Italian Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Everyday Speech

Venire doesn't just mean "to come"

Venire is one of those verbs, like "get" in English, that is used in lots of ways, besides its general meaning of "to come." Let's look at some of the ways.

To cost

When you are shopping at the outdoor market, for example, and want to know the price, you might think of saying:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

It's a fine cognate, easy to remember. But if you want to sound more like a local, you might say:

Quanto viene (how much does it come to)?

or if they are pomodori (tomatoes), for example,

Quanto vengono (how much do they come to)?

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

To turn out, to come out

When you succeeded (or not) in doing something, such as jumping over a hurdle, making a drawing, making a special dish, you can use venire. You can say, for instance:

Questo dolce mi è venuto bene (I did a good job on this dessert. It came out well).

We can say it in a neutral way, leaving out the indirect personal pronoun:

È venuto bene (it came out nicely)

Or we can say it in a more personal way:

Ti è venuto bene (you had success), mi è venuto bene (I had success).

 

Instead of saying sono stata brava (I did a good job), where the accent is on me, I turn the phrase around a bit, and say mi è venuto bene (it came out well for me). There is a little less ego involved, if we want to look at it that way. We're not taking all the credit. It might have been chance.

A fun expression

In a recent segment of the movie Dafne, the father is thinking of planting a vegetable garden. He's probably never done it before. He says:

Potrei fare l'orto, come viene viene (I could plant a vegetable garden, however it turns out).

 

Literally, it's "It turns out the way it turns out."

 

Venire in place of essere (to be)

We have mentioned this in another lesson. The verb venire, as well as the verb andare, is used to make a kind of passive form. Since that lesson is long and involved, we'll just cite the part about venire here:

Venire (to come) and andare (to go) 

There is a verb pair that Italians use to form the passive voice, more often than you might think: venire (to come) and andare (to go). These have a particular feeling and purpose. We could look at these verbs as more of an active-type passive tense (although perhaps that's an oxymoron). If you think of times when we use "get" instead of "to be" in passive sentences, it might make more sense. We often use venire when we're talking about how things are done, or things that are done on a continuing basis, and we use andare when we're talking about things that have to get done. 

If I am telling you the rules of how candidates are chosen, for example, or how they get chosen, I might use venire (to come). 

 

Active: Il presidente sceglie il vicepresidente. The president chooses the vice-president.

Passive: Il vicepresidente viene scelto dal presidente. The vice-president gets chosen by the president.

 

In Italia il caffè viene servito in tazzine di queste dimensioni.

In Italy, coffee is served in demitasses that are this size.

Caption 15, Adriano Il caffè

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Venire used as "to remember," "to come to mind"

Non mi viene. -Va bene.

It doesn't come to mind. -All right.

Caption 68, Sposami EP 3 - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

We can also say this as we do in English:

Non mi viene in mente (it doesn't come to mind)

 

But we often leave out the "in mente" part, especially if there is a direct object, like for example il nome "the name."

Non mi viene il nome (I can't remember the name, I can't think of the name). 

 

We hope this lesson has given you some more tools to improve your Italian.  Keep on learning!

Continue Reading

Being non-specific with da + infinitive

I can ask you if you have a pen or a pencil, or I can ask you if you have something to write with. I don't always need to be specific. I can offer you a glass of water, a glass of wine, or I can just offer you something to drink. I might not want to be specific. Let's look at one way to say this in Italian.

 

We can use the preposition da (from, to, at) and the infinitive of a verb. Let's look at some examples. 

 

Hai da scrivere (do you have something to write with)?

Scusate, mica avete da accendere? -Sì.

Excuse me, do you happen to have a light? -Yes.

Caption 1, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 26

 Play Caption

 

The person we ask for a light might have un accendino (a lighter) or dei fiammiferi (some matches). So we don't need to be specific. We just indicate what we need it for.

 

Faccio da mangiare (I'm going to make something to eat). 

 

Devo dare da mangiare a mia figlia.

I have to feed my daughter.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

Dai da bere a 'sti [questi] quattro lavoratori qua.

Give these four workers something to drink.

Caption 26, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Quando viaggio in treno porto sempre da leggere (when I travel by train I always bring something to read).

