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

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

 

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

la gita, una gita, andare in gita.

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

 

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

 

La gita in practical terms

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girare

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

E nonna, ho fatto un bel giretto nel bosco.

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

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

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Gramatically speaking...

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

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

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

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

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

 

Practice and examples

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

 

Here are some possible answers:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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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!

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.​ 

 

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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?

 

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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

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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.

 

 

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Talking about il coronavirus in Italian

The main topic of conversation in lots of places right now is "coronavirus." We hope that it won't last too long, because in addition to making people sick, with some people even dying, it's also wildly disrupting the life of many people around the world. 

 

Italy has been hit particularly hard and is consequently in the spotlight, so let's look at some of the words people and newspapers are using to talk about it.

 

In English, we talk about "lockdown" to describe the measures Italy is taking to try to prevent the spread of the virus. There are a few options for an Italian translation: l'isolamento (the isolation), il blocco (the blocking, the closing off), blindare (to lock down) blindato (locked down). 

 

Let's talk about some of the vocabulary Italians are using to talk about what's going on.

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To begin with, let's look at a headline from Sunday, March 8, when new rules went into effect for the zone rosse (the red zones, or epicenters), including Lombardy, the Veneto, and other regions. 

 

Covid-19, nuove regole: evitare ogni spostamento nelle zone colpite

(Covid -19, new rules: avoid any traveling/moving around in the affected areas). 

 

Let's look at the words in the headline.

Nuove regole (new rules)

This is pretty self-explanatory. The two words are similar to their English counterparts: the adjective nuovo (new) and the noun la regola. In this case, it is a feminine noun in the plural — le regole. The adjective nuovo has to agree with the noun, so its "o" ending changes to "e" the feminine plural ending.

Evitare (to avoid)

Here, evitare  is basically intended as a command although it's not in the imperative. Using the infinitive form of the verb is simple and effective and can apply to everyone. It's the explanation of one of the nuove regole (new rules). Other ways to use this verb in the imperative: evitate (avoid — second person plural), evita (avoid — second person singular imperative [informal]), eviti (avoid — second person singular imperative [formal]).

 

...usare i pronomi relativi "quale" e "quali",

...to use the relative pronouns "quale" and "quali,"

per evitare possibili ambiguità.

to avoid possible ambiguities.

Captions 7-8, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi

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Ogni (each, every, any)

This easy, common, and useful adjective never changes. it's worth looking up in your dictionary of choice because it can be used in such a variety of ways. One common expression is ogni tanto (every now and then).

 

E ogni tanto, però, parlavamo di cose serie.

And every now and then, though, we talked about serious things.

Caption 32, Silvana e Luciano - Il nostro incontro

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In the headline, of course, we are talking about "each and every." In other words, "Avoid unnecessary travel." "Avoid all cases of moving around the area."

Lo spostamento (the moving around, the re-positioning)

This interesting noun comes from the verb spostare, also an interesting word. It's interesting because there is no specific equivalent in English,  yet once you learn it in Italian, you'll wonder how you could do without it. Did you detect another word inside the verb spostare? Yes, it's posto, the noun, il posto (the place, the position, the location). So spostare, with its telltale "s" prefix, means to take something away from its place. And it can be used reflexively when you are the one moving yourself away from a place. What a wonderful verb! Usually, we use the verb "to move" to translate spostare, but sometimes it's "to shift," "to re-locate," "to transfer," "to move around." In short, if you live in the zona rossa (red zone) you should move around the area as little as possible.

Il verbo "andare" indica uno spostamento verso un luogo ed è seguito da diverse preposizioni a seconda del nome che lo segue:

The verb “andare” indicates a movement towards a place, and is followed by various prepositions, according to the noun that follows it:

Captions 31-33, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 1

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Le zone (the areas)

This is an easy noun with a "friendly" English cognate. Just remember that the original noun is la zona. Zone is plural. La zona is often translated with "the area."

 

Colpite

This past participle comes from the verb colpire (to hit, to affect, to make an impression on). Since it's a headline, all the little words that tell you it's a past participle are missing:

Le zone che sono state colpite (the zones that were hit). Colpire can have literal and figuarative meanings of different kinds. 

Poi un'altra cosa che mi ha colpito molto è che io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso, non ce n'è molta.

Then, another thing that made a strong impression on me was that I come from a land where water is a precious resource, there isn't much of it.

Captions 43-45, Gianni si racconta Chi sono

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In the headline, the connotation of colpire is "to affect."

Let's have just a quick look at some of the other rules:

 

Quarantena: vietato uscire di casa (quarantine: leaving home is prohibited).

Divieto assoluto di uscire dalla propria abitazione per chi è sottoposto alla quarantena o è risultato positivo al virus.

If you have been quarantined or if you have tested positive to the virus, you must not leave your home.

 

The verb vietare (to prohibit, to ban) and the noun il divieto (the ban) are related.

Ma cos'è questo fumo? Hm. -Perché mi guarda così? Perché qui è vietato fumare.

But, what is this smoke? Uhm. -Why are you looking at me like that? Because here smoking is prohibited.

Captions 20-22, Psicovip Il fulmine - Ep 4

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Stop a eventi e competizioni sportive (no sporting events and competitions)

Stop is pretty clear! In the explanation that follows the rule, however, the Italian word sospesi (suspended) is used.

Sono sospesi gli eventi e le competizioni sportive di ogni ordine e disciplina... (sporting events and competitions on every level and of every kind have been suspended...)

Favorire congedo ordinario o ferie (encourage leaves of absence and vacation days).

 

Favorire is another verb that is partly a true cognate, but often means "to encourage," "to foster."

 

Chiusi cinema, teatri, pub, discoteche, sale bingo (movie theaters, theaters, pubs, clubs, bingo halls are closed)

Chiuso (closed) is pretty clear —from the verb chiudere (to close).

