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When Repeating a Word can Change its Meaning

 

We’ve begun releasing the first segments of a new movie at Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.

His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.

Here's what the agent says:

Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...
Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this...
Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 2 

 

A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.

 

We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!

 

So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts. 
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora

 

Let’s give the word a quick review here.

 

In the following example, ancora means "even." 

Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.
That way, you can understand me even better.
Caption 27, Italian Intro - Serena - Part 1 

 

And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.

E ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.
And still today we're very close friends.
Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amicizia - Part 1 

È ancora vivo. He’s still alive.

 

If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."

Non è ancora morto. He's not dead yet.

 

In the example that follows, ancora means “more.” 

Ne vuoi ancora? -No, no, a posto così, grazie. 
Do you want more of it? -No, no, I'm good, thanks.
Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8 

 

And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti.
OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets.
Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10  

 

So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”

 

But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.

 

So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying  “it’s passable.”  Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t." 

 

There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:

Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.

 

Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.

 

Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:

Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.

 

If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,

Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.

 

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Working Things Out with Sistemare

 

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.
Caption 36-37, In giro per l'Italia: Asciano - S. Giuliano Terme: Villa Bosniascki - Part 1 

 

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 15

 

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.
Caption 41, Italiano commerciale: Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 1 


Valter arrivava sempre prima per sistemare l'attrezzatura per gli allievi.
Valter always came early to set up the equipment for the students.
Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 1 

 

Adesso hai quest'impressione perché lo vedi così tutto in disordine.
Now you have that impression because you're seeing it all in a mess.
Quando sarà sistemato vedrai...
When it's fixed up, you'll see...
Caption 35 - 36, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1: Casa nuova - Part 3 

 

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).

 

Practice:

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)?

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5 different ways to use the word accordo (agreement)

 

Accordo is such a handy Italian word but the meaning can change considerably depending on the verb used with it. Let's look at 5 different ways we use accordo (agreement) in everyday life.

 

1) If we take the noun un accordo by itself, it means "an agreement."

Abbiamo firmato un accordo (we signed an agreement).

 

Io so che Lei aveva un accordo per utilizzare il latte della sua azienda, è così?
I know that you had an agreement for using the milk from her company, is that right?
Caption42,  Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 3 

 

2) If we put the preposition di (of) before it, it means “in agreement”. If we are "in agreement" — or as we usually say in English, “we agree” — we need 3 words to make one. We use the verb essere (to be) + the preposition di (of) + the noun accordo (agreement) to obtain the verb "to agree": essere in accordo. We need to conjugate the verb essere (to be).

Non metto in dubbio le tue idee, ma non sono d'accordo.
I don’t doubt your ideas are good, but I don’t agree. 10068
Caption 35, Marika spiega: Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1 of 2

 

Non sei d'accordo? 
Don't you agree? (Don't you think so?)
Caption 30, Provaci Ancora Prof!: S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19 

 

Allora se la dottoressa è d'accordo, io consiglierei un sopralluogo al museo.
So if the doctor agrees, I'd advise an inspection of the museum.
Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 1 

 

Essere d'accordo can also mean "to be in cahoots." The context will reveal this nuance.

Quindi secondo te erano d'accordo per cercare di incastrarlo e poi ricattarlo?
So, in your opinion they were in cahoots to try to frame him and then blackmail him?
Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 12

 

3) We also use accordo to say “to get along”: andare d’accordo. Here, we use the verb andare plus the preposition di + the noun accordo.

 

Non va d'accordo con suo fratello (She doesn't get along with her brother).


Senti un po', ma io e te una volta andavamo d'accordo, giusto?
Listen up, but you and I got along at one time, right? 
Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5 


Il signor Spada e la moglie danese pare che non andassero per niente d'accordo.
Mister Spada and his Danish wife, it seems, weren't getting along at all.
Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 5

 

4) Another way to say “I agree”in English is “OK” or “all right.” We can certainly use “OK” or va bene to say this in Italian, but another common way is d’accordo. It’s a little more serious than just OK, which can also be filler, just something we say. So there is no verb here. We simply use the preposition di + the noun accordo. People who know French will recognise this way of saying "OK." "D’accord."

Ci vediamo domattina in ufficio, d’accordo?  (I’ll see you at the office tomorrow morning, OK?)
D’accordo (OK).

