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?".
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.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 7Play 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 2Play 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.
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 20Play 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.Play Caption
It could have been translated as:
You knew that we were looking for you.
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.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.
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 10Play 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 10Play 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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
In a recent lesson we talked about the conjunction affinché (in order that) and how it prompts the subjunctive.
We also mentioned how it can easily be confused with finché (as long as) or finché non (until) because it sounds very similar. We looked briefly at these two conjunctions in a previous lesson. In Italian, they differ only in the addition of the negation non. This is a bit tricky since in English we use two different terms: “as long as” and “until.”
Sometimes, even when Italians mean to say “until,” they will leave out the non after finché. This is partly because they don’t need to be any clearer than that in a given situation, or because it’s quicker and easier, and for Italians, in some situations, it just doesn’t matter.
Let’s take the very recent video featuring Marika and Anna who are busy in the kitchen making panzerotti, a kind of deep fried dumpling, filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce.
It’s a casual situation, they’re very busy, and wouldn't you know it, they use finché without non even though they mean "until." However, what they mean to say is very clear, so they don’t pay much attention, and it's not even considered "wrong."
OK, quindi possiamo andare avanti ad oltranza, finché [sic: finché non] finisce il nostro impasto. -Sì.
OK, we'll go ahead until done, until we've finished up with the dough. -Yes.
Caption 34, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2Play Caption
Sì, finché [sic: finché non] abbiamo, appunto, terminato l'impasto e [abbiamo] un certo numero di panzerotti da friggere.
Yes, up until the point, right, that we've finished the dough and we have a certain number of “panzerotti” to fry.
Captions 35-36, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2Play Caption
The meaning is clear because they use finisce (is gone, is finished, is used up), so they understand each other: They’ll keep making panzerotti until all the dough has been used up.
Of course, there are plenty of instances where Anna and Marika do use finché with non, so it’s not a question of not knowing.
La cosa importante, con i bambini piccoli, è cambiare spesso posizione della schiena finché, naturalmente, non sono in grado di stare in piedi da soli.
The important thing with little children is to often change the position of their backs, until, naturally, they are able to stand up by themselves.
Captions 9-11, Anna presenta - Attrezzature per un neonatoPlay Caption
We could also say, to better follow the Italian:
The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, as long as they are unable to stand up by themselves.
We could think of it this way: Non is a negation, and in a way, so is “until,” when used as a conjunction. “Un” is also a prefix meaning “not.”
Here is another example, where we can take finché non apart, to better understand it.
E poi, finché... si lavorava finché il padrone non diceva "basta",
And then, until... we worked until the boss said, "that's enough,"
Caption 27, Gianni si racconta - Chi sonoPlay Caption
Another way to say this in English would be:
We kept working as long as the boss had not yet said, “that’s enough.”
It’s a bit awkward in English, which is why we use the word “until.”
Here is another very informal example:
Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché non ho finito.
I have to tell you something. Don’t interrupt me until I have finished.
It could also be:
Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché sto parlando.
I have to tel you something. Don’t interrupt me as long as I am still speaking.
Do a Yabla search of finché and look at all the examples. Some will be correct without non, to mean “as long as,” some will use non, to mean “until,” and some will be "wrong." Hint: Federico Fellini uses this conjunction the "wrong" way.
Can you understand the difference between finché and finché non? Feel free to let us know, or to make a comment in the comment section of the video in question.
We’ve mentioned that in different parts of Italy, or based on personal styles, the subjunctive gets skipped, the remote past is rarely used, and finché non might be abbreviated, too. But for those who are learning Italian, it’s good to be able to use finché, finché non, and affinché correctly.