Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Phrasal verbs

Let's Explain the Expression andare incontro a

When you meet someone halfway on a deal, or you go towards someone who is coming towards you, say, on the street, we often use the turn of phrase: andare incontro a


Andare is "to go" and incontro in this case is an adverb (or preposition) meaning "toward." 

Mi puoi venire incontro?

Can you meet me halfway?        


Using this turn of phrase can be a little confusing, but here are the elements:

a verb of motion, which is usually andare (to go) or venire (to come). It might even be correre (to run).

the adverb or preposition incontro meaning "toward"

the preposition a (to)

an indirect object noun or pronoun


Let's look at some Yabla examples of how we can use andare incontro a.


The word order can change and often the indirect object comes first, as in the following examples. In this case, the preposition a is included or implied in the indirect pronoun. 

Ti vengo incontro (I'll meet you halfway).


È successo che stavo pulendo il locale e...

What happened is that I was cleaning the bar and...

poi l'ho sentita e gli [sic: le] sono andato incontro,

then I heard her and I went towards her,

ma non c'è stato verso di farla ragionare.

but there was no way to get her to reason.

Captions 2-4, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1EP1 L'estate del dito

 Play Caption


La notte, Roma, le sue luci e tu che mi vieni incontro.

The night, Rome, its lights and you coming towards me.

Captions 1-2, La Ladra - EP. 12 - Come ai vecchi tempi

 Play Caption


In the following example, the verb correre (to run) is used instead of andare (to go) or venire (to come), but it works the same way.


Attori, tecnici, comparse gli corrono incontro.

Actors, technicians, extras run towards them.

Caption 16, Vivere - Un'avventura di Vittorio De Sica - Part 10

 Play Caption

If, rather than a pronoun, I use a noun (la difficoltà) as an object, as in the next examples, then I will need the proposition a.


Vado incontro a tante difficoltà.
(I'm going to run into plenty of difficulties).


Io vado incontro al mio destino

I go towards my destiny

Caption 21, Niccolò Fabi - Lontano da me

 Play Caption


Io e Sua Eminenza cercheremo una soluzione

His Eminence and I will look for a solution

quanto possibile per venire incontro

as far as possible to meet you half way

a quello che Lei mi ha chiesto.

for what you have asked me.

Captions 29-31, Vivere - Un'avventura di Vittorio De Sica - Part 9

 Play Caption


In the next example, it's a bit different, because Nora is using the first person plural to make things sound more collaborative, but the meaning is clear. She wants a discount.


Senta, io so che Lei è un professionista, una brava persona,

Listen, I know that you are a professional, a good person,

quindi non possiamo venirci incontro un pochino sul prezzo?

so can't we meet halfway a bit on the price?

Captions 25-26, Sposami - EP 4 - Part 14

 Play Caption


Another reason andare incontro a can cause confusion is that l'incontro exists as a noun (the encounter) and incontrare means "to meet" or "to encounter." The first person singular of incontrare is incontro (I encounter, I meet). For more on these meanings, see this lesson: Close Encounters with Incontro.  


In addition, in is a preposition all on its own meaning "to" or "in." Contro is a preposition meaning "against."

Continue Reading

Asking What Something Means in Italian

One of the most basic things we need to know as we venture into the world of speaking Italian is how to ask about a word we don't understand.


There are a couple of ways to do this.




One way is to use a verb we can easily understand, even though we don't use its English equivalent the same way, or very often in conversation. The Italian is significare. It kind of looks like "signify." Of course, in English, we would sooner use the adjective "significant" or the adverb "significantly."


Cosa significa (what does it mean)?


"Pilazza" in italiano significa "vasca di pietra" o "lavatoio";

"Pilazza," in Italian, means "stone tub" or "washhouse."

è il posto in cui, anticamente,

It's the place where, in earlier times,

venivano i cittadini di Mazara del Vallo a fare il bucato.

the citizens of Mazara del Vallo would come to do the laundry.

Captions 15-17, In giro per l'Italia - Mazara Del Vallo - Sicilia

 Play Caption



And if we want the noun form, it's il significato (the meaning, the significance).


Questo è un ottimo esercizio per ripassare alcune parole del video e il loro significato.

This is a good exercise for reviewing some words from the video and their meaning.

Caption 49, Italian Intro - Serena

 Play Caption


We can ask: Qual è il significato (what's the meaning)?


The other more common way with volere

The more common way to ask what something means is a bit more complex at first: We need 2 verbs to say it, but it's easy to say, and once you master it you will be all set.


The first verb is volere (to want). This is a very useful but tricky verb, as it is actually two verbs in one: It's a stand-alone transitive verb, as in: 


Voglio una macchina nuova (I want a new car).


We can also translate it as "to desire."


Volere is also a modal verb, basically meaning "to want to." The main thing to know about a modal verb is that it's followed by a verb in the infinitive, or rather it goes together with a verb in the infinitive, and can't stand alone. Just like some verbs in English, such as "to get," volere has meanings that go beyond "to want to." And just like "to get" in English, volere can pair up with other verbs to take on a new meaning. 


In the case of asking what something means, we add a second verb, in the infinitive: dire (to say). 


You know how in English we always say, "I mean..."? Well, Italians do this too, but they say, Voglio dire... (I mean to say, I mean).


Bene, forse è ancora in tempo.

Good, maybe there's still time for you.

Prima che distrugga anche la sua famiglia, voglio dire.

Before he destroys your family as well, I mean.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose

Play Caption


The difference between "I mean to say" and "I mean" is minimal, right? If we take this one step further and put it into the third person singular, it's vuole dire, which commonly gets shortened to vuol dire. And there we have it. It means "it means."


Of course, it could also mean "he means" or "she means," but more often than not it means "it means."


Uso il termometro

I use the thermometer

e misuro la mia temperatura.

and I measure my temperature.

Se è superiore a trentasette e mezzo, vuol dire che ho la febbre.

And if it's above thirty-seven and a half (centigrade), it means that I have a fever.

Captions 25-27, Marika spiega - Il raffreddore

 Play Caption


Marika could also have said, Significa che ho la febbre (it means I have a fever).


Asking about the meaning of a word


Here's one way to ask what a word means:


Nell'ottocentocinquanta, i Saraceni gli diedero il nome di Rabat.

In eight hundred fifty, the Saracens gave it the name of Rabat.

Cioè, sai pure l'arabo ora?

So, do you even know Arabic now?

E che vuol dire Rabat? -Borgo.

And what does Rabat mean? -Village.

Captions 8-10, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare

 Play Caption


The answer is: Rabat vuol dire "borgo". "Rabat" means "village."


So when asking what a word means, we can either use cosa (what) or just che (what), which is a bit more colloquial.

Cosa vuol dire (what does it mean)?

Che vuol dire (what does it mean)?


If you are absolutely desperate, just say: Vuol dire... (that means...)? You'll get the message across.



Some learners like to know why we say what we say. It helps them remember. Others do better just memorizing how to say something and not worrying about the "why." Whatever works is the right way for you. We all learn in different ways, for sure. And if you need to know more, just ask. We at Yabla are pretty passionate about language and are happy to share the passion. This lesson, as a matter of fact, came about because a learner had trouble grasping why we use the verb "to want" when talking about the meaning of something. We hope that this has helped discover the underlying connection.


Continue Reading