 

Chiuse scuole e università (schools and universities are closed)

These same rules have been applied to museums, gyms, spas, ski resorts, and many other centers.

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The list goes on, but we have covered some of the important rules here and the vocabulary associated with them.

 

Further vocabulary to know regarding the virus:

  • contagioso (contagious) This adjective (a true cognate) comes from the verb contagiare (to infect).
  • diffondere (to spread). This verb is both transitive. Diffondiamo questa informazione (let's spread the word) but it is also reflexive.  Il virus si diffonde facilmente (the virus spreads easily). 
  • il disinfettante (the disinfectant, the sanitizer). Disinfettante can also be an adjective (disinfectant). We need to have il disinfettante per le mani (hand sanitizer) handy these days.
  • un metro (a meter) Do you know how much a meter is? A little more than a yard — 39.37 inches. That's what is considered a safe distance to keep from other people when in public places.
  • sano (healthy)
  • misurare la febbre (to take one's temperature). 98.6° F is equal to 37° C. Lots of folks say 37,5° C is when you can say it's a fever.

 

Things are tough for Italians (and many others!) right now. Besides the virus itself, everyday life has become complicated for lots of folks. Those of us who work remotely feel fortunati (lucky) to be able to do our jobs in a normal way, but we might have kids underfoot who would ordinarily be in school! If everyone cooperates, taking the right precautions, hopefully, we can beat this thing.

 

La speranza è l'ultima a morire (hope is the last to die — hope springs eternal).

If you have heard or read things in Italian about the virus that you aren't able to understand, let us know and we'll try to help. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Il Mutuo and La Mutua

A current episode of Provaci ancora prof brings to mind a noun that is easily mixed up with a similar one, by non-native speakers of Italian.

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Il mutuo and la mutua

These are nouns Italians use a lot in day-to-day conversation. One is about money and one is about health (and money too, in a roundabout way), both very common topics of conversation. They're also hard to guess the meaning of. 

 

Il mutuo


This is a word you need if you want to buy a house, or just take out a loan from the bank. If you're buying a house, then people will understand you're talking about a mortgage. For any other use, it's the equivalent of a loan. We also notice that when mutuo means mortgage, we often use a definite article (il) and when we mean "loan," we'll likely use an indefinite article (un). To mean "loan," you can also use un prestito or un finanziamento.

 

Roberta mi ha aiutato quando ho fatto il mutuo sulla casa

Roberta helped me when I took out a mortgage on the house

e sa... insomma, dovrà, dovrà riavere.

and she knows... basically, she should, she should get it back.

Captions 36-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1

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Io ho ancora da parte millecinquecento euro,

I still have fifteen hundred euros put aside,

però dovrei pagare il mutuo alla banca.

but I should pay the mortgage to the bank.

Captions 54-55, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso

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Il parrucchiere, quello più caro, quello in fondo al paese.

The hairdresser, the most expensive one, the one at the edge of town.

Una messa in piega ci vuole un mutuo, eh.

To get one's hair done, you need to take out a loan, huh.

E poi non solo...

And not only that...

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto

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la mutua

If you hang out in Italy long enough, like many ex-pats, you will get to know another important noun, la mutua. This is the national health service. You can benefit from this service if you are a legal resident. You don't need to be an Italian citizen.

 

Here's a scenario. 

Devo fare un intervento al femore (I have to get my hip operated on).

-Costerà caro, no? (That will be expensive won't it?)

No. Per fortuna, paga la mutua (No, fortunately national health insurance will pay for it).

 

Here's another scenario.

Non vado al lavoro oggi. Sono alla mutua.

I'm not going to work today. I'm on sick leave.

 

This is an informal noun, and may not be used all over Italy, but it the common name Italians give to this service. There are rules for different kinds of jobs (state or private) whereby your sick leave is paid for if you are an employee, but you need a certificate signed by your doctor (il medico della mutua, or il medico curante) and you have to make sure to be home during certain hours of the day, such as from 10 AM to 12 PM, and 5 PM to 7 PM. That way, the health authorities can check to see if you are really sick.

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Getting sick and making mortgage or loan payments are never divertenti (fun), but at least you know the words to describe these things now! 

P.S. mutuo is also an adjective corresponding to "mutual."

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How to Address Your Teacher in Italian

In a foreign country, knowing how to address people can be a challenge. In English, we have to know whether to be on a first name basis or not, but Italians works a bit differently.

 

Formal or Informal?

First of all, you need to know whether to be formal or informal. Italians may refer to this as dare del lei (to give the formal "you") or dare del tu (to give the informal "you"). Check out this lesson about the ins and outs of this. 

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Some History: Fascism and Italian language

During the period of Italian Fascism, there were strict rules about how to address other people. It's a fascinating story and Yabla has featured a documentary about Fascism and Italian language. Check out the relative lesson: What's the Story on Voi in the Singular?

 

Signora and Signore

It's interesting that Italians very often use the equivalent of "ma'am" and "sir" instead of using someone's name: signora and signore.

 

Sì, signora, dica.

Yes, ma'am, what is it?

E mio marito non è rientrato stanotte e non ha nemmeno avvertito...

My husband didn't come home last night and he didn't even let me know...

e... non è mai successo.

and... it's never happened before.

Sono molto preoccupata.

I'm very worried.

Venga nel mio ufficio, signora.

Come into my office, ma'am.

Captions 15-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Keep in mind that often, signora and signor are commonly used before a first name. It's midway between formal and informal.

 

Signora Caterina, non si preoccupi per Brigadiere,

Miss Caterina, don't worry about Brigadiere,

perché l'ho portato alla pensione Abbaio Giocoso e starà benissimo.

because I took him to the kennel "Playful Barking" and he'll be just fine.

Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro

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He's no doctor!

