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Qualifying adverbs: troppo, tanto

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

 

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

 

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The question you might ask before saying that is:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

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

 

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

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

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

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 5

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

 

Typical uses of troppo as an adverb:

Troppo difficile (too difficult)

Troppo forte (too loud, too strong)

Troppo caldo (too hot)

Troppo complicato (too complicated)

 

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

Lei è troppo ansiosa (she is too anxious).

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

C'è troppo aglio.

There's too much garlic.

Caption 1, Dafne Film - Part 18

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

Tu ti fai troppi problemi, troppi.

You're having too many scruples, too many.

Caption 16, Sposami EP 3 - Part 20

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

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

Caption 43, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio A corto di idee - Part 2

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

 

Tanto 

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

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

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

Caption 7, Adriano balla il Tango Argentino

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

Il problema principale è che Boss era un gatto, era ed è un gatto tanto socievole.

The main problem was that Boss was a cat... he was, and is, a very sociable cat.

Captions 31-32, Andromeda La storia di Boss

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

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

È poco bello (it's not very nice).

 

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

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

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

Caption 10, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

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...in vista di tante passeggiate all'aria aperta.

...in anticipation of many walks in the open air.

Caption 35, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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

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Qualifying adverbs: molto, poco, abbastanza, piuttosto

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

 

Adjectives or adverbs

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

 

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

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

Here in Mondello there are many shops:

Caption 18, Adriano a Mondello

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

In estate qui il sole è molto forte.

In summer, the sun here is very strong.

Caption 40, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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

Poche ore fa, non più di tre.

Just a few hours ago, no more than three.

Caption 43, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 1

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

C'è sicuramente qualcosa di poco chiaro là sotto.

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

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

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

 

Abbastanza

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

 

Era abbastanza timida, abbastanza riservata.

She was rather shy, rather reserved.

Caption 2, Illuminate Rita Levi Montalcini - Part 11

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Certo, Lojacono mi sembra uno abbastanza sveglio, ma per quanto riguarda il resto della squadra, Lei è messo male, io lo so.

Of course, Lojacono seems quite smart to me, but regarding the rest of the team, you are in bad shape, I know.

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

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Piuttosto

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

Come ti senti? Abbastanza bene. -Ce la fai?

How do you feel? Pretty good. -Can you manage?

Captions 72-73, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 6

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

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

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

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 9

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

La gestione all'interno della casa è stata piuttosto complicata, i primi giorni,

The running of the household was quite complicated, the first days,

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

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

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

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 12

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Assai

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

Ma in realtà, pensate, dopo praticamente sette secoli e più, questi colori si sono leggermente sbiaditi. Sono assai meno brillanti.

But actually, just think: After practically seven-plus centuries, these colors have faded somewhat. They are much less brilliant.

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

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

 

Quindi, quando sarà finito, sicuramente mi riposerò, perché sto parecchio stressata.

So, when it's all done, I'll take a break, for sure, because I am totally stressed out.

Captions 50-51, Fuori era primavera Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown - Part 6

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

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

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

 

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

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Appresso vs presso

In a previous lesson, we looked at the preposition presso. It's used, for example, when you are staying with someone and can stand for "c/o." You can use it to say in which organization you are working. It's always followed by a noun.

 

Lavoro presso la biblioteca comunale (I work at the public library).

 

Please see this lesson to get more information about presso.

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Appresso

In a recent video, we find a related word, appresso, usually used as an adverb, but also as a preposition. In this particular case, Alberto Manzi has been sent to a juvenile detention center to try to teach kids how to read and write. They are unwilling, and prefer to follow the "leader of the pack."

Tutti appresso a lui come delle pecore.

All of you following him like sheep.

Caption 52, Non è mai troppo tardi EP1 - Part 8

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Our translation, "following," doesn't really do the word justice. It might be easier to have a visual cue. Think of how sheep really act. They don't follow each other neatly in a line. They kind of crowd one another without thinking.

 

In the following example, Lara's father is talking about an ancient tomb he has been studying for years. Again, the translation doesn't do it justice, but the preposition appresso gives you the feeling that he has been obsessing over that tomb, that it has been consuming his time and energies.

Sono quattordici anni che sto appresso a quella tomba!

