Most folks know that when someone plays a solo, he or she is the main player, also called the soloist. Sometimes a musician plays alone (this is a hint).
You may or may not have realized that solo is an Italian word, 100%. Let's take a look at how it's used in Italian. Because when someone plays a solo in the middle of a song, strangely enough, it's called something else entirely: un assolo (a solo).
Sì. -In un... -Io sono, sono un tenore leggero. E fai anche dei duetti... -Sì, a volte duetti buffi, a volte, invece, dei, degli assoli. -Ecco! Ah, no. Posso sentire prima un assolo e poi, magari, vedo, facciamo un duetto
Yes. -In a... -I'm a, I'm a light tenor. And you also do duets... -Yes, sometimes comic opera duets, sometimes, on the other hand, some, some solos. -There! Ah, no. Can I first hear a solo, and then, maybe let's see, we'll do a duet
Captions 101-104, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 4Play Caption
Solo has to do with being alone. It can mean "on one's own."
Ulisse era un cane anziano, un cane solo.
Ulisse was an old dog, a lone dog.
Caption 12, Andromeda La storia di UlissePlay Caption
Solo is often preceded by the preposition da (by), making it function sort of like an adverb, answering the question "how," or "in what way," in which case we can translate it with "by oneself," "on one's own," "by itself," or "alone."
Guarda che al cinema ci posso pure andare da sola.
Look, I can perfectly well go to the movies by myself.Play Caption
Guardi, sta arrivando Olivetti. Pensava di venire qui con tanti dei suoi e invece è da solo.
Look, here comes Olivetti. He thought he'd come here with many of his own, and instead, he's by himself.
Captions 59-60, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 21Play Caption
Vuoi un antidolorifico? Ce l'ho. -No, no, no. Preferisco che mi passi da solo. -Come vuoi.
Do you want a painkiller? I have some. -No, no, no. I prefer for it to go away on its own. -As you like.
Captions 38-40, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 5Play Caption
Io, la mia strada, me la sono fatta da solo.
I, I've paved my own way [I did it all on my own].Play Caption
But solo is not always preceded by da.
Io... lo... lo conoscevo poco, però, nonostante tutte le donne che si vantava di avere, a me sembrava un uomo molto solo.
I... I... I didn't know him very well but despite all the women he bragged about having, he seemed like a very lonely man to me.
Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3Play Caption
In this case, it means "lonely." It's not always clear if someone is lonely or alone. But if we ad da — da solo, then it is clear it means "alone," not "lonely." We can also say "to feel alone" or "to feel lonely." Sentirsi solo.
Solo can be an adjective meaning "only" — which rhymes with "lonely," and in Italian it's the same word.
Non è il solo motivo per cui mi oppongo.
It's not the only reason I object.Play Caption
Vedi, Alessio, quando mio padre venne qui e fondò questa fabbrica, qui intorno c'erano solo campi di grano.
You see, Alessio, when my father came here and founded this plant, there were only wheat fields around here.
Captions 17-18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 13Play Caption
Cioè, penso solo al fatto che tu non ci sia più, Martino,
I mean, I can only think about the fact that you're no longer here, Martino.
Caption 3, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 21Play Caption
In English, we often say "just" to mean the same thing.
Magari! Ma quanto mi costa? Adesso spara la cifra. -Io non voglio parlare di danaro, io voglio solo aiutarla.
If only! But how much will it cost me? Now he'll name the price. -I don't want to talk about money. I just want to help you.
Captions 37-38, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 4Play Caption
It's typical for someone to say, è solo che... (it's just that...) to minimize something, or to say "but."
Eh, è solo che ho bisogno di un prestito.
Huh, it's just that I need a loan.
Caption 10, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 4Play Caption
Another context in which we hear solo is when we want to say, "And that's not all!"
E non solo. Nella salina Moranella, un momento magico, veramente, è la raccolta del fior di sale.
And not only that [and that's not all]. In the Moranella salt pan, a magical moment, really, is the harvesting of "fleur de sel."
Captions 52-53, La rotta delle spezie di Franco Calafatti Il sale - Part 1Play Caption
When you need to keep someone waiting for a moment, or you are passing the phone to someone else, you can say:
Un momento solo (just a moment).
Un instante solo (just a moment).
We hope this lesson has given you some insight into the very common and important word solo. Don't forget that you can do a search of this word (and any other one) and see all the contexts right there on the video page. Look at where solo falls in the sentence and read the sentence to yourself. Get a feel for this word.
This week's segment of Sposami happens to have several idiomatic expressions that are worth looking at.
In the following example, the verb rompere (to break) is used, together with the direct object scatole (boxes). This is a euphemism, a polite way to say palle (balls). Although it is very easy for Italians to have the more vulgar expression on the tip of the tongue, they will avoid it in polite company, and will use scatole instead of palle.
Bruna ha il marito in cassa integrazione e fa di tutto anche lei per farsi licenziare rompendo le scatole in continuazione con rivendicazioni sindacali.
Bruna's husband has been laid off and she's trying her best to get fired, as well by pestering us [breaking our balls] constantly with union demands.
Captions 13-15, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4Play Caption
If you don't know it's a euphemism, the expression makes little sense, but it's also handy to know that you can just use the verb rompere and the message will get across, all the same, guaranteed, cento percento (100%).
Oh, ma hai finito di rompere?
Oh, but have you finished bugging me?Play Caption
You can just say when someone is pestering you,
Non rompere! (Don't bother me!)
The noun form is used a lot, too, to describe someone who keeps pestering you.
È un vero rompiscatole (he/she is a real pain).
