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Attention, please!

Mi raccomando (I implore you) is an expression you will most often hear in commands: parent to child, between friends, from boss to employee. It’s mainly used to reinforce a request or a command, and indicates a certain degree of importance or urgency as well as trust.

 

In an episode of Acqua in bocca: Pippo e la pappa, the father says to his kids as he walks out the door:

 

Mi raccomando, qualcuno di voi dia da mangiare ai pesci.

Make sure one of you feeds the fish.

Caption 9, Acqua in bocca - Pippo e la pappa - Ep 5

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When I say mi raccomando I'm calling attention to what I'm about to say, or to what I’ve just said, and I mean, “Listen carefully to what I'm telling you to do, and make sure you do it, because it’s important!” I'm entrusting you with something, a task or an object. I'm counting on you. 

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So how do you fit mi raccomando into a sentence? It’s easy, and quite common in speech, to consider it as a separate phrase, or a tag:

 

Non arrivare in ritardo, mi raccomando.

Don’t come late. I’m counting on you.

Mi raccomando, non rompere quel vaso.

Be careful; don’t break that vase. 

 

Sometimes it’s used just by itself as a warning or an exhortation to pay attention, to be careful. Someone’s youngster is going off to camp, or going out with friends for the first time. After giving him a hug, his parent might say, Mi raccomando... (Take care and don’t get into trouble...) while giving him a meaningful look. 

 

But what does the word raccomandare actually mean? Your first instinct tells you it means “to recommend.” That’s not completely wrong, but it’s not completely right, either. In fact, that definition is probably the one used least often! There are various somewhat related meanings, but the most useful and commonly heard form is the reflexive form used in the first person: mi raccomando (I implore you). Here are some other uses:

 

  • raccomandarsi = to commend or entrust oneself to (to God, for example); to urge someone to do something. To entreat, implore.
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  • lettera raccomandata = registered letter (you are making sure the letter gets to its destination. It’s getting special care).
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  • essere raccomandato = to be helped in one’s career or studies or other situations by knowing someone, by friends or connections.
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  • raccomandare = to recommend or advise, to put in a good word, to urge. A doctor might say, Le raccomando di stare a letto (I strongly advise you to stay in bed). But note that in order to recommend a good restaurant or film, Italians will more likely use the verb consigliare (to advise), as in the following example, where a customer at lakeside vacation spot gets some advice as to how to combat the heat.

 

Se sente caldo, Le consiglio di fare un tuffo.

If you're hot, I recommend diving in.

Caption 11, Una gita - al lago - Part 3

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Learning Tip:

Practice adding mi raccomando to commands, either at the beginning or the end. You will want it to correspond to “I’m counting on you,” “I really mean it,” “Be careful!”  “Pay attention!”

Mi racommando! Don’t forget to visit Yabla Italian today.

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I Say Hello; You Say Goodbye

We’ve all heard the informal greeting ciao ("hi" or "bye") and the more formal buongiorno ("good morning" or "hello"). But when is the right—or wrong—time to use them? And what are the variations and alternatives?  

 

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Buongiorno: when do we say this?

In Il Commissario Manara - Un delitto perfetto, a freshly transferred Commissioner is greeting his new boss. He certainly wouldn’t say ciao. He says buongiorno. If it were after noon (technically after 12 noon, but more likely later) he would say buonasera ("good evening," "good afternoon," or "hello"). 

 

Buongiorno. -Si può sapere, di grazia, che fine ha fatto?

Good morning. -Can one know, may I ask, where you have been?

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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At the market, Agata is addressing the vegetable vendor with respect. It is polite to add signora (ma’am) or signore (sir) when addressing someone you don’t know well, or when you don’t know their name. Agata’s friend just says a general buongiorno ("good morning") to everyone (a little less formal but still perfectly acceptable): 

 

Signora buongiorno. -Buongiorno. -Volevo fare vedere alla mia amica Catena... -Buongiorno, piacere.

Madam, good morning. -Good morning. -I wanted to show my friend Catena... -Good morning, nice to meet you.

Captions 23-24, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

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Ciao and arrivederci

Agata and her friend Catena are still at the market. Catena says buongiorno since she doesn’t know anyone at all. Agata just uses her vendor’s name (Giuseppe) to greet him, and he greets her using the familiar form:

 

Buongiorno. -Giuseppe! -Ciao Agata.

Good morning. -Giuseppe! -Hi Agata.

Caption 8, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

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Another vendor is saying goodbye to her customers: ciao to those to she knows well and arrivederci (literally, "until we see each other again") to those she doesn’t: 

 

Grazie. Arrivederci, ciao.

Thanks. Goodbye, bye.

Captions 44-45, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

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Pronto (telephone only)

One version of "hello" has a very limited application: pronto. It literally means "ready," and it's how Italians answer the phone:

 

Pronto, Sicily Cultural Tour. Buongiorno.

Hello, Sicily Cultural Tour. Good morning.

Caption 1, Pianificare - un viaggio

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One more option: Salve

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Still another way to greet someone is salve (hello). Less formal than buongiorno, it is still polite and you can use it all by itself. It is especially useful when you’re not sure how formal to be or whether it is morning or afternoon/evening, and when you don’t know or remember the name of the person you are addressing.

 

Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.

Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.

Caption 2, Pianificare - un viaggio

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As you go about your day, try imagining how you might greet the people you meet if you were speaking Italian. Keep in mind the hour, and how well you know the person—and, remember, when in doubt, there is always salve

 

To learn more:

A detailed explanation of Forms of Address used in Italian can be found here.

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Essere o non essere? To be or not to be?

Essere (to be), is conjugated as follows:

Io sono (I am)

Tu sei (you are)

Lei è (you are - polite form)

Lui è (he/it is)

Lei è (she/it is)

Noi siamo (we are)

Voi siete (you are plural)

Loro sono (they are)

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Simple enough! But it can be tricky knowing exactly who "is."  That's because of a convention in Italian that's not used in English. Often, the pronoun that's the subject of essere is assumed or implied:  

 

Sono Minivip.

I'm Minivip.

Caption 3, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3

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È pieno di posti liberi.

It's full of free seats.

Caption 55, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3

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Context is very important in understanding these constructions. Consider the answers to the next two questions – they look the same, but their meaning is quite different:

Dove sei? (Where are you?)

Sono a casa. (I am at home.)

Dove sono i bambini? (Where are the children?)

Sono a casa. (They’re at home.)

In fact, if the context of "the children" has already been established, the question can be:

Dove sono? (Where are they?)

Feeling lost? You may be tempted to ask yourself Dove sono? right now. That's because it also means "Where am I?" How do you find your way through these abbreviated, pronoun-less constructions? Pay attention to the context! Sometimes the ambiguity can be a source of humor.  At the end of one of the Psicoivip episodes, Minivip is talking to his doctor about his dream and trying to understand something about himself:

 

E questo cosa significa? Che, che sono... -Sono ottanta euro, prego.

And what does this mean? That, that I'm... -That's eighty euros, please.

Captions 63-64, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3

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The doctor finishes his sentence with a completely different subject in mind, using the seemingly identical form of esseresono. In this case he is speaking in the third person plural to refer to the euros, which though expressed in the singular (euro always remains the same), are plural in this case, since there are eighty of them: 

 

Che, che sono... -Sono ottanta euro, prego.

That, that I'm... -That's eighty euros, please.

Caption 64, Psicovip - Il treno - Ep 3

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Learning Tip:

While watching new videos, make sure to click on any word whose meaning you aren't totally sure of. You'll see the definition appear to the right of the caption, and the word will be added to your own personalized flashcard list for later review. It's a great way to watch yourself improve!

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