Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Grammar

Tiptoeing into the participio presente

When you have spoken a language all your life (and are not a language nerd), there are certain things you just don't think about. 


When you learn a new language, certain things are tricky, such as, for example, the Italian way of skipping the pronoun when it's not essential. Italians don't have to think about it. The verb conjugation gives you the information you need. If you have studied Latin, that's not so strange. But if you come from English, it's a challenging concept to be able to grasp.


And then there are tenses. Not all languages think of tenses in the same way. For instance, English speakers might have trouble with il passato remoto because it doesn't exist in English as distinct from the simple past. And we might translate it the same way as we translate a different tense, such as the imperfetto or the passato prossimo.


This brings us to a tense or mood that is a bit strange to English speakers. We generally feel pretty familiar with the past participle of a verb that can be used either as part of a compound tense or as an adjective. It's used in a similar way in English.


È uscito dall'ospedale, però è ancora un po' confuso.

He's out of the hospital but he's still kind of confused.

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 7

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No, m'hanno licenziato loro, perché ho confuso il mangime delle anguille con il veleno per topi.

No, they fired me, because I mistook rat poison for eel feed.

Captions 51-52, Sei mai stata sulla Luna? film - Part 19

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The present participle is something else altogether. Most of the time, we will see the participio presente (which has the -ante or -ente ending) used as an adjective or a noun. We don't think about it much because the word has entered general usage as an adjective or noun. We can identify it as a participio presente because we can replace it with che and the conjugated verb form to reach the same meaning.


Let's look at a couple of words in this category.


A present participle functioning as an adjective:

interessante (che interessa) - interesting (that interests)

promettente (che promette) - promising (that promises)


Perché un suo abitante, Martino Piccione, giovane chitarrista promettente, è sparito nel nulla senza lasciare traccia.

Because one of its inhabitants, Martino Piccione — young, promising guitarist — has vanished into thin air, without leaving a trace.

Captions 4-6, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 15

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Note that in English, these adjectives often have the -ing ending. 


A present participle functioning as a noun:

il cantante ([la persona] che canta]) - the singer ([the person] who sings)

la sorgente (che sorge) - the source

l'abitante (che abita) - the inhabitant (the person who inhabits)


The tricky thing is that the -ing ending in English is also used to translate Italian words that have an -ando or -endo ending. These endings have to do with the presente progressivo (the present continuous or progressive).


Here's the example that prompted one of our viewers to ask about this:

Possiamo trovare il cerro, che è l'albero dominante il bosco,

We can find the turkey oak, which is the tree prevailing over the forest,

Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia La Valle del Sorbo

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We could say che è l'albero che domina il bosco.


Hopefully, you get the idea. You don't need to dwell on this, as you will get along fine without using the present participle as a verb most of the time. But when we come across it in a video, we need to know how to translate it (it was tricky!) and some people are just plain curious!

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2 basic verbs: essere (to be) and avere (to have)

In this lesson, we're going to look at two of the most common verbs in the Italian language: essere (to be) and avere (to have). They are both irregular verbs so they merit some special attention.


Here's how we conjugate essere (to be):

Io sono (I am)

Tu sei (you are)

Lei è (you are - polite form)

Lui è (he/it is)

Lei è (she/it is)

Noi siamo (we are)

Voi siete (you are plural)

Loro sono (they are)




And here is how to conjugate avere (to have):

Ho (I have)

Hai (you have)

Ha (he, she, it has)

Abbiamo (we have)

Avete  (you [plural] have)

Hanno (they have)


And here's an example of how they sound, in the first person singular:

Ciao, io sono Anna e ho quasi trent'anni. -Ciao, io sono Marika e ho trentasei anni.

Hi, I'm Anna and I am almost thirty years old. -Hi, I'm Marika and I am thirty-six years old.

Captions 1-2, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

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There are some things to notice right away. If we look at the translation, we see that when we talk about age, the Italian verb is avere (to have) but in English the verb is "to be." That's a quirk. In Italian, you have an age and in English, you are an age. 


The second thing we might notice is that we see an h in the word ho, but we don't hear it. Yup, most of the time, the H is silent in Italian. It has an effect on other letters when following them, but at the beginning of a word, it's silent.


The third thing we notice is that Anna doesn't say io ho quasi trent' anni. Neither does Marika. That's because it's common and correct to leave out the personal pronoun because the conjugation of the verb already indicates who we're talking about. It's not always the case, but it is something to get used to and it happens with all verbs!


As you watch this video, you'll see that sometimes the personal pronoun is present, but it's often absent! Here's an example. Anna is clearly talking about Thomas, so she doesn't have to say lui è italiano. She can say è italiano.

Il mio fidanzato si chiama Thomas, ma è italiano.

My boyfriend's name is Thomas, but he's Italian.

