Italian Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Grammar

Verb-object agreement in the passato prossimo

In most languages, there are situations in which two different sets of rules can apply. Sometimes it's because there are simply two valid ways of saying something. For instance, in English we can say:

There is none

There isn't any.

They both mean the same thing and they are both correct. How to choose?

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Modal verb + infinitive + object pronoun (s)

 

In Italian, a case in point is when we have a modal verb, a verb in the infinitive, and a pronoun. I can attach the pronoun to the verb or I can separate it and change the word order. It's a matter of personal choice.

Vado a cercarlo.

Lo vado a cercare.

Non posso farlo.

No lo posso fare.

 

Evolution in speech over time

Some rules change over time because the rule gets broken so many times that it becomes acceptable to break it. One example of this in English is using "who" instead of "whom" when it's an object. In some cases we still use it, and it is absolutely correct, but in general conversation, people might look at you strangely or think you are a snob. We still use it when we have a preposition before it, as in business letters, for instance: "To whom it may concern."

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora Prof, there's another use that has become less common in everyday speech, but is nevertheless correct. This brand of agreement is what we call facoltativo (optional). The conversation between Renzo and Camilla seems like the perfect opportunity to shine a light on it. 

Lo sai? -Lo so, ti ho vista. -Mi hai vista? -Sì, ti ho vista. Ero venuto lì per cercarti e ti ho vista.

You know? -I know. I saw you. -You saw me? -Yes, I saw you. I went there to look for you, and I saw you.

Captions 5-7, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

We're talking about the transitive verb vedere, which takes the auxiliary verb avere. The sentences are in the passato prossimo, thus we use the past participle of vedere. If we look at a conjugation chart, we will see that visto is the past participle, not vista! Vista is nowhere to be seen.

If you click on "play caption," you will hear that Renzo (the husband) is talking to his wife Camilla and then she answers. So what's the story with vista?

There's a rule that if the verb is in the passato prossimo, the past participle can agree in gender and number with the direct object pronoun. Read more about this (in Italian). 

So Renzo says Ti ho vista. Camilla is the direct object of vedere. If the roles were reversed, Camilla would say: T'ho visto because the pronoun would correspond to a male, her husband. This doesn't apply only to people. The pronoun might refer to a thing, but all nouns have gender in Italian.

 

A few more examples:

Ho visto le ragazze – Le ho viste = I have seen the girls – I have seen them
Ho sentito gli spari – Li ho sentiti = I have heard the shots – I have heard them

 

We should mention that Camilla is a professoressa of Italian and often plays sophisticated word games with her husband, so it makes sense for them to use correct Italian, and in fact, they sometimes get competitive about it. But normal people in everyday life often do not always make this choice and it's optional, so don't worry about it too much, but you might hear it. Still, it's nice to recognize it, right? And when you use it, you will feel proud and in the know.

In the same conversation, Renzo talks about seeing Camilla with Gaetano, the chief of police. 

Non negare, vi ho visti.

Don't deny it, I saw you.

Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

He could have said Vi ho visto, just as he could have said T'ho visto in the previous example.

As you watch Yabla videos, you will undoubtedly come across more examples of this construction. Feel free to point them out in the comments section.  

Meanwhile, check out these examples from a Yabla original video: 
 

Devo dire la verità, che io adoro la panzanella e sono una toscana DOC [di origine controllata], ma non l'ho mai fatta!

I have to tell you the truth. I love panzanella and I'm a DOC [true] Tuscan, but I have never made it.

Captions 12-14, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

And another example, with another verb, from the same cooking video with Arianna:

L'ho sempre mangiata molto volentieri,

I have always really enjoyed eating it [I have always eaten it willingly]...

Caption 15, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

Discovering the passive voice in Italian

Learning Italian by ear is the best way to jump in, to start talking to people, to communicate. Listen, repeat. And sometimes you'll get it wrong. You'll leave out a little word, you'll get the gender wrong. And a lot of the time you don't really know the grammar of what you are saying. This happens in one's own language as well. But if you are communicating, you are already doing a lot more than people who are scared to utter even one word without knowing the grammar. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Sometimes, though, you get curious or you get stymied. Why do they say this or that? 

 

This lesson has three main sections. If you are already well-versed in how to use the passive voice, you can skip to venire and andare (this might or might not be new for you) or you can skip all the way to the si passivante. However, you might have better luck understanding the si passivante if you go through all the steps.  If, on the other hand, it's all pretty daunting, skip right down to The passive voice goes with transitive verbs!, then read about Venire (to come) and andare (to go) but skip the last section on the si passivante.

 

A while back, one of our readers did get curious and stymied when she saw the following caption in a documentary video about the beautiful southern Italian city, Matera, and asked, "Why did they use essere instead of avere here?" After all, sistemare is a transitive verb.

 

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno, ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one, they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

Her question was actually quite well-founded. It turns out it has to do with a grammatical phenomenon called the si passivante (the si that "fakes" or "allows" a passive voice). Frankly, some of us non-native speakers have lived in Italy and spoken Italian for years without even hearing a peep about this si passivante. There are a great many Italians, too, who will say, Boh? (who knows?) when you ask them about the si passivante, so don't worry if you don't get it. But if you are slightly nerdy, you might just want to know (read on or scroll way down...).

 

Daniela has recently mentioned this in a video about the passive voice in Italian, so it has come up again. And it's time to do some explaining. We'll get there, little by little, but let's back up a bit, hoping to make things clear as we go. In fact, let's back way up.

 

The passive voice goes with transitive verbs!

To understand the passive voice, let's start out with the active voice (backing up even further). And let's keep it simple.

We have an active sentence with a subject, a transitive verb, and an object.

Active: Il contadino guida il trattore (The farmer drives the tractor). 

Il contadino is the subject (and the agent), guidare (to drive) is the verb in the third person singular, and il trattore (the tractor) is the direct object.

 

To form the passive, we take the direct object from the active sentence, put it at the beginning (in the subject slot), use the conjugated auxiliary essere (to be) + the past participle of the verb, the preposition da (by), and then the agent (the ex-subject). Here's what it looks like:

Passive: Il trattore è guidato dal contadino (the tractor is driven by the farmer).

 

So the Italian passive voice, at least at this point, is similar to English. And just as in English, we add the preposition da (by) before the agent (il contadino [the farmer] in this case).

 

Just to see what happens, let's use some plurals. Here, the subject is plural (the students) and the object is singular (the winner).

Gli studenti scelgono il vincitore (the students choose the winner).

 

Let's put in the passive and see what happens.

Il vincitore è scelto dagli studenti (the winner is chosen by the students).

The verb essere agrees with the new subject, il vincitore (a masculine noun), so there is an o at the end of scelto.

 

If it had been la vincitrice, it would have been:

La vincitrice è scelta dagli studenti.

 

1,2) After you have read the rest of the lesson, maybe you will be able to use another verb in place of essere for the two sentences above. Let's say we are talking about the rules of the competition.

 

But what if the subject (of the active sentence) is singular and the object is plural?

Il presidente della classe sceglie i candidati (the president of the class chooses the candidates). 

 

I candidati sono scelti dal presidente della classe (the candidates are chosen by the president of the class).

 

We notice that the agreement is between the new subject (ex-object) and the verb (i candidati sono scelti).

 

3) Here, too, try using another verb in place of essere. We're talking about the rules of the competition.

 

As Daniela said in her lesson about the passive voice, we can use the passive voice when we have a transitive verb such as scegliere (to choose). 

That is key. That's the main thing you have to remember about the passive voice as we move on to murkier waters.

 

OK so far?

 

Let's go one step further into the weeds. Let's go into a compound tense such as the passato prossimo (that conjugates like the present perfect, but is often translated with [and represents] the simple past tense).

Il presidente ha scelto una ragazza  (the president chose a girl).

 

Let's see what happens in the passive voice:

Una ragazza è stata scelta dal presidente (a girl was chosen by the president).

 

So far, so good. Fin qui ci siamo.

 

Now, we're going to put a little wrench in the works (mixing metaphors?).

 

Venire (to come) and andare (to go) 

There is another verb pair that Italians use to form the passive voice, more often than you might think: venire (to come) and andare (to go). Who knew? These have a slightly different feeling and purpose. We could look at these verbs as more of an active-type, passive tense (although perhaps that's an oxymoron). If you think of times when we use "get" instead of "to be" in passive sentences, it might make more sense. We often use venire when we're talking about how things are done, or things that are done on a continuing basis, and we use andare when we're talking about things that have to get done. 

 

Let's start with venire.

 

If I am telling you the rules of how candidates are chosen, for example, or how they get chosen, I might use venire (to come). 

 

Active: Il presidente sceglie il vicepresidente. The president chooses the vice-president.

Passive: Il vicepresidente viene scelto dal presidente. The vice-president gets chosen by the president.

 

4a, 4b, 4c, 4d, 4e, 4f) Try putting these sentences in the imperfetto (this is how they did things in the past), in the simple future (this is how they are planning to do things), and in the conditional (how, hypothetically, things could work).

 

The rule is that venire and andare are only used in simple tenses. In compound tenses you use essere. This is a good thing to know, perhaps, but you probably won't want to even try it. We already use the past participle of the transitive verb in the passive voice, so having another one in the same sentence would make a big mess. So don't worry about it. You can use these with the simple future or imperfetto (see the solutions to the exercise above).

