Italian Lessons

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Lessons for topic Expressions

How to talk about frequency regarding time

How do we talk about frequency — how many times in a period of time something happens or should happen? Let's find out.

 

Just as English has "every" and "each," so does Italian. Italian has tutti (all) and ogni (each). For more about tutti see this lesson

In Italia, come ben sapete, la pasta è un alimento consumato tutti i giorni.

In Italy, as you well know, pasta's a food that's eaten every day.

Caption 1, Anna e Marika La pasta fresca

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Note that with tutti, we use the plural. Both the noun giorni and the adjective tutti are in the plural. Not only that. If we replace giorni (days) with settimane (weeks), we have to change tutti  to tutte, as settimana is a feminine noun. Note also that we have tutto il giorno, which means "all day." Here tutto is singular, so try not to get mixed up (we'll talk about this in a different lesson).

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Usciamo quasi tutte le settimane, il sabato sera,

We go out almost every week, on Saturday night,

Caption 40, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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When we use ogni (each), on the other hand, it's always singular. 

 

Qui in Sicilia, in estate si va ogni giorno al mare e la sera si esce.

Here in Sicily, in the summer we go to the beach every day and in the evenings we go out.

Caption 49, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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What if we want to talk about "every other day?" We can say ogni due giorni (every two days) or we can say un giorno sì e un giorno no (one day yes and one day no).

Ah no, eh? E tu come lo chiami un bambino che vomita un giorno sì e un giorno no?

No? And what do you call a little boy who vomits every other day?

Captions 95-96, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 3

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When it comes to doing something once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a year, we use the noun volta, which we can also use in the plural when appropriate. It is followed by the preposition a (at, to, in)

Allora, amici di Yabla, all'interno del mio negozio, una volta al mese ospito degli artisti...

So, Yabla friends, inside my shop, I host artists once a month...

Captions 56-57, Adriano Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Note that the noun volta has other meanings and connotations, so consider checking out the dictionary entry linked to above. Learn more about the noun volta meaning "time" in this lesson

 

una volta al giorno (once a day)

due volte al giorno (twice a day)

una volta alla settimana (once a week)

due volte alla settimana (twice a week)

una volta al mese (once a month)

due volte al mese (twice a month)

una volta all'anno (once a year)

due volte all'anno (twice a year)

 

There is a lot to talk about regarding time. We've covered one aspect of frequency in this lesson, but in future lessons, we'll talk about ways to say "usually," "sometimes," "always," "never," and so on.

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Kinds of boats in Italian

Let's look at the different names Italians have for vessels that travel on water. 

 

The most basic word, and the first word you'll likely learn, is la barca (the boat). It's general, it starts with B!

A Villa Borghese si possono fare tantissime cose: si può noleggiare una barca... per navigare nel laghetto;

At Villa Borghese, you can do many things: you can rent a boat... to sail on the small lake;

Captions 10-12, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 1

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If we want to specify the kind of boat, such as a sailboat, then we use the preposition a (to, at) to indicate the type: barca a vela (sailboat).

 

E lui fa il cuoco sulle barche a vela, in giro per il mondo.

And he's a cook on sailboats, going around the world.

Caption 28, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 9

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A motorboat would be una barca a motore.

 

A fishing boat can be una barca da pesca, but also, and more commonly, un peschereccio.

E... questa tartaruga è arrivata in... proprio ieri, portata da un peschereccio di Lampedusa.

And... this turtle arrived... just yesterday, brought to us by a Lampedusa fishing boat.

Captions 4-5, WWF Italia Progetto tartarughe - Part 2

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The second word you'll learn will likely be la nave (the ship):

La Campania è collegatissima, quindi ci si può arrivare in treno, in aereo, in macchina o in nave.

Campania is very accessible, meaning you can get there by train, by plane, by car, or by ship.

Captions 82-84, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Campania

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There are the ships we see on the sea, but there are ferryboats, too, especially the ones that take you from Italy's mainland to le isole (the islands): Sicilia (Sicily), Sardegna (Sardinia), Corsica (although not part of Italy — a common destination), and l'Isola d'Elba. This specific kind of boat is called un traghetto. But if you call it la nave, that's perfectly understandable, too. Some of these ferries are huge. In the following example, we're talking about getting to Sardinia.

Ci sono tre aeroporti, se si vuole arrivare in aereo. Oppure con il traghetto da Civitavecchia, da Genova o da Napoli.

There are three airports if one wishes to arrive by plane. Or by ferry from Civitavecchia, from Genoa, or from Naples.

Captions 70-71, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Sardegna

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If you go to Venice, you will undoubtedly take a ferry at some point. Here, the local means of transportation is il vaporetto (the steamship).  The name comes from il vapore (the steam). There are stops you get off at, just like for busses, subways, and trains in mainland cities.

 

When you need speed, you opt for un motoscafo (a motorboat, a speedboat). That's what the police use. 

 

Another boat name used in Venice, but other places, too, is battello

Per arrivare a Murano, basta prendere un battello a Venezia e in pochi minuti si arriva.

To get to Murano, all you have to do is take a passenger boat in Venice, and in just a few minutes, you get there.

Captions 23-25, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 8

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Interestingly, when Italians use the noun la canoa, they often mean "kayak." The noun kayak exists as well. When they want to refer to a canoe, they'll say la canoa canadese (the Canadian canoe). 

Nelle gole dell'Alcantara, si possono praticare sport estremi come l'idrospeed, che consiste nello scendere attraverso le gole, ma anche la più tranquilla canoa.

In the Alcantara gorges one can practice extreme sports like riverboarding, which consists of going down the gorges, but also the calmer kayak.

Captions 19-21, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 10

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To use a canoe or a kayak you need a paddle— la pagaia.  

 

If we want to talk about a rowboat, it's una barca a remi. Un remo is "an oar," so we need 2 of them in una barca a remi. The verb to row is remare

 

In Venice, there are gondolas, and they are rowed or paddled with just one oar. 

Questa asimmetria è voluta per dare più spazio al gondoliere per remare con il suo unico remo.

This asymmetry is needed to give more space to the gondolier to row with his one and only oar.

Captions 18-19, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 5

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A common expression having to do with rowing is:

Tirare i remi in barca (to pull the oars back in the boat). You stop rowing. Figuratively, you stop trying, you give up. Or, you've finished your job so you don't have to "row" any longer. Maybe you've retired! This nuanced expression can tend towards a positive or negative intention and interpretation.

 

Finally, we have la zattera (the raft). It's often primitive, often made of wood. 

 

Are there kinds of boats for which you would like to know the Italian equivalent? Write to us. newsletter@yabla.com.

 

There are undoubtedly other kinds of seafaring vessels we have missed here. Feel free to volunteer some you might have come across. 

 

And to sum up, we will mention that in general, when talking about vessels that travel on the water, we can use l'imbarcazione. It's good to recognize this word and understand it, but you likely won't need it in everyday conversation. You'll hear it on the news, you'll read it in articles...

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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)?

 

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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

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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

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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!

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Getting fed up with stufare

The verb stufare means "to stew," so it's a cooking verb. You cook something for a long time. In English we use "to stew" figuratively — "to fret" — but Italians use it a bit differently, to mean "to get fed up." What inspired this lesson was the first line in this week's segment of L'Oriana

Sono stufa di intervistare attori e registi, non ne posso più.

