Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Expressions

Expression: Essere su di giri

This expression refers to when you're hyper, psyched, nervous, excited, revved up, buzzing, or in high gear... You can choose how to visualize it, according to the situation. 

E va be', mi è successo di tutto. -No, perché sembri un po' su di giri, ecco.

Well OK, a lot happened to me. -No, because you seem a little revved up, that's it.

Captions 19-20, La Ladra EP. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 8

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In the previous example, we can see from the context (if we watch the video), that the person who is revved up is revved up in a good way. Eva (the one su di giri) had just had a romantic encounter with Dante and she was on cloud nine, but also very excited. 



But in this next example, Nicola is talking about what he has to do in his job as a cop. He often has to visit homes where couples or family members are fighting. The expression is the same, but its nature is different.

Certo, entrare il quel momento dentro casa di queste persone, voi capie'... voi capite che, eh... gli umori sono abbastanza a terra, la rabbia è su di giri

Of course, entering at that moment into the home of these people, you understand... you understand that moods are way low, anger is wound up,

Captions 36-38, Nicola Agliastro Poliziotto

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In this next example, Manrico wants to seduce a woman, and thinks of "getting her going" with a drink.

Cocktailino [sic] per mandarla su di giri, eh? Cenetta, vino rosso...

Little cocktail to get her revved up, huh? Little dinner, red wine...

Captions 64-65, Sposami EP 5 - Part 16

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Now that we have seen a few practical examples of this little expression, let's unpack it. 


We're including the verb essere (to be) in the expression, but often it's not included, or another verb is used, such as mandare (to send) as in one of the examples above. 


Then we have su which is a preposition meaning "on" but it's also an adverb meaning "upwards" or "up" and that is how it is used here, and often refers to one's mood or state.


Di is a preposition meaning, primarily, "of."


Then we get to the important word: giri. It's the plural of giro, which is a rotation, or, in a mechanical sense, a revolution. That's where "revved up" comes from. More revolutions in less time!


On a car, the tachometer is called il contagiri (the tachometer or rev counter). To keep with the meaning of giri, we have used "revved up" as the translation. But there are so many other ways to interpret the expression, and this "motor" reference might not be appropriate in many situations!


Sometimes, su di giri describes one's heart beating fast (for whatever reason). Sometimes it's about not being able to stop talking, pacing, or tapping one's foot or pencil. It can be about not being able to calm down. 


It might be a reason too skip that second cup of coffee.

No, grazie, sono un po' su di giri (no thanks, I'm already a bit wound up).



Are you old enough to remember hit singles? In other words, 45 rpms. This means 45 revolutions per minute on a turntable or record player, as we used to call it. In Italian, it's 45 giri

Il quarantacinque giri più venduto di Italia è "In ginocchio da te" di Gianni Morandi.

The forty-five that sold the most copies in Italy is "On my Knees Before You" by Gianni Morandi.

Caption 57, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 2 - Part 8

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The noun giro is a favorite of Italians and can mean so many things. See this lesson for some examples. If you do a search of the noun giro and its plural giri, and diminutives such as un giretto, you will get a sense of the variety of nuances connected to this word. And let's not forget the phrasal adverb in giro which has its own collection of nuances. 


We'll also mention the verb girare (to turn, to go around). The verb, too, has a great many meanings and nuances, so check it out.



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The expression Che ne so?

Let's talk about a little expression that is useful in various situations. It's made up of just three words but it is easily expanded, since sometimes you just want a phrase to stand out in some way by adding words. The expression is Che ne so.



Let's unpack it.


Che can mean "that" or "what." In this case, it's "what," as when it is part of a question. 


Ne is a particle that can stand for several things, such as "about it," "of it," "from it" and more. If ne is unfamiliar to you, or you don't know how to use it comfortably, check out Marika's lessons about this particella.


So is the first person singular of the verb sapere (to know).


As you have likely discovered, Italians, rather than just saying the equivalent of "I know," usually say "I know it:" Lo so, or when it's negative, non lo so (I don't know it). But in today's expression, lo (just plain "it") is replaced by ne (about it).


Since the expression is short, the personal pronoun io (I) is often added for emphasis. It doesn't add anything grammatically, but it makes it more personal. In addition, it is often preceded by e (and). Even though e means "and," it's often the equivalent of "so." Sometimes it doesn't really mean anything. 


