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.
Let's start with an example.
Ti ho portato il millefoglie. Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi e poi usciamo, eh?
I brought you a millefeuille. While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready and then we'll leave, huh?
Captions 18-20, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 13Play 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, ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia, dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.
Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy, where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing with my friends, my family, my relatives, and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.
Captions 36-41, Adriano Adriano e AnitaPlay 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 chiuderePlay 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.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 - Part 15Play 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)!
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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?
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!
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.
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 a [to, at] + verb in the infinitive)
aiutare (to help)
Per esempio, io ho un amico e lo aiuto a fare qualcosa dove lui ha difficoltà, lo aiuto a riparare la bicicletta, lo accompagno in aeroporto...
For example, I have a friend and I help him in doing something he has difficulty with, I help him repair his bicycle, I take him to the airport...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 cucùPlay 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 - Part 2Play Caption
riuscire (to manage, to succeed, to be able)
Così riesco a seguire meglio la faccia eh... e le labbra di chi sta parlando.
That way, I manage to follow the face better, uh... and the lips of whoever is speaking.
Captions 41-42, Professioni e mestieri il doppiaggio - Part 1Play Caption
insegnare (to teach)
Oggi, ti insegno a cucinare la parmigiana di melanzane.
Today, I'm going to teach you to cook eggplant Parmesan,Play Caption
andare (to go)
Sì, lo diciamo a tutti e dopo andiamo a ballare. Andiamo anche a ballare.
Yes, we'll tell everyone, and afterwards we'll go dancing. We'll go dancing, too.
Captions 11-12, Serena vita da universitariPlay Caption
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.
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!
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, Alicudi è una delle più piccole isole delle Eolie,
With its five point two square kilometers, Alicudi is one of the smallest islands of the Aeolians,
Captions 9-10, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 18Play 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, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12Play Caption
e perché poi erano facili da smontare, tra virgolette,
uh, because they were in any case easy to quote unquote dismantle,
Caption 45, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12Play 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 - Part 1Play Caption
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!
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 - Part 12Play 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 PopoloPlay Caption
...e che invece adesso è una delle parti più eleganti, più signorili della capitale, dove ci sono le case più belle
...and which now though, is one of the most elegant, most exclusive parts of the capital, where there are the most beautiful houses
Captions 4-5, Anna presenta il ghetto ebraico e piazza matteiPlay Caption
In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi: noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.
In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives. We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.Play Caption
An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).
An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).
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 - Part 2Play Caption
La spiaggia è molto pulita.
The beach is very clean,
Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3Play Caption
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 - Part 2Play Caption
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 - Part 1Play Caption
Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.
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.
Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.
Review pronominal verbs here.
Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.
You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.
Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1Play Caption
There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.
The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.
When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:
Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)
Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself.
Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.
There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentire, but as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!
Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).
If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss.
Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.
Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.
Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14Play Caption
Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.
But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly."
Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).
Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.
Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).
One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).
E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,
And this made him extremely angry.Play Caption
Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.
Let’s look at turning positive sentences into negative ones in Italian. We might have to switch gears a bit because the word order for negatives is different from what we have in English. We have to think negative. The negative word, in this case non (not), generally comes before the verb, and that means it is frequently the first word in a sentence.
Let’s consider some simple negative expressions we use every day.
Problems: We all have problemi (problems), but sometimes we have to say "no problem." We certainly use it to mean "You're welcome" after someone says "Thank you." In English, it's so easy! But in Italian we say, "there's no problem." It's part of the expression. Non c'è problema is an important phrase to have ready for any situation.
Sì, non c'è problema. -Grazie. -Prego.
Yes, no problem. -Thanks. -You're welcome.
Caption 24, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2Play Caption
Actually, there is another way to say this, more similar to English.
Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).
Or we can put both expressions together and say, with the wonderful double negative we can use in Italian:
Non c'è nessun problema (there's really no problem).
Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!
Time: Nobody has any time anymore! So negative sentences about time can come in handy.
Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).
Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).
Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).
Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).
Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).
and a possible comment to that:
Non stanno male, però (your hair looks pretty good, though/it doesn't look bad,though).
Knowing stuff: There are plenty of things we know and understand but plenty we don’t know or understand! Let’s remember that whereas in English we just say "I don’t know," Italians usually add the object pronoun lo (it), so they are literally saying "I don't know it."