I've been on that tomb for fourteen years.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 8

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The "prefix" A can provide a word with a new dynamic 

Let's consider for a moment the addition of an A to the beginning of the preposition presso. It is very reminiscent of the relation between dosso and addossoor poggio and appoggio.  The prefix A can change a noun into a different part of speech.

 

But whereas  addosso has to do with the back as a body part, often used figuratively, appresso is more about being nearby.

Cucina contadina che emigra nelle città, portandosi appresso conoscenze e tradizioni.

Country cooking that emigrates to the cities, taking along with it knowledge and traditions.

Captions 15-16, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 13

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In terms of clothing and accessories, addosso might have to do with the clothes you have on, and appresso will be more related to your briefcase, laptop, carry-on bag, or handbag.

 

Speaking figuratively, when you are keeping at someone to do something, or just coming too close, addosso and appresso can practically coincide.

Non mi stare così addosso (get off my back)!

Non mi stare così appresso (give me some space)!

 

Addosso may be more common in this context, but the example can serve to see what the difference is.

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Spesso e Volentieri: 2 Adverbs That Go Hand in Hand

Let's talk about how we use adverbs in Italian.

 

Adverbs are easy because they don't change according to gender or number, as adjectives do. Knowing a few basic adverbs can help you ask and answer questions in general conversation with strangers or new friends. Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to modify, clarify, qualify, or quantify the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

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Kinds of Adverbs - quick overview

Adverbs can be categorized according to what they describe, or what questions they answer: Read more about Italian adverbs.

 

avverbi di modo (how?)

avverbi di quantità (how much or many?)

avverbi di luogo (where?)

avverbi di tempo (when, how often?)

 

A few common adverbs to have at the ready

Here's a list of some of the common adverbs you need to know:

 

  • di solito (usually)
  • spesso (often)
  • mai (never)
  • qualche volta (sometimes)
  • dopo (later, afterwards)
  • dentro (inside)
  • fuori (outside)
  • volentieri (willingly)
  • qui (here)
  • bene (well, fine)

 

Let's concentrate on two adverbs that often go hand in hand, but for now, we'll look at them separately:

Spesso

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere,

Leonardo, very often in his works,

faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi.

made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids.

Captions 10-12, Meraviglie - EP. 3 - Part 12

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Spesso is a great adverb to know. Just tack it on to a verb and you're all set.

 

Vengo spesso in questo posto (I often come to this place).

Non viaggio spesso in treno (I don't often travel by train).

Volentieri

Volentieri is also a wonderful adverb to have in your toolbox. When someone invites you to do something, you can answer with one word: Volentieri! (I'd be happy to, I'd love to). It may be helpful to consider that this adverb comes from the verb volere (to want). We can also translate volentieri as "willingly." For more about volentieri, read this lesson

Spesso e Volentieri

This is an expression you will hear now and then, and it's an Italian favorite. Although we have looked at the two adverbs making up this expression, we might still be perplexed about what it might mean, exactly. "Often and willingly"??? It's not something we say, or not often anyway.

 

Although it can mean "often and willingly," it usually means "more often than not!" So when you are thinking about how to say "more often than not" in Italian, you might be tempted to translate each word: più spesso che non... but you might want to try to resist that temptation. Italians prefer to say spesso e volentieri. So we have two adverbs: one is an adverb of time: spesso = often. The other is an adverb of manner: volentieri = willingly. 

 

In the following example, Marika and Anna are making a wonderful frittata out of leftover spaghetti! Non si butta via niente (nothing gets thrown away)!

 

Tutto si ricicla e, spesso e volentieri,

Everything gets recycled and, more often than not,

è più saporito, no, il piatto riciclato che quello originale.

the recycled dish — you know? — is tastier than the original one.

Captions 8-10, L'Italia a tavola - Frittata di spaghetti

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One thing to keep in mind is that in this case, volentieri doesn't necessarily refer to anyone being willing or glad to do something, although it might. It's that something happens easily, without extra effort: often and easily. In the following example, Daniela is talking about the special past tense, il passato remoto, which has gone out of fashion in many parts of Italy, but is still used, a lot of the time, in the south of Italy.

 

Se vi piace l'Italia del Sud, quindi Napoli...

If you like the south of Italy, in other words: Naples...

la Sicilia, la Sardegna, la Puglia, la Calabria,

Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, and Calabria,

dovete conoscere il passato remoto

you should know the remote past

perché nel sud Italia si parla molto spesso e volentieri

because in the south of Italy people speak using, more often than not,

al passato remoto.

the remote past tense.

