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Lessons for topic Grammar

Making Mistakes with Gusto and Feeling

A recent segment of Provaci ancora Prof brings up a grammatical mistake many Italians and non-Italians make, often aware they’re making it, but which they make anyway to add color and emphasis.

When we talk about liking something, we use the verb piacere. See this lesson about mi piace (I like it).

When we say mi piacemi is actually short for a me (to me), as Daniela tells us in her lesson.

 

Mi... piace. Mi significa "a me", piace è la terza persona singolare del verbo "piacere".

"Mi... piace." "Mi" means "to me," "piace" is the third person singular of the verb "piacere" (to please).

Captions 2-4, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Mi piace

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Instead of mi piace we may say a me piace. It means the same thing, and might be used when we want to emphasize that someone else might not like something, but the person speaking does. It puts the accent on the person speaking, not on the fact of liking it, or on what it is that’s being liked.

 

Almeno, a me piace questa, proprio questa radicalità del territorio.

At least, I like this, precisely this rootedness in the territory.

Caption 15, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 12

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However, it is not correct at all to use both figures at the same time. It’s an unacceptable redundancy. A me mi piace is wrong.

 

In this week's episode of Provaci ancora, Prof, Camilla's young daughter uses another expression incorrectly in the same way:

 

A me mi [sic] sa che la mamma ha detto una bugia.

To me, I have a feeling that Mom told a lie.

Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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She should have said:

Mi sa che la mamma ha detto una bugia (I have a feeling that Mom told a lie).

Parents find themselves correcting this very frequent error all the time with their kids.

 

"A me mi" non si dice.

"To me I" isn't said.

Caption 12, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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Mi sa (it smells/seems to me) is a very common and useful way to say “I have a feeling” or “I think,” and what’s more, you don’t have to worry, in this particular case, about using the subjunctive after che (that).

See this lesson about mi sa.

 

Now, let’s take this error one step further.

 

Romans have the tendency to pronounce indirect pronouns ending in i, with a final e instead. This results in me piace. It has to do with local pronunciation, not (necessarily) ignorance, and is a regional characteristic.

For other aspects of the Roman dialect, or Romanesco, see this article.

 

One of Italy’s most beloved (Roman) actors, Gigi Proietti, made the aforementioned error famous in a series of TV commercials for Kimbo coffee. You can see one of them here on YouTube. He also makes other errors his travelling companion tries to correct him on.

 

But what interests us right now is that he says, “A me me piace (to me, I like it).” He uses the incorrect, above-mentioned redundant form, plus which he uses me instead of mi, which many would consider an error. So, it’s totally wrong, but it became extremely popular all overItaly in those years, because he would say it at the end of every commercial, while holding up his little cup of espresso.

 

Previous to Gigi Proietti’s arrival on the scene, Caffè Kimbo had already produced a series of comical commercials taking place on a cruise ship. The captain was played by Massimo Dapporto, another popular Italian actor. Then a new “season” started up with Gigi Proietti playing a man lost at sea on a little raft. He gets rescued by the cruise ship, but has lost his memory. In the first installment of this new series, there is a wonderful play on the double meaning of sentire (to hear, to smell). View it here.

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Gigi Proietti’s character takes great pleasure in making his mistakes, almost as much pleasure as he apparently takes in drinking his Caffè Kimbo. As foreigners trying to speak Italian as well as possible, we should probably stay away from trying to imitate him. People might think we don’t know any better.

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A Word About the Congiuntivo (the Subjunctive)

As Daniela finishes up talking about the conditional, she sneaks in a word in the subjunctive, which she hasn’t covered in her lessons yet.

"Io, fossi in te, partirei domani".

"If I were you, I would leave tomorrow."

Caption 4, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il condizionale - Part 7

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And in the previous segment of the lessons on the conditional, she also uses it.

Il condizionale in italiano si usa per esprimere la possibilità che possa succedere qualcosa.

The conditional is used in Italian to express the possibility that something could happen.

Captions 21-22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il condizionale - Part 6

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The conditional often goes hand in hand with the subjunctive, so it's not easy to avoid using the subjunctive sometimes.

 

For those who are curious, there have been some written lessons about the subjunctive, called the congiuntivo in Italian, and we provide some links here so that you can peruse them.  

 

Hypothesis Versus Reality - the subjunctive and the conditional

Verbs of Uncertainty and the Subjunctive

 

The subjunctive is necessary in several different kinds of scenarios, and they need to be treated one by one, but in very general terms, most of the time, the subjunctive has to do with uncertainty in some way, and that is why it goes hand in hand with the conditional, since the conditional also deals in uncertainty. Be on the lookout for the conjunction che (that, which) that often necessitates the use of the subjunctive following it. 

 

Another way the subjunctive is used is in polite commands, such as:

mi scusi  (excuse me)

 

It also gets used with impersonal verbs:

Bisogna che vada via entro mezzogiorno (it’s necessary for me to leave by noon), and other impersonal constructions such as:

Sarà difficile che tu vada via entro mezzogiorno (it will be unlikely that you leave by noon).

 

For the most part, the subjunctive has become a rarity in English but we still do use it, especially when we are speaking formally, or just correctly. And we especially find it in proximity to the conditional.

If I were you I would go right now.

It is incorrect to say “if I was you,” even though lots of people do say it.

 

A good rule of thumb is to learn the subjunctive conjugation for the verbs you will be using often, like essere (to be), avere (to have), and andare (to go) and even more importantly, to learn some frasi fatte (set phrases), like:

Cosa vuoi che faccia (what do you want me to do)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how serious could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where do you want me to go)?

The verb volere (to want) is used idiomatically here, as a somewhat rhetorical question.

 

Let's look at some alternative translations of these phrases to get the idea.

Cosa vuoi che faccia (what can I do about it)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how big a deal could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where could I possibly go? — I'll be right here).

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Little by little you'll put all the pieces together and know when to use it and when not to use it.

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When Accents Make a Difference

Let’s talk about some other common Italian words containing written accents. In case you missed the lesson in which we started talking about accents, read it here.

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The accent on the u at the end of più (more) tells us that the accent of the word doesn’t fall on the iwhich is where it would naturally fall. 