We've also talked about the fact that Italians use the term dottore (doctor) when wishing to treat someone with respect, regardless of whether the person is an actual doctor, or whether he has a PhD. The Dottore is In.

 

And, like dottore, they will use a title without the name of the person. For instance, in the story of Adriano Olivetti, he was an engineer, so people — especially people who worked with him — would just call him Ingegnere (engineer), without his name.

 

Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.

Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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At school

Lastly, at school, the actual name of the teacher seems to be of relatively minor importance when addressing him or her directly. You simply call your teacher Prof, short for professore (professor, teacher) if you are allowed to by the teacher. When speaking more formally, students will use professore or professoressa, once they leave primary school. If they are still in primary or elementary school, they will use maestra (schoolmistress) to refer to a female teacher. On the subject of the schoolroom, Yabla offers an original content series about the regions of Italy. It's set in a classroom with Anna as the student and Marika playing the (often mean) teacher. How does Anna handle this? It might depend on the mood of the professoressa.  Check out the videos here.

 

Guardi, Lei ha studiato, perché Lei ha studiato,

Look, you've studied, because [and I see] you've studied,

ma mi sta antipatica oggi e quindi Le metto sette.

but I find you disagreeable today and so I'll put down a seven.

Ma prof, ma sono venuta volontaria. -E ho capito,

But teacher, I volunteered. -Uh, I get it,

però mi gira così.

but that's how it's hitting me today.

Captions 88-91, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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Yabla offers the TV series, Provaci ancora Prof as part of its growing library. The title is a takeoff on Woody Allen's Play it Again, Sam.

 

A student is speaking to his teacher:

 

Prof, si unisca a noi.

Teach, join us.

Caption 57, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso

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Of course in American English, we would use Mr., Mrs., Ms, or Miss and the last name of the teacher. The translation we have given is very informal, and calling a teacher "teach" would likely be frowned upon in most schools. But in Italy, it's the norm in many school situations. Good to know!

 

More about meeting and greeting formally and informally here: I say hello; you say goodbye

 

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A Curious but Iconic Italian Vehicle

 

When we see the word “ape,” it makes us think of a rather large, ferocious animal. But in Italian, its meaning is almost the opposite. Ape is the word for "bee." The Ape, as we shall see, was built for people who work, for someone who is as busy as a bee.

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At the end of World War II, many, if not most Italians were having money problems, and certainly only a privileged few had the financial means to buy a car, much less pay for its fuel and maintenance. 

 

The Ape came to the rescue. In 1947, the inventor of the Vespa, (a popular motor scooter whose name means “wasp”) came up with the idea of a light, three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's economical reconstruction. Piaggio, who had built the Vespa became interested and took on the project. The very first Ape models were glorified Vespas with two wheels in the rear, and a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle— a sort of tricycle with a motor.

 

Little by little, the model developed to include a cab to protect the driver. Designed as a one-seater, a passenger is often seen squeezed in, as well, but it's definitely a tight fit. There are now doors on either side to facilitate parking right up next to a wall. Although no longer made principally in Italy, the Ape is still in production today!

 

Because of its small scooter-sized engine, the Ape doesn’t go fast (maximum around 60 kilometres an hour), and as a result, you don’t need to have an automobile driver’s license to drive one. The motor is strong enough to carry a sizeable load, and to get up the steep hills found in many parts of the country.

 

We see in the movie Chi m’ha visto, that Peppino’s vehicle is indeed an Ape. Given the size of the streets in so many Italian towns, cities, and country roads as well, the Ape is just right for negotiating them. Peppino races around like a maniac anyway, honking at pedestrians to get out of his way.

 

Vir a cus' [pugliese: guarda a questo]...

Look at this one...

Au [Ehi]! Levateve [pugliese: toglietevi] da là!

Hey! Get away from there!

Ma statte citt' [pugliese: stai zitto].

Shut up.

Captions 31-33, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 4

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If you have ever been traveling in Italy, you might have heard an Ape before seeing one. The noise is terrifying especially as it climbs steep, narrow, cobblestone streets in the middle of an old town, where the close stone walls amplify the sound even more. Getting caught behind one on a narrow road can add hours and frustration to your trip. Fortunately, the Ape is so narrow, the driver can hug the side of the road so that cars can pass. Menomale!

 

Still a familiar sight all over Italy, the Ape is amazingly useful for the handyman, gardener, farm worker, delivery man, etc.

 

In an episode of Commissario Manara, Manara himself actually drives an Ape to figure out how a crime had been committed. He's putting himself in the killer's place.

 

Al piazzale davanti allo studio ci potrei andare a piedi,

To the courtyard in front of the studio I could go by foot,

invece ci vado con l' Ape. Perché?

but instead I go with the "Ape." Why?

Perché devo trasportare qualcosa, qualcosa di pesante.

Because I have to transport something, something heavy.

E che cos'è?

And what is it?

Captions 44-47, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Even though the Ape is pretty small already, many Italians use a diminutive suffix and call it l'Apino. It also distinguishes it from ape the insect, and it renders the idea of "small."

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Doppiare, Sdoppiare: It's All About Dubbing

A recent segment about Italian Fascism and language focuses on dubbing.

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What's doppiaggio (dubbing)? After receiving a translation of a script, an actor, in a special recording booth with a monitor, has to watch a movie, adapting what he or she reads to whatthe actor on the screen is saying. The meaning and intention have to be there, and at the same time, there must be the same number of syllables, more or less, so that it can look convincing. It’s a huge, creative, and painstaking job. Historically, Italians have been champions at this. Dubbing provides a way for people to enjoy foreign movies. When dubbing started out in Italy, lots of people all over the country had never learned to read. They were analfabeti (illiterate). 

 

Nel millenovecentotrentatré viene inventato il doppiaggio, che permette ai film di circolare in vari paesi.

