Italian Lessons

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Lessons for topic Expressions

Talking about the weather in Italian

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

Che tempo fa?

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

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

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An answer might be:

Oggi c'è un bel tempo, un bel sole.

Today there's nice weather, nice sun.

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

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


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

 

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

Condividere (sharing)

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

Che bella giornata (what a beautiful day). 

Che brutta giornata (what a horrible day).

 

Specifics

After that, we can get into specifics.

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

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

 

Piove. T'accompagno a casa?

It's raining. Shall I take you home?

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

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

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

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

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Who knew?

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

 

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

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

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

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But chiaro also means "light in color."

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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What's the problem?

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

Non c'è problema

Stai tranquilla, non c'è problema.

Take it easy, no problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Che problema c'è?

Eh, che problema c'è? Dai.

Huh, what's the problem? Come on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Variations on a theme

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

Non ci sono problemi (there are no problems).

or, as a question:

Ci sono problemi (are there problems)?

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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More about mancare : when something is lacking

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

 

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

Infatti manca la targa, sia davanti che dietro.

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

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

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

Ormai manca poco.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non ci ha mai fatto mancare nulla.

We never wanted for anything.

We never went without.

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

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

 

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

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Italian ways to think about things

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

Pensare (to think)

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

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

I think that Vito is angry over something very stupid.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Riflettere

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

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

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

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

Fammi riflettere (let me think).

 

Idea

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

Ho un'idea (I have an idea)

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

T'è venuto in mente qualcosa? -No!

Did something come to mind? -No!

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

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

A (negative) response could be:

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

 

or, more likely

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

 

La testa

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Sembrare

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

Invece a me sembra proprio una buona idea.

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

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

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

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

 

Just for fun, here's a dialog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*Answer: Che cosa  _hai_ in mente?

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Managing with farcela

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

What's a pronominal verb?

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

 

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

 

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

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

Alessia può farcela da sola.

Alessia can manage on her own.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Caption 35, Psicovip Il tombino - Ep 2

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

Posso farcela (I can manage it).

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

 

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

 

Conjugating farcela

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some other common conjugations:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So it has to be Ce l'ho fatta.

 

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

 

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When volendo implies the opposite of "wanting to."

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

 

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

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

Però, volendo, possiamo usare anche un semplice coltello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Making do with accontentarsi

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

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

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

Caption 6, Marika spiega I verbi cavare e togliere

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

 

Making do

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

 

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

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

Captions 20-23, Adriano Giornata

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Adding some color

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made do with what the convent was serving.

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

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A couple of additional examples:

 

-I'm talking to my husband about lunch:

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

 

-My boss asks me:

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

I answer:

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

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Forza, per forza, and a forza di

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

1) Forza!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Vabbè entra. Chiudi la porta, forza.

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

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

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2) Per forza

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

Let's look at some examples in context.

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

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

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

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

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

Caption 31, Sposami EP 1 - Part 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3) A forza di...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captions 49-51, Sposami EP 2 - Part 25

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

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

 

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

 

Just for fun:

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

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

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

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"Your turn" using the verb toccare

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

Adesso tocca a te.

Now it's your turn.

Caption 9, Sposami EP 2 - Part 20

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

 

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

A chi tocca (whose turn is it)?

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

 

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

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

 

Ho faticato tanto per averla, e adesso mi tocca venderla.

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

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

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

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

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Does pazienza mean "patience"?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Adjective form paziente

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

Ma no, è che ci vuole soltanto un po' di pazienza. Dai fiducia all'allievo e nel momento giusto lo lasci andare. -Sì.

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

Captions 23-24, Sposami EP 2 - Part 18

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

A me risulta invece che vi conoscesse [sic: conosceste] da prima, e che Lei fosse stata anche sua paziente.

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

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

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2 expressions with pazienza

Abbia pazienza/abbi pazienza

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

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

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

 

Scusi, sa, eh, abbia pazienza.

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

Caption 32, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 12

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Signore, solo un attimo di pazienza, adesso vi facciamo qualche domanda.

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

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

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Pazienza all by itself

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

Mi dispiace. Sabato arrivano quelli della filiale dal Sud America e purtroppo ho una riunione con loro. Ho capito. Va' be', pazienza. -Mi dispiace. -Ingegnere?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Some other ways to translate pazienza in English:

So be it.

Oh well.

Too bad.

Nothing to do about it.

It is what it is. 

 

Some synonyms for pazienza in Italian:

 

Non importa (it doesn't matter)

Non fa niente (it doesn't matter)

Fa niente (it doesn't matter)

È lo stesso (it's all the same)

 

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

Extra Credit

1) Scusa, sai, eh, abbi pazienza.

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Breathing in Italian : let us count the ways, Part 1: il fiato

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

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

il fiato

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

a fiato

La zampogna è uno strumento a fiato fatto con pelle di pecora. Quindi uno strumento musicale. -Musicale, musicale, musicale, sì.

The bagpipe is a wind instrument made with sheep hide. So it's a musical instrument. -Musical, musical, musical, yes.