Più gli ingredienti sono freschi e più è buono.

The fresher the ingredients are, the better it is.

Caption 16, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

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A similar-looking word is pio (pious) where the accent does fall on the i, and indeed there is no accent on any letter.

È pio, eh di, di nome e di fatto.

He's Pio [pious], uh in, in name and in fact.

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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In the same manner, ciò  (that, what) has an accent on the to tell us the accent is not on the i where it would normally fall.

È uno che di fronte a una bella donna si dimentica di ciò che è giusto e ciò che è sbagliato.

He's someone who, faced with a beautiful woman, forgets what's right and what's wrong.

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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All the days of the week except il sabato (Saturday) and la domenica (Sunday) have an accent on the i at the end: lunedì (Monday), martedì (Tuesday), mercoledì (Wednesday), giovedì (Thursday), venerdì (Friday). In fact,  is another word for "day" (normally giorno).

Un bel vedremo.

One beautiful day we'll see.

Caption 13, Anna presenta - Madama butterfly di Giacomo Puccini

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Without the accent on the i, it's di (of).

Eppure io non ho mai smesso né di aspettarlo né di amarlo.

Nonetheless I never ceased to wait for him or to love him.

Caption 11, Anna presenta - Madama butterfly di Giacomo Puccini

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Similarly, da (of, from, to, at) has no accent, but when we conjugate the third person singular of the verb dare (to give), we use an accent to distinguish it from da.

Invito Sigrid, una mia studentessa a farvelo sentire, in modo da mettere in evidenza appunto ogni sillaba che il nome alle note.

I invite Sigrid, a student of mine, to let you hear it in order to highlight, precisely each syllable that gives its name to the notes.

Captions 37-39, A scuola di musica - con Alessio - Part 1

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Remember that except for e, where the accent may be either grave (è) or acute (é) to distinguish between an open (è) or closed (ée, all the accents will be “grave,” that is, going down from left to right (àìòù). 

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Try learning these words one by one, making the accent part of the word as you learn it. Needless to say, taking advantage of the Yabla games, from multiple choice to Scribe, will help you nail it.
 

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The Little Words: Particles ne and ci in context

Even though Marika has talked about the particles ne and ci in her video lessons, actually using them in conversation takes some practice. Let’s have a quick look at a few examples in this week’s episode of Commissario Manara.

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We often don’t even hear these particles, because we aren’t looking for them. In English, equivalents for them are often superfluous.

 

This one little word ne represents a preposition plus an indirect object. In the following example, Lara could have said much the same thing leaving out the ne, but using it is more precise. It’s the difference between “I’m sure” and “I’m sure of it.” But in Italian, the particle goes before the verb, as if it were “of it I’m sure.”

Comunque ne sono sicura, non si è uccisa.

Anyway, I'm sure of it. She didn't kill herself.

Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

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In the following example, we have ci in the first part, which represents "on the furniture" and then, ce neCe represents “there (on the furniture)” and ne represents “of them” (the prints). Remember that when we have a direct object together with the indirect object ci, the ci changes to ce!

Se lei ci fosse salita sopra, sarebbero rimaste le impronte e invece non ce ne sono.

If she had climbed up on it, the prints would have remained, but there aren't any [of them].

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

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In the following example, ci represents noi (to us).

Senti, prima ho trovato il diario di Iolanda. Forse può esserci utile.

Listen, earlier I found Iolanda's diary. Maybe it could be useful to us.

Captions 17-18, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 2

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Ci is complicated. It means different things in different contexts. So we will keep on talking about ci.

 

See more lessons about ci.

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Practice:

The new Yabla feature, Scribe, is not just a game, even though you'll find it in the "Games" tab (blue button) in the lower right-hand corner of the Player video window. Playing Scribe can be a big help in getting accustomed to particles like ne and ci/ce, because in Scribe we have to try to write down what we hear. And once we start hearing these particles, it will be easier to start using them and putting them in the right place. Stay on the lookout for further information about how to make the most of Scribe to boost your Italian comprehension and spelling skills. Meanwhile, perché non farci un giro (why not give it a whirl)? 

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Future and Conditional in the First Person Plural

Daniela’s lesson this week explains how to form the conditional with verbs ending in “-are.” But endings notwithstanding, the first person plural of verbs will always have a single “m” in the future, and a double “m” in the conditional. So, aside from learning the conjugations, it’s important, as Daniela mentions, to be able to distinguish between -emo, and -emmo. Let’s focus for a moment on the first person plural of the future and the conditional. It’s a good chance to practice double “m’s.”

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Here’s the future tense of potere (to be able to) and riuscire (to manage to), with one “m.” The narrator is about to show us some film clips, so it’s a sure thing. 

In una serie di filmati, eh, nella... [sic] nel tempo di una pausa caffè, potremo vedere alcuni eh castelli, alcuni anfiteatri, alcuni templi, della regione della Campania. In questo modo appunto riusciremo a parlare di tutte [sic] questi siti archeologici.

In a series of film segments, uh, in the... in the time of a coffee break, we'll be able to see some uh castles, some amphitheaters, some temples, of the region of Campania. That way, we'll be able to talk about all of these archaeological sites.

Captions 9-12, Escursioni Campane - Castello Normanno - Part 1

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In the following example, we find the conditional, so in this case there are two “m’s.” Can you hear them? Try practicing the difference between potremo and potremmo!

Se ti invito a cena questa sera potremmo leggerli tutti.

If I invite you for supper tonight we could read all of them.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 2

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Let’s look at some more examples. Try rolling them around on your tongue, making sure that the double “m” sits there a moment before pronouncing the “o.”

 

In the next examples, the meaning is clear. The autopsy is going to take place, so they will find out what they need to know. They use the future.

Se ci sono altre cose lo scopriremo dopo l'autopsia. -Qualcosa la sappiamo già adesso.

If there are other things, we'll find out after the autopsy. -We already know something right now.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 2

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In the following example, chef Gualtiero Marchesi uses se (if) plus the subjunctive in one clause, and the conditional in the other. This is a classic combination.  

Noi finiamo sempre con l'aggiungere delle cose che saranno anche buone, ma se provassimo a [sic] approcciare il prodotto per il prodotto, credo che scopriremmo un mondo nuovo.

