Italian Lessons


Noioso: boring or annoying?

A Yabla subscriber has asked us to shed some light on the difference between noioso and annoiato. They are both adjectives and can be used to describe a person.  There are some intricacies involved with these words, which we'll get to, but let's start out with the noun: la noia

Che noia!

What a bore!

Caption 9, Acqua in bocca Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

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What is tricky about this noun (and its related adjectives) is that it can indeed imply boredom," but it can also mean "the bother" or "the nuisance." In fact, in the previous example, we don't know the context, but the meaning could also have been "what a nuisance," or "what a pain." The noun noia rarely refers to a person him- or herself, as "bore" would in English.




The following example is from Tuscany where noia is used a great deal to mean "bother." And it's often used with the verb dare (to give) — dare noia (to be a bother, to be annoying, to be in the way).

Erano alberi che davano noia e basta,

They were trees that were a bother and nothing more,

Caption 30, Gianni si racconta L'olivo e i rovi

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So che noia can mean "what boredom" or "what a pain!" And dare noia can be interpreted as bothering, or being a bother, or being in the way.



We also have the verb annoiare that does remind one of the verb "to annoy." Indeed, that is one of the meanings and comes from the Latin "inodiare" — avere in odio (to have hateful feelings for).

Mi disturba, mi annoia,

You're bothering me, you're annoying me,

Caption 11, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sul Piemonte

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But it is much more common for this verb to be used in its reflexive form annoiarsi. In this case it's always about being bored or possibly fed up.

Io non mi annoio mai quando sto con lui, mai.

I never get bored when I am with him, ever.

Caption 34, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 13

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We've seen that noia isn't just about boredom, so likewise, noioso can mean boring, but not necessarily. Let's look at some examples of the different nuances.

Noioso can describe a person who is not very interesting, a dull person:

Abbiamo solamente avuto un piccolo flirt. Genere depresso e noioso, capisci?

We just had a little fling. Depressed and boring type, you understand?

Captions 9-10, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19

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It can also describe a movie, for example: 

Il film era noioso, purtroppo (the movie was boring, unfortunately).


Here's a perfect example of something that is not boring. It's annoying. And in fact, the N and O sounds can hint at that.

Eh, povero Dixi, il singhiozzo è noioso

Oh, poor Dixi, the hiccups are bothersome

Caption 15, Dixiland Il singhiozzo

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Annoiato can be used as the past participle of annoiare, or more often, as we mentioned above, the past participle of the reflexive verb annoiarsi. In this case, it means "to get or to be bored."

Oppure: "No, non andrò alla festa di Marcello. Ci sono già stato l'anno scorso e mi sono annoiato".

Or: "No, I won't go to Marcello's party. I already went to it last year and I got bored."

Captions 48-49, Corso di italiano con Daniela Particella Ci e Ne - Part 2

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But as often occurs, past participles are also used as adjectives.  With annoiato, this can describe one's state of being.

Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare?

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f) and you want to have a good time and relax?

Captions 3-4, Marika spiega Il cinema

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Just for fun:

Let's try using all these forms in a silly, made-up dialogue.

Lei: Sembri annoiato, è così? (you seem bored. Are you?)


Lui: No, ho solo sonno (no, I'm just sleepy). E inoltre, come posso annoiarmi ad ascoltare i tuoi racconti per l'ennesima volta? (And besides, how can I get bored listening to you tell your stories for the umteenth time?


Lei: Beh, so che posso essere un po' noiosa a volte, scusami (Well, I know I can be a bit boring at times, sorry). Allora smetto di darti noia, e me ne vado (I'll stop bothering you, then, and I'll leave).


Lui: No, aspetta, se vai via mi annoierò davvero (If you leave, I will get bored for real). E tra l'altro, ho dei lavori noiosissimi da fare e non ne ho nessuna voglia (and besides, I have some really tedious jobs to do and I have no desire to do them).


Lei: OK, so che sono noiosa, ma non sarebbe meglio fare quei lavori dato che siano anche urgenti (OK, I know I am being a pain, but wouldn't it be better to do those jobs, given that they're urgent)?


Lui: OK, ora sei noiosa davvero. Mi sono ampiamente annoiato con questa storia (Ok, now you are really being boring/irritating. I'm pretty sick of this thing), quindi forse è meglio se te ne vai... (so maybe it's better if you do leave).


OK, ciao. Non ti voglio annoiare con un'altra delle mie storie noiose. (OK, bye. I don't want to bore you with another of my boring stories).


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When volendo implies the opposite of "wanting to."

The verb volere (to want, to desire) is a very common verb, one we learn early on, so that we can ask for things we need. It has a host of uses and different nuances of meanings you can read about if you look it up on WordReference


In this lesson, we will look at a particular use of this verb that uses the gerund form volendo. We have to be careful, because there is an often-used literal meaning and also a slightly skewed meaning, in which you have to know that there is negative implication included.



Let's start off with the basic, innocent, literal use of the gerund form of volere. We can translate it as "wanting"  or "wanting to." Note we don't usually translate it with the gerund in this context.

Però, volendo, possiamo usare anche un semplice coltello.

However, if we want to, we can also use a simple knife.

Caption 83, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One handy thing about volendo, is that you don't necessarily have to talk about who wants something. It can stay nice and impersonal as in the following example. The key word in understanding volendo (as an expression), in terms of an English translation, is the conjunction if. We don't see it in the Italian, but we need it in the English translation.

Comunque il bagno è bello grande, ah. Visto che bella vasca? Volendo, ci stanno anche due spazzolini. Nel senso che, se dovesse capitare, puoi lasciare qua il tuo da me. Capito?

In any case, the bathroom is nice and big, huh. Did you see what a nice tub? If desired, there's even room for two toothbrushes. Meaning, that if it ever happened, you can leave yours here at my place. Understood?

Captions 79-83, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 6

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Actually, using volendo avoids having to construct a sentence in the subjunctive and conditional moods, although in English, that is just what we would do.

E poi anche volendo, come faccio a trovarlo se non so dov'è?

And besides, even if I wanted to, how could I find him if I don't know where he is?

Caption 95, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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But often, volendo is used to imply that something isn't a great idea, nor a likely one. So in translating it, we would add, "really." If one really wanted to do something. That's the nuance in this example from Provaci ancora Prof!.


Renzo bought an artist's multiple copy of a sculpture at a flea market. He's trying to explain what a multiple is to his daughter. 

Però un ricco collezionista potrebbe anche comprarseli tutti i multipli, se vuole. Potrebbe, sì. Volendo, potrebbe.

But a rich collector could also buy all the multiples if he wanted to. He could, yes. If he really wanted to, he could.

Captions 45-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 14

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It can also be in response to something someone asks you to do, but in fact, you do not want to do, but you don't want to flat out say no, either. It can mean, "If I wanted to, I could, but I don't really want to." "If you absolutely need me to do it, I will, but I don't really want to." So hidden in the verb "wanting to" is "not wanting to."


We don't have examples of this last nuance from Yabla videos (yet) ... but here is an example of a possible dialogue.

Puoi andare alla riunione al posto mio (Can you go to the meeting in my place)?
Beh sì, volendo si può anche fare... [ma non credo sia una buona idea] (I could... [but I don't think it's a good idea]).



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In gita, in giro: What's the difference?

There are different ways to travel. It can be for pleasure or work, it can be for multiple days, weeks, or months, or it can be a day trip or an overnight, an excursion.


So, let's look at an interesting alternative to the true cognate, escursione (that works just fine, too):

la gita, una gita, andare in gita.



So the noun is la gita. But where does it come from? It originally comes from the verb ire (to go). People don't use this verb much at all, in fact we could say they never use it in converstion, as it is literary (we mostly use andare), but those of you who know Latin, Spanish, or other Romance languages, will most likely recognize it. 


A dialectical version of ire has a g sound in front of it, turning it into gire. We can trace it to the feminine past participle: andataitagita. You don't need to know this, but some of us enjoy knowing where words come from.


La gita in practical terms


In practical terms, una gita implies traveling somewhere, not necessarily sleeping over, but maybe. 

For example, kids in school might go on una gita scolastica (a class trip).

E perché? -Partono, per la gita scolastica! Fuori di casa due giorni da soli. -Mamma, siamo in trentadue! E quattro insegnanti.

And, why? -They're leaving on a school trip! Away from home for two days, all alone. -Mom, there are thirty-two of us! And four teachers.

Captions 5-8, Acqua in bocca Allarme gita - Ep 9

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Erica works at the tourist office of Palaia in Tuscany. She's talking about her job.

E quindi è un po' il punto di arrivo, eh, di tutte quelle persone che vengono qua in vacanza, o anche semplicemente per fare u', una gita o una, una breve sosta qui, in questo territorio, che è la Valdera.