 

The comforting thing is, however, that if you just listen, and notice that, "Oh yeah! People do use this venire in the passive sometimes," you will get accustomed to hearing it in certain types of situations. Certain moments just call for it and pretty soon, you will get a feel for it because you will have heard it so many times. And then, you will start using it yourself, with a smile on your face, and plenty of well-earned pride. You just need to pay attention and be aware that it exists.

 

Let's talk about andare, which might seem a bit weirder, but here's a typical example.

Non ho i soldi per riparare il tetto, ma va fatto. Piove in casa! (I don't have the money to repair the roof, but it has to be done. The roof is leaking!

 

The repairman walks on my kitchen floor with his dirty shoes and apologizes.

 

Ho sporcato il pavimento, mi dispiace (I got the floor dirty, sorry).

 

I reply (even if it's not true...):

 

Non fa niente. Va lavato (Don't worry. It needs to get washed). 

 

Il pavimento is masculine, so I used the o ending on the past participle of lavare.

 

5) What if the repairman speaks while he is walking on the floor?

6) What if the repairman doesn't really want to involve himself personally. Maybe he would use the si passivante!?! 

 

Let's say I am helping you make lunch. I take the lettuce out of the fridge and ask you:

 

Va lavata l'insalata (does the lettuce need to get washed)?

-No, è già lavata (no, it's already washed).

 

You notice that insalata is feminine, so the past participle of lavare agrees with it and therefore has a feminine ending.

 

There's a great example of using andare to form the passive in the movie (on Yabla) "Sei mai stata sulla luna?." A lawyer is telling Guia she has to take care of the guy who works the land she inherited. He uses the conditional to "soften the blow." She wants to know if she has a choice.

Andrebbe sistemato anche lui. Andrebbe o va? -Va. Va.

He should get taken care of as well. He should be or he has to be? -He has to be. He has to be.

Captions 54-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

So the answer is: Va sistemato (he must get taken care of). She has no choice.

 

The si passivante

The verb sistemare brings us to the matter that started this whole ball rolling: the si passivante. Since we can't very well write a book (this lesson is already way too long), you might want to check out the lessons about the particella (particle) si. Si has various functions, and it's hard to be sure which is which sometimes, but since we are deep in the weeds, we will try to persevere. In fact, the si passivante is a variation on the si impersonale and like venire and andare, is only used with simple tenses, not compound ones. It's also only used with transitive verbs (because it has to do with the passive voice).

 

The following example is what our reader wrote to us about.

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno, ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one, they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

First let's note that if we have a transitive verb such as sistemare, in an active sentence anyway, we usually use the auxiliary avere, as in the following example:

Hanno sistemato la piazza (They renovated the piazza or they have renovated the piazza).

 

If we put it in the passive voice, the rule is that we need the auxiliary essere (or in some cases, venire) + da (by) + past participle of the verb. The participle has to agree with the (new) subject. 

 

So we could say:

La piazza è stata sistemata [dal comune] (the piazza was renovated [by the town]).

 

We can also leave out the part in brackets. La piazza is the subject, but not the actor or agent. The town is the agent.

 

We can use different tenses in the passive, such as, for example, the future:

La piazza sarà sistemata... (the piazza will be renovated).

 

Or

La piazza è sistemata regolarmente dal comune (the piazza is renovated regularly by the town). 

La piazza viene sistemata regolarmente dal comune (the piazza gets renovated regularly by the town).

 

But in the caption in question, it's a little different. We have that pesky si that can mean so many things and cause confusion for non-native speakers. It's not a true passive sentence. It's also not a reflexive sentence because the piazza can't renovate itself. Here it is again:

Si è sistemata la piazza (the piazza was renovated).

 

We have a transitive verb, sistemare, and we have the (ex-) object of sistemare (la piazza) but we don't have an agent at all One key aspect is that we could also put the sentence in the plural. Let's say there are 2 piazzas.

Si sono sistemate le piazze (the piazzas were renovated).

 

The passive aspects that are present are: sistemare is a transitive verb, the auxiliary verb essere is used, and the past participle of the verb is used.

 

The passive aspects that are not present, are: there is no preposition da (by) and there is no agent. So, si is a kind of prop-word (or, we could say, a kind of si impersonale). It stands in for the absent agent. Since the sentence has the feeling of a passive voice, because of some of its characteristics, such as the past participle, the particle si is called a si passivante (a si that makes something passive).

 

So it looks kind of like a passive sentence, it sounds kind of like a passive sentence, but it isn't a true passive sentence. It still gets translated like the passive, however, because there's no real equivalent for the si passivante in English. 

 

The sentence also looks like it uses an impersonal si. But a characteristic of the [normal] si impersonale is that it is always in the third person singular, and is often used with intransitive verbs (so there won't be a direct object). It is often a stand-in for an unspecified person. In our case, we have seen that we could have used the same construction in the plural. 

 

The si also looks like the reflexive si. Sistemarsi does exist as a reflexive verb. Here's an example of the reflexive verb sistemarsi (to get settled): The person is talking to a female.

Stai bene? Sei arrivata? Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?

Are you well? Did you get there? Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?

Captions 15-16, Sposami EP 1 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

We have come to a stopping place on our grammatical journey. There's undoubtedly more to say, and there will be questions. But once you get into the swing of things, all these different passives, and all these different si's will just start being part of your baggage. And with Yabla videos, you will start noticing how things work, how people say things. You'll go back to listening and repeating, but with more awareness. 

 

Extra credit

 

1) Il vincitore viene scelto dagli studenti (the winner gets chosen by the students).

2 La vincitrice viene scelta dagli studenti.

3) I candidati vengono scelti dal presidente della classe (the candidates are chosen by the president of the class).

4a) Active: [In quell'epoca] il presidente sceglieva il vicepresidente. [In those days,] the president would choose the vice-president.

4b) Passive: Il vicepresidente veniva scelto dal presidente. The vice-president would get chosen by the president.

4c) Active: Il presidente sceglierà il vicepresidente. The president will choose the vice-president.

4d) Passive: Il vicepresidente verrà scelto dal presidente. The vice-president will get chosen by the president.

4e) Active: Il presidente sceglierebbe il vicepresidente. The president would choose the vice-president.

4f) Passive: Il vicepresidente verrebbe scelto dal presidente. The vice-president would get chosen by the president.

5) Sto sporcando il pavimento, mi dispiace (I'm getting the floor dirty, sorry).

6) Si è sporcato il pavimento, mi dispiace (the floor got dirty, I'm sorry).

 

Thanks for reading. Let us know if you have questions, or examples to try out. We'll try our best to help out.

You can write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

 

 

Continue Reading

Talking about dates in Italian

When we are learning a new language we pay attention to things that native speakers don't necessarily pay attention to. They don't have to. But we do! That is how we learn.

 

Here's a case in point. A learner was watching a Yabla video about numbers. When do we use ordinal numbers, and when do we use cardinal numbers? In the video in question, Marika is talking about dates. Every language expresses dates a bit differently, and there are often different options. The basic premise is that in contrast to how we do it in English, Italians mostly use a cardinal number (not an ordinal number as in English) when talking about a specific date, preceded by the definite article.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

The learner's question was, "Is there some special reason why Marika uses the preposition di (of) when talking about August, but not for the other dates?" It's a great question, and it is exactly the kind of question we like learners to ask. Because native speakers, or even experienced non-native speakers, might not be aware they are saying di (of). They just know it sounds right without thinking about it and may or not be able to explain why.

Si dice il cinque aprile, il quattro luglio, il nove maggio, ehm, il venti di agosto.

One says the fifth of April, the fourth of July, the ninth of May, uhm, the twentieth of August.

Captions 24-25, Marika spiega Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

 Play Caption

 

So the short answer is that when talking about a specific date, you can just say the cardinal number (with the definite article before it) followed by the month. There was nothing special about the month of August to cause Marika to use the preposition di. She might have used it because it was the last month she said in a series and it just sounded better to her. And it's a valid option. So it is not wrong to use the preposition, but more often than not, Italians don't use it. 

 

Let's look at another example. Antonio is telling us about a festival in August, in his area of Italy. In the following example, he just says the cardinal number and the month. He is talking about a specific date.

E poi il diciotto agosto la statua rientra qui nel... ehm, nel santuario.

And then on the eighteenth of August the statue returns here, in the... uh, in the sanctuary.

Captions 19-20, Antonio al Santuario - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

In the same video, a few captions earlier, he is again talking about the dates of the festival. He uses the preposition di in the first instance.

Ehm, la Madonna della Grotta è la protettrice di Praia a Mare e viene fatta una festa il quattordici e quindici d'agosto. Per l'esattezza inizia il quattordici a mezzanotte e finisce il diciotto agosto di ogni anno,

Um, the Madonna of the Cave is the patron saint of Praia a Mare and there is a feast on the fourteenth and fifteenth of August. To be exact it starts on the fourteenth at midnight and ends on the eighteenth of August every year,

Captions 13-16, Antonio al Santuario - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

When he cited two dates together he used the preposition di before agosto. Sometimes it just seems clearer to add it. It could also be that since agosto starts with a vowel and diciotto ends with a vowel, it's easier to put a consonant in the middle, so it's clearer and easier to say.

 

Marika, in this video about the news, doesn't add the preposition (febbraio starts with a consonant!).

Il ventiquattro e venticinque febbraio, in Italia si terranno le elezioni politiche, che decreteranno la scelta di un nuovo governo.