 

5) In an informal situation, primarily, in which we need or want to put off actually agreeing to something, there's another useful phrase with accordo. Let's say we need to decide on a time and place to meet, or make a friendly transaction. We can use the verb mettere (to put) in its reciprocal form mettersi (the reciprocal form works much the same as the reflexive form). For more on this read this lesson and watch this video

E poi ci mettiamo d'accordo. La, la chiamo io. 
We'll set it up later. I'll call you. 
Caption 20,  Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 9

This expression mettersi d'accordo is useful among friends who want to get together, but can't (or don't want to) set a date right then and there. To say something like "We'll get together at some point," we could say, Poi, ci mettiamo d'accordo (we'll decide [together] later). It's a friendly expression to say that you want to see this person, but can't decide on anything right then and there.

So we have:

un accordo: an agreement
essere d’accordo: to agree or to be in cahoots
andare d’accordo: to get along
d'accordo: OK! All right
mettersi d’accordo: to come to an agreement—to decide on something together

 

We think this might have been helpful. Sei d'accordo?

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Everyday Negatives

 

Let’s look at turning positive sentences into negative ones in Italian. We might have to switch gears a bit because the word order for negatives is different from what we have in English. We have to think negative. The negative word, in this case non (not), generally comes before the verb, and that means it is frequently the first word in a sentence.

Let’s consider some simple negative expressions we use every day.

 

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Problems: We all have problemi (problems), but sometimes we have to say "no problem." We certainly use it to mean "You're welcome" after someone says "Thank you." In English, it's so easy! But in Italian we say, "there's no problem." It's part of the expression. Non c'è problema is an important phrase to have ready for any situation. 

 

Sì, non c'è problema. -Grazie. -Prego.
Yes, no problem. -Thanks. -You're welcome.
Caption 24, Adriano: Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2 of 2 

 

Actually, there is another way to say this, more similar to English.

 

Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).

 

Or we can put both expressions together and say, with the wonderful double negative we can use in Italian:

 

Non c'è nessun problema (there's really no problem).

 

or even:

 

Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!

 

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Time: Nobody has any time anymore! So negative sentences about time can come in handy.


Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).
Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).
Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).
Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).
Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).


and a possible comment to that:

Non stanno male, però (your hair looks pretty good, though/it doesn't look bad,though).

 

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Knowing stuff: There are plenty of things we know and understand but plenty we don’t know or understand! Let’s remember that whereas in English we just say "I don’t know," Italians usually add the object pronoun lo (it), so they are literally saying "I don't know it."


Non lo so (I don’t know).
Non so a che ora devo venire (I don’t know what time I should come).
Non ho capito! Puoi ripetere (I didn't get it. Can you repeat)?

Remember, Italians often put this phrase in the past tense even though they are saying "I don’t get it."

 

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Forgetting stuff, or rather, not remembering things: The verb ricordare is often but not always in its reflexive form ricordarsi when it means "to remember" and in its regular form when it means "to remind." See these lessons.

 

Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.
Right now, I can't remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.
Caption 24, Fellini Racconta: Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 4 of 21

 

And if you need an object pronoun instead of a noun, don't forget to change mi (to me) to me (me):

 

Adesso non me lo ricordo.
Right now, I can't remember [it].

 

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Doing stuff, or rather, not doing stuff: We procrastinate.

 

Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l'ho fatto (I was supposed to write an article but I didn't do it).
Non l’ho ancora fatto (I haven't done it yet).

 

Here we have the object pronoun lo (it) but it is partially buried in the contraction. So you have to listen carefully!

 

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Speaking of listening, a great way to hone your listening skills is to use Scribe (in the games menu in the Yabla player). It will definitely help you start recognizing and hearing these short words and little but important details. And although some Italian you hear is rapid-fire (like Luca Manara, to name one example), most of the time, all the syllables are pronounced. You can slow down the speech to be able to hear better. Have you tried Scribe? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let us know!

 

As we learn to speak Italian with disinvoltura (nonchalance), it’s easy to forget to add these little words. Don’t worry, you will most likely be understood anyway! Foreigners spend years speaking Italian leaving out the little words, and they get by just fine. (It takes one to know one.)

 

If you get your word order wrong, people will understand anyway, but now you have a chance to get it right!

 

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Quadro: so many meanings — what's their connection?

 

There are so many situations in which we might hear the noun quadro. Let's look at some of the most common ones. 


The first meaning of quadro has to do with shape. Un quadro (a square) has quattro lati uguali (four equal sides) so we can see the relation between quadro and quattro.

 

We use the adjective quadrato to mean "square."  Sometimes quadro and quadrato can be interchangeable both as nouns and as adjectives. When we talk about measurements, it's common to see either metri quadri or metri quadrati, which both mean "square meters." A common abbreviation is mq. With kilometers it's more common to see chilometri quadrati (square kilometers).

