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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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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, e adesso mi tocca venderla.

I worked so hard to get it, and now I have to sell it.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 9

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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, però suo cugino, ogni tanto, mi fa perdere la pazienza.

Excuse me, Miss, but your cousin, every now and then, makes me lose my patience.

Captions 10-11, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 8

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

No, it's that you just need to be a bit patient. Give the student some confidence, and at the right moment, let him go. -Yes.

Captions 23-24, Sposami EP 2 - Part 18

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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, e che Lei fosse stata anche sua paziente.

Instead, it is my understanding that you knew each other before that, and that you had also been his patient.

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 11

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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 - Part 12

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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, adesso vi facciamo qualche domanda.

Ladies, just a moment of patience. Now we're going to ask you some questions.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 1

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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 e purtroppo ho una riunione con loro. Ho capito. Va' be', pazienza. -Mi dispiace. -Ingegnere?

I'm sorry. Saturday, the people from the South America branch are coming and, unfortunately, I have a meeting with them. I understand. Oh well, too bad. -I'm sorry. -Sir?

Captions 41-44, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 5

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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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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 - Ep 12

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Già che ci sei is a very common expression, and it was translated with an equivqlent 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. -E già, ma me ne sono andata appena adolescente.

So, you were born in Athens. -That's right, but I left as soon as I became a teenager.

Captions 1-2, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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

Volevo dedicarmi un po' alla mia vera passione, fotografando l'Italia. Ah, già, Lei è fotografa.

I wanted to devote myself a bit to my true passion, photographing Italy. Ah, right, you are a photographer.

Captions 53-55, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 16

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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 - Part 5

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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. Se non è in tre frasi, guardate, cambiate subito soggetto perché vuol di' [dire] che non funziona".

If you can tell me in three sentences, it works. If it's not in three sentences, look, change the story right away because it means it doesn't work."

Captions 51-53, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 3

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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: è ancora innamoratissimo della defunta moglie.

But he does have a human side: He is still very much in love with his deceased wife.

Captions 27-28, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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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 l'abbiano accusato di essersi intestato tutti i beni di famiglia. -Ah, però!

Too bad that the deceased wife's relatives accused him of having put all the family's assets in his name. -Wow!

Captions 29-31, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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You can even leave out Ah and just say Però!

È stata una delle esperienze più intense della mia vita. Però! Vieni.

It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Wow! Come here.

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 10

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In rotta

Siamo in rotta.

We're on the outs.

Caption 50, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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

What do you want, Gina? For me I would defend them with weapons. 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 - Part 5

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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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

"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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Different ways to use the word no in Italian

The word "no" is pretty clear. It means the same thing in both English and Italian. But there are a few things to remember when using this word. When you want to say, "No" just say, "No." It will be absolutely clear. No (No)!

 

But when you are asking someone to give you a yes or no answer about something, or talking about someone saying "yes," or "no," then you usually add the preposition: di (of). At that point, it is no longer directly reported speech and therefore no quotation marks are necessary. Keep in mind that leaving out the preposition is not wrong, it's just much more common to use it.

 

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Instead of just using the word "no," we say: 

 

Per fortuna Manrico non ce l'ha fatta a dire di no a Melody.

Luckily, Manrico didn't succeed in saying no to Melody.

Caption 38, Sposami EP 2 - Part 13

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E quindi dissi di no. Quando mi mandarono le foto di Ulisse, non so perché, è scattato qualcosa dentro di me e... ho detto di sì.

And so I said no. When they sent me the photo of Ulisse, I don't know why, something clicked inside me and... I said yes.

Captions 21-24, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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Although we are primarily talking about the word no in this lesson, the same goes for sì (yes). And if we replace dire (to say) with another verb, such as sperare (to hope), we do the same thing. In the following example, actress Alessandra Mastronardi says the same thing in two different ways:

Ma, io spe' [sic], mi auguro di sì. Alla fine è stato coronato il sogno che tante persone volevano, quello che si ritor' [sic], si riformasse la famiglia e che Eva e Marco... fortunatamente... e così è andata, quindi spero di sì.

Well, I ho' [sic], I hope so. In the end the dream many people wanted was crowned, the one in which the family retur [sic], re-forms and in which Eva and Marco... fortunately... and that's how it went, so I hope so.

Captions 40-43, Alessandra Mastronardi: Non smettere di sognare

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As we have seen, she uses two different ways to say "I hope so." Mi auguro di sì and spero di sìMi auguro di sì is a bit stronger, a little bit more personal (your eyes open wider). Maybe you are worried that things are not going to go as you hoped, or else, the end result is really crucial. It might also be that you are fully expecting something to happen in a certain way: It had better! It's kind of the difference between "I hope so" and "I certainly hope so." When using augurare or sperare, we can't leave out the di (of).