On the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of February, Italy will hold political elections that will ratify the choice of a new government.

Captions 8-9, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

The important thing to know is that it is correct to leave out that preposition and that we generally use a cardinal number except for when it's the first. When it's the first of the month, we use the ordinal number primo (first). 

E si dice: il primo luglio, il primo agosto, il primo settembre.

And one says: the first of July, the first of August, the first of September.

Caption 28, Marika spiega Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

 Play Caption

 

And if we are talking about the first few days of a month, we can say it like this with the plural of primo (note we use the preposition di (of)):

I primi di gennaio (the first days of January)

 

I mesi che ci interessano sono quelli di metà marzo, aprile, maggio e i primi di giugno.

The months that interest us here are half of March, April, May, and the first [days] of June.

Captions 29-30, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

 Play Caption

 

It's funny this question has come up about the preposition di, because in our previous lesson we also talked about the preposition di and how it is common to use it when talking about saying "yes" and "no." In that case, too, it's an option. Learning which option works better comes with a lot of listening and repeating, and keeping your eyes and ears open. We thank the learner who wrote in about this topic!

Di is one of those prepositions that most learners of Italian struggle with, so don't feel bad if you often get it wrong. You are not alone! Non sei solo/sola!

Continue Reading

Che as a conjunction

The more Italian you learn, the more you start noticing the little words. Often these are little words that could be used in English but are frequently omitted. We'll be looking at several of them, but let's start with the conjunction che. It is, indeed, a conjunction, but it can also be a pronoun or even an adjective in some cases. Most of the time it will mean "that" or "which," but it can also correspond to the relative pronoun "that" or "who." It can also mean "what?".

 

Che: Optional in English

In Italian, we can't omit che, but in English, we can omit its equivalent, sometimes.

Mi dispiace che m'hanno bocciato.

I'm sorry they flunked me.

Caption 22, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 13

 Play Caption

 

The translation could have been:

I'm sorry that they flunked me.

 

1) There is a little error in the previous example. Maybe you can see why he flunked! What should he have said? (It's an error that lots of people make every day, so don't worry if you don't see it.)

 

Ma come faccio a entrare nella divisa che m'hai dato? Eh?

So how am I supposed to fit into the uniform you gave me? Huh?

Caption 38, La Ladra EP.11 Un esame importante - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

So how am I supposed to fit into the uniform that you gave me? Huh?

 

While this second translation isn't wrong, we don't need the "that." 

 

2) What if the speaker were talking to more than one person. What might she have said?

 

Here's another example:

Supponiamo che stiamo preparando una pasta alla carbonara per quattro persone, quindi ci serviranno trecento grammi di pancetta, cinquecento grammi di pasta.

Let's assume we're preparing some pasta alla carbonara for four people, so we'll need three hundred grams of bacon, five hundred grams of pasta.

Captions 1-3, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

We could have translated it like this: 

Let's assume that we're preparing some pasta alla carbonara for four people, so we'll need three hundred grams of bacon, five hundred grams of pasta.

 

Typical contexts

Typically, one of the cases where Italian uses the conjunction che and English does not is when using the verb "to know." Let's look at some examples. 

Lo sai che abbiamo bisogno di te. -Sta sbattuta, Elisa.

You know we need you. -She's in bad shape, Elisa.

Caption 33, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 20

 Play Caption

 

It would be just as correct to say:

You know that we need you. -She's in bad shape, Elisa.

We just tend not to.

 

Here's an example in the imperfetto (simple past):

Sapevi che ti stavamo cercando.

You knew we were looking for you.

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 9

 Play Caption

 

It could have been translated as:

You knew that we were looking for you.

 

Another typical but "hypothetical" context

We have to keep in mind that in many cases, the conjunction che takes the subjunctive. This happens primarily with verbs that indicate uncertainty. This may be new for you, in which case, go ahead and check out the several lessons Yabla offers about the subjunctive.

 

So if instead of using the verb sapere (to know) which indicates certainty, we use the verb pensare (to think), we are in another grammatical sphere, or we could say, "mood." The congiuntivo (subjunctive mood).

Io... io penso che Karin sia andata via apposta.

I... I think that Karin went away on purpose.

Caption 43, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 19

 Play Caption

 

In this case, the translator did use "that" in English, but she could have chosen not to (which might have been more natural):

I... I think Karin went away on purpose.

 

3) What if you were to use the verb sapere in the above sentence?

4) What if the person were named Alfredo instead of Karin? Use both sapere and pensare.

 

Che meaning "who" or "whom"

When che means "who" or "whom," we are probably talking about a (relative) pronoun, not a conjunction. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter. What we do need to keep in mind is that, while we also have the pronoun chi meaning "who" or "whom" (with a preposition), when it's a relative pronoun, it's che

 

Sì, al TG della sera hanno parlato di quel ragazzo che hanno ucciso. Assomiglia molto a uno che viene spesso...

Yes. On the evening news they talked about that boy they killed. He really looks like someone who often comes...

Captions 39-40, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

This is a bit tricky because in the example above, it would be a little bit awkward to fit in "whom" or "who." But it's interesting that we need the che in Italian to make the sentence make sense.

 

Yes. On the evening news they talked about that boy whom they killed. He really looks like someone who often comes...

 

Of course, a lot of Americans use "that" instead of "who" or "whom." It would still be awkward. It should be mentioned that in the previous example, "the boy" is the object, and that's when the che is omitted in English. But when it's the subject, we do need it. 

Be', scusa se... se non t'abbiamo avvertito prima, ma c'è Valeria che deve dirti una cosa.

Well, sorry if... if we didn't let you know beforehand, but here's Valeria who has to tell you something.

Captions 37-38, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

Of course, the purpose of Yabla translations is to help you make sense of the Italian you hear and read. Sometimes taking a look at how our own language works can help, too. And when we are translating from English to Italian, we need to call on words we are omitting, so it can get tricky.

Hopefully, this lesson has helped you to be just a bit more aware of the word che. It's a word that means plenty of things, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. And if you have some particular questions about che, please let us know and we'll try to shed some light on them. newlsetter@yabla.com

Quiz solutions

1) Mi dispiace che mi abbiano bocciato.

This may be open to question because the kid knows they flunked him, but some would argue that the subjunctive should have been used.

2) Lo sapete che abbiamo bisogno di voi. -Sta sbattuta, Elisa.

3) Io... io so che Karin è andata via apposta.

4) Io... io penso che Alfredo sia andato via apposta.

4b) Io... io so che Alfredo è andato via apposta.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

7 Ways to Share Information in Italian

We've talked about noticing things or not in various ways.

And we mentioned a couple of standalone phrases or expressions regarding noticing things, such as:

Ti rendi conto (do you realize)?

C'hai fatto caso (did you notice)?

Non c'ho fatto caso (I didn't notice).

 

There are other ways to call someone's attention to something, give them information, or a warning about something. Here are 7. We note that these verbs are almost always followed by the conjunction che (that). Since we are not talking about hypotheses, but rather statements of fact, we don't use the subjunctive in this case, as we often do after che

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

New feature: At the end of each example, there's a little grammar question, giving you the chance to expand on the example itself. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page. Don't worry if they give you trouble, as they are aimed at more advanced learners. It may be an opportunity to find out what you don't know and to ask us questions! We'll be glad to oblige.

1) Far notare

We looked at notare in another lesson. Instead of using notare (to notice) by itself, in the imperative, for example, we can say far notare (to "make someone notice," to point out). There is often a particle representing the object pronoun and the preposition in the mix. In following example, Daniela is pointing out something to her class so she uses the second person plural vi (to you). Note that it comes before the verb!

Infine, vi faccio notare che "in effetti", come espressione a sé stante, come espressione singola, senza aggiungere altre parole dopo, si usa per affermare che si è convinti di qualcosa.

To finish up, I will point out to you that "in effetti," as a standalone expression, as an expression on its own, without adding other words after it, is used to affirm that we are convinced of something.

Captions 47-51, Corso di italiano con Daniela Infatti - In effetti - Part 4

Play Caption

 

Q1) If Daniela were giving a private lesson, and thus were speaking to just one person, what do you think she would say? 

2) Far presente

Similar to far notare is fare presente. I'm calling your attention to some fact or situation. I'm presenting you with some information. I'm making you aware of it.

Ottimo lavoro, Arianna. Ti ringrazio per avermi fatto presente la situazione.

Great work, Arianna. Thank you for letting me know about the situation.

Captions 45-46, Italiano commerciale Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Q2) If I were speaking on behalf of my company, how could I change this sentence?

3) Segnalare

Ma anche la città di Genova, con i suoi vicoli, è molto affascinante e da segnalare anche l'Acquario di Genova, che è molto famoso.

But also the city of Genoa, with its alleys, is very appealing and one should also mention the Genoa Aquarium, which is very famous.

Captions 79-80, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

Play Caption

In the previous example, we could have translated it with "to point out" or "to call attention to."

 

Q3) If you were telling one other person about about the Genoa acquarium, what could you say? This is harder than the previous example, and there is not only one possibility.

4) Avvertire

Signor Pitagora, La volevo avvertire che per trovare i soldi per la sua operazione, mio fratello ha rinunciato a tutti i diritti sull'azienda.

Mister Pitagora, I wanted to let you know that to get the money for your operation, my brother gave up all his rights to the company.

