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How to offer condolences in Italian

One of our Yabla learners has asked about what to say when someone has died, or what to write in a condolence note. There have been so many deaths from the coronvirus that expressing condolences is an important thing to be able to do. 

 

The most important word is condoglianze, from con [with] and doglianza (lament). In other words, you are mourning with the person to whom you express your condolences. You feel their sorrow. The English cognate is a true one, which makes it easy to remember.

 

In Person or on the Phone

In the following example, the condolences are expressed as part of a conversation, and the person talking is not a close friend -- he's a sort of lawyer (and note that in Italian, a person's professional title is often used by itself to address him or her), so the condolences are very basic and quick, but perfectly acceptable and polite. The adjective to know is sentito. This comes from the verb sentire (to feel, to hear, to sense). Sentito can mean "sincere," "heartfelt," or "deep."

 

Buongiorno notaio, piacere. -Condoglianze sentitissime. -Grazie tante, tante grazie.

Hello, Notary, pleased to meet you. -My deepest condolences. -Thanks very much, many thanks.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

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Le mie condoglianze, dottor Del Serio. -Grazie.

My condolences, Doctor Del Serio. -Thank you.

Caption 26, La Tempesta film - Part 13

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So really, just two words were used, and it could have been just one: condoglianze. It's enough, especially when you don't really know the person who passed away.

 

If we're talking to a friend who has just lost a family member, for example, we can use the informal verb fare (to make, to do). You might not know the person who died, but you know that your friend is grieving: 

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze per la perdita di tuo padre/nonno/tua madre/nonna.

I'm sorry for the loss of your father/grandfather/mother/grandmother.

 

You can also keep this short and just say:

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze.

I'm sorry for your loss.

 

More Formally and in Writing

 

But if we want to say more, here's a common way to do it. It employs the verb porgere, to extend, to offer.

This first example is if you are speaking or writing formally to one person you aren't on a first-name basis with.

Le porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I extend my deepest condolences to you.

 

If you are talking or writing to more than one person, say, parents, or a couple, or an entire family, then it's:

Vi porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I offer you my deepest condolences. 

 

You can also leave out mentioning the person:

In questa triste circostanza porgiamo sentite condoglianze.

On this sad occasion, we offer heartfelt condolences.

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Alternative terms

Another word people use when sending a condolence note is cordoglio (grief, sorrow, mourning, condolences).

Esprimiamo con grande dolore il nostro cordoglio.

We would like to express, with great sorrow, our condolences.

 

Another important word to know is il lutto (the mourning, the bereavement, the grief). This example describes an ancient Roman sarcophagus of a child.

 

E i due genitori sono affranti, di lato c'è la mamma che sembra ormai avvolta in un dolore profondo, irrecuperabile. E poi c'è il padre. Entrambi hanno il capo coperto con un velo in segno di lutto, non guardano più neanche il bambino.

And the two parents are overcome. At the side there's the mother who by now seems to be shrouded in deep, hopeless sorrow. And then there is the father. Both have their heads covered with a veil as a sign of mourning. They no longer even look at the child.

Captions 37-40, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 6

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You can use lutto in a condolence note:

 

Partecipiamo commossi al vostro lutto.

We take part, emotionally moved, in your grief [we feel/join in your grief].

 

A shop or restaurant, where a family member or employee has died, might have a sign that says:

Chiuso per lutto

Closed for bereavement

 

One more word you might see, for example, on the signs we see around in Italian towns, announcing the death of a citizen, is addolorato (aggrieved, distressed). It comes from the verb addolorare (to sadden) or addolorarsi (to be saddened).

 

Sei confusa, addolorata, ma lo sai che lui ti merita.

You're confused, aggrieved, but you know that he deserves you.

Captions 85-86, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 11

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You can use addolorato in a condolence note:

Sono addolorato per la tua perdita.

I am saddened by your loss.

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We hope you won't need these words, but if you do, they're here. Feel free to send us questions or requests for further information. 

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Dotato o Negato? (Gifted or Talentless?)

Either you've got it or you don't. In English you have talent or you don't have it. But in Italian, there is a special word for each end of the scale. Dotato or negato.

Il maestro dice che non ha mai visto nessuno più negato di me.

The teacher says he has never seen anyone less gifted than me.

Caption 41, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema - Part 9

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So the speaker had to use the Italian comparative adverb più (more) before the adjective negato (not at all gifted). Whew! Talk about something not translating smoothly into English!

 

Negato is really a great word, though. It offers a great excuse when you want to get out of doing something you don't like to do. 

Sono negato! Fallo tu.
I'm no good at this! You do it.

 

That isn't to say that we can't also talk about having or not having talent, as, for example, in a recent segment of Adriano Olivetti's story:

Adriano, tu hai così tanti talenti.

Adriano, you have so many talents.

Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 7

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Another way we can translate negato is "hopeless," because negato implies that one is never going to get better at something. He or she is lacking in the wherewithal to improve. Instead of a higher being bestowing a gift (the gift of talent) on someone, it has been denied him or her.

Ma, dottore non mi dice niente? -Le dico che Lei è negato.

But Doctor don't you have anything to say? -I'll tell you that you're hopeless.

Captions 43-44, Psicovip Il ballo - Ep 25

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And in fact, the verb negare means "to deny."

Senta, Lei è un bel tipo, io non lo posso negare,

Listen, you're a cute type, I can't deny it,

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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"Let Me Know" in Italian

In an episode of Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno, at the very end, there is an expression that's used just about every day, especially at the end of a conversation, email, a phone call, or text message, so let's have a look.

In this particular case, one person is talking to a few people, so he uses the imperative plural, which happens to be the same as the indicative in the second person plural. 