Che ne so io? or Io, che ne so? The pronoun io can go either at the beginning or the end of the expression. This is the equivalent of "How should I know?" "What do I know?" "How would I know?" The following example is one of the most common versions of this expression. Italians don't always think of this expression as being a true question so they don't necessarily use a question mark. 

Addò [dove] sta Saverio? -E che ne so.

Where's Saverio? -How do I know?

Captions 14-15, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 10

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Pasquale, chi è tutta questa gente? -E che ne so, dotto' [dottore]? Qua pare tutti i poveri di Napoli,

Pasquale, who are all these people? -And how should I know, Doc? Here it seems like all the poor people of Naples

Captions 6-7, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP 2 - Part 12

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Lojacono is looking for one of the residents of an apartment building and asks the local busybody:

Sa mica se Giacomo Scognamiglio è in casa? -E che ne so, Commissa'?

You don't happen to know if Giacomo Scognamiglio is home? -And how should I know, Chief?

Captions 67-68, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP 3 Vicini - Part 7

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In the following example, Marcello, who is not a very smart guy, but is trying his best, suggests taking a selfie together with the policemen who come to check on Michele (the father of his girlfriend) who is under house arrest. 

Oh, ma che so o famo [romanesco: ce lo facciamo] un selfie insieme?

Oh, I don't know, shall we take a selfie together?

Caption 20, Liberi tutti EP3 Quanto è libero un fringuello? - Part 6

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Instead of adding a word, he removes one: ne. It's colloquial and likely Romanesco, and lots of people say it this way. Che so? 


Even though we have explained each word, the expression is often merely a way of saying "I don't know," especially when you are making a suggestion, as Marcello is doing. Some people might use the word magari in the same kind of situation. It's just an intercalare (a filler word or expression). Here's an example. 

Perché, diciamo... -comunque devono sostenere il peso. -Devono sostenere il peso, più che altro devono fare, che ne so, la stessa cosa per un'ora.

Because, let's say... -anyway they have to support the weight. -They have to support the weight, more than that, they have to, I don't know, do the same thing for an hour.

Captions 50-51, Francesca Cavalli - Part 2

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Here, Che ne so is paired with magari for making a suggestion. 

Che ne so, magari stasera a cena? -Può darsi.

I don't know, maybe tonight for dinner? -Maybe.

Caption 93, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 2

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Although the expression is commonly used in the first person, it can also be a valid question to someone else, and is more literal in this case. 

Eh, quando un uomo si innamora, si dimentica di tutto. -Tu che ne sai? -Così dicono tutti.

Uh, when a man falls in love, he forgets everything. -What do you know? -That's what everyone says.

Captions 38-39, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 11

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When you are thinking of what to cook for dinner, what to watch on TV, where to go on a Sunday afternoon, or what to give a friend as a birthday present, try suggesting it in Italian, and throw in a little "che ne so" as you would "I don't know." Have fun with it!

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Putting things behind us with croce (cross) and pietra (stone)

When you hear the common Italian expression metterci una croce sopra (to put a cross on it) you might very likely think of a cross in a cemetery, and that would make sense. You are closing the door on something, burying it, so it's dead to you, you're putting it behind you. But a little research tells us that the origin of the expression is something else entirely. 

But first, let's mention a couple of variants of the expression. Many or most expressions change over time or according to region, and this one is no exception. In the following example, the verb fare (to make) is used in place of mettere (to put), but the substance doesn't change.

Per quanto riguarda Parigi, meglio... meglio farci una croce sopra.

Regarding Paris, it's better... it's better to make a cross on it [to cross it off].

Captions 21-22, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 29

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And here, too, it can be fare una croce sopra or farci una croce sopra. The ci stands for "on it" and reinforces the preposition sopra (on / on top of). And in English, we can cross something off a list, or we can cross something out, by putting an X on it, for example. In other words, we use the verb "to cross out" or "to cross off," or we can mark something with an X. But we don't use the noun "cross" for this. 