Captions 95-97, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 15

 Play Caption

There are other nuances of avvertire, but for now we will stick with the one that means "to warn," "to let someone know."  You are turning someone's attention to something. Avvertire can be used with a menacing tone, as a warning.

 

Q4) The example uses the (singular) polite form (which is actually the third person singular), but what if you were telling a colleague or friend the same thing? What might you say?

5) Comunicare

I fratelli Troisgros, quando comunicai loro che volevo tornare a Milano, ci rimasero male.

The Troisgros brothers, when I communicated to them that I wanted to return to Milan, were disappointed.

Captions 45-46, L'arte della cucina I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 17

 Play Caption

This is a cognate that is easy to understand, but in addition to its meaning "to communicate" in general, Italians often use it to let you know something, sort of like avvertire. It might have been more authentic to translate it as "when I let them know that I wanted to return to Milan..." or "when I informed them..."

This is an interesting example because it contains the verb comunicare (to communicate) in the passato remoto (remote past tense), first person singular. And in addition, the object personal pronoun is the third person plural. We don't see this very often in everyday conversation.

 

Q5) It would be perhaps more common these days to hear this kind of sentence expressed in the passato prossimo, which, we recall, is used, not as the present perfect in English, but as the simple past tense: something over and done with. Try conveying this same message using the passato prossimo.

6) Avvisare

Be', ma allora dobbiamo subito avvisare qualcuno, eh.

Well, so then we should alert someone right away, huh.

Caption 35, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Q6) In the previous example, we don't know who to alert. But we do have to alert someone. What if we do know who to alert? Let's say we have already been talking about that person, say, someone's father— Masculine, singular. How could we construct this sentence? There's more than one correct solution.

7) Informare

Another cognate is of course, informare. So if nothing else comes to mind, informare works as a great verb for letting someone know something.

Be', ho dovuto informare tutti i nostri attuali inserzionisti che tutti i contratti futuri subiranno un aumento del prezzo del trenta per cento.

Well, I've had to inform all our current advertisers that all future contracts will undergo a thirty percent increase in cost.

Captions 21-22, Italiano commerciale Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Eh... -Va bene, va bene, va bene, tenetemi informato.

Uh... -OK. OK. OK. Keep me informed.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

In the previous example, we have a new element: the verb tenere (to hold, to keep). It's pretty close to how we do it in English, which is great news, vero?

 

Q7) What if you are telling just one person to keep you informed? How would you say that?

 

As you can see, each verb has a slightly different meaning, but all are used to call attention to something and to share information. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Answers:

A1) Ti faccio notare che...

A2) Ti ringrazio per averci fatto presente la situazione.

A3) e ti segnalo anche l'acquario...

e ti posso anche segnalare l'acquario...

A4) Susanna, ti volevo avvertire che...

A5) I fratelli Troisgros, quando ho comunicato loro che volevo tornare a Milano, ci sono rimasti male.​

A6) Be', ma allora lo dobbiamo  avvisare subito, eh.

Be', ma allora dobbiamo  avvisarlo subito, eh.

A7) Tienimi informato (or if you are a female: tienimi informata).

 

What are some expressions you use everyday that you wish you knew how to say in Italian? Let us know and we'll try to provide some answers. 

Continue Reading

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

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

 

Notare

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

E Lei non ha notato niente di strano?

And you didn't notice anything strange?

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

 Play Caption

 

Accorgersi

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

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

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

Captions 12-13, Francesca alla guida - Part 4

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Rendersi conto

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

Farci caso or fare caso di qualcosa

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 

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

Non ci far caso. Non farci caso.

Don't pay attention to that. Ignore it.

 

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

Non ci faccia caso, è fatta così.

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

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

 Play Caption

 

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.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Continue Reading

Using prepositions a and in with cities and countries

We have talked about the prepositions in and a separately in previous lessons. Let's finally talk about when to use the preposition in and when to use a when referring to places like cities, countries, continents, regions, etc. This is tricky for lots of us, and it's easy to make mistakes. 

 

If you are subscribed to Yabla, you will want to check out these two lessons on this topic:

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 1 of 2

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2 of 2

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We generally use the preposition a (to, at) with names of cities and minor islands.

Bologna is a city, so we use a.

 

Perché è partito da Roma ed è arrivato qui a Bologna.

Because it left from Rome and it arrived here in Bologna.

Caption 17, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

For example: "When are you going to Bologna?"

Caption 26, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 

We use in with the names of continents, states, nations, regions, and larger islands.

 

The regions of Italy

In Toscana, come in altre regioni d'Italia, molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.

In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy, many families have olive trees of their own.

Captions 1-2, L'olio extravergine di oliva Il frantoio

 Play Caption

 

Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'aperitivo

 Play Caption

 

Continents, nations

Africa is a continent, so we use in.

Vorrei tanto andare in Africa.

I would very much like to go to Africa.

Caption 6, Marika spiega Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Canada is a country, so we use in.

Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare, poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada,

Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting, then we went two more times to Canada,

Captions 31-32, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

 

Sometimes a city and a state or country will have the same name, so it can get confusing.

La città di New York è nello stato di New York (New York City is in New York State).

 

So If I am planning to go on vacation to visit New York City, I might say: 

Vado a New York per le vacanze di Natale (I'm going to New York for the Christmas vacation).

 

In Italian it's clear that I mean the city because I am using a as a preposition, but in English, we have to guess, or specify. New York, in this case, is a city. But New York is also a state. Since it's easy to get confused, Americans will usually specify if they're not talking about the city, and will say New York State. If we translate that into Italian, it will be lo Stato di New York

Buffalo è in New York (Buffalo is in New York State).

L'empire state building è a New York [City] (the Empire State Building is in New York [City]).

 

Someone who has family on Long Island will still say New York as if it were the city. The airport is certainly in the city, at least officially. And incidentally, Long Island is a relatively small island, so we would say:

Ho vissuto a Long Island per sedici anni (I lived on Long Island for sixteen years).

 

Here are some quick, mixed examples:

 

Sei mai stato a Parigi (have you ever been to Paris)?

Sei mai stata in Francia (have you ever been to France)?

Vivo a Vienna (I live in Vienna).

Un mio cugino è appena andato in Giappone (a cousin of mine just went to Japanma non andrà a Tokyo (but he isn't going to Tokyo). 

Quasi quasi mi trasferisco in Nuova Zelanda (I might just move to New Zealand).

Da dieci anni vivo a Como, in Lombardia.​ (I've been living in Como, in Lombardy, for ten years).

Arianna ha studiato in Inghilterra per qualche anno. Arianna studied in London for a couple of years.

 

The U.S.A.

Since the United States is a coveted destination for Italian tourists, at least in normal times, it's important to know how to refer to that country in Italian, and what prepositions to use.

 

When we say the name of this country, we include the article "the." The United States of America. So when we use the proper Italian preposition (in since we are talking about a nation), we have to modify it to include the definite article: 

Vado negli Stati Uniti [d'America]. (I'm going to the United States [of America].

 

The d'America part is usually left out in both Italian and English, and to make it even easier, Italians also often just say America to mean the United States.

Vado in America per le vacanze (I'm going to America for the vacation).

 

Some Italians use USA as a word and pronounce it as they see it. For example, here is a headline from Google. It may or may not be correct, but you will hear it said plenty of times:

Come trovare un lavoro negli USA (how to find work in the USA)?

 

Remember that in contrast to English where "in," "to," and "at" are entirely different, Italian uses the same preposition (be it a or in) to mean any or all of these.

 

Please let us know what cities, countries or other places you are confused about when using Italian prepositions, and we will answer as soon as we can.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

Using the preposition a with a definite article

We have talked about the main uses of the preposition a, and that it can mean "at," "in," or "to," as well as "in the manner of," so in this lesson, we will see how this preposition is transformed when it is followed by a definite article. 

 

Here is how we combine the preposition a with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"):

a + il = al

a + lo = allo

a + l’ = all’

a + la = alla

a + i = ai

a + gli = agli

a + le = alle

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Let's look at each combination in context:

Al is the combination of the preposition a and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.

E durante l'estate, il porto di Maratea diventa un ritrovo, soprattutto per i ragazzi, i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani, che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place, above all for the kids, the younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones, who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena al porto di Maratea

 Play Caption

 

In the following example, note that before the noun there is a possessive pronoun that has to agree with the noun, as well as an adjective.  The two people in the video are probably having a drink together. The clink their glasses and say "to your..." and in this case we use the preposition a

Allora al tuo prossimo concerto.

To your next concert then.

Caption 22, Milena e Mattia Al ristorante - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Allo is the combination of the preposition a and the (masculine singular) definite article lo.

 

Oggi ci troviamo allo stadio comunale Renzo Barbera di Palermo.

Today we're at the municipal stadium Renzo Barbera of Palermo.

Caption 2, Adriano Forza Palermo

 Play Caption

 

 

In the following example, even though we say il modo, not lo modo,  we do use a plus the definite article lo and it becomes allo. This is because first we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.

Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk [in] the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

 Play Caption

 

All' is the combination of the prepositon a and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Anche lui all'inizio pensava di essere un uomo libero:

At the beginning he also thought he was a free man,

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  This can be a headache for learners:

All'entrata del Palazzo Vecchio, ci sono due statue

At the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, there are two statues

Caption 23, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Alla is the combination of the preposition a and the feminine singular definite article la.

Here is what you say when you want to say, "See you next time!"