And so it's kind of the point of arrival uh, for all those people who come here on vacation, or even just to make a, a day trip, or a quick stop here, in this area, which is the Valdera.

Captions 14-17, Professioni e mestieri Erica - archeologa - Part 2

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Check out this Yabla mini-series about a girl who goes on an outing — Una gita al lago (a day trip to the lake).


The verb gire sounds kind of like the verb girare, which means "to go around." Girare and gire don't have the same root, but they are related through one definition of girare:

andare qua e là, andare in giro, vagare, con o senza uno scopo determinato
(to go here and there, to go about, with or without a specific purpose).


Firenze è una città piccola, si può girare benissimo a piedi.

Florence is a small city, you can go around very easily on foot.

Caption 9, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 1

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The noun form is il giro. Un giro can be a bike ride, a walk, a ride in a car... anything really, even a swing, or one of the machines at a gym. 

Continuando il mio giro in bicicletta sulle mura di Lucca, mi sono fermata davanti a questo bellissimo palazzo.

Continuing my bike ride around the Lucca walls, I stopped in front of this very beautiful villa.

Captions 1-2, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 4

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Fare un giro can mean "to take a turn."

Let's say I am on the treadmill at the gym, and there is someone waiting. I can ask, ci vuoi fare un giro (do you want to take a turn on it, do you want to have a go)?


Italians love diminutives, so we also have un giretto, or un girettino (or some say una girata or girattina) more like a brief stroll, synonymous with passeggiata, or passeggiatina


E nonna, ho fatto un bel giretto nel bosco.

Well Grandma, I had a nice walk around the woods.

Caption 5, Anna e Marika in Cappuccetto Rosso e la nonnina

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Gramatically speaking...

Note that we use the verb fare (to make, to do) with the noun una gita, —fare una gita or the noun un giro —fare un giro. Or we use the verb andare (to go) and the preposition in (on a) before gita or giro. Andare in gita, andare in giro. Tuscans often say andare a giro. It means the same thing.

Sono sicura che passeremo una bellissima giornata in giro per la città.

I'm sure we'll have a great day going around the city.

Caption 6, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 1

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There is plenty more to say about in giro, but that will be for another lesson. Meanwhile, let's try to assimilate the meanings we have talked about here by looking at some questions and some possible answers. Feel free to write to us with your attempts. Mistakes are welcome. That's how we learn.


Practice and examples

E tu? Che fai oggi? Vai in gita? Fai un giro? Fai una passeggiata? Vai in giro?
And you? What are you doing today? Are you going on an excursion? Are you going to go out and about? Are you going to take a walk? Are you going to cruise around the area?


Here are some possible answers:

Facciamo una gita turistica. Viviamo a Pisa, e andremo a visitare Siena. 
We're going on a day trip. We live in Pisa and we're going to go and see Siena.


Andiamo in gita, che bello!
We're going on an outing, how great!


Facciamo il giro dell'isolotto.
We're going to walk around the block.


Facciamo un giro.
Let's go and have a look around.


Facciamo un giro in bici.
We're going on a bike ride.


Ho fatto una passeggiata vicino a casa.
I took a walk close to home.


Siamo andati in giro per la toscana.
We went for a ride around Tuscany.


Feel free to send us some of your own examples. If they work, we'll add them to this list. write to us at


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Making do with accontentarsi

A single verb that expresses the idea of "making do" is accontentarsi (to be content with something/to make oneself be content). The adjective it stems from is contento (happy, content). The non-reflexive verb accontentare can be translated as "to satisfy." 

Me lo avete chiesto voi, eh, quindi io vi accontento.

You asked me for it, huh, so I will satisfy you.

Caption 6, Marika spiega I verbi cavare e togliere

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You are giving someone what they want. You are making them happy.


Making do

The reflexive verb accontentarsi implies that something may not be up to our highest expectations or greatest desires, but it will do, because we decide to accept it. We settle for it. 


Quando ho molto tempo, preferisco mangiare frutta, latte e cereali; quando ho poco tempo, mi accontento del classico caffè e del cornetto o brioche.

When I have lots of time, I prefer to eat fruit, milk and cereal; when I have little time, I make do with a classic espresso and croissant or brioche.

Captions 20-23, Adriano Giornata

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Adding some color

The verb accontentarsi has a lot of information in it, but Italians have an expression that enhances it even further. Italy, being a Roman Catholic country historically, is not lacking in monasteries and convents. While in English, "convent" tends to be understood as a convent of nuns, in Italian, un convento implies a religious community and may be either di suore (of nuns  = convent) or di frati (of monks = monastery). Many conventi around Italy offer hospitality to travelers, but the food that is served is the humble and simple fare the monks or nuns are served. And of course, they don't complain about it. 


So let's say someone asks you to stay for dinner on the spur of the moment and doesn't have anything special to offer. 

Se ti accontenti di quel che passa il convento, sei il benvenuto (if you make do with what the convent is serving [what we have on hand], you are welcome to stay for dinner).


But the expression is used outside of the realm of food, too. In this clip, we're talking about what kind of work one can get.

Guardi che Gigi c'ha pure due lauree. -E fa il deejay? -E questo passa il convento.

Look, Gigi even has two degrees. -And he is deejaying? -Well, that's what the convent offers [beggars can't be choosers].

Captions 13-15, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7

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In an episode of Volare, the expression is used rather vulgarly, referring to a woman. But now, when you watch the video, you'll understand what's behind this expression.

Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] accontentato di quel che passava il convento.

I made do with what the convent was serving.

Caption 40, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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A couple of additional examples:


-I'm talking to my husband about lunch:

Vuoi anche un secondo o ti accontenti di un piatto di pasta e un'insalata? (do you want a second course or are you happy with pasta and salad)?


-My boss asks me:

Mi puoi fare una bozza per domani (can you give me a rough draft by tomorrow)?

I answer:

Non so se ce la faccio, ma farò del mio meglio per accontentarti (I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'll do my best to satisfy you).

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Movie Talk in Italian

Many of us like to watch movies. Let's have a quick look at some of the terms that Italians use when they talk about the movies.


A movie is usually called un film. That's an easy one, because in English we can say "film," as well. 

Il Cinema

But when we talk about "the movies" in general, it's il cinema. That's another word we understand, but we have to think of using. Forget about the word "movie!"



And then, when we want to go to the movies, andiamo al cinema (we go to the movies/let's go to the movies).

Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare? Bene, puoi andare al cinema.

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f) and you want to have a good time and relax? Good. You can go to the movies.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega Il cinema

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Siamo andati al cinema e abbiamo visto un bel film. Adoro il cinema 

(We went to the movies and we saw a great movie. I love the movies)!


Actors and acting

When we talk about the star of the movie, if it's a guy, it's il protagonista and if it is a female, it's la protagonista. It always ends in a and is basically a feminine noun! It's also used to mean "the main character."

Perché Marcello, il protagonista di questo film, è uno come noi.

Because Marcello, the main character of this film, is someone like us.

Caption 21, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 6

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Just like in English, we have l'attore e l'attrice (the actor and the actress).

When they are acting, however, we use the verb recitare. They recite their lines.

È come recitare una parte in fondo, no?

It's like acting a part, deep down, right?

Caption 16, Sposami EP 2 - Part 9

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E... come attore insisti, hai recitato benissimo. -Grazie.

And... and you have to keep at it as an actorYou acted very well. -Thank you.

Captions 5-6, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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When we talk about movie stars, Italians often use the English word, la star (the star).  Otherwise, it's la stella (the star).

Grazie. -Alla nuova stella del musical.

Thanks. -To the new star of musicals.

Caption 22, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 14

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Il teatro or il cinema?

Nowadays, there are often various screening rooms in a multi-plex movie theater. Each of these is called una sala. We can also call a movie theater una sala cinematografica, when we are referring to a room within a building, or a building devoted to screening moviesSo when you buy your ticket they will tell you sala 4 or sala 8. Sala is akin to "hall" or "large room." Il teatro (the theater) refers to theaters (for plays) and opera houses. It also refers to the activity or study of acting or drama. Un corso di teatro is a drama course. If you have studied acting, you can say:


Ho studiato teatro 

Ho studiato recitazione teatrale


Yabla Italian has various movies you can watch in Italian with or without subtitles (try only Italian, only English, none, or both!). Take advantage of moments when going to the movies might not be a great option. It might just the right time to broaden your horizons with a nice movie in Italian. Here are some suggestions:

Il Tempesta This movie takes place in il Veneto, the region Venice is in. But the story takes place in the nearby city of Treviso. It involves a photographer, an adopted Belarus orphan, and a girl who works at the Tognana porcelain factory.  