We always end up adding things that may well be good, but if we tried approaching a product for the product itself, I think we'd discover a new world.

Captions 21-23, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 2

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For more about the conditional and subjunctive together see this lesson.

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To hear more words in the future and conditional, look them up on a conjugation chart, at WordReference, for example, and then do a Yabla search of the conjugation you want to examine, so you can hear the verbs in context pronounced by Italians.

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The Mystery of the Hidden Pronouns

To form a sentence, we need a subject and a verb. For the moment, let’s stick to the most normal kinds of subjects: nouns and pronouns.

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At the beginning of the following example, it’s fairly easy to find the subject and verb:

Dixi uscì di casa leggero più di una piuma leggera, perché non aveva ancora fatto merenda.

Dixi left the house, lighter than a light feather because he had not yet had a snack.

Captions 3-4, Dixieland - Il singhiozzo

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If we look at the second part of the sentence, however, we see the verb avere (to have) in its simple past tense aveva (had). But where is the equivalent of the pronoun “he” that we see in the English translation?

That’s one of the tricky things about learning Italian. The pronoun is included in the verb.

 

It can be hard to find the subject if we can't see it! How can we tell what the pronoun would be if we can’t see it? Conjugation tables help in finding out what person the verb is expressed in but we also have to get used to the fact that we "get" more than we "see."

 

Here are a few examples of how this works:

Ho (I have)
Hai (you have)
Ha (he, she, it has)
Abbiamo (we have)
Avete (you [plural] have)
Hanno (they have)

 

We can’t always know if the implied pronoun is masculine or feminine, because “he” and “she” have the same conjugation. We have to rely on previous information in the sentence or paragraph to know more precisely which it is. In the example above, the subject is Dixi, the flying elephant, who, for our purposes, is a male. Since we’ve already mentioned him by name at the beginning of the sentence, we don’t need to repeat it. Aveva means “he had.” But we could also say:

Dixi non aveva ancora fatto merenda (Dixi had not yet had a snack).

 

So, the verb is identical whether the noun is present or not. The noun will only be repeated if we want to emphasize that it’s Dixi, and not someone else.

 

By the same token, if we wanted to include a pronoun, we could. If we needed to stress “he,” we could say:

Lui non aveva ancora fatto merenda (he had not yet had a snack).

If Dixi were a female, we’d say:

Lei non aveva ancora fatto merenda (she had not yet had a snack).

So aveva could mean “he had,” “she had,” “it had,” or just “had.”

 

In the present tense, it can be tricky to perceive or use the verb avere (to have) or essere (to be) in the third person singular because they’re both such short words, and not only that: Ha (has, he has, she has, it has) is written with an H but that H is silent! So what are we left with? A lonely “Ah” sound. È (is, he is, she is, it is) is short, too, and you need to be careful to use an open “E.” Otherwise, without the grave accent, it means “and.”

 

So not only do these two verbs go by quickly, but the pronoun “he,” “she,”  or “it” may also be hidden within it!

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In the following example, we see that the subject of the paragraph is Villa Borghese. Once it has been mentioned by name, we don’t need to repeat it, as long as no other word gets in the way to cause confusion. We use a pronoun, just as we would in English, but it’s important to remember that in Italian, the pronoun is included in the verb itself, so we don’t see it. The second sentence uses the verb essere in the third person singular, and the third sentence uses avere in the third person singular.

Villa Borghese è un grandissimo parco.

Villa Borghese is a very large park.

È il più grande di Roma dopo Villa Doria Pamphilj e dopo Villa Ada.

It's the biggest park of Rome after Villa Doria Pamphilj and after Villa Ada.

Ha nove ingressi. Tutti diversi naturalmente.

It has nine entrances. All different obviously.

Captions 3-6, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese - Part 1

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If at First You Don't Succeed: riuscire

Daniela has taken us through different kinds of verbs and how they interact with verbs in the infinitive.

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Here’s a quick overview so you can get up to speed.

 

She started out by explaining modal verbs and other verbs that work like modal verbs. These verbs don’t need any preposition between the conjugated (modal) verb and the verb in the infinitive. See: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito and following. Here’s an example.

Non posso andare al cinema stasera. Devo studiare.
I can’t go to the movies tonight. I have to study.

She then gave us some examples of verbs that take the preposition di (of) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + Verbo all'infinito +preposizione “di”

Ho deciso di andare al cinema da sola. Ho dimenticato di ritirare dei soldi al bancomat.
I decided to go to the movies alone. I forgot to get some money at the ATM machine.

 

In her most recent lessons, she has talked about verbs that take the preposition (to) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione “a”

Se non ho gli occhiali, non riesco a leggere.

If I don't have glasses I can't manage to read.

Caption 19, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione A

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Daniela talks about several verbs in this context but let’s take a closer look at the verb riuscire because, although commonly used in Italian, it can be tricky to translate and has some important nuances.

 

Riuscire means “to succeed.” In the following example, it makes sense to us.

Sono riuscito a convincerlo della mia innocenza.
I succeeded in convincing him of my innocence.

But Daniela’s example above would sound a bit stilted with the verb “to succeed”:

If I don't have my glasses on, I don't succeed in reading.

In English, we would likely use the modal verb “to be able” or “to manage.”

I can’t read without my glasses.
I’m unable to read without my glasses.
I can’t manage to read without my glasses.

Remember this saying when thinking about the verb riuscire: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

 

Non riesco (I can’t) implies that I am trying, but I’m not succeeding. Non posso (I can’t) on the other hand, could mean any number of things having to do with permission, ability, money, etc. So riuscire (to succeed) is a bit more specific than potere (to be able to).

Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.

Are you able to get a shot of it? -Yes.

Caption 22, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 4

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You could use the verb “to succeed” here, but it would sound a bit odd in conversation.

Are you succeeding in getting a shot of it?
Will you succeed in getting a shot of it?

Here’s another example:

...e poi, quando riuscivamo [ad] avere due lire,

...and then, when we succeeded in having two liras [a couple of dollars],

Caption 13, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 15

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We could also say, “when we were able to get a hold of two liras...” or “when we managed to get a hold of two liras...”