Ciao a tutti, alla prossima.

Bye, everyone, see you next time. [literally, "to the next"]

Caption 76, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

 Play Caption

 

If you visit Bologna, you might want to try le tagliatelle alla bolognese.  There is a word that gets left out of this phrase but is implied: la maniera. So it is alla maniera (in the manner of) 

We use alla with an adjective in Italian where in English we might use an adverb or adverbial phrase:

alla cieca (blindly)

alla buona (in a laid back, casual way)

 

If, instead of saying allo stesso modo, we want to say alla stessa maniera, (which means something similar: "in the same way"), note that even though stessa begins with an s + a consonant, the noun is feminine and so we say la stessa maniera, alla stessa maniera. But if we think about the fact that la stessa is easy to say, and il stesso would be difficult, it makes a certain amount of sense:... it's easier to say. In fact if we think about it, the flow of a language is an important factor in its evolution.

 

Now we will move on to a plus a plural definite article.

Ai is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article i.

Come tutte le nonne, fa tanti regali ai nipoti.

Like all grandmothers, she gives many presents to her grandchildren.

Caption 28, Adriano Nonna

 Play Caption

 

Let's note that lots of times, Italians use a normal definite article, when in English, we would use a possessive adjective (as in the previous example). 

Agli is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Agli is hard to say for lots of people. And as an aside, agli is also the plural of aglio (garlic). Don't worry. We mostly use aglio (garlic) in the singular, just like in English.

Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo. Sì, agli amici.

Cristina told us that you were able to sell a few of his paintings. Yes, to friends.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 5

 Play Caption

Alle is the combination of the preposition a and the plural feminine definite article le.

One important way we use this combination preposition is when talking about time. The hour is said in the plural which makes sense if we think back to times when people would tell time by counting how many times the bell would chime.

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano Giornata

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Practice:

If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  

 

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

Continue Reading

Let's talk about the Italian preposition a

In a previous lesson we talked about the preposition in, and in a subsequent lesson we talked about how we modify the preposition in when a definite article follows it. The preposition a works in a similar way, and sometimes means the same thing as in, but certainly not always. 

Places

A is used to refer to places, both going somewhere and being somewhere. Sound familiar? Yes. Just like in, a can mean "to" (indicating direction to a place) or "at" (indicating being in a place). Consider this short example.

 

OK, ho finito. Vado a casa (OK, I'm done. I'm going home).

Che bello! Finalmente sono a casa (how great! I'm finally home)!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Note that if I say sono in casa, I imply that I am inside the house, whereas if I say sono a casa, it might mean I am at home, but outside in the garden!

 

If we look at the preposition a in the dictionary, there's a long list of meanings, or rather, uses. But in this lesson, we'll look at just a few of the most common ways you need to know how to use this preposition.

 

 

We also say a scuola with no article. This is similar to English.

 

Sono a scuola (I'm at school)

Sto andando a scuola (I'm going to school).

 

Although these locations without an article are exceptions, they are important ones, since most of us have a home and many of us go to school or have kids or friends who go to school. Another perhaps less crucial one is a teatro ("to" or "at the theater").

 

In most other cases regarding places, we do need a definite article after the preposition, as in:

A me e a Vladi piace andare a ballare la sera, uscire con gli amici, andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema e fare molto sport.

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night, going out with our friends, going to see a good film at the movies and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano la sua ragazza

 Play Caption

 

Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

From Umbria to Tuscany, it's but a short way.

Caption 2, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 4 - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

Watch this space!

  • In the next lesson we will give you the rundown (with videoclip examples) on how we modify a when followed by a definite article, just as we did with the preposition in. However, even in this lesson, we can't avoid looking at some examples where we do use a definite article.
  •  
  • We will also devote a specific lesson to the prickly topic of prepositions preceding cities, states, countries, and regions. Knowing when to use in and when to use a is a common challenge for those of us learning Italian, even if we have lived in Italy for years and years.

 

But for now, let's look at some other ways we use the preposition a.

Time

We use a to talk about "when" or "until when." 

For example, when we talk about "at what time" something is going to happen, we use a and in this case we use a definite article when talking about "at what time." 

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano Giornata

Play Caption

 

Why is it le otto? Isn't that plural? Yes. We use the feminine plural definite article (lebecause there's a "hidden" word: le ore (the hours). Think of a clock striking the hours. So, yes. Time, when considered by the clock, is expressed in the plural, and of course, it takes some getting used to. For more about telling time, see this video from Marika.

 

But if we are talking about noon or midnight, then it's in the singular and there is no article. 

Io mi ricordo che a casa mia si mangiava, allora, il, a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo, la carne, il contorno e la frutta,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the, at noon we'd eat: the first course, meat, vegetable and fruit,

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

We also use a when we talk about until what time something will go on.

Sì, ma fino a mezzanotte il commissario sono io.

Yes, but until midnight, I'm the commissioner.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

When we mention the months or a holiday, we use a:

Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse anche a Ferragosto.

It seemed as though there was fog even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme. Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre, perché l'anno dell'u'... l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri. -Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio, e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once. Different installments that are due every semester, because the school year... the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters. -The first that goes from September to January, and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena sistema universitario italiano

 Play Caption

 

How?

And finally, we use a when we say what something is like, what something is made of, or in what way something is done. We often use "with" for this in English, or we use an adjective. This topic is addressed in the Yabla lesson: A Righe or a Quadretti?

 

We talk about olio di oliva spremuto a freddo (cold-pressed olive oil).

 

In the following example, Monica Bellucci is describing how she goes about her career. Note that since istinto (instinct) starts with a vowel, she adds a d to the a!

 

Ma io non ho una formula, guarda, vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

Well I don't have a formula, look, I go... I go along very much by instinct.

Caption 47, That's Italy Episode 1 - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Expressions

Here are two expressions, one with a and one with in, that essentially mean the same thing. You just have to remember which is which. They are worth memorizing.

Ad ogni modo, mi piace tanto.

In any case, I like her a lot.

Caption 36, Adriano la sua ragazza

 Play Caption

 

In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle, ho deciso di prendere Ulisse,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing, I decided to take Ulisse,

Captions 28-29, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson. A presto!

Continue Reading

Using the preposition in with a definite article

We recently talked about the preposition in: what it means and how to use it. While we don't always use an article with the noun following it, we often do. And when we do use in with a definite article, we combine the preposition and the article to form what we call una preposizione articolata (an "articled" preposition). 

 

Basically, the n, instead of being at the end of the preposition in, gets moved to the beginning of the word and is followed by an e. After that, the ending will change according to the gender and number of the definite article, as well as whether the word following it starts with a vowel.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Here's the list:

 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

in plus a masculine singular article il

Nel frattempo, riempiamo una pentola d'acqua

In the meantime, we'll fill a pot with water

Caption 21, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

We say nel because it's il frattempo. But here's a tip. Actually, we rarely say il frattempo. Most of the time you will find the noun frattempo together with the preposition nel. It's curious because the noun frattempo already comes from another preposition fra (between) and the noun tempo (time). In English we can say "in the meantime" or "meanwhile," which mean almost the same thing. But we need to translate both of these as nel frattempo or, alternatively, nel mentre, which means the same thing.

 

in plus the masculine singular article lo

Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.

This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.

Captions 16-17, Arianna e Marika Il lavoro di doppiatrice

 Play Caption

 

We say nello because we say lo studio (the studio). So here, you have to pay attention to the first letter of the word following the preposition. It will start with an S plus a consonant, or a Z, and sometimes Y.

 

"Quanti libri hai nello zaino?

"How many books do you have in your backpack?

Caption 9, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Oppure nello yogurt, la mela sciolta diciam'... ridotta a polpa nello yogurt, sempre sul viso, è idratante.

Or else in some yogurt, an apple dissolved, let's say... reduced to a pulp in some yogurt, again on the face, is moisturising.

Caption 22, Enea Mela - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Il tasto "play" e "pause" si trova esattamente nello stesso punto del pannello di controllo.

The "play" and "pause" button is located in exactly the same spot on the control panel.

Captions 15-16, Italian Intro Serena

 Play Caption

 

in plus the masculine or feminine singular definite article l'

We use l' when the first letter of the word following the article starts with a vowel. We double the L and add an apostrophe.

Nell'ultimo ventennio, i coronavirus si sono imposti all'attenzione del mondo in tre momenti precisi:

In the last twenty years, coronaviruses have caught the attention of the entire world in three precise moments:

Captions 27-29, COVID-19 Domande frequenti - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Allora, può intagliare così, può intagliare un pomodoro così, mettere una pentola d'acqua a bollire e tenere i pomodori nell'acqua bollente per dieci minuti.

So, they can make an incision like this, they can cut a notch in a tomato like so, put up a pot of water to boil, and keep the tomatoes in the boiling water for ten minutes.

Captions 10-14, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

in plus the feminine singular article la

È da circa otto minuti che i nostri spaghetti stanno cuocendo nella pentola.

It's been about eight minutes that our spaghetti has been cooking in the pot.

Caption 38, Adriano Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

 Play Caption

 

in plus the masculine plural definite article i

E due luoghi sacri si trovano proprio nei punti più alti della città:

And two sacred places are found right at the highest points of the city:

Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

in plus the feminine plural definite article le

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi e poi i dodici apostoli sono suddivisi in gruppi di tre.

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids and then, the twelve apostles are divided into groups of three.