We visited this Italian language website for more information and learned that, although many people do think of a cross in a cemetery when hearing the above-mentioned expression, it actually comes from the field of ragioneria or accounting. In earlier times, before spreadsheets, when it seemed very unlikely that a client would pay up, the accountant would put an X in the margin to call attention to the fact that this money would never be recovered. So when you put an X next to something, you know it is futile, so you just put it behind you.


The cemetery image is not irrelevant however because, interestingly, there is another, very similar expression in Italian, which does have to do with gravestones and cemeteries. The meaning is almost identical, at least nowadays. Una pietra is "a stone," and here it refers to a tombstone or gravestone. 

Quindi, perché non ci mettiamo una bella pietra sopra e ripartiamo da zero, eh?

So, why don't we put it behind us and start over from scratch, huh?

Caption 75, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 2

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Vabbè, su quella ormai ci ho messo una pietra sopra.

OK, I've already turned the page on that by now.

Caption 50, Sposami EP 3 - Part 7

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Some graves have crosses, some graves have stones, and some have both. As we see in the translations, there are various ways to say the same thing, depending on the context.


When talking about the old year that just ended, some of us might want to put a cross or tombstone on it. Others might have had a great year! Whatever kind of year you had in 2023, we hope 2024 brings happiness and all things good!

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Una rosa, due rose

The Italian expression featured in this mini-lesson is something people say when two people get together as a couple, when someone finds a new job, or when a business starts up... things like that. They say:

Se son rose, fioriranno (if they are roses, they'll bloom).


It's a poetic way of saying "Time will tell," or, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Se son rose fioriranno presto.

If they're roses, they'll bloom soon.

Caption 34, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 8

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la rosa

Let's remember that while "rose" is singular in English, rose, in Italian, is the plural of rosa

Quando questa rosa sarà appassita, io sparirò.

When this rose wilts, I will disappear.

Captions 36-37, La Ladra EP. 11 - Un esame importante - Part 11

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colore rosa

Let's note that rosa is also a color, corresponding to "pink." It's one of those colors that doesn't change in number and gender when used as an adjective, as opposed to nero (black), bianco (white), grigio (grey), and verde (green), among others, which do have to agree with the noun they modify. When rosa the color is used as a noun, it's a masculine noun because the noun colore (color) is masculine. Il colore, un colore.

I pantaloni rosa, il foulard beige, le scarpe blu... sempre lo stesso. OK?

The pink pants, the beige scarf, the blue shoes... always the same, OK?

Captions 33-34, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 1

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If this is new to you, check out Daniela's lessons about colors. 


Rosa is also a name. 


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Expressions this week

First of all, last week, the lesson was about the participio presente (present participle). Guarda caso (it just so happens) that this week, there is a perfect example of the present participle in the segment of Liberi tutti. It's not quite an expression, but for the purposes of this lesson, we think it can pass.




The breakfast conversation is partially about a guy who calls himself a prince. Riccardo uses the adjective sedicente. We bring it up because it is a perfect example of the present participle used as an adjective. Remember the rule? We can replace it with che and the conjugated verb. In this case, the caption is:

C'è questo sedicente Ciro, Principe di Filicudi, che rivendica tutto il Nido.

There is this self-styled Ciro, Prince of Filicudi, who is laying claim to the entire Nest.

Captions 58-59, Liberi tutti EP2 Ci vivresti on un posto così? - Part 1

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We can translate it with "self-styled" or "so-called," depending on the context.


We just thought it was kind of fun to see this example after having talked about it so recently. We will be adding it to last week's lesson as an update.



There's another expression from the same video. This one is rather vulgar, but it's used often enough that it's good to understand what it means, even if you choose not to use it (a good choice, especially in polite company). 

Di solito a quest'ora vi girano le palle almeno fino alle nove e oggi, stamattina, Fedez. E proprio perché ci girano le palle, parlavamo di Fedez.

Usually at this time your balls are spinning [you're pissed off] until at least nine o'clock and today, this morning, Fedez. And precisely because our balls are spinning, we were talking about Fedez.

Captions 39-41, Liberi tutti EP2 Ci vivresti on un posto così? - Part 1

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Girare means to turn or to spin. This expression is typically used when you are generally in a bad mood because of something that has happened. 


It can get more personal with the verb rompere (to break). When someone made you mad and you can't stand it any longer, you can talk about the balls breaking. It can also be translated with "to bother."

