Italian Lessons

Topics

La storia: History or Story?

In this lesson, we'll take a look at a noun, a cognate in fact, that easy as it is to guess, can also create confusion sometimes, because it means a couple of different things. In English we distinguish among history, story, experience,and love affair. Italian relies on this one noun, la storia, to tell plenty of different stories! 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

We mention, for those interested, that in literature, we might also find istoria as a version of the word, and that la storia comes from the Greek "istoria" and the Latin "historia."

But let's talk about how people use la storia practically, in conversation. It's hard to get through a day without using this word in one way or another. 

History

In the following example, it's clear we're talking about history. 

Nella storia si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

Historically, different clefs were used to make it so that all the notes would be, as much as possible, inside the staff.

Captions 18-19, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

1) Can you say the same thing turning storia into an adverb, as in the translation? 

 

Here, too, it's clear. It's also clear because storia is used with no article, and it's singular.

Io quando sono in questi posti pieni di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

When I'm in these places so full of history, I have profound thoughts.

Captions 2-3, Amiche Filosofie

 Play Caption

 

2) What if Anna (the speaker) was just talking about one specific place? What would she say?

 

Sometimes it's hard to know whether we're talking about history or stories, but it doesn't always matter. A translator has to make a choice, but the learner, reader, or listener doesn't. We're talking about past events, and if they are true, then we could also say, "history."

Voglio raccontarvi qualcosa di me, della mia vita, della mia storia.

I want to tell you something about myself, about my life, about my story.

Captions 13-14, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Romance

When it comes to romance, there are different ways to talk about a relationship. The most common way, and this doesn't really have an equivalent in English, is with the noun storia. Of course we can say "love story" in English, (and we can say storia d'amore in Italian) but we don't so much these days, and it is usually an important relationship in one's life. In fact, translators can have a hard time finding the right word for translating storia. The following clip is from the story of an opera, so an old-fashioned word like "romance" seemed appropriate.

Abbiamo riso, abbiamo parlato. Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We laughed, we talked. We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Captions 16-17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Ho avuto anch'io una storia con una collega.

I also had a relationship with a colleague.

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

In the previous example, we might have said "affair" instead of relationship, or possibly "fling." But not knowing the details, it's hard to know what the appropriate word might be.

 

In the next example, however, Luca Manara calls the relationship una relazione, another common term for a romantic relationship, close in meaning to storia, but una storia is often short-term with a beginning and an end, whereas una relazione can give the idea of something ongoing. But as we can see, here the two terms seem to be fairly equivalent. 

Prima le bugie sul tuo trasferimento qua, poi sulla tua relazione con Raimondi. -La mia storia con Fabrizio non ti riguarda.

First, the lies about your getting transferred here, then about your relationship with Raimondi. -My relationship with Fabrizio doesn't concern you.

Captions 15-17, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

When a relationship is short or not very serious, we can use a suffix to modify the word storia.

Una storiella con un vigile urbano.

A fling with a traffic cop.

Caption 9, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

We can also use storiella or even storia to mean "fib" or "lie."

Situation or "thing"

We can always count on the Luca Manara TV series to give us great examples of everyday conversation. Something to memorize is what you see in boldface below: Cos'è questa storia?

Allora, Manara, che cos'è questa storia del contadino fratello del Conte?

So, Manara, what's this story about the farmer-brother of the Count's?

Caption 15, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

When you say it by itself, you can think: "What's going on?" "What is this?"

 

Storia can often just be translated with "thing." It's a word we use to cover a lot of ground: storia in Italian and "thing" in English. 

Che c'hai? No, niente, 'sta [questa] storia di Lara che è nervosa per il matrimonio...

What's the matter with you? No, nothing. This thing with Lara who's anxious about the wedding...

Captions 2-3, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

You will likely have noticed that questa is often shortened to 'sta.

Another expression to memorize, and this is used in English too, so it should be pretty straightforward.

Ne mangiasse almeno una di queste mele, tutti i giorni la stessa storia.

If he would only eat at least one of these apples, every day, it's the same story.

Captions 4-5, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

È sempre la stessa storia (It's always the same old story)!

 

Bed-time story

Let's not forget that storia can just mean story as in telling a story, a fairy-tale, a fable, or reading a bed-time story. 

La morale di questa storia ci dice che l'unione fa la forza.

The moral of this story tells us that unity is what gives strength [united we stand, divided we fall].

Caption 33, Adriano Fiaba - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

As usual, there is more to this story than we have mentioned in this lesson. As Gualtiero Marchesi said at the end of his episodes about gastronomia (gourmet cooking and food in general):

 

Ah, ma questa è un'altra storia. Quella della prossima puntata.

Ah, but that's another story. The one in the next episode.

Captions 43-44, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

So stay tuned!

1) Storicamente si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

2)  Io quando sono in questo posto pieno di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

Continue Reading

Talking about dates in Italian

When we are learning a new language we pay attention to things that native speakers don't necessarily pay attention to. They don't have to. But we do! That is how we learn.