Captions 10-13, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Olivetti è sempre riuscito nelle cose che ha intrapreso.

Olivetti has always succeeded in the things he has undertaken.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 23

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

In future lessons, we will talk about other common prepositions that follow these same principles.

Continue Reading

Let's talk about the Italian preposition in

One thing that's always tricky when learning a new language is how to use prepositions. We are especially aware of this when we hear Italians speaking English, since they often get prepositions mixed up. 

 

In your own language you rarely get it wrong. You just know. 

What's confusing for English speakers learning Italian, is that in can translate as different prepositions depending on the situation.

 

In can mean "in"

 

Lots of times in means "in." 

Buongiorno. Oggi siamo in Toscana.

Hello. Today we're in Tuscany.

Caption 1, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

OK.  "We're in Tuscany - Siamo in Toscana. That's easy, but look at the title of the video. In cucina. In Italian, there is no article in this case, but in English there is. 

Dov'è Arianna (where is Arianna)?

È in cucina (she's in the kitchen).

 

The kitchen is a place in the house. The same goes for lots of other places.

 

  • Il mio capo è in ufficio (my boss is in the office).
  • C'è qualcuno in bagno (there is someone in the bathroom).
  • Ho messo l'acqua in frigo (I put the water in the fridge).
  • Durante la pandemia, sono stata chiusa in casa (during the pandemic, I was stuck in the house).
  • Ho una cyclette in camera (I have an exercise bike in the bedroom).

 

The following example uses in zona, a great way to say "in the area." You might ask someone on the phone it they are in zona. Then you can meet up! Zone - zona is a nice true cognate, even though we will translate it as "area" in many cases.

Siamo nati qui in zona, in un paese qui vicino di Praia a Mare.

We were born in this area, in the nearby village of Praia a Mare.

Captions 3-4, Gente al Porto di Maratea

 Play Caption

 

The seasons

We also use in to mean "in" when talking about the seasons:

Probabilmente preferirei una bella vacanza in montagna, allora. Un po' d'aria fresca, i boschi, i ruscelli. -Eh be', qualcosa della montagna piace anche a me. Ad esempio, in autunno, andare a prendere i funghi.

I'd probably rather have a nice vacation in the mountains, then. A bit of fresh air, the woods, streams. -Oh well, I like some things about the mountains too. For example, in autumn, going to get mushrooms.

Captions 21-24, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

We can also note from the previous example that to talk about going on vacation in the mountains, Italians not only leave out the article, they use the singular: "mountain" — montagna. Also, not in the example, Italians use in vacanza to mean "on vacation." They could also say in ferie to mean the same thing.

 

Andiamo in vacanza la settimana prossima.

Were going on vacation next week.

 

In can sometimes mean "at"

Lavora in banca (he works at the bank). 

In can sometimes mean "on"

Sono in spiaggia (I'm on the sand by the waterfront)

In can mean "by"

 

In can mean "by" when we are talking about a means of transportation:

 

A Parigi ci vai in treno o in aereo (are you going to Paris by train or by plane)?

Vado al lavoro in bici (I go to work by bike) ma quando piove vado in macchina (but when it rains I go by car).

 

In can mean "to"

This is where it gets tricky because Italians use in when they are going someplace but they use the same preposition when they are already there!

 

Devo andare in banca (I have to go to the bank).

Non posso parlare al telefono perché sono in banca (I can't talk on the phone because I'm at the bank).

Le donne anziane del villaggio vanno in chiesa tutte le sere (the elderly women of the village go to church every evening).

Quando sono in chiesa, mi copro le spalle (when I am in a church, I cover my shoulders).

 

All the cases above have in common the absence of an article between the preposition in and the noun following it. They mostly have to do with places, seasons, or means of transportation.

 

In followed by an article

But sometimes we do need need an article, for example:

in un attimo (in an instant)

 

When we have an indefinite article following in, both the preposition in (in, at, by, to) and the indefinite article un or una (a) stay separate and intact.

However when in is followed by a definite article in the singular or plural, the in gets combined with the article as follows: 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 

 

Ciao ragazzi e benvenuti nella mia cucina.

Hi guys and welcome to my kitchen.

Caption 1, Adriano Pasta alla carbonara - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

These prepositions merit a lesson of their own, so stay tuned!

Continue Reading

Living Together: la convivenza

Some languages use one word to say something, another might need 2 or more to say the same thing. In the case of "living together," Italian has a word that sums it up nicely: la convivenza as a noun, or convivere as a verb. In modern English, we call it "living together," but a more official but perhaps outdated noun would be "cohabitation."  The question comes up in the TV movie Sposami, where a young couple is having trouble planning their marriage in a way that will satisfy both sets of parents.

La convivenza as opposed to marriage

 

Perché non pensi a una bella convivenza, eh? Dai!

Why not think about just living together, huh? Come on!

Caption 58, Sposami EP 1 - Part 18

 Play Caption

 

Taking apart this verb and noun makes it easy to understand:

vivere (to live) + con (with) = convivere (to live with, to live together)

 

Convivere is not always about people living together

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The verb convivere is used to mean "to coexist." So not necessarily "together," but at the same time, in the same space.

Ora, i resti dell'antico tempio e della primitiva cattedrale sono incastonati all'interno e all'esterno: elementi pagani e cristiani che si fondono, convivono...

Now, the remains of the ancient temple and the early cathedral are built-in on the inside and the outside: pagan and Christian elements that fuse together, that coexist...

Captions 9-10, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

We also use convivere when we have to bear, endure, tolerate, accept, or live with a situation or condition. Right now people are "living with" the presence of the coronavirus.

Si convive (one lives with it).

Dovremo convivere con il coronavirus per parecchio tempo ancora (we will have to live with the coronavirus for some time yet).

 

Convivente: what kind of word is it? (for grammar nerds)

People who are living together may be called conviventi. It describes the state

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi siamo già conviventi.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we're already living together.

Captions 6-7, La Tempesta film - Part 16

 Play Caption

 

Conviventi is actually the present participle of convivere. We don't think about the present participle in English much, but it does exist. It is part of the present continuous or progressive tense and ends in "-ing." It looks just like a gerund but works differently.

 

We could put the previous example in the present continuous, but we would need a different verb (stare instead of essere, both translating to "to be").

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi stiamo già convivendo.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we are already living together.

 

Here's the difference:

A gerund is a form of a verb used as a noun, whereas a participle is a form of verb used as an adjective or as a verb in conjunction with an auxiliary verb. In English, the present participle has the same form as the gerund, and the difference is in how they are used.

 

Why is this important to know? In English it doesn't matter much--we know how to use these words and we don't much care what they are called. But it can help us understand the Italian present participle, which, unlike English, does have a different form, and often causes confusion for learners.

If you look at a conjugation chart, at the top you will see something like this:

 

convivere
It is conjugated like: vivere
infinite: convivere
gerundio: convivendo
participio presents: convivente
participio passato: convissuto
forma pronominale: (n/a)
 
We recommend reading this online article, just have a good clear idea about what a present participle is in English and how it is used. As Italian learners, we found it helpful for making some connections between the languages.

For those of you following Daniela's lessons, there is one about participles

 

Il participio anche ha due tempi, il presente e il passato. Al presente, il participio è "andante" e al passato sarebbe "andato".

The participle has two different tenses, the present and the past. In the present, the participle is "going" and in the past it would be "gone."

Captions 7-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Modi Indefiniti - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

That's it for this lesson. We hope you have learned something useful, and we encourage you to write to us with questions, doubts or ideas. newsletter@yabla.com.

 

 

Continue Reading

A Tricky but Useful Pronominal Verb Volerci

It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.

 

As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!

 

This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Volerci = volere + ci

With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.

 

Ci vuole molta pazienza

You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].

It takes a lot of patience.

A lot of patience is required.

Caption 25, Professioni e mestieri - Belle Arti -Tecniche di decorazione

 Play Caption

 

One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural.

 

Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?

How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?

How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?

Caption 17, Marika spiega - La particella NE

 Play Caption

 

We can use it in the negative:

 

Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.

You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.

The article is not necessary in the singular.

Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi

 Play Caption

 

The Passive Voice can Help 

If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.

 

I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali

The pine nuts, which are really special,

ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.

and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.

Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola - Il pesto genovese

 Play Caption

 

Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or "you need."

 

Common Expressions with Volerci

Volerci is very popular in the expression:

 

Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).

That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.

 

Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."

 

A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla

At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing

e un numero di magica magia

and a number with magical magic

era proprio quel che ci voleva

was exactly what was needed

per chiudere in bellezza la festa.

to conclude the party nicely.

Captions 30-33, Dixieland - La magia di Tribo

 Play Caption

 

Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say,  "How hard can it be?"

Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?

 

Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè?

The cows are mooing. -So what?

Vanno munte.

They have to be milked.

Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa.

Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

-Sei sicura?

Are you sure?

-E sì, che ci vuole?

-Yeah, how hard could it be?

L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.

I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.

Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one). 

 

If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva!  (that's exactly what I needed!).

 

TIP

We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!

 

In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.

Continue Reading

Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 3

We've been looking at conjugated verbs followed by verbs in the infinitive. Some can be connected directly as we saw in Part 1, some are connected with the preposition a, as we saw in Part 2, and others are connected with the preposition di, which we will look at in this lesson. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Verbs that take di before a verb in the infinitive:

Let's start with an example. 