Caption 20, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

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They are still talking about Thomas, so Marika doesn't need the personal pronoun lui.

Ah, è proprio di Roma, alla fine.

Oh, he's really from Rome, in the end.

Caption 23, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

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Here, Marika doesn't say the equivalent of "it." It's implied from the third-person singular conjugation of the verb essere (to be).

E quindi non è proprio la vacanza scelta da me,

And so, it's not a real holiday chosen by me,

Caption 12, Amiche Anna e Marika raccontano...

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Here's an example of the second person singular of essere (to be):

Mamma mia quanto sei bella.

Wow, you're so beautiful.

Caption 45, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 27

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Here's an example of the second-person singular of avere (to have): 

Quanti anni hai? -Ventuno.

How old are you? -Twenty-one.

Caption 8, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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Here's an example of the second-person plural of essere:

Voi siete davvero un gruppo molto bello.

You are, really, a very nice group.

Caption 17, Anna e Marika Il verbo essere - Part 1

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And here's an example of the second-person plural of the verb avere:

...per riciclare al meglio la frutta che avete in casa best recycle the fruit you have at home

Caption 92, Andromeda Marmellata anti spreco - Part 2

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Here's an example of the first-person plural of essere:

Non riesco ancora a crederci, siamo i primi al mondo!

I still can't believe it. We're the first in the world!

Caption 6, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 23

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And here's an example of the first person plural of avere:

Noi abbiamo amici da tutto il mondo.

We have friends from all over the world.

Caption 9, Adriano Matrimonio con Anita - Part 3

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And to finish, here's an example of the third-person plural of essere and avere:

Il flauto, il violino spesso... sono talmente acuti che vanno al di sopra del pentagramma.

The flute, the violin, often... are so high that they go above the staff.

Caption 33, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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Molti di loro dormono con gli animali accanto al letto per riscaldarsi e non hanno neanche le scarpe per andare a lavorare, ma sorridono.

Many of them sleep with the animals next to the bed to warm up and they don't even have shoes to go to work, but they smile.

Captions 36-38, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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Both essere and avere are used as helping verbs, so it's pretty important to learn them. Hope this lesson has helped!


Write to us with your questions. We answer!



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Making sense of the passato prossimo tense

In learning a new language, when we are able to latch onto parallels with our own language, it can be comforting, but sometimes we have to let go and realize things work differently in the new one. That is the case with il passato prossimo. It has a name that makes us think that this tense is about a past that isn't very far away, because prossimo (with its cognate "proximate") does mean "near," "next," "close," etc.).



A different perspective

So when we learn that we use this tense to express things that have happened in the past and are already finished (as we use the simple past in English), it doesn't necessarily make sense. But let's look at it from another point of view. Let's look at it relatively. Because, although you can mostly get away with not using it, there is another past tense in Italian called il passato remoto. Here, too, we can detect the cognate remoto meaning "remote" or "far away." This is a simple tense in which the verb itself is conjugated. In general, it is used to express finished actions happening in the past that don't have any effect on the present. It means that there is a clear chronological and psychological distance between the fact expressed with the Passato Remoto and the present.


So compared to the passato remoto, the passato prossimo is closer, or less remote. 


The passato remoto itself is not within the scope of this lesson, but let's mention that even when the passato remoto would be the preferred tense, we can usually get away with using the passato prossimo  and lots of people do. 


The passato prossimo is a compound tense that takes an auxiliary verb (avere  or essere) and a past participle, but in a way, it is easier to use because we don't have to remember how to conjugate the verbs in the passato remoto. People will understand us and that's the most important thing. In addition to this, it's not always easy to know when to use the passato remoto. There are some grey areas.


Confusing names for tenses

The name "passato prossimo" refers to an action's place on a timeline. The name "present perfect," on the other hand, deals with the tense of the auxiliary verb we use ("to have" is used in the present tense in the present perfect). In the past perfect, the auxiliary verb is in the past tense. So the naming of the tenses has two different parameters, not to be compared.


Il Passato Prossimo can play a dual role


The passato prossimo can express past actions that are over and done with (as the simple past does in English). But can also coincide with the present perfect in some instances. 


To get an idea about when we use certain tenses, let's take a look at this video where two young women talk about their friendship. They talk about the past when they were in secondary school. They use the passato prossimo even though they are clearly talking about a time when they were younger. 

E poi, dopo la maturità, abbiamo deciso di partire da sole con altri sei ragazzi di [sic: della] classe e siamo andati a Malta.

And then, after graduation, we decided to leave on our own with six other kids from the class and we went to Malta.

Captions 28-30, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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As we mentioned above, sometimes the passato prossimo does coincide with the present perfect, as in this comment about their continuing friendship. Note that there is an adverb of frequency.

Ci siamo trovate sempre molto bene, in questi sei anni non abbiamo mai litigato.

We've always gotten along really nicely — over these six years we've never argued.

