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Tutto fumo, niente arrosto

When we are judging the merits of what someone is saying, one thing we might say, when it's just a bunch of baloney, is:

 

Tutto fumo, niente arrosto.

 

Literally, this means, "all smoke, no roast." A roast refers to meat, so there is also no meat on the bones, although that is a different metaphor. 

 

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There are various ways to express this in English, for example:

All talk and no action.
All talk and no walk.
All talk and no trousers.

All smoke and no fire. (added by 89 year-old reader)

 

The basic idea is that il fumo (the smoke) has an odor that might take on the aroma of un arrosto (a roast) on the spit or in the oven, and might seem at first like there is something underneath it, something good to eat, but it actually has no substance. You can't eat the smoke.

 

Another, more literal way of saying this in Italian is: È tutta apparenza e niente sostanza (it's all appearance, but no substance).

 

Of course, Italians love food, and un arrosto is one of those items that is traditional fare for il pranzo della domenica (Sunday dinner). For those who like to eat meat, it smells divine as it is cooking.

Oggi [mi ha] promesso arrosto di maiale con patate.

Today she promised me pork roast with potatoes.

Caption 3, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Fumo (smoke) is used in Italian, much as we use it in English, when something goes up in smoke.

Avrebbe rovinato tutto, avrebbe mandato in fumo il mio sogno.

He would have ruined everything, he would have made my dream go up in smoke.

Captions 52-53, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 12

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Allora va tutto in fumo.

So it will all go up in smoke.

Caption 32, La Ladra EP. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9

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Don't let your Italian studies go up in smoke!

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Let's keep in mind, as well, that fumo is also the first person singular of the verb fumare (to smoke).

Non fumo (I don't smoke).

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Caso means "case," but countless other things as well

Caso seems like an easy cognate, and it is, indeed, especially when we say something like in ogni caso (in any case). 

In ogni caso, è una cosa veramente molto tipica.

In any case, it's a really typical thing.

Caption 40, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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Or, caso can mean "case," as in a criminal case.

Quindi voi o risolvete il caso in due giorni, o io sono costretto a togliervelo.

So either you solve the case in two days, or I will be forced to take it away from you.

Captions 80-81, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 21

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But we also find the word caso meaning "chance" or "fate." That's when things start getting a little fuzzy.

Signora, per caso vendete questo tipo di palle di vetro?

Ma'am, by chance do you sell glass balls of this type?

Caption 23, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 23

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Here, we could say, "As chance would have it..."

E guarda caso sembra raffigurare le tre generazioni:

And strangely enough, it seems to represent the three generations:

Caption 14, A Marsala Salvo Agria

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Caso can refer to "the circumstances," so when we say: È il caso, we mean that "circumstances call for something.

Però forse è il caso di farci un salto, eh?

But, maybe we should hop on over there, huh?

Caption 84, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

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In English, sometimes we just use "should." 

 

We often use this expression in the negative. Non è il caso... This means something is not called for. It's not the right thing to do, best to avoid it. Sometimes non è il caso can mean, "Don't bother," or "It's not necessary." 

 

Grazie, grazie, ma non è il caso. -Sarebbe meraviglioso, bellissimo!

Thanks, thanks, but it wouldn't be right. -It would be marvelous, great!

Caption 97, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 4

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That's not all, but we'll pick up this topic again in another lesson. Thanks for reading!

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Farcela: a pronominal verb to have in your toolkit

We have talked about pronominal verbs before, but pronominal verbs are tricky, so we've come back to them once again.

For more about pronominal verbs, check out this lesson.

This time, let's look at a pronominal verb people use all the time: farcela. It's about succeeding, managing, being able, making it — or not.

 

One tricky thing about pronominal verbs is that when they are conjugated, you have to find the parts. These verbs are more recognizable when they're in the infinitive as in the following example.

Non so se potrò farcela senza di lei.

I don't know if I can manage without her.

Caption 46, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 25

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Let's take it apart

If we take farcela apart, we get the verb fare (to do, to make); we get ce. Let's keep in mind that ce means the same thing as ci, but when we have a direct object in addition to the indirect object pronoun ci, then ci turns into ce! Very tricky! Then we have laLa stands for "it" and is a direct object pronoun.

 

Let's also remember that when you say (in English), "I made it," you can mean you baked the cake, and in this case "to make" is transitive, or you can mean you succeeded in doing something, you managed, you were able. The verb "to succeed" is intransitive — we need a preposition after it. This may help in understanding farcela.

 

Be', in qualche modo ce l'abbiamo fatta e questo ci ha rafforzati.

Well, somehow we did it and this made us stronger.

Captions 60-61, COVID-19 3) La quarantena

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Finalmente ce l'hai fatta a farti sospendere dal servizio.

Finally, you managed to get yourself suspended from service.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 10

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Word order

A pronominal verb gets separated into its parts when it's conjugated. Often we find the indirect object pronoun first (ce). Then we have the direct object pronoun (la). We have the conjugated verb, which, in this case, is in the passato prossimo tense. It uses the helping verb avere (to have) and the past participle of the verb fare (to do, to make). If the pronominal verb were to occur in the present tense, then fare would be the conjugated verb.

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

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't manage any longer.

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

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Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

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

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Handy!

Farcela is very handy when you can't succeed in something (as well as when you can!). It might be getting to a party, or it might be running an errand. It might be running a race. 

One way to say you can't make it (to a party, an appointment, etc) is simply:

Non ce la faccio, mi dispiace (I can't make it, I'm sorry).

Non ce la faccio a venire (I can't make it, I'm sorry).

 

But we can use it in other tenses, too.

