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Lessons for topic Informal Speech

Provare and Provarci

Provare is a verb that has so many meanings and nuances that it merits some attention. In this week's episode of La Ladra, it has a special meaning that is important to be aware of, especially for those who are thinking about dating.

 

But first, let's go to the basic meanings of this verb. Provare is one of several synonyms meaning "to try." See this lesson about this meaning of provare.

Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.
I'm going to try it now.  Let's see if I succeed in it.
Caption 50-51, Francesca: neve - Part 3 of 3

 

This exact same construction takes on a different meaning when we're talking about people being sentimentally interested in one another.  Every language has different terms that come into general use when talking about relationships, like "going out," "dating," "going steady" in English, and in Italian, stare insieme (to be together, to be a couple, to go steady).

 

But before that happens, there is usually an approach. We used to call this courting. These days it can be in person, by text, by phone or in person. It can start with a flirtation. But one person has to approach the other. He or she has to try to get the other person's attention. Because there isn't a true equivalent in Italian, flirtare (to flirt) has become a verb we find in the dictionary. 

 

But generally, this stage of the game, the approach, especialy when it's not very subtle, is described in Italian with provarci.

 

So if I want to say, "That guy was flirting with me!" I might say: Ci stava provando con me!

 

Literally, it means "to try it" as in our first example, but, ci, as we know from previous lessons, means many things, and it can mean "to or with something or someone."

Ci vengo anch'io. I'll come with you [there].

 

In this week's episode of La Ladra, Barbara, an employee, is interested in her boss and she doesn't want any interference, and so she gives Alessia, her co-worker, a rough time and accuses her of flirting with him. In reality, poor, shy Alessia has no such intentions, and is quite shocked to be accused of anything of the sort. In this specific context, provarci means to try to get the sentimental attentions of someone (often by flirting).

Alessia:
Ma questo non significa che io... 

But that doesn't mean that I...
Barbara:
Ho visto come lo guardi, sai?

I've seen how you look at him, you know.
Ma tu, con Aldo, non ci devi neppure provare.
But you with Aldo, you mustn't even try to get his attention.
Alessia:
Io? Ma sei matta?

Me? But are you nuts?
Captions 18-21, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4 of 14

 

On a general level, however, provarci just means "to try it," as in our first example. In English we leave out any object: we just say "I tried." In Italian, there is usually ci as a general, even neutral, object. It is often shortened to a "ch" sound in a contraction. C'ho provato (I tried). Provaci is an informal command: "Give it a try!"

 

The Italian title for an old Woody Allen film is Provaci ancora, Sam.

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Finché (as long as) and Finché non (until)

In a recent video, we have a perfect example of how people talk in casual conversation as opposed to speaking with correct grammar, but let’s back up.

 

In a recent lesson we talked about the conjunction affinché (in order that) and how it prompts the subjunctive.

 

We also mentioned how it can easily be confused with finché (as long as) or finché non (until) because it sounds very similar. We looked briefly at these two conjunctions in a previous lesson. In Italian, they differ only in the addition of the negation non. This is a bit tricky since in English we use two different terms: “as long as” and “until.”

 

In Italian, just as in English, people abbreviate when speaking informally. They make contractions or leave words out to say what they need to say more quickly.

 

So sometimes, even when Italians mean to say “until,” they will leave out the non after finché. This is partly because they don’t need to be any clearer than that in a given situation, or because it’s quicker and easier, and for Italians, in some situations, it just doesn’t matter.

 

Let’s take the very recent video featuring Marika and Anna who are busy in the kitchen making panzerotti, a kind of deep fried dumpling, filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce.

 

 

It’s a casual situation, they’re very busy, and wouldn't you know it, they use finché incorrectly. But what they mean to say is very clear, so they don’t pay much attention.

Ok, quindi possiamo andare avanti ad oltranza, finché [sic: finché non] finisce il nostro impasto.
OK, so we can keep going indefinitely, until our dough is gone.
Caption 34, Anna e Marika - L'Italia a Tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2 of 2 

 

Sì, finché [sic: finché non] abbiamo, appunto, terminato l'impasto e [abbiamo] un certo numero di panzerotti da friggere.
Yes, until we have, exactly, used up all the dough and we have a certain number of panzerotti to fry.
Caption 35-36, Anna e Marika: L'Italia a Tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2 of 2 

 

The meaning is clear because they use finisce (is gone, is finished, is used up), so they understand each other: They’ll keep making panzerotti until all the dough has been used up.

 

Of course, there are plenty of instances where Anna and Marika do use finché properly, so it’s not a question of not knowing.

La cosa importante, con i bambini piccoli, è cambiare spesso posizione della schiena finché, naturalmente, non sono in grado di stare in piedi da soli.
The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, until, naturally, they are able to stand up by themselves.
Captions 9-11, Anna presenta: Attrezzature per un neonato

 

We could also say, to better follow the Italian:

The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, as long asthey are unable to stand up by themselves.

 

We could think of it this way: Non is a negation, and in a way, so is “until,” when used as a conjunction. “Un” is also a prefix meaning “not.”

 

Here is another example, where we can take finché non apart, to better understand it.

E poi, si lavorava finché il padrone non diceva "basta",
And then we worked until the boss said, “that’s enough.”
Caption 27, Gianni si racconta: Chi sono 

Another way to say this in English would be:

We kept working as long as the boss had not said, “that’s enough.”

 

It’s a bit awkward in English, which is why we use the word “until.”