 

Here's a case in point. A learner was watching a Yabla video about numbers. When do we use ordinal numbers, and when do we use cardinal numbers? In the video in question, Marika is talking about dates. Every language expresses dates a bit differently, and there are often different options. The basic premise is that in contrast to how we do it in English, Italians mostly use a cardinal number (not an ordinal number as in English) when talking about a specific date, preceded by the definite article.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

The learner's question was, "Is there some special reason why Marika uses the preposition di (of) when talking about August, but not for the other dates?" It's a great question, and it is exactly the kind of question we like learners to ask. Because native speakers, or even experienced non-native speakers, might not be aware they are saying di (of). They just know it sounds right without thinking about it and may or not be able to explain why.

Si dice il cinque aprile, il quattro luglio, il nove maggio, ehm, il venti di agosto.

One says the fifth of April, the fourth of July, the ninth of May, uhm, the twentieth of August.

Captions 24-25, Marika spiega Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

 Play Caption

 

So the short answer is that when talking about a specific date, you can just say the cardinal number (with the definite article before it) followed by the month. There was nothing special about the month of August to cause Marika to use the preposition di. She might have used it because it was the last month she said in a series and it just sounded better to her. And it's a valid option. So it is not wrong to use the preposition, but more often than not, Italians don't use it. 

 

Let's look at another example. Antonio is telling us about a festival in August, in his area of Italy. In the following example, he just says the cardinal number and the month. He is talking about a specific date.

E poi il diciotto agosto la statua rientra qui nel... ehm, nel santuario.

And then on the eighteenth of August the statue returns here, in the... uh, in the sanctuary.

Captions 19-20, Antonio al Santuario - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

In the same video, a few captions earlier, he is again talking about the dates of the festival. He uses the preposition di in the first instance.

Ehm, la Madonna della Grotta è la protettrice di Praia a Mare e viene fatta una festa il quattordici e quindici d'agosto. Per l'esattezza inizia il quattordici a mezzanotte e finisce il diciotto agosto di ogni anno,

Um, the Madonna of the Cave is the patron saint of Praia a Mare and there is a feast on the fourteenth and fifteenth of August. To be exact it starts on the fourteenth at midnight and ends on the eighteenth of August every year,

Captions 13-16, Antonio al Santuario - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

When he cited two dates together he used the preposition di before agosto. Sometimes it just seems clearer to add it. It could also be that since agosto starts with a vowel and diciotto ends with a vowel, it's easier to put a consonant in the middle, so it's clearer and easier to say.

 

Marika, in this video about the news, doesn't add the preposition (febbraio starts with a consonant!).

Il ventiquattro e venticinque febbraio, in Italia si terranno le elezioni politiche, che decreteranno la scelta di un nuovo governo.

On the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of February, Italy will hold political elections that will ratify the choice of a new government.

Captions 8-9, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

The important thing to know is that it is correct to leave out that preposition and that we generally use a cardinal number except for when it's the first. When it's the first of the month, we use the ordinal number primo (first). 

E si dice: il primo luglio, il primo agosto, il primo settembre.

And one says: the first of July, the first of August, the first of September.

Caption 28, Marika spiega Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

 Play Caption

 

And if we are talking about the first few days of a month, we can say it like this with the plural of primo (note we use the preposition di (of)):

I primi di gennaio (the first days of January)

 

I mesi che ci interessano sono quelli di metà marzo, aprile, maggio e i primi di giugno.

The months that interest us here are half of March, April, May, and the first [days] of June.

Captions 29-30, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

 Play Caption

 

It's funny this question has come up about the preposition di, because in our previous lesson we also talked about the preposition di and how it is common to use it when talking about saying "yes" and "no." In that case, too, it's an option. Learning which option works better comes with a lot of listening and repeating, and keeping your eyes and ears open. We thank the learner who wrote in about this topic!

Di is one of those prepositions that most learners of Italian struggle with, so don't feel bad if you often get it wrong. You are not alone! Non sei solo/sola!

Continue Reading

Different ways to use the word no in Italian

The word "no" is pretty clear. It means the same thing in both English and Italian. But there are a few things to remember when using this word. When you want to say, "No" just say, "No." It will be absolutely clear. No (No)!

 

But when you are asking someone to give you a yes or no answer about something, or talking about someone saying "yes," or "no," then you usually add the preposition: di (of). At that point, it is no longer directly reported speech and therefore no quotation marks are necessary. Keep in mind that leaving out the preposition is not wrong, it's just much more common to use it.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Instead of just using the word "no," we say: 

 

Per fortuna Manrico non ce l'ha fatta a dire di no a Melody.

Luckily, Manrico didn't succeed in saying no to Melody.

Caption 38, Sposami EP 2 - Part 13

 Play Caption

 

E quindi dissi di no. Quando mi mandarono le foto di Ulisse, non so perché, è scattato qualcosa dentro di me e... ho detto di sì.

And so I said no. When they sent me the photo of Ulisse, I don't know why, something clicked inside me and... I said yes.

Captions 21-24, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

 Play Caption

 

Although we are primarily talking about the word no in this lesson, the same goes for sì (yes). And if we replace dire (to say) with another verb, such as sperare (to hope), we do the same thing. In the following example, actress Alessandra Mastronardi says the same thing in two different ways:

Ma, io spe' [sic], mi auguro di sì. Alla fine è stato coronato il sogno che tante persone volevano, quello che si ritor' [sic], si riformasse la famiglia e che Eva e Marco... fortunatamente... e così è andata, quindi spero di sì.

Well, I ho' [sic], I hope so. In the end the dream many people wanted was crowned, the one in which the family retur [sic], re-forms and in which Eva and Marco... fortunately... and that's how it went, so I hope so.

