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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: accommodare. 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 accommodare 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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Spesso e Volentieri: 2 adverbs that go hand in hand

Let's talk about how we use adverbs in Italian.

 

Adverbs are easy because they don't change according to gender or number, as adjectives do. Knowing a few basic adverbs can help you ask and answer questions in general conversation with strangers or new friends. Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to modify, clarify, qualify, or quantify the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

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Kinds of Adverbs - quick overview

Adverbs can be categorized according to what they describe, or what questions they answer: Read more about Italian adverbs. 

 

avverbi di modo (how?)

avverbi di quantità (how much or many?)

avverbi di luogo (where?)

avverbi di tempo (when, how often?)

A few common adverbs to have at the ready

Here's a list of some of the common adverbs you need to know:

 

  • di solito (usually)
  • spesso (often)
  • mai (never)
  • qualche volta (sometimes)
  • dopo (later, afterwards)
  • dentro (inside)
  • fuori (outside)
  • volentieri (willingly)
  • qui (here)
  • bene (well, fine)

 

Let's concentrate on two adverbs that often go hand in hand, but for now, we'll look at them separately:

Spesso

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids

Captions 10-12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

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Spesso is a great adverb to know. Just tack it on to a verb and you're all set.

 

Vengo spesso in questo posto (I often come to this place).

Non viaggio spesso in treno (I don't often travel by train).

Volentieri

Volentieri is also a wonderful adverb to have in your toolbox. When someone invites you to do something, you can answer with one word: Volentieri! (I'd be happy to, I'd love to). It may be helpful to consider that this adverb comes from the verb volere (to want). We can also translate volentieri as "willingly." For more about volentieri, read this lesson

Spesso e Volentieri

This is an expression you will hear now and then, and it's an Italian favorite. Although we have looked at the two adverbs making up this expression, we might still be perplexed about what it might mean, exactly. "Often and willingly"??? It's not something we say, or not often anyway.

 

Although it can mean "often and willingly," it usually means "more often than not!" So when you are thinking about how to say "more often than not" in Italian, you might be tempted to translate each word: più spesso che non... but you might want to try to resist that temptation. Italians prefer to say spesso e volentieri. So we have two adverbs: one is an adverb of time: spesso = often. The other is an adverb of manner: volentieri = willingly. 

 

In the following example, Marika and Anna are making a wonderful frittata out of leftover spaghetti! Non si butta via niente (nothing gets thrown away)!

 

Tutto si ricicla e, spesso e volentieri, è più saporito, no, il piatto riciclato che quello originale.

Everything gets recycled and, more often than not, the recycled dish — you know? — is tastier than the original one.

Captions 8-10, L'Italia a tavola Frittata di spaghetti - Part 2

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One thing to keep in mind is that in this case, volentieri doesn't necessarily refer to anyone being willing or glad to do something, although it might. It's that something happens easily, without extra effort: often and easily. In the following example, Daniela is talking about the special past tense, il passato remoto, which has gone out of fashion in many parts of Italy, but is still used, a lot of the time, in the south of Italy.

Se vi piace l'Italia del Sud, quindi Napoli... la Sicilia, la Sardegna, la Puglia, la Calabria, dovete conoscere il passato remoto perché nel sud Italia si parla molto spesso e volentieri al passato remoto.

If you like the south of Italy, in other words: Naples... Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, and Calabria, you should know the remote past because in the south of Italy people speak using, more often than not, the remote past tense.

Captions 21-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il passato remoto - Part 1

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Using spesso e volentieri to express a preference

In the following example, it is a matter of preference and willingness. 

Lavo i panni spesso e volentieri a mano (I often prefer to wash my laundry by hand).

Spesso e volentieri, mia mamma fa la spesa nelle botteghe (my mom often prefers to shop in the small grocery stores).

 

We hope you enjoy using this new expression, and that we have given you some insight into it. Let us know if you have any questions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Torto o Ragione (Wrong or Right)

We looked at the noun torto in a previous lesson. We can say hai torto (you're wrong). But what about when you're right? Being right uses the noun ragione, but let's first take a closer look at this versatile noun and related forms.

 

The reason, the motive

In Italian, la ragione is a partial true cognate. When used to mean "the reason," it makes sense to us because it's a true cognate:

E c'è una ragione molto precisa.

And there is a very precise reason.