T'ho detto che ce l'avrei fatta, va be', nie' [niente].

I told you I would have made it, OK, I didn't.

Caption 24, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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"Non ce l'ho fatta ad arrivare fino a casa con tutta quella neve".

"I wasn't able to get all the way home with all this snow."

Captions 39-40, Corso di italiano con Daniela Fino a e Finché - Part 1

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Things to keep in mind

Note that there are plenty of different ways to translate farcela depending on the context. As you might have noticed, farcela sometimes has to do with keeping up. There are a whole lot of things this pronominal verb can be used for.
 
So stay on the lookout for this handy pronominal verb and learn to use it by repeating what you hear and see.
 
Important: Since the direct object pronoun is a feminine one, always la, the past participle takes the same feminine ending, fatta, not fatto. Remembering this will make it easier to use and recognize it.

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3 expressions with tanto

Tanto is a word used in a host of expressions to mean lots of different things. Sometimes it's by itself, sometimes it's put together with other words to form an expression, and sometimes there's a preposition to make it mean something particular. The combinations are fairly endless. Little by little, you will figure them out on a need-to-know basis.

 

Here's one that is clear and easy to use and understand:

Ogni tanto penso di aver sbagliato a lasciarti.

Every now and then I think I made a mistake by leaving you.

Caption 30, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14

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Tanto by itself can mean "much" and is used as an adjective, but here, it's one way to say "in any case," or "anyway."

Tanto non mi avrebbe mai presa.

In any case, you would never have taken me on.

Caption 10, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 11

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In the next example, tanto is used with other words to form the expression: Tanto per cambiare

 

Let's first remember that  the verb cambiare means "to change." This expression is primarily used to be ironic or sarcastic. In this case, Cettina always does the shopping, so why is Libero even asking her about it? She's saying something to the effect of "Yeah, so what else is new?" 

 

Hai fatto la spesa? -Eh, tanto per cambiare.

Did you do the shopping? -Yeah, for a change.

Captions 3-4, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP 4 Buon Compleanno Maria - Part 2

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As expressions with tanto come up in our videos, we will point them out in lessons. For now, maybe you can experiment with using these three ways to use tanto.

Ogni tanto

Tanto

Tanto per cambiare 

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Niente (nothing, no, not): How to use it

Niente is an indispensable word to have in your basic Italian vocabulary. It's a noun, it's a pronoun, it's an adjective, it's an adverb, and it can even be a simple filler word that doesn't mean anything in particular. This highly useful word can mean various things, but they all have some connection with "no," "nothing," or "not."

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Double negative

Let's remember that in Italian, the double negative is totally acceptable. It gets the meaning across! So, as opposed to English, we will often see non and niente in the same sentence expressing something negative. For example:

Pronto? Non sento niente.

Hello? I can't hear anything.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 20

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Of course, when we translate, we try to use correct English, so with the presence of non, we avoid a double negative and transform "nothing" into "anything."

 

Niente before a noun to mean "no" or "not any"

We use niente to mean "no" or "not any" before a noun (or verb in the infinitive that is functioning as a noun).

 

Buoni! -E sì, invece di prendertela col buio, accendi la luce, sennò niente biscotti!

Good! -Oh yes, instead of getting upset with the darkness, turn on the light. Otherwise, no cookies!

Captions 61-62, Dixiland Buio mangiabiscotti

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If we see the little preposition di (of) before the word male (bad), then we're saying "nothing wrong," "not anything bad," 

Allora, insomma, erano un po' preoccupati, ma in realtà non ho fatto niente di male.

So, basically, they were a bit worried, but I didn't actually do anything wrong.

Captions 91-92, Che tempo che fa Raffaella Carrà - Part 3

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But when we have niente followed by male (with no preposition), then it means "not bad."  This is an important distinction. Niente male is a wonderful alternative to "great!" We say something similar in English, too. 

Anche a me sono successe un paio di disavventure niente male!

I also had a couple of things happen to me that weren't bad at all [pretty incredible]!

Caption 56, Francesca e Marika Gestualità

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In Italian, we can either say non male (not bad) or niente male (not bad at all), which is a bit stronger towards the positive end of the spectrum.

 

Nothing at all

One way to say, "nothing at all," is niente di niente.

No, no, io non ho sentito niente, niente di niente.

No, no, I didn't hear anything — nothing at all.

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 8

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Another way to say "nothing at all" is un bel niente.

No, abbiamo un caso di suicidio e stiamo ce'... -Abbiamo, abbiamo. Lei non ha un bel niente, Manara, finché non l'autorizzo io, ha capito?

No, we have a case of suicide and we're lo'... -We have, we have. You have a big nothing Manara, until I authorize it, understand?

Captions 24-25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3

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But to say, "not at all," it's per niente.

E a me non piacciono per niente.

And I don't like them at all.

Caption 43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 15

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Niente as filler 

OK, e niente, avevo portato qualcosa da mangiare,

OK, and nothing more. I had brought something to eat,

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4

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We translated niente here as "nothing more," but actually, it could mean something like "that's all." 

 

There are undoubtedly other ways to use niente, such as: 

Fa niente (it doesn't matter).

Di niente (you're welcome, don't mention it).

Non ho capito niente (I didn't understand anything).

 

Keep your eyes and ears open for the word niente as you watch Yabla videos, or any other videos. It's really all over the place!

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Baracca: a colorful way to talk about lots of different things

Baracca sounds somewhat similar to "barrack." Barracks (a plural word often expressed in the singular) refer to a building or group of buildings that house large groups of people, often military personnel. It comes from the 17th-century French word "baraque," which in turn comes from the Catalan "barraca" (hut), of uncertain origin. The Italian word is baracca. It's a humble word about a humble place, but Italians use the word to mean a variety of things and not always humble ones.