I'm tired of interviewing actors and directors, I can't take it anymore.

Caption 1, L'Oriana film - Part 3

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The adjective stufo

Here we have the adjective form, stufo. It means "fed up," "tired," or "sick and tired."  Here are a couple more examples so you can see the kind of contexts stufo is used in.

Ma se fosse stato... -Se, se, Manara, sono stufo delle sue giustificazioni!

But if that had happened... -If, if, Manara. I'm sick of your justifications!

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 15

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Fabrizio, basta. Basta. Sono stufa delle tue promesse.

Fabrizio, that's enough. Enough. I'm sick of your promises.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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You will often see the expression Basta! (enough) close by stufo, as in the previous example— they go hand in hand. The adjective stufo is used when you have already had it, you are fed up, you are already tired of something. 

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Stufo is an adjective that comes up a lot in arguments. Can you think of some verbs to use with it? 

Sono stufa di lavare i piatti tutte le sere (I'm sick of doing the dishes every night).
Sono stufo di...[pick a verb].

 

Sono stufo di camminare. Prendiamo un taxi (I'm tired of walking. Let's take a taxi).
Sono stufo di discutere con te. Parliamo di altro (I'm tired of arguing with you. Let's talk about something else).
Sei stufo, o vuoi fare un altro giro (are you tired of this, or do you want to do another round)?
 
 
Let's keep in mind that stufo is the kind of adjective that will change its ending according to gender and number. But since it's a very personal way to feel, it's most important to remember it in the first and second person singular. Sono stufo, sono stufa — sei stufo? sei stufa?
 

The verb stufare

The adjective stufo is one way to use the word. The other common way is to use the verb stufare reflexively: stufarsi (to get fed up, to be fed up, to get bored).  
 
It's very common to use stufarsi in the passato prossimo tense: mi sono stufato (I'm fed up). Using the verb form implies something that was already happening, already in the works. It's more about the process. Note that when we use a reflexive verb in a tense with a participle, such as the passato prossimo (that's formed like the present perfect), the auxiliary verb is essere (to be) not avere (to have).
 

Sì. -Ma io mi sono stufato.

Yes. -But I've had enough.

Caption 18, Sposami EP 2 - Part 21

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As you can see, it's common for the verb form, used reflexively, to stand alone, but we can also use it as we did the adjective form, with a verb. 

Mi sono stufata di camminare (I'm tired of walking).

Let's keep in mind that we have to pay attention to who is speaking. The ending of the participle will change according to gender and number.

Two girls are hiking but are offered a ride:

Menomale. Ci eravamo stufate di camminare (Good thing, We had gotten tired of walking).

 

But stufarsi can also be used in the present tense. For example, a guy with bad knees loves to run but can't, so he has to walk. He might say:

Meglio camminare, ma mi stufo subito (It's better to walk but I get bored right away). Preferisco correre (I like running better).

 

And finally, we can use the verb non-reflexively when someone is making someone else tire of something or someone. 

A me m'hai stufato con sta storia, hai capito? Eh.

You've tired me out/bored me with this story, you understand? Huh.

Caption 35, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 12

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Let's also remember that la stufa is a heater. In earlier times and even now in some places, it was also the stove or oven, used both for heating and cooking food and for heating the living space. The double meaning is essential to understanding the lame joke someone makes in Medico in Famiglia.

In una casa dove vive l'anziano non servono i riscaldamenti perché l'anziano stufa!

In a house where an elderly person lives there's no need for heating because the elderly person makes others tired of him.

Captions 91-92, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 6

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Practice: We don't want to promote feeling negative about things, but as you go about your day, you can pretend to be tired of something, and practice saying Sono stufo/a di... or quite simply, Basta, mi sono stufata/a. For "extra credit," try following it up with what you would like to do as an alternative.

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Making do with arrangiarsi

Here's another expression you will want in your toolbox: arrangiarsi (to make do). 

 

Oriana Fallaci uses this expression to express her exasperation at how things get done in Italy. 

Vorrà dire che si farà l'unica cosa che si può fare qui in Italia, la cosa che più detesto, quella che m'ha fatto fuggire da questo paese: arrangiarsi.

That means that we'll do the only thing that one can do here in Italy, the thing that I hate most, the thing that made me flee this country: make do.

Captions 42-43, L'Oriana film - Part 1

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Art form?

Italians joke about "making do" as almost an art form: L'arte di arrangiarsi (the art of making do). In fact, that's the title of a 1955 film with Alberto Sordi. L'arte di arrangiarsi (Getting Along) — possibily available on YouTube in your zone.

 

T'ho già detto che nun [romanesco : non] è un problema mio. Arangiate [romanesco: arrangiati].

I already said that that's not my problem. Figure it out.

Captions 55-56, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 1

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False friend alert!

We just have to be a bit careful because the verb arrangiare looks so much like the English verb "to arrange." They are close cousins, but not perfect cognates, except in some specific circumstances like arranging a piece of music. There, we use the noun arrangiamento (arrangement) most of the time.

 

In the example above, someone is telling someone to "figure it out." So that's a great expression to know. Of course, it's used when you know someone very well.

 

But arrangiarsi is perhaps most commonly used in the first person singular or plural to accept less than ideal conditions: You don't have the right equipment or tool for doing something, but you're going to try to make do with what you have. You can stay the night, but all we have is a sofabed... There are hundreds of situations that present themselves every day where one has to make do, so this expression is a great one to know and practice in the conjugations you might need. 

Mi arrangio [or m'arrangio] (I'll make do).

Ci arrangiamo (we'll make do).

Mi arrangerò (I'll figure it out somehow).

Mi devo arrangiare (I have to make do).

 

Marika and Anna didn't find the kind of bread they needed for the recipe, but they made do with something similar. 

Noi, purtroppo, non lo abbiamo trovato e quindi ci arrangiamo, si fa per dire, con questo pane che comunque è molto gustoso.

We, unfortunately, couldn't find that, and so we are making do, so to speak, with this bread, which is very tasty in any case.

Captions 27-29, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Real life situations for using this expression

When you are cooking, how many times have you had to make do with a different ingredient from the one the recipe called for? Ti devi arrangiare (you have to make do).

 

If you are the host you might have to ask your guest to accept less than ideal accomodations...

Vi arrangiate (can you make do)?

Se vi arrangiate (if you can make do)...

 

We can talk about someone else:

Si arrangia con qualche furto, qualche partita di coca, ma non credo che c'entri qualcosa con questa storia.

He gets by on the odd theft, a batch of coke now and then, but I don't think he is involved in this thing.

Captions 71-72, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Here, arrangiarsi is translated with "to get by." It can also mean "to make ends meet." 

 

A related word

A related reflexive verb is accontentarsi, which we have talked about in another lesson. It can also be translated with "to make do," but "to settle" and "to be content" work well, too.

"gli uomini, fino a che saranno sulla terra, dovranno accontentarsi del riso giallo di zafferano, poi, quando saranno in paradiso, mangeranno riso con l'oro".

"Men, for as long as they're on the earth, will have to settle for saffron yellow rice; later, when they're in paradise, they'll eat rice with gold."

Captions 7-10, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

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Arrangiarsi is more about doing something, where as accontentarsi is more about how you feel about something. (we can detect the word contento (happy, content) within the word. 