In nineteen thirty-three dubbing is invented, which allows for films to be distributed in various countries.

Uno dei più complessi e magici trucchi cinematografici.

One of the most complex and magical cinematographic tricks.

Captions 11-13, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 9

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Even today, although many Italians read a lot, there are still those who aren't comfortable or just don’t enjoy reading. When given the choice of a dubbed movie or one with subtitles, dubbing wins most of the time. This is certainly a generalization, but the fact that you need to go to a special art movie theater to find a movie in its original language with subtitles bears witness to this.

 

There are arguments for both dubbing and using subtitles, each having vantaggi (advantages) and svantaggi (disadvantages). Luckily, in this digital age, you can often choose your language when watching at home on DVD, streaming, or even on commercial TV. It comes down to personal preference as well as familiarity with the original language of the movie. Culture, tradition, and economics determine what happens in the movie theater.

 

There was a time when it was popular to dub Italian films in post-production, rather than record the sound live. At the outset, it may have been for technical reasons, as recording live sound is complicated, but for some directors, like Fellini, it was part of their art. And ofcourse, in many filmmaking situations, there comes a time when dubbing is needed to fix mistakes made by actors or for technical reasons. So the dubbing booth is part of making movies.
Italians, having had a lot of practice over the years, happen to be extremely good at dubbing.

 

Here at Yabla, of course, we promote watching a video in the original language. It’s hard to learn a foreign language if you never hear it spoken. And being able to turn the subtitles on and off with a click is pretty handy.

 

Speaking of Yabla, two people on our talent force have worked in the field of dubbing.

 

Eh, all'inizio sì, lo facevo come [sic], doppiavo grandi artisti e attori.

Yeah, at the beginning, yes; I did that like I dubbed famous artists and actors.

Poi, eh, mi sono concentrata molto sui documentari.

Then, ah, I started concentrating a lot on documentaries.

Captions 14-15, Marika e Daniela - Daniela Bruni, voice over

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Inoltre, questo... in questo corso si impara a interpretare: interpretare un personaggio, interpretare un testo.

In addition, this... in this course one learns to act: to play a role, to interpret a script.

Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.

This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.

Captions 14-17, Arianna e Marika - Il lavoro di doppiatrice

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The verb doppiare comes from the noun doppio. Its cognate is “double” in English. And sometimes it means just that, as in the following example, where it functions as an adjective. Note how the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender of the noun it modifies.

 

Ecco qua, doppia senape e doppio ketchup. -Bella schifezza.

Here you are, double mustard and double ketchup. -Nice bit of junk food.

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 12

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But more often than not, it means “twice,” as in the following example.

 

E per metterci magari anche il doppio del tempo?

And maybe takes even twice as much time?

Caption 7, Marika spiega - Proverbi italiani - Part 2

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Italians use sdoppiare to mean “to duplicate, to copy” when referring to CDs or cassettes. It is the negation of doppiare, and means “to split” but it also means “to make something into two.”

Mi potresti sdoppiare questo CD?
Could you copy this CD for me?

 

Interestingly enough, the verb “to dub” comes from “double” and came into use in the nineteen twenties. We use the verb “to dub” to refer to replacing speech in a movie, but also to copy from one tape to another (sdoppiare).

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As Arianna tells us, you can go to school to get professional training in dubbing. Apart from dubbing actual movies, producers need dubbers for corporate videos, voice-overs for documentaries, and voices for cartoon characters. It’s a career choice that doesn’t immediately come to mind, but one that will never become obsolete.

 

See this fascinating article in English about the practice of dubbing in Italian cinema.

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Food in Italy at Christmastime

If it's Natale — Christmas Day, lots of folks in Italy are at home getting ready for a big meal. Food is a priority, and taken very seriously.

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Of course, Italy is famous for pasta, and so on Christmas, the dinner table for traditional Italians will often include lasagne al forno (baked lasagna). Here are some recipes in Italian:

Lasagne al forno lasagne verdi

 

You wouldn't want to eat lasagna every day, but it's hard to say no to. Even Luca Manara can't say no. Note that, as for other kinds of pasta, the plural is used: lasagne.

Ecco qua il miracolo di zia Caterina, le famose lasagne al forno per festeggiare l'ennesimo caso risolto brillantemente, ecco qua.

Here it is, Aunt Caterina's miracle, the famous baked lasagna to celebrate the umpteenth case solved brilliantly, here you are.

Captions 18-19, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 15

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Tortellini in brodo (Tortellini in broth) is another favorite. See more about tortellini here.

Making homemade brodo (broth) is common in Italy, and is easy and worth it. If you’re not sure what to do with the rind from your parmigiano (parmesan cheese), well, just throw it in the pot with the other basic ingredients: various cuts of meat and bones, celery, parsley, carrots and onions. The parmigiano rinds add some great flavor.

Here’s a recipe for brodo, in Italian.

 

From the Yabla video series about the famous chef Gualtiero Marchesi, we can see how big a deal a simple broth can be. 

Nell'orazione funebre che Bocuse tenne per la morte di uno dei due fratelli Troisgros, ricordava ancora la preparazione del brodo. La preparazione del brodo è come la preparazione della pozione magica...

In the funeral oration that Bocuse gave for the death of one of the two Troisgros brothers, he mentioned again the preparation of broth. The preparation of broth is like preparing a magic potion...

Captions 28-30, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 13

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One thing that characterizes the winter season in Italy, is the overwhelming availability of agrumi (citrus fruit). People like to eat arance (oranges)mandarini (mandarin oranges),and clementini (clementines) or clementine (clementines). They are shipped to all other parts of Italy from Sicily and Calabria, and fill shops and homes with their fragrance.

 

In just about any bar, you can order una spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice). It's best when oranges are in season. 

Per me una spremuta d'arancia, grazie.