Non lo so (I don’t know).
Non so a che ora devo venire (I don’t know what time I should come).
Non ho capito! Puoi ripetere (I didn't get it. Can you repeat)?
Remember, Italians often put this phrase in the past tense even though they are saying "I don’t get it."
Forgetting stuff, or rather, not remembering things: The verb ricordare is often but not always in its reflexive form ricordarsi when it means "to remember" and in its regular form when it means "to remind." See these lessons.
Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.
Right now, I can't remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.Play Caption
And if you need an object pronoun instead of a noun, don't forget to change mi (to me) to me (me):
Adesso non me lo ricordo.
Right now, I can't remember [it].
Doing stuff, or rather, not doing stuff: We procrastinate.
Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l'ho fatto (I was supposed to write an article but I didn't do it).
Non l’ho ancora fatto (I haven't done it yet).
Here we have the object pronoun lo (it) but it is partially buried in the contraction. So you have to listen carefully!
Speaking of listening, a great way to hone your listening skills is to use Scribe (in the games menu in the Yabla player). It will definitely help you start recognizing and hearing these short words and little but important details. And although some Italian you hear is rapid-fire (like Luca Manara, to name one example), most of the time, all the syllables are pronounced. You can slow down the speech to be able to hear better. Have you tried Scribe? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let us know!
As we learn to speak Italian with disinvoltura (nonchalance), it’s easy to forget to add these little words. Don’t worry, you will most likely be understood anyway! Foreigners spend years speaking Italian leaving out the little words, and they get by just fine. (It takes one to know one.)
If you get your word order wrong, people will understand anyway, but now you have a chance to get it right!
After telling us about the different relative pronouns, which in some cases are interchangeable, Daniela finishes up by telling us that in certain cases, when we are talking about a place or situation, we can use dove (where) instead of in cui (in which). To back up a moment, we're talking about object relative pronouns, indeed, indirect object pronouns, because in the case of cui (which), we often need a preposition right before it. Here's how she summarizes cui. If you can watch the lesson it might be helpful!
Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", che è invariabile, sempre preceduto da una preposizione semplice, quindi da "di", da "da", o da "a".
Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," which is invariable, always preceded by a simple preposition, so by "of," by "from," or by "to."
Captions 43-46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 3Play Caption
The good news here is that we don't have to consider gender when we use cui. Getting stuck mid-sentence looking for the right article can hamper the telling of a good story. So cui is a good relative pronoun to be familiar with. But many of us might not feel so comfortable using cui. Indeed, you don't need to think about gender, but you do have to think about which preposition to use: There is an alternative that you might like.
Using dove (where) can simplify life, actually. Certainly, Italians use dove (where) as a relative pronoun, even when we're not strictly talking about places and situations. And we do this in English, too, so it won’t seem too odd!
Following are some examples from Yabla videos. Let's remember that dove (where) is not always a relative pronoun, and it is not always a relative pronoun taking the place of in cui, but the following examples have been selected because they do fit into this category.
E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla dove si può prendere il sole in santa pace.
And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.
Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1Play Caption
Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, dove potermi riposare.
I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.
Captions 36-37, Adriano - NonnaPlay Caption
Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo dove si gestiva il potere.
We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.
Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3Play Caption
Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, dove si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].
They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.
Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il panePlay Caption
Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, dove ci sono scoperte...
I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...
Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggerePlay Caption
Poi c'è un giorno a settimana dove i negozi sono chiusi.
Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.Play Caption
Un altro caso dove uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...
Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...
Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11Play Caption
Now that you have looked at all these examples, why not try transforming them into sentences with in cui? If that is too easy, try the same thing with nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, or nelle quale. For this, you will need to consider gender and number! Here’s the link to suggested solutions. Non barare (don't cheat) — unless you have to!
Let us know if you like this system of exercises and their solutions! Write to us at email@example.com
Relative pronouns allow us to combine two shorter sentences that are related to each other into a longer one made up of two clauses. Similarly to English, we distinguish between main or independent clauses and subordinate dependent clauses. And when there is a relative pronoun present, it is part of what's called "a relative clause."
The first relative pronoun that Daniela describes is che (that/which).
