It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.
As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!
This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.
With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.
Ci vuole molta pazienza
You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].
It takes a lot of patience.
A lot of patience is required.Play Caption
One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural.
Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?
How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?
How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?
Caption 17, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2Play Caption
We can use it in the negative:
Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.
You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.
The article is not necessary in the singular.
Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6Play Caption
If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.
I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali e ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.
The pine nuts, which are really special, and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.
Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1Play Caption
Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or you need."
Volerci is very popular in the expression:
Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).
That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.
Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."
A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla e un numero di magica magia era proprio quel che ci voleva per chiudere in bellezza la festa.
At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing and a number with magical magic was exactly what was needed to conclude the party nicely.
Captions 30-33, Dixieland La magia di TriboPlay Caption
Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say, "How hard can it be?"
Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?
Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè? Vanno munte. Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa. -Sei sicura? -E sì, che ci vuole? L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.
The cows are mooing. -So what? They have to be milked. Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Are you sure? -Yeah, how hard could it be? I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.
Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 11Play Caption
We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one).
If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva! (that's exactly what I needed!).
We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!
In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.
Some words are easy in Italian and some others are a little complicated. Here's a verb we use a lot but that is kind of tricky to use: accorgersi (to notice, to realize).
Let's take it apart to make some sense of it. Hint: It is reflexive, and while some verbs can be both normal and reflexive, this one is always reflexive.
In a recent episode of La Ladra, a guy wants his car taroccata (rigged) (we talked about the verb taroccare in this lesson). The mechanic tells the guy that he won't even notice he's going 300 kilometers per hour. Usually, we notice something, so very often, since accorgersi is reflexive, we have both a direct and an indirect object pronoun in the sentence. When that occurs, we have to deal with those pesky particles that can attach themselves to the verb in different ways. For more on this, have a look at these lessons.
In the following example, we can see that the verb is conjugated in the second person singular (the mechanic is talking to his customer).
Co' [romanesco: con] questa c'arivi [ci arrivi] a trecento che manco te n'accorgi.
With this one, you don't even notice it when you get to three hundred.
Caption 35, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 13Play Caption
The infinitive form has the impersonal si connected to the verb — accorgersi, but when conjugated, the reflexive verb accorgersi gets separated into two parts — the root of the verb (accorgere) and the person onto whom it reflects, in this case, te (to you). Then there is an n which is a contraction of ne (of it, to it). In order to understand better how accorgersi works, we might translate it as "to become aware of." Here, there is the preposition "of."
By the time to get to three hundred [kilometers an hour], you will not even be aware of it.
"Of it" is represented by ne (in this case contracted into n').
In the following example, however, we have the past tense. In Italian, it's the passato prossimno formed with the auxiliary verb essere (to be) and the past participle, accorto. When you conjugate reflexive verbs in the past tense, you must use essere as your auxiliary verb.
Gira e gira, ai vertici dell'Olivetti, non c'è spazio che per uno di famiglia. Lo so, me ne sono accorto. -Ecco.
At the end of the day, in the upper echelons of Olivetti, there's no room for anyone but a family member. I know, I noticed that. -That's it.
Captions 44-46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 8Play Caption
Me is the indirect pronoun (to me)
Ne is another indirect pronoun (of it, about it)
Accorto is the past participle of accorgere.
Let's look at an example without this particle ne. Here, it's not necessary because we have nulla (nothing) as an indirect object preceded by the preposition di. We have the auxiliary verb essere. The reflexive particle si is contracted and refers to the third person singular reflexive pronoun.
Guardi, non s'era accorto di nulla.
Look, he hadn't noticed a thing.Play Caption
You made it this far, good for you! If the verb accorgersi is too difficult for you at this stage of the game, you can also use the verb notare, a nice, simple, transitive verb.
Durante il viaggio avete notato qualcosa di strano? Pensateci bene, ah.
During the trip, did you notice anything strange? Think about it carefully, huh.
Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 6Play Caption
To say the same thing with accorgersi, it would take a few more words:
Vi siete accorti di qualcosa di strano?
Qualcuno si è accorto di qualcosa di strano?
Did you notice anything strange?
Did anyone notice anything strange?
For even more about reflexive verbs, with charts. Here's a great resource.
If you do a search on Yabla with accorgere, you won't find much, nor will you find much with accorgersi. But if you search the past participle accorto (masculine), accorta (feminine), or accorti (plural), you will find numerous examples. Now that we have taken the verb and its particles apart, you can start getting a feel for this useful, but complex verb. Hopefully, picking out the verb and its accessories and then repeating them will be helpful to you.
Attenzione: There will also be some constructions we haven't covered here, such as in the following example. Suffice it to say that it involves the third person impersonal pronoun si with a reflexive verb in the passato prossimo (present perfect) tense. It's pretty advanced and a lot to absorb, and so we'll confront this in a future lesson.
Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno, ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.
When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one, they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.
We've been looking at conjugated verbs followed by verbs in the infinitive. Some can be connected directly as we saw in Part 1, some are connected with the preposition a, as we saw in Part 2, and others are connected with the preposition di, which we will look at in this lesson.
Let's start with an example.
Ti ho portato il millefoglie. Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi e poi usciamo, eh?
I brought you a millefeuille. While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready and then we'll leave, huh?
Captions 18-20, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 13Play Caption
Finisco is the conjugated verb (finire) and preparare is in the infinitive. We have the formula: conjugated verb + di + verb in the infinitive. Attenzione: The verb preparare is attached to the personal pronoun mi (myself) because in this case, the verb prepararsi is reflexive and means "to get [oneself] ready."
One important verb we use with the preposition di is decidere (to decide).
Anita, per migliorare il suo livello di italiano, ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia, dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.
Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy, where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing with my friends, my family, my relatives, and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.
Captions 36-41, Adriano Adriano e AnitaPlay Caption
There are plenty of important and useful verbs that take the preposition di before the infinitive, and you can find a list here, but here are a few more examples from Yabla videos:
Oppure: chiudo l'ombrello, perché ha smesso di piovere.