 

Which preposition to use

One last thing to remember is that with arrangiarsi, we use the preposition con (with). With accontentarsi we use the preposition di.

 

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Talking about the weather in Italian

When traveling in Italy, like it or not, weather conditions can be a concern. We like to imagine Italy being sunny and beautiful all the time, but purtroppo (unfortunately), especially these days, the weather can be capriccioso (mischievous) and imprevidibile (unpredictable). As a result, knowing how to talk about the weather like an Italian can be not only useful for obtaining information, but provides a great topic for small talk.

Che tempo fa?

In Italian, the verb of choice when talking about the weather is fare (to make). Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? Keep in mind that tempo means both “time” and “weather” so be prepared to get confused sometimes. If you want to talk about today’s weather, then just add oggi (today):

Che tempo fa oggi? (What’s the weather like today?)

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An answer might be:

Oggi c'è un bel tempo, un bel sole.

Today there's nice weather, nice sun.

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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And when talking about tomorrow, we use the future tense of the verb fare:


Che tempo farà domani? (What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?)

 

So our basic question is Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? That's good to know, and an important question to be able to ask, but when we're making conversation, we might start with a statement, to share the joy, or to commiserate.

Condividere (sharing)

We can start out generally, talking about the quality of the day itself.

Che bella giornata (what a beautiful day). 

Che brutta giornata (what a horrible day).

 

Specifics

After that, we can get into specifics.

Tip: In English, we use adjectives such as: sunny, rainy, muggy, and foggy, but in Italian, in many cases, it’s common to use noun forms, rather than adjectives, as you will see.

Fa freddo (it’s cold)! Note that we (mostly) use the verb fare (to make) here, not essere (to be)
Fa caldo (it’s hot)!
Piove (it’s raining). Italians also use the present progressive tense as we do in English, (sta piovendo) but not necessarily!
Nevica (it’s snowing).
C’è il sole (it’s sunny).
È coperto (it’s cloudy, the skies are grey).
È nuvoloso (it’s cloudy).
C’è la nebbia (it’s foggy).
C’è l’afa (it’s muggy).

 

Piove. T'accompagno a casa?

It's raining. Shall I take you home?

Caption 3, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 14

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Il clima, eh... essendo la Lombardia quasi tutta pianura, abbiamo estati molto afose e inverni molto rigidi. Ma la caratteristica principale è la presenza costante della nebbia.

The climate, uh... as Lombardy is almost all flatlands, we have very muggy summers and very severe winters. But the main characteristic is the constant presence of fog.

Captions 70-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Lombardia

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Who knew?

We have the adjective chiaro that means "clear" and so when we want to clear something up we can use the verb chiarire (to clear up). We are speaking figuratively in this case. 

 

Incominciamo col chiarire una cosa: è per te, o è per tua madre?

Let's start by clearing up one thing. Is it for you, or is it for your mother?

Caption 8, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 5

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But chiaro also means "light in color."

Ci sono di tutti i tipi: maschi, femmine, occhi chiari, occhi scuri.

There are all kinds: males, females, blue [pale] eyed, dark eyed.

Caption 63, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 17

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When the sky is clearing up, we don't use the verb chiarire. We use the prefix s and chiarire becomes schiarire (to make lighter or brighter [with more light] in color). It can refer not only to color but also sound. It's often expressed in its reflexive form.

Il cielo si sta schiarendo (the sky is clearing up).

 

Al centro invece, abbiamo nebbia anche qui dappertutto, con qualche schiarita, ma nebbia a tutte le ore.

Towards the center on the other hand, we have fog all over, here as well, with some clearing, but fog at all hours.

Captions 58-59, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

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There's more to say about the weather and how to talk about it in Italian, but that will be for another lesson.

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What's the problem?

In English, it's common to say, "No problem." Some of us even use it in place of "You're welcome." But when we want to say this in Italian, it's slightly more complex.

Non c'è problema

Stai tranquilla, non c'è problema.

Take it easy, no problem.

Caption 80, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 14

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Non c'è problema (the Italian equivalent of "no problem") might be easy to memorize, but some might want to know what each word means, and why it is there, so let's take a quick look.

Actually, the only problematic word in non c'è problema is c'è. This contraction is made up of the particle ci (a particle meaning too many things to list here*), which in this case means "in that place" or "there,"  and è (the third person singular of the irregular verb essere — to be).

Otherwise, we understand non c'è problema pretty well, and it's fairly easy to repeat.

Non c'è problema is a negative sentence, and we cover this particular aspect of it in a lesson about everyday negatives. (Let's remember that double negatives are, in many cases, totally OK in Italian!).

But there's another way to say the same thing, and pose it as a question.

Che problema c'è?

Eh, che problema c'è? Dai.

Huh, what's the problem? Come on.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 12

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Che problema c'è? — "What's the problem?" or, literally, "What problem is there?"

This is a very common thing to say, but it is nuanced. Sometimes it just states the obvious in question form and is a rhetorical question. It's clear there is no problem at all. But sometimes, it has a touch of irony and implies there's more to it.

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora Prof, the segment ends with this question: Che problema c'è? All the members of the family keep repeating it so we can guess there's more to it.

 

E certo! Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Duecento euro di multa, ecco che problema c'è.

Of course! What's the problem? -What's the problem? -What's the problem? -A two hundred euro ticket, that's what the problem is.

Captions 97-100, Provaci Ancora Prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

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The last response to the question, Che problema c'è? is that there's going to be an expensive parking ticket to pay. That's the problem. There might be other problems down the line, too. 

 

Che problema c'è, uttered with the right inflection, can also be a mild version of "What could possibly go wrong?".  

 

Variations on a theme

It's also common to use the plural of problema. Let's just remind ourselves that problema ends in a but is a masculine noun and gets a masculine plural with i.

Non ci sono problemi (there are no problems).

or, as a question:

Ci sono problemi (are there problems)?

 

When we want to zero in on what the problem is, specifically, we can ask (although it can also be intended as general):

 

Qual è il problema (what's the problem)?

C'è qualche problema (is there some problem)?

 

Have you heard  other ways to say, "What's the problem?" in Italian? Let us know!

 

* There are several lessons about this particle, so if, once in the "lessons" tab, you do a search of ci, you'll find plenty of information about it, with examples from Yabla videos.

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More about mancare : when something is lacking

We've had some feedback about the tricky verb mancare. And there are likely plenty of learners out there struggling to be able to use it and translate it correctly. It twists the brain a bit.

 

To grasp it better, it may be helpful to separate the contexts. So in this lesson, let's focus on things, not people. Let's think about something being absent, missing, something we are lacking.

Infatti manca la targa, sia davanti che dietro.

In fact, the license plate is missing, both in front and in back.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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In the next example, we're talking about time. The verb mancare is often used to indicate how much time is left.

Ormai manca poco.

It won't be long now. (Literally, this is: At this point, little time is left)

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 9

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If we're talking about minutes, days, or weeks, we conjugate mancare in the third person plural.

E mancano solo due giorni, eh, alla fine del mese.

And there are only two days left, huh, before the end of the month.

Caption 45, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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This next example is a typical comment for adult children to make about their parents or parents about how they treat their children. The children are well-provided for. They have everything they needed. Nothing is denied them. So the verb is: fare mancare qualcosa a qualcuno (to cause someone to do without something).

Non ci ha mai fatto mancare nulla.

We never wanted for anything.