Caption 21, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 2

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The verb form:

We also have a verb form: ragionare (to reason, to think, to reflect):

 

Cerchiamo di ragionare con calma.

Let's try to think about this calmly.

Caption 28, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 8

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The adjective form:

We have an adjective, too: ragionevole (reasonable):

Siccome mi sembra anche una persona piuttosto ragionevole, io spero non ci saranno problemi, ecco.

Since you also seem like a rather reasonable person, I hope there won't be any problems, that's it.

Captions 55-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 7

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Being right:

But we also use the noun ragione (without the article) together with the verb avere (to have) to mean "to be right."

avere ragione (to be right) -- literally, it would be "to have right."

 

In Italian, aver ragione has come to mean "to be right." And people use this expression countless times every day, so it's great to have it in your toolbox. The verb you need to conjugate is avere (to have), which is probably one of the first verbs to learn in Italian. Here's the conjugation chart for avere. But you don't need an article for ragione in this case, so it couldn't get much easier than that.  Abbiamo ragione (are we right)?

 

Avevi ragione tu. Gabriele s'era messo nei guai. Gare di cross illegali.

You were right. Gabriele got into trouble. Illegal dirt bike racing.

Captions 18-19, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

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Il cliente ha sempre ragione?

The customer is always right?

Caption 70, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 2

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Sono stufa delle tue promesse. Sono anni che aspetto che lasci tua moglie... -Hai ragione. -e io non... Hai ragione, hai ragione. Va bene.

I'm sick of your promises. I've been waiting for you to leave your wife for years... -You're right. -and I won't... You're right, you're right. All right.

Captions 68-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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"To prove someone right" can be dare ragione

 

Non ti interessa il parere di nessuno. -Ma poi i risultati mi danno ragione.

You're not interested in anyone's opinion. -But afterwards, the results prove me right.

Captions 21-22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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But we can also use dare ragione when we admit or agree that someone else is right. It's just an additional nuance to saying "you're right."

Su questo, ti dò ragione.

About that, I agree you're right

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Tip:

Do a search of ragione on the videos page and you will get plenty of examples in various conjugations and contexts, where ragione might mean "right" and where it might mean "reason." It's a great way to get lots of different examples all at once. Try repeating some of them out loud.

And remember: The trickiest thing to remember is that the verb to use is avere (to have), not essere (to be).

 

We will close with a little expression that's also the title of this lesson:

a torto o a ragione (wrong or right), rimango della mia idea (I'm not changing my mind). 

 

In English, we would start with "right," but you get the idea! 

 

That's it for this lesson, and we hope that when someone else is right, you will be able to tell them so in Italian! If you have questions about this, just write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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3 Ways to Get It Wrong in Italian

When you're wrong you're wrong. There are various Italian words connected with being wrong or making a mistake. Let's look at the various ways to be wrong and the nuances that set them apart.

 

The cognate errore (error)

Fare un errore. This works fine when you need a noun. If you have trouble with rolling your r's, this word can be a challenge.

Fai errore dopo errore.

You make mistake after mistake.

Caption 53, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Sbagliare (to make a mistake) is more flexible

The verb sbagliare (to make a mistake) plus reflexive form sbagliarsi (to be mistaken), and its noun form lo sbaglio (the mistake, the error) are very common. 

Io c'entro, c'entro eccome, perché lei è una mia allieva. E se lei sbaglia, vuol dire che anche io ho sbagliato qualcosa con lei.

I'm involved, I'm absolutely involved because she's my student. And if she makes a mistake, it means that I also made a mistake with her.

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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There's a fine line between the normal verb and its reflexive form. One reason for this is that sbagliare as a normal verb can either be transitive or intransitive.

Ho sbagliato strada (I took the wrong route, I went the wrong way).

Ho sbagliato (I made a mistake, I made a wrong move, I did something wrong).

Sbagliare è umano (making mistakes is human).

Tutti sbagliano (everyone makes mistakes).

Piove, o sbaglio (It's raining, or am I mistaken)?

The reflexive form sbagliarsi, tends to be more about being wrong than making a mistake — a bit less active, we could say — and the sentence structure changes as well. The reflexive form is intransitive, so we need a preposition between the verb and the indirect object. As a result, it's a bit more complicated to use. 

Mi sono sbagliato (I was wrong, I was mistaken)

Mi sbaglio o sta piovendo (am I mistaken or is it raining)? 

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In the following example, the preposition is a (to) and rather than "being wrong," it's "going wrong." 