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It's hard to know what uses came before others, but let's first look at a very common Italian expression that might not make sense to a non-native.

 

Baracca e burattini

We can imagine, perhaps, street performers who set up a little theater (baracca) with puppets or marionettes (burattini). Then the police come their way and they have to fold it up quickly and skedaddle. Or, perhaps the audience is booing. The puppeteers grab their things and hightail it. So in this case, la baracca is another word for teatro di burattini (marionette theater).

 

So when you up and leave with your stuff, you can say:

Chiudo baracca e burattini e me ne vado. I'm closing up shop and leaving. 

 

Note that some people use the verb piantarewhich aside from meaning "to plant," can also mean "to abandon."

Pia, la mia colf, mi ha piantato. Dice che non vuole vivere in campagna.

Pia, my nanny, ditched me. She says that she doesn't want to live in the country.

Caption 21, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 5

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Piantare baracca e burattini. Using the verb piantare really gives the idea of just up and leaving: abandoning ship. 

 

If we look at some Italian dictionaries they mention that the expression chiudere/piantare baracca e burattini implies a brusque interruption of whatever the status quo is, for example, leaving a job all of a sudden, quitting school, or leaving one's family. On a broader, figurative level, it can mean completely changing the horizons of one's existence. 

 

Baracca e burattini e si torna a casa, hai capito?

Theater and puppets [leave the whole shebang] and you go home, you get it?

Caption 54, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 6

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The nurse left off the first word of the expression, which would have been either chiudi or pianta. In English, we might even say, "You take your toys and go home..."

 

La baracca

With this common and beloved expression out of the way, let's look at situations where the word baracca is used on its own. 

 

In the following example, we're talking about a state-run health center:

Intanto questa baracca ha un responsabile e si dà il caso che sia io.

In any case this shack has a person in charge and it happens to be me.

Caption 33, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

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In this example, la baracca represents a business:

Poi Bianciardi muore, viene ammazzato, e Lei diventa proprietario di tutta la baracca, che dice?

Then Bianciardi dies, he gets killed, and you become owner of the whole shebang, what do you say?

Captions 16-17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 10

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Here, it's a household: 

Come farà Libero con i piccoli? Eh, hai fatto bene a pensarlo, perché non è facile qua, la baracca...

How will Libero manage with the little ones? Uh, you were right to think about that, because it's not easy here, the shack...

Captions 25-27, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP1: Ciao famiglia - Part 8

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Here, it is another business:

Melody non ha la responsabilità di mandare avanti la baracca.

Melody isn't responsible for keeping the shack [things] going.

Caption 31, Sposami EP 4 - Part 6

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The expression mandare avanti la baracca is a very common expression with the word baracca, meaning "to keep the show going." Literally, "to send it along."

 

Keep your eyes and ears open for more expressions with baracca. Now you know what it means!

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Being fixated in Italian

There are lots of ways to talk about being obsessed with something or someone, being fixated or having a thing about or for something, or being "into" something. "Obsession" is a pretty strong word, so we often like to use softer, more positive terms. In Italian, too, there are various words we can use. In this lesson, we will explore just one way Italians commonly talk about being intensely interested in something. It uses the verb fissare which, in this context, may be translated as "to fixate," even though that might not be the word we would choose in many cases.

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Past participle as adjective

If you look at the link we have provided, you will see that there are quite a few meanings for the verb fissare. We'll address those in another lesson.

 

Keep in mind that sometimes we translate fissare with "fixate" because it's a cognate that works, making the Italian word easy to understand. But in English, we have lots of other ways to express the same thing. "Fixated" can come across as being a negative thing in English, but Italians use the word pretty casually. Let's also keep in mind that, as in English, we're using the past participle as a sort of adjective.

 

Anche Lei fissato con la cucina italiana?

You're also fixated with Italian cuisine?

Caption 44, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 13

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We might not use the term "fixated" but we can understand it well enough. We might sooner say someone obsesses over something, such as "Oh, you obsess over Italian cooking, too?"

 

Papà era fissato.

Dad was obsessed.

Caption 3, La Tempesta film - Part 10

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Sometimes, as in the previous example, we're really talking about an obsession, but sometimes it's about being set in one's ways. We might recognize a character flaw in a light-hearted way. In the example below, Marika and Anna are talking about the Italian tradition of having bread at a meal when there is already a wheat-based carbohydrate in the form of pasta. Italians love to scrape the remaining pasta sauce off their plate with a piece of bread. They call this fare la scarpetta (to make a little shoe). 

Comunque... -Siamo un po' fissati. Quello della scarpetta è... Sì, è un rito, quasi.

Anyway... -We're a little fixated. The "little shoe" thing is... Yes, it's almost a ritual.

Captions 48-50, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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So even though we have translated it as "fixated," we'd more likely say that Italians love  to sop up the sauce with a piece of bread. 

 

Reflexive verb

Fissare is also used reflexively. In this case, it's not being used as an adjective but rather as a verb, as if to say, "to become fixated," or "to get obsessed." 

Mio marito si è fissato con Jacques Brel

My husband has become obsessed with Jacques Brel

Caption 55, La Ladra EP. 9 - L'amico sconosciuto - Part 10

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Noun form

We can also use the noun form la fissa, the equivalent of "fixation."

Joy ha sempre avuto la fissa per la cucina.

Joy has always had a thing for cooking.

Caption 60, JAMS S1 EP 1 - Part 1

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Which preposition?