For me a freshly squeezed orange juice, thanks.

Caption 41, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 11

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In Italy, fruit is generally served at the end of a meal, and at Christmastime, there is usually also frutta secca (nuts and other dried fruits) in addition to panettone and other wonderful but caloric desserts. 

Here’s a link to a Yabla blog about the winter holidays in various parts of the world.

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The Historical Present Tense in Italian

In the English language, with some exceptions, history is told in the past. The historical present does exist, however. In English grammar, the historical present is the use of a verb phrase in the present tense to refer to an event that took place in the past. In narratives, the historical present may be used to create an effect of immediacy. It’s also called the historic present, dramatic present, and narrative present.

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But in Italian and other romance languages the historical present is commonly used to recount events in the past, especially when referring to history.

 

Context is very important, and translating can present some challenges.

 

Here’s an example of how Italian uses the historical present for something that clearly happened in the past. In English, it would sound a bit strange in the present tense, and the first phrase would be well nigh impossible to express in the present tense. 

Pitrè nasce nel milleottocentoquarantuno a Palermo, in una famiglia di pescatori.

Pitrè was born in eighteen hundred forty-one in Palermo, in a family of fishermen.

Il padre, un povero marinaio del rione di Santa Lucia, è costretto, come tanti, ad emigrare in America, dove muore di febbre gialla.

The father, a poor sailor from the Santa Lucia district, was forced, like many, to emigrate to America, where he died of yellow fever.

Captions 28-32, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie - Part 2

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In the documentary about Fascism currently available on Yabla, the historical present is used in several instances. Sometimes it makes sense to use it in English, too, as in the following example. By using the historical present, we set the scene. We seem to observe the events from close up, as they happen.

Sono gli anni delle campagne di stampa contro le parole straniere.

Parole straniere e borghesia sono mali da estirpare.

These are the years of the publishing campaigns against foreign words.

Foreign words and the bourgeoisie are evils to be rooted out.

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

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La "Gazzetta del Popolo" di Torino inaugura la rubrica "Una parola al giorno".

Turin's “Gazzetta del Popolo” [The People's Gazzette] launches the feature “Una Parola Al Giorno” [A Word a Day].

Captions 14-15, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 5

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The use of the historical or narrative present in Italian is just something to be aware of. Deciding whether or not to maintain the same tense in translation is a subjective one, based on the tone to be set, or based on clarity. Much of the time, using the past tense in English will be preferred, but not always.

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What's the Story on Voi in the Singular?

English doesn’t make the distinction — as far as pronouns go — between familiar and polite forms, but many languages do.

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Lei, Voi, and tu all mean "you!"

 

In a recent documentary about how the Italian language was influenced by Italian fascism, we learn that Lei, the polite form of “you” (singular), was actually banned from the language by Mussolini, and that the form Voi was imposed. But what’s this all about?

voi and Voi: What's the difference?

Let’s clarify, right away, that voi with a lowercase “v” is the second person plural personal pronoun, that is, “you” plural. We use it all the time. What we’re discussing here, however, is the use of Voi — with a capital letter — as a second person singular, polite form. It uses the same conjugation as voi (you plural).

A Bit of History

 

The story is a long, complicated, and fascinating one, but here are the basics.

 

In ancient Rome, people used only the familiar form, “tu” (which later became the Italian tu (you, singular).

 

At a certain point, around the year 300, the Latin “Vos” ("you" plural used as a singular) began to be used with important figures such as emperors, much the same way as the pluralismajestatis was used.

 

“Vos” then became Voi in Italian, and was commonly used from the 1200’s to the 1400’s for addressing artists, nobility, etc. Dante used tu and Voi. Later, in the Renaissance, with the return to studying the Greek and Roman classics, there was a tendency to go back to the “Roman” tu.

 

Also in the Renaissance, Lei began to be used in offices and courts as a polite form of address. Lei corresponds to the third person feminine singular (she/her). The words used for prominent figures, like Eccellenza (Excellence) and Maestà (Majesty) are feminine nouns, and so, this led to a feminine pronoun: LeiLei was used alongside Voi for centuries as a deferential form of address, with tu as a familiar and intimate one. Many consider that the use of Lei came into use following the model of the Spanish, whose presence was felt in Italy during the 16th Century.

 

So, though not actually foreign (but believed to be, at least, partially), Lei was banned by Mussolini as being a non-Italian word:

 

Imposizione del Voi ...

The imposition of “Voi” ["you" singular, formal] ...

Parole straniere bandite e sostituite per legge.

Foreign words banned and replaced by law.

Captions 6-9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana

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Thus, Voi was revived and/or imposed all over Italy. After the fall of fascism, Voi fell into disuse in many parts of Italy, where it had not really had time to be assimilated.

 

And What About Modern-day Italy?

In much of southern Italy, however, Voi, as a deferential form of address, had never gone out of fashion, as it had in the north. So, it simply remained, and to this day it’s still used as a sign of respect, especially in families: a nipotino (grandson) in speaking to his nonno (grandfather), for example.

 

If you are an adult and go on a trip to Naples, Sicily or other southern Italian destination, you may very well be addressed as Voi. This is a sign of respect.

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Lei has entered Italian vocabulary and grammar books as the official personal pronoun for addressing someone formally. But since language is fluid and ever-changing — not by law and imposition, but by common use — this could change. There's a lesson about this!

 

Thanks for reading, keep up the good work, and feel free to write to us at 
newsletter@yabla.com with your comments and questions.

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Locali, Locale, Locals

A note about Adriano and his Dublin videos. You may notice that in a recent installment, he uses the noun locali to mean “the locals.” It’s incorrect.

Questa scuola di cucina serve appunto per far conoscere a locali [sic: persone del posto] e a stranieri le tecniche, i segreti della cucina italiana.