Captions 40-43, Alessandra Mastronardi: Non smettere di sognare

 Play Caption

 

As we have seen, she uses two different ways to say "I hope so." Mi auguro di sì and spero di sìMi auguro di sì is a bit stronger, a little bit more personal (your eyes open wider). Maybe you are worried that things are not going to go as you hoped, or else, the end result is really crucial. It might also be that you are fully expecting something to happen in a certain way: It had better! It's kind of the difference between "I hope so" and "I certainly hope so." When using augurare or sperare, we can't leave out the di (of).

 

1) We can put this in the negative in the exact same way: Is your landlord going to kick you out? Can you give a couple of answers?

2) What if you are talking about when you asked someone out on a date. How did he or she answer you? M'ha...

 

When no means yes (in a way)

 

One very common expression, as a retort, uses the word "no" to mean "yes" or rather, "for sure!" "of course!" It's a way to confirm something, and literally means, "how not?" Or we could say, "How could that not be?" "How could you doubt it?"

Anche se la politica non ci ha aiutati, ce l'abbiamo fatta, no? Come no!

Even if politics didn't help us, we did it, didn't we? For sure!

Captions 31-32, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

 Play Caption

 

The important thing here is, first of all, to understand that when someone says, "Come no!" they are saying something positive, like "of course!". Then, once you have heard it many, many times, you might be ready to use it yourself. 

 

Question tags

 

In English we have the dreaded question tags... dreaded by people trying to learn English, that is. In Italian, however, it is way easier. All you have to do is add no and a question mark to the end of your statement. That's all the question tag you need.

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...

Well, it shouldn't be so hard to put the carriage back in, should it? -I...

Caption 9, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

 Play Caption

 

3) Can you say this in a more positive way?

 

È carino, no? Ti piace?

It's cute, isn't it? Do you like it?

Caption 19, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

4) What if you put a question tag after ti piace (you like it)?

 

Using no as a question tag should come as a relief to Italian learners. You didn't know there was such an easy way to insert one, did you?

 

Another way to get the same result is to use the adjective vero (true) with a question mark. It's short for non è vero (isn't it true)? So I might say the same thing with the question tag, vero? 

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, vero? -Io...

 

5) In reference to the previous example with carino, what if you think something is nice but you don't think the other person likes something?

 

Answers to "extra credit"

 

1) Mi auguro di no! Spero di no! 

2) M'ha detto di sì. Mi ha detto di no.

3) Be', dovrebbe essere facile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...​

4) È carino, no? Ti piace, no?

5) È carino, no?  Non ti piace, vero?

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

There is more to say about saying no in Italian and using the word no... so stay tuned!

Continue Reading

Italians and TV

Italians love TV. Most houses have one in a central spot, and many families have it on during family meals. They get very good at listening to the conversation and the news at the same time. This can be frustrating for foreign guests trying to learn Italian!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

As you can see from the following example, the abbreviation TV is often used. But let's talk about that. If you write it out, it's tivù, which is how you would pronounce the two letters, T and V. Although rarer and rarer, you might find it spelled out: tivù. But it's usually just spelled with the classic abbreviation, TV. You just have to remember to pronounce the V as Italians do.

 

Gender

What gender is it? Well, the noun visione (vision) is feminine, and so is televisione (television). So is TV. La TV. But if you see something on TV, then the article goes away and you use the preposition in, pretty much like English, except it's "in" not "on": in television, in TV.

 

Ti abbiamo visto in TV [tivù].

We saw you on TV.

Caption 9, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 26

 Play Caption

 

1) How about if the speaker is talking about himself, not his company?

2) What if he is talking to a musical group?

 

There's another word to talk about a TV. Here is Luca Manara after his first day on job, and he is staying at a bed and breakfast. Ada is showing him his room.

La stanza numero tre. La più bella. Un suo agente Le ha già portato i bagagli. -Perfetto. -Ah! -Sì? -Il televisore c'è in camera? Eh, certo che c'è. È anche bono [sic: buono], sa? Soltanto l'antenna non funziona. Vabbé, tanto la televisione non la guardo.

Room number three. The nicest one. One of your agents has already brought you your luggage. -Perfect. Ah! -Yes? -Is there a TV in the room? Yeah, of course there is. It's even a good one [heavy Tuscan accent], you know? It's just that the antenna doesn't work. All right, I don't watch television anyway.

Captions 28-33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

3) What if Ada was showing Manara the biggest room, rather than the nicest one?

4) What if more than one agent had brought Manara's luggage?

 

So what's the difference between televisione and televisore? Well, visore means "viewer" or "screen," so with televisore, we are talking about the TV set, the actual appliance. In this case, visore is masculine and so is televisore: il televisore.

 

In the previous example, we can see clearly that Luca wants to know if there is a TV so he uses il televisore. But when it comes to watching it, he uses la televisione.

 

Just as in English, TV is used as an adjective, but we have to remember to put the adjective after the noun, as in serie TV (TV series). And as with "series" in English, serie doesn't change between singular and plural.

Capri è stata una serie televisiva in onda su Rai Uno, di grande successo.

“Capri” was a television series broadcast on RAI One. A big success.

Captions 54-55, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 2 - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

The speaker could have said, a bit more informally:

Capri è stata una serie TV in onda su Rai Uno, di grande successo.