 

I can also say:

Porto sempre qualcosa da leggere (I always bring something to read).

 

Ci vorrebbe da dormire e da mangiare. -Bene.

We need lodging and food. -Fine.

Caption 20, Dafne Film - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

Ho da fare (I have stuff to do).

 

Let us know if you have questions at newsletter@yabla.com. 

Continue Reading

Siamo alla frutta!

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

 

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

 

Qua tra IVA, Irpef e bollette,

Here, what with VAT, personal income tax, and bills,

praticamente siamo alla frutta.

we are basically at the bottom of the barrel.

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

 Play Caption


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

 

antipasto
primo piatto
secondo piatto
contorno
dolce 
frutta
caffè 
ammazzacaffè


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

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

Siamo alla frutta!


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



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

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

 

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

 

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


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

Example:
 

Ho pagato tutte le bollette e l'affito per questo mese,

I paid all the bills and the rent for this month,

e ora sono alla frutta.

and I am high and dry / scraping the bottom of the barrel.

 

Or you can put it at the beginning: 
 

Sono alla frutta. Vado a prendermi un caffè.

I'm wiped out. I'm going to get some coffee.

 

Divertitevi! (Have fun!)

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

Continue Reading

I Say Hello; You Say Goodbye

We’ve all heard the informal greeting ciao ("hi" or "bye") and the more formal buongiorno ("good morning" or "hello"). But when is the right—or wrong—time to use them? And what are the variations and alternatives?  

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Buongiorno: when do we say this?

In Il Commissario Manara - Un delitto perfetto, a freshly transferred Commissioner is greeting his new boss. He certainly wouldn’t say ciao. He says buongiorno. If it were after noon (technically after 12 noon, but more likely later) he would say buonasera ("good evening," "good afternoon," or "hello"). 

 

Buongiorno. -Si può sapere, di grazia, che fine ha fatto?

Good morning. -Can one know, may I ask, where you have been?

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

 Play Caption

 

At the market, Agata is addressing the vegetable vendor with respect. It is polite to add signora (ma’am) or signore (sir) when addressing someone you don’t know well, or when you don’t know their name. Agata’s friend just says a general buongiorno ("good morning") to everyone (a little less formal but still perfectly acceptable): 

 

Signora buongiorno. -Buongiorno. -Volevo fare vedere alla mia amica Catena... -Buongiorno, piacere.

Madam, good morning. -Good morning. -I wanted to show my friend Catena... -Good morning, nice to meet you.

Captions 23-24, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

 Play Caption

 

Ciao and arrivederci

Agata and her friend Catena are still at the market. Catena says buongiorno since she doesn’t know anyone at all. Agata just uses her vendor’s name (Giuseppe) to greet him, and he greets her using the familiar form:

 

Buongiorno. -Giuseppe! -Ciao Agata.

Good morning. -Giuseppe! -Hi Agata.

Caption 8, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

 Play Caption

 

Another vendor is saying goodbye to her customers: ciao to those to she knows well and arrivederci (literally, "until we see each other again") to those she doesn’t: 

 

Grazie. Arrivederci, ciao.

Thanks. Goodbye, bye.

Captions 44-45, L'isola del gusto - Il macco di Aurora

 Play Caption

 

Pronto (telephone only)

One version of "hello" has a very limited application: pronto. It literally means "ready," and it's how Italians answer the phone:

 

Pronto, Sicily Cultural Tour. Buongiorno.

Hello, Sicily Cultural Tour. Good morning.

Caption 1, Pianificare - un viaggio

 Play Caption

 

One more option: Salve

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Still another way to greet someone is salve (hello). Less formal than buongiorno, it is still polite and you can use it all by itself. It is especially useful when you’re not sure how formal to be or whether it is morning or afternoon/evening, and when you don’t know or remember the name of the person you are addressing.

 

Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.

Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.

Caption 2, Pianificare - un viaggio

 Play Caption

 

As you go about your day, try imagining how you might greet the people you meet if you were speaking Italian. Keep in mind the hour, and how well you know the person—and, remember, when in doubt, there is always salve

 

To learn more:

A detailed explanation of Forms of Address used in Italian can be found here.

Continue Reading