You might ask, "What preposition do I use after fissato, fissata, fissate, or fissati?" Because, as in English, we do use a preposition when there is an object. So in this context, fissare is an intransitive verb.

 

In Italian, there seem to be two main ones: con (with) or per (for). When we use la fissa or una fissa we'll likely choose per (for). Keep your eyes and ears open to see how Italians handle this. Often, as we have seen, there is no object at all. 

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4 ways to say, "I don't think so" in Italian

Let's look at some different ways people say, "I don't think so." In English we have "so" at the end, and we might wonder how to translate it. In some cases, we can add a pronoun, but often, it's left out entirely. As you will see, different verbs work a bit differently from one another, so we need to keep them straight. Of course, it's perfectly OK for you, as you learn, to say it the same way every time, but someone might use one form or another, so you'll want to be prepared to understand them. There's more than one way to skin a cat! 

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We're talking about responding (in the negative) to questions such as:

*Hai il mio numero di telefono (do you have my phone number)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't believe so).

Non penso (I don't think so).

 

*Quella donna è sua moglie (is that woman his wife)?

Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non mi sembra (I don't think so, it doesn't seem so to me).

Non credo (I don't think so, I don't believe so).

Non penso proprio (I really don't think so).

 

Let's look at these verb choices one by one.

 

Parere

You might remember a lesson where we talked briefly about the verb parere. In addition, let's remember that il parere is also a noun, meaning "the opinion."

So if you want to answer a question in the negative, you can say, Non mi pare (I don't think so).

Non lo so, cambiamenti nell'atteggiamento, nell'umore, nel modo di vestirsi, cose così. -No... no, non mi pare.

I don't know, changes in her behavior, in her mood, in the way she dressed, stuff like that. -No... no, I don't think so.

Captions 15-16, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 5

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Sembrare 

Sembrare (to seem) is a bit tricky because, like parere, it's often used with an indirect object or personal pronoun. In everyday conversation, we often find the construction mi sembra che... or non mi sembra che...  (it seems to me that... it doesn't seem to me that...). Or we just find non mi sembra. Here we have to keep in mind that sembra (the third person singular of sembrare) includes the subject pronoun "it" or possibly "he/she." Translating it literally is just a bit awkward. In English, we tend to simplify.

 

Ma non ti sembra un po' affrettato? -Affrettato?

But doesn't it seem a bit rushed to you? -Rushed?

Captions 10-11, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 17

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We couldn't find an example in Yabla videos with the simple answer non mi sembra, but we can answer the question "Rushed?" in the previous example with it: Affrettato? Non mi sembra  (rushed? I don't think so). We can dress up the answer with proprio or, since it is in the negative, with affatto ([not] at all) Non mi sembra affatto (I really don't think so, I don't think so at all).

 

So with parere and sembrare, we often use the indirect personal pronoun (to me, to him, to them, to you) but with our next words, credere (to believe) and pensare (to think) we don't. They are just "normal" verbs.

 

Credere

Another word that is used a lot in this context is the verb credere  (to believe). It goes together nicely with proprio (really). Proprio means lots of things, so see our lesson  about it for more information. In English, we often use "think" instead of "believe" out of habit. In many cases, "believe" would be fine, too.

Forse un imprenditore americano non le parlerebbe così. -No, non credo proprio.

Maybe an American industrialist wouldn't talk about it like that. -No, I really don't think so.

Captions 40-41, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 13

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Pensare

We have seen this verb many times before, but we include it here, because it might be the easiest to remember, corresponding to the English verb "to think."

Cos'è, bigiotteria? Non penso. Rubini e filigrana d'oro.

What is it? Costume jewelry? I don't think so. Rubies and gold filigree.

Captions 70-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 4

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We've provided some quick and easy negative answers to questions asking our opinion or judgment about something. When we use any of these verbs in longer sentences, we might need the subjunctive if the verbs are followed by the conjunction che  (that, which).  There are other ways to use these verbs without the subjunctive and we will explore these in a future lesson.

 

Practice:

Try asking yourself some questions and experiment with the different verbs. Here's a start:

 

Pioverà (is it going to rain)?

Arriveremo in tempo (will we get there in time)?

Hai abbastanza soldi per pagarlo (do you have enough money to pay for this)?

La pasta è cotta (is the pasta cooked)?

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4 ways to say "everywhere" in Italian

Just as the English word "everywhere" comes from two words, "every" and "where," Italian uses the same technique, in many cases. Sometimes the two (or multiple) words become one, such as dappertutto (everywhere).

 

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Dappertutto

If we think about it, dappertutto comes from 3 words: the preposition da (from, at, by);  the preposition per (for); and tutto (everything, all), an adjective, noun, or pronoun, depending on the context.

I cani cercano dappertutto, ma non riusciamo a trovare nulla.

The dogs are searching everywhere, but we can't find anything.

Caption 63, Fulvio Benelli Crimine Infinito, romanzo - Part 2

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Of course, you don't need to think about the three words making up dappertutto, you just have to remember that it means "everywhere."

 

Ovunque

In literature, for the most part, we might see the word ove used to mean "where," rather than the word we are familiar with: dove (where). And this leads us to another word for "everywhere": ovunque. We can detect the stem -unque that is part of words like comunque (however), dunque (so, therefore). 

Perché non solo la libreria, ma ovunque in città ha avuto danni incredibili.

Because, not just the bookshop, but everywhere in the city had sustained incredible damage.

Captions 63-64, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 2

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Dovunque

But we can also say dovunque, using the normal word for "where," to mean the same thing. 

Vedi il crimine dovunque, anche dove non c'è.

You see crimes all over, even where there aren't any.