 

Si sviluppava il castello su una superficie di undici mila metri quadri.
The castle was built over an area of eleven thousand square meters.
Caption 33, Escursioni Campane: Castello Normanno - Part 1 of 2 

 

L'isola di Vulcano, con i suoi ventuno chilometri quadrati di superficie, 
è la terza fra le sette sorelle delle isole Eolie.
The island of Vulcano, with its twenty-one square kilometers of surface area, is the third among the seven sisters of the Aeolian Islands.
Captions 1-2, Linea Blu: Le Eolie - Part 16 of 19 

 

One reason we might use quadrato as a noun to mean "a square," rather than quadro, is because it's unambiguous. Un quadrato is a square, no doubt about it. 

Disegniamo un quadrato nel centro del foglio (Let's draw a square in the middle of the page).

 

Un quadro, on the other hand, can mean "a painting," so when talking about art, it's wise to distinguish. Paintings are usually on a canvas, and the canvas is usually four-sided (admittedly, not always square).

 

I quadri — paintings can be of different types: un ritratto (a portrait) or a scene. And sometimes quadro stands for "scene," as in the theater for example.

Turandot, atto terzo, quadro primo.
Turandot, third act, scene one.
Caption 15, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 1 of 13 

 

Another very different meaning for quadro is "control panel." This can be in a vehicle, as in the following example, or quadro can describe the fuse box, or eletrical switchboard.

Ci sono ancora le chiavi attaccate al quadro. -Sì.
The keys are still in the ignition. -Yes.
E qualcuno è andato in giro con questa macchina fino all'una.
And someone went around with this car until one o'clock.
Captions 32-33, Il Commissario Manara: S1E10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 5 of 12 

 

There are other meanings and sfumature  (nuances) for the word quadro, and Marika talks about one of them here.

 

Check out WordReference for more about quadro. And for more Yabla context, do a search of quadro, quadri, quadrato, and quadrati.

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Gli Scrupoli (Scruples): more than a cognate!

 

Uno scrupolo (a scruple) is a noun in Italian that has a cognate in English, as we see. So there is a connection, but in Italian, this word is more than just its cognate.

 

What do we mean by this? Let’s look at the English first.

 

Someone has scruples when he or she tries to do the right thing, morally. A scrupulous person is conscientious, cautious, careful, circumspect; exacting or rigorous.

 

These definitions apply in Italian as well.

Lei, invece, è un truffatore senza scrupoli che cerca di approfittare di lui.

You, on the other hand, are a conman without scruples who is looking to take advantage of him.

Caption 39, Questione di Karma: Rai Cinema - Part 11 of 18 

 

Gli dici che non ruberai mai un taxi in vita tua, ma per le altre macchine non ti fai troppi scrupoli.

Tell him that you will never steal a taxi your whole life long, but for other kinds of cars you won't have too many scruples.

Captions 28-29, La Ladra: Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 8 of 14 

 

Marika uses the adjective form scrupoloso (scrupulous) in describing the characteristics of someone born under the sun sign Vergine (Virgo).

 

Cerchi sempre il pelo nell'uovo e sei perfino capace di trovarlo, attenta e scrupolosa come sei.

You always look for the hair in the egg (you split hairs), and you're even capable of finding it, careful and conscientious as you are.

Captions 29-31, Marika spiega - I segni dello Zodiaco - Part 2 of 4 

 

However, the noun scrupolo can also be used when someone has a concern about something, a doubt, a qualm. In Italian, it is very common. It comes down to being conscientious and careful.

 

Senta, magari è inutile. È uno scrupolo...

Listen, maybe it's not useful. It's a qualm...

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara: - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 5 

 

Eva, fidati, assaggia.

Eva, trust me, taste.

Solo per scrupolo.

Just to make sure.

Captions 22-23, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3 of 17 

 

So, when you have proofread a letter a thousand times, you might read it one last time, per scrupolo.

Before putting a dish on the table, you taste it for the salt, solo per scrupolo.

Did you turn off headlights on the car? I’ll check, per scrupolo.

 

Per scrupolo is a nice way of saying you want to double check something: just to make sure.

 

 

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Finding no Fault with Grinza and Piega

 

Learning expressions by hearing them, repeating them, and figuring out, little by little, the right context to use them in is a great way to learn. But sometimes it’s fun to see where these expressions come from and a visual image can help us remember them. Let's talk about wrinkles.

 

Somebody has a plan, or an explanation for something. How do we say that it “holds water,” it’s “faultless,” it “makes perfect sense,” "there's no argument?"

 

But let's start off with the premise that Italians are very concerned with clothes, and figura (impression  — how they are viewed by the outside world) and most people know that Italy is an important fashion center. Many Italian kids learn early on that getting their t-shirts dirty will make mamma unhappy, so they try to keep their clothes clean. Not only puliti (clean) but stirati (ironed). So it makes a certain amount of sense that some expressions use ironing metaphors!

