cui prima costruzione risale al decimo [sic: nono] secolo.

whose first construction dates to the tenth century [sic: ninth].

Captions 7-8, In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorni

 Play Caption




Lo Stato Italiano ha una costituzione,

The Italian State has a constitution,

Caption 17, Nicola Agliastro - Le Forze dell'Ordine in Italia

 Play Caption


The verb costituire (to constitute) also exists:


Ma anche delle ville che potessero

But also villas that could

costituire un vero e proprio rifugio...

constitute a real refuge...

Captions 16-17, Meraviglie - EP. 5 - Part 13

 Play Caption


Something to look forward to and think about:

As soon as we start thinking of words that have unexpected spellings and pronunciations, we think of words that start with E. 


One common one that comes to mind is, of course, espresso, where we want to use an X instead of an S. In fact, there are numerous words like this one, so in a future lesson, we'll take a look at those. 


Continue Reading

Tutto fumo, niente arrosto

When we are judging the merits of what someone is saying, one thing we might say, when it's just a bunch of baloney, is:


Tutto fumo, niente arrosto.


Literally, this means, "all smoke, no roast." A roast refers to meat, so there is also no meat on the bones, although that is a different metaphor. 



There are various ways to express this in English, for example:

All talk and no action.
All talk and no walk.
All talk and no trousers.

All smoke and no fire. (added by 89 year-old reader)


The basic idea is that il fumo (the smoke) has an odor that might take on the aroma of un arrosto (a roast) on the spit or in the oven, and might seem at first like there is something underneath it, something good to eat, but it actually has no substance. You can't eat the smoke.


Another, more literal way of saying this in Italian is: È tutta apparenza e niente sostanza (it's all appearance, but no substance).


Of course, Italians love food, and un arrosto is one of those items that is traditional fare for il pranzo della domenica (Sunday dinner). For those who like to eat meat, it smells divine as it is cooking.


Oggi [mi ha] promesso arrosto di maiale con patate.

Today she promised me pork roast with potatoes.

Caption 3, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

 Play Caption


Fumo (smoke) is used in Italian, much as we use it in English, when something goes up in smoke.


Avrebbe rovinato tutto,

He would have ruined everything,

avrebbe mandato in fumo il mio sogno.

he would have made my dream go up in smoke.

Captions 52-53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

 Play Caption


Allora va tutto in fumo.

So it will all go up in smoke.

Caption 32, La Ladra - EP. 2 - Viva le spose

 Play Caption


Don't let your Italian studies go up in smoke!


Let's keep in mind, as well, that fumo is also the first person singular of the verb fumare (to smoke).

Non fumo (I don't smoke).


Continue Reading

Caso means "case," but countless other things as well

Caso seems like an easy cognate, and it is, indeed, especially when we say something like in ogni caso (in any case). 

In ogni caso, è una cosa veramente molto tipica.

In any case, it's a really typical thing.

Caption 40, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

 Play Caption


Or, caso can mean "case," as in a criminal case.

Quindi voi o risolvete il caso in due giorni, o io sono costretto a togliervelo.

So either you solve the case in two days, or I will be forced to take it away from you.

Captions 80-81, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 21

 Play Caption



But we also find the word caso meaning "chance" or "fate." That's when things start getting a little fuzzy.

Signora, per caso vendete questo tipo di palle di vetro?

Ma'am, by chance do you sell glass balls of this type?

Caption 23, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 23

 Play Caption


Here, we could say, "As chance would have it..."

E guarda caso sembra raffigurare le tre generazioni:

And strangely enough, it seems to represent the three generations:

Caption 14, A Marsala Salvo Agria

 Play Caption


Caso can refer to "the circumstances," so when we say: È il caso, we mean that "circumstances call for something."

Però forse è il caso di farci un salto, eh?

But, maybe we should hop on over there, huh?

Caption 84, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

 Play Caption


In English, sometimes we just use "should." 


We often use this expression in the negative. Non è il caso... This means something is not called for. It's not the right thing to do, best to avoid it. Sometimes non è il caso can mean, "Don't bother," or "It's not necessary." 


Grazie, grazie, ma non è il caso. -Sarebbe meraviglioso, bellissimo!

Thanks, thanks, but it wouldn't be right. -It would be marvelous, great!

Caption 97, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 4

 Play Caption


That's not all, but we'll pick up this topic again in another lesson. Thanks for reading!

Continue Reading

Andarsene: yet another important pronominal verb

We have talked about pronominal verbs before, and we have mentioned our featured pronominal verb andarsene in a lesson about telling someone to "get lost." But let's delve deeper.