 

Ti ho portato il millefoglie.

I brought you a millefeuille.

Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi

While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready

e poi usciamo, eh?

and then we'll leave, huh?

Captions 18-20, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

 Play Caption

 

Finisco is the conjugated verb (finire) and preparare is in the infinitive. We have the formula: conjugated verb + di + verb in the infinitive. Attenzione: The verb preparare is attached to the personal pronoun mi (myself) because in this case, the verb prepararsi is reflexive and means "to get [oneself] ready." 

 

One important verb we use with the preposition di is decidere (to decide).

 

Anita, per migliorare il suo livello di italiano,

Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian

ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia,

decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy,

dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare

where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing

con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti

with my friends, my family, my relatives,

e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana

and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture

e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.

and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.

Captions 36-41, Adriano - Adriano e Anita

 Play Caption

 

There are plenty of important and useful verbs that take the preposition di before the infinitive, and you can find a list here, but here are a few more examples from Yabla videos:

 

Oppure: chiudo l'ombrello, perché ha smesso di piovere.

Or else, “I close the umbrella because it has stopped raining.”

Caption 7, Marika spiega - Il verbo chiudere

 Play Caption

 

Let's remember that although cercare basically means "to look for," "to seek," it also means "to try" or, we could say, "to seek to." We use the preposition di in this case.

 

Quando vai in paese, cerca di scoprire qualcosa di interessante.

When you go into town try to find out something interesting.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società

 Play Caption

 

Another great verb is credere, which basically means "to believe," but when it's used in conjunction with a verb in the infinitive, we often translate it with "to think," as in:

 

Ferma! Sta ferma! Dove credi di andare?

Stop! Stand still! Where do you think you're going?

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

 Play Caption

 

In fact, you could say the exact same thing with the verb pensare, which also takes the preposition di before an infinitive. 

Dove pensi di andare?

 

Sperare is another great verb that works the same way, and to close, we'll say:

Speriamo di vedervi presto su Yabla (we hope to see you soon on Yabla)!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If you're not signed up to receive our weekly newsletter announcing new videos and new lessons, you can do that here.

Continue Reading

Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 2

When we talk about verbs, we distinguish between conjugated verbs and verbs in the infinitive. In Italian, verbs in the infinitive are easily recognizable most of the time because they end in either -are, -ire, or -ere. Exceptions occur when verbs in the infinitive are combined with particelle (particles), when they are reflexive, or when they are truncated. Then, admittedly, they may be harder to recognize.

In this lesson, we are talking about the specific case of when we want to use a conjugated verb followed by a verb in the infinitive. How do we connect them?

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In some cases, we connect them directly

In part 1, we talked about combining a conjugated verb with an infinitive where no preposition is necessary. This typically occurs with the modal verbs potere (to be able to), volere (to want to) e sapere (to know how to, to be able to). Here's an example that can be useful if you are traveling in Italy.

Posso andare in bagno?

May I use (go to) the bathroom?

 

But there are also other, non-modal verbs where we don't need a preposition. See Daniela's series for examples.

Lascia fare a me!

Let me do it!

 

In other cases, we need a preposition between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive.

If we want to say the same thing we did above with a different verb, we might need a preposition, as in this example:

Permettimi di aiutarti.

Let me help you (allow me to help you).

 

There are two main prepositions we will use to connect a conjugated verb to a verb in the infinitive: di and a. Roughly, di corresponds to "of" or "from," while a corresponds to "to" or "at." These translations are not much help, though. One general rule (with many exceptions) is that verbs of movement use a to connect with a verb in the infinitive. The bottom line is, however, that you basically just have to learn these combinations little by little, by reading, by listening, and (sigh) by being corrected. 

In some cases, the same verb will change its meaning slightly by the use of one preposition or the other.

 

Non penserai mica di andare via senza salutare!

You're not thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, are you?

 

Ci penso io a comprare i biglietti.

I'll take care of buying the tickets.

 

Verbs that take the preposition a before an infinitive

In this lesson, we'll look at some important verbs that need the preposition a.

Here's the formula:

verbo coniugato + preposizione "a" + verbo all’ infinito (conjugated verb + the preposition [to, at] + verb in the infinitive)

 

aiutare (to help)

 

Per esempio, io ho un amico

For example, I have a friend

e lo aiuto a fare qualcosa dove lui ha difficoltà,

and I help him in doing something he has difficulty with,

lo aiuto a riparare la bicicletta, lo accompagno in aeroporto...

I help him repair his bicycle, I take him to the airport...

Captions 28-30, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Approfondimento Verbi Modali

 Play Caption

 

cominciare (to begin)

 

Comincia a fare il nido il povero cucù

The poor cuckoo starts making his nest

Caption 8, Filastrocca - Il canto del cucù

 Play Caption

 

continuare (to continue, to keep on) 

 

E si continua a pestare.

And you keep on crushing.

Caption 53, L'Italia a tavola - Il pesto genovese

 Play Caption

 

riuscire (to manage, to succeed, to be able)

 

Così riesco a seguire meglio la faccia

That way, I manage to follow the face better,

eh... e le labbra di chi sta parlando.

uh... and the lips of whoever is speaking.

Captions 41-42, Professioni e mestieri - il doppiaggio

 Play Caption

 

insegnare (to teach)

 

Oggi, ti insegno a cucinare la parmigiana di melanzane.

Today, I'm going to teach you to cook eggplant Parmesan.

Caption 2, Marika spiega - La Parmigiana di melanzane

 Play Caption

 

andare (to go)

 

Sì, lo diciamo a tutti e dopo andiamo a ballare.

Yes, we'll tell everyone, and afterwards we'll go dancing.

Andiamo anche a ballare.

We'll go dancing, too.

Captions 11-12, Serena - vita da universitari

 Play Caption

 

Practice

We've talked about several verbs that take the preposition a before a verb in the infinitive. Why not try forming sentences, either by improvising ad alta voce (out loud) or by writing them down? Take one of these verbs (in any conjugations you can think of) and then find a verb in the infinitive that makes sense.

Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

Mi insegneresti a ballare il tango (would you teach me to dance the tango)?

Non riesco a chiudere questa cerniera (I can't close this zipper).

 

To find charts about verbs and prepositions, here is an excellent reference.

Go to Part 3 where we talk about verbs that take the preposition di.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

What Are Virgolette? How to Use Punctuation Terms in Speech

How do we refer to punctuation or use punctuation terms when speaking Italian?

When we start a new paragraph, we say punto e a capo (period, new paragraph). This can happen if we are dictating.

Punto is how we say "full stop" or "period" in Italian.

Capo means "head," and so we are at the head of a new paragraph.

But we also use punto e a capo and similar terms metaphorically in everyday speech. Here's a lesson about that!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

A comma, on the other hand, is una virgola. While a comma works somewhat similarly between English and Italian, there is an important peculiarity to note, as we see in the following example. Instead of a decimal point, Italian employs the virgola (comma). If we look at it numerically, it's like this: English: 5.2 km, Italian: 5,2 km. 

 

Con i suoi cinque virgola due chilometri quadrati,

With its five point two square kilometers,

Alicudi è una delle più piccole isole delle Eolie.

Alicudi is one of the smallest islands of the Aeolians.

Captions 9-10, Linea Blu - Le Eolie

 Play Caption

 

By the same token, Italian employs the comma in currency: $5.50, but €5,50.

In English we use a comma in writing "one thousand": $1,000.00, but in Italian, a point or period is used. €1.000,00.

It can also be omitted. 1000,00.

 

Virgolette, on the other hand are little commas, and when we turn them upside down, they become quotation marks, or inverted commas.

So, in conversation, we might make air quotes if people can see us talking, but in Italian it's common to say tra virgolette (in quotes, or literally, "between quotation marks"). We can translate this with "quote unquote," or we can sometimes say "so-called" (cosìdetto).

 

...cioè delle costruzioni, tra virgolette temporanee.

...in other words, quote unquote temporary buildings.

Caption 38, Meraviglie - EP.2 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

E perché poi erano facili da smontare, tra virgolette.

Uh, because they were in any case easy to quote unquote dismantle.

Caption 45, Meraviglie - EP.2 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Versace è nata da un ritorno alla tradizione, tra virgolette.

Versace was created as a, quote unquote, return to tradition.

Caption 13, That's Italy - Episode 2

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

One more important thing about virgolette: In American English, most punctuation marks go inside quotation marks, but in Italian, they go on the outside. If you pay attention to the captions in Yabla videos, you will see this regularly.

 

Thanks for reading and a presto!

Continue Reading

How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 2

 
As we mentioned in part one, the first thing we need to consider about adjectives is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We said that there are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular, masculine form of the adjective.
 
This lesson will discuss the second type of adjective: the aggettivo neutro (neutral adjective). Neutral adjectives only change according to number (singular or plural). They do not change according to gender. To refresh your memory about positive adjectives, those ending in "o," see the first part of this lesson
 
Adjectives that end in "e" are trickier in one sense, but easier in another. Indeed, with adjectives that end in "e" we don't have to concern ourselves with gender, just number. We have only two types of endings: one for the singular (e), and one for the plural (i).
 
Masculine/feminine + singular = e.
 
Il mare è grande (the sea is big).
La casa è grande (the house is big).

 

Il talento è un dono enorme. Il talento è... è un dovere morale coltivarlo.

Talent is an enormous gift. Talent is... it's a moral duty to cultivate it.