Or else, “I close the umbrella because it has stopped raining.”
Caption 7, Marika spiega Il verbo chiuderePlay Caption
Let's remember that although cercare basically means "to look for," "to seek," it also means "to try" or, we could say, "to seek to." We use the preposition di in this case.
Quando vai in paese, cerca di scoprire qualcosa di interessante.
When you go into town try to find out something interesting.Play Caption
Another great verb is credere, which basically means "to believe," but when it's used in conjunction with a verb in the infinitive, we often translate it with "to think," as in:
Ferma! Sta ferma! Dove credi di andare?
Stop! Stand still! Where do you think you're going?
Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 15Play Caption
In fact, you could say the exact same thing with the verb pensare, which also takes the preposition di before an infinitive.
Dove pensi di andare?
Sperare is another great verb that works the same way, and to close, we'll say:
Speriamo di vedervi presto su Yabla (we hope to see you soon on Yabla)!
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When we talk about verbs, we distinguish between conjugated verbs and verbs in the infinitive. In Italian, verbs in the infinitive are easily recognizable most of the time because they end in either -are, -ire, or -ere. Exceptions occur when verbs in the infinitive are combined with particelle (particles), when they are reflexive, or when they are truncated. Then, admittedly, they may be harder to recognize.
In this lesson, we are talking about the specific case of when we want to use a conjugated verb followed by a verb in the infinitive. How do we connect them?
In part 1, we talked about combining a conjugated verb with an infinitive where no preposition is necessary. This typically occurs with the modal verbs potere (to be able to), volere (to want to) e sapere (to know how to, to be able to). Here's an example that can be useful if you are traveling in Italy.
Posso andare in bagno?
May I use (go to) the bathroom?
But there are also other, non-modal verbs where we don't need a preposition. See Daniela's series for examples.
Lascia fare a me!
Let me do it!
If we want to say the same thing we did above with a different verb, we might need a preposition, as in this example:
Permettimi di aiutarti.
Let me help you (allow me to help you).
There are two main prepositions we will use to connect a conjugated verb to a verb in the infinitive: di and a. Roughly, di corresponds to "of" or "from," while a corresponds to "to" or "at." These translations are not much help, though. One general rule (with many exceptions) is that verbs of movement use a to connect with a verb in the infinitive. The bottom line is, however, that you basically just have to learn these combinations little by little, by reading, by listening, and (sigh) by being corrected.
In some cases, the same verb will change its meaning slightly by the use of one preposition or the other.
Non penserai mica di andare via senza salutare!
You're not thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, are you?
Ci penso io a comprare i biglietti.
I'll take care of buying the tickets.
In this lesson, we'll look at some important verbs that need the preposition a.
Here's the formula:
verbo coniugato + preposizione "a" + verbo all’ infinito (conjugated verb + the preposition a [to, at] + verb in the infinitive)
aiutare (to help)
Per esempio, io ho un amico e lo aiuto a fare qualcosa dove lui ha difficoltà, lo aiuto a riparare la bicicletta, lo accompagno in aeroporto...
For example, I have a friend and I help him in doing something he has difficulty with, I help him repair his bicycle, I take him to the airport...Play Caption
cominciare (to begin)
Comincia a fare il nido il povero cucù
The poor cuckoo starts making his nest
Caption 8, Filastrocca Il canto del cucùPlay Caption
continuare (to continue, to keep on)
E si continua a pestare.
And you keep on crushing.
Caption 53, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 2Play Caption
riuscire (to manage, to succeed, to be able)
Così riesco a seguire meglio la faccia eh... e le labbra di chi sta parlando.
That way, I manage to follow the face better, uh... and the lips of whoever is speaking.
Captions 41-42, Professioni e mestieri il doppiaggio - Part 1Play Caption
insegnare (to teach)
Oggi, ti insegno a cucinare la parmigiana di melanzane.
Today, I'm going to teach you to cook eggplant Parmesan,Play Caption
andare (to go)
Sì, lo diciamo a tutti e dopo andiamo a ballare. Andiamo anche a ballare.
Yes, we'll tell everyone, and afterwards we'll go dancing. We'll go dancing, too.
Captions 11-12, Serena vita da universitariPlay Caption
We've talked about several verbs that take the preposition a before a verb in the infinitive. Why not try forming sentences, either by improvising ad alta voce (out loud) or by writing them down? Take one of these verbs (in any conjugations you can think of) and then find a verb in the infinitive that makes sense.
Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
Mi insegneresti a ballare il tango (would you teach me to dance the tango)?
Non riesco a chiudere questa cerniera (I can't close this zipper).
To find charts about verbs and prepositions, here is an excellent reference.
Go to Part 3 where we talk about verbs that take the preposition di.
In this week's episode of La Ladra, there's a curious adjective (in the form of a past participle). Eva and Dante are discussing the popularity of their dishes, a ginger risotto and seafood couscous.
The adjective is gettonatissimo, the superlative form of gettonato. It comes from the verb gettonare. But let's backtrack a moment and talk about the noun the verb comes from: il gettone.
Depending on your age, and if you have travelled to Italy, you may or may not have heard of a gettone, the special token people would use, back in the day, to make phone calls in a bar or cabina telefonica (phone booth). It was a coin with a groove on either side.
In addition to using gettoni for making phone calls, people used them for playing songs on the juke box. It was common to go to the bar to make phone calls, and there would often be a little booth where you could use the phone in private. In the same bar where you might make a phone call, there might also be a jukebox.
So if lots of people put a gettone in the juke box for a particular song, we could say that song is gettonata. These days, gettoni are used at laundromats, for supermarket carts, and at carwashes, but little else. The term gettonato has remained, however, to describe something as popular, something that people choose over other things.
Stasera sei tu in vantaggio, i tuoi piatti sono gettonatissimi.
Tonight you're ahead. Your dishes are hugely popular.