Perhaps if we talk about pronominal verbs often enough, they will be less daunting, and they will start making more sense. Andarsene (to leave, to take one's leave) is perhaps even more common than farcela, which we have talked about very recently, but they are both high up on the list of pronominal verbs to know and love. So let's dive in!



Andarsene: Let's unpack it

Andarsene has as its main verb, the irregular verb andare (to go). But instead of just going, we add on some particles that make it mean something more. We make it personal with se (oneself), and we imply we are leaving a place, person, or situation, or, we could say, "going away from a place, person or situation" with the particle ne. In this context, ne is a pronoun representing an indirect object with its preposition, all in one! 

Se uno sta bene in un posto, embè, deve avere una ragione forte per andarsene, se no...

If one's happy in a place, well, they have to have a really good reason for leaving it, otherwise...

Captions 33-34, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

 Play Caption


Let's also mention that in a way, andarsene (to leave, to go away from a place) is the opposite of going somewhere — to a place. When we go somewhere, we can use the particle ci (to, in, or at that place) as an indirect pronoun including the preposition. In English, "there" stands for "to/at/in that place."

Hanno suonato alla porta. Ci vado io (the doorbell rang. -I'll go [there]).

It's easy to get mixed up between ne and ci


Conjugating andarsene

When we conjugate andarsene, we split the verb in different ways, depending on the conjugation. 


When you simply want to say, "I'm leaving [this place]" you can say:

Me ne vado (I'm leaving).

It's the equivalent of vado via (I'm leaving, I'm going away).


When no modal verb is involved, we generally have the person, the place (from this place) and then the verb in third place, conjugated. The same goes for other persons:


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

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

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

 Play Caption


Andarsene with modal verbs

However, if we use a modal verb such as potere (to be able to) or volere (to want to), dovere (to have to), then we conjugate the modal verb and the pronominal verb remains in the infinitive, although the particles may be separate from it.

Ecco perché io non me ne voglio andare.

That's why I don't want to leave here.

Caption 5, Basilicata Turistica Non me ne voglio andare - Part 1

 Play Caption


It's also possible (when there is a modal verb) to mix the parts of the pronominal verb up differently and say:

Ecco perché non voglio andarmene (that's why I don't want to leave here).


In the following example, we have 2 different conjugations. The first one is one word, a command, with the verb root first: the imperative of andare, va', then the person, te, and then our "place" particle, ne. In the second sentence, the modal verb dovere (to have to) is used. 

Ricotta! -Oh, vattene! Te ne devi andare!

Ricotta! -Oh, get out of here. You have to leave!

Caption 47, Non è mai troppo tardi EP 2 - Part 7

 Play Caption


Compound tenses

Let's remember that the verb andare takes essere (to be) as an auxiliary verb for compound tenses such as the passato prossimo, which conjugates like the present perfect in English. We conjugate the auxiliary verb and the root verb is in its past participle form.

Finalmente se ne sono andati.

Finally, they've gone.

Caption 15, Acqua in bocca Allarme gita - Ep 9

 Play Caption



Try thinking of people you know, or can imagine, and combinations of people. 1) They might be leaving a theater or a party... one by one, in couples, all of them 2) They never seem to leave but you would like them to. 3) They have all left. We'll need the passato prossimo for that. Have they left together or in dribs and drabs? Let us know how you do.

Continue Reading

Farcela: a pronominal verb to have in your toolkit

We have talked about pronominal verbs before, but pronominal verbs are tricky, so we've come back to them once again.

For more about pronominal verbs, check out this lesson.

This time, let's look at a pronominal verb people use all the time: farcela. It's about succeeding, managing, being able, making it — or not.


One tricky thing about pronominal verbs is that when they are conjugated, you have to find the parts. These verbs are more recognizable when they're in the infinitive as in the following example.

Non so se potrò farcela senza di lei.

I don't know if I can manage without her.

Caption 46, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 25

 Play Caption



Let's take it apart

If we take farcela apart, we get the verb fare (to do, to make); we get ce. Let's keep in mind that ce means the same thing as ci, but when we have a direct object in addition to the indirect object pronoun ci, then ci turns into ce! Very tricky! Then we have laLa stands for "it" and is a direct object pronoun.


Let's also remember that when you say (in English), "I made it," you can mean you baked the cake, and in this case "to make" is transitive, or you can mean you succeeded in doing something, you managed, you were able. The verb "to succeed" is intransitive — we need a preposition after it. This may help in understanding farcela.


