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Direct Object Pronouns - Part 2

Direct Object Pronouns - Part 1

Direct object nouns and pronouns are used with transitive verbs, meaning that the verb and the object have a direct relationship—no prepositions are involved. Here’s an example:

I carry the ball. The object “ball” is acted on directly by the verb “to carry.”

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Once we know what object we are referring to, we can replace the noun with a pronoun:

I carry it.

If I have more than one ball, I use the plural:

I carry the balls.
I carry them.

 

That’s what direct object pronouns are all about. In Italian we have to form the pronouns not only according to their number, but also according to their gender.

 

In this lesson we cover the feminine direct object pronouns in both the singular and the plural. For the masculine pronouns, see this Yabla lesson as well as the video Corso di italiano con Daniela: Pronomi oggetto diretto - Part 1 of 2.

 

As Daniela mentions in part 2 of her lesson on direct object pronouns, the feminine direct object pronouns are easier than the masculine ones, because the pronoun is the same as the article in both the singular (la) and the plural (le), respectively.

 

To distinguish between la the article and la the pronoun, just remember that a direct object pronoun will come before a conjugated verb, and an article will come before a noun or adjective. The following example contains both the article and the pronoun la.
 

La pasta fresca mi piace talmente tanto, che la mangio anche cruda.

I like fresh pasta so much, that I eat it raw, too.

Caption 9, Anna e Marika - La pasta fresca

 Play Caption

 

In the example below, we have both a feminine noun in the plural (le lettere) and its relative direct object pronoun (le). Note that in the second half of the sentence, potere (to be able to) is the conjugated modal verb*, which is followed by the verb scambiare (to exchange) in the infinitive.
  

Non aveva le lettere e non le poteva scambiare con nessuno.

He didn't have the letters and he couldn't exchange them with anyone.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 12

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Pronouns are often attached to verbs, especially when we have a conjugated modal verb*. In the example below, bisogna, an impersonal verb functioning like devi (you must), or è necessario (it’s necessary) bumps the verb portare (to take) into its infinitive form. The final e of the infinitive is then dropped, making room for the pronoun le (them) to be attached to it.
 

Una volta raccolte le olive, bisogna portarle al più presto al frantoio.

Once the olives have been picked, you have to take them to the mill as soon as possible.

Caption 18, L'olio extravergine di oliva - Il frantoio

 Play Caption

 

Once you have seen Daniela’s videos about direct object pronouns, see Marika’s video Marika spiega: Pronomi diretti where she gives plenty of examples.

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*Daniela explains about modal verbs in Corso di italiano con Daniela: Verbi modali.  
Here are two lessons about using modal verbs in Italian.

 

In a future lesson, we’ll cover indirect object pronouns, where le takes on still another role.
 

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Direct Object Pronouns - Part 1

Direct Object Pronouns - Part 2

This week Daniela introduces a very pesky topic indeed: direct object pronouns. Simply put, it’s when you replace a name or a noun with a pronoun, when it’s the object of the verb. We’re talking about words like “it” (which is the same as a subject and as an object), “me” as opposed to “I,” “us” as opposed to “we,” “them” as opposed to “they,” “him” as opposed to “he,” and “her” as opposed to “she.”

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Object pronouns, both direct and indirect, are hard for just about anyone trying to learn Italian. This is partly because the position of the pronoun is different from that of the actual word it is replacing (as Daniela explains), and because these pronouns can so easily end up as part of a compound word, or worse, part of a contraction, especially in perfect tenses. And to make matters even more complicated, they can attach themselves to an indirect pronoun. So these short words can be hard to distinguish! (Yabla captions can be very useful in locating them!)

 

Learners know all too well that the gender of a word can be a challenge in itself, and we need to know the gender first of all. And even within the gender, we need to know what kind of article to use (illo, or l + apostrophe in the masculine, for example). So there’s lots to remember. But let’s take things one step at a time.

 

A very simple sentence with the verb leggere (to read) and the object noun il libro (the book) might be:

Leggo il libro.
I read the book.

The object pronoun in the masculine singular is always lo (it), so if we replace the object noun with an object pronoun, it becomes:

Lo leggo.
I read it.

Note that the pronoun in this case is placed before the conjugated verb. This is a very important rule.

 

In the following example, the verb is leggere as in the above example. The object is i nomi (the names) and is plural.

 

Se leggo i nomi, mi vengono subito le facce.

If I read the names, the faces come to me immediately.

Caption 52, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 5

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If we go on to talk about these names, we can replace i nomi (the names) with a pronoun. We’ll need an object pronoun that’s plural, and masculine, since il nome is a masculine noun. The direct object pronoun for the masculine plural is li (them). If you’ve watched Daniela’s lesson, or if you think you know, try to construct a phrase on your own with the object pronoun of i nomi before looking at the example below. Attenzione! The object pronoun goes before the verb!

Se li leggo, mi vengono subito le facce.
If I read them, the faces come to me right away.

 

Thus far, we’ve looked at the masculine singular direct object pronoun lo (it, him) and the masculine plural direct object pronoun li (them). When Daniela talks about the feminine singular and plural direct object pronouns, we’ll cover them, too, so stay tuned!
 

Practice:

Can you change the following nouns to pronouns?
 

Quando leggo il giornale, mi devo concentrare.
When I read the newspaper I have to concentrate.

Sposto lo sgabello in cucina.
I move the stool to the kitchen.

Cambio l’orologio per l’ora legale.
I change the clock for legal time [daylight savings time].

Porto Francesco quando è troppo stanco per camminare.
I carry Francesco when he’s too tired to walk.

Cucinerò tutti i pomodori prima che vadano a male.
I’ll cook all the tomatoes before they go bad.

 

Nel frattempo (in the meantime) why not do a Yabla search to distinguish lo as a masculine singular definite article—lo studente (the student), lo specchio (the mirror), etc.—from the masculine singular direct object pronoun, as discussed in this lesson and in Daniela’s video lesson.

 

Below are suggested solutions for the above exercise.
 

Quando lo leggo, mi devo concentrare.
When I read it, I have to concentrate.

Lo sposto in cucina.
I move it to the kitchen.

Lo cambio per l’ora legale.
I change it for daylight savings time.

Lo porto quando è troppo stanco per camminare.
I carry him when he’s too tired to walk.

Li cucinerò prima che vadano a male.
I’ll cook them before they go bad.

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Essere or Avere?

This week, Daniela concludes her three part lesson on the passato prossimo (present perfect) tense. Get caught up here! She gives us some very important information about its construction, but what’s difficult for many of us is just knowing which auxiliary verb to use—essere (to be) or avere (to have)—when using the passato prossimo.

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In fact, there’s plenty of gray area, which we’ll delve into further on, but very generally speaking, when the verb is transitive (can take a direct object), the auxiliary verb is avere (to have) and when the verb is intransitive (cannot take a direct object), the auxiliary verb is essere (to be).