This school serves, in fact, to acquaint locals and foreigners with the techniques, the secrets of Italian cooking.

Captions 22-23, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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In Italian, un locale is a place. Adriano is using a “false friend” that made its way into his brain without his even realizing it, perhaps. This can happen very easily when we spend time in a foreign country. We make a huge effort to learn the language of the place, we even start thinking in that language, and then all of a sudden we have to speak our native language there in the foreign country. It’s easy to get a little mixed up sometimes. Living in a foreign country encourages us to become somewhat multilingual, using the word that seems the most appropriate at the moment, in whichever language. Since there is no good, single Italian word for “the locals,” Adriano just grabbed the first word that sounded right, treating it as an Italian word, making the plural with an i. If you speak English, you understand it. Just remember: it’s not correct Italian. 

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Extra Reading References

There are times and situations in which reading is the thing to do.

 

Oppure potete semplicemente sdraiarvi sull'erba, prendere il sole e leggere un buon libro.

Or else you can simply lie on the grass, sunbathe and read a good book.

Captions 22-23, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 2

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Here are a few ideas to feed your Italian language curiosity.

 

Una parola al giorno (One word a day)

This is a great website for learning new words in Italian, or for getting explanations about words you have heard or read, and maybe even used, but would like to know more about.

The explanations are in Italian, so it’s mostly for more advanced learners. You can always consult an English language tool as well such as Google, or go straight to WordReference if the Italian is too difficult. By subscribing to Una parola al giorno, you’ll receive a new word every day in your inbox. It may be a word you don’t care about, and you can just send it to the trash, but there will be plenty of useful words, too. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe any time.

Do you like to read? 

Sometimes it’s fun to learn new words and expressions in Italian within the context of a book or story in English set in Italy. Both of the following authors pepper their writings with Italian words and phrases. It’s a great opportunity to discover when, where, and how to use them. It also gives you some inside information about Italian culture.

Tim Parks is a British author who has lived in Verona, Italy for many years. He worked as a translator and taught translating skills at Italian universities, as well as being a successful novelist. His books about Italy provide some well-written and humorous insight into Italy, Italians, and the Italian language.

Below are his non-fiction books about Italy.

Italian Neighbours, 1992. Relates how the author and his wife came to a small town near Verona and how they integrate and become accustomed to the unusual habits of their newfound neighbours. ISBN 0099286955

An Italian Education, 1996. Follow up to Italian Neighbours and recounts the milestones in the life of the author's children as they progress through the Italian school system. ISBN 0099286963

Italian Ways, on and off the rails from Milan to Palermo 2013 This is all about the railway system in Italy, and how the author travelled the length of the “boot” to discover its ins and outs.

Donna Leon has written a long series of mysteries set in Venice. She lived in Venice for many years, so her descriptions are quite true-to-life.

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La vita quotidiana (daily life)

In a recent video, Marika shows us the balcony of her apartment in Rome, so let’s talk about a couple of details concerning Italian life that come to the fore as she takes us around.

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Il bucato (the laundry):

In the United States, there are laundry rooms in the basement of a house or apartment building, but this is rare in Italy. People have their own washing machines, usually in the kitchen, bathroom, or on the balcony.

Quando ho finito di usare la lavatrice e devo stendere i miei panni, userò lo stendibiancheria, che è questo.

When I've finished using my washing machine and I need to hang out my laundry, I'll use the drying rack, which is this one.

Captions 41-42, Marika spiega - Il balcone

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Some people have dryers but most ordinary people don’t. That’s why Marika talks about the drying racks. You buy the one that suits the space you have. The weather is usually such that you can dry your clothes outside. Occasionally, you do need to put the drying racks inside because of inclement weather, or you can place a plastic tarp over the rack to keep the rain out. There are laundromats in town, so if the weather is too bad, you can dry your clothes at the laundromat. Laundry in Italy is something that takes a little thought and planning. Electricity costs less at night, on weekends, and on holidays, so people who want to save do their laundry on the weekend, or at night. Newer washing machines have timers so you can schedule the wash to start at an appropriate time.  A load of wash takes a lot longer to finish than you may be used to. It’s not unusual for a cycle to take an hour and a half.

 

La raccolta differenziata (recycling):

We say “recycling” but actually, what raccolta differenziata (differentiated collection) actually means is separating our garbage into different types to be collected, thus the term “differentiated.” It’s  a bit tricky for people who live in apartments.

Per fortuna anche qui, come in tanti posti del mondo, si fa la raccolta differenziata.

Luckily, here too, as in many places in the world, we do recycling.

Caption 17, Marika spiega - Il balcone

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All the wrappers for food and other materials, usually made of plastic, but also including Tetra Paks and cans, go in one bin. Paper and cardboard go in another, glass in another, and most importantly, the wet stuff, usually food waste, goes in a separate container. What cannot be recycled in any way goes into the general, mixed garbage, or indifferenziata. We are encouraged to keep this type of waste to a bare minimum. Separating the different kinds of waste makes it much easier for the sanitation department workers to go through it and sort it further. Appropriate material will then be actually recycled. People who live outside the city, and have enough space, can get a bio-composter (usually free of charge) so they can recycle their own food and gardening refuse

The European Parliament has set goals for reducing waste as far as possible. The method that has had the most success is what is called porta a porta (door to door) collection. Every day, a different kind of waste is picked up. At the outset, it costs more, but as it takes hold, people can actually save money.

 

Zanzariere (mosquito screens):

In the United States, most houses have screen doors and screens on the windows, but in Italy, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. There are all kinds of solutions, from screen curtains with magnets or velcro, to mosquito nets, to proper screens fitted into the windows and doors. They are usually the type that can be easily raised and lowered so people can air their bedspreads and pillows, and shake out their rugs, rags and dust mops from the windows.

Questa alle mie spalle si chiama zanzariera e serve per proteggermi dagli insetti.