Sei mai stata sulla luna? (have you ever been to the moon?  The film is the story of Guia, a 30-year-old woman who works for a prestigious international fashion magazine, travels around by private jet and lives between Milan and Paris. She has everything, or at least she thinks she does until she finds herself in a remote village in Puglia where she inherited a large family farm.

L'oro di Scampia (The Gold of Scampia) is based on a true story, adapted from Gianni Maddaloni's book, La mia vita sportiva (My Life in Sports). Scampia is a suburb made up of massive public housing blocks north of Naples. Camorra criminals rule the area and make life very difficult for Enzo Capuano, a hospital worker, who runs a Judo school in his spare time. 

Keep in mind that each segment of a movie comes with a vocabulary review, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises, and the patented dictation exercise, Scribe, so you can learn while enjoying the movie. But you can also just soak it in, and watch the entire movie, which is useful in itself. Getting used to hearing how real people (and good actors) speak — paying attention to the rhythm, flow, and lilt of the language gives you what learning individual words and constructed sentences cannot. Sometimes it's all about how Italian connect the words to each other fluidly.




Of course, there are also plenty of movies on the various streaming platforms available for the watching. They are often available in lingua originale con sottotitoli. Maybe you can watch a movie in Italian that you have already seen dubbed into English or some other language. Fun!

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Forza, per forza, and a forza di

In this lesson, we look at 3 expressions with the noun la forza, which basically means "force" (easy cognate) or "strength." The meaning might help us grasp the expressions somewhat, but let's take the opportunity to shine a light on each one. They are all very common, and good to have in your repertoire of idioms.

1) Forza!



We have seen this a million times in Yabla videos. It usually has an exclamation point following it. We can best translate it with "come on." It's funny because there are several Italian expressions that are translated the same way, such as Dai! Su! Vai! Coraggio! 

Dove stiamo andando? -Forza! A lavoro, forza!

Where are we going? -Come on! To work, come on!

Captions 35-36, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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But it can also just be another way to say "come on" or "go on."  Another way to say dai, as Italians often do at the end of a sentence. It's a bit stronger, but the inflection matters a lot, too.

Vabbè entra. Chiudi la porta, forza.

All right, come in. Shut the door, go on.

Caption 3, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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2) Per forza

This is a kind of adverbial phrase. We can get the sense of what it means: literally "through force." We use it to mean "necessarily," "inevitably," "begrudgingly" — in other words, "there's no choice." "That's the way it has to be." It might even mean "obviously," "clearly," in certain cases.

Let's look at some examples in context.

Allora, noi le tasse di successione, quelle dobbiamo pagarle per forza.

So, the inheritance taxes, those we are obliged to pay.

Caption 25, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 2

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C'è che tua madre vuole per forza trasformare il nostro matrimonio in un evento.

It's that your mother wants, at all costs, to transform our wedding into an event.

Caption 31, Sposami EP 1 - Part 19

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Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso. -Ma ti sei fatta visitare? -Per forza!

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room. -Did you get examined? -I had no choice!

Captions 1-3, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 15

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Tu non mi hai visto a me! Io so' [sono] sparito. Tu mi vedi? No, per forza, so' [sono] sparito.

You haven't seen me! I've disappeared. Do you see me? No, of course not. I've disappeared.

Captions 36-37, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 10

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Two further idiomatic sayings come to mind using this adverbial phrase:

Per amore o per forza (one way or another, one way or the other)

O per volere o per forza (by hook or by crook)


3) A forza di...

The image we can glean from this expression is of a hammer that keeps hammering. Or a lie someone keeps repeating so many times that in the end you believe it. 

In the first example below, the police are looking for a DVD that could be really anywhere... a needle in a haystack. But they keep looking for it. They're saying they'll go into retirement before they find the DVD, it's taking so long.

Mi sa che ci [sic: ce ne] andiamo in pensione a forza di cercare 'sto [questo] DVD. E speriamo che ci andiamo in pensione, prima che ci sbranano i topi.

I think that we'll go into retirement from all the looking for this DVD. And let's hope that we retire at all, before the mice chew us up.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 14

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In this example, we have another modo di dire: mettersi la mano sulla coscienza (to examine one's conscience).  

Non lo so, mettiti una mano sulla coscienza. -Senti, a forza di mettermi la mano sulla coscienza, quella è morta soffocata.

I don't know. Put a hand on your conscience [examine your conscience]. -Listen, by putting my hand on my conscience so much, it died from suffocation.

Captions 49-51, Sposami EP 2 - Part 25

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Although both of these examples are humorously expressed comments, a forza di is also used in serious matters. 

Mi fanno male le gambe a forza di stare seduto (by sitting so much, my legs hurt).


Structurally, we note that after a forza di comes a verb in the infinitive. In the English translation, we often find a gerund.


Just for fun:

Forza! Andiamo via. Dobbiamo per forza arrivare al supermercato prima della chiusura perché è finito il caffè. -Per forza è finito il caffè. Tu ne bevi a litri. A forza di bere tutti questi caffè non dormirai mai più.

Come on, let's leave. We have to absolutely get to the supermarket before closing time because we're out of coffee. Of course we're out of coffee. You drink gallons of it. By drinking so much you will never sleep again.


A forza di studiare l'italiano e guardare dei video su Yabla (e facendo gli esercizi, bene inteso), imparerai la lingua!

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Meritare (to deserve, to merit)

Let's look at a word used in a recent episode of Volare that has both a verb and a noun form. It's an easy cognate, but you might not think of it, since "to deserve" is the verb we would use in English, and alas, it has no cognate in Italian.


So meritare is a good verb to know. The noun form is il merito. In English, we would usually say "Thanks to [someone or something]."  Or we might say, "The credit is all yours/his/hers/theirs." So, you'll probably understand these words when you see them, especially when they are in a clear context, but you might not add them to your vocabulary if you are thinking in English. They are worth adopting, though. "Being worth it" is another way to translate meritare!


È merito della signora se sono qui, eh.

It's thanks to the lady if I am here, huh.

-No, Lei è qui perché se lo merita,

-No. You are here because you deserve to be.

non deve ringraziare nessuno.

You don't have to thank anyone.

Captions 22-24, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno - Ep. 1

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You might have noticed that the speaker uses the reflexive form of meritare, meritarsi. Both ways are OK, but when it's reflexive it feels a bit more personal (and it's a bit more complicated to use).

Il successo l'hai meritato.

Il succeso te lo sei meritato.


Let's look at some examples from Yabla videos:


Se hai una pessima idea di me, me lo merito.

If you have a bad impression of me, I deserve it.

Caption 72, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde

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Se questa operazione è riuscita, il merito è tuo. Brava, Sardi.

If this operation succeeded, it's thanks to you. Very good, Sardi.

Caption 26, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma

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Eh, va be', però bisogna avvertirlo, perché il critico ha dato tutto il merito a te.

Well, all right, but you should let him know because the critic gave you all the credit.

Caption 24, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

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Pensavo di meritare di più dalla vita.

I thought I deserved more from life.

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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Poi sicuramente Pisa merita una visita

Then, of course, Pisa is worth a visit

con la sua torre pendente che non casca mai.

with its leaning tower that never falls.

Captions 75-76, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Toscana

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As you can see in the final example, to deserve something and be worth something are very close. Sometimes they are interchangeable. They are in Italian too, so check out our lesson about valere (to be worth). 

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Verb-Object Agreement in the Passato Prossimo

In most languages, there are situations in which two different sets of rules can apply. Sometimes it's because there are simply two valid ways of saying something. For instance, in English we can say:

There is none.

There isn't any.

They both mean the same thing and they are both correct. How to choose?



Modal verb + infinitive + object pronoun(s)


In Italian, a case in point is when we have a modal verb, a verb in the infinitive, and a pronoun. I can attach the pronoun to the verb or I can separate it and change the word order. It's a matter of personal choice.

Vado a cercarlo.

Lo vado a cercare.

Non posso farlo.

No lo posso fare.


Evolution in speech over time

Some rules change over time because the rule gets broken so many times that it becomes acceptable to break it. One example of this in English is using "who" instead of "whom" when it's an object. In some cases we still use it, and it is absolutely correct, but in general conversation, people might look at you strangely or think you are a snob. We still use it when we have a preposition before it, as in business letters, for instance: "To whom it may concern."

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora prof!, there's another use that has become less common in everyday speech, but is nevertheless correct. This brand of agreement is what we call facoltativo (optional). The conversation between Renzo and Camilla seems like the perfect opportunity to shine a light on it.


Lo sai? -Lo so, ti ho vista.

You know? -I know. I saw you.

-Mi hai vista? -Sì, ti ho vista.

-You saw me? -Yes, I saw you.

Ero venuto lì per cercarti e ti ho vista.

I went there to look for you, and I saw you.