 

1) We can put this in the negative in the exact same way: Is your landlord going to kick you out? Can you give a couple of answers?

2) What if you are talking about when you asked someone out on a date. How did he or she answer you? M'ha...

 

When no means yes (in a way)

 

One very common expression, as a retort, uses the word "no" to mean "yes" or rather, "for sure!" "of course!" It's a way to confirm something, and literally means, "how not?" Or we could say, "How could that not be?" "How could you doubt it?"

Anche se la politica non ci ha aiutati, ce l'abbiamo fatta, no? Come no!

Even if politics didn't help us, we did it, didn't we? For sure!

Captions 31-32, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

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The important thing here is, first of all, to understand that when someone says, "Come no!" they are saying something positive, like "of course!". Then, once you have heard it many, many times, you might be ready to use it yourself. 

 

Question tags

 

In English we have the dreaded question tags... dreaded by people trying to learn English, that is. In Italian, however, it is way easier. All you have to do is add no and a question mark to the end of your statement. That's all the question tag you need.

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...

Well, it shouldn't be so hard to put the carriage back in, should it? -I...

Caption 9, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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3) Can you say this in a more positive way?

 

È carino, no? Ti piace?

It's cute, isn't it? Do you like it?

Caption 19, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 15

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4) What if you put a question tag after ti piace (you like it)?

 

Using no as a question tag should come as a relief to Italian learners. You didn't know there was such an easy way to insert one, did you?

 

Another way to get the same result is to use the adjective vero (true) with a question mark. It's short for non è vero (isn't it true)? So I might say the same thing with the question tag, vero? 

Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, vero? -Io...

 

5) In reference to the previous example with carino, what if you think something is nice but you don't think the other person likes something?

 

Answers to "extra credit"

 

1) Mi auguro di no! Spero di no! 

2) M'ha detto di sì. Mi ha detto di no.

3) Be', dovrebbe essere facile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...​

4) È carino, no? Ti piace, no?

5) È carino, no?  Non ti piace, vero?

 

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There is more to say about saying no in Italian and using the word no... so stay tuned!

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Siamo alla frutta!

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

 

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

 

Qua tra IVA, Irpef e bollette, praticamente siamo alla frutta.

Here, what with VAT, personal income tax, and bills, we are basically at the bottom of the barrel.

Captions 14-15, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 1

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

 

antipasto
primo piatto
secondo piatto
contorno
dolce 
frutta
caffè 
ammazzacaffè


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

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

Siamo alla frutta!


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



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

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

 

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

 

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


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

Example:
 

Ho pagato tutte le bollette e l'affito per questo mese, e ora sono alla frutta.
I paid all the bills and the rent for this month, and I am high and dry/scraping the bottom of the barrel.

 

Or you can put it at the beginning: 
 

Sono alla frutta.Vado a prendermi un caffè.
I'm wiped out. I'm going to get some coffee.
 

 

Divertitevi! (Have fun!)

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

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Being supportive in Italian by staying close by

When someone is having a hard time, we often try to be supportive. Or we can give someone some support. That's how we say it in English, but Italians say it a bit differently. They use more words.

 

In Italian, we are supportive by staying close to someone, we are by their side. We're there for them. 

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Being supportive by staying close

So in the following exchange between Ugo and Nora, he is actually accusing her of not having been there for him, not having been supportive.

 

Non mi sei stata molto vicina in quel periodo, lo sai?

You weren't really by my side in that period, you know that?

Caption 19, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

A less literal translation would be:

You weren't very supportive [of me] during that period, you know that?.

or

You didn't give me much support during that period, you know that?

or 

You weren't really there for me during that period, you know that? 

 

A little further on in the dialogue, there is a play on words because Nora goes on to accuse Ugo of having had the American woman (the one he was having an affair with) literally by his side — in bed!

 

E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?

But the American was by your side?

Caption 25, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Sometimes the meaning is literal, so we need to be aware of the context. It can also be a mix of being physically nearby and being there for someone, being supportive.

 

How to use this expression

Now that we have looked at the meaning, we can look at how to use the expression. The formula is stare (to be, to stay) + vicino (close) + a (to) + qualcuno (someone). When we use pronouns, they can get attached to the verb, as in the following example.

 

Here are a few more examples:

Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.

Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 11

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The translation is pretty clear, but, depending on the intention of the speaker, it could also be:

 Adriano is ill and I want to be there for him.

 

Note that since there is a modal verb, in this case, volere (to want to), the verb stare will be in the infinitive and volere will be conjugated.