Caption 2, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 4Play Caption
If we backtrack even further from the noun gettone, we find the verb gettare (to throw, to cast). If you have learned how to say "to throw" in Italian, you have most likely learned buttare. It is a synonym for gettare in many cases, and is a more informal word in general, when it means the physical act of throwing. But gettare is used in specific situations such as the one in the example below.
Ammetto che è la prima volta in vita mia che ho voglia di mettere radici in un posto. -Ahi ahi ahi. Hai deciso di gettare l'ancora? Ebbene sì, lo ammetto.
I admit that it's the first time in my life that I have the desire to put down roots in a place. -Uh oh. Have you decided to drop anchor? Well, yes, I admit it.
Captions 24-27, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 6Play Caption
As we have seen, verbs and nouns may be used to form new words. One modern-day example of this is in the description of a single-use item or something disposable.
Vola, vola, vola sulla bicicletta Contro la cultura del consumo "usa e getta"
Fly, fly, fly on the bicycle Against the culture of "disposable" consumption
Captions 40-41, Radici nel Cemento La BiciclettaPlay Caption
You will see usa e getta crop up in ads for and labels on dustcloths, latex gloves, contact lenses, etc. From two verbs: usare (to use) and gettare (to throw), a compound adjective was born: usa e getta (use and throw/single-use).
Here are the solutions to the exercise in the lesson. The task was to change sentences with bisogno to ones with servire or the contrary, adding personal pronouns where necessary or desirable. In some cases, you can even use the verb bisognare (adding a verb). If you have an answer that you think is right, but isn't present here, write to us at email@example.com. We'll get back to you.
Meanwhile, here's another example of when to use the verb servire. Here, it's in the conditional.
Allora... che ti metti per uscire? -Stasera? Possiamo andare a fare shopping! OK, a me... servirebbe un paio di scarpe, un paio di ballerine.
So... what are you wearing to go out? -Tonight? We can go and do some shopping. OK, I... could use a pair of shoes, a pair of ballerinas.
Captions 41-43, Serena vita da universitariPlay Caption
Per questa ricetta, ho bisogno di tre uova (for this recipe, I need three eggs).
Per questa ricetta, servono tre uova.
Per questa ricetta, mi servono tre uova.
Di che cosa hai bisogno (what do you need)?
Che cosa ti serve?
Ti serve qualcosa?
Non c'è bisogno di prendere l'autobus, il posto è a due passi a piedi (no need to take the bus. The place is well within walking distance).
Non serve prendere l'autobus. Il posto è a due passi a piedi.
Che bisogno c'era di essere così cattivo (Why did you need to be so mean)?
A che cosa serviva essere così cattivo?
Servirà un ombrello, visto il cielo (judging from the sky, an umbrella will be necessary).
Avremo bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.
Avrai bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.
Ci sarà bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.
Bisogna prendere l'ombrello, visto il cielo.
Serve un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico (we need another place at the table, because a friend of mine is coming).
Abbiamo bisogno di un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico.
C'è bisogno di un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico.
Bisogna aggiungere un posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico.
A recent user comment prompted this lesson about servire when it's used to express need. The Italian approach to expressing need bears some explaining. In fact, we have already addressed this before.
One way to express need is with the noun il bisogno (the need) and the odd verb bisognare only ever used in the third person singular impersonal. See this previous lesson. We can also use the verb servire (to be necessary, to be useful, to be used). In fact, we have already had a look at this interesting verb in this lesson. Take a look at these two lessons to get up to speed. In the present lesson, we will talk some more about how to use servire. It can be tricky!
There has been some discussion about a caption in a recent Yabla video. It's the story of Adriano Olivetti —Yes, that Olivetti: the typewriter guy. This is a fictionalized RAI production, starring Luca Zingaretti, famous as Commissario Montalbano in the well-known Italian TV series of the same name.
Here's the Italian sentence:
Serviranno dei fondi.
Here's our original translation:
We'll need funds.
A learner wrote in to say the translation should be "They will need funds."
Indeed, serviranno appears in its third person plural form. So, of course, you would think it should be "they."
This comment reminds us that the verb servire doesn't really have a counterpart in English, not one that works the same way, at any rate.
Yabla translators have since modified the translation to be less conversational, but easier to grasp. As a matter of fact, the verb servire is often best translated with the passive voice. As freshly modified, it is easier to see that the third person plural (future tense) serviranno comes from "the funds."
Serviranno dei fondi.
Funds will be needed.Play Caption
Indeed, Adriano could have said, ci serviranno dei fondi, making it personal, but he didn't (although we can infer it) and that's why it was particularly confusing.
In the following example, the indirect object ci (for us, to us) is present, so it's a bit easier to understand. Serviranno, the third person plural of servire, refers to the utensili (the utensils) listed: lemon squeezer, knife, etc.
Per quanto riguarda gli utensili, ci serviranno, dunque, uno spremiagrumi per i limoni, un coltello per tagliare i limoni
In regard to utensils, we will need, accordingly, a lemon squeezer for the lemons, a knife to cut the lemons,
Captions 40-44, L'Italia a tavola Involtini di alici - Part 1Play Caption
In English, especially in speech, we often use "to need" in an active way, as a transitive verb. "I need something." You may have discovered that there is no Italian verb we can use the same way. When we use servire, the thing we need is the subject and we use an indirect object with it. In the following example, Martino is asking himself what he needs to camp out in an old farmhouse. "What is necessary for me to take with me?"
Che mi può servire?
What do I need?
Caption 30, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 9Play Caption
To make things more complicated, servire also means "to be used." In this case, servire is used with the preposition a (to, for). We may ask the question:
A che cosa serve (what is it used for, what is it for)?
Serve a [insert verb in the infinitive or a noun] (it's used for, it's for [insert a gerund or a noun]).
Ecco a cosa serve il brodo vegetale.
That's what the vegetable broth is for.
Caption 95, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 2Play Caption
The following example shows how needing, being useful, or being used are so close that Italians use the same word.
Una fabbrica che funziona, in una società che non funziona, non serve a niente.