 

In the negative, riuscire can be used for saying “I give up.”

Non ci riesco (I am not succeeding in it/I can’t manage it).

The ci here refers to “in it,” or “at it.”

 

But using riuscire in the negative implies that you gave something a try. If you say non posso, we don't know anything about why you can't. Your mother won’t let you? You don’t know how? It’s against your religion? Riuscire, on the other hand, implies you are willing, but unable.

 

Riuscire is one of those verbs you might not use immediately while learning Italian because it’s easier to use potere (to be able to). Understanding how Italians use riuscire is handy, however, and once you are accustomed to hearing and reading it, you will probably start using it, too!

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Marika uses riuscire in her presentation of Yabla. Her advice is sound!

Se invece non ci riesci, non ti preoccupare, ti devi solo allenare.

If you don't succeed, don't worry, you just need to practice.

Caption 36, Yabla-Intro - Marika

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Word Order Options with Modal Verbs and Object Pronouns

Object pronouns can be very tricky to use because there isn’t just one way to construct a phrase. Especially when dealing with modal verbs, which go hand in hand with infinitives, the object pronoun can go either before the conjugated verb or after the infinitive. The trick is that, as we shall see, the pronoun actually gets attached to the infinitive, which loses its final e

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Let's look at an example.

 

Here, the object pronoun comes just before the conjugated verb volere, which is modal.

Possiamo dire: ho comprato un'auto nuova. La vuoi vedere?

We can say, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"

Captions 58-60, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti

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Here, on the other hand, the object pronoun not only follows the infinitive, it's attached to it. In order to attach it, the final e of the infinitive vedere is omitted.

Oppure: ho comprato un'auto nuova. Vuoi vederla?

Or else, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"

Captions 61-62, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti

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Practice:

There are several pieces of dialogue in a recent episode of Commisario Manara that lend themselves to having their word order changed as explained above. Why not give it a try, and consult the solutions at the bottom of the page to check your answers. If this is new to you, then go right to the solutions, and see how they differ from the examples.

 

First, find the elements: the conjugated verb (likely modal), the infinitive verb, and the object pronoun. The next step is to rephrase the sentence, changing the position of the pronoun. 

1)

Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?

Uh, you could have told me that at the office tomorrow, couldn't you?

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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2)

Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.

You said some very beautiful things. Don't forget them. They work.

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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3)

Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.

However, I don't want, I don't want to lose you.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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4/5)

Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.

Let me work on it. As soon as I have the results, I'll come to report them to you.

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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6)

Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.

All right, good night, and sorry for before. -You don't have to apologize.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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7/8)

E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?

And what did you want to talk to me about?

Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.

I wanted to talk to you about a financial situation.

Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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Here are the examples and their solutions, for a quick comparison. 

1)
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Eh, potevi dirmelo anche domani in ufficio, no?

2)
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non le scordare. Funzionano.

3)
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
Però non voglio, io non ti voglio perdere.

4)
Lasciami lavorare.
Mi lasci lavorare?

5)
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, vengo a riferirteli.

6)
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non ti devi scusare.

7)
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
E di che cosa volevi parlarmi?

8)
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
Volevo parlarti di una situazione finanziaria.

 

Don't forget to read the examples out loud to see how they feel!

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As you follow this and other videos, and as you start speaking in Italian, hopefully, you'll start to feel comfortable with these different word order options.You’ll start noticing these constructions in most videos you look at. 

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Sapere sapere sapere

Sapere sapere sapere. We keep coming back to the same verbs, but there’s always something more to learn!

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We have already covered the verb sapere (to know, to know how to, to have the flavor/smell of) in previous lessons. But this week, Daniela talks about sapere once again. This time she discusses the most common meaning of sapere: to have knowledge of something. She explains how to use sapere in this sense, when followed by a verb in the infinitive rather than by a noun.

 

She explains about using the preposition di between conjugated sapere and the verb in the infinitive:

Allora diciamo: sappiamo di essere i più forti. I più forti.

So we say, "We know we're the strongest. The strongest."

Captions 23-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito + preposizione DI

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So di essere in ritardo.
I know I am late. (Or, I know that I’m late.)

The preposition di is generally translated as "of," but the trick here is that in English we don’t use the preposition “of” in this kind of situation. We either use “that,” as in “I know that I am late,” or we don’t use any preposition at all, as in “I know I am late.” All in all, sapere plus di plus infinitive is a construction that is difficult to match up in English, so we just have to assimilate it as best we can.

 

Let’s look at some more examples of sapere plus di, so you can get a feel for it.

Uno stupido non sa di essere stupido (an idiot doesn’t know he’s stupid).
 

Sappiamo di doverti delle scuse (we know we owe you an apology).
 

Sai di essere l’unica persona in grado di risolvere il problema (do you know you are the only person able to solve the problem)?
 

Sapete di camminare in mezzo alla strada (do you know you are walking in the middle of the road)?
 

Sanno di infrangere la legge, ma non gli importa niente (they know they are breaking the law, but they don’t care).
 

Leonardo sa di essere stato scorretto con me (Leonardo knows he has not been fair with me).

 

One of the other ways sapere gets used is to mean “to know how to.” Daniela has explained this in another video lesson:

Per esempio, io posso dire: Luca sa nuotare.

For example, I may say, "Luca knows how to swim."

Caption 19, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito - Part 1

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Here are some additional examples of this meaning. It should be mentioned that in this case, sapere acts like a modal verb, such as “can,” “must,” “may,” etc. Remember that with modal verbs, there is no preposition before the infinitive.

Non so parlare spagnolo (I don’t know how to speak Spanish).
 

Roberto non sa cucinare (Roberto doesn’t know how to cook).
 

Non sapete leggere fra le righe (you don’t know how to read between the lines).
 

miei genitori non sanno ballare (my parents don’t know how to dance).

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And let’s not forget that we can also use sapere before a noun.

Sai l’ora (do you know the time)?
 

So quello che dico (I know what I’m saying). 
 

So l’inglese (I know English.)
 

Di quella canzone, Gianna non sa abbastanza bene le parole (Gianna doesn’t know the words to that song well enough). 