Invece di fermare gli spacciatori, vengono a rompere le palle a noi.

Instead of arresting the drug dealers, they come and break our balls.

Caption 4, Provaci ancora prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 14

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A ball-breaker is un rompipalle. The more polite version is rompiscatole (box-breaker). It can refer to someone who keeps at you, and doesn't let you alone. 


As you may have noticed in other videos, Italians use images of male private parts in a whole range of expressions. 


For more about using palle, especially in arguments, see this lesson


Here, we are talking about balls. Usually, there are two, but when talking about something being boring or annoying, sometimes just one is used.

Era una palla (it was a real bore). 



In this week's episode of Sposami, Melody describes Manrico as un provolone. It's kind of a cute double-entendre. You might have heard of the cheese provola or provolone

Certe volte è tenero, è delicato. Poi, all'improvviso, si trasforma in un, in un provolone che pensa a una cosa sola.

Certain times he is tender, he is gentle. Then, all of a sudden, he is transformed into a, into a playboy who thinks of one thing only.

Captions 54-56, Sposami EP 6 - Part 7

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But nested in the word provola or provolone is the verb provare. It means "to try," but it also means, especially as part of the compound verb provarci, to hit on someone, to flirt heavily. Check out our lesson about provarci.  Un provolone hits on any and all women (typically). 

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Che ne so: Let's take it apart

We see the word che meaning "that" or "which" all the time in sentences. It's a very common conjunction. 

Ad Ercolano, c'è un pomodoro che è diventato simbolo di un'importante voglia di cambiamento.

In Ercolano, there is a tomato that has become a symbol of an important desire for change.

Captions 21-22, Pomodori Vulcanici Pomodori del Vesuvio - Part 7

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But che does more. Here is a lesson about using che to say things with simplicity, a great asset when you're just learning. It helps make conversation. Here, it means "how."

Che carino, Però adesso devo scappare, altrimenti mio fratello mi uccide.

How sweet. But now I have to run, otherwise my brother will kill me.

Caption 29, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 11

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Che can also mean "what." See this lesson

Scusa, ma io che ci faccio qui? Non conto niente.

Sorry, but what am I doing here? I don't count for anything.

Caption 3, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 2

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In our featured expression che ne so?, che basically stands for "what." We can often translate che ne so as "What do I know?" Sometimes we might translate it as, "How should I know?" It's often a rhetorical question. 

Nilde, ma che mangia il bambino la mattina? -Ma che ne so?

Nilde, but what does the child eat in the morning? -How should I know?

Captions 2-3, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP1: Ciao famiglia - Part 3

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We've taken care of che. But what about that little word ne? Ne is a particle, called una particella in Italian, and if we look ne up in the dictionary we see it means several things. But mostly, it encompasses both a preposition and the indirect object pronoun "it" or "them." See this lesson about ne.


As mentioned in the lesson, we often don't even notice the word ne because it's so short and because we are not looking for it if we're thinking in English. Once you start thinking in Italian, it will become easier to use and notice. Italians will be very tolerant and understand you anyway, even if you don't use it, so don't worry about it too much. But learning an expression with ne will already make you sound more fluent. 


In our expression, ne means "about it." The tricky thing is that we don't bother with "about it" in English, but in Italian, not always, but in general, we will hear that little ne in there. 

Che ne so? What do I know [about it]?


Finally, we get to so, which is simply the first person singular of the verb sapere (to know).


You might have already learned how to say "I know" and "I don't know" in Italian. Italians add the direct object pronoun lo ("it" or "that").

Sì, lo so (yes I know [that].

Non lo so (I don't know [that]).


But che ne so can also be used in the middle of a sentence, as we would use "I don't know." It's a kind of filler phrase. We can leave it out and the meaning doesn't change much. 

perché, diciamo... -comunque devono sostenere il peso. -Devono sostenere il peso, più che altro devono fare, che ne so, la stessa cosa per un'ora.

because, let's say... -anyway they have to support the weight. -They have to support the weight, more than that, they have to, I don't know, do the same thing for an hour.

Captions 50-51, Francesca Cavalli - Part 2

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Ma tu ti devi aggiornare, sarai rimasto sicuramente, che ne so, ai Pooh.

But you have to get up to date. You must have remained, I don't know, at Pooh.