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is useless.Play Caption
We can translate non serve a niente in a couple of additional ways:
Who needs a factory that works, if the society it is part of doesn't work?
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is of no use to anyone.
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work serves no purpose.
Note: Servire can also mean "to serve" as in serving someone at the table, or at the counter in a post office, supermarket or any other place. But that's much less complicated and not what this lesson was about.
We hope we have been successful in clarifying the verb servire, at least in part. We'll leave you with a few exercises that may further clarify the verb as you do them.
Change these sentences with bisogno or bisogna to one with servire or the contrary. Add personal pronouns where necessary or desirable.
Per questa ricetta, ho bisogno di tre uova (for this recipe, I need three eggs).
Di che cosa hai bisogno (what do you need)?
Non c'è bisogno di prendere l'autobus, il posto è a due passi a piedi (no need to take the bus. The place is well within walking distance).
Che bisogno c'era di essere così cattivo (Why did you need to be so mean)?
Servirà un ombrello, visto il cielo (judging from the sky, an umbrella will be necessary).
Serve un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico (we need another place at the table, because a friend of mine is coming).
Have fun. You'll find some possible solutions here. If you think your solution is correct, but isn't present among the possible solutions, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.
Review pronominal verbs here.
Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.
You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.
Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1Play Caption
There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.
The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.
When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:
Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)
Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself.
Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.
There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentire, but as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!
Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).
If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss.
Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.
Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.
Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14Play Caption
Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.
But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly."
Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).
Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.
Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).
One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).
E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,
And this made him extremely angry.Play Caption
Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.
In this week’s segment of Meraviglie, Alberto Angela uses a verb that looks familiar: sistemare. It must have something to do with "system," right?
The noun il sistema certainly exists, and is a true cognate of "the system" in English.
E allora con un ingegnoso sistema di raccolta delle acque, riuscì a riempire ben sette cisterne che sono sparsi [sparse] per tutto il territorio.
And so with an ingenious system for collecting water, he managed to fill a good seven cisterns that are scattered around the whole area.Play Caption
A detail to remember is that although it has a typically feminine ending, sistema is a masculine noun. In English, too, “system” has any number of connotations.
So the noun sistema is fairly straightforward, but English doesn't really have a corresponding verb to go with sistemare. Sistemare might even fall into the category of untranslatable Italian verbs, although it's an easy-to-figure-out untranslatable verb. Sistemare is a general, catch-all type of verb that can mean any number of things, depending on the context.
When Alberto Angela tells us the fascinating story of a huge underground cistern in the city of Matera, what does he mean by sistemare? Good question.
Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno…
When the piazza was renovated in nineteen twenty-one…
Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 15Play Caption
We see from the translation that the piazza was renovated, and we get this from the context of the documentary itself. But sistemare could also have referred to it being "neatened up," "cleaned up," "put in order," "put to rights."
When you want to fix something up, make improvements, put things right, make minor repairs, put things in a certain place, make preparations, or even get your pet ready for the night, sistemare is a good verb.
In the following examples from Yabla videos, sistemare is used to mean "to work out," "to set up," and "to fix up."
Note that in the first example, the reflexive form sistemarsi is used.
Mi dispiace molto, Marika, e spero che tutto si sistemerà al più presto.
I'm really sorry, Marika. And I hope everything will work out as soon as possible.Play Caption
Valter arrivava sempre prima per sistemare l'attrezzatura per gli allievi.
Valter always came early to set up the equipment for the students.Play Caption
Adesso hai quest'impressione perché lo vedi così tutto in disordine, quando sarà sistemato vedrai...
Now you have that impression because you're seeing it all messy, when it's fixed up, you'll see...
Captions 35-36, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 3Play Caption
One general way of thinking about the verb sistemare is with "to take care of".
You took care of an unpaid bill? L'hai sistemato. You took care of it.
Your plumber fixed that leaky faucet? L'ha sistemato. He took care of it. He fixed it.
You wrote a draft of an article? Lo devi ancora sistemare. You still have to fine-tune it.
We can also turn sistemare into a noun: una sistemata. In English, we might use a gerund for this, as in the first example below.
You don't really want to give your kitchen a thorough cleaning at the moment, but you want it to look nice. Ci dai una sistemata (you give it a neatening up).
You ask your hairdresser, Mi dai una sistemata ai capelli (Will you give me a little trim)?
With the noun sistemata, we often use the verb dare (to give), which can also be used reflexively.
Dopo il viaggio, mi sono data una sistemata prima di presentarmi agli suoceri (after the trip I freshened up before meeting my inlaws/I gave myself a freshening up).
As you go through your day, as you take care of one problem after another, try using sistemare when you have succeeded, or when you haven't yet. Maybe you will even have fun taking care of these problems!
L'ho sistemato! Menomale. (I took care of that. Whew!)
Questo lo devo sistemare (I have to take care of this).
Ask someone else to help you take care of something — something that needs fixing, or a situation that needs resolving.
Me lo puoi sistemare (can you take care of this for me)?
Dare is an extremely common verb. It basically means "to give." But it also gets used as a sort of catch-all.
We've seen it many times in its informal, imperative form, all by itself:
Dai, dai, dai, dai che ti ho preparato una cosa buonissima che ti piace moltissimo.
Come on, come on, come on, come on, because I made you something very good, that you like a lot.Play Caption
As we see, it doesn't mean "to give" in this case. It means something like "come on." As "come on," it has plenty of nuances.
Dai is often used as a filler, as part of an innocuous and fairly positive comment, and can mean something as generic as "OK." Let's keep in mind that va be' also means "OK!" Va be' is short for vabene (all right).
Mi dispiace, Massimo, ma dobbiamo rimandare il pranzo. Va beh, dai, se devi andare... facciamo un'altra volta.
I'm sorry, Massimo, but we have to postpone our lunch. OK, then, if you have to go... we'll do it some other time.
Captions 65-66, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2Play Caption
Dai is also used to express surprise and/or skepticism. In this case, it is often preceded by ma (but). We see this in last week's segment of Commissario Manara, when Luca figures out that Marta might be the target of a shooting. She feigns skepticism.