In questo esempio, quindi, il pronome relativo fa vece di pronome perché sostituisce la parola "casa" ma fa anche vece di congiunzione perché unisce le due frasi [sic: proposizioni].
In this example, therefore, the relative pronoun stands in for the pronoun because it replaces the word "house," but it also
takes on the role of a conjunction, because it joins two clauses.
Captions 44-48, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 1Play Caption
After watching the video, let's look at some further examples of what Daniela is talking about.
Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani.
We're on the beach at Mondello, which is the beach used by Palermo's inhabitants.
Caption 3, Adriano - a MondelloPlay Caption
Let's take this sentence apart and put it back together again.
The first sentence could be:
Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello.
We're here on the beach at Mondello.
The second sentence could be:
La spiaggia di Mondello è la spiaggia dei palermitani.
The Mondello beach is the beach of the inhabitants of Palermo.
In order to combine these two short sentences, we use a relative pronoun to connect the clauses. We replace la spiaggia di Mondello with che (which), so it's both a pronoun that replaces a noun, and a conjunction that connects two parts of the [new] sentence.
Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani.
Let's look at an example in which che translates nicely with "that," but can work fine with "which," too. In English, "that" and "which" are often interchangeable, but we need to keep in mind that "which" needs a comma before it, and "that" doesn't (most of the time).
C'è un ballo tradizionale che si chiama il "salterello" [saltarello].
There's a traditional dance that is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].
There's a traditional dance, which is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].
Caption 38, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulle MarchePlay Caption
Gli alpeggi sono le attività agricole zoologiche che si svolgono in estate in montagna.
Alpine grazing is an agricultural, zoological activity that take place in summer in the mountains.Play Caption
In Italian, the relative pronoun che can refer to things or people. So in the following example, we can translate che as "who."
C'è sempre tantissima gente che aspetta di salire su.
There are always plenty of people who are waiting to go up.
Caption 17, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 5Play Caption
This week, Daniela concludes her lessons on the comparative and the superlative. Let's take a moment and review the series because, coming from English, we might want to put the lessons together in a different way.
As we have seen, the comparative and superlative work a bit differently than in English. In English we have two ways of the comparative and superlative of an adjective: by changing the adjective itself (as in "big," "bigger," "biggest") or by adding "more" or "less" before the adjective, as with the adjective "beautiful." But in Italian, comparatives and superlatives are formed using più (more) or meno (less) plus the adjective. Attenzione! The adjective buono is an exception to this. Learn more here.
In the first lesson, Daniela explains the comparativo di maggioranza (majority), which corresponds to “more” plus the adjective in English. If it's meno (less), we call it comparativo di minoranza (minority).
Even though we don't use these terms in English, they are fairly self-explanatory. In English, after the comparative adjective, we use the conjunction "than" before the second part of the comparison: This book is bigger than that one.
But in Italian, there are two different conjunctions we use when comparing things: di (than, of) or che (than). This is a big deal and somewhat tricky. Daniela starts explaining it in the first video and continues explaining here and here.
Daniela then explains all about comparing things that are equal: comparativo di uguaglianza. We discuss this further here. This is tricky in any language, and Italian is no exception. Daniela begins talking about it here and continues here, here and here.
So if you are interested in getting the scoop on how to say "the best of all," then go straight to this week's lesson, where Daniela shows us how this — the regular old superlative — works in Italian. It called the superlativo relativo, since this superlative is relative to a group of elements. As she explains...
"È l'amico più generoso di tutti". Sto paragonando la qualità dell'essere generoso del mio amico all'essere generoso di tutti.
"He is the most generous friend of all." I am comparing the quality of being generous of my friend, to the generosity of all.
Caption 24, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Superlativo relativo
The superlativo relativo corresponds, roughly, to the superlative in English, in respect to the comparative, as when we add "-est" to an adjective: nice, nicer, nicest.
In Italian, we still use the modifiers più (more) and meno (less) but with the addition of the definite article before it, it becomes "the most" or "the least."
Let's take the adjective bello whose English equivalent "beautiful" needs "more" or "less" to make it comparative.
