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Lessons for topic Adverbs

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 33-35, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 10 of 13 

 

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.
Caption 1, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13 

 

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 38-39, Anna e Marika: La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1 

 

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!” 

 

*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.

 

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 - Part 9 of 13  

 

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/M/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 - Part 9 of 13  

 

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 1 - Ep. 2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 13 of 17 

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

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 1: Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3 of 14 

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 1: Ep. 5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12 of 14 

 

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 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 

 

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 of 26 

 

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 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 

 

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

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

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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