Captions 46-47, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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Perhaps the trickiest part


But here, in the following example, they use the present tense to express what in English, we would express using the present perfect. Note the use of da (since, for).

Siamo amiche da sei anni,

We've been friends for six years.

Caption 3, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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The above use of the present tense in Italian to express a "present perfect" situation is perhaps one of the trickiest tense differences to wrap our heads around. And it's just as tricky for Italians trying to speak English!


The two young women go on with the present perfect to talk about the past. Here, we find fa (ago), putting the action clearly in the past. 

Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa, il primo giorno di scuola.

We met, in fact, six years ago, on the first day of school.

Captions 4-5, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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If you are a subscriber it might be useful to watch the entire video to get a better feel for how the tenses are used. Looking at the transcript can help, too.



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Using nouns as adjectives in Italian. How does it work?

In English, we can use nouns as adjectives to answer the question, "what kind?" For example, "dog days" are the hottest days of summer. In this case, it's not really comparing the dog to the heat, but comes from the star, Sirius, who was Orion's dog in the constellations. It rises at the same time as the sun on the hottest days in the northern hemisphere. The Romans got this from the Greeks, and called these days, "dies caniculares" (dog days). 



In terms of grammar, we know "dog" is a noun, but here, we use it as an adjective to describe "days," without giving it a different ending. We don't say, "dogful" days, "doggy days," or even "dog-like days." So this is a phenomenon that is present in many situations in English.


Let's remember here  — because we don't have to think about it — that in English, we put the noun-as-adjective before the noun it describes. Sometimes the noun-as-adjective merges with the noun and becomes a compound word and sometimes not: laundry room, dishwasher, picture frame, bicycle rack.


We have the same phenomenon in Italian. The big difference is that the order is inverse. First, we have the noun, then we have the noun-as-adjective. To connect with our example of "dog days," we turn to an expression that is very common in Italian, and in fact, it crops up in an episode of Sposami

E poi una notte, che io dormivo sotto il cavalcavia e faceva un freddo cane, quella notte io credevo che sarei morto...

And then, one night, when I was sleeping under an overpass, and it was freezing cold, that night, I believed I would die...

Captions 6-8, Sposami EP 4 - Part 19

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And here is a more mundane example:

Lo abbiamo fatto pure in conferenza stampa l'altro ieri

We even did it at the press conference the day before yesterday

Caption 22, Animalisti Italiani Walter Caporale - Part 2

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The real noun is conferenza (conferenza). What kind of conference? una conferenza stampa (a press conference). 


This difference in word order is tricky sometimes, and it is just as tricky for Italians attempting to speak English correctly. 


English is a popular language, and Italians use it in publicity and signage. But sometimes the word order difference escapes them. The name of a riding school in Tuscany is "Planet Horse." This is because, in general, for an Italian, the adjective (even if it is a noun-as-adjective, as in this case) comes after the noun. What they were trying to say, even though it sounds bad, is "Horse Planet" — the planet of horses. We might say, "Horse World." They, of course, translated it from Italian: Pianeta cavallo.


In some cases, both the noun-as-adjective and the adjective form of a noun can work:


Let's take the noun bestia (beast, animal).


We can say:  Fa un caldo bestia (it is incredibly hot) or Fa un caldo bestiale (it's beastly hot). Using the noun as an adjective in this case is more colloquial, but they are both acceptable.


Of course, in Italian, when answering the question, "What kind?" we often use a preposition, such as di or da, or an "articulated preposition," such as del, della, delle, or degli before the "descriptive" noun. These prepositions usually mean "of."

Il bidone della spazzatura (the garbage can)

Il professore di matematica (the math teacher)

Il forno da pizza (the pizza oven)


We can't always use a noun as an adjective, but it is important to know that it exists as a phenomenon, and to recognize it when it occurs.


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The indispensable preposition di

The preposition di is one of the most common prepositions in the Italian language. Its basic definition, or rather, translation, is "of."


The title of a Yabla video about the famous Olivetti typewriter is La forza di un sogno. Here we can translate directly: "The strength of a dream."


Di = "of" in many cases.


One way di is used is to show the purpose of something. In this case, we might have two nouns separated by di (of) After di, we don't need the article of the noun, when we are referring to purpose, although there may be exceptions to this.



A scuola di musica is the title of a series of videos about what the musical notes are called in Italian. If you like to play music, this might interest you.


In English, we can say "school of music" or we can say "music school." They mean the same thing. In Italian, we don't have the choice, except in some certain circumstances we won't worry about just now.


Just as we have la scuola di musica, where di means "of,"  we can guess the meaning of other, similar series of words connected by di.


un negozio di vino - wine shop

un museo di arte moderna - modern art museum or, museum of modern art

una casa di caccia - hunting lodge

uno studio di registrazione - recording studioun 

un professore di storia - history professor


In English, we can often use a noun as an adjective as in "wine shop," but in Italian we start with "shop" (negozio) and add di plus the kind of shop it is, also a noun.