Margherita è bella (Margaret is beautiful). [positivo]
Margherita è più bella di Barbara (she is more beautiful than Barbara). [comparativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è la piu bella di tutte le quattro sorelle. She is the most beautiful of all four sisters. [superlativo relativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è intelligente (Margherita is intelligent). [positivo]
Margherita è meno intelligente di Barbara (Margherita is less intelligent than Barbara). [comparativo di minoranza]
Elisabetta è la meno intelligente di tutte le sorelle (Elisabetta is the least intelligent of all the sisters). [superlativo comparativo di minoranza]
We hope this helps you make sense of the comparative and superlative in Italian.
We have seen that comparatives work a bit differently in Italian as compared to English. Read more here. For most adjectives and adverbs in Italian, there is no specific comparative form. We use the adverbs più (more) or meno (less) to form the comparative. Notable exceptions are buono (good) and bene (well), which have their own comparative forms. We have discussed them here.
But things get tricky when we compare things that are equal. For the most part, in English, we use the same adverb or conjunction "as" in both parts of the comparison.
You are as tall as I am. We are both the same height.
In Italian, there are basically two pairs of words that are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. Tanto (lots, as much) pairs with quanto (how much), and così (like, so) pairs with come (how, as).
Il comparativo di uguaglianza si forma facendo precedere l'aggettivo dall'avverbio "tanto", o "così", seguito dall'aggettivo, più "come" o "quanto".
The comparative of equality is formed by placing the adverb "tanto" [as much] or "cosi" [like, as], followed by the adjective, plus "as" or "as much."
Captions 23-28, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Comparativo - Part 3Play Caption
And sometimes we can omit one of the two words in a pair. Tutto sommato (all in all), it can be a bit confusing.
Here are some examples of complete sentences from Yabla that feature comparatives of equality, so you can become more familiar with them.
Insomma, i ponti sono tanto frequentati quanto sconosciuti ai romani di oggi.
In other words, the bridges are as traveled as they are unknown to the Romans of today.
Caption 44, I Love Roma - guida della città - Part 8Play Caption
Ed è stata tanto colpa nostra quanto colpa sua.
And it was as much our fault as his fault.Play Caption
The following example uses che, another ingredient of comparatives, as described by Daniela, but here, it's used incorrectly. This just goes to show that comparatives of equality can be tricky for Italians, too.
Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto della vita che della cucina.
Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, as much in life as in cuisine.Play Caption
Here is what the speaker should have said.
Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto nella vita quanto nella cucina.
Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, in life as well as in the kitchen.
This next example compares two comparatives on equal terms (more=more). Can you wrap your head around it
Quanto più l'impasto è duro, tanto meglio viene la pasta.
The stiffer the dough, the better the pasta will be.
Caption 45, Marino - La maccaronaraPlay Caption
In the following example, Adriano is using così come to compare the adjective intenso (intense) on an equal basis between one day and other days.
Spero che anche voi possiate avere delle giornate così intense come questa.
I hope that you too can have days that are as intense as this one.
Caption 56, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
We often find così and come together in a sentence and it can often be translated as "just as" or "just like."
Al verso è docile e al contro è duro, così come la vita.
Along the grain it's soft and against the grain it's hard, just like life.
Captions 11-12, Claudio Capotondi - Scultore - Part 1Play Caption
Here are examples of the two types of pairings, along with versions where the first adverb is omitted, as described by Daniela.
Non conosco nessuno così bravo come te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo come te.
I don't know anyone smart like you.
Non conosco nessuno tanto bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Try looking around your home and comparing things.
Questa stanza è più grande di quella (this room is bigger than that one).
Quella stanza è meno grande di questa (That room is smaller than this one).
Questo tavolo è tanto grande quanto quel tavolo lì (this table is as big as that one there).
Questo tavolo è grande quanto quello lì (this table is as big as that one there).
La mia poltrona è tanto comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).
La mia poltrona è comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).
Start simple and get comfortable. Hint: In comparisons of equality, it's more common to omit the first adverb than to include it, at least in everyday speech. Whew!
In our last lesson, there was mention of the Italian comparative adjective migliore (better). This brought up an excellent question on the part of one of our readers. What's the difference between migliore and meglio? They both mean "better." When should we use meglio instead of migliore?
It's a great question, because the answer is not so simple. On a very basic level, migliore is an adjective and is the comparative of buono (good). It is also, with the addition of an article, the superlative of buono (good), as in the following example.