Fatemi sapere.

Let me know.

Caption 62, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8

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Let's take the phrase apart. The verb fare (to make) has been combined with the object pronoun mi which stands for a me (to me). To that is added the verb sapere (to know), in the infinitive.

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So, first of all, we might have been tempted to use the verb lasciare (to let, to leave). It would be a good guess, but instead, we use the ubiquitous verb fare"to make me know." Sounds strange in English, right? But in Italian, it sounds just right. You'll get used to it the more you say and hear it. 

 

Let's look at this expression in the singular, which is how you will use it most often.

 

The most generic version is this: fammi sapere (let me know).

Va be', quando scopri qualcosa fammi sapere.

OK, when you discover something, let me know.

Caption 34, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 3

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This use of "to make" plus a verb in the infinitive is also used a lot with verbs besides sapere (to know).

Do a Yabla search of fammi and you will see for yourself. There are lots of examples with all kinds of verbs.

Chi c'è alle mie spalle? Fammi vedere. -Francesca.

Who's behind me? Let me see. -Francesca.

Caption 13, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 1

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Sometimes we need to add a direct object to our sentence: "Let me see it."

In this case, all those little words get combined into one word. Fammelo vedere (literally "let me it see" or Let me see it).

Using fare means we conjugate fare, but not the other verb, which can make life easier!

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Fare is a verb that is used on so many occasions. Read more lessons about fare

 

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Ci Siamo (we're there)!

Let's look at a few idiomatic expressions people tend to use when holidays are approaching. They're useful at other times of the year, too.

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The title of this lesson is ci siamo (we are there). It literally means "we are there," or "we are here," but often means "this is the moment we've all been waiting for" or "we have succeeded." It can also mean "this is the moment we were dreading!"

Ecco qua, ci siamo quasi.

Here we go, we're almost there.

Caption 73, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 3

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And when we use it in the negative, non ci siamo, it can mean, "this is not a good thing." It's a synonym for non va bene (this is not OK).

No, no, non ci siamo.

No, no, we're not getting anywhere.

Caption 91, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Sardegna

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Natale è alle porte [Christmas is at the doors] (Christmas is just around the corner).

 

Siamo sotto Natale. Sotto usually means "under/underneath/below," but in this case, it means during, or we could construe it to mean under the influence of the holidays. 

 

Sotto le festei negozi fanno orari straordinari (around/during the holidays, shops keep extended hours).

 

In Italy, le feste non finiscono più (the holidays never end). 

 

Christmas starts on the 24th of December with la vigilia (Christmas Eve) and lasts until la Befana (Epiphany). Only after that do kids go back to school and things get back to normal.

 

The 26th of December is Santo Stefano, (Saint Stephen's Day), a perfect time for visiting relatives you didn't see on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Traditionally, shops are closed, but oggi giorno (these days), anything goes.

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And if there is a weekend in the middle of the festivities, there's il ponte (a four or five-day weekend, literally, "the bridge").

 

Quando una festa viene il giovedì, spesso si fa il ponte (when there's a holiday on Thursday, we often take Friday off for a long weekend).

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Chiaro and Chiaramente

A user wrote in with a question about these two words. Is there a difference? Yes, there is: chiaro is an adjective, and chiaramente is an adverb. But that’s the simple answer.

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Language is in constant flux, and chiaro has various meanings, just as “clear” in English does. And this adjective has come to take on the job of an adverb in certain contexts, as Marika mentions in her lesson on adverbs.

"Non fare troppi giri di parole, parla chiaro".

"Don't beat around the bush. Speak plainly."

Caption 29, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi di modo

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As a matter of fact, dictionaries list chiaro as both an adjective and adverb, but as an adverb, it's used only in certain circumstances, with certain verbs.

What’s the difference between parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente?

Well, sometimes there isn’t much difference.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaro.

Moreover, the report from my colleague in Milano is clear.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3

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In the example above, the speaker could have used the adverbial form to mean the same thing.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaramente.

 

Parlare chiaro has become an idiomatic expression — un modo di dire. It gets the message across very clearly.  It implies not using flowery language, wasting words, or trying to be too polite. But parlare chiaramente can have more to do with enunciation, articulation, ormaking oneself understood. So, sometimes parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente can coincide, but not necessarily.

 

Apart from this modo di dire, the adjective and adverb forms are used a bit differently in grammatical terms.

 

Since chiaro is an adjective, it normally describes or modifies a noun. To be correct, then, we often use è (it is).

È chiaro che non lo deve sapere nessuno perché il marito è gelosissimo.

It's clear that no one should know, because her husband is very jealous.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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Chiaro may be used by itself with a question mark to ask, “Is that clear?”

E non sono tenuto a spiegarti niente, chiaro?

And I'm not obliged to explain anything to you, is that clear?

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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The adverb chiaramente, on the other hand, can stand alone before or after another clause or can be inserted just about anywhere in a sentence.

Natoli ha chiaramente bisogno di glutine, eh.

Natoli clearly needs gluten, huh.

Caption 33, La Tempesta - film - Part 5

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Using chiaro, Paolo could have said:

È chiaro che Natoli ha bisogno di glutine.
It’s clear that Natoli needs gluten.

 

But chiaro has a special in-between meaning when it’s used in place of an adverb with verbs such as parlare (to speak) and vedere (to see).

Finché non ci ho visto chiaro la tengo io.

Until I've seen things clearly I'm keeping it.

Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:

Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.

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Practice:
Look for sentences with either chiaro or chiaramente and try switching them, making the necessary changes. Doing a search on the video tab will give you plenty of examples.

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