This next idiom has interesting origins. Of course, you don't need to know its origins to use the expression. You do need to know that when a relationship becomes strained, and is on the verge of a rupture, you may well be ai ferri corti. If you are thinking in Italian, you can imagine the scene of two people no longer speaking to each other, or if they do speak, whatever they say is misconstrued, and sparks fly. You're dangerously close to the breaking point. If you watch the movie Sposami on Yabla, you'll get the picture!
Lo so che siete ai ferri corti, non me ne importa niente.
I know that you are at loggerheads. That doesn't matter to me.
Caption 27, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4Play Caption
When we have to translate ai ferri corti, it's a bit trickier. We have to go to a word we no longer use much: Loggerheads. To be at loggerheads. A log is a thick piece of wood, and indeed "loggerhead" once meant "blockhead," as in Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," act IV, scene IV [i.e. 3]: "Ah you whoreson loggerhead you were born to do me shame."
And later, "loggerhead" meant an iron instrument with a long handle and a ball or bulb at the end (thus the name), used, when heated in the fire, for melting pitch and for heating liquids. This makes sense with the Italian ferri, as we are talking about iron tools or possibly weapons. Think of a blacksmith's tools. We can imagine that this tool used to melt pitch, if short, will be very, very hot. Or we can think of the sword and the dagger, also made of ferro (iron). When our swords are broken or gone, and we're using daggers, we are dangerously close. In any case, the conflict has gotten dangerously heated.
Perché lo conosco, lui ha una capacità nel rivoltare le frittate che non ci puoi credere.
Because I know him. He's very capable of flipping omelets [turning the tables] like you wouldn't believe.
Captions 36-37, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4Play Caption
A popular quick meal for Italians is the frittata. The word has gained popularity even in English, but for those unfamiliar with it, it's the Italian version of an omelet, but usually flatter and less fluffy than the French kind, and often containing finely chopped vegetables and grated Parmesan cheese.
You have to flip the frittata over to get it cooked on both sides.
When you twist the argument, you're flipping it. You were to blame, but you twist things in such a way that it looks like the other person is at fault. Literally, it is flipping a situation around to be in one's favor despite not being in the right. We can also translate it with "to turn the tables."
There are a few other variations of this expression:
rovesciare la frittata (turn the frittata over)
rigirare la frittata (flip the omelet over again)
girare la frittata (flip the omelet)
But they all mean basically the same thing.
One of the most basic things we need to know as we venture into the world of speaking Italian is how to ask about a word we don't understand.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
One way is to use a verb we can easily understand, even though we don't use its English equivalent the same way, or very often in conversation. The Italian is significare. It kind of looks like "signify." Of course, in English, we would sooner use the adjective "significant" or the adverb "significantly."
Cosa significa (what does it mean)?
"Pilazza" in italiano significa "vasca di pietra" o "lavatoio"; è il posto in cui, anticamente, venivano i cittadini di Mazara del Vallo a fare il bucato.
"Pilazza," in Italian, means "stone tub" or "washhouse." It's the place where, in earlier times, the citizens of Mazara del Vallo would come to do the laundry.
Captions 15-17, In giro per l'Italia Mazara Del Vallo - Sicilia - Part 4Play Caption
And if we want the noun form, it's il significato (the meaning, the significance).
Questo è un ottimo esercizio per ripassare alcune parole del video e il loro significato.
This is a good exercise for reviewing some words from the video and their meaning.
Caption 49, Italian Intro SerenaPlay Caption
We can ask: Qual è il significato (what's the meaning)?
The more common way to ask what something means is a bit more complex at first: We need 2 verbs to say it, but it's easy to say, and once you master it you will be all set.
The first verb is volere (to want). This is a very useful but tricky verb, as it is actually two verbs in one: It's a stand-alone transitive verb, as in:
Voglio una macchina nuova (I want a new car).
We can also translate it as "to desire."
Volere is also a modal verb, basically meaning "to want to." The main thing to know about a modal verb is that it's followed by a verb in the infinitive, or rather it goes together with a verb in the infinitive, and can't stand alone. Just like some verbs in English, such as "to get," volere has meanings that go beyond "to want to." And just like "to get" in English, volere can pair up with other verbs to take on a new meaning.
In the case of asking what something means, we add a second verb, in the infinitive: dire (to say).
You know how in English we always say, "I mean..."? Well, Italians do this too, but they say, Voglio dire... (I mean to say, I mean).
Bene, forse è ancora in tempo. Prima che distrugga anche la sua famiglia, voglio dire.
Good, maybe there's still time for you. Before he destroys your family as well, I mean.
Captions 10-11, La Ladra Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 6Play Caption
The difference between "I mean to say" and "I mean" is minimal, right? If we take this one step further and put it into the third person singular, it's vuole dire, which commonly gets shortened to vuol dire. And there we have it. It means "it means."
Of course, it could also mean "he means" or "she means," but more often than not it means "it means."
Uso il termometro e misuro la mia temperatura. Se è superiore a trentasette e mezzo, vuol dire che ho la febbre.
I use the thermometer and I measure my temperature. And if it's above thirty-seven and a half (centigrade), it means that I have a fever.
Captions 25-27, Marika spiega Il raffreddorePlay Caption
Marika could also have said, Significa che ho la febbre (it means I have a fever).
Here's one way to ask what a word means:
Nell'ottocentocinquanta, i Saraceni gli diedero il nome di Rabat. Cioè, sai pure l'arabo ora? E che vuol dire Rabat? -Borgo.
In eight hundred fifty, the Saracens gave it the name of Rabat. So, do you even know Arabic now? And what does Rabat mean? -Village.