Be', in qualche modo ce l'abbiamo fatta e questo ci ha rafforzati.

Well, somehow we did it and this made us stronger.

Captions 60-61, COVID-19 3) La quarantena

 Play Caption


Finalmente ce l'hai fatta a farti sospendere dal servizio.

Finally, you managed to get yourself suspended from service.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 10

 Play Caption


Word order

A pronominal verb gets separated into its parts when it's conjugated. Often we find the indirect object pronoun first (ce). Then we have the direct object pronoun (la). We have the conjugated verb, which, in this case, is in the passato prossimo tense. It uses the helping verb avere (to have) and the past participle of the verb fare (to do, to make). If the pronominal verb were to occur in the present tense, then fare would be the conjugated verb.

Eh, basta, croce. Non ce la faccio più.

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't manage any longer.

Caption 17, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

 Play Caption


Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

 Play Caption



Farcela is very handy when you can't succeed in something (as well as when you can!). It might be getting to a party, or it might be running an errand. It might be running a race. 

One way to say you can't make it (to a party, an appointment, etc) is simply:

Non ce la faccio, mi dispiace (I can't make it, I'm sorry).

Non ce la faccio a venire (I can't make it, I'm sorry).


But we can use it in other tenses, too.

T'ho detto che ce l'avrei fatta, va be', nie' [niente].

I told you I would have made it, OK, I didn't.

Caption 24, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

 Play Caption


"Non ce l'ho fatta ad arrivare fino a casa con tutta quella neve".

"I wasn't able to get all the way home with all this snow."

Captions 39-40, Corso di italiano con Daniela Fino a e Finché - Part 1

 Play Caption

Things to keep in mind

Note that there are plenty of different ways to translate farcela depending on the context. As you might have noticed, farcela sometimes has to do with keeping up. There are a whole lot of things this pronominal verb can be used for.
So stay on the lookout for this handy pronominal verb and learn to use it by repeating what you hear and see.
Important: Since the direct object pronoun is a feminine one, always la, the past participle takes the same feminine ending, fatta, not fatto. Remembering this will make it easier to use and recognize it.


Continue Reading

Basics: At the Airport

Let's review some basic things to know how to say or understand when arriving in Italy after a flight from a different country. In most airports, the personnel has to know some English, but if you get into a sticky situation, you might have to deal with some Italian. At the very least, you will want to have a basic idea of what's going on. Some Italians will speak English with such a strong accent that you might not understand them.



Usually, you will have a reservation you've made online. You just hand the agent your passport and he or she will pull up your reservation. 

La prenotazione (the reservation)

Il biglietto elettronico (the electronic ticket)


On time?

Il volo (the flight). Volare is "to fly."

You will want to know if a connecting flight, in Rome, for example, is on time or delayed. 

in orario (on time, on schedule)

in ritardo (late, delayed)

Note that these words need the preposition in before them.

È un peccato che sia arrivato in ritardo all'aeroporto,

It's a shame that you got to the airport late,

Caption 65, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 18

 Play Caption



You will be asked to show your boarding pass at various stages, such as security checks, passport control, and boarding. Sometimes you need to show your boarding pass when having a meal or buying something in the shops.

carta d'imbarco (boarding pass)

imbarco comes from the verb imbarcare, which likely comes from the noun la barca (the boat). The word existed before planes!

Imbarco is also used to mean "boarding."

Stiamo per imbarcare il volo Enitalia settantadue settanta diretto a Kingston.

We're about to board Enitalia flight seventy-two seventy to Kingston.

Caption 46, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 7

 Play Caption


What kind of baggage do you have? "Check-in" is a term used internationally, but an agent may ask you if you want to check your bag or carry it with you in the cabin. 

Registrare (to check your bag)

Imbarcare (to check your bag)

In stiva (in the hold)

In cabina (in the cabin)


bagaglio a mano (carry-on or hand luggage)

pesare (to weigh)

la bilancia (the scale)


What gate?

You will want to find your gate.

uscita (gate) 

uscire means "to exit."

Quale uscita (which gate)?

Tutti i passeggeri sono pregati di recarsi all'uscita B ventuno, uscita B ventuno.

All passengers are requested to make their way to gate B twenty-one. Gate B twenty-one.

Caption 47, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 7

 Play Caption


Don't forget to fasten your seat belt!

cintura di sicurezza (seat belt)

allacciare (to fasten)


Takeoff and landing

Decollare (to take off) 

La colla is glue. The plane unglues itself from the ground!

A che ora decolla esattamente?

What time does it take off, exactly?