 

The following example contains the direct object film (movie). So we use avere.

 

Hai guardato il film?

Did you watch the movie?

Caption 15, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti con participio passato

 Play Caption

 

In the next example the first verb venire (to come) is intransitive, has no direct object, and thus takes the auxiliary verb essere. The second verb portare (to bring, to carry) is transitive, having a direct object, and thus takes avere. Note that acqua (water) is the direct object of the verb portare.

 

Il cameriere è venuto e ci ha portato dell'acqua naturale.

The waiter came and he brought us still water.

Caption 20, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1

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What about if Anna and Marika had had a cameriera (waitress)?*

 

In the example below, there’s a direct object (Lara) in the first part, and a verb (intransitive) that can’t take an object (arrivare) in the second part. Lara is a woman, so the ending of arrivata has the feminine singular ending -a.

 

Hai visto Lara? -Lara non è ancora arrivata, no.

Have you seen Lara? -Lara hasn't gotten here yet, no.

Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 13

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Can you make up a sentence changing the person to Luca (a man)? The first part with avere will not change, but the second part with essere will!**

Can you change the person to two people?***

 

Attenzione! Intransitive verbs have a great many exceptions to the general rule. Strange as it may seem, some of these verbs have to do with movement:

 

Camminare (to walk), correre (to run), sciare (to ski), and nuotare (to swim), among others, are intransitive action verbs, but nevertheless take avere when referring to the activity itself.

Ho camminato tutto il giorno.
I walked all day.

Loro hanno corso tre chilometri.
They ran three kilometers.

However, when correre is used to mean “to hurry,” “to rush,” then it takes essere!

Io sono corsa a casa.
I rushed home.

See this resource (in Italian) for a list of intransitive verbs and the auxiliaries they use.

 

There are two other important situations to be aware of, requiring the use of the auxiliary essere in “perfect” tenses: reflexive verbs and verbs in the passive voice. We’ll have a closer look at them in another lesson.

 

Solutions:

*

La cameriera è venuta e ci ha portato dell'acqua naturale.
The waitress came and she brought us some still water.

**

Hai visto Luca? -Luca non è ancora arrivato, no.
Have you seen Luca? -Luca hasn't gotten here yet, no.

***

Hai visto Luca e Lara? -Loro non sono ancora arrivati, no.
Have you seen Luca and Lara? -They haven't gotten here yet, no.

 

Further Resources:

For an explanation of verbi transitivi e intransitivi in Italian, see this article.
Here is a text with many examples of il passato prossimo, and a fill-in-the-blank quiz following it.

 

Practice:

- Have a look at some Yabla video transcripts or other Italian written text, and try to identify the two kinds of verbs and their auxiliaries in any given situation.

 

- Do a Yabla video search of the participle of a transitive verb, such as visto, the past participle of vedere (to see), and you’ll see a list of examples from videos containing compound tenses with this participle. Go to the videos, or just read the examples out loud to get a feel for the auxiliary verb avere.

 

- Be aware that there may be some exceptions in the list: a passive voice, a noun form, a reflexive form in the masculine, a transitive verb used intransitively, an adjective form of a participle.

 

- For intransitive verbs taking essere, try doing a search on the participles of these verbs: andarevenirepartirearrivarediventare. Remember that their endings will change depending on gender and number. You’ll see right away that the auxiliary is essere, conjugated per the person and the tense (it might be past perfect).

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More Examples of the Impersonale

We have talked about the impersonal form of verbs in previous lessons. There's a great example in Marika's video about the entrance to her apartment. Note that she uses the plural form of the verb because the objects, giacchegiubbotticappotti (jackets, windbreakers, coats) are plural. 

 

E quindi si usano giacche, giubbotti, cappotti. Ma dove si mettono, una volta che si tolgono?

And so we use jackets, windbreakers, coats. But where do we put them once we take them off?

Captions 49-50, Marika spiega - L'ingresso di casa

 Play Caption

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Review the impersonale here.

 

Another instance of the impersonale can be found in a video interview with Monica Bellucci. She's talking about the huge blow-ups of some of her photos.

 

Ah, questa era, l'ho fatta in America, ero giovanissima, si vede.

Ah, this one was, I did it in America, I was very young, you can tell.

Caption 35, Che tempo che fa - Monica Bellucci

 Play Caption

 

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Modal Verbs in Italian

To get the basics about why and how we use modal verbs in Italian, and how they are conjugated, see Daniela's video lesson about modal verbs. The modal verbs are: dovere (to have to, must), potere (to be able to, can), and volere (to want to, would).

Italian modal verbs have some similarities with English modal verbs, because they are used together with verbs in the infinitive, but there are differences, too. In English, for example, we can use "to be able to," which does get conjugated, or "can," which doesn't get conjugated. Italian modal verbs are conjugated and are irregular, so as Daniela says, you just have to learn them. These verbs are used so often that you're bound to learn the principle conjugations just by listening. Here's a quick conjugation chart for the present tense, plus a few tips.

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There are other verbs like sapere (when it means "to be able to") that are also considered to be modal.

Non lo so spiegare.
can't explain it [I don't know how to explain it].

When in the regular present tense, using modal verbs is mostly trouble free, as long as you've learned the irregular conjugation. The easy part (handy for when you're not sure of the conjugation of another verb) is that the other verb is going to be in the infinitive!

Note that both volere (to want) and dovere (to owe) have uses that aren't modal. All three modal verbs are also nouns, so, occhio al contesto (keep an eye on the context)! 

 

Let's look at some practical examples. Look for an infinitive verb in the vicinity of the modal verb, to put the modal picture together. 

 

Zia, che cosa devo fare?

Aunt, what should I do?

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Alex vuole imparare il tedesco.

Alex wants to learn German.

Caption 22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Domande

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Alle mie spalle, potete vedere la statua del Cristo di Maratea.

Behind me you can see the statue of Christ of Maratea.

Caption 1, Antonio - Maratea, Il Cristo Redentore

 Play Caption

 

Let's remember that the verb in the infinitive might actually be missing from the sentence itself, but it can easily be imagined, just like in English.

Non posso!
can't!

One very common way modal verbs are used is with the impersonal. See these lessons about the impersonal, which uses the third person, as in the example below.

 

Si può aggiungere il caffè, si possono aggiungere tanti ingredienti.

One can add coffee, one can add many ingredients.

Caption 10, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

 Play Caption

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So far we've been looking at the present tense. A bit further along the line, we'll get into modal verbs with compound tenses, which is a bit more complex. Hope to see you then!