Captions 8-10, Basilicata Turistica Non me ne voglio andare - Part 2Play Caption
The answer is: Rabat vuol dire "borgo". "Rabat" means "village."
So when asking what a word means, we can either use cosa (what) or just che (what), which is a bit more colloquial.
Cosa vuol dire (what does it mean)?
Che vuol dire (what does it mean)?
If you are absolutely desperate, just say: Vuol dire... (that means...)? You'll get the message across.
Some learners like to know why we say what we say. It helps them remember. Others do better just memorizing how to say something and not worrying about the "why." Whatever works is the right way for you. We all learn in different ways, for sure. And if you need to know more, just ask. We at Yabla are pretty passionate about language and are happy to share the passion. This lesson, as a matter of fact, came about because a learner had trouble grasping why we use the verb "to want" when talking about the meaning of something. We hope that this has helped discover the underlying connection.
We may think of Italians as being relaxed, but they have to rush around just like the rest of us. And since they do so much rushing around, there is some variety in how they talk about it. There are verbs, nouns, and adverbs to choose from. Let's take a look.
It's common to use the familiar form with a family member or friend. The following example is in the second person singular, so don't forget to stress the first syllable, not the second! The three consonants in a row make it fun to say. The "s" always has a "z" sound when it comes before "b."
Dai, sbrigati che ci perdiamo l'inizio del film.
Come on, hurry up, otherwise we'll miss the beginning of the movie.Play Caption
By the way, dai (come on) is just an interjection that is generally used in the second person singular regardless of whom you are talking to (although you wouldn't say it at all to someone you need to be formal with.
If I want to tell two or more friends or family members to hurry up, then I need to say sbrigatevi. Here, the stress is on the second syllable (the "a")!
Io vado avanti, vi aspetto là, eh, sbrigatevi. Ah, ricordatevi le cinture di sicurezza!
I'm going ahead, I'll wait for you there, eh, hurry. Oh, remember your seat belts!
Captions 40-41, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 2Play Caption
If we need to say the same thing using the polite form, it's si sbrighi in the singular. This might be used by a police officer who is asking to you move your car out of the way. The plural would be si sbrighino.
So this verb isn't super easy to use, but if you memorize the second person singular familiar, it will come in very useful.
One more thing: sbrigare in its non-reflexive form means to "to deal with."
Va be', noi andiamo che abbiamo un sacco di lavoro da sbrigare.
All right, we're going, because we have a lot of work to get done.Play Caption
Another way to tell someone to hurry is fai in fretta. Note that here the verb is fare which means both "to make" and "to do."
Fai in fretta, ti prego.
Be quick, please.Play Caption
Often fretta goes hand in hand with furia. In fretta e furia (in a big hurry)
Se tu trovi un cadavere in una stanza d'albergo e scopri che l'occupante della stanza ha pagato per altri due giorni in anticipo, però se ne va prima in fretta e furia, ti insospettisci, no? -Eh!
If you find a dead body in a hotel room and you discover that the occupant of the room had paid in advance for two more days, but he leaves beforehand in a big hurry, you become suspicious, don't you? -Yeah.
Captions 11-14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 5Play Caption
If you see someone rushing out of the house, you might say:
Dove vai così in fretta e furia (where you are off to all of a sudden)?
In some parts of Italy, in Tuscany, for instance, people just say ho furia to mean ho fretta, sono di corsa. I'm in a hurry.
Non è neanche passato a salutarlo? No. Dovevo andare via, c'avevo furia [toscano: fretta].
You didn't even stop by to say goodbye? No. I had to leave. I was in a hurry.
Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 7Play Caption
You might get asked if you are in a particular rush, for example, when someone wants to talk to you or spend some time with you. If you're in Tuscany they might say:
Hai furia o possiamo fermarci per prendere un caffè (are you in a rush or can we stop for a coffee)?
Anywhere else in Italy, they would probably say:
Hai fretta o possiamo fermarci per prendere un caffè (are you in a rush or can we stop for a coffee)?
"Scusa, ma vado di corsa". "Parliamo più tardi".
"Sorry, but I'm in a rush." "We'll talk later."
Captions 55-56, Marika spiega Gli avverbi di modoPlay Caption
We shouldn't think that these are the only ways to talk about being in a hurry, or telling someone to hurry up. But they will give you a good start. In substance, they have similar meanings, but they are used differently, and that's where it can get a bit tricky. Vado di fretta or ho fretta both work. Vado di corsa works, but not
ho corsa. So keep your antennae up, and you will gradually absorb these words into your vocabulary. You'll have your favorites, too.
There's a wonderful word that is a bit tricky to say, because there is a double "d," then a single "r", then a double "t" and then a single "r". Whew! But it's worth the trouble (and worth practicing). Addirittura. It means several things and is simply a great word to have handy, for instance, when expressing astonishment:
Caption 34, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 22Play Caption
The man saying this, if speaking English, might have said, "Seriously?"
It can mean, "as a matter of fact":
E mi sembrava addirittura che i toscani lavorassero troppo poco.
And as a matter of fact, it seemed to me that Tuscans worked too little.
Caption 42, Gianni si racconta Chi sonoPlay Caption
We can often translate addirittura with a simple "even."
E questa sera mi ha addirittura raggiunta in studio la mamma del povero Martino.
And this evening, poor Martino's mom even came to the studio to join me.
Caption 43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 18Play Caption
A less word-for-word translation might have been:
Poor Martino's mom came all the way to the studio to join me.
But it's a strong word and "even" doesn't always do it justice.
It can mean "as far afield as," "as much as," "as little as," "to the point that," "downright," and more.
Sembri la Befana. Eh! Addirittura!
You look like a witch. Hey! That bad?