Captions 5-7, Provaci ancora prof! - S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco

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We're talking about the transitive verb vedere, which takes the auxiliary verb avere. The sentences are in the passato prossimo, thus we use the past participle of vedere. If we look at a conjugation chart, we will see that visto is the past participle, not vista! Vista is nowhere to be seen.

If you click on "play caption," you will hear that Renzo (the husband) is talking to his wife Camilla and then she answers. So what's the story with vista?

There's a rule that if the verb is in the passato prossimo, the past participle can agree in gender and number with the direct object pronoun. Read more about this (in Italian). 

So Renzo says Ti ho vista. Camilla is the direct object of vedere. If the roles were reversed, Camilla would say: T'ho visto because the pronoun would correspond to a male, her husband. This doesn't apply only to people. The pronoun might refer to a thing, but all nouns have gender in Italian.


A few more examples:

Ho visto le ragazze – Le ho viste = I have seen the girls – I have seen them
Ho sentito gli spari – Li ho sentiti = I have heard the shots – I have heard them


We should mention that Camilla is a professoressa of Italian and often plays sophisticated word games with her husband, so it makes sense for them to use correct Italian, and in fact, they sometimes get competitive about it. But normal people in everyday life often do not always make this choice and it's optional, so don't worry about it too much, but you might hear it. Still, it's nice to recognize it, right? And when you use it, you will feel proud and in the know.

In the same conversation, Renzo talks about seeing Camilla with Gaetano, the chief of police.


Non negare, vi ho visti.

Don't deny it, I saw you.

Caption 11, Provaci ancora prof! - S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco

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He could have said Vi ho visto, just as he could have said T'ho visto in the previous example.

As you watch Yabla videos, you will undoubtedly come across more examples of this construction. Feel free to point them out in the comments section.  

Meanwhile, check out these examples from a Yabla original video: 

Devo dire la verità, che io adoro la panzanella

I have to tell you the truth. I love panzanella

e sono una toscana DOC [di origine controllata],

and I'm a DOC [true] Tuscan,

ma non l'ho mai fatta!

but I have never made it.

Captions 12-14, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanella

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And another example, with another verb, from the same cooking video with Arianna:


L'ho sempre mangiata molto volentieri,

I have always really enjoyed eating it [I have always eaten it willingly]...

Caption 15, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanella

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Is It Worth It?: Valere

When you're playing a game, you have to follow the rules. When you don't, someone might say:

Non vale (it doesn't count).


This comes from the verb valere (to have value, to be worth, to be valid).


Devi chiudere gli occhi però,

You have to close your eyes, though,

se no non vale. Vai.

otherwise it doesn't count. Go.

Captions 10-11, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 20

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So in this case, the verb valere is used to mean something isn't valid, it doesn't count.


But we also use it when we talk about something being worth it. In English, we can say something is worth the trouble or simply "worth it." In Italian, we need to say the whole phrase:

Vale la pena (it's worth the trouble, it's worth it).


Insomma, la vita è una cosa meravigliosa

So, life is a marvelous thing

e vale la pena viverla.

and it is well worth living.

Captions 41-42, Amiche - Filosofie

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In the previous example, we have a subject: life. "Life is worth living." But we can also just say, "It's worth it." In this case, we use a sort of prop word, the particle ne.

We use ne when we comment on something being worth it or not. We know what we're talking about, but we don't need to repeat it. So we use ne.


Here's the negative version:

[Qualcosa] non vale la pena ([something] is not worth it).

Non ne vale la pena (it's not worth it).


We can say the same exact thing as a question: Here too, we'll use the particle ne if we don't include the subject (the thing that isn't worth it).

Vale la pena (is [something] worth it/worth the trouble)?

Ne vale la pena (is it worth it)?


The third way we use valere is to say something is applicable.


Questa regola vale soltanto per il singolare,

This rule applies only to the singular,

quando io parlo della mia famiglia in singolare.

when I talk about my family in the singular.

Captions 14-15, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi

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Vale la pena studiare l'italiano? Speriamo di sì!

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"Your Turn" Using the Verb Toccare

Although we can sometimes use the noun il turno to mean "the turn," as in, "Wait your turn" (aspetta il tuo turno), there's another (colloquial) expression we use in Italian, more often than not. We use the verb toccare (to touch). In the following clip, Dino and Melody are making wishes with blueberries:


Adesso tocca a te.

Now it's your turn.

Caption 9, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 20

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Tocca a te (it's your turn).
Tocca a me (it's my turn). 


The question you might get in a shop where various people are waiting their turns:

A chi tocca (whose turn is it)?

The answer can be tocca a me, tocca alla signora, tocca a lei, tocca a loro...


Twisting this expression a bit turns it into something you have to do.

Mi tocca (I have to do it).
Ti tocca (you have to do it).


Ho faticato tanto per averla,

I worked so hard to get it,

e adesso mi tocca venderla.

and now I have to sell it.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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The important thing to remember in using this expression is that the person is the indirect object. The preposition of choice is a (to, at). The subject is a general "it," implied, or absent, actually.

In some places, you take a number and then wait your turn, at the supermarket, for example, at the bread counter, or the counter where you get prosciutto. Otherwise, you can ask, Chi è l'ultimo (who's the last [in line])? 

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Disgrazia: A fickle friend

Let's look at a false friend. Not always false, but frequently. 

Una disgrazia

When something bad happens, like an accident, or a natural disaster, one word Italians commonly use is una disgraziaÈ successa una disgrazia (something bad happened/there's been an accident).


Domani, me [mi] capiterà 'na [una] disgrazia.

Tomorrow, some calamity will happen to me.

-Che disgrazia?

What calamity?

-Qualcosa de [di] male.

-Something bad.

Perché oggi sto troppo bene, canterino.

Because, today, I feel too good, songbird.

Captions 3-6, Fratelli Taviani - La passione e l'utopia

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The woman says it: something bad. In the following example, a suspect is describing someone dying as a terrible accident, not a murder.


È caduto e ha battuto la testa, ma non volevo!

He fell and hit his head but I didn't want that.

È stata, è stata 'na [una] disgrazia!

It was, it was a terrible accident.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Here, again, a terrible tragedy:


Era sull'autobus dove è successa la disgrazia.

She was on the bus where the tragedy occurred.

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

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The cognate is, of course, "a disgrace," but if we look up disgrace, we see other words that are used more commonly, such as una vergogna.


Tu sei la vergogna della nostra famiglia.

You are the disgrace of our family.


Shame on you!

Captions 46-47, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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So, disgrazia often refers to a natural disaster or someone dying suddenly. It's just something to keep in mind (tenere a mente or tenere presente).  Because it might happen that when you are traveling in Italy, you'll get some bad news. It's important to know that disgrazia might refer to a tragedy, an accident, a misfortune. Not necessarily will the speaker be talking about a disgrace.

A related term: disgraziato

As we have mentioned in the past, Italian and English don't always correspond regarding parts of speech.


Italians love to call each other names (just like lots of folks). One way to say that someone did something you totally do not approve of is to call them a disgraziato (a disgraceful fellow). We have to be a bit careful because it can either mean someone who has fallen on misfortune, but it can also mean someone who ought to be ashamed of himself, so context is key.

Don't take our word for it.  Let's look at some examples:


Disgraziato, ti ho scoperto con le mani dentro al sacco!

You bastard, I've discovered you with your hands in the bag!

Caption 50, Un medico in famiglia S1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Io non sono come quei disgraziati che parte [sic: partono] per fame, ma'.

I'm not like those poor guys who leave because they're hungry, Ma.

Io vado a Roma per fare lu [pugliese: il] cinema, ma',

I'm going to Rome to make movies, Ma,

sia chiaro, eh, cinema.

to be clear, uh, the movies.

Captions 41-43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno

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Keep in mind that when you want to call someone a disgraziato, you need to distinguish between masculine and feminine and singular and plural.

Disgraziato can be used as an adjective or as a noun. We could say that as an adjective it is more likely referring to misfortune:


Tu cosa diresti? -Be'...

What would you say? -Well...

direi... povera disgraziata la signora! -Eh. -Eheh!

I would say... poor unlucky lady! -Uh-huh. -Uh-huh!

Captions 49-50, Un medico in famiglia S1 - EP1 - Casa nuova

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As a noun (especially if well-articulated) it might very well be talking about a "bad" person:


Disgraziato! Delinquente! Assassino!

Scoundrel! Delinquent! Murderer!

Caption 58, Psicovip - Super Minivip - Ep 17

 Play Caption


Or it can be a combination.


Speriamo la prossima stazione di questo disgraziato sia qui vicino.

Let's hope the poor bastard's next stop is near here.

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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La luce: not only light!

Let's talk about the noun la luce (the light). Basically the noun is used much as it is in English (and feel free to do a search of luce in Yabla videos), but there is a special meaning of this noun, especially in colloquial speech, that you need to know about. Simply put, it means "electricity." It's used especially in reference to the electric bill or electrical current in general.  