We never went without.

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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If you do a search on Yabla, you'll find plenty of examples of this expression. It's a bit convoluted to use, so perhaps by repeating the phrases that come up in the search, or by reading them out loud, you'll get it. Again, it's more important to understand what this means, especially when someone is telling you their life story, than using it yourself.

 

If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Italian ways to think about things

The Italian verb for "think" is pensare. But there are so many ways, in every language, to talk about thinking. Let's look at a few of them  in Italian.

Pensare (to think)

A quick review of the verb pensare reminds us that it's an  -are verb, and this is good to know for conjugating it, but it's also a verb of uncertainty and some of us already know that that means we often need the subjunctive, especially when it's followed by che, as in the following example. We don't worry about that in English.

Io penso che Vito sia arrabbiato per una cosa molto stupida.

I think that Vito is angry over something very stupid.

Captions 5-6, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il congiuntivo - Part 7

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For more about the verb pensare, here are some lessons and videos to check out:

 

Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 6 This is part of a 17-part series on the subjunctive.

Anna e Marika - Il verbo pensare Marika and Anna use the various conjugations of pensare in conversation.

I Have This Feeling... - Sapere Part 1 This is a lesson about yet another way to say "I think..." And it doesn't need the subjunctive!

 

Riflettere

When someone asks you a question and you need to think about it, one common verb to use in Italian is riflettere (to reflect). We do use this verb in English, but it's much more common in Italian. 

Ci devo riflettere (I need to think about it).

Sto riflettendo... (I'm thinking...)

C'ho riflettuto e... (I've thought about it and...)

Fammi riflettere (let me think).

 

Idea

A word that is closely connected with pensare is idea. It's the same in English as in Italian, except for the pronunciation.

Ho un'idea (I have an idea)

 

Another relevant word is la mente (the mind) where thinking happens and ideas come from.  So when you are thinking about something, often when you are planning something, you have something in mind. Here, the Italian is parallel to English: in mente. As you can see, the response uses the verb pensare

Che cosa ha in mente? -Sto pensando di impiantare una fabbrica lì.

What do you have in mind? -I'm thinking of setting up a factory there.

Captions 24-25, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 8

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The question is being asked by someone who is using the polite form of avere (to have). [Otherwise, it would be: Che cosa  _____ in mente?]*

 

So sometimes when we think of something, it comes to mind. Italians say something similar but they personalize it.

T'è venuto in mente qualcosa? -No!

Did something come to mind? -No!

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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So we use in mente (to mind) with a personal pronoun plus the preposition a (to).

A (negative) response could be:

A me non viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

or, more likely

Non mi viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

La testa

La mente (the mind) is another word for il cervello (the brain), which is in la testa (the head), so some expressions about thinking use la testa just as they do in English (use your head!) But sometimes the verb is different.

 

In this week's episode of Provaci ancora, Prof! a husband is talking about his wife wanting to divorce him. He says:

Adesso si è messa in testa che vuole anche il divorzio.

Now she has gotten it into her head that she also wants a divorce.

Caption 14, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 27

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In English, we personalize this with a possessive pronoun (her head) and we use the catch-all verb "to get," but in Italian, we use the verb mettere (to put) in its reflexive form (mettersi). This often implies a certain stubbornness.

Sembrare

Let's add the verb sembrare (to seem) because lots of times we use it in Italian, when we just use "to think" in English.

Invece a me sembra proprio una buona idea.

On the contrary, to me it seems like a really good idea.

On the contrary, I think it's a really good idea.

Caption 45, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio A corto di idee - Part 1

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Ti sembra giusto (do you think it's fair)?

 

Just for fun, here's a dialog:

Mi è venuto in mente di costruire un tavolo (I was thinking of building a table).

-Come pensi di farlo (how are you thinking of doing it)?

-Ci devo riflettere (I have to think about it).

-Che tipo di tavolo hai in mente (what kind of table do you have in mind)?

-Mi sono messo in testa di farlo grande ma mi sa che dovrò chiedere aiuto a mio zio (I got it into my head to make a big one, but I think I will have to ask my uncle to help me).

-Hai avuto qualche idea in più (have you come up with any more ideas)?

-Ho riflettuto, e penso che sarà troppo difficile costruire un tavolo grande, quindi sarà un tavolo piccolo e semplice (I've thought about it and I think it will be too difficult to build a big table, so it's going to be a small, simple table).

Mi sembra saggio (I think that's wise).

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*Answer: Che cosa  _hai_ in mente?

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Managing with farcela

There's a common Italian pronominal verb you'll be glad to have in your toolbox. It's used a lot in conversation, as an expression, but understanding how it works can be a little tricky. But first...

What's a pronominal verb?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles). Particelle or particles are those tiny, usually, 2-letter pronouns we find in Italian, such as ci, ne, ne, la.

 

The pronominal verb of the day: farcela (to manage to do something)

 

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Let's unpack this pronominal verb. In the infinitive, it's farcela. 

The verb contained in this pronominal verb is fare = to make, to do.

Alessia può farcela da sola.

Alessia can manage on her own.

Caption 57, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 5

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Usually in a pronominal verb, one of the pronouns is an indirect pronoun, In this case, it's ce. Ce means the same thing as ci, (to it/him/her," "at it/him/her," "about it.") but when there is a direct object with it, ci changes to ce! As we have mentioned in previous lessons, the particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne,  but in that case, it becomes ce. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.
 

To make things even more complicated, ci, and consequently, ce, can mean any number of things. The basic thing to remember is that ci or ce usually represents a preposition + complement. Learn more about ci
 
 

The second pronoun in the expression farcela is la. This is a direct object pronoun meaning "it." It's always used in the feminine — we could say la stands for la cosa, a feminine noun.

 

In the previous example, farcela stands on its own to mean "to manage." It's also possible to add another verb, so as to mean, "to manage to do something."

 

Ehm, pensa di farcela a recuperare le chiavi della mia auto?

Uh, do you think you can manage to retrieve the keys of my car?

Caption 35, Psicovip Il tombino - Ep 2

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In both of our previous examples, the conjugated verb (potere = to be able to, pensare = to think) precedes the pronominal verb, resulting in the pronominal verb being in the infinitive. 

Posso farcela (I can manage it).

Penso di farcela (I think I can manage it).

 

Learning the infinitive is a good starting point, as it's fairly straightforward. Use the common verbs in their conjugated forms to "push" the pronominal verb over into the infinitive. 

 

Conjugating farcela

Farcela is the infinitive of the pronominal verb, and as we have seen above, sometimes it can stay that way. More often than not, however, it is conjugated, so it's a good idea to have a few expressions memorized and ready to use. As you can see from the following example, it can be used when you're falling behind.

 

Piano, piano, piano. Piano, cagnozzo! Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Slow down, dear little dog! I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

Captions 1-2, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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Eh, basta, croce. Non ce la faccio più.

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't go on.

Caption 17, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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Some other common conjugations:

Ce la fai? (Can you manage it?)
Non ce la fa. (He/she can't manage it, He/she can't make it).
Ce la faremo? (Are we going to make it?)
Ce l'ho fatta! (I did it, I made it).