Captions 3-4, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 16

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Ogni dove

We can also say  ogni dove. This word has remained as two words, which might confuse some people. But if we take it apart, we see the word ogni (each, every) and dove  (where).

Per secoli nobili, studiosi, artisti venivano qui da ogni dove per capirne l'essenza.

Over the centuries, noblemen, scholars, and artists came here from all over in order to understand its essence.

Captions 2-3, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 1

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Caring with the verb tenere

The verb tenere translates, much of the time, as "to hold," "to keep." But we also use the verb to talk about things or people we care about, that matter to us, and consequently do not want to lose. 

 

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We use it intransitively with the preposition a (to, in, about...) to mean to care about, to consider important. We can use it with things or people.

 

Io ci tengo al mi [mio] lavoro. E il mi [mio] capo nun [non] vuole grane.

I care about my job. And my boss doesn't want trouble.

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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In a way, the person wants to keep his or her job, so tenere makes sense. When you care about a person, but it's not the moment for talking about actual love, tenere is a good verb to use. You care about someone and you don't want to lose them. 

 

Io ci tengo a te.

I care about you.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 1

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Another way to think about it is that "it matters."

Oh, mi raccomando, non mi fate fare cattive figure perché ci tengo, capito?

Oh, and I mean it — don't make me look bad, because it really matters to me, you get it?

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 11

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We can also use tenere when we want to make sure to mention something.  So we can follow the preposition a with either a noun or a verb.

Ci tengo a dire una cosa,

I feel the need to say one thing,

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

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So when something or someone means something to you, try saying, Ci tengo (it matters to me).

 

You can turn it into a question:

Ci tieni davvero tanto a mangiare al ristorante stasera? Perché io sono molto stanca” (do you really care about going out to eat tonight? Because I am really tired).

 

Since tenere is used so much in various contexts, it may be hard to search for examples, but the more you watch and listen, the more you will notice that Italians use this turn of phrase all the time.

 

What are some of the things a cui tieni (that matter to you)?

È una fotografia alla quale tengo molto.

It's a photograph I'm very attached to.

Caption 27, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 9

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Innanzitutto (a long word that is no big deal)

In a recent episode of Un medico in famiglia, Guido (the doctor who is staying at the Martini residence) is having a conversation with Maria (a family member who is studying medicine and is also attracted to Guido). Her grandfather is trying to listen in on the conversation. Guido uses the word innanzitutto. It's a long word, and can be a bit daunting, but if we take it apart, we'll see that it is no big deal. Let's look for the words within the word. 

Be', innanzitutto bisogna vedere se è veramente un'amicizia, perché...

Well, first of all, we have to see if it's really a friendship, because....

Caption 62, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 12

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Innanzitutto, scriviamo il luogo e la data in alto a destra.

First of all, we write the place and the date in the upper right hand corner.

Captions 12-13, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera informale - Part 1

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Maestra, tantissime cose. Innanzitutto, Firenze con gli Uffizi, ma non solo.

Teacher, many things. First of all, Florence with the Uffizi, but not only.

Captions 72-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Toscana

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Perhaps the first word that jumps out is tutto. Many of us know that means "everything" or "all."

 

What might not jump out as a word is innanzi.  It means "in front of" or "before." It's not all that common, but it is used in literature and formal speech quite a bit. It's another way to say davanti (in front of) and has a variant, dinnanzi.

 

"Alla parola "comizio", d'ora innanzi, prego di sostituire la parola "raduno di propaganda".

"For the word "assembly," from now on, please substitute the word "propaganda meeting."

Caption 44, Me Ne Frego Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 7

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It's also another way to say in avanti (henceforth), as in the previous example (from the 1930s).

 

One way to say you are surviving is:

Si tira avanti or si tira innanzi (one is pulling forward, or pushing forth).

 

A more common word we can detect as part of innanzitutto is anzi. We use this word a lot when we contradict ourselves, change our minds, or reiterate something with emphasis. See our lesson about anzi.

 

Interestingly, anzi comes from the Latin word (also an Italian word) ante  meaning "before." We find this in words like anteprima (preview) or antenati  (forefathers). It basically means "before." As we can see in the lesson mentioned above, anzi  means a lot of things now, but originally, its meaning was "before," or, in Italian, prima. Many of us know that prima can mean either "before" or "first." 

 

So, innanzitutto just means, "first of all," or if you want to get a bit fancier, "first and foremost." It's really no big deal. And the good news is that if it's too hard to pronounce, you have some alternatives, some of them similar but not exact synonyms.

Prima di tutto (first of all)

Per cominciare (to start with)

Soprattutto (above all)

 

There may be more! Let us know if you discover new ones. Meanwhile, if you can manage it, innanzitutto is something to say when beginning a speech and acknowledging the sponsor.

Innanzitutto, vorrei ringraziare... (first and foremost, I would like to thank...)

 

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"I can't wait" in Italian: non vedo l'ora!

We have spoken from time to time about how to say, "I can't wait" in Italian. It's an informal way of saying, "I am very much looking forward to something."  In Italian, it's Non vedo l'ora. For the record, Non vedo l'ora! translates, literally, as "I can't see the hour," (which makes no sense). We can use the expression just as it is, conjugating the verb vedere.

Vuoi assaggiare un poco di... -Certo. -arancello? -Non vedo l'ora.

Do you want to taste a bit of... -Of course. -arancello? -I can't wait.

Caption 51, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Ma se anche lui non vede l'ora!

But if even he can't wait!

Caption 70, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 3

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Although we can use the expression as is, we can also continue it, specifying what it is we can't wait for. Here's where it can get a bit more complex. There are basically 2 ways to continue the phrase.