 

In an episode of La Ladra, Eva has an elaborate plan all worked out, which she describes to her girlfriends.

Here’s Gina’s response.

 

Non fa una grinza.

It's flawless.

Captions 45-47, La Ladra: Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 5

 

Gina’s comment non fa una grinza literally means, “it doesn’t make a wrinkle.” She could have said non fa una piega, which is also very common, if not more common, and means the same thing. So the expression means, “it’s clean, it has no blemishes, it’s smooth — no bumps, no wrinkles. It’s perfect.”

 

If you have been following Commissario Manara, you might have noticed the following exchange between Manara and his chief’s wife, who was on the Miss Maremma jury. There’s a contradiction between how she voted and who she really thought should win. Here is the conversation.

 

È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri.

It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won.

-Allora perché non ha votato per lei?

-So why didn't you vote for her?

Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio.

Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine.

-Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.

-That makes perfect sense, but it doesn't convince me.

E va bene. Quella Fabiola è di una strafottenza mai vista. Ma chi si crede di essere?

And all right. That Fabiola is unbelievably arrogant. But who does she think she is?

Captions 34-40, Il Commissario Manara 2 - Ep. 4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4  

 

So in this expression, regardless of whether grinza or piega is used, the verb is fare (to do/to make). It generally  refers to a statement, a reason, an explanation, or a motive, so, di conseguenza (consequently), it’s usually in the third person singular.

 

It’s a handy expression when all the evidence points to one answer or reasoning you can’t find fault with (even though you wish you could).

Una grinza (a crease, a wrinkle) is the noun form, and its verb form is raggrinzare (to wrinkle) or raggrinzire (to wrinkle).

Piegare means “to fold,” “to bend,” so the noun una piega is “a fold” or “a crease.”

In the negative sense una piega is something that shouldn’t be there, like a crease caused by careless ironing.

The noun form piega is used in another common expression. It is almost always negative, it goes together with brutto (bad/ugly), and usually refers to some kind of situation. In this case, the meaning of piega is closer to “bend,” than to “fold” or “crease.”

 

Smettiamo prima che questa conversazione prenda una brutta piega.

Let’s stop before this conversation takes a turn for the worse.

Let’s stop before this conversation gets ugly/goes bad.

Check out WordReference for more meanings of la piega.

 

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Lo Shopping: Useful vocabulary for shopping in Italy

 

One English word has been largely adopted all over Italy: Shopping.

Non si deve fare shopping sulla spiaggia a fine stagione.
One shouldn't shop on the beach at the end of the season.
Caption 31,  Francesca: sulla spiaggia - Part 2 of 3 


Italians pronounce it with their kind of O and they give the double P some importance, but it’s recognizable.


They also use the article lo (the) since the S is phonetically “impure” (esse impuro) meaning that it’s followed by another consonant, in this case, H. For more on articles, see Daniela’s lessons.


But let’s be clear. Lo shopping is not grocery shopping. To do the grocery shopping is fare la spesa (literally, to do the spending).


Whatever you do — lo shopping to buy some new shoes, or fare la spesa to buy groceries for a dinner you are planning, it’s handy to have some words to communicate with the shopkeepers.


More and more Italians are able to communicate with tourist-shoppers in English. But to be on the safe side, let’s look at some essential vocabulary.

Prices are often indicated, but if not, you need to ask:

Quanto costa il giubbino? -Trentacinque.
How much does the jacket cost? -Thirty-five.
Caption 19, Serena: in un negozio di abbigliamento - Part 2 of 2


You won’t get arrested if you leave a store without a receipt, but it’s advisable to have it. In some places, the salesperson might try to get out of giving you a receipt, but it is your right to obtain it. Since tourists don’t necessarily know that, it’s easy to overlook it. If you need to return an item or exchange it, you will need the receipt. Sometimes you have to ask for it.

 

Mi dà lo scontrino per favore (can you give me a receipt, please)?

 

When it's offered, it's a good sign.

Grazie. -Aspetta che ti devo fare lo scontrino.
Thanks. -Wait, because I have to give you your receipt.
Caption 36,  Serena: un pacchetto regalo 

 

Most shops accept electronic payment, but at the outdoor markets, cash is more common.

Pago in contanti. 
I'll pay in cash.
Caption 40, Marika spiega: L'euro in Italia, con Anna 

 

If you do pay in cash, you might not have any change, especially if you got some nice crisp banconote (bills) from the Bancomat (ATM machine).