Perhaps the first use of electricity in Italian households was for lightbulbs. Likely, households were still heating with la cucina economica (a wood stove used both for heating and cooking), but the advent of the lightbulb must have been a huge change. So "light" is what "electricity" might have meant for Italian households at the beginning. In any case, the term luce stuck and is still in common usage.


Ci stanno le bollette da pagare, luce, gas!

There are the utility bills to pay: electricity, gas!

Io non teng 'na lira.

I don't have a dime.


I'm sorry.

Captions 10-12, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 6

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Ci tagliano la luce?

They cut off our electricity?

E noi ci alleniamo a lume di candela.

So we'll train by candlelight.

Captions 27-28, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 7

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La corrente

One other way Italians often refer to electricity is with the noun la corrente (the electrical current).


Oh, a proposito di luce, vedi che qua corrente [elettrica] non ce ne sta, eh.

Oh, speaking of light, you see that here there's no electricity, huh.

Caption 25, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 9

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"Powerstrip" in Italian?

Of course, in English, we often use the word "power" to mean "electricity."  In fact, we have an object called a powerstrip. We can plug in multiple plugs, and the powerstrip gets plugged into the outlet. So how do we say that in Italian?

You'll never guess. It's called una ciabatta. Una ciabatta is a house slipper!  It's also the name of a kind of bread! From Wikipedia:

Ciabatta is an Italian white bread made from wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil, created in 1982 by a baker in Adria, province of Rovigo, Veneto, Italy, in response to the popularity of French baguettes.


If you can't think of the word ciabatta when buying a powerstrip, you can also use the compound noun una presa multipla (a multiple socket).

So if we want to talk about the male and female parts of an electrical connection, we have la spina (the plug —the male part) and la presa (the socket — the feminine part).

There's always more to learn. It's kind of fun to learn about the (sometimes colorful) words Italians use to talk about mundane things like electricity and plugs.

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Missing Someone in Italian

There are some verbs that are hard to use in Italian because they work differently from in English in terms of subjects and objects (who does what to whom?).


We have talked about piacere (to like) where things are really turned around. See the lesson: I like it - Mi piace. Another verb that can cause a whole lot of confusion in a similar way is mancare. There is already a lesson about this verb, a verb that is used in various ways. But right now, let's look at the verb when we use it to say something like "I miss you," or "Do you miss me?" It is very tricky because it often involves pronouns, and we all know that distinguishing between subject and object pronouns isn't always so easy.


In an episode of La Ladra, Lorenzo and Dante are talking about the fact that Dante misses Eva and Eva misses Dante.


Nel senso che anche [a] te manca mia madre?

Because you miss my mother, as well?

Mi sa che manchi anche a lei, eh.

I think she misses you, too, huh.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra - Ep.12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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Let's put things in order here.

In English "to miss" is a transitive verb, and the definition we are talking about here is not even the first one. In WordReference, it is number 6!

to regret the absence or loss of:
[~ + object] I miss you all dreadfully.
[~ + verb-ing] He missed watching the African sunsets.

In Italian, we have to think of things a bit differently. The definition of mancare is "to be lacking in" or "to be missing." So we're close.

But in Italian, the verb mancare has to agree with the person who is being missed. Weird, right?

So if I am feeling your absence, I miss you. You are missing from my life.

Expressed in Italian,

Sento la tua mancanza. Mi manchi. (I feel your absence. You are missing from my life right now!)


Let's look at some practical examples. Keep in mind that in this context, mancare is intransitive, so we need a preposition before the person who is feeling the absence. When we use the name of a person, we need to add the preposition a (to), but the tricky thing is that when we're using pronouns, the preposition is often included in the indirect pronoun. Mi = a me (to me), Ti = a te (to you).


Giovanni sente molto la mancanza di Anna. Lei sta studiando all'estero (Giovanni feels the absence of Anna. She is studying abroad). (She is missing from his life.)

A Giovanni manca Anna. Gli manca (Giovanni misses Anna. He misses her [he feels her absence]).

Gli stands for a lui (to him).


Non ti vedo da una vita. Mi manchi. (I haven't seen you in a long time. I miss you). (You are missing from my life)


Mi manca andare in ufficio tutti it giorni (I miss going to the office every day). (It's missing from my life.)


Now here, in the next example, who is being missed is in the plural: Parents. So the verb mancare is in the plural, too.


I miei genitori stanno a Roma. Io sto a Bologna. Mi mancano i miei genitori (My parents live in Rome. I live in Bologna. I miss my parents). (They are missing from my life.)


Ti mancano i tuoi genitori? So che stanno a New York (Do you miss your parents? I know they live in New York). (Are they missng from your life?)


You have to turn your mind around a bit to nail this, but with time and practice, you'll get it. And it's not something you want to get wrong. 


Here are some Yabla video examples of people using mancare when they miss someone or something. 


In this example, a woman is talking to her ex-husband about her new partner. She still misses her ex-husband and is telling him so.


A volte con Carlo è difficile,

Sometimes, Carlo is difficult,

ma non riesco a lasciarlo.

but I can't manage to leave him.

Anche se a volte mi manchi da morire.

Even if sometimes I miss you to death [like crazy].

Captions 6-8, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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To be clearer, she could have said, Anche se a volte tu mi manchi da morire.


In this example, Manara is trying to get used to living in Tuscany, as opposed to Milan.


Qui da Lei sto benissimo, eh. -Ah, ah.

At your place, I'm really fine, you know. -Ah, ah.

-Però mi manca la città, il traffico, il rumore, capisci?

-But I miss the city, the traffic, the noise, you understand?

Captions 38-39, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Here's an example where someone is being interviewed. The question is formal, but the answer is very colloquial.


Capisco. Quindi adesso il suo amico Le manca?

I understand. So, now you miss your friend?

-E cazzo se mi manca, sì, sì.

-Sure as shit, I miss him, yes, yes.

Captions 39-40, Chi m'ha visto - film

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Here's an example where you really need to turn your mind around. Gli manco. I am missing from his (Luca's) life. He misses me.


Con Luca tutto bene?

Everything all right with Luca?

-Non vede l'ora di tornare. Gli manco.

-He can't wait to come back. He misses me.

Captions 33-34, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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When we go into the passato prossimo (present perfect tense structure), it's important to remember that in this context, we need the auxiliary verb essere (to be), not avere (to have).


Amore, quanto mi sei mancato!

Love, I've missed you so much!

-Sono tornato, ma non è cambiato niente.

-I'm back, but nothing has changed.

Captions 49-50, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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1) In this case, Eva is talking to her son, but what if she had been talking to her daughter?

2/3) Can you turn the first part into a question? You are asking the person if they missed you. Are you a male or a female? The ending of the past participle will change accordingly.




Think about all the people you miss, the people you can't get together with. A single person? An animal? A city? A country? Mancare will be in the third person singular. If it's parents, friends, animals, then it will be in the third person plural.

If you are writing to a couple, your parents, then you will want to conjugate mancare in the second person plural (mancate).


If someone misses you, then you are the one who gets conjugated. You are missing from someone's life. 


There are other ways to use the verb mancare, as you'll see if you look it up or do a Yabla search, but in this lesson, we wanted to isolate a particular situation. It's the trickiest one.


If you have trouble, let us know and we'll help. You'll want to get this right.


Extra credit:

1) Amore, quanto mi sei mancata! -Sono tornata, ma non è cambiato niente.

2) Amore, [quanto] ti sono mancato?

3) Amore, [quanto] ti sono mancata?



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Does Pazienza Mean "Patience"?

The noun pazienza certainly does look a lot like "patience."  And sometimes the two words do mean the same thing, especially when the article is present.


Mi scusi, signorina,

Excuse me, Miss,

però suo cugino, ogni tanto,

but your cousin, every now and then,

mi fa perdere la pazienza.

makes me lose my patience.

Captions 10-11, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

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Something to keep in mind: In English, we use a possessive pronoun: my patience. Italians do it differently. They use a definite article la, but the possession happens with an indirect object pronoun. "It makes me lose the patience."


Adjective form paziente

Although the adjective paziente (patient) does exist in Italian, Italians often opt for the noun form.


Ma no, è che ci vuole soltanto un po' di pazienza.

No, it's that you just need to be a bit patient.

Dai fiducia all'allievo e nel momento giusto lo lasci andare. -Sì.

Give the student some confidence, and at the right moment, let him go. -Yes.

Captions 23-24, Sposami - EP 2

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And let's not forget that, similar to English, il or la paziente can also be a noun meaning "the patient." It can have a feminine or masculine article, depending on the gender of the patient.