Captions 8-9, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 13Play Caption
Ce ne sono due grandi internazionali eh... a Pisa e Firenze, ma addirittura altri sette piccoli aeroporti.
There are two large international ones uh... in Pisa and Florence, but in fact there are seven other small airports.
Captions 69-70, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla ToscanaPlay Caption
As you might have figured out, addirittura can have to do with extreme measures or something exceptional. It can be useful when complaining or when justifying something you did:
L'ho controllato addirittura tre volte (I went so far as to check it three times).
Tip: Go to the videos page and do a search of addirittura. You will get dozens of examples where addirittura is a stand-alone expression and others that will be part of a sentence. To get even more context plus the English translation, go to "Transcripts" and do the same kind of search with command-F. The word will be highlighted. Reading the sentence out loud will give you plenty of practice.
Strappare (to tear, to yank, to rip) is an interesting Italian verb, with a useful, related noun uno strappo (the act of ripping up) that goes hand in hand with it.
Sembrerebbe un tuo capello. Va be', dai, strappami il capello, forza. Strappa 'sto capello. Dai, ai!
It seems like one of your hairs. OK, come on, pull out a hair, come on. Yank this strand out. Come on, ow!
Captions 37-40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 2Play Caption
The previous example is literal and you can easily visualize the act. The following example could be literal, but not necessarily. It describes a somewhat violent act, but this grandfather might be speaking figuratively.
Insomma, mi hanno strappato via la mia nipotina dalle braccia.
In short, they tore my little granddaughter from my arms.Play Caption
Even when we're talking about hair, strappare can be used figuratively.
Guarda, mi strappo i capelli da, proprio...
Look, I'm really tearing my hair out from, right...Play Caption
In this week's segment of La Ladra, there is a wonderful Italian expression with the noun strappo.
Ma sono vegetariano. Ma non fai mai uno strappo alla regola? -Qualche volta. E... allora potresti venire nel mio ristorante, naturalmente saresti mio ospite. -Con piacere.
But I am a vegetarian. But don't you ever make an exception to the rule? -Sometimes. And... so you could come to my restaurant, you'll be my guest, naturally. -With pleasure.
Captions 61-64, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 1Play Caption
Did you hear the percussive T, the well-articulated R, and the double, percussive P? It's a fun word to say. Remember that in Italian a double P sounds different from a single P. To hear the difference, go back to the examples about hair. There's a double P in strappare, or strappo, but there is a single P in capello or capelli. Tricky!
Strappare (to tear, to rip, to yank) is very close to rompere (to break) or even spezzare (to break, to snap, to split). So fare uno strappo alle regole, means "to break a rule," "to make an exception."
Another expression with the same noun — strappo — is dare uno strappo (to give [someone] a lift).
Ti do uno strappo a casa?
Shall I give you a lift home?Play Caption
The more conventional word would be un passaggio. Read more about passaggio here.
Here are some situations in which you might want to use the verb strappare or the noun strappo:
You want someone to tear off a page from their notebook or pad. Mi strappi una pagina? (Would you tear off a page for me?)
You want someone to give you a lift home. Mi dai uno strappo? (Will you give me a lift?)
You hardly ever eat ice cream, but today, you'll make an exception. Faccio uno strappo alla regola. Mangerò un gelato! (I'll make an exception. I'm going to have ice cream!)
You are very frustrated with listening to someone complain. Quando comincia con certi discorsi mi viene voglia di strapparmi i capelli. (When he/she starts up with that story, I get the urge to tear my hair out.)
Try fitting in these new words to your Italian practice. Send in your suggestions and we'll correct them or comment on them.
Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.
Review pronominal verbs here.
Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.
You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.
Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1Play Caption
There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.
The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.
When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:
Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)
Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself.
Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.
There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentire, but as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!
Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).
If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss.
Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.
Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.
Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14Play Caption
Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.
But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly."
Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).
Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.
Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).
One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).
E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,
And this made him extremely angry.Play Caption
Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.
Learning expressions by hearing them, repeating them, and figuring out, little by little, the right context to use them in is a great way to learn. But sometimes it’s fun to see where these expressions come from and a visual image can help us remember them. Let's talk about wrinkles.
Somebody has a plan, or an explanation for something. How do we say that it “holds water,” it’s “faultless,” it “makes perfect sense,” "there's no argument?"
But let's start off with the premise that Italians are very concerned with clothes, and figura (impression — how they are viewed by the outside world) and most people know that Italy is an important fashion center. Many Italian kids learn early on that getting their t-shirts dirty will make mamma unhappy, so they try to keep their clothes clean. Not only puliti (clean) but stirati (ironed). So it makes a certain amount of sense that some expressions use ironing metaphors!
In an episode of La Ladra, Eva has an elaborate plan all worked out, which she describes to her girlfriends.
Here’s Gina’s response.
Non fa una grinza.
Captions 45-47, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 5Play Caption
Gina’s comment non fa una grinza literally means, “it doesn’t make a wrinkle.” She could have said non fa una piega, which is also very common, if not more common, and means the same thing. So the expression means, “it’s clean, it has no blemishes, it’s smooth — no bumps, no wrinkles. It’s perfect.”
If you have been following Commissario Manara, you might have noticed the following exchange between Manara and his chief’s wife, who was on the Miss Maremma jury. There’s a contradiction between how she voted and who she really thought should win. Here is the conversation.
È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri.
It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won.
-Allora perché non ha votato per lei?
-So why didn't you vote for her?
Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio.
Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine.
-Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.
-That makes perfect sense, but it doesn't convince me.
E va bene. Quella Fabiola è di una strafottenza mai vista. Ma chi si crede di essere?