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Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits)

In a previous episode of the series on food, Gianni Mura talked about trends in restaurant dining. He talked about what quickly caught on as a popular way of getting a little taste of everything. Instead of a primo (first course), secondo (main dish), contorno (side dish), and dolce (dessert), a restaurant would offer a tris di assaggi (three "tastes," or miniature servings) of primi piatti (first courses). This became, and still is, a great way for tourists, or anyone else, to find out what they like. Depending on what's offered, and on the kind of restaurant, the three servings may arrive all on the same plate at the same time, or on separate plates, one after the other. 

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At the end of concerts, audiences ask for an encore. In Italian, this is called a bis. It comes from the Latin for "twice." It has come to mean "again" or "more" in a concert setting, where people want to hear a piece played a second time, or something extra once the programmed performance is over. If you're dining with friends at home, and would like another helping, you can use bis:

Posso fare il bis?
Can I have a second helping?

In rare cases you can ask for a bis in a restaurant, but usually in a restaurant setting, bis will indicate two small servings of two different dishes, rather than one normal one. Likewise, a tris (coming from the Latin for "three times") denotes three small servings of a dish rather than one normal serving.
 

Now that you know what tris means, here's a tris of tidbits about Italian.
 

1) Past meaning present

 

In some cases Italian uses il passato prossimo (constructed like the English present perfect) to express an idea that in English would use the present tense. Here's an example. Luca is telling the doctor that Lara will promise to take care of him. She hesitates but then agrees. She uses the past participle of promettere (to promise) rather than the present tense, as we would in English.

 

Dottore, che... che devo fare? -Senta, se lo dimetto, mi promette di non lasciarlo solo neanche un attimo? Promette, promette... -Eh... sì! Promesso.

Doctor, what... what should I do? -Listen! If I release him, do you promise not to leave him alone, not even for an instant? She promises, she promises... -Uh... yes! I promise.

Captions 47-49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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Capire (to understand) is another word that often gets used in its passato prossimo tense to mean what we think of as being in the present.

 

Ho capito, ma adesso, qua in mezzo alla campagna... con le mucche, che facciamo?

I get it, but now, here in the middle of the countryside... with the cows, what are we going to do?

Captions 10-11, Francesca - alla guida - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

As a question tag, the person and auxiliary verb are often left out:

 

Tiziana, calmati. Ho già fatto richiesta per farti scarcerare, però mi devi dare una mano. Mi devi aiutare, capito?

Tiziana, calm down. I've already put in a request for you to be released, but you have to give me a hand. You have to help me, do you understand?

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

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Ho capito (I understand [literally "I've understood"]) is what you commonly say to let someone know you're listening, much like "I see," "I get it," or even "uh huh." 

 

2) A common modo di dire

 

E poi eravamo in giro tutte le notti, perché a quei tempi gli artisti andavano ad alcool e quindi...

And then, we were out and about all night because in those times, artists were fueled by alcohol, and so...

Captions 3-4, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá

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In giro is a very general way to say "out" or "around," when you ask or say where someone is, or where someone has gone. There are many ways to use this expression, so check it out here.

 

3) Hidden vowels and silent consonants

 

In an online video lesson, Marika talks some more about object pronouns, this time with the participio passato (past participle). One important thing that can be difficult to grasp is that when the pronoun is used, the object (in the form of a pronoun) comes first. Let's look at this example.

 

Hai guardato il film? Sì, l'ho guardato.

Did you watch the movie? Yes, I watched it.

Captions 15-16, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti con participio passato

 Play Caption

 

We also need to remember that the "h" in ho is silent. L'ho sounds like "lo," but the apostrophe is there to tell us that it's really lo (it) ho (I have). We have "l" + silent  "o" + silent "h" + "o."

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One extra tidbit concerning the passato prossimo: While constructed like the present perfect, it often translates with the English simple past tense, just as in the above example. 

 

That's it for the tris!

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Si, Si, and Ci - L'impersonale - Part 3

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Where's the Subject? - Part 2

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There's still a lot more to talk about regarding the impersonale. Review previous lessons here.  

Sometimes the verbs we use in the impersonal form, happen to be reflexive verbs as well. Before tackling reflexive verbs in the impersonal, it's a good idea to be familiar with how reflexive verbs work. But we're in luck because this week, Daniela happens to be talking about just that in her video lesson!  

As also mentioned in previous lessons, reflexive verbs have si attached to them in the infinitive, for example, lavarsi (to wash oneself). When conjugated, the verbs are commonly separated into si + verb root: 

Mario si lava ogni mattina.
Mario washes [himself] every morning.

Daniela explains that if you know how to conjugate the verb root, then you know how to conjugate the reflexive verb.

In the above example, Mario is the subject, and Mario is also the object (si), which is what reflexive verbs are all about. 

So we've seen that the reflexive form uses si, (as part of the infinitive, and in the third person singular conjugation) but it's not the same as the si in the impersonal, so this is where things get a bit tricky. To avoid using si twice in a row, we use ci for the impersonal.

Marika gives us the rule:

 

La forma impersonale dei verbi riflessivi invece si forma con:

The impersonal form of reflexive verbs on the other hand is made with:

"ci "più il verbo alla terza persona singolare.

"ci" plus the verb in the third person singular.

Per esempio: in Italia ci si sposa sempre più tardi,

For example: In Italy one gets married later and later,

quindi il verbo sposarsi più "ci", più "si".

so the verb to get married plus "ci" plus "si."

Captions 45-48, Marika spiega - La forma impersonale

 Play Caption

 

So where you might think: si (impersonal) si (reflexive) sposa (verb in the third person), you need to use ci in place of the impersonal si. Here's a practical example:

 

Con loro non ci si annoia mai.

With them you are never bored.

Caption 41, Acqua in bocca - Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

 Play Caption

 

Attenzione! Ci also has a long list of uses, which you can check out in these lessons.

The good news is that you can get by most of the time without using the impersonal plus reflexive. Don't let it prevent you from trying to express yourself in Italian. One workaround is to avoid using too many pronouns at once. Common expressions using both can be learned one by one, con calma (without rushing it).

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You could say for example, remembering that "people" is singular in Italian (the si is reflexive):

La gente si sposa sempre più tardi.
People get married later and later.

For more about what’s been discussed in these lessons, see these very helpful blog entries:

Si impersonale part 1
Si impersonale part 2

We're still not entirely finished with the impersonal, but there's already plenty to digest.
We'll be back!

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Nothing Personal! - L'impersonale - Part 1

L'impersonale - Where's the Subject? - Part 2

L'impersonale - Si, Si, and Ci - Part 3

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In a recent video lesson Marika gave us some important information about using the "impersonal" form of verbs. The form is called impersonale because, in effect, there is no mention of any person, nor is there a real subject.

The primary ingredients for cooking up the impersonale are:

si + the third person singular conjugation of a verb.

This si does not represent a person or subject, as Marika explains, but does, for the most part, behave like one, grammatically, and uses the third person.