A me risulta invece che vi conoscesse [sic: conosceste] da prima,

Instead, it is my understanding that you knew each other before that,

e che Lei fosse stata anche sua paziente.

and that you had also been his patient.

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

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2 expressions with pazienza

Abbia pazienza/abbi pazienza

It's common in Italy to ask someone to "have patience" but it isn't necessarily patience they are asking for. 

They use the imperative for this, and are asking for your understanding, tolerance, or to bear with them. It can be used with different tones, including sarcasm.

In the following example, Orazio is upset with his wife who barged in on a meeting, and had to apologize to his clients he had to ask to leave. So saying abbia pazienza can be a way of apologizing for an inconvenience. In this case, he also said scusi (excuse me [formal], sorry), but he could have just said abbia pazienza in the way of apologizing.


Scusi, sa, eh, abbia pazienza.

Excuse me, you know, eh, bear with me.

Caption 32, Un Figlio a tutti i costi - film

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Actually, Orazio is also quite annoyed with his client, who wants to get out of paying taxes for reasons not exactly on the up and up. So in this case, and often, especially when the formal version is being used, abbia pazienza, uttered with an exasperated or annoyed tone, is an "excuse me" that's a bit indignant. It's almost a way of saying you are the one losing your patience.

1) How would you say this if you were on familiar terms with other person?


But the expression is also used, for example, when you have an appointment but they make you wait. Someone might say, abbia pazienza as a way of saying, "Sorry we are making you wait." Or if your doctor or lawyer has to answer a call while you are talking to him or her:

Abbia pazienza, devo prendere questa chiamata. (Sorry, I have to take this call).


If someone really does want you to be patient, they might say, Solo un attimo di pazienza


Signore, solo un attimo di pazienza,

Ladies, just a moment of patience.

adesso vi facciamo qualche domanda.

Now we're going to ask you some questions.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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Pazienza all by itself

The second example of an expression is one of those wonderful one-word expressions that say plenty. You will want this in your toolbox, for sure. It's often coupled with a va' be' (short for va bene [all right or OK]), but doesn't need to be.


Mi dispiace. Sabato arrivano quelli della filiale dal Sud America

I'm sorry. Saturday, the people from the South America branch are coming

e purtroppo ho una riunione con loro.

and, unfortunately, I have a meeting with them.

Ho capito.

I understand.

Va' be', pazienza. -Mi dispiace. -Ingegnere?

Oh well, too bad. -I'm sorry. -Sir?

Captions 41-44, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2

 Play Caption


What are some good occasions for saying pazienza as a one-word expression?


You are at a shop and ask for an item you can't find on the shelves. You ask the clerk:

Non trovo la polenta istatanea (I can't find the instant polenta).

Ah, mi dispiace, è terminata (Oh, I'm sorry, we're out of it).

Ah, pazienza. Farò senza (Oh, no big deal. I'll do without it).

Some other ways to translate pazienza in English:

So be it.

Oh well.

Too bad.

Nothing to do about it.

It is what it is. 


Some synonyms for pazienza in Italian:


Non importa (it doesn't matter)

Non fa niente (it doesn't matter)

Fa niente (it doesn't matter)

È lo stesso (it's all the same)


Perhaps as you go about your day, there will be situations in which pazienza could be a comment you make as a reaction to something that didn't go as you wished. You wanted a dash of milk in your coffee, but you're out of it. Pazienza, lo prenderò senza latte. You wanted to watch the news, but you forgot. Pazienza!

Extra Credit

1) Scusa, sai, eh, abbi pazienza.

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Follow Me!

The word for "to follow" in Italian is seguire. It's a transitive verb most of the time, but not all the time. In many cases, it works just like English. It's used for following instructions:


Quindi, ho cominciato a seguire le istruzioni

So, I started following the instructions

e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, ho montato la cassettiera.

and in just about an hour, I assembled the chest of drawers.

Captions 14-15, Marika spiega - Gli attrezzi

 Play Caption


1,2) What if 2 people are trying to put together this chest of drawers. How could the sentence change? (more than one possibility)



When Italians take a course in something, they "follow it."


Allora, innanzitutto, quando si ha la passione del doppiaggio

So, first of all, when one has a passion for dubbing,

o del... della narrazione, è importante seguire un corso:

or for... for narration, it's important to take a course:

Captions 10-11, Arianna e Marika - Il lavoro di doppiatrice

 Play Caption


Alternatively, they do a course with fare.


Certo, ho fatto il corso su internet.

Of course, I've taken the online course.

Vuol vedere l'attestato?

Would you like to see the certification?

Caption 59, Psicovip - Buon Natale Minivip Ep 26

 Play Caption


Seguire is used for following someone, literally.


Ciao. Oggi ti mostro alcune direzioni.

Hi. Today I'm going to show you some directions [prepositions of place and direction].


Follow me.

Captions 1-2, Marika spiega - Direzioni

 Play Caption


3) What if you are asking someone you don't know to follow you? 


This can also be figurative when following what someone is saying.

Mi segui?

Do you follow me?


4) What if you are asking someone you don't know if they follow what you are saying? 


You have seen the expression, "Follow us on facebook" which is a figurative way to say you check in on that person or organization, you see what they are up to. Fellini was talking about his audience, his fans, in the following clip.


Siamo sempre seguiti da una platea di romani così molto...

We're always followed by an audience of Romans, so very...

che ci segue con molto affetto e simpatia...

who follow us, with a lot of affection and warmth...

specialmente stasera,

especially this evening,

Captions 3-4, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato

 Play Caption


But there is another way Italians use the verb seguire.

It's somewhat akin to the way fans follow a star, or a trend, but it's a little different. Because rather than "following the leader or the trend,"  it's the leader, teacher, therapist, or doctor who is checking in on you, treating you, in the case of a doctor or health worker. This way of using seguire is used a whole lot in teacher-pupil relationships, or doctor-patient relationships and the like, and has to do with following a pupil or patient's progress, or simply giving them support, or attention, treatment, or checking in to see how things are going. In some instances, we might say, seguire is "to give guidance on a continuing basis."


We have an example of this use in a new video this week.

It's part of the story about a couple who had to go through quarantine because of Covid-19.


È un metodo attraverso il quale

It's a method whereby

non congestionano i, gli ospedali,

they don't overcrowd the, the hospitals,

per i casi meno gravi,

for the less serious cases,

e ti seguono telefonicamente.

and they attend to you over the phone.

Captions 25-28, COVID-19 - 3) La quarantena

 Play Caption


When we use seguire this way, it basically means someone is there for you in a professional way. We all know what it feels like to have a teacher or doctor who seems like they don't really care about you. They don't seem invested. 

Non ti seguono.

They don't check in on you.


But it can also simply mean "to treat," as in giving a treatment. 


Sì, sì, ho parlato anche col professore che lo segue. -OK.

Yes, yes. I even spoke with the professor who is treating him. -OK.

Caption 43, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

 Play Caption


5) What if there is a team of doctors who treat the patient in question?


If you watch Yabla videos, you will see the verb seguire a lot, in all sorts of conjugations and nuances of meanng. Sometimes it's translated as "to follow," but not always.

Let us know if you a translation you don't understand, and we'll try to help out.

"Extra credit"

1) Quindi, abbiamo cominciato a seguire le istruzioni e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, abbiamo montato la cassettiera.

2) Quindi, hanno cominciato a seguire le istruzioni e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, hanno montato la cassettiera.

3) Salve. Oggi le mostro alcune direzioni. Mi segua.

4) Mi segue?​

5) Sì, sì, ho parlato anche coi professori che lo seguono. -OK.​


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Discovering the Passive Voice in Italian

Learning Italian by ear is the best way to jump in, to start talking to people, to communicate. Listen, repeat. And sometimes you'll get it wrong. You'll leave out a little word, you'll get the gender wrong. And a lot of the time you don't really know the grammar of what you are saying. This happens in one's own language as well. But if you are communicating, you are already doing a lot more than people who are scared to utter even one word without knowing the grammar. 



Sometimes, though, you get curious or you get stymied. Why do they say this or that? 


This lesson has three main sections. If you are already well-versed in how to use the passive voice, you can skip to venire and andare (this might or might not be new for you) or you can skip all the way to the si passivante. However, you might have better luck understanding the si passivante if you go through all the steps.  If, on the other hand, it's all pretty daunting, skip right down to The passive voice goes with transitive verbs!, then read about Venire (to come) and andare (to go) but skip the last section on the si passivante.


A while back, one of our readers did get curious and stymied when she saw the following caption in a documentary video about the beautiful southern Italian city, Matera, and asked, "Why did they use essere instead of avere here?" After all, sistemare is a transitive verb.


Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno,

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one,

ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna,

they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern,

era colmo fino all'orlo.

was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie - EP. 1

 Play Caption


Her question was actually quite well-founded. It turns out it has to do with a grammatical phenomenon called the si passivante (the si that "fakes" or "allows" a passive voice). Frankly, some of us non-native speakers have lived in Italy and spoken Italian for years without even hearing a peep about this si passivante. There are a great many Italians, too, who will say, Boh? (who knows?) when you ask them about the si passivante, so don't worry if you don't get it. But if you are slightly nerdy, you might just want to know (read on or scroll way down...).


Daniela has recently mentioned this in a video about the passive voice in Italian, so it has come up again. And it's time to do some explaining. We'll get there, little by little, but let's back up a bit, hoping to make things clear as we go. In fact, let's back way up.


The passive voice goes with transitive verbs!

To understand the passive voice, let's start out with the active voice (backing up even further). And let's keep it simple.

We have an active sentence with a subject, a transitive verb, and an object.

Active: Il contadino guida il trattore (The farmer drives the tractor). 

Il contadino is the subject (and the agent), guidare (to drive) is the verb in the third person singular, and il trattore (the tractor) is the direct object.


To form the passive, we take the direct object from the active sentence, put it at the beginning (in the subject slot), use the conjugated auxiliary essere (to be) + the past participle of the verb, the preposition da (by), and then the agent (the ex-subject). Here's what it looks like:

Passive: Il trattore è guidato dal contadino (the tractor is driven by the farmer).


So the Italian passive voice, at least at this point, is similar to English. And just as in English, we add the preposition da (by) before the agent (il contadino [the farmer] in this case).


Just to see what happens, let's use some plurals. Here, the subject is plural (the students) and the object is singular (the winner).

Gli studenti scelgono il vincitore (the students choose the winner).


Let's put in the passive and see what happens.

Il vincitore è scelto dagli studenti (the winner is chosen by the students).

The verb essere agrees with the new subject, il vincitore (a masculine noun), so there is an o at the end of scelto.


If it had been la vincitrice, it would have been:

La vincitrice è scelta dagli studenti.


1,2) After you have read the rest of the lesson, maybe you will be able to use another verb in place of essere for the two sentences above. Let's say we are talking about the rules of the competition.


But what if the subject (of the active sentence) is singular and the object is plural?

Il presidente della classe sceglie i candidati (the president of the class chooses the candidates). 


I candidati sono scelti dal presidente della classe (the candidates are chosen by the president of the class).


We notice that the agreement is between the new subject (ex-object) and the verb (i candidati sono scelti).


3) Here, too, try using another verb in place of essere. We're talking about the rules of the competition.


As Daniela said in her lesson about the passive voice, we can use the passive voice when we have a transitive verb such as scegliere (to choose). 

That is key. That's the main thing you have to remember about the passive voice as we move on to murkier waters.


OK so far?


Let's go one step further into the weeds. Let's go into a compound tense such as the passato prossimo (that conjugates like the present perfect, but is often translated with [and represents] the simple past tense).

Il presidente ha scelto una ragazza  (the president chose a girl).


Let's see what happens in the passive voice:

Una ragazza è stata scelta dal presidente (a girl was chosen by the president).


So far, so good. Fin qui ci siamo.


Now, we're going to put a little wrench in the works (mixing metaphors?).


Venire (to come) and andare (to go) 

There is another verb pair that Italians use to form the passive voice, more often than you might think: venire (to come) and andare (to go). Who knew? These have a slightly different feeling and purpose. We could look at these verbs as more of an active-type, passive tense (although perhaps that's an oxymoron). If you think of times when we use "get" instead of "to be" in passive sentences, it might make more sense. We often use venire when we're talking about how things are done, or things that are done on a continuing basis, and we use andare when we're talking about things that have to get done. 


Let's start with venire.


If I am telling you the rules of how candidates are chosen, for example, or how they get chosen, I might use venire (to come). 


Active: Il presidente sceglie il vicepresidente. The president chooses the vice-president.

Passive: Il vicepresidente viene scelto dal presidente. The vice-president gets chosen by the president.


4a, 4b, 4c, 4d, 4e, 4f) Try putting these sentences in the imperfetto (this is how they did things in the past), in the simple future (this is how they are planning to do things), and in the conditional (how, hypothetically, things could work).


The rule is that venire and andare are only used in simple tenses. In compound tenses you use essere. This is a good thing to know, perhaps, but you probably won't want to even try it. We already use the past participle of the transitive verb in the passive voice, so having another one in the same sentence would make a big mess. So don't worry about it. You can use these with the simple future or imperfetto (see the solutions to the exercise above).


The comforting thing is, however, that if you just listen, and notice that, "Oh yeah! People do use this venire in the passive sometimes," you will get accustomed to hearing it in certain types of situations. Certain moments just call for it and pretty soon, you will get a feel for it because you will have heard it so many times. And then, you will start using it yourself, with a smile on your face, and plenty of well-earned pride. You just need to pay attention and be aware that it exists.


Let's talk about andare, which might seem a bit weirder, but here's a typical example.

Non ho i soldi per riparare il tetto, ma va fatto. Piove in casa! (I don't have the money to repair the roof, but it has to be done. The roof is leaking!)


The repairman walks on my kitchen floor with his dirty shoes and apologizes.


Ho sporcato il pavimento, mi dispiace (I got the floor dirty, sorry).


I reply (even if it's not true...):


Non fa niente. Va lavato (Don't worry. It needs to get washed). 


Il pavimento is masculine, so I used the o ending on the past participle of lavare.


5) What if the repairman speaks while he is walking on the floor?

6) What if the repairman doesn't really want to involve himself personally. Maybe he would use the si passivante!?! 


Let's say I am helping you make lunch. I take the lettuce out of the fridge and ask you:


Va lavata l'insalata (does the lettuce need to get washed)?

-No, è già lavata (no, it's already washed).


You notice that insalata is feminine, so the past participle of lavare agrees with it and therefore has a feminine ending.


There's a great example of using andare to form the passive in the movie (on Yabla) "Sei mai stata sulla luna?." A lawyer is telling Guia she has to take care of the guy who works the land she inherited. He uses the conditional to "soften the blow." She wants to know if she has a choice.


Andrebbe sistemato anche lui.

He should get taken care of as well.

Andrebbe o va? -Va.

He should be or he has to be? -He has to be.


He has to be.

Captions 54-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

 Play Caption


So the answer is: Va sistemato (he must get taken care of). She has no choice.


The si passivante

The verb sistemare brings us to the matter that started this whole ball rolling: the si passivante. Since we can't very well write a book (this lesson is already way too long), you might want to check out the lessons about the particella (particle) si. Si has various functions, and it's hard to be sure which is which sometimes, but since we are deep in the weeds, we will try to persevere. In fact, the si passivante is a variation on the si impersonale and like venire and andare, is only used with simple tenses, not compound ones. It's also only used with transitive verbs (because it has to do with the passive voice).


The following example is what our reader wrote to us about.


Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno,

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one,

ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna,

they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern,

era colmo fino all'orlo.

was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie - EP. 1

 Play Caption


First let's note that if we have a transitive verb such as sistemare, in an active sentence anyway, we usually use the auxiliary avere, as in the following example:

Hanno sistemato la piazza (They renovated the piazza or they have renovated the piazza).


If we put it in the passive voice, the rule is that we need the auxiliary essere (or in some cases, venire) + da (by) + past participle of the verb. The participle has to agree with the (new) subject. 


So we could say:

La piazza è stata sistemata [dal comune] (the piazza was renovated [by the town]).


We can also leave out the part in brackets. La piazza is the subject, but not the actor or agent. The town is the agent.


We can use different tenses in the passive, such as, for example, the future:

La piazza sarà sistemata... (the piazza will be renovated).



La piazza è sistemata regolarmente dal comune (the piazza is renovated regularly by the town). 

La piazza viene sistemata regolarmente dal comune (the piazza gets renovated regularly by the town).


But in the caption in question, it's a little different. We have that pesky si that can mean so many things and cause confusion for non-native speakers. It's not a true passive sentence. It's also not a reflexive sentence because the piazza can't renovate itself. Here it is again:

Si è sistemata la piazza (the piazza was renovated).


We have a transitive verb, sistemare, and we have the (ex-) object of sistemare (la piazza) but we don't have an agent at all One key aspect is that we could also put the sentence in the plural. Let's say there are 2 piazzas.

Si sono sistemate le piazze (the piazzas were renovated).


The passive aspects that are present are: sistemare is a transitive verb, the auxiliary verb essere is used, and the past participle of the verb is used.


The passive aspects that are not present, are: there is no preposition da (by) and there is no agent. So, si is a kind of prop-word (or, we could say, a kind of si impersonale). It stands in for the absent agent. Since the sentence has the feeling of a passive voice, because of some of its characteristics, such as the past participle, the particle si is called a si passivante (a si that makes something passive).