Mi dispiacenon ho spiccioli.
I'm sorry, I don't have any change.
Caption 21, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con Anna 

 

So spiccioli  (with the accent on the first syllable) means "small change," but when we're talking about someone giving you change, it's a different story. Il resto does mean "the rest" but here, it means "[the rest of] what I owe you."

Ah, vabbé, non si preoccupi, ora Le do il resto. Prego.
Oh, OK, don't worry about it, now I'll give you your change. Here you are.
Caption 22, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con Anna

 

Italians use the English word “cash” to mean “cash,” but sometimes they say "the cash" to mean la cassa, which is the cashier or check-out counter.

Dove si paga (where does one pay)?
Alla cassa (at the cash register/check-out counter).

 

Have you had any negative experiences in buying things on vacation in Italy? Do you have questions about shopping vocabulary or customs?

Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

 

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Pappa as opposed to Papa and Papà

We have seen various Yabla videos that use the noun pappa. But first of all, let's remember that there are two P's in the middle of pappa, and they both get pronounced. And the accent is on the first syllable. So don't even think of using it to address or talk about somebody's father. 

 

For "dad," or "daddy," we have papà, used more in the north (babbo is used inTuscany and other areas), with the accent on the second syllable, not to be confused with il papa, the pope, where the accent is on the first syllable. 

Facevo, diciamo, un po' da figlio di papà, no?
I was, shall we say, sort of Daddy's boy, right?
Caption 44, L'arte della cucina: Terre d'Acqua - Part 10

 

Make sure to use a single P in papà. Listen carefully to Yabla videos. Follow along with the Italian captions to pay attention to how Italians handle the single or double P. Try imitating the sounds.

 

Hear papa (pope) pronounced.

 

With pappa, we are usually talking about food that's soft. Little babies don't have teeth yet, so they need purees and the like. 

 

So, a dish made of dried bread that has been softened in liquid can very well be called a pappa. You can eat it with a spoon. (We also have the word “pap” in English—referring to bland, mushy food for babies and to mindless entertainment.)
Tuscan bread can definitely handle this kind of treatment and still have texture!

 

La Pappa has come to mean a meal for a baby or child, even if it contains chewable items. 

Quando fanno la pappa, quindi quando mangiano, possono mettere dei bavaglini per proteggersi.
When they have their porridge, meaning, when they eat, they can wear bibs to protect themselves.
Captions 26-27, Marika spiega: L'abbigliamento - Part 2 of 2

 

But pappa is also a way to referring to food, affectionately, and as we know by now, Italians love their food. The term is used by adults, too.

Bono [buono]! Il profumo è buono, eh!
Good! It smells good, huh!
Eh, le tradizioni sono tradizioni!
Yes, traditions are traditions!
Eh! -C'è poco da fare! -Pappa!
Yeah! -There's little to do about it! -Food!
Captions 44-46, Un medico in famiglia: S1 E2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 8

 

Viva la pappa!

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Dare: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

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.
Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 3 of 15

 

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.
I'm sorry, Massimo, but we have to postpone our lunch.
Va be', dai, se devi andare... facciamo un'altra volta.
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 2 of 14

 

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?
And if by chance the target hadn't been Martini, but had been you?
Io?
Me?
Ma dai!
Yeah, right! / Oh, come on!
Captions 5-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 13 of 15

 

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'occhiatadai un'occhiata...
Have a look around, have a look around...
Caption 43, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 1 of 18

 

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 are you doing? Won't you give me a little kiss, Bubbù?
Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 1 of 12

 

And to echo last week's 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.
It's just that it's very difficult to find the right woman.
Secondo me, se la trovi, te la dai a gambe.
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 9 of 18

 

Here's an 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 29-30, La Ladra: Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - finale

 

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 case you didn't get a chance last week, check out this lesson about verbi pronominali. 

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The Dottore is In

You might have noticed, from watching TV shows and movies on Yabla, or elsewhere, that in Italy, the term dottore (doctor) is used loosely, or rather, differently than in other countries. In fact, addressing someone with a particular role often means using their title (or guessing at it). Sometimes signor (Mr.) and signora (Mrs.) just don't seem respectful enough.

 

One example of this usanza (use, custom) occurs in a recent episode about Adriano Olivetti.

Io e la mia famiglia dobbiamo tutto al Dottor Dalmasso.
My family and I owe everything to Doctor Dalmasso.
Caption 61, Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

Dalmasso is just an executive in a company, not necessarily a doctor (even in terms we go on to describe below), but he is one of the most important people there. People treat him with respect by using dottore instead of his name or they shorten it to dottor when it's followed directly by the person's name: Dottor Dalmasso, in this case.