Caption 66, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP5 Lele, ti presento Irene - Part 2

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Allora, due colleghi decidono di scambiarsi il posto, firmano un modulo, e se non ci sono problemi, ma gravi, eh, tipo, che ne so, uno deve essere sotto inchiesta.

So, two colleagues decide to switch places, they sign a form, and if there are no problems, but serious huh, like, I don't know, one [of them] has to be under investigation.

Captions 38-40, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 12

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Dice, chissà se c'ha un lenzuolo da piegare, se ti manca... che ne so? C'è un tubo che perde acqua...

Saying, who knows if she has some sheets to fold, if you're out of... I don't know... There's a pipe that leaks...

Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

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For more about particles ci and ne, see Daniela's video lessons (in Italian)

In this video, Marika explains the particle ne.

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Getting busy with darsi da fare

We can combine two very common verbs into one expression that means "to get busy" or "to work hard." The expression is darsi da fare. We can detect a reflexive ending on the verb dare (to give) with darsi. If we think about it in the first person, it's, "I give myself." What do I give myself? Da fare (stuff to do). 


If I am busy and can't talk to you right now, I might say, Ho da fare (I have stuff to do, I am busy).

Ho detto: "Senta, scusi, eh... io c'ho [ho] da fare, è tardissimo, -Mh.

I said, "Listen, I'm sorry, uh... I'm busy, it's really late," -hmm.

Caption 48, Francesca e Marika Gestualità

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But if you are giving yourself stuff to do, with the verb dare (to give) it's more active. 

Mi do da fare (I keep myself busy, I work hard).



If we are talking about someone else who works hard in general, we might say: 

Si dà da fare (he/she works hard).

Note the accent we place on the third person singular of the verb dare to distinguish it from da, the preposition meaning "of," "to," or "from."


We also use this expression in a command form when we want someone to get to work, to do something, or to get something done. 


Datti da fare! (Get to work!, Do something! Get on it!)

Datti da fare pure tu.

You get on it, too.

Caption 13, Provaci ancora prof! S2E4 L'amica americana - Part 16

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If we are talking to more than one person, it's: 

Datevi da fare.


We might be talking to a group we are included in, we'll say:

Diamoci da fare (let's get to work, let's get busy).


If we are being polite or formal to one person, it's:

Si dia da fare.

If we want to be polite to more than one person, we need to go into the third person plural:

Si diano da fare.


Tip: Note that when we are using the polite form, it's the same as the subjunctive third person (check out the conjugation chart). We can mostly get by fine without using this polite form, unless we are working in a place where our Italian-speaking employees are people we address formally. 


To conclude, da fare can be part of a longer phrase such as Ho tantissime cose da fare (I have lots of things to do), but da fare can be used by itself to just mean "stuff to do."


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Let's Explain the Expression andare incontro a

When you meet someone halfway on a deal, or you go towards someone who is coming towards you, say, on the street, we often use the turn of phrase: andare incontro a


Andare is "to go" and incontro in this case is an adverb (or preposition) meaning "toward." 

Mi puoi venire incontro?

Can you meet me halfway?        


Using this turn of phrase can be a little confusing, but here are the elements:

a verb of motion, which is usually andare (to go) or venire (to come). It might even be correre (to run).

the adverb or preposition incontro meaning "toward"

the preposition a (to)

an indirect object noun or pronoun


Let's look at some Yabla examples of how we can use andare incontro a.


The word order can change and often the indirect object comes first, as in the following examples. In this case, the preposition a is included or implied in the indirect pronoun. 

Ti vengo incontro (I'll meet you halfway).


È successo che stavo pulendo il locale e...

What happened is that I was cleaning the bar and...

poi l'ho sentita e gli [sic: le] sono andato incontro,

then I heard her and I went towards her,

ma non c'è stato verso di farla ragionare.

but there was no way to get her to reason.

Captions 2-4, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1EP1 L'estate del dito

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La notte, Roma, le sue luci e tu che mi vieni incontro.

The night, Rome, its lights and you coming towards me.

Captions 1-2, La Ladra - EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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In the following example, the verb correre (to run) is used instead of andare (to go) or venire (to come), but it works the same way.


Attori, tecnici, comparse gli corrono incontro.

Actors, technicians, extras run towards them.