Caption 62, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 6

 Play Caption


Atterrato (landed) 

Atterrare is "to land." Touching the ground or the earth. La Terra is the planet Earth!

Ciao! Il tuo aereo è appena atterrato a Roma e in aeroporto, c'è il tuo amico che ti aspetta...

Hi! Your airplane has just landed in Rome and at the airport, there's your friend waiting for you...

Captions 1-2, Marika spiega I veicoli

 Play Caption


Buon viaggio (have a good trip)!

Continue Reading

Using the verb prevedere

Let's look at a word that in one sense is not too difficult to figure out, but which has meanings that are a bit more elusive, too.

We're looking at the past participle of the verb prevedere  (to foresee). 

È la nostra capacità di intuire e di prevedere alcuni eventi del futuro.

It is our ability to intuit and predict some events of the future.

Captions 45-46, Marika spiega I cinque sensi - Part 3

 Play Caption


If we take prevedere apart, we see the prefix pre and the verb vedere (to see). One way to translate prevedere is with "to foresee" or "to forecast." In fact, the weather forecast is often called le previsioni, using the noun form la visione (the vision).


So one thing to remember is that the English word "predict," as we see in the example above, might seem to call for the Italian verb predire. It does exist but prevedere is used more often for this in general speech.


More often than not, the past participle previsto is used to mean "expected," as in the series La linea verticale, where Luigi gets more organs removed in surgery than had been planned on, or expected. 

Anche se credo che t'abbia tolto un po' più roba del previsto.

Even though I believe he took out a bit more stuff than expected.

Caption 9, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 5

 Play Caption


"Presto" e "subito" indicano che l'evento si è svolto, si svolge o si dovrà svolgere in pochissimo tempo, prima del previsto.

“Presto”[soon] and “subito”[immediately] indicate that the event has taken place, is taking place, or will take place very soon, earlier than expected.

Captions 50-52, Marika spiega Gli avverbi - Avverbi di tempo

 Play Caption


Sometimes previsto can stand in for "included." Is breakfast included? Italians often use the word previsto

Il servizio in camera è previsto solo per i primi venticinque anni.

Room service is only included for the first twenty-five years.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 1

 Play Caption


And there is another way previsto is used in general speech. It has more to do with law, and means "dictated by law."

[Direzione Generale Cinema. L'opera è stata realizzata anche grazie ] [all'utilizzo del credito d'imposta italiano previsto dalla legge duecentoventi/duemilasedici]

[General Cinema Direction. The show was made thanks also] [to the use of the Italian tax credit provided for by law two hundred and twenty / two thousand and sixteen]

Captions 70-71, JAMS S1 EP 1 - Part 6

 Play Caption


So we need the context to let us know exactly what previsto means in each case.

Continue Reading

3 expressions with tanto

Tanto is a word used in a host of expressions to mean lots of different things. Sometimes it's by itself, sometimes it's put together with other words to form an expression, and sometimes there's a preposition to make it mean something particular. The combinations are fairly endless. Little by little, you will figure them out on a need-to-know basis.


Here's one that is clear and easy to use and understand:

Ogni tanto penso di aver sbagliato a lasciarti.

Every now and then I think I made a mistake by leaving you.

Caption 30, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14

 Play Caption


Tanto by itself can mean "much" and is used as an adjective, but here, it's one way to say "in any case," or "anyway."

Tanto non mi avrebbe mai presa.

In any case, you would never have taken me on.

Caption 10, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 11

 Play Caption


In the next example, tanto is used with other words to form the expression: Tanto per cambiare


Let's first remember that  the verb cambiare means "to change." This expression is primarily used to be ironic or sarcastic. In this case, Cettina always does the shopping, so why is Libero even asking her about it? She's saying something to the effect of "Yeah, so what else is new?" 


Hai fatto la spesa? -Eh, tanto per cambiare.

Did you do the shopping? -Yeah, for a change.

Captions 3-4, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP 4 Buon Compleanno Maria - Part 2

 Play Caption


As expressions with tanto come up in our videos, we will point them out in lessons. For now, maybe you can experiment with using these three ways to use tanto.

Ogni tanto


Tanto per cambiare 

Continue Reading

Putting quadro, inquadrare, and inquadratura into focus

In this lesson, we will talk about words that stem from the root word, quadro. For more about the word quadro itself, please see this lesson, where we discuss various meanings of the word. For the purposes here, let's think of un quadro as a picture, or a painting. We can imagine it as being framed and hanging on the wall. 

Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo.

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

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

 Play Caption


A frame is often square or rectangular, and in fact, quadro is another word for square. In a camera, we see a square (or frame) around the subject we want in the shot.