 

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1) We use di plus the infinitive of the verb in question:

Non vedo l'ora di vederti (I can't wait to see you).

Non vedo l'ora di partire in vacanza (I can't wait to leave on vacation).

 

Ma invece adesso sono convintissima, motivata e non vedo l'ora di cominciare.

But now however I'm totally convinced, motivated and I can't wait to start.

Caption 4, Francesca alla guida - Part 2

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These sentences are all about you, in other words, something you are going to or want to do. It can also be about another person but the structure of the sentence remains the same: 

Pietro non vede l'ora di cominciare il corso di francese (Pietro can't wait to start the French course).

 

Maybe you can come up with some on your own. Try using: 

 

visitare Firenze (to visit Florence)

vederti (to see you)

finire questo libro (to finish this book)

cenare (to have dinner)

 

2) We use the conjunction che (that). With che, we start a new (subordinate) clause and here, we need the subjunctive form of the verb.

 

So let's say you are on the train, traveling from Milan to Venice. It may be fun to look out the window, but you really want to get to Venice!

You can say:

Non vedo l'ora di arrivare a Venezia (I can't wait to arrive  in Venice).

 

You can also refer to the train or to "us.":

 

Non vedo l'ora che questo treno arrivi a Venezia (I can't wait for this train to arrive in Venice).

Non vedo l'ora che arriviamo a Venezia (I can't wait for us to arrive in Venice)

Non vedo l'ora che finisca il viaggio (I can't wait for this trip to end).

 

From a translating standpoint, when you use "for" plus a verb in English in this expression, you will likely need che + the verb in the subjunctive (agreeing with noun, expressed or implied) in Italian.

Noi li amiamo tantissimo e non vediamo l'ora che un giorno possano  anche giocare.

We love them very much and we can't wait for the day when they can also play.

Captions 59-60, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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There are various things we can imagine a couple expecting a baby to say, as they try to wait patiently.

One of them can say:

Non vedo l'ora di veder nascere questo bambino (I can't wait to see this baby be born).

We've used di + the verb vedere

 

Or, one of them can say:

Non vediamo l'ora che nasca questo bambino (we can't wait for  this baby to be born).

 

Here, we have used che + the verb nascere, which refers to the baby (third person), and thus we need the subjunctive. 

 

And if they happen to be expecting twins?

Non vediamo l'ora che nascano questi bambini (we can't wait for these babies to be born).

 

So, as you can see, there are easy ways to use the expression Non vedo l'ora: by itself, or with di + infinitive. There is also the harder way, which entails knowing the subjunctive form of the verb you want to use. But as you become fluent in Italian, you will find that we tend to say the same things over and over again, so maybe you might want to learn the subjunctive forms of certain verbs you might need, such as cominciare (to begin), finire (to finish), chiamare (to call).

 

Tip: You can sidestep the subjunctive by forming 2 different sentences. 

 

Comincierà presto la lezione? Non vedo l'ora (is the lesson going to start soon? I can't wait). 

 

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for this expression in Yabla videos. See how people use it — by itself, with di + infinitive, or with che + subjunctive. 

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Per conto mio: a double meaning

We've talked various times about the noun il conto. It can refer to "the bill" or "the account," but it's also used in expressions such as per conto di..., or to put it in more personal terms, per conto mio/suo.

 

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What's perhaps important to remember is that it has two distinct (but related meanings). It can mean "of one's own."

Nilde, tu c'hai già mille problemi per conto tuo, il ristorante, Enrica fra i piedi, lascia perdere.

Nilde, you already have a ton of problems of your own, the restaurant, Enrica on your back, forget about it.

Captions 10-11, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 5

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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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But it also means "on one's own."

Allora, lei è una che fa finta di starsene per conto suo, ma poi te la ritrovi sempre fra i piedi, una grandissima ficcanaso.

So, she is someone who pretends to be on her own, but then you always find her underfoot, hugely nosy.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 30

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Poi, se ne andarono ognuno per conto suo [sic: proprio].

Then they went away, each on his own.

Caption 33, Ti racconto una fiaba I tre porcellini - Part 1

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You will have to rely on the context to help decide what per conto means in each case.

 

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Forza vs Sforzo: What's the difference?

With sforzo, we have an S at the beginning of a word once again, and we might recognize the word without the S as looking like the noun forza. In fact, forza vs sforzo can cause confusion for non-native speakers of Italian, because they are both about strength, in a way.

 

Noun forms

In the popular detective series on Yabla, Imma Tatarannni is trying to get some information from the young woman whose boyfriend was murdered. She uses the noun sforzo as she talks to Milena. 

Allora, Milena, ascoltami. Ora tu devi fare un piccolo sforzo, va bene?

So, Milena, listen to me. Now, you have to make a little effort, all right?

Captions 23-24, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 16

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We have translated Imma's use of sforzo with "to make an effort" but we might more likely say, "Now you have to try a bit harder." "Now you have to really try."

 

The prefix S

We have seen that an S at the beginning of an existing word will often change it to an opposite meaning, but it can also reinforce it, and that is basically what is happening in the example above (although this is even clearer when looking at the verb forms forzare and sforzare  as we do below).

 

When you make an effort, you use some reserves of strength. The noun la forza is "the strength" or "the force" (easy cognate!). It's actually a very popular word, so see our lesson all about forza. It's a great noun to know because it's used so much, especially in conversation. 

 

Sometimes it's hard to remember that lo sforzo is a masculine noun and la forza is a feminine noun so let's keep in mind that lo sforzo is "the effort," and la forza is "the strength."  