Apostrophe for possession in English, but not in Italian

To show possession in English, we sometimes use the apostrophe, which we don't use in Italian. To translate in a parallel way, we have to turn the phrase around in English and imagine using "of," even though to use it sounds kind of awkward. 


For example, one Yabla video is called Battesimo di Philip.  In English, we could say, "Philip's baptism," but in Italian this form doesn't exist. We need di. In the caption itself, we've used the same formula for the English translation. It could have been: "my son Philip's baptism."

La... il battesimo di mio figlio Philip.

The... the baptism of my son Philip.

Caption 17, Adriano Battesimo di Philip - Part 1

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Sometimes di means "from"

One the first things we learn in a new language is to say where we're from, because inevitabilmente (inevitably), we'll be asked that. 


The basic question is: di dove sei  (where are you from)?  For this we use the verb  essere (to be).

"Di dove sei" è una domanda che io faccio per chiedere a una persona dov'è nata, l'origine.

Where are you from is a question I ask to ask a person where he was born, his origins.

Captions 9-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Preposizioni in e a

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Note that di is at the beginning of the question. For the answer, we start with the verb (with the personal pronoun incorporated into it). Di by itself works for towns and cities. States, regions, and countries can be more complicated but we won't worry about that right now.

Sono di New York (I'm from New York).


Di  can mean "at" regarding time.

Di can mean "at" when we're talking about night and day, morning, afternoon, or evening:

eh... cucinando di notte, perché sennò di giorno fa caldo,

uh... cooking at night because otherwise it's too hot during the day,

Caption 68, Cucinare con le spezie di Franco Calafatti Introduzione

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Di  can mean "about" 

Racconta la storia di un burattino di legno

It tells the story of a wooden puppet

Caption 31, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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We could say, "Pinocchio is a story about a wooden puppet."


There are other ways in which we use di, too many to list here. But we will close with a few common ways to say, "You're welcome" with di.


If you want to minimize what you did for someone, you can say:

Di niente (it was nothing).

Di nulla (it was nothing).

Non c'è di che (there's nothing [to thank me] for).


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How does Italian work?

When you learn a new language, there's lots to learn. It can be overwhelming, so let's talk for a moment about how Italian works. What can you expect from this language?


Nouns in Italian have gender. In German, we have masculine, feminine, and neuter, but in Italian, we just have masculine and feminine. So every noun has an article that will be different according to gender and number. 


Daniela talks about that in her series of video lessons here.


Marika gives some tips on figuring out the gender of a noun here, beginning with masculine nouns.

Di solito, tendono ad essere di genere maschile tutti quei nomi che terminano in "o" oppure in "e". Per esempio: orso, cavallo, armadio,

Usually, all the nouns ending in "o" or "e" tend to be of the masculine gender. For example: bear, horse, cupboard,

Captions 3-4, Marika spiega Il genere maschile

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Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns need to be learned little by little. We need them to determine who's talking or acting or whom we're talking about.  


When we learn how to conjugate a verb, we learn the personal pronouns associated with each person:


For example, when we conjugate the basic and irregular verb essere (to be) we use the personal pronouns:

io sono (I am)

tu sei (you are)

lui è (he/it is)

lei è (she/it is)

noi siamo (we are)

voi siete (you are)

loro sono (they are)


A tricky thing about pronouns and verbs

One of the trickiest things about Italian is that more often than not, the personal pronoun is left out entirely. You might be desperately trying to understand who are we talking about, but can't find the personal pronoun.


Italian comes from Latin, so the way a verb is conjugated includes information on the "hidden" or  "implied" personal pronoun. Sometimes it's ambiguous, as you can see in this lesson. But let's have a quick look at what is tricky.


Let's take a simple sentence in English we might want to translate into Italian.

I see the horse. 

Your natural inclination is to take the Italian for I = io.


Then you want the verb "to see." It's the verb vedere. I need to put it into the first person. I look it up on a conjugation chart: vedere

Io vedo  (I see).

Then I want the object: horse. In this case, it is a direct object because the verb vedere (to see) is transitive in both Italian and English (but this isn't always the case!)

the horse = il cavallo.

We come up with:

Io vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).


But, except in certain cases where we want to emphasize who sees the horse, we can just leave out the personal pronoun. The sentence becomes:

Vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).


It's perfectly clear without the personal pronoun. I know it is there, implied. This is totally normal in Italian and takes some getting used to. Here's an example you can listen to:

Quindi, quando vedo una persona, prima la saluto: "ciao".

So, when I see a person, first I greet him: "Hi."

Caption 10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Primi incontri - Part 2

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*tip: When you learn a noun in Italian, try to always include the definite article. We don't worry about this in English, but in Italian, it's super important. It's impossible to get it right all the time, but getting off to a good start will pay off later.