 

If we want to add another verb, we use the preposition a (to) before the (second) verb, which will be in the infinitive (arrivare, mangiare, finire). Here are a few examples:

 

Ce la faremo ad arrivare in tempo? (Are we going to manage to arrive in time?/Are we going to make it in time?)
Ce la fai a mangiare tutto? (Can you manage to eat it all?)
Ce l'ha fatta a finire il progetto? (Did he/she manage to finish the project?)

 

As you can see, this kind of sentence usually starts with ce la, unless it's in the negative, in which we start with non followed by ce la + the conjugated verb fare.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

1) Fare is a verb that takes avere (not essere) in perfect tenses. In perfect tenses, the particle la will become l'  because it will be attached to the conjugated form of avere, which will have a vowel sound at the beginning (even though written with an h: ho, hai, ha, abbiamo, avete, hanno). So when you just hear it, you might not perceive it. Lookking at Italian captions or doing Scribe can help with this.

 

2) One more tricky thing to remember when using perfect tenses:

 

You might be tempted to say ce l'ho fatto. But that would be wrong. Why? It's about verb-object agreement. 

 

The rule is that when the object pronoun comes before the verb (in this case, la before ho), then the past participle of the verb will agree with the object (la), not the subject (in this case io [I]). 

 

So it has to be Ce l'ho fatta.

 

It is complicated, so be patient with yourself. Even those of us who have been living in Italy for years still have doubts sometimes, when conjugating these pesky pronominal verbs. Over time, the grammar will start making a little more sense to you and you will say, "Ah ha!" Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta a capire! (I finally managed to understand). Or, simply, Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta!

 

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Getting somewhere with via (way)

Via is such a short word, and yet, it has a lot of bite. The basic translation of the noun via is "way."  Concretely, it can refer to a street, road, or path. A road is a way to get somewhere if we want to think of it that way.  Even in English, "way" can be used to describe a road, if we think of "parkway," "subway," "pathway," or "Broadway."

Sì, perché siamo ovviamente a Roma, su via Ostiense, una via molto antica di Roma.

Yes, because obviously we're in Rome, on the via Ostiense, a very old Roman road.

Captions 17-18, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1

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Halfway

A handy expression to know that uses via to mean "way," is una via di mezzo (halfway between, midway between, a middle ground, a compromise):

Diciamo che, eh... non è un azzurro, ma non è neanche un blu scuro, però una via di mezzo.

Let's say, uh... it's not a light blue, but neither is it a dark blue, but it's halfway between.

Captions 35-36, Anna e Marika Un negozio di scarpe - Part 2

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Note: Via can mean "way," but "way" doesn't always translate as via. When "way" means "manner," we have other Italian words that more commonly do the job: il modo (the way)  la maniera (the manner), il mezzo (the means). We've provided links to WordReference so you can see all the translations of these words, as in some cases, there are numerous ones. 

 

If you go to the doctor or pharmacy you might ask about some medicine and how to take it. Per via orale is "by mouth," literally, "by way of mouth." 

Away

Via is also an adverb. The most common expression that comes to mind might be Vai via (go away)!

La volpe, allora, triste e sottomessa, andò via.

The fox, then, sad and subdued, went away.

Caption 23, Adriano Fiaba - Part 2

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We can also use via when we are saying someone is away.

È via per lavoro (she's away on business).

 

Expressions

When we want to say "etc." or "and so on," or "and so forth," one way is to use via.

La nota successiva, che si troverà attraverso il quinto rigo, si chiamerà La. E così via.

The next note, which will be found across the fifth line, will be called A, and so on.

Captions 12-14, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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You might also hear variations on this: e via discorrendo and e via dicendo that mean the same thing.

 

We can use via via to mean little by little, gradually:

Alla torre fu affiancato via via un castello in posizione ardita sulle rocce che dominano la valle del Rio Secco.

A castle in a daring position was gradually added to the tower on the rocks that dominate the Rio Secco Valley.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie S2EP1 - Part 9

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We use via as the starting signal.

Meno tre, due, uno, via. Guardami! Perfetto!

Countdown, three, two, one, go. Look at me! Perfect!

Caption 53, Corso base di snowboard Snowboard

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And when we are talking about the start of something, we use the noun il via to mean "the start," "the lead-off."

Ti do il via (I'll give you the start-off).

 

We can also just say via to mean "let's go," "let's get going," or "you get going."

Operativi, occhio vivo, via!

On the job, eyes wide open, get going!

Caption 34, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 5

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We use via vai to indicate comings and goings, when, for example, a place gets crowded with activity.

Ragazzi, da un po' di tempo a questa parte c'è un via vai, qui.

Guys, for a while now, there's been [plenty of] coming and going here.

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 17

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Via is used as un intercalare (a filler word), much as we say, "you know," "yeah," "come on," "well," or "OK" in the middle of a sentence. You'll hear this primarily in Tuscany and Lazio.

Quindi c'abbiamo, via, un parco cavalli tra i più eterogenei che ci sono a Roma.

So we have, you know, one of the most heterogeneous horse parks that there are in Rome.

Caption 62, Francesca Cavalli - Part 1

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C'è qualche problema? -Lascia stare, è il mio ragazzo! -Bastava dirlo! -Via, si beve qualcosa, eh.

Is there some problem? -Leave him alone, he's my boyfriend! -You could have said so! -Come on, let's have something to drink, huh?

Captions 23-25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 13

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 It's also a way of "that's it." 

Una botta e via.

One blow and that's it.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 2

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Via is often used to conclude a sentence or situation. It's not really translatable. It's another intercalare (filler word) and used primarily in Tuscany and Lazio.

Insomma, ci chiamiamo, via. -Sì.

In other words, we'll call each other, yeah. -Yes.

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

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And we also conclude this lesson about via. Via!

 

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When volendo implies the opposite of "wanting to."

The verb volere (to want, to desire) is a very common verb, one we learn early on, so that we can ask for things we need. It has a host of uses and different nuances of meanings you can read about if you look it up on WordReference

 

In this lesson, we will look at a particular use of this verb that uses the gerund form volendo. We have to be careful, because there is an often-used literal meaning and also a slightly skewed meaning, in which you have to know that there is negative implication included.

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Let's start off with the basic, innocent, literal use of the gerund form of volere. We can translate it as "wanting"  or "wanting to." Note we don't usually translate it with the gerund in this context.

Però, volendo, possiamo usare anche un semplice coltello.

However, if we want to, we can also use a simple knife.

Caption 83, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One handy thing about volendo, is that you don't necessarily have to talk about who wants something. It can stay nice and impersonal as in the following example. The key word in understanding volendo (as an expression), in terms of an English translation, is the conjunction if. We don't see it in the Italian, but we need it in the English translation.

Comunque il bagno è bello grande, ah. Visto che bella vasca? Volendo, ci stanno anche due spazzolini. Nel senso che, se dovesse capitare, puoi lasciare qua il tuo da me. Capito?

In any case, the bathroom is nice and big, huh. Did you see what a nice tub? If desired, there's even room for two toothbrushes. Meaning, that if it ever happened, you can leave yours here at my place. Understood?

Captions 79-83, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 6

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Actually, using volendo avoids having to construct a sentence in the subjunctive and conditional moods, although in English, that is just what we would do.

E poi anche volendo, come faccio a trovarlo se non so dov'è?

And besides, even if I wanted to, how could I find him if I don't know where he is?

Caption 95, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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But often, volendo is used to imply that something isn't a great idea, nor a likely one. So in translating it, we would add, "really." If one really wanted to do something. That's the nuance in this example from Provaci ancora Prof!.