 

The noun la forza is easy to understand, as it is a cognate of "the force," but is often translated as "the strength."

 

One example of this noun is the subtitle of a popular biopic about Adriano Olivetti, the man behind the well-known Olivetti typewriter. Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno (the strength of a dream).

 

Verb forms

Both lo sforzo and la forza are associated with verbs: sforzare and  forzare. Sometimes these two verbs mean the same thing, but sometimes we need to distinguish them and that's where it can get tricky. Which to use?

E mi prometti di stare tranquilla, di riposarti e di non sforzare il piede?

And promise me you'll stay calm, rest and not strain your foot?

Captions 1-2, Sposami EP 3 - Part 2

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In this case, we're talking about putting too much pressure on the injured foot. Some people might use the verb forzare to mean the exact same thing, as sometimes forzare means going too far.

 

In the following example, sforzare is used reflexively to mean "to make an effort," "to try hard."

Piggeldy si sforzò di camminare come si deve.

Piggeldy made an effort to walk properly.

Caption 14, Piggeldy e Federico Il cielo

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Sometimes forzare means "to use force" as implied in the following example.

Eh, qualcuno ha forzato i cancelli del canile comunale, sono scappati tutti i cani,

Uh, someone pried open the gates of the town dog pound, all the dogs escaped,

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 3

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Of course, as with many verbs, the past participle of forzare  may be used as an adjective, and often is. Sforzare, on the other hand, isn't commonly used this way.

La prima settimana di libertà dopo mesi di confino forzato!

The first week of freedom after months of forced confinement!

Caption 26, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 1

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When your car gets towed from a no-parking zone, in Italy, it's often called rimozione forzata. This is because they will remove the car without having to ask you. You want to avoid parking in these areas, so these might be a good couple of words to know! To see what these signs look like, here's a link

 

As to when to use one or the other verb, don't worry about it too much, as sometimes it depends on personal preference.  It's more important to remember about the noun, as we have mentioned above. Also, keep your ears open to notice which word people use in various situations. 

 

P.S. The use of S as a sort of prefix in Italian comes from the Latin prefix "ex!"
P.P.S. Sforza (with an "a" at the end) is not a noun, at least not a normal, common noun. It is used as a proper noun — as a family name, and in particular, it was the name of a Milanese ruling family in the Renaissance, and a power name at that. 

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Ascoltare vs sentire

Just as we have two separate words in English for when we use our ears — "to listen" and "to hear" — we have them in Italian, too. There are a few things to know about the two verbs we use: ascoltare and sentire.  On a very basic level, ascoltare (to listen) is more active than sentire (to hear).

E Lei non si è messa dietro la porta ad ascoltare?

And you didn't get behind the door to listen in?

Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 5

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Ama sentire il rumore dei suoi passi nei corridoi semideserti,

He loves to hear the noise of his steps in the semi-deserted corridors,

Caption 59, Fulvio Benelli Crimine Infinito, romanzo - Part 3

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Ascoltare

Ascoltare is a transitive verb, unlike "to listen," which usually needs the preposition "to."

Signore e signori, è con grande piacere che ascoltiamo la prossima canzone.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we will listen to  the next song.

Caption 1, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 2 - Part 23

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We can just say ascolta (listen)! or ascoltate (listen [pl])! But we often use an object pronoun, too, as in the following example. Note that we sometimes attach the object pronoun and end up with one word. This can happen with the informal version of the imperative. As you will see, the polite form is different.

Allora, ascoltami bene. Tu non c'hai la mamma, stai qua a fare la cameriera a tutti, qualcuno te le dà pure...

Then, listen to me carefully. You don't have a mother, you're here being a maid to everyone, someone even beats you up...

Captions 5-7, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 4

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If I answer that command, to say, for example, "I am listening to you," then I put the object pronoun first, and it's separate.

Ti ascolto.

I'm listening [to you].

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 9

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When we use the polite form of address, we can't attach the personal pronoun to the verb.

Manara, mi ascolti bene.

Manara, listen to me carefully.

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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We can listen to a person, but we can also listen to sounds, to music, to the radio.

Era mattina presto e ascoltavo la radio.

It was early morning, and I was listening to the radio.

Caption 3, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 2 - Part 4

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We also have the noun form, l'ascolto. We use it with verbs such as dare (to give) or prestare (to lend).

 

Mamma non mi vuole mandare al concerto. -Non se lo merita. Papà, non le dare ascolto.

Mom doesn't want to let me go to the concert. -She doesn't deserve it. Daddy, don't listen to her.

Captions 3-4, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 5

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Colleghi e cittadini... -Attenzione, attenzione, prestatemi ascolto.

Colleagues and citizens... -Hear ye, hear ye, lend me your ear.

Captions 62-63, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 15

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Sentire 

We have already mentioned that sentire is more of a passive verb than ascoltare. It corresponds to the verb "to hear." But that's not all! Sentire has to do with the senses, and the sense of hearing — l'udito — is one of them. But sentire is also used for the sense of smell, the sense of touch, and even the sense of taste sometimes. 

 

Sentire can be used to get someone's attention, for example, in a restaurant when you want to call the waiter or waitress. Although literally, it's "Hear [me]," it's a very common way to say, "Excuse me."

Senta, mi sa dire che ore sono adesso?

Excuse me, can you tell me what time it is now?

Caption 11, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'ora

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In the first instance of the man wanting to know the time in the video, he uses mi scusi (excuse me).

Mi scusi, buon uomo. Mi sa dire l'ora, per favore?

Pardon me, my good man. Can you tell me the time, please?

Captions 1-2, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'ora

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Senta is a different way of saying the same thing, even though it really means "to hear." 