Something to know about verbs

Regular Italian verbs generally fall into 3 categories and end in -are, -ere, or -ire.

Parlare (to speak)

Vedere (to see)

Venire (to come)


Each of these groups has a specific way of getting conjugated, so little by little it's good to get a sense of how these work. It will help you conjugate verbs without having to look them up all the time.


Daniela has a series of video lessons in Italian about Italian, so check out the series here. She delves into the three types of verb conjugations, represented by three types of infinitive verb endings.





Don't feel you have to start memorizing verbs, unless you want to, but do be aware that there are basically three ways to end a verb and you will discover them as you learn. This will also help you identify verbs as you listen and read.

Irregular verbs

There are some irregular verbs that need to be learned early in the game because, just as in English, they are also helping verbs. We're talking about essere (to be) and avere (to have).


We use these verbs tons of times every day, so the sooner you get used to their conjugations, the easier it will be further on. 

Modal verbs

Just as in English, Italian has modal verbs. Just as in English, the modal verb gets conjugated and then you tack on the verb in the infinitive. So one trick when learning Italian is to learn the modal verb potere (to be able to  [which we conjugate with "can."]).

Posso venire (Can I come)?


Daniela teaches us about modal verbs. The main ones are potere (to be able to), volere (to want to), and dovere (to have to). They are irregular, so it's a good idea to learn them early on, especially the first person, so you can express your needs!


Lots can be said about adjectives, but for now, let's remember that adjectives go with nouns, and in Italian, they have a very close relationship. The ending of an adjective has to agree with the noun it is modifying. What matters is the gender and the number.


See this lesson in English about adjectives.


Daniela goes through everything you need to know about adjectives here.


Two adjectives you will need when you begin speaking Italian are bello (beautiful, great) and buono (good). Daniela talks about these 2 adjectives here.

Word order

Sometimes Italian word order is like English but often it isn't. 


Let's take the example we looked at earlier.

Vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).


In the example above, I know the pronoun io is implied because of the conjugation of the verb vedere. Vedo is the first person singular, so the hidden pronoun will be io.


When I replace cavallo with a pronoun, the word order changes!

Lo vedo (I see it).


The pronoun lo stands for il cavallo, but it comes before the verb. This is just one example of how word order changes and is different than what we might expect.

So in terms of word order, you need to expect the unexpected, and little by little you will listen and repeat, listen and repeat, and you'll get it.

To sum up

This was intended to give you an overview of what to expect from the Italian language. We've tried to give you some links to Yabla videos and lessons that delve into each aspect of the language. But Yabla is primarily a library of videos you can use to hear the language spoken by native speakers. Don't be afraid to watch videos using the English subtitles, Italian subtitles, or both. Or... just let it soak in, depending on your mood and time availability. Vocabulary reviews and other exercises we've provided at the end of each video will help you learn new words, check your progress, and help you with listening comprehension and dictation. It's up to you to take advantage of them.


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Making choices in Italian, Part 1

In English, the words that come to mind when talking about choices are: either, or, both, either one, whichever one (among others). Let's explore our options in Italian.


This is an easy one. Just take the r off "or." It's o.

Birra o vino? Ultimissima.

Beer or wine? The very latest.

Caption 41, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 3

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But there's another word that means "or" and can imply "or else," or "otherwise." It's oppure. When we are thinking of alternatives, we might use oppure.... (or...). We also use it when we would say, "Or not," as in the following example.


Ci ha portato anche i due bicchieri per il vino, ma non so se io e Marika a pranzo berremo oppure no.

He also brought us two glasses for wine, but I don't know if Marika and I will drink at lunch or not.

Captions 22-23, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1

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Note: It doesn't have to be oppure. It can also just be o, but it's an option!



In English, we have "either" and "or" that go together when we talk about choices.


In Italian, the same word — o —goes in both spots in the sentence where were would insert "either" and "or." Consider the example below.


O ci prende almeno una canzone o gli diciamo basta, finito, chiuso.

Either he takes at least one song from us, or we say to him enough, over, done with.

Caption 48, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 2 - Part 2

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Similarly, when neither choice is a positive one, Italian uses (neither/nor) for both "neither" and "nor."

Ho capito dai suoi occhi che Lei non ha marito figli.

I understood from your eyes that you have neither husband nor children.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 24

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Non voglio  questo quello (I don't want this one or that one / I  want neither this one nor that one).


Either one

Sometimes we don't have a preference. When it's 2 items, either one will do. If it's a masculine noun like il colore (the color), we can say:

Uno o l'altro, non importa (one or the other, it doesn't matter).


If it's a feminine noun such as la tovaglia (the tablecloth), we can say:

Una o l'altra andrebbe bene (one or the other would be fine).