L'inquadratura and inquadrare

In concrete terms, l'inquadratura is the act or result of framing something in a camera, telescope, binoculars, or some such appliance. The verb form is inquadrare. You want to make it so your subject is in a certain position within the frame you see in your viewfinder or live-view screen. In other words, in the shot.

Qua si vede un'anfora, un'urna cineraria per l'esattezza, quasi intatta. Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.

Here you can see an amphora, a cinerary urn to be precise, almost intact. Are you able to get it in the shot? -Yes.

Captions 21-22, Anna e Marika Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 4

 Play Caption


In photographic terms, the kind of shot is often described in Italian with the noun piano (plane) or campo (field of view). But for the subject we focus on, or that we want in the frame, we use inquadrare.

Primi piani, totali, campi medi, tutto con il quaranta, semplicemente allontanandosi o avvicinandosi al soggetto o a... alla cosa da inquadrare.

Close ups, long shots, medium shots, all with the forty [mm], simply by going further away or by getting closer to the subject or to the... the thing to capture in the frame.

Captions 5-7, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 11

 Play Caption


Io La guardo sempre alla TV, ma dal vivo sembra più alto. -Be', dipende molto dall'inquadratura. Spesso un'angolazione può dare l'impressione...

I always watch you on TV, but in person you seem taller. -Well, it depends a lot on the framing. Often a camera angle can give an impression...

Captions 53-55, PsicoVip Gli occhiali - Ep 24

 Play Caption


But we can also use the verb inquadrare figuratively. "We get the picture."

Tanto ho capito, io il tipo l'ho inquadrato. Non mi fido.

Anyway I understand, I have that guy figured out. I don't trust him.

Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

 Play Caption


There are various ways of translating inquadrare in the following example, but we don't know exactly what she was thinking, so we opted for "to categorize."

Inquadrava i suoi corteggiatori come amici, quindi li invitava tutti insieme. Si odiavano tra di loro,

She categorized her suitors as friends, so she would invite them all together. They hated one another,

Captions 5-6, Vera e Giuliano Montaldo - Part 4

 Play Caption


Inquadrare can sometimes mean "to focus on"


E noi abbiamo inquadrato lì la porta...

And we focused on the door there...

Caption 18, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 1

 Play Caption


Inquadrare isn't actually focusing, in the technical sense of getting your subject in focus, or sharp, but you are focusing on something important in the shot, so sometimes it's synonymous with focusing. Usually, you want the subject in your frame to be in focus. When we are technically focusing on a part of the shot, we use the focus ring or use autofocus and we "put the image into focus": mettere a fuoco. Once the image is sharp, è a fuoco (it's in focus).


Just as inquadrare can be figurative, so can mettere a fuoco.

Poi, c'ho una nuova idea in testa, così, ma ancora... ancora un pochino confusa, che spero di mettere a fuoco abbastanza presto.

Then, I have a new idea in mind, like, but still... still a bit confused, which I hope to bring into focus fairly soon.

Captions 48-49, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 7

 Play Caption


Fare il punto della situazione, invece, vuol dire mettere a fuoco gli aspetti principali di quella situazione, mentre fare il quadro della situazione, invece, significa descrivere quella situazione in modo molto dettagliato.

To make the point [to sum up] of the situation, instead means to put into focus the principal aspects of that situation, whereas "to make the picture" of a situation, instead, means to describe that situation in a very detailed way.

Captions 61-64, Marika spiega Il verbo fare

 Play Caption


Continue Reading

Niente (nothing, no, not): How to use it

Niente is an indispensable word to have in your basic Italian vocabulary. It's a noun, it's a pronoun, it's an adjective, it's an adverb, and it can even be a simple filler word that doesn't mean anything in particular. This highly useful word can mean various things, but they all have some connection with "no," "nothing," or "not."



Double negative

Let's remember that in Italian, the double negative is totally acceptable. It gets the meaning across! So, as opposed to English, we will often see non and niente in the same sentence expressing something negative. For example:

Pronto? Non sento niente.

Hello? I can't hear anything.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 20

 Play Caption


Of course, when we translate, we try to use correct English, so with the presence of non, we avoid a double negative and transform "nothing" into "anything."


Niente before a noun to mean "no" or "not any"

We use niente to mean "no" or "not any" before a noun (or verb in the infinitive that is functioning as a noun).


Buoni! -E sì, invece di prendertela col buio, accendi la luce, sennò niente biscotti!

Good! -Oh yes, instead of getting upset with the darkness, turn on the light. Otherwise, no cookies!