Mi creda, a puntare sul pesce non si sbaglia mai.

Believe me. With fish you can never go wrong.

Caption 2, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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This is a great expression to have in your collection: 

Non si sbaglia mai (one can't go wrong).

Non ti puoi sbagliare (you can't go wrong).

 

As you watch Yabla videos, you will see countless instances of sbagliare, sbagliarsi and lo sbaglio. See if you can sense when people use one or the other. In many cases, there are multiple possibilities. 

Il torto (the wrongdoing, the injustice)

Some of us may recognize the cognate: "tort." When you study law, one course you take is "torts." In English a tort is simply a civil wrong.

 

How to use the Italian noun torto, however, is a different story. 

 

In a recent episode of Sposami, a divorcing couple is forced to get along and work together, even though they can't stand each other. But each of them wants to keep the dog, and therefore they each have to be on their best behavior. They go crying to their divorce lawyer each time the other does something wrong. And in one such conversation, the word torto comes up.

Ugo, cerca di essere collaborativo, se no, tu capisci, mi passi dalla parte del torto.

Ugo, try to be collaborative, otherwise, you understand, you'll end up being in the wrong.

Captions 68-69, Sposami EP 1 - Part 13

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So this is a lawyer talking, but we also use torto or its plural torti in everyday conversation. A son is complaining to his mother, and her boyfriend chimes in:

 

A ma' [mamma], ti prego. Ce tratti come du [romanesco: ci tratti come due] ragazzini! -Va be', non ha tutti i torti. Io alla loro età, nemmeno lo chiedevo più il permesso.

Oh Mom, please. You treat us like a couple of little kids! -Well, he's not totally wrong. At their age, I no longer even asked for permission.

Captions 69-72, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 2

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Here are some other expressions with torti. Remember that we use the verb avere (to have) in this expression. 

Avere torto (to be wrong).

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With all these word choices for making mistakes and being wrong, non ti puoi sbagliare!

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2 Expressions with the verb credere

Credere is a very common verb. It basically means "to believe," but not 100% of the time. There are some sfumature (nuances) to this verb, and it so happens that in a recent episode of Sei mai stata sulla luna, it's used in 2 ways that deviate from the norm.

Non ti credere

In one scene of the segment of Sei mai stata sulla luna, we see a single father (Renzo) having a conversation with his son. His son wishes he had a mother, and Renzo is downplaying it.

It plays out like this:

No, per starci insieme. -Ma perché non stiamo bene insieme io te? -Sì, ma magari staremmo meglio. -Non ti credere, eh. Una fidanzata ti manderebbe tutte le sere a dormire presto.

No, to be together. -But aren't we fine together, you and me? -Yes, but maybe we'd be even better. -Don't be so sure, huh. A girlfriend would send you to bed early every night.

Captions 38-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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Come crede/come credi

At the beginning of the segment, the townsmen are hanging out in the piazza and Guia is there, too. Someone says to her, being polite:

Comunque, signora, Lei faccia come crede.

In any case, Ma'am, you do as you think best.

Caption 1, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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If it were an informal situation, it would be fai come credi. It can mean "do as you think best" or "do as you wish." It's often said when there is a disagreement about what to do or how something should be done. The person who says it doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. It's a little different from, fai come vuoi (do as you like), where the verb is volere. Credere gives the person a bit more credit for thinking things through. Fai come vuoi  (or in the polite form faccia come vuole) can also come off as judgmental, depending on the tone with which it is said. 

A variation

A common variation on this expression is with the verb parere (to seem, to appear):

Noi ci sposeremo e soprattutto divorzieremo. Tu stasera vai in albergo, da tuo fratello, dove ti pare, lontano da me.

We'll get married and above all we'll get divorced. This evening, you will go to a hotel, to your brother's, wherever you want, far from me.

Captions 32-33, La Tempesta film - Part 21

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Note that parere is one of those verbs, like piacere, where the subject is not the person doing the liking or the wanting. So, thinking literally, the gist would be "go where it seems to you that you should go." 

Dove ti pare is a very common way to say dove vuoi (wherever you like).

Come ti pare is a very common way to say come vuoi (however you like. 

It's interesting that both parere and piacere are also commonly used nouns: il parere and il piacere

Parere (both the noun and the verb) come from the verb apparire (to appear, to emerge).

