Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Nouns

Caso means "case," but countless other things as well

Caso seems like an easy cognate, and it is, indeed, especially when we say something like in ogni caso (in any case). 

In ogni caso, è una cosa veramente molto tipica.

In any case, it's a really typical thing.

Caption 40, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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Or, caso can mean "case," as in a criminal case.

Quindi voi o risolvete il caso in due giorni, o io sono costretto a togliervelo.

So either you solve the case in two days, or I will be forced to take it away from you.

Captions 80-81, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 21

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But we also find the word caso meaning "chance" or "fate." That's when things start getting a little fuzzy.

Signora, per caso vendete questo tipo di palle di vetro?

Ma'am, by chance do you sell glass balls of this type?

Caption 23, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 23

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Here, we could say, "As chance would have it..."

E guarda caso sembra raffigurare le tre generazioni:

And strangely enough, it seems to represent the three generations:

Caption 14, A Marsala Salvo Agria

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Caso can refer to "the circumstances," so when we say: È il caso, we mean that "circumstances call for something.

Però forse è il caso di farci un salto, eh?

But, maybe we should hop on over there, huh?

Caption 84, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

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In English, sometimes we just use "should." 


We often use this expression in the negative. Non è il caso... This means something is not called for. It's not the right thing to do, best to avoid it. Sometimes non è il caso can mean, "Don't bother," or "It's not necessary." 


Grazie, grazie, ma non è il caso. -Sarebbe meraviglioso, bellissimo!

Thanks, thanks, but it wouldn't be right. -It would be marvelous, great!

Caption 97, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 4

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That's not all, but we'll pick up this topic again in another lesson. Thanks for reading!

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3 faces of realtà

Let's look at 3 ways the cognate realtà is used in Italian. Two of these are relatively easy to grasp.


La realtà

The most common way to use the noun la realtà is when it means "[the] reality." 


E poi, con il blocco totale in casa, lì è stata [sic: stato] il vero confronto con la realtà, della serie "noi dobbiamo organizzarci qui, in questo spazio che abbiamo".

And then, with the total lockdown at home, in that case, it was about really facing reality, like, "We have to get organized here, in this space we have."

Captions 45-48, Fuori era primavera Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown - Part 5

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Giada aveva completamente perso il senso della realtà, non erano solo i barbiturici il problema.

Giada had completely lost her sense of reality, the barbiturates were not the only problem.

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 3

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In English, we often leave out the article, but in Italian, we leave it in. With or without the article, the meaning is clear.



In realtà

The other very common way to use realtà is when we say in realtà, which we can translate literally as "in reality" but in English, we'd more likely say, "actually."

Massimo, senti, io in realtà sono venuta per un altro motivo.

Massimo, listen, I actually  came for another reason.

Caption 54, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 8

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Here too, we can easily understand what in realtà  means.


Una realtà

But there is another way Italians use realtà, and it is to indicate something that exists. It's a bit trickier to translate because it is a very wide-ranging word and doesn't have a single English equivalent. We've listed some possible translations, but there may be more. The important thing is to understand the sense of it when you hear or see it being used. 


In a recent episode of La linea verticale, a patient is thinking about the hierarchy of the hospital personnel, as he is being wheeled through the halls to the operating room.

Come in quasi tutte le realtà professionali di questo Paese, anche in un ospedale la rabbia viene scaricata sempre verticalmente...

As in almost all the professional organizations of this country, in a hospital, too, anger is always unloaded vertically...

Captions 1-3, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 3

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We could also use other nouns, such as "the entities," "the institutions," "the situations,"  or even "environments." This use might be difficult to wrap our heads around, but we can recognize it because of the context and also what words it is or isn't surrounded by. We won't find the preposition in before it, and we might likely see an indefinite article or a plural article or adjective as in our example above, and in the following ones. 

Si andava dall'Alemagna o dal Motta, due realtà che oggi non esistono più.

One would go to Alemagna or to Motta, two enterprises which today no longer exist.

Captions 10-11, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

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La cucina contadina, eh, è una realtà culturale molto forte, nella tradizione del nostro Paese.

Country cooking, uh, is a very strong cultural presence in the tradition of our country.

Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 13

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We hope that, even though it's hard to grasp, you have been able to learn a new meaning for the noun realtà


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Anticipare and Anticipo

We have already talked a bit about the verb anticipare because it is the opposite of posticipare (to postpone). But let's look at some examples to get a feel for the verb and then look at the noun.




Anticipare (to move up)

Eh, c'è un caso delicato e ho dovuto anticipare il rientro.

Uh, there is a delicate case and I've had to move up my return.

Caption 65, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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We might just say, "I had to go back earlier" or "I had to return ahead of schedule." 


Ma no, sulle prime sembrava che fosse quel giorno, poi invece gli scritti li hanno anticipati e li ho dati un mese fa.

But no, at first it seemed like it was that day, but then they moved the written exams up and I did those a month ago.

Captions 5-6, Sposami EP 4 - Part 25

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If I answer your question before you ask it, you might say:

Mi hai anticipato (you preceded me, you beat me to it).


When I have told you something earlier and refer to it now, I might say something like:


Vediamo un po' in quale altro modo si usa, perché, come ti avevo anticipato, ci sono vari modi.

Let's look a bit into what other way it's used. Because, as I told you earlier, there are various ways.

Captions 2-3, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 2

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Sometimes, instead of words or information, it's money!


Walter m'aveva chiesto di anticipare i soldi per il viaggio ai Caraibi...

Walter had asked me to advance him the money for the trip to the Caribbean...

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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It's also common, when talking about money, to use the noun form we mentioned earlier: un anticipo

Ma il nostro accordo era un anticipo subito e il resto alla consegna.

But our agreement was an advance payment right away and the rest upon delivery.

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 9

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We could also use "down payment" to mean anticipo here.  You might ask your boss for un anticipo (an advance). 


In anticipo 

And when something or someone is early, or arrives early, ahead of schedule, most of the time we say in anticipo. It functions as an adverb.

Sono in anticipo?

Am I early?

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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Con anticipo

We can also say con anticipo when we want to say "in advance." Here anticipo is a noun, and it has an adjective in front of it. 

Il problema è che spesso le strutture sono sovraffollate, per cui, eh, devi agire con molto anticipo rispetto agli esami che vuoi fare

The problem is that often, the facilities are overcrowded, so uh, you have to act long in advance with respect to the exams that you want to do

Captions 8-10, Anna presenta La gravidanza - Part 2

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But we can also say in netto anticipo (well in advance) and here it again functions pretty much like an adverb. It is more important to be able to use this word than to know its part of speech. Sometimes the confines are blurry.


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Per conto mio: a double meaning

We've talked various times about the noun il conto. It can refer to "the bill" or "the account," but it's also used in expressions such as per conto di..., or to put it in more personal terms, per conto mio/suo.



What's perhaps important to remember is that it has two distinct (but related meanings). It can mean "of one's own."

Nilde, tu c'hai già mille problemi per conto tuo, il ristorante, Enrica fra i piedi, lascia perdere.

Nilde, you already have a ton of problems of your own, the restaurant, Enrica on your back, forget about it.

Captions 10-11, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 5

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Perché la mi' figliola [mia figlia] c'ha già tanti problemi per conto suo.

Because my daughter has enough problems of her own.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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But it also means "on one's own."

Allora, lei è una che fa finta di starsene per conto suo, ma poi te la ritrovi sempre fra i piedi, una grandissima ficcanaso.

So, she is someone who pretends to be on her own, but then you always find her underfoot, hugely nosy.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 30

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Poi, se ne andarono ognuno per conto suo [sic: proprio].

Then they went away, each on his own.

Caption 33, Ti racconto una fiaba I tre porcellini - Part 1

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You will have to rely on the context to help decide what per conto means in each case.



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Forza vs Sforzo: What's the difference?

With sforzo, we have an S at the beginning of a word once again, and we might recognize the word without the S as looking like the noun forza. In fact, forza vs sforzo can cause confusion for non-native speakers of Italian, because they are both about strength, in a way.


Noun forms

In the popular detective series on Yabla, Imma Tatarannni is trying to get some information from the young woman whose boyfriend was murdered. She uses the noun sforzo as she talks to Milena. 

Allora, Milena, ascoltami. Ora tu devi fare un piccolo sforzo, va bene?