 

Telefilm

Another thing to note is that when una serie TV (a TV series) is a (usually fictional) story with episodes, as opposed to a talk show, game show, or the like, then it's usually called un telefilm, in other words, a film for TV, often a puntata (in episodes), but not necessarily. Sometimes a telefilm is distinguished from a documentary or other kind of series by being called una fiction. In fact, RAI Fiction produces and broadcasts movies, made-for-TV movies, and series.

Eccomi qua a commentare alcune espressioni che troviamo nel telefilm "Il Commissario Manara"!

Here I am to comment on some expressions that we find in the TV series "Commissioner Manara."

Captions 3-4, Marika commenta - L'ispettore Manara Parole ripetute

 Play Caption

 

Telenovela

When we're talking about romantic stories or soap operas, usually daytime TV fare, then we can use the term telenovela. The example is taken from a little sketch where Marika and Anna play two office workers gossiping while pretending to work. 

Mi sembra proprio una telenovela.

It looks to me just like a soap opera.

Caption 27, Marika spiega Pettegolezzi in ufficio con Anna

 Play Caption

 

Fun (and not so fun) facts

When did Italians start having TVs?

Television in Italy was introduced in 1939, when the first experimental broadcasts began. However, this lasted for a very short time: When fascist Italy entered World War II in 1940, all transmissions were interrupted, and were resumed in earnest only nine years after the end of the conflict, on January 3, 1954.

Carosello

One interesting feature of Italian television (RAI) from 1957 to 1977 was a series of short comedy sketches, many of which used live action but featured animation and puppetry as well. The name of the series was Carosello (carousel). You can view la sigla (theme song, title song, titles) for the years 1962-1974 on YouTubeCarosello was commercial in scope and each puntata (episode) lasted ten minutes, so they were actual stories (unthinkable today). They advertised pressure cookers, coffee, coffee pots, vacuum cleaners, brandy, and much more. The product would be revealed toward the end of the episode. The episodes often featured well-known actors and were beloved by viewers all over Italy (about 20 million viewers).

We have learned from the documentary about the Taviani brothers, who made some very famous films, that they discovered Lucio Dalla while filming an episode of Carosello he was acting in. Realizing how talented he was, they put him in one of their movies, I sovversivi (The Subversives). See trailer.

Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema e non, non era nemmeno un cantante, lo diventò immediatamente dopo, si mise a cantare e col successo che tutti quanti noi sappiamo. Noi lo incontrammo perché girammo un carosello, un carosello, una pubblicità.

Lucio [Dalla], uh, was not a movie actor at that time and he wasn't, he wasn't a singer either. He became one right afterwards. He started singing, and with the success that we are all familiar with. We met him because we were filming a Carosello [TV commercial skit], a Carosello, a commercial.

Captions 21-26, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

5) Can you replace the verbs in the passato remoto with verbs in the passato prossimo, trapassato prossimo or, where applicable, l'imperfetto?

 

Answers to the "extra credit" questions:

1) Ti ho visto in TV [tivù].​

2a) Vi ho visto in TV [tivù].

2b) Vi ho visti in TV [tivù].

3) La più grande.

3b) La più spaziosa.

4) I suoi agenti Le hanno già portato i bagagli.

5a) Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema e non, non era nemmeno un cantante, lo è diventato immediatamente dopo, si è messo a cantare e col successo che tutti quanti noi sappiamo. Noi l'abbiamo incontrato perché giravamo un carosello, un carosello, una pubblicità.​

5b) Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema e non, non era nemmeno un cantante, lo era diventato immediatamente dopo, si era messo a cantare e col successo che tutti quanti noi sappiamo. Noi l'avevamo incontrato perché stavamo girando un carosello, un carosello, una pubblicità.​ 

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

Gentile as a courtesy adjective

You may be familiar with the adjective gentile.  We use it when we are talking about someone who is nice, kind, and courteous. 

Il povero anatroccolo si accovacciò tra le canne e tremava per il freddo. Fortunatamente, passò un contadino gentile e se lo portò con sé a casa nel suo fienile.

The poor duckling crouched down among the reeds and trembled because of the cold. Fortunately, a kind farmer passed by and he brought him along with him, to the hay barn of his house.

Captions 58-62, Ti racconto una fiaba Il brutto anatroccolo - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

1) How about telling this part of the story in the present tense?

 

The cognate for gentile is "gentle," but "gentle" only corresponds sometimes, not often. In fact, "gentle" often corresponds to delicato.

Seguì un bussare delicato alla porta.

It was followed by a gentle knock at the door.

Caption 38, Ti racconto una fiaba Il Principe Ranocchio - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

There's a brand of bleach called Ace Gentile because it is less harsh than normal bleach, but most of the time, gentile is more about kind and courteous.

 

Carino vs gentile

 

You might describe the bank director, your neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, your doctor, a policeman who wants to give you a ticket but doesn't, etc... with gentile. The more informal version of this is carino.

Eh sì. -Eh sì. Comunque Luca è stato molto carino, eh, ad accompagnare suo figlio Fabio all'istituto.

Oh yes. -Oh yes. However Luca was very kind, uh, to accompany his son Fabio to the institute.

Captions 26-27, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

Carino can also refer to someone or something's physical appearance:

Però, all'epoca era simpatico e pure carino.