Captions 61-62, Dixiland Buio mangiabiscotti

 Play Caption


If we see the little preposition di (of) before the word male (bad), then we're saying "nothing wrong," "not anything bad," 

Allora, insomma, erano un po' preoccupati, ma in realtà non ho fatto niente di male.

So, basically, they were a bit worried, but I didn't actually do anything wrong.

Captions 91-92, Che tempo che fa Raffaella Carrà - Part 3

 Play Caption


But when we have niente followed by male (with no preposition), then it means "not bad."  This is an important distinction. Niente male is a wonderful alternative to "great!" We say something similar in English, too. 

Anche a me sono successe un paio di disavventure niente male!

I also had a couple of things happen to me that weren't bad at all [pretty incredible]!

Caption 56, Francesca e Marika Gestualità

 Play Caption


In Italian, we can either say non male (not bad) or niente male (not bad at all), which is a bit stronger towards the positive end of the spectrum.


Nothing at all

One way to say, "nothing at all," is niente di niente.

No, no, io non ho sentito niente, niente di niente.

No, no, I didn't hear anything — nothing at all.

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 8

 Play Caption


Another way to say "nothing at all" is un bel niente.

No, abbiamo un caso di suicidio e stiamo ce'... -Abbiamo, abbiamo. Lei non ha un bel niente, Manara, finché non l'autorizzo io, ha capito?

No, we have a case of suicide and we're lo'... -We have, we have. You have a big nothing Manara, until I authorize it, understand?

Captions 24-25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3

 Play Caption


But to say, "not at all," it's per niente.

E a me non piacciono per niente.

And I don't like them at all.

Caption 43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 15

 Play Caption


Niente as filler 

OK, e niente, avevo portato qualcosa da mangiare,

OK, and nothing more. I had brought something to eat,

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4

 Play Caption


We translated niente here as "nothing more," but actually, it could mean something like "that's all." 


There are undoubtedly other ways to use niente, such as: 

Fa niente (it doesn't matter).

Di niente (you're welcome, don't mention it).

Non ho capito niente (I didn't understand anything).


Keep your eyes and ears open for the word niente as you watch Yabla videos, or any other videos. It's really all over the place!


Continue Reading

Baracca: a colorful way to talk about lots of different things

Baracca sounds somewhat similar to "barrack." Barracks (a plural word often expressed in the singular) refer to a building or group of buildings that house large groups of people, often military personnel. It comes from the 17th-century French word "baraque," which in turn comes from the Catalan "barraca" (hut), of uncertain origin. The Italian word is baracca. It's a humble word about a humble place, but Italians use the word to mean a variety of things and not always humble ones.



It's hard to know what uses came before others, but let's first look at a very common Italian expression that might not make sense to a non-native.


Baracca e burattini

We can imagine, perhaps, street performers who set up a little theater (baracca) with puppets or marionettes (burattini). Then the police come their way and they have to fold it up quickly and skedaddle. Or, perhaps the audience is booing. The puppeteers grab their things and hightail it. So in this case, la baracca is another word for teatro di burattini (marionette theater).


So when you up and leave with your stuff, you can say:

Chiudo baracca e burattini e me ne vado. I'm closing up shop and leaving. 


Note that some people use the verb piantarewhich aside from meaning "to plant," can also mean "to abandon."

Pia, la mia colf, mi ha piantato. Dice che non vuole vivere in campagna.

Pia, my nanny, ditched me. She says that she doesn't want to live in the country.

Caption 21, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 5

 Play Caption


Piantare baracca e burattini. Using the verb piantare really gives the idea of just up and leaving: abandoning ship. 


If we look at some Italian dictionaries they mention that the expression chiudere/piantare baracca e burattini implies a brusque interruption of whatever the status quo is, for example, leaving a job all of a sudden, quitting school, or leaving one's family. On a broader, figurative level, it can mean completely changing the horizons of one's existence. 


Baracca e burattini e si torna a casa, hai capito?

Theater and puppets [leave the whole shebang] and you go home, you get it?

Caption 54, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 6

 Play Caption


The nurse left off the first word of the expression, which would have been either chiudi or pianta. In English, we might even say, "You take your toys and go home..."


La baracca

With this common and beloved expression out of the way, let's look at situations where the word baracca is used on its own. 


In the following example, we're talking about a state-run health center:

Intanto questa baracca ha un responsabile e si dà il caso che sia io.

In any case this shack has a person in charge and it happens to be me.