Since English doesn’t have a true equivalent for this form, it can be tricky to grasp, because there are different ways to interpret or translate it. 

The most immediate approach might be with “one,” a gender-neutral pronoun. It can be handy because like si, it operates in the third person singular. “One does this, one does that.” In our first example, Francesca just got ripped off, buying some cheap earrings at the beach, and she’s warning everyone, including herself.

 

Non si deve fare shopping sulla spiaggia a fine stagione.

One shouldn't shop on the beach at the end of the season.

Caption 31, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 2

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This could have been translated using the second person singular:

You should not shop on the beach at the end of the season.

As a matter of fact, the second person singular is another way to think of the impersonale, especially in an informal context. Note that in this case "you" is generic.

 

Ma è tutto buio! Non si vede nulla!

But, it's all dark! You can't see anything!

Captions 37-38, Acqua in bocca - Che caldo che fa! - Ep 10

 Play Caption

 

In some situations the impersonale corresponds to the third person plural (they) used generically, to mean “people” or “everyone”: 

 

Si dice sempre che il cane è il migliore amico dell'uomo ed è veramente così.

They always say that a dog is man's best friend, and that's really the way it is.

Caption 34, Animali domestici - Oscar

 Play Caption

 

The passive voice corresponds well to the impersonale in many cases, especially in a formal context, in that it's already impersonal:

It is said that a dog is man's best friend, and that's really the way it is.

 

Here's another case where the passive voice helps make sense of the impersonale:

Si parla inglese in tanti paesi.
English is spoken in many countries.

 

Lastly, sometimes the impersonale corresponds best to the imperative, or command form, where the pronoun is absent:

Si prega di non fumare.
Please refrain from smoking.

 

This is not the whole story! We'll be back with more about verbs in the impersonal + plural objects, and verbs in the impersonal + reflexive verbs.

 

Practice:

Complete these sentences using the impersonal form of the verbs provided. Then try your hand at finding the English translation that sounds best to you (there may be more than one). 

cominciare (to begin) ___________ alle undici.
guidare (to drive) A Londra ____________ a sinistra.
fumare (to smoke) Non ______________ a scuola.
scrivere (to write) Come ______________ il tuo nome?
andare (to go) Non ____________ a scuola la domenica.
fare (to do, to make) Come ____________ il risotto?
parlare 
(to speak) In Francia _____________ il francese.
dovere (to have to, should) Non ____________ sprecare l'acqua.
finire (to finish) Non ___________ mai di imparare.

Here's an example to get you started:

cantare (to sing) In un coro  ___________ .
In un coro si canta. (In a choir you sing/In a choir one sings).

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Answers will be provided in next week's lesson. (There will be a link when next lesson is online.) 

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Where's the Subject? - L'impersonale Part 2

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Si, Si, and Ci - Part 3

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We're continuing on about the impersonale. Review last week's lesson here. So far we've been dealing with intransitive verbs (verbs having no object):

Si guida a sinistra (you drive on the left).

and verbs taking singular objects:

Si mangia la pasta a pranzo (people eat pasta at lunch).

But when the "impersonal" verb refers to an object in the plural, such as pietanze (dishes) in the example below, the verb must agree not with its subject, because there isn't one, but with its object. Therefore it, too, must be in the (third person) plural: Pietanze is plural, so mangiano is plural. There are a few different ways to translate this in English:

 

Io la Vigilia di Natale la passo in famiglia ... verso le sette, ci si mette a cena, e si mangiano pietanze a base di pesce.

I spend Christmas Eve with my family ... around seven, we sit down to dinner, and one eats dishes with fish as their basis.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega - La Vigilia di Natale

 Play Caption

 

More possible options:

On Christmas Eve, seafood dishes are eaten.
On Christmas Eve, people eat seafood dishes.

If we were to change the object into a singular one like pesce (fish), our impersonal verb would change as well:

A Natale si mangia il pesce.
At Christmas fish is eaten.

This little word si can cause all sorts of chaos for learners, but little by little, you'll get it sorted out. 

This week, Daniela starts talking about reflexive verbs. Part 2 will follow next week. Pay close attention so that when we combine the impersonal with the reflexive, it will make more sense!

The following are some answers and possible translations for the exercise in last week's lesson.

cominciare (to begin) Si comincia alle undici.
It starts at eleven o'clock. 
We're starting at eleven.

guidare (to drive) A Londra si guida a sinistra.
In London, you drive on the left.
In London, one drives on the left.
In London, people drive on the left.

fumare (to smoke) Non si fuma a scuola.
You don't smoke at school.
People aren't allowed to smoke in school.
One doesn't smoke at school.
Don't smoke at school.

scrivere (to write) Come si scrive il tuo nome?
How do do you write your name?
How is your name written?

andare (to go) Non si va a scuola la domenica.
You don't go to school on Sundays.
We don't go to school on Sundays.
Kids don't go to school on Sundays.

fare (to do, to make) Come si fa il risotto?
How do you make risotto?
How does one make risotto?
How is risotto made?

parlare (to speak) In Francia si parla il francese.
In France, French is spoken.
In France, they speak French.
In France, you speak French.
In France, speak French!

dovere (to have to, should) Non si deve sprecare l'acqua.
dovere (to have to, should) Non si dovrebbe sprecare l'acqua.
One shouldn't waste water.
You shouldn't waste water.
People shouldn't waste water.
Water shouldn't get wasted.

finire (to finish) Non si finisce mai di imparare.
You never stop learning.
One never stops learning.
We never stop learning.

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Little by little you'll become familiar with the different contexts for using the impersonal verbs with si. Tune in next week for the last part, when we combine the reflexive and the impersonal.
 

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Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 2

See also: Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 1

In a previous lesson, and in Daniela's video lesson, we talked about aggettivi positivi, meaning those adjectives that end in o and change their endings according to gender and number. An example of this kind of adjective is grosso (big).

Mio padre è un uomo grosso (my father is a big man).
La casa di mia zia è grossa (my aunt's house is big).
Questi due alberi sono grossi (these two trees are big).
Quelle melanzane sono grosse (those eggplants are big).

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If you've gotten the hang of positive adjectives, you might instinctively put an e ending on the adjective when you're talking about a feminine noun in the plural. 

Quelle donne sono belle (those women are beautiful).

The other kind of adjective, called an aggettivo neutro, ends in e. In the singular, it stays the same, ending in e regardless of whether the noun it modifies is masculine or feminine.

 

E... mi ha reso una donna forte, una donna indipendente, autonoma.

And... she made me a strong woman, an independent woman, free.

Caption 69, Essere... madre

 Play Caption

 

If we put this sentence in the masculine the adjective stays the same: 

Mi ha reso un uomo forte...
She made me a strong man...