But at the time he was nice, and cute, too.

Caption 9, La Ladra EP.11 Un esame importante - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

2) Here, a gal is talking about a guy. What if it were a guy talking about a gal?

Courtesy and intimacy

But we also use gentile as a description of courtesy in certain expressions, often written, and that's what we're going to talk about here.

 

If you get a letter from your phone company about their change in fees, or some special promotion, it may start out with, 

Gentile cliente (dear customer)

 

In English, we use "dear" almost universally for the beginning of a letter, except for informal emails where we will often just write "Hi" and then the name. The equivalent of "dear" is caro, care, cari, or care, and it may be used in many situations, where it can either be warm or cool, depending on the relationship. 

 

There's a famous movie from 1993 called Caro diario (Dear Diary) with Nanni Moretti. Check out the trailer here!

 

In an informal letter, caro can be used, and, as a matter of fact, it can be used without any name at all. In this case, it's often used in its superlative form (superlativo assolutocarissimocarissima, etc. 

 

To some, caro implies a certain intimacy or acquaintanceship, so in a less personal kind of letter, caro is often replaced by gentile, which is both polite and generic. It's a good choice when you are in doubt as to what choice to make.

 

Formal letters

If you are writing a formal letter, you will likely use signor or signora and the last name, or sometimes even the first name of the person you are addressing, or no name at all.

 

So, a letter could begin with one of the following:

 

Gentile signora

Gentile signorina

Gentile signora Rossi

Gentile signorina Rossi

Gentile signora Adriana (sometimes we don't feel informal enough to use someone's first name without the signora because of an age difference, for example).

Gentile signor Rossi

Gentili signori (this includes men and women, much like "dear sirs").

 

We have looked at one way to start a letter, but there are others, so check out Daniela's lessons about writing both informal and formal letters.

 

Solutions to "Extra credit," as one reader called it...

1) Il povero anatroccolo si accovacia tra le canne e trema per il freddo. Fortunatamente, passa un contadino gentile e se lo porta con sé a casa nel suo fienile.

2) Però, all'epoca era simpatica e pure carina.

Continue Reading

Presso answers the question dove (where)?

If you hang out in Italy for even just a visit, you are likely to see the word presso written somewhere, and you may or may not hear it. It's not all that easy to figure out, so let's take a look.

 

These days most folks use email to communicate, rather than mailing letters. This avoids, in many cases, needing to write your address anywhere, except possibly on an immigration form at the airport. But if you do have to write down where you are staying, for example, then you might need presso. One of its very basic meanings is "at" or "in." But that isn't very helpful since we use these prepositions in so many ways.

 

If, for instance, I am staying at the Hotel Verdi, in Pisa, then I might use presso. It's not my house, but that's where I am temporarily lodged. One dictionary gives this definition for presso:

indica un indirizzo preciso ma non specificato (it indicates a precise, but not specified address).

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Presso is a preposition, and we can use it to mean in casa di (at the home of), the equivalent of: "in care of," or "c/o," as you would write when addressing an envelope. Maybe you are writing to an exchange student friend staying at the home of a family in Tuscany.

Signorina Giovanna Bossi

     presso la famiglia Bianchi

via Verdi, 4

56036 Forcoli PI

 

Biancaneve vive presso i sette nani nel bosco.

Snow White lives with the seven dwarfs in the wood.

Caption 11, Ti racconto una fiaba Biancaneve - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

We immediately visualize that Snow White is staying with the dwarfs, or that she is staying at the home of the dwarfs.

 

1) Your friend is in the hospital and someone asks you where, for example: (dov'è ricoverato Giacomo?): How could you answer?

 

We can use it to mean "in a place," for example, where you work.

Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni e lavoro presso un agenzia di programmatori informatici.

Hi guys! I'm Adriano, an Italian guy of twenty-seven and I work at a computer programing agency.

Captions 1-2, Adriano Giornata

 Play Caption

 

Adriano is implying that he also works for this agency. He could have said:

Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni e lavoro in un agenzia di programmatori informatici.

 

Presso is a bit more formal, a bit more refined.

 

2) Tu dove lavori/studi (where do you work/go to school)?

 

Arianna and Erica both used presso when talking about where they went to school.

Mi sono laureata presso l'Università di Perugia in Lingue Straniere per la comunicazione internazionale.

I got my degree at the University of Perugia in foreign languages for international communications.

Captions 5-6, Un'italiana all'estero

 Play Caption

 

Quindi mi sono iscritta a, all'indirizzo archeologico presso l'Università di Pisa.

So I enrolled in, in the Archeology course of study at the University of Pisa.

Captions 10-11, Professioni e mestieri Erica - archeologa - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Martina is talking about what she would like to do when she finishes her university studies.

Quando finirò i miei studi, vorrei diventare o perito minorile o giudice onorario presso il tribunale per i minori.

When I finish my studies, I would like to become either an evaluator of minors, or lay judge at juvenile court.

Captions 28-29, Serena presenta Martina

 Play Caption

 

Daniela teaches some video lessons about writing letters, both formal and informal. She describes a letter applying for a job.

Per esempio io, io, Daniela Rossi, sto cercando un lavoro presso la casa editrice Feltrinelli e scrivo al dottor Luca Monti, responsabile del personale, per mandare la mia candidatura e vedere se c'è una possibilità di lavoro per me.

