There's a movie on Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.
His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.
Here's what the agent says:
Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...
Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this..
Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto - filmPlay Caption
A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.
We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!
So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts.
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora.
Let’s give the word a quick review here.
In the following example, ancora means "even."
Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.
That way, you can understand me even better.
Caption 27, Italian Intro - SerenaPlay Caption
And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.
E ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.
And still today we're very close friends.
Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
È ancora vivo.
He’s still alive.
If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."
Non è ancora morto.
He's not dead yet.
In the example that follows, ancora means “more.”
Ne vuoi ancora? -Eh?
Do you want some more of it? -Huh?Play Caption
And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”
Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,
OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,
Caption 67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di VetroPlay Caption
So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”
But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.
So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying “it’s passable.” Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t."
There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:
Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.
Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.
Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:
Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.
If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,
Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.
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 now. Let's see if I succeed.
Captions 50-51, Francesca neve - Part 3Play Caption
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).
Ma questo non significa che io...
But that doesn't mean that I...
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.
Io? Ma sei matta?
Me? But are you nuts?
Captions 20-23, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4Play Caption
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.
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.”
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 without non even though they mean "until." However, what they mean to say is very clear, so they don’t pay much attention, and it's not even considered "wrong."
OK, quindi possiamo andare avanti ad oltranza, finché [sic: finché non] finisce il nostro impasto. -Sì.
OK, we'll go ahead until done, until we've finished up with the dough. -Yes.
Caption 34, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2Play Caption
Sì, finché [sic: finché non] abbiamo, appunto, terminato l'impasto e [abbiamo] un certo numero di panzerotti da friggere.
Yes, up until the point, right, that we've finished the dough and we have a certain number of “panzerotti” to fry.
Captions 35-36, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2Play Caption
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 with non, 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 children 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 neonatoPlay Caption
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 as they 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, finché... si lavorava finché il padrone non diceva "basta",
And then, until... we worked until the boss said, "that's enough,"
Caption 27, Gianni si racconta - Chi sonoPlay Caption
Another way to say this in English would be:
We kept working as long as the boss had not yet 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.
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 finché, finché non, and affinché correctly.
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 35-37, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 10Play Caption
Manco: Originally, it meant meno (less), and was used in expressions such as niente di meno (nothing less) in the variants niente di manco, niente manco, non di manco, non 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 nemmeno, neanche, 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 anymore.
Caption 2, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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!”
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 9Play Caption
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 9Play Caption
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?Play Caption
Mica l’ho fatto apposta!
I 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!
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 modoPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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 5Play Caption
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.Play Caption
Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:
Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.
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.
English doesn’t make the distinction — as far as pronouns go — between familiar and polite forms, but many languages do.
In a recent documentary about how the Italian language was influenced by Italian fascism, we learn that Lei, the polite form of “you” (singular), was actually banned from the language by Mussolini, and that the form Voi was imposed. But what’s this all about?
Let’s clarify, right away, that voi with a lowercase “v” is the second person plural personal pronoun, that is, “you” plural. We use it all the time. What we’re discussing here, however, is the use of Voi — with a capital letter — as a second person singular, polite form. It uses the same conjugation as voi (you plural).
The story is a long, complicated, and fascinating one, but here are the basics.
In ancient Rome, people used only the familiar form, “tu” (which later became the Italian tu (you, singular).
At a certain point, around the year 300, the Latin “Vos” ("you" plural used as a singular) began to be used with important figures such as emperors, much the same way as the pluralismajestatis was used.
“Vos” then became Voi in Italian, and was commonly used from the 1200’s to the 1400’s for addressing artists, nobility, etc. Dante used tu and Voi. Later, in the Renaissance, with the return to studying the Greek and Roman classics, there was a tendency to go back to the “Roman” tu.
Also in the Renaissance, Lei began to be used in offices and courts as a polite form of address. Lei corresponds to the third person feminine singular (she/her). The words used for prominent figures, like Eccellenza (Excellence) and Maestà (Majesty) are feminine nouns, and so, this led to a feminine pronoun: Lei. Lei was used alongside Voi for centuries as a deferential form of address, with tu as a familiar and intimate one. Many consider that the use of Lei came into use following the model of the Spanish, whose presence was felt in Italy during the 16th Century.
So, though not actually foreign (but believed to be, at least, partially), Lei was banned by Mussolini as being a non-Italian word:
Imposizione del Voi ...
The imposition of “Voi” ["you" singular, formal] ...
Parole straniere bandite e sostituite per legge.
Foreign words banned and replaced by law.
Captions 6-9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italianaPlay Caption
Thus, Voi was revived and/or imposed all over Italy. After the fall of fascism, Voi fell into disuse in many parts of Italy, where it had not really had time to be assimilated.
In much of southern Italy, however, Voi, as a deferential form of address, had never gone out of fashion, as it had in the north. So, it simply remained, and to this day it’s still used as a sign of respect, especially in families: a nipotino (grandson) in speaking to his nonno (grandfather), for example.
If you are an adult and go on a trip to Naples, Sicily or other southern Italian destination, you may very well be addressed as Voi. This is a sign of respect.
Lei has entered Italian vocabulary and grammar books as the official personal pronoun for addressing someone formally. But since language is fluid and ever-changing — not by law and imposition, but by common use — this could change. There's a lesson about this!
Thanks for reading, keep up the good work, and feel free to write to us at
firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and questions.