 

In the following example, on the other hand, it's clear we're talking about hearing. 

Come dici? No, no, non ti sento.

What are you saying? No, no, I can't hear you.

Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 5

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In the following example, we have translated sentire with "to hear," but, come to think of it, Eva might have been talking about not smelling the potatoes frying. Il risultato non cambia (the result is the same)!

Ferruccio, non sento friggere le patate.

Ferruccio, I don't hear any potatoes frying.

Caption 65, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 9

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So sentire presents problems that ascoltare does not. Another issue is that we use sentire very often in its reflexive form, sentirsi. In this case, it means "to feel."

Vi prego, mi sento male!

Please, I'm feeling ill.

Caption 17, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 13

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There's a common expression with sentirsi plus some particles. It's used when you don't feel up to something, and more often than not is used in the negative.

Sì, lo so, ma io ancora non me la sento di affrontare questo argomento.

Yes, I know, but I don't feel up to facing this subject just yet.

Caption 7, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 2

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Or it can be used in a question: Can you do this? Are you up to it?

Te la senti? and in the polite form:  Se la sente?

 

We have talked about both ascoltare and sentire in a previous lesson, with a different slant, so feel free to check it out! 

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Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco

Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco


Let's look at the main, individual words in this expression. 

Ciambella: Una ciambella is often a donut or doughnut. But actually, it can refer to anything that is ring-shaped with a hole in the middle. It can be an "inner tube" you use in the pool, or a life-preserver. Un ciambellone is a large-size coffee cake, usually in the shape of a ring, with a hole in the middle. For more about turning a feminine noun like la ciambella into a big, masculine version such as il ciambellone using the ending -one, see this lesson.

Bona 'sta [buona questa] ciambella.

Good, this doughnut.

Caption 44, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 10

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Escono: This is the third person plural of the verb uscire (to exit, to come/go out). In this case, we are talking about a donut or ring-shaped cake coming out of the oven or deep-frier. Sometimes there's a mistake, and one might not have its hole in the middle, it might be lopsided. 

 

Buco: Un buco is a hole. Just like in the middle of a donut.

Cominciamo a piantarne uno. Allora bisogna fare un buco.

Let's start planting one. So we need to make a hole.

Captions 46-47, Gatto Mirò EP 10 Piantiamo un albero

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A word about the other words:

Non is a negating word, like "not."


Tutte means "all." In this case, it refers to the plural feminine noun, le ciambelle, so it has a plural feminine ending. 
We have the conjunction col. This is a combination of con (with) and il (the).

 

A variation on this expression is: Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.

 

The verb changes from uscire to riuscire. While riuscire can mean "to come/go out again," as in when you come home but have to go out again because you forgot to buy milk, it also means "to succeed," "to turn out," "to manage to do something."

Però, non tutti riescono a farlo bene.

However, not everyone succeeds in doing it well.

Caption 10, Anna e Marika Il pane

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So the meaning of the two variants is essentially the same, but with escono, we can visualize the donut coming out of the oven, and with riescono, we can visualize how they turn out.

 

Yet another variation is: Non tutte le ciambelle vengono col buco. Here the verb is venire (to come). "Not all donuts come with holes." The concept doesn't change.

 

Literally, the sentence means: "Not all donuts come out [of the oven] with holes." The figurative meaning of the expression is that not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes things turn out imperfectly, but it's not a huge deal. A nuance is that the donut will still taste good even if it is a bit misshapen or lopsided. 

When you or someone else does a job that didn't come out perfectly, it's also a way of minimizing the error, as if to say, "Oh well..."

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Fare complimenti (being polite)

The noun il complimento sometimes means the same thing as in English: the compliment. It's used a bit differently, and is often synonymous with "congratulations." 

 

When you want to say, "Nice job!" you might say, Complimenti!

Complimenti, mamma, ma qual'è il tuo segreto?

Very nice, Mom, but what's your secret?

Caption 33, Adriano La granita al limone

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But there is another way complimenti  is used, and it's important, especially if someone invites you to their home and you are not sure how to act. In order to put you at ease, they might say, non fare complimenti. It means, "Relax, you don't have to be formal." This is especially true at the dinner table. The host or hostess might say, Serviti, non fare complimenti. So you can go ahead and take seconds...

Sì, però, è che non vorrei... -E non fare complimenti, scusa.

Yes, but it's that I wouldn't want... -And don't say no out of politeness, sorry.

Caption 56, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 11

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Grazie, eh. -No, prego, non fare complimenti, ah.

Thanks, huh. -No, you're welcome, don't stand on ceremony, huh.

Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 13

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Basta!

You might already be familiar with the one-word expression: Basta! It means, "That's enough!"

No, no, ora basta, basta, basta!

No, no, enough now, enough, enough!

Caption 8, Acqua in bocca Tra moglie e marito... - Ep 11

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But you might not be familiar with the verb that expression comes from:  bastare (to be enough, to suffice).

Per oggi potrebbe bastare.

For today, that might suffice.

Caption 71, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 1

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There's an expression where this verb is coupled with another verb: avanzare. We think of the cognate "to advance," but there is another way Italians use avanzare. It means "to be in excess, to be left over." In fact, leftovers are called gli avanzi in Italian.

 

Di Milano o no, però... per colpa sua noi dobbiamo mangiarci gli avanzi.

Whether he's from Milan or not... because of him, we have to eat leftovers.

Caption 39, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP2 - Un nuovo medico in famiglia - Part 13

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So basta e avanza means, "it's more than enough." It often implies that it's too much.

Direi che basta e avanza.

I would say that's enough and is even too much.

Caption 105, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulle Marche

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