 

1) What about a version where the verb stare is separated from the pronoun?

2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?

3) What if you were talking directly to the person who is ill?

 

Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous

In the following example, the staying close is more physical, since Paola asks Adriano to hold her close, but she is also asking Adriano to be there for her, to give her some support because the entire conversation is about her problems and the fact that she feels alone. She uses the second person informal imperative of stare with the personal (indirect object) pronoun attached to it.

Senti, facciamo così, dormiamoci sopra. Poi domani mattina sarai più lucida. -Tu stammi vicino, però. Stringimi.

Listen. Let's do this. We'll sleep on it. Then tomorrow morning, you will be more clear-headed. -You stay close to me, though. Hold me tight.

Captions 32-35, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14

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4) As an exercise, what if Paola were using the polite form of address? 

 

Attenzione: Let's avoid the temptation to use the suspiciously similar sopportare in this case, because it means "to bear," "to tolerate."

Ma non ce la facevo più a sopportare i suoi deliri.

But I couldn't bear to tolerate her ravings anymore.

Caption 63, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

We hope this little lesson will help you understand the discussion Nora and Ugo have about their past in Sposami. And let's hope they can make up and move on!

 

1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.

2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.

3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino

3b) Tu stai male e ti voglio stare vicino.

4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.

 

 

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A little quirk concerning the verb sapere

We talked about the important verb sapere (to know) in a previous lesson. You might have also figured out that even though sapere means "to know," in English, "to know" isn't always translated into Italian with sapere. It can also be translated as conoscere (to know, to be familiar with, to meet for the first time). We have a lesson about that, too.

Sapere (to know how)

Another nuance of the verb sapere is that it often means "to know how." In this case, just as "to know how," in English, is followed by a verb in the infinitive (such as in "to know how to do something"), sapere, when it means "to know how" is also followed by a verb in the infinitive. We can see an example of this in the following clip.

 

Ma come, l'hai inventata tu la Lettera Ventidue e non la sai usare?

But how come? You invented the Lettera Twenty-two and you don't know how to use it?

Caption 38, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 24

 Play Caption

 

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An alternative translation

But there is another similar way to translate this sense of sapere. And that is with "can" or "to be able to." Just as with "can," sometimes it's about being capable of doing something (as in the previous example), and sometimes it is about being able to or kind enough to do something (as in this next example).

Mi scusi, buon uomo. Mi sa dire l'ora, per favore? -Le cinque e trentacinque. -Ma è sicuro? E trentasei mo, eh! -Ah! Grazie, eh! -Prego.

Pardon me, my good man. Can you tell me the time, please? -Five thirty-five. -But are you sure? -[And] thirty-six now, huh! -Ah! Thanks, huh! -You're welcome.

Captions 1-7, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'ora

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Literally, this might have been translated as: "Do you know how to tell me the time?" But that's not really what he means. Of course, the guy on the scooter could have said something else, such as:

Sa che ore sono (Do you know what time it is)?

 

but that isn't actually asking for the person to share the information. He also could have said:

Mi può dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

Mi può dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?

Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?

Può dirmi che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

 

So we can use the verb potere (to be able to), but using sapere to mean "can" in certain contexts, especially with verbs such as dire (to say) indicare (to indicate), consigliare (to recommend), is a very typical way to ask if someone can do something. It is ever so slightly round-about and gives an impression of informal politeness. We might say it's a cross between "Can you?" and "Do you know how?"

 

Exercises

1) Can you ask the above questions using the informal form of address?

 

2) How about transforming these sentences by replacing potere with sapere?

-2a) Mi puoi dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?

-2b) Non poteva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva l'orologio (she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

-2c) Non ti posso consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).

 

Answers to exercises:

 

1) 

Sai dirmi l'ora (can you tell me the time)?

Sai che ore sono (do you know what time it is)?

Mi puoi dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

Mi puoi dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?

Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?

Puoi dirmi che ora sono (can you tell me what time it is)?

2)

2a) Mi sai dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?

2b) Non sapeva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

2bb) Non ha saputo dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).

3c) Non ti so consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).

 

Let us know if you have any questions (newsletter@yabla.com), and thanks for reading!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

 

 

 

 

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Italians know their chickens

Here's a great expression Italians use all the time. We can figure out the meaning easily, but finding a specific English equivalent is not all that straightforward. The important thing is to understand what Italians are trying to get across when they say it, and to be able to use it ourselves in Italian when the situation calls for it.

The expression itself:

When you know who you are dealing with and can predict an outcome based on how well you know that person or type of person, that's when you say:

 

Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens).

E gli ha detto di farsi operare nella sua clinica privata. -E tu come lo sai? -Perché conosco i miei polli.