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The Verb Ricordare (to Remember) in Context

Daniela has talked about the fact that ricordare (to remember) takes the preposition di. In a recent episode of Stai lontana da me, there is a scene where the verb ricordare appears a number of times. Let’s take a closer look.

In the following example, Simona is using ricordare reflexively: ricordarsi (to remember), but very generally, in that there is no direct object at all. She’s just saying, “You don’t remember, do you?”

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È incredibile, sono passati trent'anni e sei identico. -Identico a chi? -Sono Simona, non ti ricordi, eh?

It's incredible, thirty years have passed and you are the same. -The same as who? -I'm Simona, you don't remember, do you?

Captions 17-19, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 15

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But then, as they keep talking, we start hearing some direct object pronouns as well.

Ma figurati, ma io manco me la ricordo 'sta maledizione.

But are you kidding? But I don't even remember this curse.

Caption 29, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 15

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Of course in English, we don’t normally include the direct object pronoun together with the direct object noun.

 

'Sta maledizione (this curse) is the actual direct object of the above example and the one below.

Ma come non te la ricordi? -Ma non me la ricordo, era alle elementari, Jacopo. -Eh!

But how can you not remember? -But I don't remember it, it was elementary school, Jacopo. -Yeah.

Caption 30, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 15

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In the following example, just the indirect object pronoun (mi in this case) is used because what was remembered (the fact of being sweethearts) is then explained in a separate clause.

Eh, mi ricordo che eravamo fidanzatini, poi, non so, è successo qualcosa e...

Uh, I remember we were sweethearts and then something happened and...

Caption 31, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 15

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So when we don’t need to be specific, mi ricordo or non mi ricordo (I remember/I don’t remember) will do.

When there is no direct pronoun, just an indirect pronoun, we can ask the question:

Ti ricordi?
Do you remember?

But when we specify what is being remembered, we either insert a direct object noun:

Ti ricordi quel viaggio...?
Do you remember that trip...?

Or a verbal phrase:

Ti ricordi di aver fatto quel viaggio nel settantanove?
Do you remember having made that trip in seventy-nine?

Attenzione! This is when we need di, as Daniela has explained in a recent video lessonRicordare is a verb that takes the preposition di when followed by a verb in the infinitive, whether or not it is reflexive.

 

We can also insert a direct object pronoun. Attenzione! This causes a shift. In this case, the indirect pronoun changes from an i ending to an e ending. The direct pronoun will be lo (it), la (it), li (them), or le (them): In this particular case the object is viaggio (trip), a masculine noun.

Te lo ricordi?
Do you remember it?
Me lo ricordo
I remember it.
Se lo ricordano.
They remember it.

You can practice forming sentences with only an indirect pronoun. Then add a direct object pronoun corresponding to a noun you are thinking of, and make the shift, as above.

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Ci: There's Always More to Say About It!

We had mentioned in a recent lesson that we would come back to ci. Well, it just so happens that Marika talks about ci in a recent video lesson.

To start off, she explains how ci is used to express place so that you don’t have to keep repeating the place in subsequent sentences if it has already been mentioned once. It’s a pronoun in this sense, and includes the preposition and the object of the preposition. So we’re talking about an indirect pronoun.

She uses some examples that give a fairly clear idea of how to use ci in this sense. What can be tricky is that in English, we can leave more elements out of the sentence than in Italian.

There is one example she gives:

Vieni a fare la spesa con me?

Are you coming food shopping with me?

Sì, ci vengo. Grazie.

Yes, I'm coming. Thanks.

Captions 29-30, Marika spiega - La particella CI

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In this case, it’s hard to find any kind of indirect object that represents “to do the shopping with me.” In English, we just say, “Yes, I’m coming.” We could say, “Yes, I’m coming with you,” but that leaves out the shopping.

 

So when we are thinking about how to say something in Italian, and we are translating from English, it’s tricky to remember this little particle ci. It gets used so often, and it gets used in situations in which we as English speakers would not bother. Fortunately much of the time we can be understood in Italian even if we don’t use these words. It can take years to make ci a natural part of speech for a non-native speaker.

Here are a few more examples:

Dovevo andare al lavoro oggi, ma non ci vado.
I was supposed to go to work today, but I’m not going there.

In English we would just say, “but I’m not going.” And that is what takes getting used to in Italian!

 

Mia madre sta bene in questa casa, ma io ci sto male.
My mother is happy in this house, but I am not happy here.

 

Ho chiesto un aumento,ma non ci conto.
I asked for a raise, but I’m not counting on it.

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As Marika tells us more about ci, we'll have more examples for you. So stay tuned!

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The Ci in C'è

A common contraction we hear every day in Italian is c’è (there is). If we open it up, we find two words:

Ci (there) and è (third person singular of essere [to be]).

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When referring to objects in a place, c'è is fairly straightforward, and its English translation “there is” corresponds quite well:

Nel corpo di Giada non c'è traccia di quel sonnifero.

In Giada's body there is no trace of that sleeping medicine.

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 9

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But things aren't always so straightforward. Let’s look at the following example where, to our ears, it might seem like there’s an extraneous “there.” In fact, the literal translation of the Italian would be “there’s the mama.” Let’s not forget that Italian uses ci to mean “there” and “here” interchangeably for the most part.

...vai, vai tranquillo, c'è la mamma! -Sì, mamma.

...go, don't worry, Mommy's here! -Yes, Mom.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 10

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In the following example, and the previous one, we see that the word order changes between English and Italian. In Italian the ci (there) comes before the conjugated verb “to be,” making the contraction easy, but in English we need to put “there” afterwards:

Sì, ma non c'è nessuno. È tutto serrato.

Yes, but nobody is there. It's all locked up.

Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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Or, we can put in an extra “there.”

There’s nobody there.
There’s nobody here.

 

Attenzione! If we want to distinguish between “here” and “there,” then we can use qui and .

Il libro non è qui, è lì (the book isn't here; it's there).

 

Italian uses “there is” to mean “it exists”:

È il minerale più resistente che c'è in natura. Rilassati Gina.

It's the most resistant mineral that exists in nature. Relax, Gina.

Captions 17-18, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 16

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But there are also colloquial turns of phrase that use “there is” that don't quite correspond to English. The following example is in the imperfetto or simple past.