Caption 16, Vivere - Un'avventura di Vittorio De Sica - Part 10

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If, rather than a pronoun, I use a noun (la difficoltà) as an object, as in the next examples, then I will need the proposition a.


Vado incontro a tante difficoltà.
(I'm going to run into plenty of difficulties).


Io vado incontro al mio destino

I go towards my destiny

Caption 21, Niccolò Fabi - Lontano da me

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Io e Sua Eminenza cercheremo una soluzione

His Eminence and I will look for a solution

quanto possibile per venire incontro

as far as possible to meet you half way

a quello che Lei mi ha chiesto.

for what you have asked me.

Captions 29-31, Vivere - Un'avventura di Vittorio De Sica - Part 9

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In the next example, it's a bit different, because Nora is using the first person plural to make things sound more collaborative, but the meaning is clear. She wants a discount.


Senta, io so che Lei è un professionista, una brava persona,

Listen, I know that you are a professional, a good person,

quindi non possiamo venirci incontro un pochino sul prezzo?

so can't we meet halfway a bit on the price?

Captions 25-26, Sposami - EP 4 - Part 14

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Another reason andare incontro a can cause confusion is that l'incontro exists as a noun (the encounter) and incontrare means "to meet" or "to encounter." The first person singular of incontrare is incontro (I encounter, I meet). For more on these meanings, see this lesson: Close Encounters with Incontro.  


In addition, in is a preposition all on its own meaning "to" or "in." Contro is a preposition meaning "against."

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Expression: Era ora!

Here's a little expression that is fun to use. It's often used with irony, and among friends. It uses the past tense of the verb essere (to be) and the adverb ora (now) or the noun l'ora (the time, the hour). 


Era ora. If we unpack it, we can see we have the imperfetto (simple past tense) of the verb essere (to be). And then we have ora. It means "hour" or "time" if we put an article in front of it, but it is also an adverb, meaning "now." In the case of the expression, there is no article and so it's not exactly clear which part of speech is meant. It doesn't really matter, because it's an expression that never changes.



Note that in Italian, it's always in the past tense, the imperfetto to be precise. In English, on the other hand, we can say it in the past or the present, or we can leave the verb out altogether. To form this expression in English, we do add the word "about." "It's about time," or "It was about time," or just, "About time!"  We might also say, "High time." 


Era ora is a great expression and easy to use. There is always an imaginary exclamation point after it. When someone arrives late, it is something to say, but it's a veiled reprimand (meaning, "you're late!"), depending on one's tone and facial expression, so it should be used with care when directed at a person. It can also refer to a situation, such as a delayed train or delivery.


We have hunted through Yabla videos to find some examples you can watch and listen to.


Eccomi qua.

Here I am.

-Ce l'hai fatta. Era ora, Mirò!

-You did it. It was about time, Mirò!

Sono contenta che tu sia tornato giù.

I'm glad you came back down.

Captions 70-73, Gatto Mirò - EP6 Buon compleanno

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Ragazzi, ho portato le birre.

Guys, I've brought the beers.

-Era ora!

-It was about time!

Meno male che qualcuno ha pensato di portare da bere,

Good thing that someone thought of bringing something to drink,

sembrava la festa delle medie! -Ecco qua.

it seemed like a junior high school party. -Here you go.

Captions 9-12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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Manara is very late for his dinner at Toscani's house. That's why Toscani says, when he opens the door:


Era ora, eh!

About time, huh!

Che è?

What is it?

Ma che stai a fa' [che fai]?

But what are you doing?

-Con permesso? Permesso?

-Allow me to come in, may I?

Captions 28-31, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto

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Manara, being Manara, has grabbed the wine off the table, gone back to the door, and come in a second time (saying Permesso), pretending he has brought the bottle. 


Here, the police went through all the bags of the bus passengers and it took a while.


Questo è l'ultimo e l'ispezione dei bagagli è finita.

This is the last one, and the inspection of the luggage is complete.

-I ragazzi hanno avuto le loro borse?

-Do the guys all have their bags?

-Tutti andati pure. Prego.

-They've all gone, too. Please.

-Era ora anche, eh.

-It was about time, too, huh.

Captions 47-50, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

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Eva goes to see her favorite counterfeiter after a long absence.