E se per caso il bersaglio non fosse stata la Martini, ma fossi stata tu? Io? Ma dai!
And if by chance the target hadn't been Martini, but had been you? Me? Yeah, right!
Captions 5-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 13Play Caption
In English we use the verb "to have" when giving commands: "Have a seat," "Have a drink," "Have a look." In Italian, though, the verb avere (to have) is rarely used in these situations. And there isn't just one Italian verb that is used, so it may be practical to learn some of these expressions one by one.
We use the verb dare when asking someone to do something like check (dare una controllata), or have a look (dare un'occhiata).
Dai un'occhiata, dai un'occhiata...
Have a look around, have a look around...Play Caption
Let's not forget the literal meaning of dare, which can easily end up in the informal imperative.
E che fai, non me lo dai un bacetto, Bubbù?
And what do you do, won't you give me a little kiss, Bubbù?Play Caption
And to echo a recent lesson, and give another example of a verbo pronominale (a phrasal verb using particelle or short pronoun-related particles) — this time with dare — we have darsela. We have the root verb dare (to give) plus se (to oneself, to themselves, to each other) and la (it). It's hard to come up with a generic translation, as it depends on the other words in the expression, but here are two different ones from Yabla videos. Maybe you can come up with other examples, and we will be glad to dare un'occhiata. The phrasal verb here is darsela a gambe (to beat it, or run away on one's legs).
È che è molto difficile trovare la donna giusta. Secondo me, se la trovi, te la dai a gambe.
It's that it's very difficult to find the right woman. In my opinion, if you find her, you'll high-tail it out of there.
Captions 29-30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9Play Caption
Here's a colorful example from this week's episode of La Ladra:
Aldo Piacentini e la, la, la Barbara Ricci, insomma, i presunti amanti,
che se le davano di santa ragione.
Aldo Piacentini and, uh, uh, uh Barbara Ricci, anyway, the presumed lovers,
who were really beating the crap out of each other.
Captions 45-46, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 14Play Caption
The meaning of se le davano isn't very obvious, so let's try taking it apart. Se is a reciprocal indirect pronoun, "to each other"; le is the plural generic direct object pronoun, "them"; and dare, in this case, can stand for "to deliver". In English it might not mean much, but for Italians the meaning is quite clear.
We could say they are giving each other black eyes, if we want to use the original meaning of dare.
Di santa ragione adds emphasis or strength, and might be translated as "the holy crap," "the hell," or "really."
In an episode of Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno, at the very end, there is an expression that's used just about every day, especially at the end of a conversation, email, a phone call, or text message, so let's have a look.
In this particular case, one person is talking to a few people, so he uses the imperative plural, which happens to be the same as the indicative in the second person plural.
Let me know.Play Caption
Let's take the phrase apart. The verb fare (to make) has been combined with the object pronoun mi which stands for a me (to me). To that is added the verb sapere (to know), in the infinitive.
So, first of all, we might have been tempted to use the verb lasciare (to let, to leave). It would be a good guess, but instead, we use the ubiquitous verb fare: "to make me know." Sounds strange in English, right? But in Italian, it sounds just right. You'll get used to it the more you say and hear it.
Let's look at this expression in the singular, which is how you will use it most often.
The most generic version is this: fammi sapere (let me know).
Va be', quando scopri qualcosa fammi sapere.
OK, when you discover something, let me know.Play Caption
This use of "to make" plus a verb in the infinitive is also used a lot with verbs besides sapere (to know).
Do a Yabla search of fammi and you will see for yourself. There are lots of examples with all kinds of verbs.
Chi c'è alle mie spalle? Fammi vedere. -Francesca.
Who's behind me? Let me see. -Francesca.Play Caption
Sometimes we need to add a direct object to our sentence: "Let me see it."
In this case, all those little words get combined into one word. Fammelo vedere (literally "let me it see" or Let me see it).
Using fare means we conjugate fare, but not the other verb, which can make life easier!
One of our readers has expressed interest in knowing more about a certain kind of verb: the kind that has a special idiomatic meaning when it has particelle (particles) attached to it. In Italian these are called verbi pronominali. See this lesson about verbi pronominali. The particular verb he mentioned is pensarci, so that's where we are going to start.
The root verb is pensare, so we assume it has to do with "thinking." The particle is ci. Ci is one of those particles that mean a lot of things, so check out these lessons about ci. In the following example, pensare is literal: "to think," and ci stands for "of it."
Ma certo! Come ho fatto a non pensarci prima?
But of course! Why didn't I think of it before!Play Caption
Sometimes, when used as a kind of accusation, it's basically the same but it has a different feeling.
È un anno che organizziamo questo viaggio. -Potevi pensarci prima.
We've been organizing this trip for a year. -You could have thought of that before.Play Caption
In the two previous examples, pensarci stays in the infinitive, because we have another helping or modal verb in the sentence. But we can conjugate it, too. In the following example, it is conjugated in the second person singular informal imperative.
Pensarci can mean "to think of it," but it can also mean "to think about it."
Noi non potremmo mai mandare avanti la fabbrica da soli, lo sai bene. Adriano, pensaci.
We could never run the factory on our own. You know that well. Adriano, think about it.
Captions 37-38, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8Play Caption
But sometimes, pensare doesn't exactly mean to think. It means something more along the lines of "to take care," "to handle," and here, pensare is really tied to the little particle ci as far as meaning goes. Ci still means "of it" or "for it." But we're talking about responsibility. Ci pensi tu (will you take responsibility for getting this done)? For this meaning, it's important to repeat the pronoun, in this case, tu. It helps make the meaning crystal clear, and is part of the idiom. What a huge difference adding the pronoun makes!
Barbagallo, pensaci tu.
Barbagallo, you take care of it.Play Caption
Toscani, io c'ho un appuntamento, pensaci tu.
Toscani, I have an appointment, you take care of it.Play Caption
Even though in meaning, ci is connected to pensare, we can still separate the two words.