La moto è il mezzo migliore per superare il traffico.
The motorbike is the best means of transportation for getting past the traffic.
Caption 27, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
Migliore stays the same in both the masculine and the feminine.
Io voglio solo una vita migliore di questa.
I just want a better life than this.
Caption 70, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 5Play Caption
La mia migliore amica.
My best [girl]friend.Play Caption
But in the plural it's always migliori, for both the masculine and the feminine.
Ed è uno dei vini migliori della Basilicata, è chiamato Aglianico.
And it's one of the best wines of Basilicata, it's called Aglianico.
Caption 2, Milena - al supermercatoPlay Caption
No, veramente le cose migliori le abbiamo fatte insieme, no?
No, actually the best things are the ones we've done together, right?Play Caption
Migliore and its plural form migliori can also be nouns, just like in English.
Sei il/la migliore!
You're the best!
Migliore is either an adjective or a noun — never an adverb.
Meglio, on the other hand, is basically an adverb, so it makes sense for it to be the comparative of bene (well). Meglio often means in modo migliore (in a better way).
Facciamo un esempio così capite meglio.
We'll provide an example, that way you'll understand better.Play Caption
But meglio has a gray area, too, and is much more flexible than migliore. Unlike migliore, which is either an adjective or a noun, meglio, in addition to being an adverb, is often also used colloquially as an adjective or in some contexts as a noun. It's also used in a huge number of expressions.
Note that the verb migliorare exists, too, to mean "to improve," to "get better."
Se posso migliorare, perché non farlo?
If I can improve, why not do so?Play Caption
Il mio italiano è molto migliorato.
My Italian has gotten much better.
We'll focus on meglio next week, but in the meantime, why not compare things with migliorein your home or workplace?
Think about food, movies, books, the time of day/year for doing something.
In questo bar, fanno il miglior caffè della città.
In this bar, they make the best coffee in the city.
Il mio italiano scritto è migliore di qualche anno fa.
My written Italian is better than a few years ago.
Non ero la migliore della classe quando andavo a scuola.
I wasn't the best in the class when I went to school.
Qual è la stagione migliore per visitare la Sicilia?
What's the best month for visiting Sicily?
Daniela is back with some more Italian lessons, classroom-style. This time she will be teaching us how to compare things. And the good news is that apart from a few exceptions like buono (good), migliore (better), il/la migliore (the best), you won't have to learn the comparative forms of an adjective. Basically, you just have to use the adverb più (more) or meno (less).
Sometimes this corresponds to the English, because in English, not all adjectives have a comparative form.
"Arrivederci" [quando vado via] è una forma di saluto più elegante, formale.
"Arrivederci" [when I leave] is a more elegant, formal form of saying "goodbye."Play Caption
But in many cases, there is a specific comparative form in English.
In the following example, a recipe is being described.
Si può personalizzare: più piccante, meno piccante.
You can personalize: sharper or milder.
Caption 38, L'Italia a tavola - Il frico friulano - Part 1Play Caption
So, if you are translating, you have to find the "right" word in English. But as you become more familiar with Italian, you will start thinking in Italian, and the English equivalent won't really come into play.
One tricky thing is that you have to take into account whether you are comparing things or actions. The preposition you use, di (than) as opposed to che (than), will change accordingly.
Lucca è una città più piccola di Firenze (Lucca is a smaller city than Florence). Lucca è meno grande di Firenze (Lucca is smaller than Florence).
A Lucca, è più comodo girare in bici che girare in macchina (in Lucca, it's easier to get around by bike, than to get around by car).
Watch Daniela's video, first of all. Then go around your house, or wherever you happen to be, and compare things.
Questo libro è più grande di quel libro (this book is bigger than that book).
Gain confidence in comparing things using di (than). Then move on to comparing actions. It's a little trickier, with che (than).
Comprare online sarà più veloce che andare al negozio (purchasing online will be quicker than going to the store).
In English we use "do," "did" or other question words to form questions. This is hard for Italians learning English because in Italian, to ask a question, all you have to do is change your tone of voice.
Here's an example from last week's lesson. Marika is telling us something.
Pesto vuol dire che è stato pestato.