C'era Lei di turno tre notti fa? -Sì.

Were you on duty three nights ago? -Yes.

Caption 3, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 10

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When asking for someone on the phone, Italians use c’è. Remember that unlike English, questions and statements in Italian have the same word order, but the inflection changes.

Pronto. -Salve, c’è Susanna?
Hello. -Hello, is Susanna there?

 

When asking what’s wrong, it’s easy to say:

Che c'è? -Niente.

What's the matter? -Nothing.

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 5

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In this case, translating literally (what is there?) does not work at all!

 

Lastly, let’s not forget the popular song by Nek, Laura non c'è. Note again the fact that ci (here, there) is inserted before the verb “to be.”

Laura non c'è, è andata via

Laura's not here; she's gone away

Caption 1, Nek - Laura non c'è

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We’ll often come back to the word ci in lessons, since it really does get around, and can be tricky. For more about ci, see these lessons.

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Conjugated Verbs + Infinitives Part 1

Conjugated verbs have different endings depending on the type of verb, the tense, and the person carrying out the action. Daniela has taught video lessons on the different conjugations of Italian verbs. Un verbo all’infinito (a verb in the infinitive), on the other hand, is the basic verb, with nothing done to it. It always ends in “e.”

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Conjugated verbs combine with verbs in the infinitive in different ways. Sometimes a preposition (to, at, of) is needed and sometimes not. Let's talk about the cases in which no preposition is needed between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive.

 

No preposition needed!

In these cases we have the formula:

conjugated verb + verb in the infinitive

 

Modal verbs

In the following example, the conjugated verb is the modal verb volere (to want). Let’s quickly review what modal verbs are. They generally combine with verbs in the infinitive and normally don’t stand alone. Another word for verbo modale is verbo servile (servant verb) because these verbs serve another verb. The modal verbs in Italian are potere (to be able to), volere (to want to), sapere (to know how to), and dovere (to have to). See this video lesson about modal verbs.

 

Voleva entrare dalla finestra all'alba.

He wanted to come through my window at sunup.

Caption 15, La Tempesta - film - Part 3

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Let it happen

But here is a non-modal verb that works the same way. The verb lasciare (to leave, to let) is conjugated, and it's followed by a verb in the infinitive entrare (to enter), with no preposition between the two verbs.

 

Non ti lasciamo entrare in casa.

"We won't let you come in the house."

Caption 4, Ti racconto una fiaba - I tre porcellini - Part 2

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An adjective in the middle

The second formula Daniela talks about is:

conjugated verb essere (to be) + adjective + verb in the infinitive

 

E per lei non è stato difficile conoscere tanti nuovi amici.

And it hasn't been hard for her to get to know a lot of new friends.

Caption 24, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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Mix and Match

The following are some examples of the two different formulas Daniela has explained. They don’t correspond in meaning exactly, but are close enough to give you a visual idea of how these two combinations of verbs work.

 

verbo essere + aggettivo + verbo all'infinito (verb “to be” + adjective + verb in the infinite)
verbo coniugato + verbo all’ infinito (conjugated verb + verb in the infinitive)

 

È bello parlare con te (it’s nice talking to you).
Mi piace parlare con te (I like talking with you). 

 

È noioso fare i compiti a casa (it’s boring to do homework).
Non mi piace fare i compiti a casa (I don’t like doing homework).

 

Non è sano mangiare troppo (it is not healthy to eat too much).
Non si dovrebbe mangiare troppo (one shouldn’t eat too much). 

 

Sarebbe preferibile prendere un'altra strada (it would be preferable to take another road).
Preferirei prendere un'altra strada (I would prefer to take another road).

 

Per me è stato molto faticoso camminare fin qua (it was very tiring for me to walk here).
Non ho potuto camminare fin qui senza stancarmi. (I couldn’t walk here without getting tired).

 

È brutto parlare male degli altri (it is bad to speak badly about other people).
Non dobbiamo parlare male degli altri (we shouldn’t speak badly about other people).

 

È facile parlare italiano (It's easy to speak Italian).
So parlare italiano (I know how to speak Italian).

 

Sarà importante andare a letto presto stasera (it will be important to go to bed early tonight).
Devo andare a letto presto stasera (I must go to bed early this evening).
 

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In part 2, we talk about formulas where we need the preposition between the conjugated verb and the infinitive.

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Using the Subjunctive in Conversation

Let's have a quick look at some of the ways the subjunctive has been used in a few of some recent Yabla videos.

One way Italian uses the subjunctive is when invoking some higher power.

In our first example the verb is assistere (to assist) which is a synonym for aiutare (to help).

Che Dio ci assista.

May God help us.

Caption 65, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 12

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In the following example the verb is proteggere (to protect). 

Che Dio mi protegga, lo devo riportare dove l'ho preso.

God may protect me, I have to take it back to where I got it.

Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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We have mentioned before, but it bears repeating, that the formal imperative actually uses the third person singular subjunctive. Here Lara is using the formal imperative with the woman she is questioning.The verb is stare.

Stia tranquilla, Iolanda, lo scopriremo.

Be calm,[don't worry], Iolanda, we'll find out.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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The next example is clearly subjunctive since it is used in the English as well. The verb is essere (to be). The subjunctive deals with hypothetical situations, and come se (as if) is the signpost.

E io l'ho cresciuta come se fosse mia figlia.

And I brought her up as if she were my daughter.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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In the following example, the subjunctive is used after the word che (that), and involves doubt.
The verb is essere (to be).

Ho pensato che fosse già uscita, o che non fosse tornata per nulla.

I thought she had already gone out, or that she hadn't come home at all.

Captions 82-83, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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Attenzione! Our last example is actually one of incorrect Italian. Lots of Italians get this wrong, sometimes by choice because it’s easier to say (and has become acceptable in very informal situations), but also because of ignorance.

 

This is a classic case where correct Italian requires one part of the phrase to be in the subjunctive, and the other part in the conditional.

 

In the following example, the verb that should be in the subjunctive is essere (to be). Manuela instead used the imperfetto (simple past tense). The other verb is sposare (to marry). She used the imperfetto once again, when she should have used the condizionale (conditional).