We have to imagine the noun we're talking about and determine if it's masculine or feminine...


Anyone, whichever, whatever

When we choose among more than 2 items, we use "any,"  "whichever," or "whatever" in English. In Italian, it's qualsiasi or qualunque (as well as some others).

Qualsiasi cosa tu decida di fare.

Whatever you decide to do.

Caption 63, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

 Play Caption


Diciamo che potete fare qualsiasi pasta al pesto, anche, ad esempio, gli gnocchi, però il piatto tradizionale è trenette o linguine al pesto.

Let's say that you can use whatever kind of pasta for pesto, for example, even gnocchi, however, the traditional dish is trenette or linguine al pesto.

Captions 76-77, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1

 Play Caption


Eh, qualunque cosa tu mi abbia detto non, non l'hai detta a Raimondi, vero?

Uh, whatever you told me, you didn't, you didn't tell Raimondi, right?

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 10

 Play Caption


If you do a search of qualsiasi and qualunque on the Yabla videos page, you'll notice that they are used interchangeably in many cases. Experience will help you figure out when they aren't exactly the same thing.


In Part 2, we'll talk about how to say "both" in Italian. There is more than one way. 


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Combining the preposition di with a definite article

The preposition di (of) is one of the most common simple prepositions. It's used to show possession, but also means, origin, manner, quantity. Take a look at the WordReference entry to get an idea.


The simple preposition di can be combined with an article to form what is called una preposizione articolata. In doing this, it is transformed a bit, so this is just something we need to learn. Marika has a video series about the prepositions, and begins with the common preposition di. In this lesson we will set out to put things in a visual context with a list of how di can combine with definite articles, and we'll give you some examples from Yabla videos, so you can hear them in context.



Here is how we combine the preposition di with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"): The main thing to notice is that the i in di is transformed in e.

di + il = del

di + lo = dello

di + l’ = dell’

di + la = della

di + i = dei

di + gli = degli

di + le = delle



Let's look at each combination in context:

Del is the combination of the preposition di and the definite article il.

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

In tutte le città del mondo ci sono ristoranti italiani.

In all the cities of the world, there are Italian restaurants.

Caption 8, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

 Play Caption



In the following example, note that before the noun there is an adjective, famoso (famous) which also agrees with the masculine noun. 

Pinocchio è il protagonista del famoso romanzo dell'autore Collodi:

Pinocchio is the main character of the famous novel by the author Collodi:

Caption 29, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

 Play Caption


Dello is the combination of the preposition di and the masculine singular definite article lo. Note that there are two L's!

Note that there is another example of dello in the title of the episode. Translated it would be: The shark's gold.

Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the door of the locker room?

Caption 30, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 13

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In the following example, even though we say il colore, not lo colore,  we do use di plus the definite article lo and it becomes dello. This is because before the noun, 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.

E una bella borsa dello stesso colore.

And a nice handbag of the same color.

Caption 37, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 3

 Play Caption


Dell' is the combination of the preposition di and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Le pulizie della casa, dell'appartamento si chiamano anche "faccende domestiche" oppure "pulizie casalinghe".

The cleaning of the house, of the apartment, is also called "housework" or "household cleaning."

Captions 32-33, Marika spiega Le pulizie di primavera - Part 1

 Play Caption


Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  It's a truncated version of della, which we'll look at next.This can be a headache for learners:

Io mi occupo della contabilità dell'azienda.

I take care of the accounts of the business.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

 Play Caption


Della is the combination of the preposition di and the feminine singular definite article la. Just like dello, we double the L.

La grande tragedia della guerra lascia memorie che non si cancellano.

The great tragedy of the war leaves memories that don't get erased.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 5

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Now let's move on to di plus a plural definite article.

Dei is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article i.

Da quando in qua un uomo si deve occupare dei neonati?

Since when should a man have to take care of [the] newborns?

Caption 16, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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Note that Italian uses the definite article, where in English, none is necessary. This is common and takes some effort in getting used to it.


In the next example, we have the combined preposition followed by the possessive pronoun miei (the plural masculine form of mio).  Here too, the article is there (attached to di = dei ).

È una ricetta dei miei nonni che coltivavano le arance di Sicilia.

It's a recipe from my grandparents, who cultivated Sicilian oranges.

Caption 12, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Degli is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Degli is hard to pronounce for lots of folks. Here, too, the definite article is included, while English leaves it out.

Pensate che il novanta percento degli italiani beve caffè quotidianamente.

Just think that ninety percent of Italians drink coffee on a daily basis.

Caption 7, Adriano Il caffè

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Delle is the combination of the preposition di and the plural feminine definite article le.

Sarà la forma delle note a stabilire qual è la durata dei suoni,

It's the shape of the notes that determines the duration of the sounds,

Caption 37, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

 Play Caption




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.  