 

Here is another very informal example:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché non ho finito.
I have to tell you something. Don’t interrupt me until I have finished.

It could also be:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché sto parlando.
I have to tel you something. Don’t interrupt me as long as I am still speaking.

 

Further learning: 
Do a Yabla search of finché and look at all the examples. Some will be correct without non, to mean “as long as,” some will use non, to mean “until,” and some will be wrong. Hint: Federico Fellini uses this conjunction the wrong way.

Can you understand the difference between finché and finché non? Feel free to let us know, or to make a comment in the comment section of the video in question.

We’ve mentioned that in different parts of Italy, or based on personal styles, the subjunctive gets skipped, the remote past is rarely used, and finché non might be abbreviated, too. But for those who are learning Italian, it’s good to be able to use finchéfinché non, and affinché correctly.

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Manco: an Informal Way to Say Neanche

In a recent episode of La Ladra, three great, informal adverbs stand out in three consecutive lines.

Ma quelli non mollano l'osso manco morti.
But those guys never let go of the bone, not even dead.
Magari l'osso di Cicci sono io.
Maybe I am Cicci's bone.
Ma mica solamente l'osso.
But not only the bone, of course.
Captions 33-35, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 10 of 13 

 

We have already discussed magari (maybe, if ever) and mica (at all), and here is a new adverb. We’ve seen it, here and there, in videos, but now it’s time to do a bit of explaining.

 

Manco: Originally, it meant meno (less), and was used in expressions such as niente di meno(nothing less) in the variants niente di manconiente manconon di manconon manco(nothing less) and is rarely used today. Its second, more recent meaning, and somewhat related to the first, is used quite a bit. It’s equivalent to neanche (not even) as an abbreviated form of nemmanco (not even).

 

Manco, meaning neanche, has generally been considered to be bad writing form* and continues, even today, to be used exclusively in informal speech, and in writing that reproduces speech. It’s used more in the south than in the north, and is equivalent to nemmenoneanche, and neppure (not even).

 

It’s important to remember that manco is an abbreviation for a word with ne (not, nor) as a sort of prefix, and therefore like mica has a negative meaning, even though it doesn’t exhibit the typical characteristics of a negation.

 

In the previous episode of La Ladra, the first word is manco!

Manco di Augusto mi posso più fidare.
I can’t even trust Augusto.
Caption 1, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13 

 

See how easily it slips into conversation. It’s certainly quicker than saying neanche.

E lo sai che manco a farlo apposta, proprio qui vicino, c'è un negozio, aperto da poco, che vende mozzarella di bufala.
And you know, not even to do it on purpose [by sheer coincidence], right near here, there's a shop, recently opened, that sells buffalo mozzarella.
Captions 38-39, Anna e Marika: La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1 

 

Have fun with manco. It’s a word you’ll likely hear more than say, since neanche andnemmeno are more straightforward. Like mica, it’s a strong word, and is used emphatically. When someone uses manco, they mean it. Just imagine someone’s eyebrows going up and their eyes opening wide, as they say, manco morto! as if to say, “you gotta be kidding me!” 

 

*See the Accademia della Cruscaa centuries-old linguistic institution in Italy, now also an online service for questions about the Italian language (articles are in Italian).

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Mica, an Insignificant but Potent Adverb

In this week’s episode of La Ladra, one word comes up in three different instances, that is used constantly in conversation, but rarely in “proper” writing.

 

In modern Italian, it is most often used as an adverb synonymous with affatto (at all) or perniente (at all).

Non sarà mica facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.
It won't be at all easy, uh, for dilettantes like us.
Caption 10, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13  

 

In the previous example, mica could be replaced by affatto or per niente. But mica is much more informal.

Non sarà affatto facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.

 

It comes from “mica,” the Latin noun for “crumb,” so it has to do with something tiny, and of little importance.

 

The people from  una parola al giorno (a word a day) explain mica nicely:

Parola che come avverbio scivola continuamente nei nostri discorsi a rafforzare le nostrenegazioni (a word that slips, repeatedly, into our conversations and reinforces our negations):

non è mica male  (it’s not bad at all)
non mi scoccia mica (it doesn’t put me out at all, it’s no hassle at all)
non è mica uno scherzo (it’s no laughing matter)

 

To read what else they have to say, see: https://unaparolaalgiorno.it/significato/M/mica. It’s a great site for learning new words.

 

As we have seen above, mica is generally used with a negation, but this is often merely implied, as in the following examples. At the same time, it can have the connotation of “by any chance” and/or have the same role as question tags in English.

Mica hai una penna da prestarmi (you wouldn’t happen to have a pen to lend me, would you)?

 

Ma... mica vorrai aprirlo con questa? -Ci proviamo.
But... you're not thinking of opening it with this, are you? -We'll try it.
Caption 9, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13  

 

Mica ce l'hai con me?
You don't happen to be mad at me, do you?
You’re not mad at me, are you?
Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Ep. 2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 13 of 17 

 

Mica l’ho fatto apposta!
didn’t do it on purpose!
It's not as if I did it on purpose!

 

Mica is a rather fun word to use. It’s a way of expressing a negation without coming right out and saying it, or reinforcing a negative you are indeed saying. And the more you use it, the more it will slip into your conversation, and the more genuine your Italian will sound.

 

Yabla... mica male!
 

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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.

 

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

 

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 1: Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3 of 14 

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 1: Ep. 5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12 of 14 

 

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 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 

 

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 of 26 

 

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 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 

 

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

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

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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