 

Renzo bought an artist's multiple copy of a sculpture at a flea market. He's trying to explain what a multiple is to his daughter. 

Però un ricco collezionista potrebbe anche comprarseli tutti i multipli, se vuole. Potrebbe, sì. Volendo, potrebbe.

But a rich collector could also buy all the multiples if he wanted to. He could, yes. If he really wanted to, he could.

Captions 45-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 14

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It can also be in response to something someone asks you to do, but in fact, you do not want to do, but you don't want to flat out say no, either. It can mean, "If I wanted to, I could, but I don't really want to." "If you absolutely need me to do it, I will, but I don't really want to." So hidden in the verb "wanting to" is "not wanting to."

 

We don't have examples of this last nuance from Yabla videos (yet) ... but here is an example of a possible dialogue.

Puoi andare alla riunione al posto mio (Can you go to the meeting in my place)?
Beh sì, volendo si può anche fare... [ma non credo sia una buona idea] (I could... [but I don't think it's a good idea]).

 

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Making do with accontentarsi

A single verb that expresses the idea of "making do" is accontentarsi (to be content with something/to make oneself be content). The adjective it stems from is contento (happy, content). The non-reflexive verb accontentare can be translated as "to satisfy." 

Me lo avete chiesto voi, eh, quindi io vi accontento.

You asked me for it, huh, so I will satisfy you.

Caption 6, Marika spiega I verbi cavare e togliere

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You are giving someone what they want. You are making them happy.

 

Making do

The reflexive verb accontentarsi implies that something may not be up to our highest expectations or greatest desires, but it will do, because we decide to accept it. We settle for it. 

 

Quando ho molto tempo, preferisco mangiare frutta, latte e cereali; quando ho poco tempo, mi accontento del classico caffè e del cornetto o brioche.

When I have lots of time, I prefer to eat fruit, milk and cereal; when I have little time, I make do with a classic espresso and croissant or brioche.

Captions 20-23, Adriano Giornata

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Adding some color

The verb accontentarsi has a lot of information in it, but Italians have an expression that enhances it even further. Italy, being a Roman Catholic country historically, is not lacking in monasteries and convents. While in English, "convent" tends to be understood as a convent of nuns, in Italian, un convento implies a religious community and may be either di suore (of nuns  = convent) or di frati (of monks = monastery). Many conventi around Italy offer hospitality to travelers, but the food that is served is the humble and simple fare the monks or nuns are served. And of course, they don't complain about it. 

 

So let's say someone asks you to stay for dinner on the spur of the moment and doesn't have anything special to offer. 

Se ti accontenti di quel che passa il convento, sei il benvenuto (if you make do with what the convent is serving [what we have on hand], you are welcome to stay for dinner).

 

But the expression is used outside of the realm of food, too. In this clip, we're talking about what kind of work one can get.

Guardi che Gigi c'ha pure due lauree. -E fa il deejay? -E questo passa il convento.

Look, Gigi even has two degrees. -And he is deejaying? -Well, that's what the convent offers [beggars can't be choosers].

Captions 13-15, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7

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In an episode of Volare, the expression is used rather vulgarly, referring to a woman. But now, when you watch the video, you'll understand what's behind this expression.

Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] accontentato di quel che passava il convento.

I made do with what the convent was serving.

Caption 40, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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A couple of additional examples:

 

-I'm talking to my husband about lunch:

Vuoi anche un secondo o ti accontenti di un piatto di pasta e un'insalata? (do you want a second course or are you happy with pasta and salad)?

 

-My boss asks me:

Mi puoi fare una bozza per domani (can you give me a rough draft by tomorrow)?

I answer:

Non so se ce la faccio, ma farò del mio meglio per accontentarti (I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'll do my best to satisfy you).

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Forza, per forza, and a forza di

In this lesson, we look at 3 expressions with the noun la forza, which basically means "force" (easy cognate) or "strength." The meaning might help us grasp the expressions somewhat, but let's take the opportunity to shine a light on each one. They are all very common, and good to have in your repertoire of idioms.

1) Forza!

 

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We have seen this a million times in Yabla videos. It usually has an exclamation point following it. We can best translate it with "come on." It's funny because there are several Italian expressions that are translated the same way, such as Dai! Su! Vai! Coraggio! 

Dove stiamo andando? -Forza! A lavoro, forza!

Where are we going? -Come on! To work, come on!

Captions 35-36, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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But it can also just be another way to say "come on" or "go on."  Another way to say dai, as Italians often do at the end of a sentence. It's a bit stronger, but the inflection matters a lot, too.

Vabbè entra. Chiudi la porta, forza.

All right, come in. Shut the door, go on.

Caption 3, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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2) Per forza

This is a kind of adverbial phrase. We can get the sense of what it means: literally "through force." We use it to mean "necessarily," "inevitably," "begrudgingly" — in other words, "there's no choice." "That's the way it has to be." It might even mean "obviously," "clearly," in certain cases.

Let's look at some examples in context.

Allora, noi le tasse di successione, quelle dobbiamo pagarle per forza.

So, the inheritance taxes, those we are obliged to pay.

Caption 25, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 2

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C'è che tua madre vuole per forza trasformare il nostro matrimonio in un evento.

It's that your mother wants, at all costs, to transform our wedding into an event.

Caption 31, Sposami EP 1 - Part 19

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Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso. -Ma ti sei fatta visitare? -Per forza!

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room. -Did you get examined? -I had no choice!

Captions 1-3, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 15

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Tu non mi hai visto a me! Io so' [sono] sparito. Tu mi vedi? No, per forza, so' [sono] sparito.

You haven't seen me! I've disappeared. Do you see me? No, of course not. I've disappeared.

Captions 36-37, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 10

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Two further idiomatic sayings come to mind using this adverbial phrase:

Per amore o per forza (one way or another, one way or the other)

O per volere o per forza (by hook or by crook)

 

3) A forza di...

The image we can glean from this expression is of a hammer that keeps hammering. Or a lie someone keeps repeating so many times that in the end you believe it. 

In the first example below, the police are looking for a DVD that could be really anywhere... a needle in a haystack. But they keep looking for it. They're saying they'll go into retirement before they find the DVD, it's taking so long.

Mi sa che ci [sic: ce ne] andiamo in pensione a forza di cercare 'sto [questo] DVD. E speriamo che ci andiamo in pensione, prima che ci sbranano i topi.

I think that we'll go into retirement from all the looking for this DVD. And let's hope that we retire at all, before the mice chew us up.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 14

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In this example, we have another modo di dire: mettersi la mano sulla coscienza (to examine one's conscience).  

Non lo so, mettiti una mano sulla coscienza. -Senti, a forza di mettermi la mano sulla coscienza, quella è morta soffocata.

I don't know. Put a hand on your conscience [examine your conscience]. -Listen, by putting my hand on my conscience so much, it died from suffocation.

Captions 49-51, Sposami EP 2 - Part 25

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Although both of these examples are humorously expressed comments, a forza di is also used in serious matters. 

Mi fanno male le gambe a forza di stare seduto (by sitting so much, my legs hurt).

 

Structurally, we note that after a forza di comes a verb in the infinitive. In the English translation, we often find a gerund.