Captions 21-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il passato remoto

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Using spesso e volentieri to express a preference

In the following example, it is a matter of preference and willingness. 

Lavo i panni spesso e volentieri a mano

(I often prefer to wash my laundry by hand).

Spesso e volentieri, mia mamma fa la spesa nelle botteghe

(My mom often prefers to shop in the small grocery stores).

 

We hope you enjoy using this new expression, and that we have given you some insight into it. Let us know if you have any questions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Adverbs Formed from Adjectives: Some Easy Tricks

Let’s talk about adverbs. While adjectives describe nouns, adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Many adverbs are closely connected to adjectives, especially those that answer the question, come (how). In fact, there are a good number of adverbs that can be easily formed if we are familiar with the adjectives. And just remember, while adjectives can have different endings according to number and gender, adverbs stay the same!

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Let's look at how to use adjectives to form Italian adverbs with the suffix -mente. Using -mente is similar to using "-ly" in English, in cases such as "nice — nicely," "loud —loudly," and "forceful — forcefully."

 

Of course, there are many exceptions, but here are some common and useful Italian adverbs that will be easy to remember since they are formed by adding -mente to the root form of the adjective.

 

In order to build Italian adverbs with -mente, you just have to follow this very simple formula:

 

Feminine form of the adjective + mente

 

For example, if we want to form an adverb with the adjective ultimo (last), we just need to take the feminine form of that adjective (ultima) and add the suffix -mente, like this:

ultima (last) + mente = ultimamente (lastly, lately)
chiaro (clear) + mente = chiaramente (clearly)

 

L'ho detto chiaramente ai suoi collaboratori, prima di prendere qualsiasi iniziativa...

I told your colleagues very clearly: before taking any initiative at all...

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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Let’s look at some more examples:

Vero (true)  + mente = veramente (truly, really)

 

Le dimensioni sono veramente compatte. -Sì, sì.

The dimensions are really compact. -Yes, yes.

Caption 29, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Onesto (honest): onesta + mente = onestamente (honestly)

 

Giacomo, onestamente non ci aspettavamo questa cosa.

Giacomo, honestly, we didn't expect this thing.

Caption 53, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

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More adverbs like these:

Lento (slow) + mente = lentamente (slowly)
Stupido (stupid) + mente = stupidamente (stupidly)
Ironico (ironic) + mente = ironicamente (ironically)
Serio (serious) + mente = seriamente (seriously)
Raro (rare) + mente = raramente (rarely)

 

You might have noticed that all these adjectives ended in o. This means they have both a masculine and feminine ending, and apart from lento, they also happen to be similar to their English equivalents. Some adjectives, however, end in e, and therefore have the same ending in both the masculine and feminine. When this is the case, the adverb will simply add -mente to the adjective without changing it. 

 

Let's take the adjective semplice (simple).

Semplice (simple) + mente = semplicemente (simply)

 

If, on the other hand, the adjective ends in -le or -re, we drop the final vowel e before adding the suffix -mente:

 

Here are some very common and essential adverbs in this category.

Speciale (special) - e: special + mente = specialmente (especially)
Gentile (kind) -e: gentil + mente = gentilmente (kindly)
Normale (normal) -e: normal + mente = normalmente (normally)

 

Practice:
Can you turn these common and useful Italian adjectives into adverbs, keeping in mind the three ways we talked about in this lesson?

probabile (probable)
tranquillo (calm)
felice (happy)
fortunato (lucky)
sicuro (sure)
musicale (musical)
forte (strong)
rapido (fast, rapid)
veloce (fast)
cortese (courteous)
coraggioso (courageous)
scientifico (scientific)
possibile (possible)
comodo (comfortable)
maggiore (greater)
ulteriore (additional)

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You'll find the solutions here.

Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Adverbs Formed from Adjectives: Answers

Here are the adverbs easily formed from adjectives. 

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probabile (probable) probabilmente (probably)

 

La vittima è, molto probabilmente, un barbone.