Caption 33, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

 Play Caption


In this example, la baracca represents a business:

Poi Bianciardi muore, viene ammazzato, e Lei diventa proprietario di tutta la baracca, che dice?

Then Bianciardi dies, he gets killed, and you become owner of the whole shebang, what do you say?

Captions 16-17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 10

 Play Caption


Here, it's a household: 

Come farà Libero con i piccoli? Eh, hai fatto bene a pensarlo, perché non è facile qua, la baracca...

How will Libero manage with the little ones? Uh, you were right to think about that, because it's not easy here, the shack...

Captions 25-27, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP1: Ciao famiglia - Part 8

 Play Caption


Here, it is another business:

Melody non ha la responsabilità di mandare avanti la baracca.

Melody isn't responsible for keeping the shack [things] going.

Caption 31, Sposami EP 4 - Part 6

 Play Caption


The expression mandare avanti la baracca is a very common expression with the word baracca, meaning "to keep the show going." Literally, "to send it along."


Keep your eyes and ears open for more expressions with baracca. Now you know what it means!


Continue Reading

When bello doesn't mean beautiful

One of the first words we learn in Italian is bello. In fact, it's a very handy word, and one Italians use constantly. The translation we see first in just about any dictionary is "beautiful." It starts with B, and is easy to remember.

Un palazzo rinascimentale molto, molto... molto bello.

A Renaissance building that's very, very... very beautiful.

Caption 6, Antonio racconta Praia a Mare

 Play Caption


But let's look at some other translations for the word bello, translations we might not think of right away. Of course, when we are immersing ourselves in the Italian language, we don't really need to think too hard about the translation. We listen and repeat. The more we participate in or listen to Italian conversation, the more we get a feel for when to use bello and when to use molto bello, bellissimo, or some other adjective, such as carino, as we discuss below. 


Bello for both men and women

We can use the adjective bello (with its appropriate endings) to describe either a man or a woman. In English, we might say "a beautiful man," but it's more customary to say "handsome" for a man. In Italian, it's the same word, but the ending has to match the gender and number of the subject described.

un bel uomo (a handsome man)

una bella donna (a beautiful woman)

due belle ragazze (two pretty girls)

due bei ragazzi (two nice-looking boys)

Quei ragazzi sono belli


We use the adjective to describe not only people, but also things, experiences, ideas, etc. 


We recommend watching Daniela's video lessons about bello, buono and bene if you haven't yet!


Superlatives and degrees of "beauty"

In English, "beautiful" is already a kind of superlative relative to "pretty" in many cases. But the absolute superlative of bello is bellissimo. It's like saying "very beautiful" or "gorgeous." Another way to say this is bello bello. We discuss this way of forming an absolute superlative in this lesson


So on a qualitative scale, bello might be closer to "pretty" and bellissimo might be equivalent to "beautiful." But much of the time this adjective is subjective, and the meaning depends on how it's expressed, what it's describing, and who is doing the describing. Let's keep in mind another word that can be used to mean "pretty": carino/carina. But carino can also mean "nice" when talking about a person or an action carried out by a person, so sometimes understanding it needs some context or clarification. 

Ah. -Mh mh. -Molto carino da parte tua.

Ah. -Hm. -Very nice/kind on your part.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 12

 Play Caption


Great - enjoyable - nice - wonderful

Bello can also be used to mean "great," "nice," "enjoyable," "lovely," and more. 

Bello stare tranquilli in piscina tutto il giorno, eh?

Nice staying peacefully in the pool all day long, huh?

Caption 56, Acqua in bocca Mp3 Marino - Ep 2

 Play Caption


Mi trovo in Polonia, per festeggiare quello che sarà il giorno più bello della mia vita.

I'm in Poland to celebrate what will be the most wonderful day of my life.

Captions 5-6, Adriano Matrimonio con Anita - Part 1

 Play Caption


Taking into account the fact that "nice" can mean lots of things, here is another example of when we say bello and we mean "nice."   

Ma, signora! Che bello vederti. È una vita che non ti vedo.

Oh, Ma'am! How nice to see you. I haven't seen you in a lifetime.

Captions 2-3, Dafne Film - Part 10

 Play Caption


The translation could easily have been "wonderful" or "great," since Dafne says she and the woman hadn't seen each other in a long time. The point is that it had nothing to do with beauty in this context.


Bello can reinforce another adjective

Bello can also be used to mean "nice and" or "quite." In other words, it can act as an adverb describing an adjective in order to reinforce the meaning of the adjective.

Il filetto rimarrà bello gustoso e non saprà di affumicato, non saprà di bruciato.