Pesto means that it has been crushed.
Caption 68, L'Italia a tavola - Il pesto genovesePlay Caption
But, with a little change of inflection, she could use the exact same words and ask a question.
Pesto vuol dire che è stato pestato?
Does "pesto" mean that it has been crushed?
The voice is raised at the end of the phrase, or, the voice stays the same, but "no" (with a raised voice) gets added on to make it a question:
Pesto vuol dire che è stato pestato, no?
"Pesto" means that it has been crushed, right?
"Pesto" means that it has been crushed, doesn't it?
With modal verbs, too, inflection is everything.
Posso offrirle uno "Spritz".
I can offer you a "Spritz".
Caption 10, Una pasticceria - al Lido di VeneziaPlay Caption
To turn this into a question, it remains the same in Italian. Only the inflection changes, and in writing it, we use a question mark rather than a period.
Posso offrirle uno "Spritz"?
Can I offer you a "Spritz?"
Try making statements into questions by changing your inflection, or adding "no?" at the end, to make it into a question. Pay special attention to how questions happen in videos with plenty of dialogue, such as La Ladra or Commissario Manara.
The passato remoto (remote past) tense in Italian may not be necessary to know in order to converse in the language, but we find it often enough in writing when the subject is history, so it's good to be familiar with it.
Daniela has recently finished talking about this tense in her Corso di Italiano, and in the final segment, she talks about when it is used.
Si usa, per esempie [sic], per esempio, per azioni che sono avvenute una sola volta nel passato.
You use it, for example, for actions that occurred once, in the past.
Captions 4-5, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il passato remotoPlay Caption
In this week's video about Pisa, we see it in action. Arianna is talking about medieval times.
Già dall'inizio ebbe dei problemi, perché fu costruita su un terreno instabile e per questo pende.
From the start it had problems because it was built on unstable terrain and because of this, it leans.
Captions 18-19, In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorniPlay Caption
Another place we find the passato remoto being employed is in stories and fairy tales. In fact, reading fairy tales is an excellent way to gain familiarity with the passato remoto. The stories are usually repetitive and predictable with the verbs in the third person singular and plural.Yabla has quite a few animated fairy tales to choose from.
Quindi aprì la porta e il ranocchio saltellò dentro.
So she opened the door and the frog hopped in.
Caption 52, Ti racconto una fiaba - Il Principe RanocchioPlay Caption
To make friends with the passato remoto, pick out a fairy tale and watch the video, paying extra attention to the verbs. Then open the transcript, pick the printer-friendly version so you can just see the Italian, and then read the story out loud (in Italian), as if you were reading it to a child. You will, of course, see verbs in other tenses like the passato prossimo and theimperfetto, too. As in English, a mixture of tenses renders the story more fluid and more interesting.
If you're not sure which tense you are looking at, click on the word, even when you are in theprinter-friendly version, and a dictionary will pop up to help you. Some verbs occur only occasionally, and don't really need to be assimilated, but other verbs like avere (to have) essere (to be), andare (to go), venire (to come), guardare (to look), and vedere (to see) will occur more often, and you can start adding them to the verbs you recognize, even in thepassato remoto. Reading out loud will make the verbs start feeling right on the tongue.
Hopefully, when you watch the video again, the verbs in the passato remoto won't seem so strange anymore.
WordReference has conjugation charts for most verbs. Try keeping the tab open so you can get to it easily when you need it.
In previous lessons, we’ve mentioned that the subjunctive is often used after the conjunction che (that). The congiuntivo (subjunctive) can be tricky for Italians, not only for non-native speakers, so it’s fitting that conjugating a verb in the subjunctive be used as a challenge in a quiz show such as the one featured this week on Yabla.
Allora, io dirò l'infinito, tu mi devi dire il congiuntivo presente. Mostrare. -Che io mostri.
So, I'll tell you the infinitive, you have to tell me the present subjunctive. To show. -That I show.Play Caption
The contestant has to conjugate a verb in the present subjunctive, first person. Note that when Italians conjugate the subjunctive mood, they add che (that), the person, and then the subjunctive conjugation. That way, the subjunctive is distinguished from the indicative.