And all right. That Fabiola is unbelievably arrogant. But who does she think she is?
Captions 34-40, Il Commissario Manara S2 - EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4Play Caption
So in this expression, regardless of whether grinza or piega is used, the verb is fare (to do/to make). It generally refers to a statement, a reason, an explanation, or a motive, so, di conseguenza (consequently), it’s usually in the third person singular.
It’s a handy expression when all the evidence points to one answer or reasoning you can’t find fault with (even though you wish you could).
Una grinza (a crease, a wrinkle) is the noun form, and its verb form is raggrinzare (to wrinkle) or raggrinzire (to wrinkle).
Piegare means “to fold,” “to bend,” so the noun una piega is “a fold” or “a crease.”
In the negative sense una piega is something that shouldn’t be there, like a crease caused by careless ironing.
The noun form piega is used in another common expression. It is almost always negative, it goes together with brutto (bad/ugly), and usually refers to some kind of situation. In this case, the meaning of piega is closer to “bend,” than to “fold” or “crease.”
Smettiamo prima che questa conversazione prenda una brutta piega.
Let’s stop before this conversation takes a turn for the worse.
Let’s stop before this conversation gets ugly/goes bad.
Check out WordReference for more meanings of la piega.
We have seen various Yabla videos that use the noun pappa. But first of all, let's remember that there are two P's in the middle of pappa, and they both get pronounced. And the accent is on the first syllable. So don't even think of using it to address or talk about somebody's father.
For "dad," or "daddy," we have papà, used more in the north (babbo is used inTuscany and other areas), with the accent on the second syllable, not to be confused with il papa, the pope, where the accent is on the first syllable.
Facevo, diciamo, un po' da figlio di papà, no?
I was, shall we say, sort of Daddy's boy, right?
Caption 44, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 10Play Caption
Make sure to use a single P in papà. Listen carefully to Yabla videos. Follow along with the Italian captions to pay attention to how Italians handle the single or double P. Try imitating the sounds.
Hear papa (pope) pronounced.
With pappa, we are usually talking about food that's soft. Little babies don't have teeth yet, so they need purees and the like.
So, a dish made of dried bread that has been softened in liquid can very well be called a pappa. You can eat it with a spoon. (We also have the word “pap” in English—referring to bland, mushy food for babies and to mindless entertainment.)
Tuscan bread can definitely handle this kind of treatment and still have texture!
La Pappa has come to mean a meal for a baby or child, even if it contains chewable items.
Quando fanno la pappa, quindi quando mangiano, possono mettere dei bavaglini per proteggersi.
When they have their porridge, meaning, when they eat, they can wear bibs to protect themselves.
Captions 26-27, Marika spiega - L'abbigliamento - Part 2Play Caption
But pappa is also a way to referring to food, affectionately, and as we know by now, Italians love their food. The term is used by adults, too.
Bono [buono]! Il profumo è buono, eh! Eh, le tradizioni sono tradizioni! Eh! -C'è poco da fare! -Pappa!
Good! It smells good, huh! Yes, traditions are traditions! Yeah! -There's little to do about it! -Food!Play Caption
Viva la pappa!
Dare is an extremely common verb. It basically means "to give." But it also gets used as a sort of catch-all.
We've seen it many times in its informal, imperative form, all by itself:
Dai, dai, dai, dai che ti ho preparato una cosa buonissima che ti piace moltissimo.
Come on, come on, come on, come on, because I made you something very good, that you like a lot.Play Caption
As we see, it doesn't mean "to give" in this case. It means something like "come on." As "come on," it has plenty of nuances.
Dai is often used as a filler, as part of an innocuous and fairly positive comment, and can mean something as generic as "OK." Let's keep in mind that va be' also means "OK!" Va be' is short for vabene (all right).
Mi dispiace, Massimo, ma dobbiamo rimandare il pranzo. Va beh, dai, se devi andare... facciamo un'altra volta.
I'm sorry, Massimo, but we have to postpone our lunch. OK, then, if you have to go... we'll do it some other time.
Captions 65-66, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2Play Caption
Dai is also used to express surprise and/or skepticism. In this case, it is often preceded by ma (but). We see this in last week's segment of Commissario Manara, when Luca figures out that Marta might be the target of a shooting. She feigns skepticism.
E se per caso il bersaglio non fosse stata la Martini, ma fossi stata tu? Io? Ma dai!
And if by chance the target hadn't been Martini, but had been you? Me? Yeah, right!
Captions 5-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 13Play Caption
In English we use the verb "to have" when giving commands: "Have a seat," "Have a drink," "Have a look." In Italian, though, the verb avere (to have) is rarely used in these situations. And there isn't just one Italian verb that is used, so it may be practical to learn some of these expressions one by one.
We use the verb dare when asking someone to do something like check (dare una controllata), or have a look (dare un'occhiata).
Dai un'occhiata, dai un'occhiata...
Have a look around, have a look around...Play Caption
Let's not forget the literal meaning of dare, which can easily end up in the informal imperative.
E che fai, non me lo dai un bacetto, Bubbù?
And what do you do, won't you give me a little kiss, Bubbù?Play Caption
And to echo a recent lesson, and give another example of a verbo pronominale (a phrasal verb using particelle or short pronoun-related particles) — this time with dare — we have darsela. We have the root verb dare (to give) plus se (to oneself, to themselves, to each other) and la (it). It's hard to come up with a generic translation, as it depends on the other words in the expression, but here are two different ones from Yabla videos. Maybe you can come up with other examples, and we will be glad to dare un'occhiata. The phrasal verb here is darsela a gambe (to beat it, or run away on one's legs).