Ci penso io!
I'll take care of it!
Ci pensa lei!
She'll take care of it.
Pensarci is a very widely used verb in all of its meanings. When you want someone else to do something, it's a very common way of asking. Here are some examples to think about.
Ci pensi tu a lavare i piatti (will you take care of washing the dishes)?
Ci pensi tu a mettere benzina (will you take care of getting gas)?
Ci pensi tu al bucato (will you take care of the laundry)?
Ci pensi tu a preparare la cena (will you take care of getting dinner ready)?
Ci pensate voi a mettere a posto dopo cena? Io vado a dormire (will you [plural] clean up after dinner? I'm going to bed)!
Vuoi veramente comprare una macchina nuova? Pensaci bene (do you really want to buy a new car? Think twice about it).
È il momento per andare in vacanza? Pensiamoci bene (is it the right time to go on vacation? Let's think about it a moment).
In previous lessons, we’ve mentioned that the subjunctive is often used after the conjunction che (that). The congiuntivo (subjunctive) can be tricky for Italians, not only for non-native speakers, so it’s fitting that conjugating a verb in the subjunctive be used as a challenge in a quiz show such as the one featured this week on Yabla.
Allora, io dirò l'infinito, tu mi devi dire il congiuntivo presente. Mostrare. -Che io mostri.
So, I'll tell you the infinitive, you have to tell me the present subjunctive. To show. -That I show.Play Caption
The contestant has to conjugate a verb in the present subjunctive, first person. Note that when Italians conjugate the subjunctive mood, they add che (that), the person, and then the subjunctive conjugation. That way, the subjunctive is distinguished from the indicative.
In the above-mentioned episode, we have the infinitive and the first person present subjunctive of several verbs. Can you provide the present indicative of the verbs mentioned? You can look up a verb’s conjugation here.
Some people are adept at memorizing lists of verb conjugations. Others might prefer to learn verbs in the subjunctive on a need-to-know basis, one by one. You will discover that certain verbs are used more often than others in the subjunctive, verbs such as:
andare (to go) - che io vada (that I go)
È meglio che vada a letto presto stasera (I should really go to bed early tonight).
fare (to make, to do) - che io faccia (that I do)
Cosa vuoi che faccia (what do you want me to do)?
essere (to be) - che io sia (that I am)
Pensi che io sia stupida (do you think I'm stupid)?
stare (to stay, to be) - che io stia (that I am, that I remain)
Non pretendere che io stia zitta (don't expect me to be quiet).
venire (to come) - che io venga (that I come)
È fondamentale che io venga alla riunione (is it necessary for me to come to the meeting)?
These are the verbs to learn early on. What verbs would you like to add to this list?
After practicing the first person subjunctive, move on to the other persons, one by one, and get the hang of them. In many cases, the third person is the same as the first person in the subjunctive. Using them in sentences will help you remember them.
To brush up or learn about the subjunctive, see Daniela’s lessons about the subjunctive here.
When we look at a video about a place, the speaker often uses the verb trovare in its reflexive form trovarsi. Using trovarsi in this fashion might be hard to wrap our minds around, so let’s back up to the normal verb for a moment. Trovare means “to find” and is transitive, meaning it can take a direct object.
Per suo marito ha trovato una cintura marrone.
For her husband she found a brown belt.Play Caption
We can use the verb with ourself as an object much as we do in English:
Io non sono affatto sicuro di me, e non mi sono mai trovato in una situazione come questa, va bene?
I'm not sure of myself at all, and I've never found myself in a situation like this, all right?
Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4Play Caption
If Luca Manara spoke English, he’d probably say “I’ve never been in a situation like this before, OK?” He would have simply used the verb “to be.” But Italians often use trovarsi, so it’s a good verb to understand. Of course, if you do use the verb essere, people will understand you anyway menomale (luckily)!
But then it gets a bit more peculiar. Here is Arianna telling us where she is: where she finds herself. She wasn’t lost; she’s just giving us her location.
Eccomi. Qui mi trovo vicino alla stazione Santa Maria Novella, in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Here I am. Here I am near the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Captions 25-26, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 3Play Caption
Instead of just saying: sono vicino alla stazione (I am near the station), she is referring to her geographical or physical position in that moment with trovarsi. It’s a little more specific than simply using the verb essere (to be).
In the previous example, trovarsi refers to a person, but trovarsi can also refer to an object, a place. English gets specific in a similar way by using “to be located,” “to be situated.”
When Marika plays the professoressa (teacher), she uses trovarsi to interrogate poor Anna. She just wants to know where Sardinia is.
Dove si trova questa regione?
Where is this region situated?Play Caption
Il porto di Maratea è un porto turistico. Si trova vicino alle isole Eolie, alla Sicilia, a Capri, all'i... a Sorrento.
The port of Maratea is a tourist seaport. It's situated near the Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Capri, the... Sorrento.
Captions 23-24, Antonio - Maratea, il portoPlay Caption
It’s also very common to use trovarsi to describe feelings or conditions. This is a bit tricky.
Abito in campagna, e senza macchina, mi trovo in difficoltà.
I live in the country, and without a car, it's hard. I have trouble.
Non mi trovo bene con questo telefonino.
I don’t like this phone. I don’t feel comfortable with this phone.
Ma per ora mi trovo bene qua, vediamo.
Well, for now, I'm happy here, we'll see.Play Caption
Ah, a proposito, come ti trovi da Ada?
Ah, by the way, how do you like it over at Ada's?Play Caption
Trovarsi can also be used reciprocally.
Ci troviamo da Letizia alle otto.
Let’s meet up [with each other] at Letizia’s place at eight.
For more on reflexive and reciprocal verbs, see Marika's lesson about reflexive and reciprocal verbs, and the written lesson Understanding the Reciprocal Reflexive Form.
The more you watch and listen to Italian, either on Yabla or in real life, the more you will notice trovarsi in all of its shadings. It’s a very popular verb!
Come ti trovi con Yabla (how are you managing with Yabla)? Facelo sapere (let us know) at email@example.com.