For other preposizioni articolate, check out:

Combining the preposition a with a definite article

Combining the preposition in with a definite article


Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at

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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?



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.

You know? -I know. I saw you.

-Mi hai vista? -Sì, ti ho vista.

-You saw me? -Yes, I saw you.

Ero venuto lì per cercarti e ti ho vista.

I went there to look for you, and I saw you.

Captions 5-7, Provaci ancora prof! - S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco

 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

 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

I have to tell you the truth. I love panzanella

e sono una toscana DOC [di origine controllata],

and I'm a DOC [true] Tuscan,

ma non l'ho mai fatta!

but I have never made it.

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

 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

 Play Caption



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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. 



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,

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one,

ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna,

they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern,

era colmo fino all'orlo.

was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie - EP. 1

 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.

He should get taken care of as well.

Andrebbe o va? -Va.

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

 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,

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one,

ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna,

they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern,

era colmo fino all'orlo.

was full to the brim.

Captions 12-13, Meraviglie - EP. 1

 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).



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?

Are you well? Did you get there?

Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?

Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?

Captions 15-16, Sposami - EP 1

 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



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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.



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,

One says the fifth of Aprilthe fourth of July,

il nove maggio, ehm, il venti di agosto.

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

And then on the eighteenth of August

la statua rientra qui nel... ehm, nel santuario.

the statue returns here, in the... uh, in the sanctuary.

Captions 19-20, Antonio - al Santuario

 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

Um, the Madonna of the Cave is the patron saint of Praia a Mare

e viene fatta una festa il quattordici e quindici d'agosto.

and there is a feast on the fourteenth and fifteenth of August.

Per l'esattezza inizia il quattordici a mezzanotte

To be exact it starts on the fourteenth at midnight

e finisce il diciotto agosto di ogni anno.

and ends on the eighteenth of August every year.

Captions 13-16, Antonio - al Santuario

 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,

On the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of February,

in Italia si terranno le elezioni politiche,

Italy will hold political elections

che decreteranno la scelta di un nuovo governo.

that will ratify the choice of a new government.

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

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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,

And one says: the first of Julythe first of August,

il primo settembre.

the first of September.

Caption 28, Marika spiega - Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

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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,

The months that interest us here are half of March, April,

maggio e i primi di giugno.

May, and the first [days] of June.

Captions 29-30, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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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!

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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

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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

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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

Let's assume we're preparing some pasta alla carbonara

per quattro persone, quindi ci serviranno trecento grammi di pancetta,

for four people, so we'll need three hundred grams of bacon,

cinquecento grammi di pasta.

five hundred grams of pasta.

Captions 1-3, Adriano - Pasta alla carbonara

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Yes. On the evening news they talked about that boy they killed.

Assomiglia molto a uno che viene spesso...

He really looks like someone who often comes...

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

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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

Well, sorry if... if we didn't let you know beforehand, but

c'è Valeria che deve dirti una cosa.

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.

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.




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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 seven. 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


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

To finish up, I will point out to you that

"in effetti", come espressione a sé stante,

"in effetti," as a standalone expression,

come espressione singola,

as an expression on its own,

senza aggiungere altre parole dopo,

without adding other words after it,

si usa per affermare che si è convinti di qualcosa.

is used to affirm that we are convinced of something.

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

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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.

Great work, Arianna.

Ti ringrazio per avermi fatto presente la situazione.

Thank you for letting me know about the situation.

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

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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

But also the city of Genoa, with its alleys, is very appealing

e da segnalare anche l'Acquario di Genova,

and one should also mention the Genoa Aquarium,

che è molto famoso.

which is very famous.

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

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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

Mister Pitagora, I wanted to let you know

che per trovare i soldi per la sua operazione,

that to get the money for your operation,

mio fratello ha rinunciato a tutti i diritti sull'azienda.

my brother gave up all his rights to the company.

Captions 95-97, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

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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,

The Troisgros brothers,

quando comunicai loro che volevo tornare a Milano,

when I communicated to them that I wanted to return to Milan,

ci rimasero male.

were disappointed.

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

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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

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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

Well, I've had to inform all our current advertisers

che tutti i contratti futuri

that all future contracts

subiranno un aumento del prezzo del trenta per cento.

will undergo a thirty percent increase in cost.

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

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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

 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. 



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. 

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

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


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

 Play Caption



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


Abbiamo parcheggiato in divieto di sosta,

We parked in a no parking zone,

e io purtroppo non me ne sono accorto.

and I, unfortunately, didn't realize it.

Captions 12-13, Francesca - alla guida

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Rendersi conto

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


E allora ripensando a quella mattina, io mi sono resa conto

And so thinking back to that morning, I realized

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

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

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

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Farci caso or fare caso di qualcosa

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


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


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


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


Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza...

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

era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco.

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

Ma io non c'ho mai fatto caso.

But I never made an issue of it.