 

For more about piacere see this lesson:

and see this video:

 

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Non ci piove

When you want to say that something is watertight, that you have no doubt about it —in other words, there is no use in discussing it further —there is a great Italian expression at your disposal. Even if you don't understand why people say it, you can start noticing when people say it and imitate them. And you will soon start sounding like a native as you say it.

 

Ragazze, la C sta per Catullo e su questo non ci piove.

Girls, the "C" stands for Catullus, and the rain can't touch it [there is no doubt about it].

Captions 71-72, La Ladra EP. 9 L'amico sconosciuto - Part 3

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It means there is no hole in the argument, but that's not so easy to figure out from the expression, especially since it uses that pesky particle ci that means so many thingsIt's kind of fun to figure out, or at least imagine why Italians use this colorful expression, and where it comes from.

In Italy, roofs are often made of tiles or tegole. If you move a tegola around, the rain might leak into the house. This can happen accidentally, with high winds, or if someone walks on the roof for some reason, like to clean out the gutters or adjust an antenna. If it rains into the house, ci piove (it rains there, it rains in it).

So besides being a great expression, when talking about leaky roofs, it usually means the rain comes in.  It's not easy finding a literal translation that makes sense, which is why we've talked about it here.

When the leak has to do with a pipe or a faucet, we talk about it losing water. We use the verb perdere (to lose, to leak). 

Ma... questo non perde più! -No! Non mi dire che l'idraulico s'è degnato? Eva, stamattina qua è passato un vero uomo, eh? Che oltre ad aggiustà [aggiustare] i rubinetti così, proprio tà tà tà l'ha fatto eh!

Well! This no longer leaks! -No! Don't tell me the plumber deigned? Eva, this morning a real man came here, huh? Who besides fixing the faucet just like that, he did it really fast, huh!

Captions 11-14, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3

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See this lesson about the verb perdere.

 

Another thing to say when an argument is airtight is: Non fa una piega (there isn't even one wrinkle).

È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri. Allora perché non ha votato per lei? -Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio. -Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.

It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won. So why didn't you vote for her? Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine. That a perfect argument, but it doesn't convince me.

Captions 34-37, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4

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Practice commenting inside your head with su questo non ci piove or non fa una piega when people are justifying, explaining, arguing, debating.

Note that another way to say non fa una piega is non fa una grinza. They both mean the same thing. There's a lesson about this!

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Solo: What does it really mean?

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).

 

Solo is an Italian word

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 4

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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 Ulisse

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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.

Caption 49, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 19

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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 21

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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 5

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Io, la mia strada, me la sono fatta da solo.

I, I've paved my own way [I did it all on my own].

Caption 43, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 9

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"Solo" da solo

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 3

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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 also means "only"

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.

Caption 41, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 1

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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 13

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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 21

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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 4

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Typical expressions with solo

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 4

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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 1

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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.

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3 Need to Know Italian Expressions for Arguing in Italian

This week's segment of Sposami happens to have several idiomatic expressions that are worth looking at. 

Rompere

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 4

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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?

Caption 30, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 7

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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).

 

Ai ferri corti

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 4

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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. 

 

La frittata

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 4

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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.

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Asking what something means in Italian

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.

 

Significare

 

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 4

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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 Serena

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We can ask: Qual è il significato (what's the meaning)?

 

The other more common way with volere

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 6

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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 raffreddore

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Marika could also have said, Significa che ho la febbre (it means I have a fever).

 

Asking about the meaning of a word

 

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 2

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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.

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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.

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How to hurry up in Italian

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.

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The verb sbrigarsi (to hurry, to hurry up)

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.

Caption 47, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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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 2

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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.

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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.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 10

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La fretta

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.

Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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La furia

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 5

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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 7

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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)?

Di corsaa compound adverb

"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 modo

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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. 

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Addirittura: A handy one-word expression

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:

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Addirittura?

Really?

Caption 34, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 22

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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 sono

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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 18

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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 13

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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 Toscana

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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).

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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. 

 

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Strappare: to tear, to rip

 

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.

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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 2

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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.

Caption 84, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

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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...

Caption 24, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 14

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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 1

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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?

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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The more conventional word would be un passaggio. Read more about passaggio here.

 

Practice:

Here are some situations in which you might want to use the verb strappare or the noun strappo:

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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.

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How to Get Mad in Italian

Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.

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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 1

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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, risentirebut 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 14

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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.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 12

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Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.

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