But what about the plural? The adjective forte (strong) already ends in e, so what do we do? The answer is that in the plural, regardless of whether it's masculine or feminine, the e changes to an i.

This is easy in a way—only two different endings to think about instead of four—but it's not always so easy to remember, and may come less naturally. In the following example, maniera (way, manner) is a feminine noun. The plural article le helps us discover that. We form the plural of the noun by changing the a to e, and since the singular adjective ends in e, we change it to i in the plural. So far so good.

 

Però, oh, con voi ci vogliono le maniere forti, sennò non capite.

But, oh, with you strong measures are needed, otherwise you don't get it.

Caption 15, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 13

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Attenzione però (and here's where the adjectives misbehave), because a feminine noun may also end in e. In this case, the plural of the noun ends in i, and a neutral adjective will also end in i. If you don't happen to know the gender of corrente (current) in the following example, the plural noun and plural adjective may lead you to believe that it's masculine. 

 

L'incontro tra i due mari produce infatti forti correnti.

The meeting of the two seas produces, in fact, strong currents.

Caption 31, Linea Blu - Sicilia - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Fortunately, in the next example, the speaker uses the article!

 

In questo tratto di mare numerosi infatti erano gli affondamenti nel passato, a causa delle forti correnti che si scontrano con violenza.

In this stretch of sea, there were numerous shipwrecks in the past, because of the strong currents that collide violently.

Captions 35-36, Linea Blu - Sicilia - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Here, we've learned from the feminine plural ending of delle (of the), that corrente is a feminine noun, but who knew?

One more reason to learn the article along with the noun!

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See these Yabla videos for more about nouns: their genders and their plurals.

 

Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articoli maschili plurale 
Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articolo femminile plurale
Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articoli ed eccezioni

Marika spiega: Genere maschile
Marika spiega: Genere femminile
Marika spiega: Il plurale
 

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When Is an Adjective Not an Adjective?

In Italian, as in English, there are past participles that are also adjectives.

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Let's take the example of verbs rompere (to break) and vendere (to sell), which are both transitive verbs (verbs that take a direct object), and take avere as an auxiliary verb.

In the first example, we have the masculine noun il vaso (the vase). The adjective and the past participle are identical: rotto.

Hai rotto il vaso (you broke the vase or, you've broken the vase). 
L'hai rotto (you broke it, or you've broken it).
Ora è rotto (now it's broken).

In the next example, la casa (the house) is feminine, so the ending of venduto/venduta will change when we use a pronoun in place of la casa, and when we use it as an adjective, which has to agree with the noun casa (feminine in this case).

Hai venduto la casa (you sold your house). 
L'hai venduta (you sold it, or you've sold it).
È venduta (it's sold).

The verbs in the above examples take avere (to have) as a helping verb. When we have a verb that takes essere (to be) as a helping verb, like morire (to die), it can cause confusion, because the participle and the adjective look totally identical, including the verb essere (to be), but their function, and consequently their translation, are in fact slightly different.

In this week's episode of Commissario Manara, someone, as usual, has died, and is therefore dead. In English there are two distinct words, but in Italian the word is the same. 

In the first example below, morto (dead) is an adjective:

 

È morto da almeno tre giorni.

He's been dead at least three days.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption

 

But morto is also the participio passato (past participle) of the (irregular) verb morire.

 

E allora come è morto?

So how did he die?

Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

 Play Caption

 

The context will help you determine which translation to use, but it can be a bit ambiguous.

 

To add a bit of confusion, morto can also be used as a noun: il morto (the dead man, the dead person). In this case, there will be an article.

 

Le posso spiegare tutto, però non subito perché c'è un morto che ci aspetta.

I can explain everything to you, but not right now because there's a dead man waiting for us.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption

 

In the case of morto as a noun, it tends to be masculine, but if we know the dead person is a woman, it's correct to say una morta, or if there are multiple dead people, i morti

 

La morte (death) is not a pleasant subject, but it's important to know how to talk about it. Unfortunately, it's a word that's used too often oggigiorno (these days).

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Further practice:
Do a Yabla search of morto, and try to determine whether it's an adjective, a participle, or a noun.  Let the context help you.
 

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Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 1

See also: Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 2

In Italian, gender and number affect not only a noun and its article, but also the adjective describing the noun. We looked at some special cases in a previous lesson, which Daniela also discusses in her lesson series. But let's get back to general adjective behavior.

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Adjectives fall into two categories: positivi (positive) and neutri (neutral). In simplistic terms, it's a way of dividing them according to their endings: o or e

 

In this video lesson, Daniela starts out with the most common kind of adjective. She calls it an aggettivo positivo (positive adjective). It’s the kind of adjective that in its basic form (masculine singular), ends in o. Many of us are already familiar with this type: bello (beautiful, nice), piccolo (small), grasso (fat), magro (thin), alto (high, tall), buono (good), and so on. This kind of adjective matches up with its nouns in all four kinds of endings: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, and feminine plural. 

 

Allora, quando parlo di aggettivo positivo vuol dire che un aggettivo positivo è quello che ha tutte e quattro le finali.

So, when I talk about positive adjectives, it means that a positive adjective is one that has all four endings.

Captions 41-42, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

These adjectives are easy to deal with because they are entirely predictable: the masculine singular ends in o. The masculine plural ends in i, the feminine singular ends in a, and the feminine plural ends in e, just like many of the nouns they describe:

Masculine singular:
Il vestito è bello (the dress is beautiful).
Masculine plural:
I vestiti sono belli (the dresses are beautiful).
Feminine singular:
La gonna è bella (the skirt is nice).
Feminine plural:
Le gonne sono belle (the skirts are nice).

 

It’s important to know the gender of the nouns you are describing. The good news is that much of the time the gender is easily determined by looking at the ending of a noun, as Daniela explains in this video lesson.

 

Even if the noun is absent but implied, as when you tell someone they look nice, the rule still applies!

If you’re talking to a man:
Sei bello (you're handsome).
If you’re talking to a woman:
Sei bella (you're beautiful).
If you're talking to two men:
Siete belli (you're [both] handsome).
If you're talking to two women:
Siete belle (you're [both] beautiful).
If you're talking to a man and a woman:*
Siete belli (you're [both] beautiful).

*Masculine reigns, even though it seems unfair. 

 

It's easy to know the gender when referring to people. But don't forget that not only people have gender, but every kind of noun.

Il tavolo è alto (the table is high).
I materassi sono duri (the mattresses are hard).
La sedia è comoda (the chair is comfortable).
Le finestre sono aperte (the windows are open).

 

You can see why, when learning a new noun, it’s a good idea to learn the article along with it. "Positive" adjectives are the easiest ones to use, so they're a good place to start for understanding noun-adjective agreement. 