È che è molto difficile trovare la donna giusta. Secondo me, se la trovi, te la dai a gambe.
It's that it's very difficult to find the right woman. In my opinion, if you find her, you'll high-tail it out of there.
Captions 29-30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9Play Caption
Here's a colorful example from this week's episode of La Ladra:
Aldo Piacentini e la, la, la Barbara Ricci, insomma, i presunti amanti,
che se le davano di santa ragione.
Aldo Piacentini and, uh, uh, uh Barbara Ricci, anyway, the presumed lovers,
who were really beating the crap out of each other.
Captions 45-46, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 14Play Caption
The meaning of se le davano isn't very obvious, so let's try taking it apart. Se is a reciprocal indirect pronoun, "to each other"; le is the plural generic direct object pronoun, "them"; and dare, in this case, can stand for "to deliver". In English it might not mean much, but for Italians the meaning is quite clear.
We could say they are giving each other black eyes, if we want to use the original meaning of dare.
Di santa ragione adds emphasis or strength, and might be translated as "the holy crap," "the hell," or "really."
In an episode of Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno, at the very end, there is an expression that's used just about every day, especially at the end of a conversation, email, a phone call, or text message, so let's have a look.
In this particular case, one person is talking to a few people, so he uses the imperative plural, which happens to be the same as the indicative in the second person plural.
Let me know.Play Caption
Let's take the phrase apart. The verb fare (to make) has been combined with the object pronoun mi which stands for a me (to me). To that is added the verb sapere (to know), in the infinitive.
So, first of all, we might have been tempted to use the verb lasciare (to let, to leave). It would be a good guess, but instead, we use the ubiquitous verb fare: "to make me know." Sounds strange in English, right? But in Italian, it sounds just right. You'll get used to it the more you say and hear it.
Let's look at this expression in the singular, which is how you will use it most often.
The most generic version is this: fammi sapere (let me know).
Va be', quando scopri qualcosa fammi sapere.
OK, when you discover something, let me know.Play Caption
This use of "to make" plus a verb in the infinitive is also used a lot with verbs besides sapere (to know).
Do a Yabla search of fammi and you will see for yourself. There are lots of examples with all kinds of verbs.
Chi c'è alle mie spalle? Fammi vedere. -Francesca.
Who's behind me? Let me see. -Francesca.Play Caption
Sometimes we need to add a direct object to our sentence: "Let me see it."
In this case, all those little words get combined into one word. Fammelo vedere (literally "let me it see" or Let me see it).
Using fare means we conjugate fare, but not the other verb, which can make life easier!
One of our readers has expressed interest in knowing more about a certain kind of verb: the kind that has a special idiomatic meaning when it has particelle (particles) attached to it. In Italian these are called verbi pronominali. See this lesson about verbi pronominali. The particular verb he mentioned is pensarci, so that's where we are going to start.
The root verb is pensare, so we assume it has to do with "thinking." The particle is ci. Ci is one of those particles that mean a lot of things, so check out these lessons about ci. In the following example, pensare is literal: "to think," and ci stands for "of it."
Ma certo! Come ho fatto a non pensarci prima?
But of course! Why didn't I think of it before!Play Caption
Sometimes, when used as a kind of accusation, it's basically the same but it has a different feeling.
È un anno che organizziamo questo viaggio. -Potevi pensarci prima.
We've been organizing this trip for a year. -You could have thought of that before.Play Caption
In the two previous examples, pensarci stays in the infinitive, because we have another helping or modal verb in the sentence. But we can conjugate it, too. In the following example, it is conjugated in the second person singular informal imperative.
Pensarci can mean "to think of it," but it can also mean "to think about it."
Noi non potremmo mai mandare avanti la fabbrica da soli, lo sai bene. Adriano, pensaci.
We could never run the factory on our own. You know that well. Adriano, think about it.
Captions 37-38, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8Play Caption
But sometimes, pensare doesn't exactly mean to think. It means something more along the lines of "to take care," "to handle," and here, pensare is really tied to the little particle ci as far as meaning goes. Ci still means "of it" or "for it." But we're talking about responsibility. Ci pensi tu (will you take responsibility for getting this done)? For this meaning, it's important to repeat the pronoun, in this case, tu. It helps make the meaning crystal clear, and is part of the idiom. What a huge difference adding the pronoun makes!
Barbagallo, pensaci tu.
Barbagallo, you take care of it.Play Caption
Toscani, io c'ho un appuntamento, pensaci tu.
Toscani, I have an appointment, you take care of it.Play Caption
Even though in meaning, ci is connected to pensare, we can still separate the two words.
Ci penso io!
I'll take care of it!
Ci pensa lei!
She'll take care of it.
Pensarci is a very widely used verb in all of its meanings. When you want someone else to do something, it's a very common way of asking. Here are some examples to think about.
Ci pensi tu a lavare i piatti (will you take care of washing the dishes)?
Ci pensi tu a mettere benzina (will you take care of getting gas)?
Ci pensi tu al bucato (will you take care of the laundry)?
Ci pensi tu a preparare la cena (will you take care of getting dinner ready)?
Ci pensate voi a mettere a posto dopo cena? Io vado a dormire (will you [plural] clean up after dinner? I'm going to bed)!
Vuoi veramente comprare una macchina nuova? Pensaci bene (do you really want to buy a new car? Think twice about it).
È il momento per andare in vacanza? Pensiamoci bene (is it the right time to go on vacation? Let's think about it a moment).
Let's look at a few idiomatic expressions people tend to use when holidays are approaching. They're useful at other times of the year, too.