The victim is, most probably, a homeless man.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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tranquillo (calm, without worries) tranquillamente (calmly, easily)
felice (happy) felicemente (happily)
fortunato (lucky) fortunatamente (luckily, fortunately)
sicuro (sure) sicuramente (surely, of course)
musicale (musical) musicalmente (musically)
forte (strong) fortemente (strongly)
rapido (fast, rapid) rapidamente (rapidly)
veloce (fast) velocemente (rapidly)
cortese (courteous) cortesemente (politely, corteously)
coraggioso (courageous) coraggiosamente (courageously)
scientifico (scientific) scientificamente (scientifically)
possibile (possible) possibilmente (possibly)
comodo (comfortable, convenient) comodamente (comfortably, conveniently)
maggiore (greater) maggiormente (to a greater degree)

 

Queste erano le cose che maggiormente si ricordavano.

These were the things people remembered most.

Caption 48, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni

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ulteriore (additional) ulteriormente (further)

 

Be', non voglio disturbarLa ulteriormente.

Well, I don't want to disturb you any further.

Caption 9, Trailer ufficiale - Benvenuti al sud

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When Repeating a Word Can Change Its Meaning

There's a movie on Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.

His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.

 

Here's what the agent says:

 

Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...

Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this..

Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto - film

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A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.

 

We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!

 

So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts. 
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora

 

Let’s give the word a quick review here.

 

In the following example, ancora means "even."

 

Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.

That way, you can understand me even better.

Caption 27, Italian Intro - Serena

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And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.

 

ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.

And still today we're very close friends.

Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amicizia

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È ancora vivo.

He’s still alive.

 

If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."

Non è ancora morto.

He's not dead yet.

 

In the example that follows, ancora means “more.”

 

Ne vuoi ancora? -Eh?

Do you want some more of it? -Huh?

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”

 

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,

Caption 67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”

 

But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.

 

So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying  “it’s passable.”  Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t." 

 

There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:

Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.

 

Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.

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Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:

Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.

 

If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,

Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.

 

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Manco: an Informal Way to Say Neanche

In a recent episode of La Ladra, three great, informal adverbs stand out in three consecutive lines.

Ma quelli non mollano l'osso manco morti!

But those guys never let go of the bone, not even dead.

Magari l'osso di Cicci sono io.

Maybe I am Cicci's bone.

Ma mica solamente l'osso.

But not only the bone, of course.

Captions 35-37, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 10

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We have already discussed magari (maybe, if ever) and mica (at all), and here is a new adverb. We’ve seen it, here and there, in videos, but now it’s time to do a bit of explaining.

 

Manco: Originally, it meant meno (less), and was used in expressions such as niente di meno (nothing less) in the variants niente di manconiente manconon di manconon manco(nothing less) and is rarely used today. Its second, more recent meaning, and somewhat related to the first, is used quite a bit. It’s equivalent to neanche (not even) as an abbreviated form of nemmanco (not even).

 

Manco, meaning neanche, has generally been considered to be bad writing form* and continues, even today, to be used exclusively in informal speech, and in writing that reproduces speech. It’s used more in the south than in the north, and is equivalent to nemmenoneanche, and neppure (not even).

 

It’s important to remember that manco is an abbreviation for a word with ne (not, nor) as a sort of prefix, and therefore like mica has a negative meaning, even though it doesn’t exhibit the typical characteristics of a negation.

 

In the previous episode of La Ladra, the first word is manco!

Manco di Augusto mi posso più fidare.

I can't even trust Augusto anymore.

Caption 2, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9

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See how easily it slips into conversation. It’s certainly quicker than saying neanche.

E lo sai che manco a farlo apposta, proprio qui vicino, c'è un negozio, aperto da poco, che vende mozzarella di bufala.

And you know, not even to do it on purpose [by sheer coincidence], right near here, there's a shop, recently opened, that sells buffalo mozzarella.

Captions 46-47, Anna e Marika - La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1

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Have fun with manco. It’s a word you’ll likely hear more than say, since neanche andnemmeno are more straightforward. Like mica, it’s a strong word, and is used emphatically. When someone uses manco, they mean it. Just imagine someone’s eyebrows going up and their eyes opening wide, as they say, manco morto! as if to say, “you gotta be kidding me!” 

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*See the Accademia della Cruscaa centuries-old linguistic institution in Italy, now also an online service for questions about the Italian language (articles are in Italian).

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Mica, an Insignificant but Potent Adverb

In this week’s episode of La Ladra, one word comes up in three different instances, that is used constantly in conversation, but rarely in “proper” writing.

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In modern Italian, it is most often used as an adverb synonymous with affatto (at all) or perniente (at all).