 

In some cases dottor is used, but with a person's first name. Many people follow the reasoning that it's better to be too respectful than not respectful enough. In the following example, Giacomo could be a physician or someone's boss. We would need context to determine this.

Dottore! -Gina! -Dottore! Dottor Giacomo.
Doctor! -Gina! - DoctorDoctor Giacomo.
Che succede? -Signora, Giacomo non risponde. -Giacomo!
What's going on? -Ma'am, Giacomo isn't responding. -Giacomo!
Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 1 of 12

 

If the person is a woman, then it's dottoressa by itself, or followed by the name (first name or last name depending on the relationship). In the following example, the dottoressa in question works at city hall. Her position of importance gives her the title, more than any degree she might (or might not) have.

Dottoressa, scusate, ma perché ci volete fare questo regalo?
Ma'am, excuse me, but why do you want to give us this gift?
Caption 24, L'oro di Scampia: film - Part 14 of 25

 

Lawyers also fall into the "important person" category and are often addressed by their professional status. We might liken this to the use of "Esquire," or "Esq." for short, used primarily in written correspondence with attorneys. 

Sì, avvocato De Santis.
Yes, Attorney De Santis.
Caption 50, La Ladra: Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3 of 14

 

The other way dottore is used is for someone with a college or university degree. Graduates earning the title dottore have often completed a Laurea triennale (three-year bachelor's degree equivalent) plus a Laurea Magistrale (two-year master's degree equivalent). It has nothing to do with being a medical doctor. Learn more here about higher learning in Italy.

 

As well as being an industrialist, Adriano Olivetti designed machinery, so it makes sense for him to have the title of ingegnere (engineer.) And so in the film about Olivetti, that's how many people address him. It so happens that he did, indeed, have a degree in engineering.

Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.
Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

 

Other titles commonly used in Italian before a name, or in place of a name, are Architetto (architect), Commissario, (commissioner, chief) Notaio (notary). 

We hope this little article has shed some light on this curious usanza (custom). Finding a suitable translation for these titles can be tough. Sometimes there's no good alternative, so we use a word we feel can fill the bill, even if it isn't a word-for-word translation. 

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Dotato o Negato? (Gifted or Talentless?)

Either you've got it or you don't. In English you have talent or you don't have it. But in Italian, there is a special word for each end of the scale. Dotato or negato.

Il maestro dice che non ha mai visto nessuno più negato di me
The teacher says he has never seen anyone less gifted than me.
Caption 41, Rai Cinema Questione di Karma - Part 9

 

So the speaker had to use the Italian comparative adverb più (more) before the adjective negato (not at all gifted). Whew! Talk about something not translating smoothly into English!

 

Negato is really a great word, though. It offers a great excuse when you want to get out of doing something you don't like to do. 

Sono negato! Fallo tu.
I'm no good at this! You do it.

 

That isn't to say that we can't also talk about having or not having talent, as, for example, in this week's segment of Adriano Olivetti's story:

Adriano, tu hai così tanti talenti.
Adriano, you have so many talents.
Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti: La Forza di un Sogno part 7

 

Another way we can translate negato is "hopeless," because negato implies that one is never going to get better at something. He or she is lacking in the wherewithal to improve. Instead of a higher being bestowing a gift (the gift of talent) on someone, it has been denied him or her.

Ma, dottore non mi dice niente?
But Doctor don't you have anything to say?
Le dico che Lei è negato.
I'll tell you that you're hopeless.
Captions 43-44, Psicovip: Il ballo - Ep 25

 

And in fact, the verb negare means "to deny."

Senta, Lei è un bel tipo, io non lo posso negare.
Listen, you're a cute guy, I can't deny it.
Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6 of 14

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When Pensare Doesn't Mean "to Think"

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 ciCi 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!
Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 10

 

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.
Caption 32, Ma che ci faccio qui!: Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 2

 

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.
We could never run the factory on our own. You know that well.

Adriano, pensaci.
Adriano, think about it.
Captions 37-38, Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8

 

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.
Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 16

Toscani, io c'ho un appuntamento, pensaci tu.
Toscani, I have an appointment, you take care of it.
Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 7

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 nuovaPensaci bene (do you really want to buy a new car? Think twice about it).
È il momento per andare in vacanzaPensiamoci bene (is it the right time to go on vacation? Let's think about it a moment).

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3 Ways of being a cavallo (on horseback)

There's a great expression in Italian to describe being between two things: cavallo, or rather, essere a cavallo di or tra/fra (to straddle) meaning con un piede da una parte euno dall'altra (with one foot on one side and the other on the other side).