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

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fiato sul collo

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

 

Mi stai sempre con il fiato sul collo.

You're always breathing down my neck.

Caption 64, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 11

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riprendere fiato

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

 

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

La città riprende fiato

The city catches its breath

Caption 4, Radio Deejay Lorenzo Jovanotti - Gente della notte

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

 

rompere il fiato

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

Dopo 2 kilometri, ho rotto il fiato, e ho corso altri 5!

After 2 kilometers, I got warmed up/I got my second wind, and I managed to run 5 more!

 

fiatare

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

La Titti conosceva De Carolis. Avrebbe pagato senza fiatare, senza... senza avvertire la polizia.

Titti knew De Carolis. He would have paid without breathing a word, without... without alerting the police.

Captions 48-50, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 11

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mozzafiato 

Mozzafiato is a great adjective, meaning "breathtaking."

che sembra quasi abbracciarvi con una bellezza mozzafiato.

that almost seems to embrace you with breathtaking beauty.

Captions 53-54, Meraviglie EP. 5 - Part 5

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

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Words and Phrases to Know in La Ladra

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

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Già

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

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

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

Caption 17, Acqua in bocca Rapimento e riscatto - Ep 12

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

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

 

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

E così Lei è nata ad Atene. -E già, ma me ne sono andata appena adolescente.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Il soggetto

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

Se lo hai conosciuto, avrai capito il soggetto.

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

Caption 26, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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

 

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

 

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

Non cambiare argomento!

 

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

 

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

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

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

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Però

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

Però un lato umano ce l'ha: è ancora innamoratissimo della defunta moglie.

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

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

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

 

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

Peccato che i parenti della defunta moglie l'abbiano accusato di essersi intestato tutti i beni di famiglia. -Ah, però!

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

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

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You can even leave out Ah and just say Però!

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

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

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

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In rotta

Siamo in rotta.

We're on the outs.

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

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

 

Come si fa? 

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

Cosa vuole, Gina, fosse per me quei bambini li difendere con le armi. Ma come si fa? La legge è dalla parte del proprietario.

What do you want, Gina? For me I would defend them with weapons. But what can we/one do? The law is on the side of the owner.

Captions 56-58, La Ladra Ep.12 Come ai vecchi tempi - Part 5

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

 

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

 

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

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"Extra credit"

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

2) Non è più innamorato della moglie.

3) Come facciamo?

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Different ways to use the word no in Italian

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Caption 38, Sposami EP 2 - Part 13

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

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

Captions 21-24, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

When no means yes (in a way)

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Question tags

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

È carino, no? Ti piace?

It's cute, isn't it? Do you like it?

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Answers to "extra credit"

 

1) Mi auguro di no! Spero di no! 

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

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

4) È carino, no? Ti piace, no?

5) È carino, no?  Non ti piace, vero?

 

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

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Siamo alla frutta!

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

antipasto
primo piatto
secondo piatto
contorno
dolce 
frutta
caffè 
ammazzacaffè


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

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

Siamo alla frutta!


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



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

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

 

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

 

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


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

Example:
 

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

 

Or you can put it at the beginning: 
 

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

 

Divertitevi! (Have fun!)

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

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Being supportive in Italian by staying close by

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

 

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

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Being supportive by staying close

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

 

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

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

Caption 19, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

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A less literal translation would be:

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

or

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

or 

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

 

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

 

E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?

But the American was by your side?

Caption 25, Sposami EP 2 - Part 8

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

 

How to use this expression

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

 

Here are a few more examples:

Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.

Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?

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

 

Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.

2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.

3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino

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

4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.

 

 

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A little quirk concerning the verb sapere

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

Sapere (to know how)

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

 

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

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

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

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An alternative translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Exercises

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Answers to exercises:

 

1) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

2)

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

 

 

 

 

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Italians know their chickens

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

The expression itself:

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

 

Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens).

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Taking the expression apart:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Practice:

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

One more thing:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

More about brodo (broth) in this lesson.

 

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

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

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

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

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

2) Conoscevi i tuoi polli, eh? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Another Way to Notice Something (or Not), in Italian

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

Notare

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

 

E Lei non ha notato niente di strano?

And you didn't notice anything strange?

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

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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,

We parked in a no parking zone,

e io purtroppo non me ne sono accorto.

and I, unfortunately, didn't realize it.

Captions 12-13, Francesca - alla guida

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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

And so thinking back to that morning, I realized

che Lei entrò nello studio soltanto pochi secondi dopo di noi.

that you entered the study just a few seconds after us.

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

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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...

If we really want to call it a weakness...

era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco.

he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it.

Ma io non c'ho mai fatto caso.

But I never made an issue of it.

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

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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.

I've been waiting since last night for the diapers, thank you.

-Sardi, io da ieri sera, non so se ci hai fatto caso,

-Sardi, since last night, I don't know if you noticed,

non sono rientrato neanche a casa.

I haven't even gone home.

Ci hai fatto caso, spero, sì?

You noticed, I hope, didn't you?

-Come non c'ho fatto caso?

-What do think, that I didn't notice?

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

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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

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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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