The fillet will remain nice and tasty and won't taste smoked, won't taste burnt.

Caption 37, Cucinare il pesce Filetto di branzino alla griglia

 Play Caption


Bello can also be used as an adjective describing something negative, just as "nice" can in English.

Certo che ci ha fatto prendere un bello spavento, eh!

For sure you gave us a nice scare, huh!

For sure you gave us quite a scare, huh!

Caption 46, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 16

 Play Caption


As you can see, bello is used in lots of ways, and we certainly haven't covered all of them here. One thing is for sure: We can't always translate bello with "beautiful." So keep your eyes and ears open for different nuances of the word bello as you listen to conversations, as you try to speak Italian, and as you watch Yabla videos on the handy player where you can pause, repeat a caption, and look up words, as well as do the exercises to reinforce what you are learning. 


Continue Reading

How to use the verb muovere (to move)

We can detect the cognate "to move" in the verb muovere. In English, "to move" can be either transitive or intransitive.


Transitive verb

We can move a piece of furniture from one place to another, or we can be the ones to move on our own. In Italian, however, muovere is basically transitive, in its natural, non-reflexive form.

Per me la cosa più bella è recitare e muovere i pupi.

For me the best thing is reciting and moving the marionettes.

Caption 56, Dottor Pitrè e le sue storie - Part 11

 Play Caption


Non riesco a muovere la gamba (I can't move my leg)!


Intransitive verb with reflexive si

When it's intransitive, it is primarily used in its reflexive form. 

Il nostro uomo sta per muoversi.

Our man is about to move.

Caption 23, Provaci ancora prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 23

 Play Caption



In addition to merely moving around in space, muoversi  is used a lot to mean "to get going," "to get moving" (also figuratively), or "to get some exercise."

Ti vuoi muovere? -Arrivo!

You want to get moving? -I'm coming!

Caption 25, Provaci ancora prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 11

 Play Caption


Non ti muovere o sparo!

Don't move or I'll shoot!

Caption 28, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 6

 Play Caption


Lui ha detto: "Io da qui non mi muovo."

He said, "I am not budging from here."

Caption 10, Fuori era primavera Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown - Part 14

 Play Caption


Past participle as adjective: mosso

The verb muovere has an irregular conjugation, and the past participle is used quite often as an adjective.


When the sea is rough, it's il mare mosso

Non lo vedo più. -Perché il mare è un po' mosso.

I can't see him anymore. -Because the sea is a bit rough.

Caption 50, PIMPA S3 EP12 L'amica Onda

 Play Caption


When your hair is a bit wavy or not combed neatly, we use the past participle mossi. Let's remember that, in Italian, we use the plural capelli, even though in English, hair is a collective noun. 

Aveva dei capelli mossi  (she/he had wavy hair). 


Expression of urgency or impatience

When you want someone to hurry up, you can say, muoviti  (hurry up, get moving)!


Oh, cammina, muoviti. -Aspetta.

Hey, get going, move it. -Wait up.

Caption 11, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 14

 Play Caption


Noun form la mossa

There is a noun form that comes from the past participle, and that is la mossa (the move). When you make the right move, fai la mossa giusta.


When you need to get a move on, it's darsi una mossa (literally, to give oneself a move).

Allora ragazzi, bisogna che ci diamo una mossa.

So, guys, we need to get a move on.

Caption 20, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio A corto di idee - Part 1

 Play Caption


Datti una mossa, dai (get a move on, come on)!


When you move to a new house

Of course in English, we use the verb "to move" when we go to live in a different apartment or house. You may be wondering how to say that in Italian. Transitive or intransitive? None of the above!


The verb is traslocare, or, much more common, fare trasloco. Think of it as "translocation!" or "translocate," a cross between "transfer" and "relocate."


Continue Reading

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

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



Fare meaning "to act like."

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

Ma non fare lo scemo, dai!

But don't be an idiot, come on!

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

 Play Caption


Fare meaning "to let"

Fare is often used to mean "to let."

Mi può fare avere un piatto di minestra?

Can you let me have a bowl of soup?

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

 Play Caption


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


Fare with adverbs of time

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

Professo', però se andiamo così facciamo notte.

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

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

 Play Caption


Fare sì che

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption


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


Lascia fare

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

Lascia fare, non gli da [dare] retta.

Let them be, don't listen to them.

Caption 36, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 5

 Play Caption


Fare: "to do" or "to be"

Below is a common question asked of young people:

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

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

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

 Play Caption


And here is a conjugated version:

E da grande farò il maestro.

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

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

 Play Caption


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



Continue Reading