In the expression un po’, po’ is short for poco (small quantity). Poco is a very common word that can be an adjective, adverb, noun, or pronoun, and, depending on the context, can correspond to different degrees of quantity.
This week on Yabla, we take a first look at the city of Florence. Arianna has a map to help her figure out how to get around. As she thinks out loud, she uses a common phrase:
Vediamo un po' come possiamo raggiungere il centro della città.
Let's have a look at how we can reach the center of the city.
Caption 7, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 1Play Caption
Another way to translate vediamo un po’ is simply “let’s see.” It is extremely common for Italians to add un po’ to a verb, just to round off the expression:
Sentite un po' il congiuntivo imperfetto e trapassato:
Have a listen to the simple past and past perfect subjunctive:
Caption 27, Anna e Marika - Il verbo essere - Part 4Play Caption
Allora ci dice un po' quali sono frutta e verdura tipiche romane?
So could you tell us a little which fruits and vegetables are typically Roman?
Caption 37, Anna e Marika - FruttivendoloPlay Caption
In the example above, the addition of un po’ doesn’t really add any meaning to the phrase, but it rounds it out. We might also translate it as:
So could you just tell us what fruits and vegetables are typically Roman?
Sometimes un po’ can mean “pretty much” or “just about.” It loses its actual diminutive significance.
Al nord abbiamo precipitazioni e burrasche, un po' dappertutto.
In the north we have rain and storms, just about everywhere.Play Caption
It can be used to give a vague kind of answer:
Sì. Un po' e un po'.
Yes, in a way, yes, in a way, no [a little bit and a little bit].
Caption 15, Amiche - FilosofiePlay Caption
Ironically, we can also use un po’ to mean a lot, when we insert the adjective bello (nice, beautiful): un bel po’ (a good amount, a good number, plenty).
Non deve essere troppo salata, non... insomma ci sono un bel po' di cose da sapere legate alla mozzarella.
It shouldn't be too salty, not... in other words, there are plenty of things to know in connection with mozzarella.Play Caption
Un po’ has come to mean so many different amounts, and can also simply mean “some.”
Mi dai un po’ di pane?
Could you give me some bread?
So, if someone asks you if you speak Italian, you can answer un po’ but if you really want to say you don’t speak much at all, you might use the diminutive of an already “diminutive” word: un pochino. Or you might even diminish the amount further by saying pochissimo.
Practice - verbs in context:
Returning to this week’s video about Florence, here are the infinitive forms of the verbs Arianna uses in the first person plural (with noi/we). Can you recognize their conjugated forms in the video? Attenzione, some of them are used as auxiliaries/helping verbs attached to other verbs. You can use your ears to listen for the verbs while watching the video, or use your eyes with the transcript (you’ll find the pop-up link following the description of the video). Don’t forget, you can choose to see only Italian or Italian and English. A couple of these verbs are irregular, but super common. Why not take the opportunity to review the other conjugations of these verbs? Links are provided to a conjugation chart for each verb.
In this week's segment of La Ladra, Eva is pretty miffed at her son. He lied to her and probably did worse. So when he promises to do something right, she doesn't say thank you, because she expects nothing less. She uses an expression that is very handy and easy to use because it's always in the third person and can stand alone.
Ti prometto che vado a scuola in bici. OK?
I promise I'll go to school by bike. OK?
You had better.
Captions 54-55, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 4Play Caption
To use this expression, we use the future tense. As we have already discussed in a previous lesson, the future doesn't always actually mean the future. In this particular case, it may be hard to pin down the correct tense, but the tone is clear. You better get in line. If you don't do as you've promised, you're going to be in big trouble.
As a stand-alone expression, sarà meglio (one/you had better) works in many situations, especially if you raise your eyebrows. But it can also be part of a more complicated sentence including the subjunctive.
È da solo? Buongiorno. No, in compagnia del mio telefonino.
Are you alone? Good morning. No, in the company of my cell phone.
Allora sarà meglio che Le parli prima che squilli.
So I had better talk to you before it rings.
It would be better for me to talk to you before it rings.
Captions 42-44, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 9Play Caption
An even shorter expression uses the verb essere (to be) in the third person singular future on its own, to mean, "that might very well be." You don't have to be miffed to use this expression, but you're probably somewhat skeptical.
Hai visto che non è come sembra, ma molto meglio?
Did you see that he is not like he seems, but much better?
Sarà, ma quella bionda che abbracciava nella Spider non sembrava un fornitore di tartufi.
That might very well be, but that blonde he was hugging in the Spider didn't look like a truffle dealer.
He might very well be, but that blonde he was hugging in the Spider didn't look like a truffle dealer.
Captions 41-43, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 3Play Caption
As you go about your day, try experimenting with sarà meglio (you are the boss and you're not taking any flak) and sarà (you're listening but you are skeptical).
In this week’s lesson with Daniela, we learn another way to set the scene of a story. We talked about using the presente (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) in a previous lesson. Now we’ll talk about using the imperfetto (imperfect tense) to set the scene in the past without specifying the duration or pinpointing the moment in time of an action. We use theimperfetto to describe the characteristics of something in the past.
Allora, l'imperfetto viene usato per fare descrizioni di paesaggi, del tempo, delle qualità di una persona o di una cosa, al passato.
So, the imperfect is used to describe landscapes, weather, features of a person or a thing in the past.
Captions 30-32, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'imperfetto - Part 2Play Caption
In the following example, Lara, from the popular Commissario Manara TV series, is talking to an old classmate whom she met up with by chance. They are telling each other about their past feelings.
This is how she felt when she was younger:
Mi sentivo un brutto anatroccolo.
I felt like the ugly duckling.Play Caption
And this is how her friend Massimo felt about her!
Io ero innamorato pazzo di te!
I was crazy in love with you!Play Caption
The following example describes an ongoing condition in the past.
A scuola avevo sempre problemi con la matematica.