And he told him to have the operation in his private clinic. -And how do you know? -Because I know my chickens [I know who I'm dealing with].

Captions 24-25, La Ladra EP.11 Un esame importante - Part 4

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Some attribute this expression to Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a great lover of animals and nature, so it seems it goes way back to the 13th century as well as being alive and well today.

 

Italians are known for setting up orti (vegetable gardens) and pollai (chicken coops or henhouses) whenever and wherever they have the opportunity. So chickens, in many cases, are part of everyday life. These days, this is a less frequent phenomenon, but in the past, during the war, for example, raising chickens and having a little vegetable garden was a question of survival. 

 

Taking the expression apart:

Let's just mention that conoscere can have a few different nuances of meaning. Check out this lesson all about the verb conoscere. In the present case we are talking about knowing a person well, being familiar with their habits. It may be a friend who is always late, so you won't be surprised when they arrive with a 15 minute delay... It may be someone who never offers to pay, or always offers to pay. It may mean making an extra amount of pasta because you know your dinner guest is a good eater. It can be positive or negative, and can be said before someone does something, or as a justification afterwards. 

Ci butto un etto di pasta in più perché conosco i miei polli. Gianni è una buona forchetta.

I'll throw in one hundred grams more pasta because I know my chickens. Gianni is a big eater.

1) If you were to say this after the fact, to explain why you made so much pasta, what could you say?

 

Even if we are talking about one person, as in the video clip included above, the plural is generally used — it's a fixed expression. 

And this might be a good time to remember that we need the article before the possessive pronoun in Italian, but not in English. I miei polli. The singular would be il mio pollo

You can also use the expression in reference to someone else knowing their chickens.

Conosci i tuoi polli, eh? (you know who you're dealing with, I guess).

2) Let's say someone is telling you that they would always make more pasta than usual for this particular guest. How would you modify the question?

 

Practice:

As you go about your day, think of people you know and try predicting what they will say or do. As they prove you right, with a little chuckle, you can say to yourself, "Conosco i miei polli."

One more thing:

One more word about chickens. A chicken is young, and a hen is old. In English we can say "henhouse" or "chicken coop." In Italian, it's usually pollaio but naturally, the pollaio is full of both polli (chickens) and galline (hens). 

 

Another expression using galline describes people who go to bed early:

Alle otto se ne vanno a casa e non escono più, come le galline.

At eight o'clock they go home and don't go out again, like hens.

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 12

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3) What if the person were talking about one other person, not a group of people? What might he say?

 

The translation we have provided here is literal, and therefore "hens," but in English we would sooner say "chickens" when we want to be generic. The only time you really need to know the difference between galline and polli is when buying them to eat. We want pollo for most dishes, but Italians love broth and it's common to use certain cuts of beef plus a piece of gallina or fowl to make il brodo (the broth).

 

A proposito... (speaking of which...)

There's another famous expression in Italian, often referring to a woman of a certain age who might be feeling old. It's a compliment of sorts.

Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo ([An] old hen makes good broth).

 

More about brodo (broth) in this lesson.

 

And let's not forget the male member of this group of animali da cortile (barnyard animals) : il gallo (the rooster).

Ho provato ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

I tried to imagine the classic ending where she leaves everything and moves to the country, because she discovered how wonderful it is to be woken up by the rooster.

Captions 5-7, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 30

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

1) C'ho buttato un etto di pasta in più perché conosco i miei polli. Gianni è una buona forchetta.

2) Conoscevi i tuoi polli, eh? 

3) Alle otto se ne va a casa e non esce più, come le galline.

4) Sto provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Provavo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Proverò ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Stavo provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.

Provo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo,

 
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Another way to notice something (or not), in Italian

In a previous lesson, we discussed a couple of ways to talk about noticing things, or not. Each expression or verb that says roughly the same thing comes with its particular grammatical feature and each has nuances that can determine when people use one or the other.

 

Notare

The easiest and most direct way to notice things is with the transitive verb notare

E Lei non ha notato niente di strano?

And you didn't notice anything strange?

Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 4

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Accorgersi

Accorgersi (to notice) is reflexive and comes with its grammatical baggage especially when using it in the present perfect (a very common way to use it). Accorgesene (to notice it) adds the complication of the ne particle. So it gets complicated, especially for beginners. 

Abbiamo parcheggiato in divieto di sosta, e io purtroppo non me ne sono accorto.

We parked in a no parking zone, and I, unfortunately, didn't realize it.