The title of this lesson is ci siamo (we are there). It literally means "we are there," or "we are here," but often means "this is the moment we've all been waiting for" or "we have succeeded." It can also mean "this is the moment we were dreading!"
Ecco qua, ci siamo quasi.
Here we go, we're almost there.
Caption 73, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 3Play Caption
And when we use it in the negative, non ci siamo, it can mean, "this is not a good thing." It's a synonym for non va bene (this is not OK).
No, no, non ci siamo.
No, no, we're not getting anywhere.Play Caption
Natale è alle porte [Christmas is at the doors] (Christmas is just around the corner).
Siamo sotto Natale. Sotto usually means "under/underneath/below," but in this case, it means during, or we could construe it to mean under the influence of the holidays.
Sotto le feste, i negozi fanno orari straordinari (around/during the holidays, shops keep extended hours).
In Italy, le feste non finiscono più (the holidays never end).
Christmas starts on the 24th of December with la vigilia (Christmas Eve) and lasts until la Befana (Epiphany). Only after that do kids go back to school and things get back to normal.
The 26th of December is Santo Stefano, (Saint Stephen's Day), a perfect time for visiting relatives you didn't see on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Traditionally, shops are closed, but oggi giorno (these days), anything goes.
And if there is a weekend in the middle of the festivities, there's il ponte (a four or five-day weekend, literally, "the bridge").
Quando una festa viene il giovedì, spesso si fa il ponte (when there's a holiday on Thursday, we often take Friday off for a long weekend).
The adjective comodo (comfortable) is easy to find in the dictionary, and is easy to understand, too, in a normal context.
Questo divano è molto comodo (this sofa is very comfortable).
Tu disfa le valigie, mettiti comodo.
You unpack your bags. Get comfortable.
Caption 114, Casa Vianello - Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1Play Caption
In this context, we also have the verb accomodare, which means to get comfortable, but it is used in a wide range of expressions about placing someone or something somewhere or even repairing something.
Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena, li faccio accomodare qui, a questo tavolo.
If I have guests for lunch or for dinner, I have them sit here at this table.
Captions 34-36, Marika spiega - Il salonePlay Caption
This verb is very often used in its reflexive form, accomodarsi, especially in formal situations, such as in an office when someone asks you to come in, sit down, or wait somewhere.
Signora Casadio, prego, si accomodi.
Missus Casadio, please have a seat.Play Caption
Consider this exchange between two young people. Here the ti (the object pronoun "you") is connected to the verb, but the information is the same as in the previous example. And make sure to put the accent on the first o in accomodati.
Scusami, è libero? Sì certo, accomodati. -Posso? -Sì sì... -Grazie.
Pardon me, is this place free? Yes, sure, have a seat. -May I? -Sure... -Thanks.
Captions 2-3, Milena e Mattia - L'incontroPlay Caption
But there are other contexts in which comodo is used in Italian, and these might be a bit harder to grasp.
Comodo can mean "convenient," as in an easy answer, as in over-simplifying.
Ho cambiato idea, me ne ero dimenticato, non gliel'ho detto?
I changed my mind, I had forgotten, didn't I tell you?
Troppo comodo, Manara. Ormai le sue dimissioni saranno già protocollate.
Too convenient, Manara. At this point, your resignation will have been registered.
Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 4Play Caption
In a recent segment of a special Christmas video Casa Vianello, after welcoming their guest and asking him to make himself at home (as in our first example), the Vianellos argue, as they often do. They use a common expression: fare comodo (to be useful, convenient, handy), often paired with the adverb sempre (always) to qualify it. Mrs. Vianello starts in without really thinking through what she is saying:
Comunque, un figlio fa sempre comodo.
Anyway, a child always comes in handy.
Ma come fa sempre comodo? Tu parli di un figlio come se si trattasse di un paio di pantofole di lana.
But what do you mean "One always comes in handy?" You talk about kids as if it were about a pair of woolen house slippers.
Captions 150-152, Casa Vianello - Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1Play Caption
The following example offers a more normal context for fare comodo, this time in the past conditional.
It's so hot!
Certo, un ombrellone nelle ore centrali del giorno avrebbe fatto veramente comodo.
Of course, an umbrella for the middle of the day would have been really handy.
Captions 1-2, Una gita - al lago - Part 3Play Caption
And here's an example closer to home!
Fanno molto comodo i sottotitoli in due lingue, no?
Subtitles in two languages are very handy, aren't they?
For a different sort of expression where comodo is featured, see this lesson.
Comodo, fare comodo, accomodare, and accomodarsi are all closely related, but cover a lot of different kinds of situations and contexts. Little by little, you will get better at untangling them from one another as you continue to listen, read, speak, and write.
Provare is a verb that has so many meanings and nuances that it merits some attention. In this week's episode of La Ladra, it has a special meaning that is important to be aware of, especially for those who are thinking about dating.
But first, let's go to the basic meanings of this verb. Provare is one of several synonyms meaning "to try." See this lesson about this meaning of provare.
Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.
I'm going to try now. Let's see if I succeed.
Captions 50-51, Francesca neve - Part 3Play Caption
This exact same construction takes on a different meaning when we're talking about people being sentimentally interested in one another. Every language has different terms that come into general use when talking about relationships, like "going out," "dating," "going steady" in English, and in Italian, stare insieme (to be together, to be a couple, to go steady).
But before that happens, there is usually an approach. We used to call this courting. These days it can be in person, by text, by phone or in person. It can start with a flirtation. But one person has to approach the other. He or she has to try to get the other person's attention. Because there isn't a true equivalent in Italian, flirtare (to flirt) has become a verb we find in the dictionary.
But generally, this stage of the game, the approach, especialy when it's not very subtle, is described in Italian with provarci.