 

Cioè, se eri [fossi stato] più grande ti sposavo [avrei sposato]!

That is, if you were older, I would marry you!

Caption 79, La Tempesta - film - Part 5

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If Manuela had wanted to use correct grammar, she might have said:

Cioè, se fossi più grande ti sposerei.

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Learn more about the Italian subjunctive here and here.

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Meglio Tardi che Mai: Better Late than Never

We can’t always be on time, so let’s look at some of the words you need when you or someone else is late. It’s not as simple as using the Italian word tardi (late).

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In a recent episode of Stai Lontana da Me there has been a little car accident. This time nobody got hurt, but Sara is going to be late for work if she’s not careful.

Però è tardi. Senti, mi dispiace, io prendo la metropolitana. Ho fatto tardi.

But it's late. Listen, I'm sorry, I'll take the metro. I'm running late [or "I've gotten delayed," "It got late," "I'm late."]

Captions 11-13, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 11

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When she says, “È tardi,” she’s talking about the hour. She has to be at work, say, at nine, and it’s already ten to nine, and she is still far from her office. Objectively speaking, it is late!

When she says “Ho fatto tardi,” she is talking about herself and the fact that she got delayed. She is late.

 

Telling someone not to be late is important sometimes. Here’s one way to do this:

Ciao, mamma. Io vado da Flavia. -Ciao, amore. -Non fare tardi.

Hi, Mom. I'm going to Flavia's. -Bye, love. -Don't be late.

Captions 38-39, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Another way to say you’re late is to use the phrasal adverb, in ritardo (late). Ritardo is a noun meaning “delay.”

In an episode of Commissario Manara, Manara’s boss is not happy with him per niente (at all).

Lei è in ritardo di ventiquattro ore. Si può sapere che cosa aveva da fare di così urgente?

You're twenty-four hours late. Can you let me know what you had to do that was so urgent?

Captions 16-17, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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The noun il ritardo is commonly used when we apologize for being late.  

Buonsera a tutti. Scusate il ritardo, ragazzi. Ma aspettavate solo me?

Good evening everyone. Sorry I'm late, guys. Were you just waiting for me?

Captions 8-10, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee - Part 1

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Both the adverb tardi and the noun ritardo also have verb forms: tardare and ritardare.

Non dovrebbe tardare ad arrivare.
It won’t be long before he arrives.

This doesn’t refer to a precise amount of time, and doesn’t necessarily mean someone or something is late. It just means they haven’t arrived yet.

 

The following is a bit more urgent and refers, most likely, to an agreed-upon hour.

Non ritardareperché il film comincia puntuale.
Don’t be late, because the film starts punctually.

 

Here’s how we use comparatives and superlatives with tardi (late).

Vado a letto tardi il sabato sera.
I go to bed late on Saturday nights.

Più tardi means "later."

Ci vediamo più tardi.
We’ll see each other later.

Al più tardi means "at the latest."

Devi spedire questa lettera domani al più tardi.
You have to send this letter by tomorrow at the latest.

 

The opposite of in ritardo is in anticipo (ahead of schedule, early, in advance).
We can also use the verb form anticipare (to be early, to expect).

La consegna era prevista per domani, ma il pacco è arrivato in anticipo.
Delivery was scheduled for tomorrow, but the package arrived early.

Per via del maltempo in arrivo, hanno anticipato il rientro.
Because of approaching bad weather, they came back early.

 

Just to add a little twist, another opposite of anticipare is posticipare (postpone, to delay).

Per via del maltempo in arrivo, hanno posticipato il rientro.
Because of approaching bad weather, they postponed their return.

 

Attenzione! Italians do not use anticipare in the sense of “looking forward to something.” See this definition of the verb to anticipate. Definition number 2 doesn’t conform to the Italian. In fact, “looking forward to something” is difficult to say in Italian, and there is no precise translation. We will tackle this conundrum in another lesson.

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To sum up

Tardi (late): With the adverb tardi, we use the verb fare when talking about someone being late. When talking about the hour, we use essere (to be).
Tardare (to be late, to run late)
Il Ritardo (the delay)
Essere, arrivare in ritardo (to be late or behind schedule)
Ritardare (to run behind schedule, to be late)

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Accents Make the Difference

In a recent video, Marika talks about accents. But attenzione! She is talking about pronouncing the grave and acute accents, not about writing them (except when necessary for clarity). Sometimes the accents are actually written in a word, and have become part and parcel of it, like in è (is), sarò (I will be), farà (he/she will do), or (yes), but much of the time we just have to learn and remember whether a vowel is open or closed.

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Marika explains about the difference between the word for “peach” and “fishing.” To the naked eye, “peach” and “fishing” look exactly the same: pesca. For learning purposes, in the context of the lesson, you will see the accents in the words, but in real life, it’s the context that tells you which one it is, and you are the one who has to know which one gets an open “e” and which gets a closed “e.” Aside from cases in which their absence would be cause for confusion, the accents mentioned by Marika in pesca or botte are absent in written Italian.
 
In speaking, If you’re not sure about whether a vowel is open or closed, say the word anyway, and don’t worry too much about it. Not all Italians respect the rules, and if the context is clear, you will be understood. It’s not the end of the world. 

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Understanding the Reciprocal Reflexive Form

To understand the reciprocal reflexive, it’s good to have a grasp of the reflexive itself. To review, see this Yabla lesson.

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A reflexive verb is used when an action is performed upon the same person who’s performing it. We recognize these verbs because they will be in the presence of an indirect object pronoun, or pronominal particle like mi, ti, ci, vi, si to indicate where the action is reflected.

 

In her video lesson Marika talks about the close relationship between the reflexive and the reciprocal.

La forma di questi verbi è uguale a quella dei verbi riflessivi.

The form of these verbs is the same as that of the reflexive verbs.

Caption 26, Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

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Quasi tutti i verbi italiani possono avere una forma riflessiva o reciproga.

Almost all Italian verbs can have a reflexive or reciprocal form.

Caption 32, Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

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The reciprocal involves two or more people or things, so we’ll need one of the plural pronominal particles: ci (to us, ourselves, each other), vi (to you, yourselves, each other), or si (to them, themselves, each other). As you can see, these particles have more than one function. To learn more, see these lessons about ci.