This, behind me, is called mosquito netting [screen], and serves to protect me from insects.

Captions 6-7, Marika spiega - Il balcone

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If you travel to Italy in the summer, it can be wise to make sure the hotel or Bed and Breakfast you are staying in has screens on the windows and French doors. It may not be a given.

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When O's Become U's - Welcome to Sicily

One of Yabla’s current offerings is about Sicily. The Giuseppe Pitrè videos are peppered with phrases in the Sicilian dialect. As a matter of fact, although we call it a dialect, it’s actually a language all its own.

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The Italian State was born only in 1861. Textbooks began being uniformly published in the Italian language as late as 1928.  Before that, different regions in what later became Italy had wildly different ways of expressing themselves, and in many cases still do.

 

Even now there are still plenty of people, mostly pensionati (retirees) by now, who have had only minimal schooling and never learned Italian, let alone to read and write. If they had children, the children became bilingual in order to both go to school and be able to communicate with their parents. So these languages are still alive, thanks also to folk traditions of theater and poetry, such as the ones described in the above-mentioned videos.

 

When you’re learning the language, it's hard enough to follow someone speaking Italian, let alone someone speaking in dialect, as in the Pitrè videos. Remember, though: You don’t need to actually learn Sicilian or any other regional language. But being in the know about some of a dialect's characteristics can enable you to enjoy the differences (and understand something) rather than being overwhelmed by them. Italy's linguistic diversity is part of what makes the country so interesting.

 

From these Pitrè videos, you’ll notice for example, that the “o” in Italian often becomes “u” in Sicilian. The “e” often  becomes “ie.”

Signuri mei, vi cuntu di Giufà [Signori miei, vi racconto di Giufà], ca una ni pienza e milli ni fa [che una ne pensa e mille ne fa].

My gentlemen, I'll tell you about Giufà, who thinks of one thing and does a thousand of them.

Captions 30-31, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie - Part 4

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Vai Giuseppe, curri [corri]! Curri [corri], fratello!

Go Giuseppe, run! Hurry up, brother!

Caption 51, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie - Part 2

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In the examples above, the pronunciation is decidedly different, but the words are the same as or similar to Italian.

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Sometimes, though, vocabulary changes completely, or almost completely. One Sicilian word that comes to mind is picciotto (young man or boy). Just picking out that one word (and variants of it) can allow you to feel like you're in the know.

E ddu picciotto, un avennu né piccioli [E quel ragazzo, non avendo nemmeno soldi] pi manciari, ci rissi [per mangiare, gli disse]: se, cietto ca mi vogghiu mettiri in 'sta scummissa [sì, certo che voglio fare questa scommessa]!

And that young man, having no money even for food, told him, "Yes, of course I want to make a bet!"

Captions 39-41, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie - Part 4

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When the boy speaks, you’ll notice that, as mentioned above, the “e” in certo (of course) becomes “ie.” In addition, the “r” disappears altogether and it becomes cietto.

The more you listen to Italians speaking, the more you'll notice regional differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntax, as well as in general inflection. It can be fun to guess where someone is from!

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The Trentino-Alto Adige region

Find some history and general information about the Trentino-Alto Adige Südtirol region of Italy here.

But let’s take a closer look at the name itself: Trentino-Alto Adige.
 

The Alto Adige part of the name refers to the upper part of the Adige River that runs from the Alps through the Trentino-Alto Adige region and on to the Veneto region to empty out into the Adriatic Sea just south of Venezia and Chioggia. The Adige is the second longest river in Italy after the Po River, and it is this river valley that accommodates a good part of the toll road autostrada A22 that runs from the Italian-Austrian border at the Brenner Pass to Modena, as well as the railroad that follows a similar route. And so when travelling to and from Italy by way of the Brenner Pass, the river is visible for a good number of kilometers.

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Trentino refers to the province of Trento (Trent), one of the two provinces of the region. Trento is a beautiful medieval city with a marvelous castle (Il Castello del Buonconsiglio), and was the seat of the famous Council of Trent in the 16th century.
 
Trentin-Südtirol is the German language name for the region, with its German speaking province and main city, Bozen/Bolzano.
 
When travelling north from Modena, Verona, and Trento towards Innsbruck, Austria, whether by car or by train, the names on the signs start to appear in two languages, Italian and German. The mountains get higher, the temperatures a bit cooler. The views are breathtaking.
 
It is great wine country, and on both sides of the river and of the autostrada, there are vineyards carpeting every inch, except for when there are apple orchards. Most of the apples produced in Italy come from this region.

There is also a bike path that goes along the Adige river, through the vineyards, for about 60 kilometers between Trento and Bolzano.
  
Buon viaggio!

 

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Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits)

In a previous episode of the series on food, Gianni Mura talked about trends in restaurant dining. He talked about what quickly caught on as a popular way of getting a little taste of everything. Instead of a primo (first course), secondo (main dish), contorno (side dish), and dolce (dessert), a restaurant would offer a tris di assaggi (three "tastes," or miniature servings) of primi piatti (first courses). This became, and still is, a great way for tourists, or anyone else, to find out what they like. Depending on what's offered, and on the kind of restaurant, the three servings may arrive all on the same plate at the same time, or on separate plates, one after the other. 

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At the end of concerts, audiences ask for an encore. In Italian, this is called a bis. It comes from the Latin for "twice." It has come to mean "again" or "more" in a concert setting, where people want to hear a piece played a second time, or something extra once the programmed performance is over. If you're dining with friends at home, and would like another helping, you can use bis:

Posso fare il bis?
Can I have a second helping?

In rare cases you can ask for a bis in a restaurant, but usually in a restaurant setting, bis will indicate two small servings of two different dishes, rather than one normal one. Likewise, a tris (coming from the Latin for "three times") denotes three small servings of a dish rather than one normal serving.
 