Captions 12-13, Francesca alla guida - Part 4

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Rendersi conto

In a previous lesson we also talked about rendersi conto or rendersene conto as a way to realize something. It's a bit deeper than just noticing. It's to become aware of the significance of an oberservation. There are relevant discussions of accorgersi vs rendersi conto, on WordReference so check it out if you want to know more.

E allora ripensando a quella mattina, io mi sono resa conto che Lei entrò nello studio soltanto pochi secondi dopo di noi.

And so thinking back to that morning, I realized that you entered the study just a few seconds after us.

Captions 54-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 11

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Farci caso or fare caso di qualcosa

Here's another modo di dire that Italians use quite a bit in conversation, especially when they fail to notice something or they want to fail to notice something on purpose, that is, to ignore something.

 

This expression is not reflexive so that's one point in its favor (on the easy-to-use scale), but we do have to contend with the particle ci which in this case stands for "about it" or "to it".

 

Let's look at the make up of this expression. Basically we have the verb fare (to make, to do) and the noun caso (case) and then we have ci which in this case stands for "about it" or "to it," or just  "it."  We can think of farci caso as "making a case out of something," "making an issue of something," "giving something importance." 

 

And in some cases, that's what it means.

Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza... era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco. Ma io non c'ho mai fatto caso.

If we really want to call it a weakness... he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it. But I never made an issue of it.

Captions 73-75, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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But before making an issue of something, we notice it, we pay attention to it. And that's one common way it's used in everyday conversation. Here's a little scene from Commissario Manara between Sardi and her husband, Toscani.

Io da ieri sera sto ancora aspettando i pannolini, grazie. -Sardi, io da ieri sera, non so se ci hai fatto caso, non sono rientrato neanche a casa. Ci hai fatto caso, spero, sì? -Come non c'ho fatto caso?

I've been waiting since last night for the diapers, thank you. -Sardi, since last night, I don't know if you noticed, I haven't even gone home. You noticed, I hope, didn't you? -What do think, that I didn't notice?

Captions 6-10, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 10

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Here, we should keep in mind that in English we don't add an object pronoun or preposition, but in Italian, that's what the c' stands for, and is actually ci.

 

We should mention that another way to use this expression is when you are telling someone not to notice something, not to make an issue out of something. In other words, to ignore something. This can come up, for instance, when you hear someone saying bad things about you. A friend will say:

Non ci far caso. Non farci caso.

Don't pay attention to that. Ignore it.

 

If you watch Commissario Manara, you know that the coroner, Ginevra, has a personal way of talking about the dead people she examines. Someone is explaining that fact to a newcomer. The speaker is using the third person singular imperative which is used to address someone formally.

Non ci faccia caso, è fatta così.

Don't mind her, that's how she is.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 6

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Practically speaking

A really handy phrase to learn right now is Non c'ho fatto caso (don't forget that the c is pronounced like "ch," the h is silent, there's a nice double t in fatto, and the s in caso sounds like z):

Non c'ho fatto caso. 

I didn't notice.

I didn't see that.

I didn't notice that.

I didn't pay attention to it.

It didn't jump out at me.

It didn't catch my eye.

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4 more ways to use conto

Let's look at 5 more ways to use the noun il conto in everyday conversation. The first two involve prepositions:

 

1) Per conto di

When we do something on someone's behalf, we use per conto di

La leggenda racconta di miniere dove a scavare erano dei nani per conto del re Laurino.

The legend tells of mines where dwarfs were excavating on behalf of the king Laurin.

Captions 23-24, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 5 - Part 10

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Oltre a questo lavoro giornalistico più specifico, lavoro anche come, come responsabile di uffici stampa per conto di varie realtà.

Besides this more specific journalistic job, I also work as head of press offices on behalf of various organizations.

Captions 1-3, Francesca Vitalini Fare la giornalista pubblicista - Part 2

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An expression we might see in a contract about power of attorney is:

agire in nome e per conto di (to act in the name of and on behalf of)

 

This expression can also mean "of one's own" and is used quite frequently as in the following example.

Perché la mi' figliola [mia figlia] c'ha già tanti problemi per conto suo.

Because my daughter has enough problems of her own.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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It can also mean on one's own:

Non faccio in tempo a venire a casa per pranzo. Mangio per conto mio.

I don't have time to come home for lunch. I'll eat on my own.

 

2) Sul conto di 

If we use the preposition su (on) then it can mean "about." We usually use it in reference to people.

No, io devo smentire delle cattiverie che girano sul mio conto.

No, I have to prove wrong the maliciousness that's circulating about me.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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Anche se ultimamente si dicono un sacco di cose sul suo conto...

Even though lately they've said a lot of things about her...

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4

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These next examples involve a verb plus conto:

3) Tener conto di

Mah, la libertà è una grossa parola, perché bisogna sempre tener conto delle persone che abbiamo intorno.