For example, I, I, Daniela Rossi, am looking for a job at the Feltrinelli Publishing House, and I am writing to Doctor Luca Monti, Personnel Manager, to send in my application and to see if there is a possibility of a job for me.

Captions 43-47, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera formale - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

We can also use it to mean "among," "in," "for," or "with": 

Presso gli Etruschi, l'aldilà era molto importante.

For the Etruscans, the afterlife was very important.

 

Lui è partito con... diciamo, all'interno del... di questa, di questo movimento che fu chiamato la Nouvelle Cuisine, ma poi, dopo aver fatto, per esempio, esperienze molto intense presso le cucine orientali e in particolare la... la cucina giapponese, la sua attenzione è stata subito attratta da una delle più grandi cucine...

He set off... let's say, at the center of the... of this, of this movement that was called la Nouvelle cuisine, but then, after having had, for example, very intensive experiences with Asian cooking, and in particular... Japanese cooking, his attention was immediately drawn to one of the greatest cuisines...

Captions 40-45, L'arte della cucina L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Translating presso isn't always easy, but the important thing is to grasp the idea of what it means. 

 

3) What if I wanted to say that in Italian, we often leave out the personal pronoun?

 

Presso as "near," "close by," "by"

Another meaning of presso is "near," "by," "close by." 

Il sole splende in Val Rendena. illuminando il fianco destro della chiesa di San Vigilio, presso il cimitero di Pinzolo.

The sun shines in the Rendena Valley illuminating the right side of the church of San Vigilio by Pinzolo's cemetery.

Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza Trentino Alto Adige - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

4) Dove ci incontriamo Where shall we meet? You can answer by suggesting the bar near the train station, even if you don't know the name of it.

 

To conclude:

You can get away without using the preposition presso,  but isn't it nice to able to understand it if someone else uses it? And if you do use it, people will be impressed!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Possible solutions:

1) È ricoverato presso l'ospedale XXX.

2a) Lavoro presso una scuola di lingue.

2b) Studio presso l'Università di Firenze.

3) Presso la lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

I could also say:

Nella lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

4) Ci vediamo nel bar presso la stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar vicino alla stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar all'interno della stazione.

Or in Tuscan Italian:

Ci si vede nel bar...

 

As always, if you have questions or comments about the lesson, we love to hear from you! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

Continue Reading

Siamo alla frutta!

La commedia all'italiana (Italian-style comedy) is created to makes us laugh. But for those of us learning Italian, it's also a great opportunity to learn a lot of new expressions and plays on words that lace most Italian comedies. 

 

One of these comedy films on offer at Yabla Italian is Un figlio a tutti costi (a child at all costs). The first segment of the movie is short on dialogue because it contains i titoli di testa (the opening credits): But at a certain point, there is a great idiomatic expression that is worth knowing about and — why not? —memorizing. A couple is complaining about their financial situation to their accountant or attorney.

 

Qua tra IVA, Irpef e bollette, praticamente siamo alla frutta.

Here, what with VAT, personal income tax, and bills, we are basically at the bottom of the barrel.

Captions 14-15, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 1

 Play Caption



As many of us know by now, Italian meals, the main ones anyway, feature all or some of the following courses:

 

antipasto
primo piatto
secondo piatto
contorno
dolce 
frutta
caffè 
ammazzacaffè


Although not last on the list, la frutta is the last thing we eat (although it can also come before the dessert, as well). 

This tells you where the expression got its content. It implies "the end, the last thing." When, at the end of the meal, la frutta è arrivata alla tavola (the fruit has been served), the meal is, for all intents and purposes, over.
 

Siamo alla frutta!


Somehow, the idea of the fruit at the end of a meal has been adopted into Italian colloquial speech as a way of saying, "I'm on my last legs," "We're scraping the bottom of the barrel," "I'm done for (I can't continue)." Although it may be used in the singular: Sono alla frutta, it is more common to hear it in the plural, as a very general comment: Siamo alla frutta! 



Here are some situations in which essere alla frutta is the perfect expression to use.
 

You are just about out of gas in the car.
Your wallet is empty, or just about.
You have been working on something for hours and need a break.
You have to come up with an idea, you've been trying, but at this point, the ones you come up with are really stupid.
You are hiking with a friend but can't keep up. Maybe you need some fuel.
You are trying to make a relationship work, but it might be time to call it quits.
Your computer is about to give up the ghost, it's so old.

 

So, things are not quite over, but just about. 

 

Fun fact:
Siamo alla frutta!  is a common expression to use when you are having money problems but in the scene in question, there's an additional implication in the use of an expression having to do with fruit. The man speaking is calling attention to the voluptuousness of the woman at his side. He calls her fragolina (little strawberry). There's nothing innately Italian about that allusion, but now that you are more familiar with the expression siamo alla frutta, the scene will make a bit more sense and perhaps make you chuckle. The man wanted to keep the "fruit" image in the forefront.


If you feel adventurous, send us your Italian sentences with, as a tag: Siamo/sono alla frutta!

Example:
 

Ho pagato tutte le bollette e l'affito per questo mese, e ora sono alla frutta.
I paid all the bills and the rent for this month, and I am high and dry/scraping the bottom of the barrel.