Now that you know what tris means, here's a tris of tidbits about Italian.
 

1) Past meaning present

 

In some cases Italian uses il passato prossimo (constructed like the English present perfect) to express an idea that in English would use the present tense. Here's an example. Luca is telling the doctor that Lara will promise to take care of him. She hesitates but then agrees. She uses the past participle of promettere (to promise) rather than the present tense, as we would in English.

 

Dottore, che... che devo fare? -Senta, se lo dimetto, mi promette di non lasciarlo solo neanche un attimo? Promette, promette... -Eh... sì! Promesso.

Doctor, what... what should I do? -Listen! If I release him, do you promise not to leave him alone, not even for an instant? She promises, she promises... -Uh... yes! I promise.

Captions 47-49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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Capire (to understand) is another word that often gets used in its passato prossimo tense to mean what we think of as being in the present.

 

Ho capito, ma adesso, qua in mezzo alla campagna... con le mucche, che facciamo?

I get it, but now, here in the middle of the countryside... with the cows, what are we going to do?

Captions 10-11, Francesca - alla guida - Part 3

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As a question tag, the person and auxiliary verb are often left out:

 

Tiziana, calmati. Ho già fatto richiesta per farti scarcerare, però mi devi dare una mano. Mi devi aiutare, capito?

Tiziana, calm down. I've already put in a request for you to be released, but you have to give me a hand. You have to help me, do you understand?

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

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Ho capito (I understand [literally "I've understood"]) is what you commonly say to let someone know you're listening, much like "I see," "I get it," or even "uh huh." 

 

2) A common modo di dire

 

E poi eravamo in giro tutte le notti, perché a quei tempi gli artisti andavano ad alcool e quindi...

And then, we were out and about all night because in those times, artists were fueled by alcohol, and so...

Captions 3-4, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá

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In giro is a very general way to say "out" or "around," when you ask or say where someone is, or where someone has gone. There are many ways to use this expression, so check it out here.

 

3) Hidden vowels and silent consonants

 

In an online video lesson, Marika talks some more about object pronouns, this time with the participio passato (past participle). One important thing that can be difficult to grasp is that when the pronoun is used, the object (in the form of a pronoun) comes first. Let's look at this example.

 

Hai guardato il film? Sì, l'ho guardato.

Did you watch the movie? Yes, I watched it.

Captions 15-16, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti con participio passato

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We also need to remember that the "h" in ho is silent. L'ho sounds like "lo," but the apostrophe is there to tell us that it's really lo (it) ho (I have). We have "l" + silent  "o" + silent "h" + "o."

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One extra tidbit concerning the passato prossimo: While constructed like the present perfect, it often translates with the English simple past tense, just as in the above example. 

 

That's it for the tris!

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Cops: Carabinieri, Vigili, or Poliziotti?

This week Yabla features an interview with a poliziotto (policeman). Nicola gives us some insight into what it really means to be a policeman. 

 

Sono un agente di Polizia da ventitré anni.

I've been a police officer for twenty-three years.

Caption 2, Nicola Agliastro - Poliziotto

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But what brand of policeman is he? In Italy there are different categories of police, with different roles, rules, and uniforms.

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Judging from the sign at the Commissariato (police headquarters) at the beginning of the video, Nicola appears to be part of the Polizia di Stato (state [national] police), which is the main, national police force. They are responsible for patrolling the autostrade (highways), ferrovie (railways), aeroporti (airports), and la dogana (customs). Their vehicles are blue and white (see thumbnail of video).

 

If you subscribe to Yabla, you’re quite familiar by now with La Polizia di Stato, since the popular series Commissario Manara takes place in that environment (in fact, there's a new segment this week!). 

 

Luca and Lara are usually in borghese (plainclothes), and wear their uniforms only on special occasions. At first glance Luca Manara doesn't quite look the part, and Ginevra, the medico legale (coroner), who doesn't look the part any more so, comments:

 

Tu devi essere il nuovo commissario, però non ne hai l'aspetto.

You must be the new Commissioner, but you don't look it.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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La polizia municipale (local police force) on the other hand, works at a local level and is responsible primarily for traffic control, but also for enforcing national, regional, and local laws regarding commerce, legal residence, pets, and other administrative duties. The officers of the municipal police aren’t automatically authorized to carry weapons, since public safety is generally relegated to the Polizia di Stato. The municipal forces may be called polizia comunale (community police), polizia urbana (town police), or polizia locale (local police). They’re commonly called vigili urbani (town guards), but the correct nomenclature is agenti di polizia locale. Their vehicles depend on local tastes and traditions, and differ from town to town, and from region to region.

 

If you’re in Italy and you lose your wallet, or something gets stolen, you go to the Carabinieri to report the theft or the loss. They file a report, and make it official. When you’re driving, the Carabinieri may have you pull over for a routine checking of license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you have reason to believe there is a crime being committed, call the Carabinieri.

 

The police emergency number is 113, equivalent to 911 in the United States.

 

Here’s hoping you never need it!

 

Another important police force is la Guardia di Finanza (financial guard). The Guardia di Finanza deals primarily with financial crime and smuggling, and is the primary agency for suppressing illicit drug trade. They work on land, sea, and in the air. These are the agents who might ask you to produce a scontrino (receipt) upon exiting a shop, restaurant, or bar. The customer, since 2003, no longer incurs a fine, but it’s still good practice to hang on to your receipt until well away from the place of business.

 

These agents wear grayish green uniforms with the insignia of a yellow flame on the shoulder. Because of this, they are sometimes called le fiamme gialle (the yellow flames).

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Whichever kind of policemen you see around, be they carabinierivigiliagenti di polizia localepoliziotti, or fiamme gialle, remember they're there primarily to help, not to give you trouble.

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