Well, freedom is a strong word, because we always have to take into account the people we're surrounded by.

Captions 22-23, Che tempo che fa Monica Bellucci

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Here's an example using the particle ne (about it, of it) as well. It takes the place of di qualcosa (about/of something):

Tu vedrai che i giudici ne terranno conto, ascoltami.

You will see that the judges will take it into account, listen to me.

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 13

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4) Fare conto

When someone is telling you to listen to how things add up, or how things fit together, they might say:

 

Fai conto... (take this into consideration, do the math..., let's see... figure this in...)

 

Like many expressions, there are some people who use this expression regularly, and others who never use it. It can be added into a sentence as is, on its own. Instead of doing the math oneself, the speaker is having you participate. It's a modo di dire.

 

Ci vogliono,  fai conto,  tre ore per andare da Pisa a Bologna in macchina. 

It will take — you should count — three hours to go from Pisa to Bologna by car.

 

Cammina, cammina. Sai quanti chilometri faccio io al giorno?  -Quanti? -Fai conto tre pedinamenti, per dire, eh.

Yeah, walk. You know how many kilometers I do per day?  -How many? -Figure three tails, to give you an idea, huh.

Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 1

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Fare conto can also be used with che (that) to make a more complex sentence.

 

Fai conto che io faccio tanti kilometri al giorno.

Take into account that I do three kilometers per day.

 

Fare conto doesn't necessarily have to do with numbers or counting. It can also mean "to assume that" or even "to pretend that" in certain contexts and in this case it takes the subjunctive.

Fai conto che io sia tua madre (anche se sono la zia), e devi fare quello che dico io.

Think of me as your mother (even though I am your aunt) and you have to do as I say. 

 

We hope these ways for using il conto will be useful to you. Maybe you will hear them used in a movie, or when an Italian is explaining something to you. Now you know!

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Can you think of other ways this noun is used? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Fare i conti (taking things into account) Part 2

In a previous lesson, we talked about the noun conto as part of the phasal verb rendersi conto (to realize). A learner has written in asking if this can be synonymous with accorgersene (to notice, to realize). The answer is yes, sometimes, depending on the context. There is a lesson on the pronominal, reflexive verb accorgersene, so check it out.

 

Fare i conti (coming to terms, reckoning)

In this lesson, we will continue to look at the noun il conto and how it fits into various expressions, with meanings that might seem to depart from the cognate "account." But let's keep in mind that in many cases, although English speakers prefer different turns of phrase, we can connect these with "account," if we look hard enough. After all, in English, we use the word "account" in lots of different ways, too.

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Here are some examples from Yabla videos of how people use conto or conti in authentic speech.

 

Dopotutto bisogna fare i conti con i propri limiti ogni tanto, o no?

After all, one has to come to terms with one's own limits, every now and then, right?

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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The previous example is from the biopic about Adriano Olivetti, which has been proven to be quite popular with subscribers. At the Olivetti typewriter factory, they're talking about selling it!

 

In the example below, the subject is Covid-19, and the fact that we have to come to terms with it, to reckon with it. Different translations but a similar concept. 

 

Come ormai tutti sapete, non solo l'Italia, ma tutto il mondo sta cominciando a fare i conti con questa [sic: questo] assassino invisibile.

As everyone knows by now, not only Italy, but the whole world is starting to have to reckon with this invisible killer.

Captions 7-9, COVID-19 Andrà tutto bene

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So we're talking about dealing with something, facing something, taking something into consideration, taking something into account, or even taking stock.

 

Practically speaking

Here's a practical situation in which one might use fare i conti. This time it does have to do with money.

 

Let's say I have someone do a job for me, say, getting a swimming pool up and running after the winter, and afterwards, I want to know how much I have to pay for it. Instead of just saying quanto ti devo? (how much do I owe you?), I can be a bit more roundabout. I can leave the door open for a conversation and allow for a justification of the fee I will be paying, compared to the initial preventivo (estimate), or for talking about a discount. I am letting the person I hired know that I am ready to settle up or at least to determine how much it will come to.

Dobbiamo fare i conti (we have to tally up, or "Let's figure out how much I owe you").

 

Making it casual

We can make the act of tallying up more casual, perhaps less about money, by using un po'  (a little, a few) or due (two), which doesn't really mean the number 2, but is a generic low-grade plural to mean "some." In the following example, the number due (two) could replace un po'

 

Che poi se facciamo un po' di conti, sono sempre io a perdonare per prima.

Which, after all, if we do the math here, I'm always the first one to forgive.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Uno si fa due conti e inizia a pensare che se tutti si vogliono innamorare, un motivo ci sarà.