Di solito, questo stato influenzale, quindi il raffreddore o l'influenza,
Usually, this flu-like state, that is, a cold or the flu
si prende nel periodo che è a cavallo di due stagioni in particolare.
is caught in the period that straddles two seasons in particular.
Captions 7-8, Marika spiega: Il raffreddore

 

The expression is often used figuratively when referring to historical dates: cavallo di due secoli —negli anni finali di un secolo e iniziali del successivo (straddling two centuries: in the last years of one century and the first years of the following one).

 

We also use cavallo to mean touching on two or three places. 

Maratea si trova al sud d'Italia, eh... a cavallo di tre regioni:
Maratea is located in the south of Italy, uh... straddling three regions:
Caption 35, Antonio: Maratea, la carne e il pesce

 

But without the proposition di (of) or fra/tra (between), cavallo means something else entirely.

 

Essere a cavallo can mean "to be golden, in good shape." In other words, we're riding horses rather than having to walk, and that's a good achievement.

Ora lo facciamo analizzare
Now we'll have it analyzed
se corrisponde a quello trovato sul mio cuscino,
and if it corresponds to the one found on my pillow,
siamo a cavallo.
we'll be in the saddle [all set].
Captions 11-13, Il Commissario Manara: S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 10 of 14

 

Firmi, ed è fatta.
Sign, and it's done.
Ah, allora siamo a cavallovedi?
Ah, so we're on horseback [we're on our way, we're in good shape], you see?
Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 12 of 16

 

Of course, there is the literal meaning as well: andare a cavallo (to go horseback riding).

a cavallo ci si arriva?
And can you get there on horseback?
Caption 63, Anna e Marika: L'Italia a tavola- Interrogazione sulla Puglia - Part 1 of 2
 

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Comodo: Comfortable or Handy?

The adjective comodo (comfortable) is easy to find in the dictionary, and is easy to understand, too, in a normal context.

Questo divano è molto comodo (this sofa is very comfortable).

 

Tu disfa le valigiemettiti comodo.
You unpack your bags. Get comfortable.
Caption 114, Casa Vianello: Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1 of 2

 

In this context, we also have the verb accomodare, which means to get comfortable, but it is used in a wide range of expressions about placing someone or something somewhere or even repairing something. 

Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena,
If I have guests for lunch or for dinner,
li faccio accomodare qui,
I have them sit here,
questo tavolo.
at this table.
Captions 34-36, Marika spiega: Il salone

 

This verb is very often used in its reflexive form, accomodarsi, especially in formal situations, such as in an office when someone asks you to come in, sit down, or wait somewhere.

Signora Casadio, prego, si accomodi.
Missus Casadio, please have a seat.
Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara: S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4 

 

Consider this exchange between two young people. Here the ti (the object pronoun "you") is connected to the verb, but the information is the same as in the previous example. And make sure to put the accent on the first in accomodati.

Scusami, è libero?
Pardon me, is this place free?
Sì certo, accomodati. -Posso? -Sì sì... -Grazie.
Yes, sure, have a seat. -May I? -Sure... -Thanks.
Caption 2-3, Milena e Mattia: L'incontro

 

But there are other contexts in which comodo is used in Italian, and these might be a bit harder to grasp.

 

Comodo can mean "convenient," as in an easy answer, as in over-simplifying.

Ho cambiato idea, me ne ero dimenticato, non gliel'ho detto?
I changed my mind, I had forgotten, didn't I tell you that?
Troppo comodo, Manara.
Too convenient, Manara.
Ormai le sue dimissioni saranno già protocollate.
At this point, your resignation will have been registered.
Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara: S1E12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 4 of 13

 

In a recent segment of a special Christmas video Casa Vianello, after welcoming their guest and asking him to make himself at home (as in our first example), the Vianellos argue, as they often do. They use a common expression: fare comodo (to be useful, convenient, handy), often paired with the adverb sempre (always) to qualify it. Mrs. Vianello starts in without really thinking through what she is saying:

Comunque, un figlio fa sempre comodo.
Anyway, a child always comes in handy.
Ma come fa sempre comodo? Tu parli di un figlio come se si trattasse di un paio di pantofole di lana.
But what do you mean "One always comes in handy?" You talk about a child as if it were about a pair of woolen house slippers.
Caption 50-51, Casa Vianello: Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1 of 2

 

The following example offers a more normal context for fare comodo, this time in the past conditional.

Che caldo!
It's so hot!
Certo, un ombrellone nelle ore centrali del giorno avrebbe fatto veramente comodo.
Of course, an umbrella in the middle of the day would have been really handy.
Captions 1-2, Una gita: al lago - Part 3 of 4

 

And here's an example closer to home!