La ladra più bella del mondo!

The most beautiful thief in the world!

Era ora che te [ti] facevi rivede [rivedere].

It was high time you reappeared.

Sono passati tanti anni!

Many years have passed!

Captions 48-50, La Ladra - EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano

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A friend chastising another for not going out enough.


Che c'è che non va?

What's wrong?

Niente, una storia con un uomo

Nothing, a relationship with a man

che rischia di diventare importante.

that's in danger of becoming important.

-Be', era ora, no?

-Well, it was about time, wasn't it?

Captions 45-47, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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A relationship had been hampered by some psychological problems.


Fine dell'Edipo. -Era ora.

My Oedipus complex is over. -About time.

Caption 9, La Ladra - EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

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Camilla's car has a hard time starting. When the motor finally turns over, era ora (it was about time)!


Forza, dai, dai, dai, ci siamo, ci siamo.

Come on, come on, come on, come on, we're there, we're there.

-Sì, ci siamo. -Ma quanno 'a cambi qua stufa [romanesco: ma quando lo cambi quel rudere]?

-Yes, we made it. -But when are you going to trade in that jalopy?

-Fatto, ecco.

-Done, there we go.

-Era ora. -Sei stato fortissimo.

-About time. -You were great.

Captions 27-30, Provaci ancora prof! - S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola

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Era ora is a way of saying "finally!" And sometimes both expressions can be used together.


Be', hanno fatto la pace.

Well, they made up.

Era ora, finalmente.

It was about time, finally.

Captions 68-69, Provaci ancora prof! - S2EP2 Una mina vagante

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Although Era ora works fine on its own, and that is the scope of this lesson, it can also be part of a sentence and will generally be followed by che, in which case we need the subjunctive.

Era ora che mi telefonassi (it was about time you called me).


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When 2 Doesn't Mean 2

We have seen before that Italians use the number 2 or sometimes the number 4 to indicate "a small number" or a small amount.


Due passi

Due passi indicates a short distance: a hop, skip, and a jump, for example.


È qua, siete fortunato, è proprio qua a due passi.

It's here, you're lucky, it's right here, a couple of steps away [very close by].

Caption 6, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce - EP1 - Part 20

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Due passi can also indicate a short or brief walk. 


Faccio due passi.

I'm going to step out/I'm going to take a walk.

Caption 26, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone - EP1 I Bastardi - Part 22

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We use due passi when we want to suggest taking a little walk with someone, often to talk about something private while walking. 

Facciamo due passi (shall we take a walk)?



Due spaghetti

Due spaghetti indicates a simple, humble meal featuring pasta. It can also indicate a plate of spaghetti.


Let's remember that in Italian, spaghetti is the plural of spaghetto, a certain shape of pasta, resembling string. In fact, the name of the pasta comes from the noun lo spago, the word for "twine." Literally, due spaghetti is "two spaghetti strands." But obviously, two is just a symbolic amount meaning "some."


Due chiacchiere

Due chiacchiere, expressed in the plural, is a chat, with the idea that it will be brief. It also implies that it will be rather informal. 


Va bene, allora voglio fare due chiacchiere con quella cameriera.

All right, then I want to have two chats [a little chat] with that waitress.

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 13

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Due palle

In this case, the number is accurate, because whoever is using this expression is referring to balls or testicles (which usually come in twos). But the figurative meaning is that something is a pain in the ass or a real bore. It's colloquial, and not for polite conversation, but it is common enough that we thought it was important to mention it here.


Che due palle means, "what a pain,"  "what a bummer," "this sucks," or "this is so boring."


Questa proprio du' palle, nun poi capi' [romanesco: due palle, non puoi capire].

This lady is a real pain in the ass, you can't imagine.

Caption 41, Un Figlio a tutti i costi - film - Part 18

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Sì? -Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] fatto du' [romanesco: due] palle così.

Yes? -I was bored out of my mind.

Caption 37, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno - Ep. 1 - Part 17

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In this lesson, we have considered the number two as an adjective before certain nouns, combinations that are particularly common, but we can use the number 2, when referring to any countable noun, just about. It can mean "a few," "some,"  or "not too many," so keep your eyes open for the number 2 and think about whether it is literal or figurative...