 

In two recent Yabla videos, the non reflexive transitive verb capire (to understand) is used a number of times, and there’s one instance where it’s used with ci, so it’s a good opportunity to look at how the reciprocal reflexive works. The reciprocal form is in the category of what’s called a forma riflessiva impropria (improper reflexive form). What makes it “improper” is that, though it works just like a reflexive verb, it isn’t truly reflexive because it doesn’t fill the requirements mentioned above.

 

In English we use one form for the reflexive (myself, yourself, himself, herself, yourselves, themselves, oneself) and another for the reciprocal (each other, one another), but Italian makes use of the same pronominal particles used in the true reflexive, which can cause some confusion.

 

Let’s use the verb capire (to understand) to illustrate how it works. We’ll stick with the first and second persons to keep it simple.

Capisco (I understand).
Capisci (you understand).
Ti capisco (I understand you).
Mi capisci (you understand me).
Ci capiamo (we understand each other). Note that this is reciprocal, not reflexive.
Vi capite (you understand each other). This is also reciprocal, not reflexive.

 

Now, let’s put the above sentences into the passato prossimo (which uses a past participle like the present perfect in English, but translates in different ways). Keep in mind that Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo with capire, when in English, we would more likely use the present tense.

Ho capito (“I have understood,” “I understood,” or more commonly, “I get it”).
Hai capito (“you have understood,” “you understood,” or more commonly, “you get it”).
Ti ho capito or t’ho capito (I understood you).
Mi hai capito or m’hai capito (you understood me).

 

Thus far, it’s pretty straightforward. But now, as we get into compound tenses, the ones that need auxiliaries or helping verbs, it gets a little more complicated, because as Marika mentioned above, in Italian, “reciprocals” look just like reflexives. Capirci (to understand each another) is “improperly reflexive” but works like a true reflexive and so the rule for reflexive reigns, meaning that we need to use the auxiliary essere (to be) rather than avere (to have). Marika explains this rule in Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci.

Ci siamo capiti (“we have understood each other,” or, “we’re clear”).
Ci siamo capite (“we [two women] have understood each other,” or, “we [two women] are clear”).
Vi siete capiti (you have understood each other).
Vi siete capite (you [two women] have understood each other).

 

Let’s look at some practical examples from recent videos.

Ho capito. -Vuoi la mia casa a Milano?

I get it. -Do you want my house in Milan?

Captions 11-12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 16

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Non ti capisco.

I don't understand you.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 16

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Ce simm capit' [Ci siamo capiti]?

Do we understand each other?

Caption 53, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 14

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In the following example, just the past participle is used, and the person is implied. We often omit the person in English, too.

Capit' [capito]? Ma poi torno.

Got it? But I'll be back later.

Captions 60-61, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 14

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Further practice:
Se hai capito tutto (if you’ve understood everything), try using the above model with other verbs like vedere (to see), sentire (to hear, to feel), baciare (to kiss), abbracciare (to hug, to embrace), incontrare (to meet). Se ce la fai (if you are able), use the other persons as well (he, she, they).

 

Here’s the verb aiutare (to help) to help you get started.

Aiuto (I help).
Aiuti (you help).
Ti aiuto (I help you).
Mi aiuti (you help me).
Ci aiutiamo (we help each other).
Ho aiutato (I helped).
Tu hai aiutato (you helped).
T’ho aiutato (I helped you).
Mi hai aiutato (you helped me).
Ci siamo aiutati (we helped each other).

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You may notice below that there are some tricky cases of verb-complement agreement that haven't yet been covered. We will get to these prickly matters in a future lesson.

Aiuta (he/she/it helps).
Aiutano (they help).
L’aiuta (he/she/it helps him/her/it).
Si aiutano (they help each other).
Ha aiutato (he/she/it helped).
Li ha aiutati (he/she/it helped them). 
Hanno aiutato (they helped).
L’hanno aiutato (they helped him). 
L’hanno aiutata (they helped her)
Li hanno aiutati
 (they helped them). 
Le hanno aiutate (they helped them [fem]). 
Si sono aiutati (they helped each other).
Si sono aiutate (they helped each other [fem]).
 

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The passato remoto in Basilicata

The following passage was inscribed on a stone plaque in the city of Valsinni, in the Basilicata region. The plaque introduces this week's video about Basilicata, and merits a few words.

Questo castello che vide nascere, vivere e morire la poetessa Isabella Morra, dal De Gubernatis tolta dall'oblio,

fu visitato nel 1928 da Benedetto Croce che ne illustrò la storia.

This castle, which saw the birth, life, and death of the poet Isabella Morra, by De Gubernatis lifted from oblivion,

was visited in 1928 by Benedetto Croce who illustrated its history.

Captions 1-4, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare - Part 3

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Grammatically speaking, and despite its archaic language, the plaque is a good example of when to use the passato remoto (remote past tense), and indeed describes events that took place well in the past.

 

We have the verb vedere (to see), whose third person passato remoto is vide.

 

Next, we have an example of the passive voice made up of the verb essere (to be) in the third person singular remote past: fu, plus visitato (past participle of the verb visitare [to visit]). It's visitato, not visitata or visitati, because we are talking about un castello (a castle), a masculine noun. It was visited by Benedetto Croce who has given his name to streets in many Italian cities.

The last verb in the inscription is illustrò, passato remoto of illustrare (to illustrate, to depict). Croce was a philosopher and historian, and sometimes a politician, but he was not an artist, so we can infer that he described with words, rather than with design, the history of the city he visited in 1928.

 

On the other hand it must have been Angelo de Gubernatis who saved, or took away (tolto) Isabella Morra from oblivion, since he was responsible for publishing some reference works about Italian literature and poetry, and evidently included her name among poets.

The verb togliere is used here in its past participle tolto. Once again, this is an example of the passive voice, but the verb essere (to be) is omitted, and this time the past participle has a feminine ending, tolta, because it refers to Isabella. For more on participles and their agreement in gender and number with the subject of a passive sentence, see this article.

 

Tragic stories aside, this three-part video about the Basilicata region of Italy has sparked the interest of many who would love to be able to visit this beautiful region. See more Yabla videos about Basilicata here.  

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