  

Non sarà mica facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.

It won't be at all easy, uh, for dilettantes like us.

Caption 10, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose

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In the previous example, mica could be replaced by affatto or per niente. But mica is much more informal.

Non sarà affatto facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.

 

It comes from “mica,” the Latin noun for “crumb,” so it has to do with something tiny, and of little importance.

 

The people from una parola al giorno (a word a day) explain mica nicely:

Parola che come avverbio scivola continuamente nei nostri discorsi a rafforzare le nostrenegazioni (a word that slips, repeatedly, into our conversations and reinforces our negations):

non è mica male  (it’s not bad at all)
non mi scoccia mica (it doesn’t put me out at all, it’s no hassle at all)
non è mica uno scherzo (it’s no laughing matter)

 

To read what else they have to say, see: https://unaparolaalgiorno.it/significato/mica. It’s a great site for learning new words.

 

As we have seen above, mica is generally used with a negation, but this is often merely implied, as in the following examples. At the same time, it can have the connotation of “by any chance” and/or have the same role as question tags in English.

Mica hai una penna da prestarmi (you wouldn’t happen to have a pen to lend me, would you)?

 

Ma... mica vorrai aprirlo con questa? -Ci proviamo.

But... you're not thinking of opening it with this, are you? -We'll try it.

Caption 9, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose

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Mica ce l'hai con me?

You don't happen to be mad at me, do you?

You’re not mad at me, are you?

Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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Mica l’ho fatto apposta!
didn’t do it on purpose!
It's not as if I did it on purpose!

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Mica is a rather fun word to use. It’s a way of expressing a negation without coming right out and saying it, or reinforcing a negative you are indeed saying. And the more you use it, the more it will slip into your conversation, and the more genuine your Italian will sound.

 

Yabla... mica male!
 

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Chiaro and Chiaramente

A user wrote in with a question about these two words. Is there a difference? Yes, there is: chiaro is an adjective, and chiaramente is an adverb. But that’s the simple answer.

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Language is in constant flux, and chiaro has various meanings, just as “clear” in English does. And this adjective has come to take on the job of an adverb in certain contexts, as Marika mentions in her lesson on adverbs.

 

"Non fare troppi giri di parole, parla chiaro".

"Don't beat around the bush. Speak plainly."

Caption 29, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi di modo

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As a matter of fact, dictionaries list chiaro as both an adjective and adverb, but as an adverb, it's used only in certain circumstances, with certain verbs.

What’s the difference between parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente?

Well, sometimes there isn’t much difference.

 

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaro.

Moreover, the report from my colleague in Milano is clear.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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In the example above, the speaker could have used the adverbial form to mean the same thing.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaramente.

 

Parlare chiaro has become an idiomatic expression — un modo di dire. It gets the message across very clearly.  It implies not using flowery language, wasting words, or trying to be too polite. But parlare chiaramente can have more to do with enunciation, articulation, ormaking oneself understood. So, sometimes parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente can coincide, but not necessarily.

 

Apart from this modo di dire, the adjective and adverb forms are used a bit differently in grammatical terms.

 

Since chiaro is an adjective, it normally describes or modifies a noun. To be correct, then, we often use è (it is).

 

È chiaro che non lo deve sapere nessuno perché il marito è gelosissimo.

It's clear that no one should know, because her husband is very jealous.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde

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Chiaro may be used by itself with a question mark to ask, “Is that clear?”

 

E non sono tenuto a spiegarti niente, chiaro?

And I'm not obliged to explain anything to you, is that clear?

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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The adverb chiaramente, on the other hand, can stand alone before or after another clause or can be inserted just about anywhere in a sentence.

 

Natoli ha chiaramente bisogno di glutine, eh.

Natoli clearly needs gluten, huh.

Caption 33, La Tempesta - film - Part 5

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Using chiaro, Paolo could have said:

È chiaro che Natoli ha bisogno di glutine.
It’s clear that Natoli needs gluten.

 

But chiaro has a special in-between meaning when it’s used in place of an adverb with verbs such as parlare (to speak) and vedere (to see).

 

Finché non ci ho visto chiaro la tengo io.

Until I've seen things clearly I'm keeping it.

Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:

Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.

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Practice:
Look for sentences with either chiaro or chiaramente and try switching them, making the necessary changes. Doing a search on the video tab will give you plenty of examples.

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