 

Further practice:
After viewing a Yabla video, check out the Vocabulary Review. You’ll recognize the nouns, because most of them will have articles attached to them, whether singular or plural. Check out the adjectives, too. Can you pick out the positive ones? Hint: they'll end in o, because they're given in the masculine singular. While you're at it, why not go through the other endings (masculine plural, feminine singular, and plural) for each positive adjective you find? 

 

Stay on the lookout for a lesson on aggettivi neutri, coming soon on Yabla. They're the adjectives that end in e, and they aren't quite as well-behaved as the aggettivi positivi.

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Just in case you're getting discouraged:
Learning to speak correctly is important, but remember, communication is the real key. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble getting it all straight. For people coming from languages where gender is nonexistent, it’s a huge challenge to get genders right all the time, not to mention grasping how adjectives work. Don’t let your doubts stop you from using your new language skills.
 

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Those Pesky Possessive Adjectives

Becoming comfortable using possessive adjectives and personal pronouns in Italian can be a challenge because they work a bit differently then they do in other languages. To learn about them with Daniela, check out her series of lessons about possessive adjectives:

Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi 

 

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An important thing to remember regarding possessive adjectives is that Italian uses both an article and an adjective (think: the my book), which certainly takes some getting used to. So, "my book" would be: il mio libro. But there's an important exception. Daniela explains that family members get special treatment in terms of possessive adjectives:

 

Regola generale: l'aggettivo possessivo in italiano vuole sempre l'articolo, tranne in un caso, quando parlo della famiglia, della mia famiglia, dei miei parenti stretti in singolare. In questo caso non voglio l'articolo. Non dico: il mio padre, la mia madre. Dico: mio padre, mia madre.

General rule: the possessive adjective in Italian always needs the article except in one case, when I talk about the family, about my family, about my close relatives in the singular. In this case I don't want the article. I don't say: the my father, the my mother. I say: my father, my mother.

Captions 44-50, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

There is also another special case: an exception to the exception. When the nouns denoting family members become altered nouns (see this lesson about altered nouns), as in sorellina (little sister) instead of sorella (sister), or mamma (mom) rather than madre (mother), we put back the article!

Ho fatto una passeggiata con la mia sorellinaMio fratello ci ha accompagnato.
I went for a walk with my little sisterMy brother came with us.

See this article about mamma (not a totally clear cut case) and other family terms of endearment. 

See this chart about possessive adjectives, summing up in English what Daniela has been talking about in Italian.

Here are some exercises to test your comprehension:

Try this online exercise.
Do a short quiz.
Take another short quiz.

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Possessive adjectives are just plain tricky. Not only do you need to know the rules, but you need to get plenty of practice before they become second nature, so be patient with yourselves and you will slowly but surely start getting these pesky possessive adjectives right, more often than wrong! 

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Two Words in One, with a Catch: Perché

When someone asks you perché? (why?), you can recycle the same word in your response because perché also means “because”! Yes, two in one! Let’s look at the following example, where Daniela is asking her students to justify using one article over another. Make sure to look at the context and listen to the inflection!

 

L'articolo è uno. Uno scontrino, perché?

The article is "uno." "Uno scontrino" (a receipt). Why?

Perché la parola inizia per s più consonante.

Because the word starts with "s" plus a consonant.

Captions 54-56, Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo

 Play Caption

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So perché actually has two grammatical forms. One is as an adverb meaning “for what reason.” It’s used in forming a question:

Perché l’hai interrogato?
Why did you interrogate him?

The other grammatical form of perché is a “causal conjunction” meaning “because.” It’s used to introduce the cause when it follows the effect (which might be simply implied as in our first example above). If we use a full sentence to respond to the above question, it might go something like this:

L’ho interrogato perché non l’hai fatto tu!
I interrogated him because you didn’t do it!

In the above example, “I interrogated him” is the effect and “you didn’t do it” is the cause, so perché (because) goes in the middle: effect-perché-cause. 

But here’s the catch. If you want to put the cause first, such as when you’re explaining yourself without being asked, or elaborating on your reasons, then things change in Italian. In English you could technically start your full sentence answer with the cause, using “because.”

Because you didn’t interrogate him, I did.

However, in Italian you cannot use perché in this case. The word to go to is siccome (because, as, given that, whereas, or since), used exclusively to introduce the cause when it precedes the effect: siccome-cause-effect. Siccome and perché have similar meanings but are not interchangeable within the structure of the sentence. This may seem complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it will become natural. Here’s an example in context, where Lara is explaining her actions to Luca Manara.

 

Ginevra deve essere iscritta nella lista degli indagati e deve essere interrogata,

Ginevra must be recorded on the list of suspects and has to be interrogated,

e siccome non lo fai tu lo faccio io, tutto qui.

and because you're not doing it, I'm doing it, that's all.

Captions 17-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

 Play Caption

 

In the above example you could replace “because” with “given that,” "as," “whereas,” or “since.” But you can’t replace siccome with perché!

As your Italian becomes more fluent, you’ll find siccome to be extremely handy when you’re telling stories and explaining things. There are other similar words to call on as well, but we’ll save them for another time.

 

Learning suggestion:
To get a feel for perché in both of its two contrasting but related meanings, “why” and “because,” check out their occurrences in Yabla videos (and figure out which is which). Do a search with siccome to get acquainted with it, and hear it in context. Then, to really grasp the mechanism, ask yourself some questions, and answer them. Get used to using perché as both the question “why” and the answer “because.” Then, elaborate on your answers using siccome and perché according to how you structure your sentence. Don’t forget the accent on perché!

 

Here’s a head start:

Perché sei così nervoso?
-Perché... è una storia lunga. Siccome avevo dimenticato di caricare la sveglia ieri sera, stamattina mi sono alzata tardi. E siccome avevo un appuntamento alle nove, non avevo tempo per fare colazione. Farò colazione al bar, perché ora ho fame. Dopo mi sentirò meglio, perché avrò la pancia piena. Siccome la pancia sarà piena, mi sentirò molto meglio.

Why are you so tense?
-Because... it’s a long story. Since I had forgotten to set the alarm last night, this morning I got up late. And because I had an appointment at nine, I didn’t have time for breakfast. I’ll have breakfast at the coffee shop because now I’m hungry. Afterwards I’ll feel better, because my stomach will be full. Since my stomach will be full, I’ll feel better.

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To enhance your skills, make sure you practice ad alta voce (out loud), too. 

Perché? Perché sì!

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Verbs of Uncertainty and the Subjunctive

We talked about the subjunctive together with the conditional in a previous lesson. But there are other cases in which we need to use what’s called il congiuntivo (subjunctive mood). Certain verbs, usually having to do with some kind of uncertainty, “kick off” the subjunctive. This means that they are conjugated normally in the indicative themselves, but if they precede a conjunction like che (that), then the subjunctive comes into play with the verb that follows.