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

 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.

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

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

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

non sono rientrato neanche a casa.

I haven't even gone home.

Ci hai fatto caso, spero, sì?

You noticed, I hope, didn't you?

-Come non c'ho fatto caso?

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

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

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


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

Non ci far caso. Non farci caso.

Don't pay attention to that. Ignore it.


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


Non ci faccia caso, è fatta così.

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

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

 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 in caso sounds like z):

Non c'ho fatto caso. 

I didn't notice.

I didn't see that.

I didn't notice that.

I didn't pay attention to it.

It didn't jump out at me.

It didn't catch my eye.



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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



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

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Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

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

Caption 26, Marika spiega - La particella CI

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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,

In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy,

molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.

many families have olive trees of their own.

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

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Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'aperitivo

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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

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Canada is a country, so we use in.


Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare,

Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting,

poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada.

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 England 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.



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Combining 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



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,

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place,

soprattutto per i ragazzi,

above all for the kids,

i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani,

he younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones,

che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena - al porto di Maratea

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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

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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

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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...

In fact, we talk (inthe same way...

e facciamo le stesse cose.

and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche - sulla spiaggia

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

Sì, agli amici.

Yes, to friends.

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

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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

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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

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Fino a qui e d'ora in poi — Timeline Words

A new movie coming to Yabla is Fino a qui tutto bene. You might have read about it in the newsletter. The title is worth talking about, since it includes the preposition fino, which can cause confusion sometimes.


Fino is a preposition, basically meaning "up to" or until. It can be combined with other prepositions to mean a few other things, too. Check out Daniela's lessons about fino


Corso di italiano con Daniela - Fino a e Finché - Part 1 

Corso di italiano con Daniela - Fino a e Finché - Part 2 


If you are filling a glass, you can say, fino a qui or fino a qua (up to here) indicating with your finger. But it can also be about time, as in the title of the movie.

Tutto bene

Tutto bene is what we say or ask when we want to talk about everything being OK.


Tutto bene (Everything OK)?
Tutto bene (Everything's fine).
If you want to be polite, you can say, tutto bene, grazie.


Or, we can qualify our statement:

Fino a qui, tutto bene (So far, so good — up to this point, everything is fine).


You might be thinking about finché and finchè non, so we'll include them briefly. 

There are a couple of lessons about these

Finché  and  Finché non

Finché is a shortened version of fino a che, meaning "per tutto il tempo che..."

Although it's not always the case, we can usually translate finché as "as long as."


Per molto tempo l'ho custodita con cura, finché ho potuto.

For a long time I took care of it carefully, as long as I could.

Caption 46, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie

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We will often see finché followed by non: finché non.

This will be translated as "until."


Eravamo soci, finché non l'ho beccato a rubare.

We were partners, until I caught him stealing.

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

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So fino a qui = up to a certain point (in time). 

We can also say, finora — a shortened version of fino ad ora to mean the same thing. In fact, finora is specific to time.

D'ora in poi

If now is the time of arrival, it can also be the time of departure. So we can say:

D'ora in poi (From now on).

D'ora in avanti (From now on).


For more on this, see part 2 of Daniela's video lesson about ora (now).


As she mentions, we can also say, fin d'ora or fin da ora (starting now, already, from this moment). 

Anzi, le sono grata fin da ora.

In fact, I'm grateful from this moment on.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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The person is basically saying he or she is already grateful. This is something you might say or hear when you are wondering when your insurance will be valid. -Starting right now. Fin d'ora.


We hope this lesson has given you some tools for talking within a timeline.


fino a qui finora ora   fin da ora fin d'ora d'ora in poi d'ora in avanti
up to this point up to now now   starting now starting now from now on from now on


Finché and finchè non are not relative to ora (now), but to a designated time.

Finché refers to the duration of time when something is true (as long as).

Finché non refers to the moment before something changes (until).

If it is sufficiently clear, non might be left out.




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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. 


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)!



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,

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night,

uscire con gli amici,

going out with our friends,

andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema

going to see a good film at the movies

e fare molto sport.

and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

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

Caption 2, Meraviglie - EP. 4 - Part 6

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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.


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

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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,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the,

a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo,

at noon we'd eat: the first course,

la carne, il contorno e la frutta.

meat, vegetable and fruit.

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

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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

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


Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse

It seemed as though there was fog

anche a Ferragosto.

even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

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

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E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once.

Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre,

Different installments that are due every semester,

perché l'anno dell'u'...

because the school year...

l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri.

the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters.

-Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio,

-The first that goes from September to January,

e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena - sistema universitario italiano

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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,

Well I don't have a formula, look,

vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

I go... I go along very much by instinct.

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

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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

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In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing,

ho deciso di prendere Ulisse.

I decided to take Ulisse.

Captions 28-29, Andromeda - La storia di Ulisse

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

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