So, Milena, listen to me. Now, you have to make a little effort, all right?

Captions 23-24, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 16

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We have translated Imma's use of sforzo with "to make an effort" but we might more likely say, "Now you have to try a bit harder." "Now you have to really try."


The prefix S

We have seen that an S at the beginning of an existing word will often change it to an opposite meaning, but it can also reinforce it, and that is basically what is happening in the example above (although this is even clearer when looking at the verb forms forzare and sforzare  as we do below).


When you make an effort, you use some reserves of strength. The noun la forza is "the strength" or "the force" (easy cognate!). It's actually a very popular word, so see our lesson all about forza. It's a great noun to know because it's used so much, especially in conversation. 


Sometimes it's hard to remember that lo sforzo is a masculine noun and la forza is a feminine noun so let's keep in mind that lo sforzo is "the effort," and la forza is "the strength."  


The noun la forza is easy to understand, as it is a cognate of "the force," but is often translated as "the strength."


One example of this noun is the subtitle of a popular biopic about Adriano Olivetti, the man behind the well-known Olivetti typewriter. Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno (the strength of a dream).


Verb forms

Both lo sforzo and la forza are associated with verbs: sforzare and  forzare. Sometimes these two verbs mean the same thing, but sometimes we need to distinguish them and that's where it can get tricky. Which to use?

E mi prometti di stare tranquilla, di riposarti e di non sforzare il piede?

And promise me you'll stay calm, rest and not strain your foot?

Captions 1-2, Sposami EP 3 - Part 2

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In this case, we're talking about putting too much pressure on the injured foot. Some people might use the verb forzare to mean the exact same thing, as sometimes forzare means going too far.


In the following example, sforzare is used reflexively to mean "to make an effort," "to try hard."

Piggeldy si sforzò di camminare come si deve.

Piggeldy made an effort to walk properly.

Caption 14, Piggeldy e Federico Il cielo

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Sometimes forzare means "to use force" as implied in the following example.

Eh, qualcuno ha forzato i cancelli del canile comunale, sono scappati tutti i cani,

Uh, someone pried open the gates of the town dog pound, all the dogs escaped,

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 3

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Of course, as with many verbs, the past participle of forzare  may be used as an adjective, and often is. Sforzare, on the other hand, isn't commonly used this way.

La prima settimana di libertà dopo mesi di confino forzato!

The first week of freedom after months of forced confinement!

Caption 26, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 1

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When your car gets towed from a no-parking zone, in Italy, it's often called rimozione forzata. This is because they will remove the car without having to ask you. You want to avoid parking in these areas, so these might be a good couple of words to know! To see what these signs look like, here's a link


As to when to use one or the other verb, don't worry about it too much, as sometimes it depends on personal preference.  It's more important to remember about the noun, as we have mentioned above. Also, keep your ears open to notice which word people use in various situations. 


P.S. The use of S as a sort of prefix in Italian comes from the Latin prefix "ex!"
P.P.S. Sforza (with an "a" at the end) is not a noun, at least not a normal, common noun. It is used as a proper noun — as a family name, and in particular, it was the name of a Milanese ruling family in the Renaissance, and a power name at that. 



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Some interesting aspects of the noun aspetto

Let's have a look at a noun that can cause some confusion because it's both a true cognate and a somewhat false friend. The noun is aspetto and it looks a lot like "aspect."



Just like English

It's a cognate when we want to talk about a feature or element of something, an "aspect," un aspetto. It can also be figurative.

Ma c'è un altro aspetto che deve colpire in questa sala e sono certamente i tendaggi del letto a baldacchino, ma soprattutto, guardate attorno a noi, sono le tappezzerie. Sono in seta.

But there is another aspect that is striking in this room, and certainly the curtains of the canopy bed are, but above all, look around us, it's the wall coverings. They are in silk.

Captions 31-34, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 4

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Tutti la chiamavano Belle, perché lei era bella sotto ogni aspetto.

Everyone called her Beauty, because she was beautiful in every respect.

Captions 7-8, Ti racconto una fiaba La Bella e la Bestia - Part 1

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Unlike English

But the noun aspetto can also refer to the way something looks, its appearance. It's used with the verb avere (to have) — avere un aspetto (to have the appearance, to look like). If you look in the dictionary, we find this meaning of "aspect," too, in English, but it's formal and not used much. 