Captions 75-76, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

 Play Caption
 

Piazza del Popolo è una piazza molto importante di Roma.

Piazza del Popolo is a very important square of Rome.

Caption 1, Anna presenta - Piazza del Popolo

 Play Caption
 
Masculine/feminine + plural = i.
 
I ragazzi sono tristi. (the boys are sad).
Le ragazze sono tristi. (the girls are sad).
 

...e che invece adesso è una delle parti più eleganti,

...and which now though, is one of the most elegant,

più signorili della capitale, dove ci sono le case più belle.

most exclusive parts of the capital, where there are the most beautiful houses.

Captions 4-5, Anna presenta - il ghetto ebraico e piazza mattei

 Play Caption
 
 
What are some other common Italian adjectives ending in "e?"
 
forte (strong, loud)
verde (green)
giovane (young)
triste (sad)
intelligente (intelligent)
gentile (nice)
semplice (easy, simple)
facile (easy)
felice (happy)
importante (important)
interessante (interesting)
dolce (sweet)
normale (normal)
pesante (heavy)
naturale (natural)
elegante (elegant)
 
Some learners and non-native speakers have trouble using the common Italian adjectives in this second group, especially when using the plural. These need a bit more practice and consideration. The good news is that some of these common adjectives are similar to their English counterparts and therefore easy to guess the meaning of, for instance, interessanteelegante, normale, and intelligente.
 
Practically speaking:
 
You can now take the common adjectives in the list and apply them to any nouns you can think of. The following examples will get you started. Remember to use both singular and plural nouns, and make sure to say your examples ad alta voce (out loud).
 
Il bambino è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, forte, etc.
La bambina è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, etc.
I bambini sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Le bambine sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Il libro (the book) è interessante, facile, elegante, triste, etc.
I libri sono interessanti, facili, eleganti, tristi, etc.
La serata (the evening out) è stata elegante, pesante, interessante, etc.
Le serate sono state eleganti, pesanti, interessanti, etc.
La lezione (the lesson) era interessante, pesante, importante, etc.
Le lezioni erano interessanti, pesanti, importanti, etc.
 
Exceptions: We also come across plenty of exceptions regarding endings and gender. For example, il pane (the bread) is masculine but ends in "e." Feminine nouns, on the other hand, often end in but not always. La mente (the mind) is feminine but ends in e. These kinds of nouns should probably get memorized, but the good news is that there are a great many nouns that are predictable and as a result, their adjectives are predictable, too.
 
Nouns and adjectives go together like salt and pepper, so this might be a great time to review nouns and their genders. Being sure of the gender of a noun will help you make the right decision regarding the adjective ending. Marika gives us some categories that makes gender learning a bit easier.
 
 
Take advantage of Yabla's features:
 
Interactive Subtitles:
By switching the dual subtitles on and off while viewing, you can really make them work for you. In other words, sometimes you need to understand what's happening, so you want to see captions in your own language. However, there will be times when you want to test your limits, to have fun trying to understand the Italian, with no safety net. Still other times, you will want to work on your spelling or adjective endings, and in this case, following along with the original language subtitles will be an invaluable tool.
 
Exercises:
With each video, there are exercises to help reinforce the material in the video itself. In short, by doing the vocabulary reviews and other listening exercises, including the patented dictation exercise called Scribe, you will really nail it.
 
Search:
In the videos tab, you can do a search of a word and see where it appears in the various videos in context, resulting in an immediate idea of how the word is used in everyday speech. As applied to this article about common Italian adjectives, it can be extremely helpful to see those adjectives in context! Subscribers have access to all of the videos as well as the transcripts and all the associated exercises.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 1

 
How do adjectives work in Italian?
 
First off, let's review what an adjective is and what it does. An adjective describes or modifies a noun, as opposed to an adverb, which describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 
The distinction is important because in Italian, adjectives need to agree with the nouns they describe, whereas adverbs don't. This means that the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender and number of the noun it describes. In English, we don't have this problem, so it can be tough to learn in a language where it does matter.
 
 
The first thing we need to consider is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?
 
There are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in e in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular masculine form of the adjective. 
 
If you would like to learn about adjectives in Italian, see Daniela's lessons: Don't forget: you can turn English and Italian captions on and off!
 

In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi:

In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives.

noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.

We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.

Captions 23-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi positivi e neutri

 Play Caption

 

An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).

An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).

 
The second thing we have to consider is: What's the gender of the noun we are describing? Masculine or feminine?
 
The noun that the adjective describes may be masculine or feminine. Often, a masculine noun will end in o when in the singular, but not always.
 
Il forno (the oven, the bakery) ends in "o" but il pane (the bread) ends in "e." Both are masculine, singular nouns.
 
Tip: It's always a good idea to learn the article that goes with a noun when you learn the noun. It will make using adjectives easier.
 
The third thing we have to consider is: Is the noun we are describing singular or plural?
 
This factor, together with the gender and the type of adjective (o or e / positive or neutral) will determine the ending of the adjective. That's a lot to think about, so let's look at each of the four possible endings one by one in the "positive" adjective category.
 
Adjectives that end in "o":
This is the more common of the two kinds of adjectives, so let's see how these adjective endings work.
There can be 4 different endings for this kind of adjective if the noun it describes has both a masculine and a feminine form (like il ragazzo (boy) / la ragazza (the girl) / i ragazzi (the boys / le ragazze (the girls).
 
 
Masculine + singular = o.
 

È un tipico teatro diciamo shakespeariano, con il palco rotondo al centro.

It's a typical, let's say, Shakespearean theatre, with a round stage in the center.

Caption 18, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese

 Play Caption

 

Feminine + singular = a.
 

La spiaggia è molto pulita.

The beach is very clean.

Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorni

 Play Caption

 

Masculine + plural = i
 

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

 Play Caption

 

Feminine + plural = e.
 

Si aggiustano le scarpe rotte, se ne creano nuove su misura.

They repair broken shoes; they custom make new ones.

Caption 5, Marika spiega - Il nome dei negozi

 Play Caption

 

Bambino means "child" or "baby." Piccolo means "small."  Bambino is the type of noun that can change according to gender, so as a consequence, it's quite easy to see the different endings of the adjective piccolo.
 
Il bambino è piccolo (the little boy is small).
La bambina è piccola (the little girl is small).
I bambini sono piccoli (the little boys are small).
Le bambine sono piccole (the little girls are small).
 
This noun - adjective combination is straightforward. In other words, you see a certain letter at the end of the noun, and the adjective ends the same way. But don't be fooled into thinking all nouns and adjectives are like this. They often are, so it may be a good guess, but not all the time.
 
What are some other common positive Italian adjectives (ending in "o")?
 
bello (beautiful or handsome)
brutto (ugly or bad)
buono (good)
cattivo (bad)
duro (hard, difficult)
caro (dear, expensive)
crudo (raw, uncooked)
cotto (cooked)
creativo (creative)
pulito (clean)
sporco (dirty)
rosso (red)
grosso (big)
pieno (full)
vuoto (empty)
bianco (white)
bravo (good)
 
To sum up about adjectives that end in "o," if the noun is masculine and singular, like, for example, il cielo (the sky) which also happens to end in "o," the adjective will end in "o," as well: un cielo nuvoloso, cielo scuro (cloudy sky, dark sky), not because the noun ends in "o" but because it's masculine and singular. Even if the noun ends in "e," such as il pane (the bread), or in "a" such as il sistema (the system), the positive adjective will still end in "o."
 
Il pane duro (the hard bread)
Il pane vecchio (the old bread)
il pesce fresco (the fresh fish)
il vecchio sistema (the old system)
il ponte nuovo (the new bridge)
 
By the same token, if you have a singular feminine noun such as la giornata (the day), the positive adjective will end in "a." La giornata nuvolosa (the cloudy day). Una giornata scura (a dark day), la strada vecchia (the old road), una fine inaspettata (an unexpected ending), la mano ferma (the steady hand).
 
Practically speaking:
You can now take the positive adjectives in the list above and apply them to any appropriate noun. Remember, both gender and number count, but, as you will see, not all nouns are like bambino/bambina. Not all nouns have both masculine and feminine versions.
 
Here's a short list of nouns and adjectives to get you started.
 
La casa (the house) pulita, sporca, vecchia, nuova, rossa, grossa, etc.
Le case (the houses) pulite, sporche, vecchie, nuove, rosse, grosse, etc.
Il lavandino (the sink) pieno, vuoto, sporco, pulito, bianco, etc.
I lavandini (the sinks) pieni, vuoti, sporchi, puliti, bianchi, etc.
Gli spaghetti crudi, buoni, cotti, duri, cattivi, etc.
La pasta cruda, buona, cotta, dura, cattiva, etc.
Il prosciutto crudo, cotto, buono, cattivo, etc.
 
Get the idea? Can you find positive adjectives to go with these nouns?
 
La verdura (the vegetables) (this noun can be used in the plural, but is generally used as a singular collective noun).
Una stanza (a room)
Le mele (the apples)
Gli alberi (the trees)
Un letto (a bed)
Un fiore (a flower)
Una pianta (a plant)

Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Write to us if you have questions!

Stay tuned for the next part of this lesson about adjectives, when will discuss aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives), or those adjectives that end in "e" and do not change according to gender: they only change according to singular and plural. Thus, they have only 2 possible endings.

Continue Reading