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These particular verbs express wishes, thoughts, beliefs, worries, and doubts. Here are some of them:

accettare (to accept), amare (to love), aspettare (to wait), assicurarsi (to insure), attendere (to wait for), augurare (to wish for), chiedere (to ask), credere (to believe), desiderare (to desire), disporre (to arrange), domandare (to ask), dubitare (to doubt), esigere (to require), fingere (to make believe), illudersi (to delude oneself), immaginare (to imagine), lasciare (to leave), negare (to negate), permettere (to permit), preferire (to prefer), pregare (to pray), pretendere (to expect), rallegrarsi (to rejoice), ritenere (to retain), sospettare (to suspect), sperare (to hope), supporre (to suppose), temere (to fear), volere (to want).

It’s a daunting (and partial) list, but you can learn them gradually, on a need-to-know basis.

The issue of the subjunctive arises when we have a main clause and a dependent clause. The two clauses, or parts of the sentence, are often connected by che (that). There are other conjunctions, but once you learn how to use che, it’ll be easier to use the other conjunctions.

Let’s focus on a relatively simple sentence from this informative and popular Yabla interview with Silvia D’Onghia, a journalist, who obviously loves her job. At the end she says:

 

Credo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.

I believe that it's the greatest job in the world.

Caption 58, Professioni e mestieri - Silvia D'Onghia, giornalista

 Play Caption

 

Note that in English no subjunctive is necessary here, and we could leave out “that.” Sia is simply the subjunctive of essere in the present tense. If you look at any conjugation chart, for example here, the subjunctive conjugation is the same in the first, second familiar, and third persons. Silvia’s comment provides us with a convenient formula to work with:

verb kicking off the subjunctive (credere) + che + verb in the subjunctive (essere)

Try using different verbs from the list above in place of credere. You can have fun with this while trying to have the sentence make sense. You’re simply replacing the main verb (conjugated normally), while the rest of the sentence stays the same. The idea is to get used to using the subjunctive so that it feels natural to you when using the appropriate verbs. Once it feels natural, you can go on to change other elements of the model sentence.

We can easily change the person in the main clause (this time it’s a reflexive verb!), but the subjunctive part of the sentence stays the same as in the model:

Ci illudiamo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
We’re deluding ourselves that it’s the greatest job in the world.

Spera che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
She hopes that it’s the greatest job in the world.

Advanced learners might want to replace the verb in the subjunctive with fare (to do, to make) or avere (to have), for example:

Credo che faccia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I do the greatest job...

Or:

I believe that he does the greatest job...

 

Credo che abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I have the greatest job

Or:

I believe that she has the greatest job...

As mentioned above, the subjunctive is the same in the third person and the first person (which makes it easy, but can also cause confusion). You can add the personal pronoun for clarity if need be:

Credo che lui abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that he has the greatest job...

 

Further exploration:
Do a Yabla search of sia. Does che or some other conjunction precede it? Look for the verb that kicks it off. You’ll recognize many of the verbs from the list above.

Noi di Yabla speriamo che tu abbia capito questa piccola lezione sui verbi che prendono il congiuntivo, ma immaginiamo che non sia facilissima da mettere in pratica. Desideriamo che tutti voi siate felici di imparare con noi!

We at Yabla hope that you have understood this little lesson about verbs that take the subjunctive, but we can imagine that it isn’t all that easy to put into practice. We would like you all to be happy to learn with us!

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The Gender Gap

In foreign languages, gender (in its grammatical sense) goes way beyond the masculine, feminine (and sometimes neuter) equivalents of “the.” Gender affects not only articles, but pronouns, adjectives, and participles of verbs as well. Added to this is the fact that certain nouns take a masculine article even though they might apply to a woman and vice versa. Over the years, some denominations have changed based on women filling roles previously held only by men, and vice versa, and also by simple changes in usage. It can be daunting.

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For starters, let’s talk about a word that’s feminine but applies to everyone: la persona (the person). However masculine a person might be, he’s a person, and persona is feminine! For Italians this doesn’t cause any psychological problems... it’s just a matter of grammar. In the following example, Charles is clearly un uomo (a man), but he’s a persona, too. We can’t see the ending of the article, because it’s elided, but we know it’s “la” because the adjective ultimo (last) has a feminine “a” ending to agree with its feminine noun, persona. In fact even questa (this) as a modifier has to agree with the feminine persona

 

Charles Ferrant. Questa è l'ultima persona che ha visto il Conte.

Charles Ferrant. This is the last person who saw the Count.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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There’s a fun example of gender ambiguity in the very first episode of Commissioner Manara, Part 4. At police headquarters, Manara is told that the new inspector is in the other room. What makes it fun is that “inspector” is a masculine noun in Italian. The viewer is led to expect a man, not only because ispettore takes a masculine article, but because, at least in the past, it’s always been a position more often filled by men than women (although in part 3 we are introduced to ispettore Sardi, a woman). Ispettrice as a feminine form of ispettore does exist, but Sardi doesn’t use it, and it doesn’t appear in the dictionary.

 

È arrivato il nuovo ispettore, l'esperto di scena del crimine.

The new Inspector has arrived, the crime scene expert.

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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The noun esperto is also masculine (although some dictionaries do admit the feminine version esperta). In fact, if we use esperto as a noun, it’s masculine (most of the time, even referring to women) but if we use it as an adjective, it must agree with the person. So, if we’re talking about a woman, we’ll say: 

È molto esperta.


She’s very skilled.

To add to the ambiguity, much of the time pronouns are left out altogether, so it’s impossible to say whether the inspector is a he or a she.

 

Ma adesso è di là e sta familiarizzando con i colleghi.

But now he's in there getting to know his co-workers.

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Yabla has chosen to have the translation pronoun agree with ispettore, to maintain the dramatic surprise upon discovering that the inspector is a woman, but it could just as well have agreed with the person the speaker knows is a woman, and been translated as “she.”

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Further study:

For some simple but thorough explanations of grammatical gender see this article. Have another look at Lesson 15, A Few Words About “Some” (Qualche and Alcuni) where, towards the end, there’s some talk of gender when using modifiers. Grammatical gender is a subject that will keep coming up, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, when you learn a new word, learn its article at the same time. In most cases the vocabulary reviews connected with the video include the articles with the nouns. Approfittane! (Take advantage of it!)  

 

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Learning to Say You're Sorry

Sometimes saying you’re sorry is a quick thing, because you did something like bumping into someone by accident. In Italian, depending on how you say it, you might have to make a quick decision: How well do I know this person, and how formal should I be? 

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The familiar form is scusami (excuse me), or simply scusa. Grammatically speaking, we’re using the imperative form of scusare (to excuse). If you look at the conjugation of scusare, you’ll see that it’s conjugated like other verbs ending in -are (soon to be explained by Daniela in her popular grammar lesson series!). You’ll also see that it’s easy to get things mixed up. 

