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Lessons for topic Vocabolario

When the noun pezzo (piece) is used to mean "time"

In one of Yabla's offerings this week, there is a curious little modo di dire we'd like to take a look at here. The expression da un pezzo involves the noun pezzo (piece), a word we don't necessarily think of when thinking of time.  So it's worth having a closer look.

 

Un pezzo has a cognate in "a piece," and in many contexts, that's the translation. But if you look in a dictionary, we find that pezzo also means "a while," "a long time." Who knew?

Io voglio un figlio mio, Orazio. Semmai nostro. -È ovvio. Altrimenti sarei già mamma da un pezzo.

I want my own child, Orazio. If anything, ours. -It's obvious. Otherwise I'd already have been a mom for a while.

Captions 28-30, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 2

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So when someone asks you,

Da quanto tempo vivi in Italia? (How long have you been living in Italy?)

 

You can reply using a period of time:

Vivo in Italia da dieci anni (I've lived here for ten years).

 

Or you can just be vague:

da molto tempo (for a long time).

 

But you can also say,

da un pezzo (for a long time, for a good while).

 

And another way we can translate this into English is with "for some time."

 

È per i piccoli spostamenti nella tenuta, però è ferma da un pezzo.

It's for small trips on the property. But it's been idle for some time.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7

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We don't necessarily need to use da (from, since).  We can use the verb essere in the present tense (third person singular), which in this case corresponds to the past continuous in English.

Sì. Ho pagato la protezione. È un pezzo che la pago.

Yes. I paid for protection. I've been paying for a while now.

Captions 21-22, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 16

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So let's say two friends get together after a long time. There are various ways we can comment. Note that we use the present tense in Italian, but we use the present perfect in English.

Non ci vediamo da un pezzo (we haven't seen each other in a while/in a long time).

È un pezzo che non ci vediamo (It's been a while/ a long time since we last saw each other).

Non ci vediamo da un sacco di tempo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

È un sacco di tempo che non ci vediamo (we haven't seen each other in a really long time).

Non ci vediamo da una vita (we haven't seen each other in ages [in a lifetime]).

È una vita che non ci vediamo (it's been ages [a lifetime] since we last saw each other).

 

We hope you can add this to your Italian conversational toolbox. It might save you trying to figure out how to say a year, or use some other complicated construction. Need more info? Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Unico: What does it really mean?

Now that we have talked about uno, here's another related word that's handy to know. It's a word you can guess one meaning of because it looks similar to an English word you know.

 

Oggi Matera è un sito unico al mondo...

Today, Matera is a site that's unique in the world...

Caption 46, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 11

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UNIQUE

So when you want to say something is unique, now you know how. Don't forget that the adjective unico has to agree with its noun. You have 4 possible endings to choose from: unico, unica, unici, uniche.

 

One way Italians like to use unico is to give someone a certain kind of compliment (which can be ironic, too). 

 

Augusto, sei unico.

Augusto, you're one of a kind.

Caption 34, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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Again, if you are saying this to a girl or woman, you will want to use unica

Maria, sei unica!

Maria, you're special!

 

MOST COMMON

But the main way Italians use the word unico is to mean "only."  

È l'unico modo che ho per sdebitarmi.

It's the only way I have to settle my debt.

Caption 25, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Questa scuola è l'unica cosa che ho.

This school is the only thing I have.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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E saremo gli unici al mondo ad avere qualcosa di simile.

And we'll be the only ones in the world to have something like this.

Caption 18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19

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Tutte le volte che veniva a pregare per le uniche persone che amava.

Every time she came to pray for the only people she loved.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 10

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SPECIAL MEANINGS

If you travel to Italy and go clothes shopping, here's something you will definitely see on the racks or on a label.

taglia unica (one size fits all).

The noun La taglia comes from the verb tagliare (to cut).  

 

The other very important expression with unico is what you might see while driving your macchina a noleggio (rental car).

una strada a senso unico (a one way street)

 

People also just call a one way street: 

un senso unico (a one way street)

 

In these last two examples, we could say that unico stands for "one." The important thing is to understand what it means in the situation. You don't want to drive the wrong way down a road!

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