You add things up and start thinking that if everyone wants to fall in love, there must be a reason.

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 2

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All things considered

Another expression with conti comes from math and accounts, but has to do with summing up. It's a way of saying, "All in all," "in the end," "all things considered," "after all is said and done..." 

Be', in fin dei conti, si tratta solo di ratificare uno stato di fatto.

Well, in the end, it's just a matter of ratifying a state of affairs.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 5

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Something's fishy

An expression that is used both in talking about money and about pretty much anything, is the the equivalent of "things don't add up."

E hai scoperto qualcosa? -Non ancora, ma i conti non tornano.

And did you discover anything? -Not yet, but things don't add up.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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There is still plenty to say about the noun conto, but we'll save it for next time!  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

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Diritto, Dritto, and Dritta

In a previous lesson, we looked at some Italian words that have to do with "right": retto and its feminine form retta. We mentioned that there are other words that can mean "right" and so in this lesson, we will look at two more: diritto, dritto. Sometimes they mean "right" and sometimes they don't, but they are very good words to know! 

 

If we look at the dictionary entry for dritto, we also find diritto, so they are very closely related and can often be used interchangeably. And sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is saying one or the other. But there are cases where you can't swap them. 

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Diritto as a noun

When you have rights (or not), then you use diritto as a masculine noun. Dritto won't work in this case!

Mi dice con che diritto ha fermato Stefano?

Will you tell what right you had to detain Stefano?

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 14

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As in English, we can talk about rights in general: equal rights, civil rights, etc., thus using the plural.

Anch'io ho i miei diritti e la mia dignità di lavoratore.

I also have my rights and my dignity as a worker.

Caption 6, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 9

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While a single law is una legge, law in general is referred to as diritto or giurisprudenza. Here, too, dritto won't do.

Mi sono appena iscritto alla facolta di Diritto.

I'm just enrolled in Law school.

 

Dritta as a noun

Although dritta as a noun almost surely derives from the verb dirigere, it has become a colloquial but widely used feminine noun in itself. In this case, someone is heading you in the right direzione (direction) by giving you some good advice or a tip. Diritta doesn't work here.

 

Gli ho solamente dato qualche dritta su come tenere pulito il lastricato dalla gramigna. -Ah!

I just gave him a few tips on how to keep the flagstones free of weeds. -Ah.

Captions 53-54, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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Further noun definitions of dritto and dritta.

 

We can use the noun form dritto/dritta to describe someone who is sly, a smooth operator.

 

La dritta can also indicate the right-[hand] side, the one used to direct (dirigere). On a ship, it's the starboard side. On a medal il dritto is the "front" side. In knitting, dritto is a plain stitch.

 

Dritto as an adverb

 

Just as with "right" in English, diritto can be either an adjective or a noun, but it can also be an adverb. 

 

One thing a parent might tell a child is:

 

Valentina, sta dritta.

Valentina, stand up straight.

Caption 10, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 14

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As we found in the lesson on retto, "straight" and "right" are close cousins in English. Think of the word "upright."

 

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Giving Directions

One way we use the adverb dritto or diritto is when we give directions, so this is super important. Whether you say diritto or dritto, people will understand you just fine.

 

Here, Daniela is teaching us about giving directions.

OK? Allora, andare a destra, andare a sinistra, andare dritto, andare sempre dritto, andare tutto dritto.

OK? So, "to go to the right," "to go to the left," "to go straight," "to go straight ahead." "to go straight ahead."

Captions 53-54, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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Here's an expression we have seen several times in Yabla videos, used in association with former criminals, wayward policemen, or with kids.  

 

In the following example, dritto describes the way you draw lines--you draw them straight. You behave.

"Rigare dritto" vuol dire comportarsi bene.

"To toe the line" [to make a straight line] means "to behave."

Caption 14, Marika commenta -La Ladra Espressioni idiomatiche - Part 1

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Check out Marika's video where she says a bit more about the expression rigare dritto or filare dritto

 

In the following example, we could also say the shot went right to the heart. 

Un colpo di pistola dritto al cuore a distanza ravvicinata, ma...

A gunshot direct to the heart at close range, but...

Caption 16, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 21

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There is certainly more to say about these fascinating and important words, but your head must be full by now. Keep your eyes and ears open as you watch Yabla videos. These words will be peppered all through them. Let us know your questions and doubts, and we'll get back to you. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Unico: What does it really mean?

Now that we have talked about uno, here's another related word that's handy to know. It's a word you can guess one meaning of because it looks similar to an English word you know.

 

Oggi Matera è un sito unico al mondo...

