Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Suffixes

Using suffixes for emphasis

When you are learning a language, you tend to pay attention to what people say (unless you are tuning it out). I don't know about you, but when I hear a word for the first time, I know it's a first and put a mental asterisk next to it. Often, I just say, "Hey, I have never heard that word. What does it mean?" But much of the time I can figure out what a word means just by the context.


Italians use a variety of suffixes. There are various reasons to use a suffix, and sometimes it's just a personal preference to give a little emphasis to the word. Suffixes may change according to the area of Italy, so be prepared to learn some new ones depending on where you go.



I still remember the first time I heard the suffix -uccio in Italian. Many years ago, I happened to be near Rome in a house where a group of young music students were making lunch. That was already very interesting to watch, of course. But it was summer, it was hot, and one of the girls said, Che calduccio!  It stuck in my mind. Isn't the word for "hot" just caldo? That one I knew, or thought I did. Why does she say calduccio? And is it a noun or an adjective? I might have been too shy to ask about that word, but I never forgot it. 


I also had to figure out that sometimes there's a fine line between adjectives and nouns, that che can mean "what," as in "What tremendous heat!" or "how," as in "How tremendously hot it is!"


In the following example, we can sense the enveloping positive heat with the suffix -uccio. So, -uccio isn't necessarily positive or negative, but it's a way of reinforcing the adjective and providing it with something personal. 


Adding -uccio is a way of emphasizing the quantity, quality, or intensity of heat being felt. Caldo by itself might be felt as neutral, but adding the -uccio assures you that things are going to be cozy.

E io farò un bel calduccio.

And I will make some nice heat.

Caption 50, PIMPA S3 EP 5 Il signor Inverno

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Sometimes -uccio is a suffix of endearment.


I have been called tesoruccio (dear/little treasure) or amoruccio (dear/little love) in the past. Translated literally, it sounds very stilted in English but it is pretty common in Italian and is a kind of equivalent of "sweetheart," darling," or "honey." It just adds some endearment and is more personal.

Tesoruccio mio, ti prego, perdonami.

Little treasure of mine, I beg you to forgive me.

Caption 33, La Ladra EP. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 12

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Sometimes -uccio is diminutive, such as in minimizing un difetto (a defect).

Quando si parla troppo bene delle persone, senza neanche trovargli un difettuccio... Significa essere innamorata, zia.

When you talk too positively about people, without finding even one teensy flaw... It means being in love, Aunt.

Captions 35-37, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 1

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We can use the suffix -uccio for emphasis with the adverb male (bad, badly). It can mean something like "kind of badly," or "pretty badly."

Com'è andata l'audizione? -Maluccio.

How did the audition go? -Pretty badly.


If the audition had gone really badly, the person might have answered: Male male, malissimo, or molto male. 


There are lots of suffixes Italians use all the time, such as "-etto," "ino," "one," but It's impossible to predict, right off the bat, which suffixes go with which adjectives or nouns. You just have to listen a lot and adopt the ones that stick. 


For more about parole alternate (modified or altered words) see this lesson


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Little Easter: Forming Diminutives

Pasqua (Easter) is a spring holiday. Although things are changing, traditionally, Italy is still a Roman Catholic country, so Pasqua is a big deal in all parts of the country. Local priests travel around the town and countryside to bless homes in the weeks preceding Easter. On la domenica delle palme (Palm Sunday), churches are filled, and olive branches are distributed. There are plenty of palm trees in Italy, but olive branches have become the tradition.



Some towns and cities stage elaborate processions on venerdì santo (Good Friday). There are famous ones in cities such as Gubbio and Assisi in Umbria, as well as in the Colosseum in Rome.


Let’s have a reminder of what Marika shared with us when talking about Christmas:


Ma prima voglio dirti che [sic] "Natale con i tuoi,

But first I want to tell you that [sic] "Christmas with your family,

Pasqua con chi vuoi".

Easter with whomever you want".

Caption 4, Marika spiega - La vera storia di Babbo Natale

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This is a very famous rhymed saying in Italy. Christmas is dedicated to family, and you are really expected to spend it with your family, but Easter is less strict. In addition, just as December 26th is a holiday in Italy (Santo Stefano), to invite the relatives you didn’t invite for la vigilia (Christmas Eve) or Natale (Christmas Day), Easter Monday or Pasquetta (little Easter), also called Lunedì dell’ angelo (Monday of the angel), is still a holiday, and still a part of Pasqua. It gives everyone a second opportunity to get together with the people they didn’t see on Easter Sunday. It’s been a national holiday since after World War II, intended to give people more time off from work and school. Many Italians use this day to spend in the country, with a picnic or walk. 


We alter Pasqua to become Pasquetta by adding a suffix. The suffix changes the quality but not the basic substance of the noun it's attached to. So, let's talk about this -etta suffix. We see that it indicates “small,” or “less important.” What are some other words that can have the diminutive suffix added?


Ora (hour) - un'oretta (a short hour, about an hour, a little under an hour, an hour or so).


Se avete tempo, potete farli [farle] lievitare da soli [sole]

If you have time, you can have each one rise on its own

un'altra oretta, altrimenti procedete.

for another hour or so, otherwise go ahead.

Captions 13-14, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi

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La cena (the dinner) - una cenetta (a light supper, an intimate dinner)


E per farmi perdonare,

And to get you to forgive me,

che ne dici stasera di una cenetta solo per noi due?

what do you say to a little dinner for just the two of us?

Caption 41, Acqua in bocca - Tra moglie e marito...

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So far, we have used feminine nouns as examples. Masculine words work the same way, but we use -etto.


Un divano (a couch, a sofa) - un divanetto (a loveseat)


Seguitemi, questo è un tipico divanetto siciliano.

Follow me, this is a typical Sicilian little loveseat.

Caption 23, Adriano - Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Only a few words with -etta and -etto as suffixes have been mentioned here. There are many more. And note that -etto and -etta are not the only suffixes used as diminutives. There are -ino and -ina, too, but we’ll talk about these another time.


Learn more about suffixes that alter words.

Enjoy your Pasquetta, whether you are a casa (at home), al lavoro (at work), scuola (at school), in viaggio (traveling), con amici (with friends) or in vacanza (on vacation).


To learn what countries do consider Easter Monday a holiday, and in what way, see this Wikipedia article.


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