Però, inizialmente, come abbiamo detto, non aveva questo aspetto.

However, initially, as we have said, it did not look like this.

Caption 3, Meraviglie S2 EP 2 - Part 6

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Mangio tanto tutti i giorni. -Ma dai! Dal tuo aspetto non si direbbe proprio.

I eat a lot every day. -Really! By your appearance, I wouldn't say so at all. 

Captions 4-5, Daniela e Francesca Il verbo mangiare

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Commissario... ha un aspetto terribile!

Commissioner... you look terrible!

Captions 2-3, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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In English, "aspect" has more to do with the mind, but in Italian, aspetto is often used to refer to the physical attributes or the appearance of something or someone. It's just something to keep in mind.


Verb conjugation

And let's not be confused by the fact that aspetto is also the first person singular conjugation of the common verb aspettare (to wait). 


Although it means "to wait," Italians often say ti aspetto to mean, "I'll look forward to seeing you" or "I'll be expecting you." For example, Marika says it at the end of many of her videos.

Ti aspetto nel prossimo video

I'll be waiting for you in the next video.

Caption 56, Marika spiega I segni dello Zodiaco - Part 1

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A Few Unconventional Plurals

This lesson is based on the premise that you basically know how to form the plural of nouns. To help you get caught up, very generally, if a noun ends in "o," it's usually masculine and the plural usually will end in "i." If it ends in "e," the plural will also likely end in "i", and if a singular noun ends in "a," (usually feminine), the plural will most likely end in "e." To learn more, check out Daniela's lessons about plurals here and here.


There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. In two different videos this week, we find unconventional plurals, one of which is well worth knowing, and one that you likely won't run into every day.


In one video, Arianna goes to Lucca. She learns that Lucca still has its ancient walls: le mura. The singular is il muro (the wall).

Le mura hanno tutto un percorso sopra che puoi fare,

The walls have a path on top that you can go on,

Caption 63, In giro per l'Italia - Lucca - Part 1

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To help you remember the name for "wall," in Italian, think of a mural, which is a piece of art, like a painting or enlarged photograph, right on a wall. Or think of "intramural" — within the walls of a school or institution.


Anna and Marika are busy in the kitchen dealing with fish, and more specifically, anchovies. They are pretty small fish, so taking out the guts is a tedious job they gladly leave to the fish vendor.


You might be familiar with the adjective interiore (inside, internal, interior) but there is a noun, le interiora, which means "the guts," "the entrails," or "the internal organs," and is always in the plural: interiora.

Le alici dovranno essere, ehm... senza testa e eviscerate. Quindi bisogna togliere le interiora.

The anchovies should be, ehm... without their heads and gutted. Therefore, one needs to remove the entrails.

Captions 13-15, L'Italia a tavola - Involtini di alici - Part 1

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And let's not forget some other unconventional plurals that work pretty much the same way:

un uovo, due uova (one egg, two eggs)

Prendiamo una forchetta e iniziamo a sbattere le uova...

We take a fork and begin beating the eggs...

Caption 13, Adriano - Pasta alla carbonara - Part 2

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un braccio, due braccia (one arm, two arms)

Ma com'è? E com'è? C'ha due gambe, due braccia, due occhi, come deve essere?

But what's she like? And what's she like? She has two legs, two arms, two eyes. What should she be like?

Captions 13-14, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 4

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un miglio, due miglia (one mile, two miles)

La Mille Miglia è la corsa più bella del mondo!

The "Mille Miglia" [one thousand miles] is the greatest race in the world!

Caption 33, La Mille Miglia - del passato per vivere quella di oggi - Part 3

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un migliaio di, poche migliaia di (about a thousand, a few thousand)

Il debito era di poche migliaia di euro.

The debt was of a few thousand euros.

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 14

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un paiodue paia (a pair, two pairs)

Ma quattro paia di scarpe vanno bene lo stesso.

But four pairs of shoes are fine, too.

Caption 52, Psicovip - I Visitatori - Ep 14

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This list is not complete, but we'll look at other such nouns in a future lesson.

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