 

Just for fun:

Forza! Andiamo via. Dobbiamo per forza arrivare al supermercato prima della chiusura perché è finito il caffè. -Per forza è finito il caffè. Tu ne bevi a litri. A forza di bere tutti questi caffè non dormirai mai più.

Come on, let's leave. We have to absolutely get to the supermarket before closing time because we're out of coffee. Of course we're out of coffee. You drink gallons of it. By drinking so much you will never sleep again.

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A forza di studiare l'italiano e guardare dei video su Yabla (e facendo gli esercizi, bene inteso), imparerai la lingua!

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"Your Turn" Using the Verb Toccare

Although we can sometimes use the noun il turno to mean "the turn," as in, "Wait your turn" (aspetta il tuo turno), there's another (colloquial) expression we use in Italian, more often than not. We use the verb toccare (to touch). In the following clip, Dino and Melody are making wishes with blueberries:

 

Adesso tocca a te.

Now it's your turn.

Caption 9, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 20

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Tocca a te (it's your turn).
Tocca a me (it's my turn). 

 

The question you might get in a shop where various people are waiting their turns:

A chi tocca (whose turn is it)?

The answer can be tocca a me, tocca alla signora, tocca a lei, tocca a loro...

 

Twisting this expression a bit turns it into something you have to do.

Mi tocca (I have to do it).
Ti tocca (you have to do it).

 

Ho faticato tanto per averla,

I worked so hard to get it,

e adesso mi tocca venderla.

and now I have to sell it.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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The important thing to remember in using this expression is that the person is the indirect object. The preposition of choice is a (to, at). The subject is a general "it," implied, or absent, actually.

In some places, you take a number and then wait your turn, at the supermarket, for example, at the bread counter, or the counter where you get prosciutto. Otherwise, you can ask, Chi è l'ultimo (who's the last [in line])? 

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Does Pazienza Mean "Patience"?

The noun pazienza certainly does look a lot like "patience."  And sometimes the two words do mean the same thing, especially when the article is present.

 

Mi scusi, signorina,

Excuse me, Miss,

però suo cugino, ogni tanto,

but your cousin, every now and then,

mi fa perdere la pazienza.

makes me lose my patience.

Captions 10-11, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

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Something to keep in mind: In English, we use a possessive pronoun: my patience. Italians do it differently. They use a definite article la, but the possession happens with an indirect object pronoun. "It makes me lose the patience."

 

Adjective form paziente

Although the adjective paziente (patient) does exist in Italian, Italians often opt for the noun form.

 

Ma no, è che ci vuole soltanto un po' di pazienza.

No, it's that you just need to be a bit patient.

Dai fiducia all'allievo e nel momento giusto lo lasci andare. -Sì.

Give the student some confidence, and at the right moment, let him go. -Yes.

Captions 23-24, Sposami - EP 2

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And let's not forget that, similar to English, il or la paziente can also be a noun meaning "the patient." It can have a feminine or masculine article, depending on the gender of the patient.

 

A me risulta invece che vi conoscesse [sic: conosceste] da prima,

Instead, it is my understanding that you knew each other before that,

e che Lei fosse stata anche sua paziente.

and that you had also been his patient.

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso

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2 expressions with pazienza

Abbia pazienza/abbi pazienza

It's common in Italy to ask someone to "have patience" but it isn't necessarily patience they are asking for. 

They use the imperative for this, and are asking for your understanding, tolerance, or to bear with them. It can be used with different tones, including sarcasm.

In the following example, Orazio is upset with his wife who barged in on a meeting, and had to apologize to his clients he had to ask to leave. So saying abbia pazienza can be a way of apologizing for an inconvenience. In this case, he also said scusi (excuse me [formal], sorry), but he could have just said abbia pazienza in the way of apologizing.

 

Scusi, sa, eh, abbia pazienza.

Excuse me, you know, eh, bear with me.

Caption 32, Un Figlio a tutti i costi - film

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Actually, Orazio is also quite annoyed with his client, who wants to get out of paying taxes for reasons not exactly on the up and up. So in this case, and often, especially when the formal version is being used, abbia pazienza, uttered with an exasperated or annoyed tone, is an "excuse me" that's a bit indignant. It's almost a way of saying you are the one losing your patience.

1) How would you say this if you were on familiar terms with other person?

 

But the expression is also used, for example, when you have an appointment but they make you wait. Someone might say, abbia pazienza as a way of saying, "Sorry we are making you wait." Or if your doctor or lawyer has to answer a call while you are talking to him or her:

Abbia pazienza, devo prendere questa chiamata. (Sorry, I have to take this call).

 

If someone really does want you to be patient, they might say, Solo un attimo di pazienza

 

Signore, solo un attimo di pazienza,

Ladies, just a moment of patience.

adesso vi facciamo qualche domanda.

Now we're going to ask you some questions.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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Pazienza all by itself

The second example of an expression is one of those wonderful one-word expressions that say plenty. You will want this in your toolbox, for sure. It's often coupled with a va' be' (short for va bene [all right or OK]), but doesn't need to be.

 

Mi dispiace. Sabato arrivano quelli della filiale dal Sud America

I'm sorry. Saturday, the people from the South America branch are coming

e purtroppo ho una riunione con loro.

and, unfortunately, I have a meeting with them.

Ho capito.

I understand.

Va' be', pazienza. -Mi dispiace. -Ingegnere?

Oh well, too bad. -I'm sorry. -Sir?

Captions 41-44, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2

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What are some good occasions for saying pazienza as a one-word expression?

 

You are at a shop and ask for an item you can't find on the shelves. You ask the clerk:

Non trovo la polenta istatanea (I can't find the instant polenta).

Ah, mi dispiace, è terminata (Oh, I'm sorry, we're out of it).

Ah, pazienza. Farò senza (Oh, no big deal. I'll do without it).

Some other ways to translate pazienza in English:

So be it.

Oh well.

Too bad.

Nothing to do about it.

It is what it is. 

 

Some synonyms for pazienza in Italian:

 

Non importa (it doesn't matter)

Non fa niente (it doesn't matter)

Fa niente (it doesn't matter)

È lo stesso (it's all the same)

 

Perhaps as you go about your day, there will be situations in which pazienza could be a comment you make as a reaction to something that didn't go as you wished. You wanted a dash of milk in your coffee, but you're out of it. Pazienza, lo prenderò senza latte. You wanted to watch the news, but you forgot. Pazienza!

Extra Credit

1) Scusa, sai, eh, abbi pazienza.

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Breathing in Italian : Let Us Count the Ways, Part 1: il fiato

Breathing is essential for life, so it's a pretty important word, we'll all agree. This lesson will explore different ways of talking about the breath and breathing, with some useful modi di dire (expressions) that can come in handy.

So what's the word for "breath" in Italian? There's more than one, so buckle up.

il fiato

This is the breath that comes out when you breathe. A wind instrument we blow into with our breath to produce a sound is uno strumento a fiato, and when we speak in general, about instruments in an orchestra, for example, we say i fiati (the winds).

a fiato

 

La zampogna è uno strumento a fiato

The bagpipe is a wind instrument

fatto con pelle di pecora.

made with sheep hide.

Quindi uno strumento musicale.

So it's a musical instrument.

-Musicale, musicale, musicale, sì.

-Musical, musical, musical, yes.