So if I want to say, "That guy was flirting with me!" I might say: Ci stava provando con me!
Literally, it means "to try it" as in our first example, but, ci, as we know from previous lessons, means many things, and it can mean "to or with something or someone."
Ci vengo anch'io. I'll come with you [there].
In this week's episode of La Ladra, Barbara, an employee, is interested in her boss and she doesn't want any interference, and so she gives Alessia, her co-worker, a rough time and accuses her of flirting with him. In reality, poor, shy Alessia has no such intentions, and is quite shocked to be accused of anything of the sort. In this specific context, provarci means to try to get the sentimental attentions of someone (often by flirting).
Ma questo non significa che io...
But that doesn't mean that I...
Ho visto come lo guardi, sai?
I've seen how you look at him, you know.
Ma tu, con Aldo, non ci devi neppure provare.
But you with Aldo, you mustn't even try to get his attention.
Io? Ma sei matta?
Me? But are you nuts?
Captions 20-23, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4Play Caption
On a general level, however, provarci just means "to try it," as in our first example. In English we leave out any object: we just say "I tried." In Italian, there is usually ci as a general, even neutral, object. It is often shortened to a "ch" sound in a contraction. C'ho provato (I tried). Provaci is an informal command: "Give it a try!"
The Italian title for an old Woody Allen film is Provaci ancora, Sam.
In one of this week's videos, we find two words in contexts that could use a bit of explaining.
We're watching the first segment of a new episode of L'Eredità (the inheritance). To start off the show, there's the usual banter between the host and the contestants with some introductions. It just so happens that one of the contestants has a last name prone to getting joked about.
Buonasera. -Massimiliano Scarafoni.
Good afternoon. -Massimiliano Scarafoni.Play Caption
The name looks innocent enough, but scarafone (also scarrafone, scaraffone, scardafone,scordofone) is another word for scarafaggio (cockroach). There's an expression in Italian, and you will see this on the WordReference page for scarafaggio: ogni scarafaggio sembra belloa sua madre (every cockroach is beautiful to its mother). There are other ways to interpret this, from "a face only a mother could love" to "even a homely child is beautiful to his mother."
Pino Daniele, a famous Neapolitan singer-songwriter made this phrase famous in one of his songs. He used the Neapolitan variant, scarrafone, which is also the title: 'O Scarrafone, so when someone has a last name like that, it's almost impossible not to think of Pino Daniele's song if you've ever heard it. You can listen to the song here. There is no actual video, just the album cover, but the text in Italian is there, too.
Another word that is good to be able to recognize in a special context is culo. It is an informal word for buttocks, but Italians (informally only, prego!) use it to mean "luck."
Tirato a indovinare! Il solito culo!
Took a guess! The usual butt [luck]!Play Caption
But on TV, for example, such words might not be not acceptable, so the contestant's brother says il fattore C and everyone knows what he is talking about. The host then explains jokingly that "C" stands for culturale (cultural) not culo.
Be', e speriamo che il fattore ci [culo = fortuna] l'aiuta [aiuti] tanto.
Well, let's hope that the “C Factor” [butt = luck] helps her out greatly.
Captions 37-38, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 1Play Caption
A common comment about someone with good fortune is:
It can also be used sarcastically to mean "bad luck."
A very popular idiomatic, one-word expression comes up several times in a recent Yabla video. The proprietor of a beach club in Marsala uses insomma as filler, to mean "in other words," "basically," "I mean," "you know," "in short," "all in all." Sometimes, as in the example, there is no ideal translation. Insomma is one of those words you have to hear many times in different contexts with different inflections, and soon enough, you'll be using it, too.
E questo è quello che possiamo offrire qua, insomma, a Marsala, a Via Torre Lupa.
And this is what we can offer here, in other words, in Marsala on Via Torre Lupa.
Caption 19, Sicilia - Marsala - Casa vacanze Torre LupaPlay Caption
We have already talked about insomma and its different meanings in two other lessons, so check them out. Making insomma part of sentences will come with time because it has so many connotations, but let's briefly talk about one more way to use insomma by itself as an exclamation. It's often preceded by ma (but) to express indignation, impatience, or exasperation. Your tone of voice tells it all.
Ma insomma, vuoi smettere di rompere?
Hey, would you stop bugging me?
Like many one-word expressions, insomma is made up of two words: the preposition in (in) and the noun somma (sum, total, summary). Its meaning has evolved over time.
When things don't go as well as expected and someone asks you: come'è andato (how did it go)?, you can say insomma to say "so-so, not great".
Do a Yabla search of insomma to see plenty of examples of this versatile filler word.
Get exasperated at your cat or dog and use insomma! or ma insomma!
Here's a great little expression of relief. Literally, it means "less bad." It's about the relief you feel when worse didn't come to worst! In English we usually say "good thing" or "it's a good thing." We might even say "luckily" or "thank goodness." In the example below, meno male is used with che in a sentence.
Meno male che non era un lingotto.
Good thing it wasn't a gold ingot.
Caption 26, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 8Play Caption
It can also be used by itself, and is an easy comment to make in many situations. In the following example, Caterina is worried about Lara, but then Lara finally shows up. Meno male. Thank goodness!
Ah! Meno male, meno male, ecco Lara!
Ah! Thank goodness, thank goodness, here's Lara.Play Caption
Note that sometimes it's used as one word menomale, and sometimes two: meno male. They're both correct, although some dictionaries will say the two-word version is more proper.
When you feel relief that something went better than expected or when you would say "whew!" having avoided a disaster, try saying menomale all by itself. For pronunciation help, listen to some examples by doing a search in the videos tab.