Today, Matera is a site that's unique in the world...

Caption 46, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 11

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UNIQUE

So when you want to say something is unique, now you know how. Don't forget that the adjective unico has to agree with its noun. You have 4 possible endings to choose from: unico, unica, unici, uniche.

 

One way Italians like to use unico is to give someone a certain kind of compliment (which can be ironic, too). 

 

Augusto, sei unico.

Augusto, you're one of a kind.

Caption 34, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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Again, if you are saying this to a girl or woman, you will want to use unica

Maria, sei unica!

Maria, you're special!

 

MOST COMMON

But the main way Italians use the word unico is to mean "only."  

È l'unico modo che ho per sdebitarmi.

It's the only way I have to settle my debt.

Caption 25, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Questa scuola è l'unica cosa che ho.

This school is the only thing I have.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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E saremo gli unici al mondo ad avere qualcosa di simile.

And we'll be the only ones in the world to have something like this.

Caption 18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19

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Tutte le volte che veniva a pregare per le uniche persone che amava.

Every time she came to pray for the only people she loved.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 10

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SPECIAL MEANINGS

If you travel to Italy and go clothes shopping, here's something you will definitely see on the racks or on a label.

taglia unica (one size fits all).

The noun La taglia comes from the verb tagliare (to cut).  

 

The other very important expression with unico is what you might see while driving your macchina a noleggio (rental car).

una strada a senso unico (a one way street)

 

People also just call a one way street: 

un senso unico (a one way street)

 

In these last two examples, we could say that unico stands for "one." The important thing is to understand what it means in the situation. You don't want to drive the wrong way down a road!

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How to fix things in Italian part 3

We've talked about two words to use when we need something fixed: sistemare and riparare. Here's another: accomodare. This verb looks a lot like the English verb to accommodate and while they both come from the same Latin word "accomodare" they are not true cognates.

 

Accomodare

Questa bici è vecchia ma l'ho fatta accomodare da un amico esperto e sembra nuova.

This bike is old, but I had it fixed up by a friend who's an expert, and it's just like new.

 

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It could be that the verb accomodare is used less frequently than some others to mean "to repair" but it's good to know it exists, as you might hear it and get confused if you hadn't read this lesson!

 

When getting something repaired, it's common to use the verb fare (to make, to do) and the infinitive form of the verb accomodare as in our example above: fare accomodare (to get repaired). Let's keep in mind that used this way, accomodare is a transitive verb, in other words, it takes a direct object.

 

As with sistemare, accomodare can be used to mean to tidy up, to arrange, as in getting a bedroom ready for someone. 

Ho accommodato la stanza dove dormirai.

I got the room where you'll be sleeping ready for you.

 

Accomodarsi

As with many verbs, there is a reflexive form of accomodare, and in this case, it has come to mean something completely different from the normal verb. Here, we can also see a connection with the adjective comodo (comfortable, at ease). 

 

This verb is very important when someone invites you into their house. Of course, when you enter, it is always polite to say permesso. You're asking permission to come in. 

Con permesso? Permesso?

May I come in? May I come in?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 10

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One answer you might get is this, especially if you know the person well: 

Posso? -Vieni. Accomodati. Ti ho portato i prospetti che mi avevi chiesto.

May I? -Come in. Have a seat. I brought the forecasts you had asked me for.

Captions 19-20, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 14

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In the example above, the reflexive accomodarsi is used in the second person singular imperative. It can mean "Have a seat" but can also mean, "Make yourself comfortable," "Get yourself settled." 

 

If you are staying with someone, perhaps they will show you to your room. They might say:

Ti faccio accomodare qui.

You can get settled in here. 

 

 The same goes for when you have dinner. 

Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena, li faccio accomodare qui, su [sic: a] questo tavolo.

If I have guests for lunch or for dinner, I have them sit here, on [sic, at] this table.

Captions 34-36, Marika spiega Il salone

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Accomodarsi is used in the polite form as well, especially in offices, and is one way of inviting you in, but can also mean "please have a seat." In the following example, it's combined with venga  — the polite singular imperative form of venire (to come).

Commissario, c'è la signora Fello. Signora Fello, venga. -Permesso? -Venga, si accomodi.

Chief, Missus Fello is here. Missus Fello, come in. -May I? -Come in, have a seat.

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 3

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If you read our lessons regularly, you might have come across a lesson about the adjective comodo, which has a couple of different meanings. The lesson also discusses accomodarsi briefly, so check it out here.

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Using accomodarsi in sentences can be challenging, but it's important to have the verb comfortably in your vocabulary toolbox. So if you have questions such as "How do I say __________ in Italian," we are here to help! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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