Learning conjugations can be daunting, but it’s worth learning the imperatives of scusare, since it’s a verb you’ll need in many situations. While you’re at it, you might do the same with perdonare (to pardon, to forgive), which conjugates the same way, and can have a similar meaning, as in the following situation where Marika is pretending to be distracted.

 

Perdonami, scusami tanto, ma ero sovrappensiero.

Forgive me, really sorry, but I was lost in thought.

Caption 25, Marika e Daniela - Il verbo chiedere

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It can be helpful to remember that in the familiar form, the mi (me) gets tacked onto the end of the verb: scusami, perdonami (and in the familiar second person plural: scusatemi, perdonatemi). But when using the polite form you need to put the mi first, making two words: mi scusi, mi perdoni

 

Signora mi scusi, Lei è parente della vittima?

Madam, excuse me, are you a relative of the victim?

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Attenzione! If you ask a friend to forgive you, the question is: mi perdoni? If instead you’re saying “pardon me” to a stranger, it’s mi perdoni (and is not a question, but a command). It all has to do with inflection and context. 

Sono in ritardo, mi perdoni?

I’m late. Will you forgive me?

Mi perdoni, non ho sentito il Suo nome.

Pardon me, I didn’t hear your name.

In many cases, you can use the generic chiedo scusa (I ask for pardon, I ask forgiveness). This way, no worries about complicated conjugations!

On Italian TV interviews are conducted using the polite form of address, but in this case the intervistatore  (interviewer) knows the intervistato (interviewee) Tiziano Terzani very well, and would like to make an exception.

 

Chiedo scusa ai telespettatori se userò il "tu" con lui.

I'll ask the television audience for forgiveness if I use the "tu" form with him.

Captions 24-25, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca

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Another way to say you’re sorry is mi dispiace (I’m sorry), often shortened to mi spiace (I’m sorry), which is a bit weightier than “excuse me” and doesn’t necessarily involve the other person pardoning you. 

 

Mi spiace, ma qualcuno doveva pur dirvelo. Questa è la realtà.

I'm sorry, but someone had to say it to you. This is the reality.

Captions 74-75, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee

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Mi dispiace is used even when it’s not at all a question of asking pardon, such as when we hear about a disgrazia (adversity, terrible loss). In the following example, the father is using lasciare (to leave) to mean his daughter has died. Notice the plural ending of the participle (normally lasciato) that agrees with ci (us).

 

Angela ci ha lasciati. -Mi dispiace.

Angela's left us. -I'm sorry.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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There’s much more to say about being sorry, and about using the verb dispiacere. Ci dispiace (we’re sorry), but it will have to wait for another lesson. A presto!

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Che sarà sarà

The future tense with conjunctions: A will-will situation


In a previous lesson, we discussed how Italian uses the future tense to express probability, as well as the future itself. Now, getting back to the normal use of the future tense, we’re going to see how it works when using conjunctions such as se (if), quando (when), appena (as soon as), non appena (as soon as), finché (as long as), and finché non (until) to connect two parts of a sentence. Italian and English have two different approaches to this. In Italian the future tense has to be present on both sides of the conjunction, while in English the future tense appears on only one side. Consider the following example, where Francesca is telling us about what she is going to wear when she goes skiing:

 

Questa la indosserò quando sarò in prossimità dei campi da sci.

This I'll put on when I'm close to the ski slopes.

Caption 34, Francesca - neve - Part 2

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Translated literally, this would be: This I’ll put on when I will be close to the ski slopes.

What we need to remember is that in Italian the future tense will appear on both sides of these conjunctions—a “will-will” situation. 

One important conjunction frequently used with the future is appena (as soon as). Attenzione! Appena by itself is also an adverb meaning “barely,” “scarcely,” or “just.”  

Ho appena finito.

I just finished.

Si vedeva appena.

One could barely see it. 

When used as a conjunction meaning “as soon as,” appena will often be preceded by non, which, depending on the context, can give it an extra bit of urgency or emphasis. (Note that non in this case has nothing to do with negation.) In English we might say “just as soon as” for that same kind of emphasis.

Mi chiamerà appena starà meglio.

She’ll call me as soon as she’s better.

Mi chiamerà non appena starà meglio.

She’ll call me as soon as she’s better. 

Or,

She’ll call me just as soon as she’s better.

We can put the conjunction at the beginning of the sentence, but il succo non cambia (the “juice” or gist doesn’t change). 

Appena starà meglio, mi chiamerà. 

[It could also be: Non appena starà meglio mi chiamerà.]

As soon as she's better, she’ll call me. 

Or,

Just as soon as she’s better, she’ll call me.

Two more related conjunctions used with the future are finché (as long as) and finché non (until). While appena can appear with or without “non” preceding it and mean pretty much the same thing, with finché and finche non, we have two related but distinct meanings. Finché by itself means “as long as,” but if we negate it with non, it becomes “until.” Let’s see how this works. 

In the following example, Manara’s boss is warning him about his unconventional behavior. Grammatically speaking, he uses the futuro anteriore, but the key here is that he uses the future, where in English “until” calls for the present perfect (“have shown”) here.

 

Lei non se ne andrà da qui finché non avrà dimostrato di essere un vero commissario.

You won't leave here until you've shown yourself to be a true commissioner.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Translated literally: You won’t leave this place until you will have shown yourself to be a true commissioner.

Or, to understand how finché non becomes “until”: You won’t leave this place as long as you will not have shown yourself to be a true commissioner.

Attenzione! Occasionally finché non will be used in speech without “non,” but will still clearly mean “until.” The context will clue you in. If you watch this video about Fellini, you’ll come across an example of this in caption 17.

 

Finché viene il giorno della partenza.

Until the day of departure arrives.

Caption 17, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato

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Learning suggestion:

As you watch Yabla videos, pay special attention to the conjunctions mentioned above when they crop up. It’s worth spending some time understanding first hand how this works in Italian, so why not try making up some sentences using these conjunctions and the future tense? To get started:

Non appena avrò finito di mangiare, farò i compiti.

Just as soon as I’m finished eating, I’ll do my homework.

Appena avrò finito di mangiare, farò i compiti.

As soon as I’ve finished eating, I’ll do my homework.

Non farò i compiti finché non avrò finito di mangiare. 

I’m not going to do my homework until I’ve finished eating.

Finché starò a tavola, non penserò ai compiti.

As long as I’m at the dinner table, I’m not going to think about my homework.

Se non avrò finito di mangiare, non potrò cominciare.

If I haven’t finished eating, I won’t be able to start.

Quando avrò finito di mangiare, farò i compiti.

When I’ve finished eating, I’ll do my homework.

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