 

Or you can put it at the beginning: 
 

Sono alla frutta.Vado a prendermi un caffè.
I'm wiped out. I'm going to get some coffee.
 

 

Divertitevi! (Have fun!)

We'll publish your sentences (with corrections). Let us know if you want your name associated or not! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

Continue Reading

When the noun pezzo (piece) is used to mean "time"

In one of Yabla's offerings this week, there is a curious little modo di dire we'd like to take a look at here. The expression da un pezzo involves the noun pezzo (piece), a word we don't necessarily think of when thinking of time.  So it's worth having a closer look.

 

Un pezzo has a cognate in "a piece," and in many contexts, that's the translation. But if you look in a dictionary, we find that pezzo also means "a while," "a long time." Who knew?

Io voglio un figlio mio, Orazio. Semmai nostro. -È ovvio. Altrimenti sarei già mamma da un pezzo.

I want my own child, Orazio. If anything, ours. -It's obvious. Otherwise I'd already have been a mom for a while.

Captions 28-30, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

So when someone asks you,

Da quanto tempo vivi in Italia? (How long have you been living in Italy?)

 

You can reply using a period of time:

Vivo in Italia da dieci anni (I've lived here for ten years).

 

Or you can just be vague:

da molto tempo (for a long time).

 

But you can also say,

da un pezzo (for a long time, for a good while).

 

And another way we can translate this into English is with "for some time."

 

È per i piccoli spostamenti nella tenuta, però è ferma da un pezzo.

It's for small trips on the property. But it's been idle for some time.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

 

We don't necessarily need to use da (from, since).  We can use the verb essere in the present tense (third person singular), which in this case corresponds to the past continuous in English.

Sì. Ho pagato la protezione. È un pezzo che la pago.

Yes. I paid for protection. I've been paying for a while now.

Captions 21-22, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 16

 Play Caption

 

So let's say two friends get together after a long time. There are various ways we can comment. Note that we use the present tense in Italian, but we use the present perfect in English.

Non ci vediamo da un pezzo (we haven't seen each other in a while/in a long time).

È un pezzo che non ci vediamo (It's been a while/ a long time since we last saw each other).

Non ci vediamo da un sacco di tempo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

È un sacco di tempo che non ci vediamo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

Non ci vediamo da una vita (we haven't seen each other in ages [in a lifetime]).

È una vita che non ci vediamo (it's been ages [a lifetime] since we last saw each other).

 

We hope you can add this to your Italian conversational toolbox. It might save you trying to figure out how to say a year, or use some other complicated construction. Need more info? Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

Continue Reading

Being supportive in Italian by staying close by

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Being supportive by staying close

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

 

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

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

Caption 19, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

A less literal translation would be:

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

or

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

or 

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

 

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

 

E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?

But the American was by your side?

Caption 25, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

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

 

How to use this expression

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

 

Here are a few more examples:

Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.

Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?

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

 

Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.

2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.

3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino

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

4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.

 

 

Continue Reading

Che as a conjunction

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

 

Che: Optional in English

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

Mi dispiace che m'hanno bocciato.

I'm sorry they flunked me.

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

 Play Caption

 

The translation could have been:

I'm sorry that they flunked me.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here's another example:

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

We could have translated it like this: 

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

 

Typical contexts

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

It would be just as correct to say:

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

We just tend not to.

 

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

Sapevi che ti stavamo cercando.

You knew we were looking for you.

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

 Play Caption

 

It could have been translated as:

You knew that we were looking for you.

 

Another typical but "hypothetical" context

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Che meaning "who" or "whom"

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

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

Quiz solutions

1) Mi dispiace che mi abbiano bocciato.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Rispondere: to answer or to respond?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

An important detail

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

Non ha risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuole?

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

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

 Play Caption

 

3) Can you say the same thing informally?

 

2 Ways in English, 1 way in Italian

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

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

 

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

 

Rispondere with an indirect object personal pronoun

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

 

Toscani, per favore rispondimi. È importante, dai.

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

Cases of Incongruence between Italian and English

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Risposte Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

A little quirk concerning the verb sapere

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

Sapere (to know how)

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

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

An alternative translation

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Exercises

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Answers to exercises:

 

1) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

2)

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Italians know their chickens

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

The expression itself:

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

 

Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens).

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

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

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

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

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

 

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

 

Taking the expression apart:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Practice:

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

One more thing:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

More about brodo (broth) in this lesson.

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

2) Conoscevi i tuoi polli, eh? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Continue Reading

How to Wear Clothes in Italian

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

 

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

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

 

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

Modeling an outfit

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

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

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

Captions 32-33, Sposami EP 2 - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

A bit of cultural background relative to indossare

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

Getting dressed

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

 

A related adjective

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

Putting clothes on

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

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

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

Caption 34, Anna e Marika Il verbo pensare

 Play Caption

 

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

5) We can do 2 exercises with this example. 

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

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

 

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

Dai, forza, vestiti.

Come on, get dressed.

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

Once you're dressed

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

 

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

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

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

4) Ecco perché indossava un vestito così elegante.

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

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

Io avevo pensato di vestirmi con il vestito rosso.  

Io avevo pensato di mettermi il vestito rosso.

6) Dai, forza, vestitevi!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Continue Reading

What's up with Italian nicknames?

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

 

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

 

Abbreviating a name

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

Che stai facendo, Marti'?

What are you doing, Marti'?