And of course, if you think of other expressions or word combinations with the number 2, we are happy to expand our library of examples, especially if you find them in Yabla videos. Write to us at or as a comment in the video you find the example in.



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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. 



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

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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,

He would have ruined everything,

avrebbe mandato in fumo il mio sogno.

he would have made my dream go up in smoke.

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

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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

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


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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More expressions with caso

We have already talked about different meanings and uses of the noun caso (case, chance) — see this previous lesson. In the present lesson, we will further explore expressions using this super common and useful noun. 


Farci caso

In a different previous lesson devoted to noticing things in Italian, we briefly discussed the expression farci caso (to notice something / to make an issue of something). Although the different meanings are related, they are different enough to warrant translating them differently.

Non lo so, non ci ho fatto caso, mi dispiace.

I don't know. I didn't notice, I'm sorry.

Caption 41, Provaci ancora prof! S2E3 Dietro la porta - Part 7

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Non ci far caso, che ha avuto una giornata molto difficile.

Don't pay any attention to it, because he's had a very hard day.

Caption 28, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP1: Ciao famiglia - Part 6

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For more examples and explanations, check out the lesson! There you will find a list of possible English translations. And let's keep in mind that the basic meaning of caso here is "case" (not "chance"). 


Guarda caso

Let's build on another expression we talked about in the other lesson: guarda caso, another nuanced expression with "caso." If we take it apart, it's sort of a command. "Look at what happened by chance." It can be inserted into a sentence just about anywhere, as is. 



Here are some examples from recent videos to demonstrate. Guarda caso very often has the connotation of a coincidence that isn't really a coincidence. Something looks like it happened by chance, but was likely planned. 


A detective is interviewing a suspect, putting two and two together.

Anche perché chi ha ucciso a [sic] Ramaglia è arrivato in cortile con una motocicletta, e guarda caso tu c'hai una moto.

Also because whoever killed Ramaglia arrived in the courtyard on a motorcycle, and what a coincidence, you have a motorcycle.

Captions 79-81, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP2 Rabbia - Part 10

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All'appello mancano quattro abiti da sposa. Guarda caso, i più preziosi.

At the count, four wedding dresses are missing. As chance would have it, the most costly ones.

At the count, four wedding dresses are missing. What a coincidence, the most costly ones.

Captions 44-45, La Ladra EP. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 13

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This expression was once two words, but at some point in history, the two words became one, as happens with many compound words. Casomai is a rather intriguing expression. The two words are caso (chance) and mai (never, ever). Italian synonyms might be: nel caso che; semmai; eventualmente.


The literal translation is "chance ever." That's very unhelpful and makes no sense. But what the expression actually means is something like "if appropriate," "if at all," or "if anything." "in the event that." We could construe the Italian to mean "if there is ever the chance," and some additional translations could be: "if the situation/case comes up," "if the situation calls for it," "if circumstances permit," "if need be," and sometimes, "just in case." Translating it is tricky, and somewhat subjective, but if you hear it enough and start using it yourself, you'll find it very handy without thinking about what it would be in English. 


And, what's more, Casomai is user-friendly, as it's one of those expressions we can throw in wherever we want, without worrying about the grammar. We could include it in the category of expressions such as magari, or mi sa that can stand alone at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence. 

Va be', noi casomai torniamo un altro giorno, eh.

OK, if appropriate, we'll come back another day, huh.

Caption 57, Sei mai stata sulla Luna? film - Part 10

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Eh, perché ero qua non posso dirglielo. Casomai dovrebbe essere Lei a dirmi che cosa ci faceva qua.

Uh, the reason I was here, I can't tell you. If anything, you're the one who should tell me what you were doing here.

Captions 4-5, Provaci ancora prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 16

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Dopo, casomai... -Yeah. Dopo, magari fra...

Later, if need be. -Yeah. Later, maybe in a...

Captions 47-48, Provaci ancora prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 15

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Tu non cerchi nessuno. Casomai la polizia.

You're not going to look for anyone. If anyone does, it'll be the police.

Caption 10, Provaci ancora prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 11

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We hope this lesson has shed light on some expressions using caso (chance). Let us know if you have questions or comments. You can write to us a or write a comment in the comment section of any video. 


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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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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 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."



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.



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.



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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