At school, I always had problems with math.Play Caption
The following example is interesting, because we see the passato prossimo (siamo visti/we saw other) used when pinpointing the moment (l’ultima volta/the last time), but the imperfetto(eravamo/were) sets the scene.
Ma lo sa l'ultima volta che ci siamo visti dove eravamo?
But you know where we were the last time we saw each other?
Eravamo al porto di Istanbul.
We were at the port of Istanbul.
Captions 23-24, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 6Play Caption
For how to form the imperfetto, please see Daniela’s previous lesson.
Practice: Try setting the scene in the past using the verbs Daniela talks about in the lesson,and other verbs you know. If you’re not sure how to form the imperfetto of the verb you wish to use, look it up in an online dictionary such as WordReference. Think about the place, how old the person was, what the person looked like, what the person was wearing. How did the person feel?
Here’s something to get you started.
Quando ero giovane e andavo a scuola, suonavo il flauto nell’orchestra della scuola. Mi piaceva molto. Andavo a scuola in autobus tutte le mattine. Ci mettevo circa venticinque minuti per arrivare a scuola. Non era un’epoca molto felice per me. Non studiavo abbastanza, e quindi mi sentivo sempre a disagio in classe e avevo sempre paura delle interrogazioni. Preferivo stare nella sala di musica a studiare flauto. Cantavo anche nel coro. La maestra del coro era bravissima e tutti l’amavano.
When I was young and was going to school, I played flute in the school orchestra. I liked it a lot. I went to school by bus every morning. It took me about twenty-five minutes to get to school. It wasn’t a very happy time for me. I didn’t study enough so I was always afraid of being called on to answer the teacher’s questions. I much preferred hanging out in the music room to study flute. I also sang in the choir. The director was excellent and everyone loved her.
Of course, when we tell a story, we like to mix the tenses up to create interest and tension, but for now, let’s try to get to where we feel comfortable using the imperfetto and know more or less when and how to use it.
Using tenses correctly in a new language is usually somewhat of a challenge. Let's talk about two tenses — presente indicativo (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) — that we can use to set the scene in a story, or to establish a timeframe, and the signpost words that can help us figure out which tense to use.
Here's what causes some confusion. Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo (present perfect), that is, the tense using the auxialiary verb "to have" plus the past participle, to refer to things that happened at a particular moment in the past, for which in English we use the simple past tense. This is hard to assimilate, because English uses the present perfect for events that are still going on, or still true. In addition to that, in cases where English does use the present perfect, Italian often uses the present simple. It's easy to get mixed up, but it should become clearer as we go along.
In a new video this week, Erica and Martina speak very simply about their friendship and how it developed. This is an excellent opportunity to zoom in on the passato prossimo, since they use it a lot, and to get a feel for how it’s employed in everyday storytelling. Maybe you can tell a story of your own, using the same outline.
But let's zoom out for a moment. Before telling a story, we often need to set the scene and establish a timeframe. Erica first uses the present simple, and adds da (from, since). This formula takes some getting used to, so it's a good idea to practice. Notice that the translation employs the present perfect.
Siamo amiche da sei anni.
We've been friends for six years.
Caption 3, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
Here's another example of how the present tense is used to establish a timeframe that includes the past.
Questa statua è qui da almeno cinquanta anni.
This statue has been here for at least fifty years.
Caption 21, Antonio - Maratea, Madonna del Porto SalvoPlay Caption
We can use this setup with verbs like conoscere (to be acquainted with), frequentare (to hang out with, to frequent), essere colleghi (to be co-workers), lavorare insieme (to work together),essere sposato (to be married), vivere in un posto (to live in a place).
Ci conosciamo da tre anni (we've known each other for three years).
Sono sposati da sei mesi (they've been married for six months).
Practice: Set the scene for a story. Establish the timeframe including the past up to the present with the simple present tense plus da (from, since), using the above-mentioned verbs, or other verbs you think of. You'll be answering the question: da quanto tempo (for how long)?
Another way to set the scene is to find the starting point in the past. We use the passatoprossimo for that, plus the short adverb fa (ago) that signals the past.
So in the featured video, Erica continues setting the scene, telling us when the two friends met. Here she uses the passato prossimo. In English, we’d use the past simple, of course. Erica is essentially saying the same thing she said in caption 3, but she’s pinpointing the moment, not a period of time. Note: Since the friends are female in this case, the ending of the past participle conosciuto is feminine and plural. If it were two guys, or a guy and a girl, what do you think the ending would be?
Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa.
We met, in fact, six years ago.
Caption 4, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
When you meet someone for the first time, it’s unique: one instant. So you use the passato prossimo.
Learn more about the verb conoscere (to be acquainted with, to make the acquaintance of) in this lesson.
Il figlio, diciassettenne, ha pubblicato il suo primo articolo su un quotidiano americano pochi giorni fa.
His son, seventeen years old, published his first article in an American newspaper a few days ago.
Captions 16-17, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca - Part 1Play Caption
Practice: Experiment establishing a timeframe using the presente plus da (from, since) as you did in the first exercise, and then saying much the same thing in a different way, pinpointing a moment in time with the passato prossimo and fa (ago). You'll be answering the question: quando (when)? or quanto tempo fa (how long ago)?.
Here’s a quick example to get started:
Vivo in Italia da più di venticinque anni (I’ve been living in Italy for over twenty-five years).
Sono venuta in Italia per la prima volta più di trent’anni fa (I came to Italy for the first time, over thirty years ago).
Lavoro in questo posto da otto anni (I’ve been working in this place for eight years).
Ho cominciato otto anni fa a lavorare qui (I started working here eight years ago).
As Erica and Martina continue their story, they use the passato prossimo to describe events in the past. You can do this too!
Hint: Why not use the transcript of this video? Just click on "transcript" underneath the video thumbnail (or in the pop-up menu "more" in the new layout). You can view it in just Italian, just English, or both. You can copy and paste it into a blank document. You can make it printer friendly. In somma (in short), it's pretty handy!
There are other ways to set the scene, and other tenses to use, but we’ll get to those in another lesson.