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

 Play Caption

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

The nickname can be longer than the given name

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

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

Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.

But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.

Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

How Italians introduce themselves

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

 

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

Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.

They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

 

Vezzeggiativi (affectionate terms)

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

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

E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.

And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sister

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

Nicknames can change according to region

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

Beppe! Guardami. Me.

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

Tu dimmi quando quando

You tell me when, when

Caption 9, Pino Daniele Quando

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

How do we refer to a nickname?

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

 

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

 

Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.

Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.

Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.

Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.

My name is Enzo. I need a job.

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

 Play Caption

 

Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.

Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.

Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.

Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.

Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.

Giovanni can become Gianni.

 

7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?

 

Feast Day Names

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

 

Annunziata might become Nunzia.

Natale might become Natalino.

Pasquale might become Pasqualino.

 

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

 

1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?

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

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

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

5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.

6) Pinuccia.

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

 

 

Continue Reading

7 Ways to Share Information in Italian

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

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

Ti rendi conto (do you realize)?

C'hai fatto caso (did you notice)?

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

1) Far notare

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

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

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

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

Play Caption

 

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

2) Far presente

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

3) Segnalare

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

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

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

Play Caption

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

 

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

4) Avvertire

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

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

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

 Play Caption

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

 

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

5) Comunicare

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

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

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

 Play Caption

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

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

 

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

6) Avvisare

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

7) Informare

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Answers:

A1) Ti faccio notare che...

A2) Ti ringrazio per averci fatto presente la situazione.

A3) e ti segnalo anche l'acquario...

e ti posso anche segnalare l'acquario...

A4) Susanna, ti volevo avvertire che...

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

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

Be', ma allora dobbiamo  avvisarlo subito, eh.

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

 

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

Continue Reading

Come si suol dire (as they say)

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

 

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

 

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

 

A ma', te volevo informa' [romanesco: ti volevo informare] che mi sono,

Hey Mom, I wanted to inform you that I've,

come si suol dire, organizzato.

as they say, gotten my act together.

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

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The expression

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

 

Io penso che Lei dovrebbe, come si suol dire, prendere

I think that you should, as they say, take

il toro per le corna.

the bull by the horns.

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

 Play Caption

 

Queste galline la mattina,

These chickens in the morning,

che [sic: quando] vengono messe fuori dal pollaio,

get put out of the henhouse,

vanno a razzolare un po' a

they go and scratch about a bit to

destra e a sinistra,

the right and to the left [here and there].

quindi una volta che hanno scoperto queste fragoline,

So once they have discovered these young strawberries,

eh, faranno, come si suol dire, una vera man bassa.

uh, they'll will, as they say, ransack the area.

Captions 25-28, La campagna toscana - Il contadino

 Play Caption

 

A volte si chiude una finestra, ma si apre un portone

Sometimes a window closes but a door opens

o, come si suol dire, bicicletta nuova, vita nuova.

or, as they say, "New bike, new life."

-Questo, però, non l'ho mai sentito, te lo sei inventato.

-This one, however, I have never heard. You made it up.

Captions 46-48, La Ladra - EP. 4 - Una magica bionda

 Play Caption

 

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

 

What does suol mean?

Let's discover it together.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So suol means "is in the habit of."

 

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

 

E di solito, tradizionalmente, il Trullo,

And usually, traditionally, the trullo

è sempre stato utilizzato come ricovero.

has always been used as a shelter:

Ricovero per bestiame, ma anche per attrezzi agricoli.

shelter for livestock, but also for agricultural equipment.

Captions 23-24, Meraviglie - EP. 2

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

 

And for those who are interested...

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

Another Way to Notice Something (or Not), in Italian

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

Notare

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

 

E Lei non ha notato niente di strano?

And you didn't notice anything strange?

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

 Play Caption

 

Accorgersi

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

 

Abbiamo parcheggiato in divieto di sosta,

We parked in a no parking zone,

e io purtroppo non me ne sono accorto.

and I, unfortunately, didn't realize it.

Captions 12-13, Francesca - alla guida

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Rendersi conto

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

 

E allora ripensando a quella mattina, io mi sono resa conto

And so thinking back to that morning, I realized

che Lei entrò nello studio soltanto pochi secondi dopo di noi.

that you entered the study just a few seconds after us.

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

 Play Caption

 

Farci caso or fare caso di qualcosa

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza...

If we really want to call it a weakness...

era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco.

he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it.

Ma io non c'ho mai fatto caso.

But I never made an issue of it.

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

Io da ieri sera sto ancora aspettando i pannolini, grazie.

I've been waiting since last night for the diapers, thank you.

-Sardi, io da ieri sera, non so se ci hai fatto caso,

-Sardi, since last night, I don't know if you noticed,

non sono rientrato neanche a casa.

I haven't even gone home.

Ci hai fatto caso, spero, sì?

You noticed, I hope, didn't you?

-Come non c'ho fatto caso?

-What do think, that I didn't notice?

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

Non ci far caso. Non farci caso.

Don't pay attention to that. Ignore it.

 

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

 

Non ci faccia caso, è fatta così.

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

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

 Play Caption

 

Practically speaking

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

Non c'ho fatto caso. 

I didn't notice.

I didn't see that.

I didn't notice that.

I didn't pay attention to it.

It didn't jump out at me.

It didn't catch my eye.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Continue Reading