So it looks kind of like a passive sentence, it sounds kind of like a passive sentence, but it isn't a true passive sentence. It still gets translated like the passive, however, because there's no real equivalent for the si passivante in English. 


The sentence also looks like it uses an impersonal si. But a characteristic of the [normal] si impersonale is that it is always in the third person singular, and is often used with intransitive verbs (so there won't be a direct object). It is often a stand-in for an unspecified person. In our case, we have seen that we could have used the same construction in the plural. 


The si also looks like the reflexive si. Sistemarsi does exist as a reflexive verb. Here's an example of the reflexive verb sistemarsi (to get settled): The person is talking to a female.


Stai bene? Sei arrivata?

Are you well? Did you get there?

Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?

Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?

Captions 15-16, Sposami - EP 1

 Play Caption


We have come to a stopping place on our grammatical journey. There's undoubtedly more to say, and there will be questions. But once you get into the swing of things, all these different passives, and all these different si's will just start being part of your baggage. And with Yabla videos, you will start noticing how things work, how people say things. You'll go back to listening and repeating, but with more awareness. 


Extra credit


1) Il vincitore viene scelto dagli studenti (the winner gets chosen by the students).

2 La vincitrice viene scelta dagli studenti.

3) I candidati vengono scelti dal presidente della classe (the candidates are chosen by the president of the class).

4a) Active: [In quell'epoca] il presidente sceglieva il vicepresidente. [In those days,] the president would choose the vice-president.

4b) Passive: Il vicepresidente veniva scelto dal presidente. The vice-president would get chosen by the president.

4c) Active: Il presidente sceglierà il vicepresidente. The president will choose the vice-president.

4d) Passive: Il vicepresidente verrà scelto dal presidente. The vice-president will get chosen by the president.

4e) Active: Il presidente sceglierebbe il vicepresidente. The president would choose the vice-president.

4f) Passive: Il vicepresidente verrebbe scelto dal presidente. The vice-president would get chosen by the president.

5) Sto sporcando il pavimento, mi dispiace (I'm getting the floor dirty, sorry).

6) Si è sporcato il pavimento, mi dispiace (the floor got dirty, I'm sorry).


Thanks for reading. Let us know if you have questions, or examples to try out. We'll try our best to help out.

You can write to us at



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Breathing in Italian : Let Us Count the Ways, Part 2: il respiro

In part 1, we looked at the noun il fiato (the breath).

Il respiro

Respiro is another word for "breath." But first came the verb respirare (to breathe). It came from the Latin spirare (to breathe). In fact, we can see the logic in the prefix re-. You breathe in and out and repeat it as long as you live. In Italian, spirare (to expire) can indicate the last breath you take before you die (no more repeating it!), and in fact, in English, "to expire" is another way to say "to die."


Il respiro corto, la difficoltà a respirare,

Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing

a parlare, tipo apnea,

and speaking, as in apnea,

era presente nel diciotto virgola sei per cento dei casi.

are present in eighteen point six percent of the cases.

Captions 37-38, COVID-19 - Domande frequenti

 Play Caption


Il respiro means "the breath," but this noun is also used figuratively. It can mean "breathing room," or when you finally have a moment to yourself.


No, Sergio, è il primo giorno che ho un po' di respiro,

No, Sergio, it's the first day I've had a bit of a breather,

però oggi le guardo, promesso. -Mm.

but today I'll look at them, I promise. -Hm.

Captions 24-25, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

 Play Caption


Even more figuratively, respiro is used to mean the scale or scope of something, especially when it's large-scale.

Un festival ad ampio respiro is a festival that covers lots of different kinds of things


Respiro can also mean "spirit" or "atmosphere."


Questa breve guida alternativa vuole rendere accessibile il respiro della città eterna

This brief alternative guide wishes to render the spirit of the Eternal City accessible

a chi del turismo di plastica ne ha abbastanza

to those who've had enough of plastic tourism

Captions 13-14, I Love Roma - guida della città

 Play Caption


The adjective form respiratorio is just like the English "respiratory."


Il nuovo coronavirus è un virus respiratorio

The novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus

Caption 5, COVID-19 - Domande frequenti

 Play Caption


La respirazione

When we talk about the act of breathing, we use la respirazione.


Santo, per migliorare la qualità del sonno

Santo, to improve the quality of one's sleep,

basterebbe fare ogni sera un esercizio di respirazione

one simply needs to do breathing exercises every night

prima di addormentarsi. Vero o falso?

before going to sleep. True or false?

Captions 14-16, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1

 Play Caption


What about breathing in and breathing out?

We use inspirare and espirare.


Inspirando percepiamo il fianco destro che si espande, si allunga, si stira.

Inhaling we perceive the right side expanding, lengthening, stretching.

Ed espirando osserviamo come il corpo tende a scendere sul fianco sinistro.

And exhaling we observe how the body tends to get lower on the left side.

Captions 10-11, Corso di Yoga - Ardhakatichacrasana

 Play Caption


Italian also uses the verbs inalare (to inhale) and esalare (to exhale). The noun connected with these verbs is alito, yet another word for "breath!" But this is not the act of breathing. It is rather the breath itself. If someone has bad breath, it's l'alito cattivo.


Hai un alito da far schifo da quando fumi.

You have disgusting breath from all your smoking.

Caption 21, Dafne - Film

 Play Caption


False friend alert!

There have been several new words to assimilate in this lesson. But we'd like to mention a word that is similar to one of the words above, but means something completely different and might cause confusion.

You might want to use inspirare to mean "to inspire," and there would be a certain logic in that, but the Italian word, although similar, is different, lacking the n. We need to use ispirare.


Questo film è ispirato alla vita di Adriano Olivetti,

This film was inspired by the life of Adriano Olivetti,

Caption 67, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2

 Play Caption


There is more to say about breathing, including when we can't breathe!  But it will be for another lesson. 

Meanwhile, go ahead and check out part 1 if you haven't read it yet.


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Breathing in Italian : Let Us Count the Ways, Part 1: il fiato

Breathing is essential for life, so it's a pretty important word, we'll all agree. This lesson will explore different ways of talking about the breath and breathing, with some useful modi di dire (expressions) that can come in handy.

So what's the word for "breath" in Italian? There's more than one, so buckle up.

il fiato

This is the breath that comes out when you breathe. A wind instrument we blow into with our breath to produce a sound is uno strumento a fiato, and when we speak in general, about instruments in an orchestra, for example, we say i fiati (the winds).

a fiato


La zampogna è uno strumento a fiato

The bagpipe is a wind instrument

fatto con pelle di pecora.

made with sheep hide.

Quindi uno strumento musicale.

So it's a musical instrument.

-Musicale, musicale, musicale, sì.

-Musical, musical, musical, yes.

Captions 53-54, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Calabria

 Play Caption


fiato sul collo

When someone is stressing you out, they may be breathing down your neck. Don't worry, Italians get stressed out, too, and there is a similar expression in Italian. Instead of using the verb form "to breathe," though, they use the verb stare ("to be," "to stay," "to stand there," and add a preposition).


Mi stai sempre con il fiato sul collo.

You're always breathing down my neck.

Caption 64, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema

 Play Caption


riprendere fiato

Another essential expression to know using fiato for "breath" is riprendere fiato. It usually means "to catch one's breath."


It's interesting to note that in both expressions, there's no possessive pronoun in Italian. It's either assumed or they include the person in a different way. And in riprendere fiato, there is no article, either.


La città riprende fiato

The city catches its breath

Caption 4, Radio Deejay - Lorenzo Jovanotti - Gente della notte

 Play Caption


P.S. Jovanotti's song has a lot of great words and phrases about life in the city — worth checking out, at least the transcript, if not the song itself (for beginners, too!).


rompere il fiato

If you are a runner, you will know the moment in which you start feeling warmed up, when your breathing settles in, and you finally feel like you can keep going. We could even talk about getting one's second wind.

Dopo 2 kilometri, ho rotto il fiato,

After 2 kilometers, I got warmed up/I got my second wind,

e ho corso altri 5!

and I managed to run 5 more!



What about the verb fiatare? It does exist, but it's usually reserved for whispering, or "breathing a word."


La Titti conosceva De Carolis. Avrebbe pagato

Titti knew De Carolis. He would have paid

senza fiatare, senza...

without breathing a word, without...

senza avvertire la polizia.

without alerting the police.

Captions 48-50, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP12 - La donna senza volto

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Mozzafiato is a great adjective, meaning "breathtaking."


che sembra quasi abbracciarvi

that almost seems to embrace you

con una bellezza mozzafiato.

with breathtaking beauty.

Captions 53-54, Meraviglie - EP. 5

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We'll talk about il respiro (the breath) in part 2.

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