In the above-mentioned episode, we have the infinitive and the first person present subjunctive of several verbs. Can you provide the present indicative of the verbs mentioned? You can look up a verb’s conjugation here.
Some people are adept at memorizing lists of verb conjugations. Others might prefer to learn verbs in the subjunctive on a need-to-know basis, one by one. You will discover that certain verbs are used more often than others in the subjunctive, verbs such as:
andare (to go) - che io vada (that I go)
È meglio che vada a letto presto stasera (I should really go to bed early tonight).
fare (to make, to do) - che io faccia (that I do)
Cosa vuoi che faccia (what do you want me to do)?
essere (to be) - che io sia (that I am)
Pensi che io sia stupida (do you think I'm stupid)?
stare (to stay, to be) - che io stia (that I am, that I remain)
Non pretendere che io stia zitta (don't expect me to be quiet).
venire (to come) - che io venga (that I come)
È fondamentale che io venga alla riunione (is it necessary for me to come to the meeting)?
These are the verbs to learn early on. What verbs would you like to add to this list?
After practicing the first person subjunctive, move on to the other persons, one by one, and get the hang of them. In many cases, the third person is the same as the first person in the subjunctive. Using them in sentences will help you remember them.
To brush up or learn about the subjunctive, see Daniela’s lessons about the subjunctive here.
In this week’s lesson with Daniela, we learn another way to set the scene of a story. We talked about using the presente (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) in a previous lesson. Now we’ll talk about using the imperfetto (imperfect tense) to set the scene in the past without specifying the duration or pinpointing the moment in time of an action. We use theimperfetto to describe the characteristics of something in the past.
Allora, l'imperfetto viene usato per fare descrizioni di paesaggi, del tempo, delle qualità di una persona o di una cosa, al passato.
So, the imperfect is used to describe landscapes, weather, features of a person or a thing in the past.
Captions 30-32, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'imperfetto - Part 2Play Caption
In the following example, Lara, from the popular Commissario Manara TV series, is talking to an old classmate whom she met up with by chance. They are telling each other about their past feelings.
This is how she felt when she was younger:
Mi sentivo un brutto anatroccolo.
I felt like the ugly duckling.Play Caption
And this is how her friend Massimo felt about her!
Io ero innamorato pazzo di te!
I was crazy in love with you!Play Caption
The following example describes an ongoing condition in the past.
A scuola avevo sempre problemi con la matematica.
At school, I always had problems with math.Play Caption
The following example is interesting, because we see the passato prossimo (siamo visti/we saw other) used when pinpointing the moment (l’ultima volta/the last time), but the imperfetto(eravamo/were) sets the scene.
Ma lo sa l'ultima volta che ci siamo visti dove eravamo?
But you know where we were the last time we saw each other?
Eravamo al porto di Istanbul.
We were at the port of Istanbul.
Captions 23-24, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 6Play Caption
For how to form the imperfetto, please see Daniela’s previous lesson.
Practice: Try setting the scene in the past using the verbs Daniela talks about in the lesson,and other verbs you know. If you’re not sure how to form the imperfetto of the verb you wish to use, look it up in an online dictionary such as WordReference. Think about the place, how old the person was, what the person looked like, what the person was wearing. How did the person feel?
Here’s something to get you started.
Quando ero giovane e andavo a scuola, suonavo il flauto nell’orchestra della scuola. Mi piaceva molto. Andavo a scuola in autobus tutte le mattine. Ci mettevo circa venticinque minuti per arrivare a scuola. Non era un’epoca molto felice per me. Non studiavo abbastanza, e quindi mi sentivo sempre a disagio in classe e avevo sempre paura delle interrogazioni. Preferivo stare nella sala di musica a studiare flauto. Cantavo anche nel coro. La maestra del coro era bravissima e tutti l’amavano.
When I was young and was going to school, I played flute in the school orchestra. I liked it a lot. I went to school by bus every morning. It took me about twenty-five minutes to get to school. It wasn’t a very happy time for me. I didn’t study enough so I was always afraid of being called on to answer the teacher’s questions. I much preferred hanging out in the music room to study flute. I also sang in the choir. The director was excellent and everyone loved her.
Of course, when we tell a story, we like to mix the tenses up to create interest and tension, but for now, let’s try to get to where we feel comfortable using the imperfetto and know more or less when and how to use it.