Captions 53-54, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Calabria

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fiato sul collo

When someone is stressing you out, they may be breathing down your neck. Don't worry, Italians get stressed out, too, and there is a similar expression in Italian. Instead of using the verb form "to breathe," though, they use the verb stare ("to be," "to stay," "to stand there," and add a preposition).

 

Mi stai sempre con il fiato sul collo.

You're always breathing down my neck.

Caption 64, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema

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riprendere fiato

Another essential expression to know using fiato for "breath" is riprendere fiato. It usually means "to catch one's breath."

 

It's interesting to note that in both expressions, there's no possessive pronoun in Italian. It's either assumed or they include the person in a different way. And in riprendere fiato, there is no article, either.

 

La città riprende fiato

The city catches its breath

Caption 4, Radio Deejay - Lorenzo Jovanotti - Gente della notte

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P.S. Jovanotti's song has a lot of great words and phrases about life in the city — worth checking out, at least the transcript, if not the song itself (for beginners, too!).

 

rompere il fiato

If you are a runner, you will know the moment in which you start feeling warmed up, when your breathing settles in, and you finally feel like you can keep going. We could even talk about getting one's second wind.

Dopo 2 kilometri, ho rotto il fiato,

After 2 kilometers, I got warmed up/I got my second wind,

e ho corso altri 5!

and I managed to run 5 more!

 

fiatare

What about the verb fiatare? It does exist, but it's usually reserved for whispering, or "breathing a word."

 

La Titti conosceva De Carolis. Avrebbe pagato

Titti knew De Carolis. He would have paid

senza fiatare, senza...

without breathing a word, without...

senza avvertire la polizia.

without alerting the police.

Captions 48-50, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP12 - La donna senza volto

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mozzafiato 

Mozzafiato is a great adjective, meaning "breathtaking."

 

che sembra quasi abbracciarvi

that almost seems to embrace you

con una bellezza mozzafiato.

with breathtaking beauty.

Captions 53-54, Meraviglie - EP. 5

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We'll talk about il respiro (the breath) in part 2.

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Words and Phrases to Know in La Ladra

In this lesson, we are going to take one segment of an episode of a TV series we are offering on Yabla and explore some of the expressions and vocabulary that could do with a little explaining. Whether you are a Yabla Italian subscriber or not, you will want to be familiar with these words and expressions.

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Già

If we look at the word già, we see it primarily means "already."

 

Eh... già che ci sei, guarda che ora è.

Eh... while you're at it, look at what time it is.

Caption 17, Acqua in bocca - Rapimento e riscatto

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Già che ci sei is a very common expression, and it was translated with an equivalent English expression. If we want to be more word-for-word, another way to translate this could be:

Since you are already there, could you see what time it is?

 

But già is also used as reinforcement. It can mean "indeed," or "right," or even "yeah," when "yeah" is confirming something someone else said.

 

E così Lei è nata ad Atene.

So, you were born in Athens.

-Eh già, ma me ne sono andata appena adolescente.

-That's right, but I left as soon as I became a teenager.

Captions 1-2, La Ladra - EP.12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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It can be preceded by eh, or ah, again, fillers or interjections.

 

Volevo dedicarmi un po' alla mia vera passione,

I wanted to devote myself a bit to my true passion,

fotografando l'Italia.

photographing Italy.

Ah, già, Lei è fotografa.

Ah, right, you are a photographer.

Captions 53-55, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Il soggetto

At a certain point, Eva is talking to a guy at the group home about the owner of the place they are renting from. He says:

 

Se lo hai conosciuto, avrai capito il soggetto.

If you have met him, you will have figured out the individual.

Caption 26, La Ladra - EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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The guy Eva is talking to uses the noun soggetto. He means, "You have realized what kind of person/character you are dealing with." Well, in fact, soggetto is a great cognate, because it does often refer to a subject. And just think of the American TV series Criminal Minds where they use the term "unsub" (unidentified subject) to mean a criminal type they are looking for. 

 

1) Can you think of another way to say "Se lo hai conosciuto, avrai capito il soggetto" using a more modern and colloquial noun in place of soggetto?

 

Attenzione: When we want to say "Don't change the subject!" we do not use soggetto. We use argomento.

Non cambiare argomento!

 

If you watch movies on Yabla, they often include the titles and credits. In this case, il soggetto refers to the idea of the story or the story. In fact, the Taviani brothers, when pitching a film story to a producer, got this as a response.

 

"Se in tre frasi riuscite a dirmelo, funziona.

"If you can tell me in three sentences, it works.

Se non è in tre frasi, guardate, cambiate subito soggetto

If it's not in three sentences, look, change the story right away

perché vuol di' [dire] che non funziona".

because it means it doesn't work."

Captions 51-53, Fratelli Taviani - La passione e l'utopia

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Però

We have learned that però means "however," "though," or "but." Most of the time it does.

 

Però un lato umano ce l'ha:

But he does have a human side:

è ancora innamoratissimo della defunta moglie.

He is still very much in love with his deceased wife.

Captions 27-28, La Ladra - EP.12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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2) È ancora innamoratissimo della moglie. Can you put this in the negative? (He is no longer in love with his wife).

 

But it's also something people say to mean, "Wow!" When you find out some news that's perhaps a bit surprising or shocking, or you are impressed by something (one way or another), one reaction can be Ah, però!

 

Peccato che i parenti della defunta moglie

Too bad that the deceased wife's relatives

l'abbiano accusato di essersi intestato tutti i beni di famiglia.

accused him of having put all the family's assets in his name.

-Ah, però!

-Wow!

Captions 29-31, La Ladra - EP.12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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You can even leave out Ah and just say Però!

 

È stata una delle esperienze più intense della mia vita.

It was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

Però! Vieni.

Wow! Come here.

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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In rotta

 

Siamo in rotta.

We're on the outs.

Caption 50, La Ladra - EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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Rotta comes, in this case, from rottura (rupture), or from the verb rompere (to break). So another way to say this in Italian would be avere rotto i rapporti con qualcuno (to have broken off a relationship with someone). But most likely if you look for in rotta in a dictionary, it will be translated as "en route," since rotta also means "route!" So check out the context before deciding what you think something means.

 

Come si fa? 

We mention this expression because it uses the impersonal si, and it uses a different adverb than we would use in English to express the same question.

Cosa vuole, Gina, fosse per me quei bambini li difendere con le armi.

What do you want, Gina, if it were up to me to defend those children with weapons.

What do you want, Gina? If it were up to me, those kids, I'd defend them with weapons.

 

Cosa vuole, Gina, fosse per me quei bambini

What do you want, Gina? If it were up to me, those kids,

li difendere con le armi.

I'd defend them with weapons.

Ma come si fa? La legge è dalla parte del proprietario.

But what can we/one do? The law is on the side of the owner.

Captions 56-58, La Ladra - EP.12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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3) Instead of using the impersonal — come si fa? — can you say something similar in the first person plural?

 

Of course, come si fa? also means "how does one do that?" and in this case come matches up with "how." But more often than not, this expression is used to mean "what can you (or one) do?" It's just something to be aware of and watch out for, especially since it's an expression people use a whole lot! Keep in mind that the impersonal can also be translated with the passive voice in English: What can be done?

 

If you like (or don't like) these lessons focused on one video or segment, please let us know

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"Extra credit"

1) Se lo hai conosciuto, avrai capito il tipo.​

2) Non è più innamorato della moglie.

3) Come facciamo?

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