Using tenses correctly in a new language is usually somewhat of a challenge. Let's talk about two tenses — presente indicativo (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) — that we can use to set the scene in a story, or to establish a timeframe, and the signpost words that can help us figure out which tense to use.
Here's what causes some confusion. Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo (present perfect), that is, the tense using the auxialiary verb "to have" plus the past participle, to refer to things that happened at a particular moment in the past, for which in English we use the simple past tense. This is hard to assimilate, because English uses the present perfect for events that are still going on, or still true. In addition to that, in cases where English does use the present perfect, Italian often uses the present simple. It's easy to get mixed up, but it should become clearer as we go along.
In a new video this week, Erica and Martina speak very simply about their friendship and how it developed. This is an excellent opportunity to zoom in on the passato prossimo, since they use it a lot, and to get a feel for how it’s employed in everyday storytelling. Maybe you can tell a story of your own, using the same outline.
But let's zoom out for a moment. Before telling a story, we often need to set the scene and establish a timeframe. Erica first uses the present simple, and adds da (from, since). This formula takes some getting used to, so it's a good idea to practice. Notice that the translation employs the present perfect.
Siamo amiche da sei anni.
We've been friends for six years.
Caption 3, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
Here's another example of how the present tense is used to establish a timeframe that includes the past.
Questa statua è qui da almeno cinquanta anni.
This statue has been here for at least fifty years.
Caption 21, Antonio - Maratea, Madonna del Porto SalvoPlay Caption
We can use this setup with verbs like conoscere (to be acquainted with), frequentare (to hang out with, to frequent), essere colleghi (to be co-workers), lavorare insieme (to work together),essere sposato (to be married), vivere in un posto (to live in a place).
Ci conosciamo da tre anni (we've known each other for three years).
Sono sposati da sei mesi (they've been married for six months).
Practice: Set the scene for a story. Establish the timeframe including the past up to the present with the simple present tense plus da (from, since), using the above-mentioned verbs, or other verbs you think of. You'll be answering the question: da quanto tempo (for how long)?
Another way to set the scene is to find the starting point in the past. We use the passatoprossimo for that, plus the short adverb fa (ago) that signals the past.
So in the featured video, Erica continues setting the scene, telling us when the two friends met. Here she uses the passato prossimo. In English, we’d use the past simple, of course. Erica is essentially saying the same thing she said in caption 3, but she’s pinpointing the moment, not a period of time. Note: Since the friends are female in this case, the ending of the past participle conosciuto is feminine and plural. If it were two guys, or a guy and a girl, what do you think the ending would be?
Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa.
We met, in fact, six years ago.
Caption 4, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
When you meet someone for the first time, it’s unique: one instant. So you use the passato prossimo.
Learn more about the verb conoscere (to be acquainted with, to make the acquaintance of) in this lesson.
Il figlio, diciassettenne, ha pubblicato il suo primo articolo su un quotidiano americano pochi giorni fa.
His son, seventeen years old, published his first article in an American newspaper a few days ago.
Captions 16-17, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca - Part 1Play Caption
Practice: Experiment establishing a timeframe using the presente plus da (from, since) as you did in the first exercise, and then saying much the same thing in a different way, pinpointing a moment in time with the passato prossimo and fa (ago). You'll be answering the question: quando (when)? or quanto tempo fa (how long ago)?.
Here’s a quick example to get started:
Vivo in Italia da più di venticinque anni (I’ve been living in Italy for over twenty-five years).
Sono venuta in Italia per la prima volta più di trent’anni fa (I came to Italy for the first time, over thirty years ago).
Lavoro in questo posto da otto anni (I’ve been working in this place for eight years).
Ho cominciato otto anni fa a lavorare qui (I started working here eight years ago).
As Erica and Martina continue their story, they use the passato prossimo to describe events in the past. You can do this too!
Hint: Why not use the transcript of this video? Just click on "transcript" underneath the video thumbnail (or in the pop-up menu "more" in the new layout). You can view it in just Italian, just English, or both. You can copy and paste it into a blank document. You can make it printer friendly. In somma (in short), it's pretty handy!
There are other ways to set the scene, and other tenses to use, but we’ll get to those in another lesson.