Fanno molto comodo i sottotitoli in due lingue, no?
Subtitles in two languages are very handy, aren't they?

 

For a different sort of expression where comodo is featured, see this lesson

Comodofare comodoaccomodare, and accomodarsi are all closely related, but cover a lot of different kinds of situations and contexts. Little by little, you will get better at untangling them from one another as you continue to listen, read, speak, and write.

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2 Words about Trying:Provare and Provarci

Provare is a verb that has so many meanings and nuances that it merits some attention. In this week's episode of La Ladra, it has a special meaning that is important to be aware of, especially for those who are thinking about dating.

 

But first, let's go to the basic meanings of this verb. Provare is one of several synonyms meaning "to try." See this lesson about this meaning of provare.

Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.
I'm going to try it now.  Let's see if I succeed in it.
Caption 50-51, Francesca: neve - Part 3 of 3

 

This exact same construction takes on a different meaning when we're talking about people being sentimentally interested in one another.  Every language has different terms that come into general use when talking about relationships, like "going out," "dating," "going steady" in English, and in Italian, stare insieme (to be together, to be a couple, to go steady).

 

But before that happens, there is usually an approach. We used to call this courting. These days it can be in person, by text, by phone or in person. It can start with a flirtation. But one person has to approach the other. He or she has to try to get the other person's attention. Because there isn't a true equivalent in Italian, flirtare (to flirt) has become a verb we find in the dictionary. 

 

But generally, this stage of the game, the approach, especialy when it's not very subtle, is described in Italian with provarci.

 

So if I want to say, "That guy was flirting with me!" I might say: Ci stava provando con me!

 

Literally, it means "to try it" as in our first example, but, ci, as we know from previous lessons, means many things, and it can mean "to or with something or someone."

Ci vengo anch'io. I'll come with you [there].

 

In this week's episode of La Ladra, Barbara, an employee, is interested in her boss and she doesn't want any interference, and so she gives Alessia, her co-worker, a rough time and accuses her of flirting with him. In reality, poor, shy Alessia has no such intentions, and is quite shocked to be accused of anything of the sort. In this specific context, provarci means to try to get the sentimental attentions of someone (often by flirting).

Alessia:
Ma questo non significa che io... 

But that doesn't mean that I...
Barbara:
Ho visto come lo guardi, sai?

I've seen how you look at him, you know.
Ma tu, con Aldo, non ci devi neppure provare.
But you with Aldo, you mustn't even try to get his attention.
Alessia:
Io? Ma sei matta?

Me? But are you nuts?
Captions 18-21, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4 of 14

 

On a general level, however, provarci just means "to try it," as in our first example. In English we leave out any object: we just say "I tried." In Italian, there is usually ci as a general, even neutral, object. It is often shortened to a "ch" sound in a contraction. C'ho provato (I tried). Provaci is an informal command: "Give it a try!"

 

The Italian title for an old Woody Allen film is Provaci ancora, Sam.

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How to Talk About Email in Italian

How do Italians talk about email? Even in English we don't all use the same spelling. Some people write it as one word; some use a hyphen. We also use email as a verb in English, too: "I'll email you." Language doesn't stay the same. It evolves.

 

In Italian, too, "email" as a word, and as a concept, receives different treatment from different people. Be that as it may, the official name for email is la posta elettronica. It makes sense: the electronic mail.

 

And if you say la posta elettronica, you won't be wrong. But la posta elettronica actually stands for email in general, or even the inbox itself. One single email is more like unmessaggio di posta elettronica.

 

Still, more and more frequently, Italians use English words when talking about computers and the internet.

 

Since saying la posta elettronica every time can get old pretty quickly, the English term emailhas been adopted by many Italians. It's certainly quicker to say than la posta elettronica or unmessaggio di posta elettronica. But there's a basic problem. La posta is a feminine noun, so it makes sense for email to be feminine, too. So it might become la email. But how to pronounce the "E"?

 

Vowels:
Many Italians don't fully realize that we Americans pronounce the "E" in "email" like the letter "E."  We say email, e-book, ezine, e-commerce, etc. In Italian, an "E" is pronounced more like the "A" in make.

 

Italians learn to pronounce just about every letter they see. There are rules. But when they come upon foreign words, they can have a hard time imagining a pronunciation different from what think it should be by following the rules. As in most languages, people invent a version of a foreign word that sounds good or right to them. 

 

And regarding the word "mail," an average Italian who doesn't know English would pronounce the "mai" in "mail" as something more akin to "my."  So it's actually a very difficult word to pronounce.

 

To pronounce email in a similar way to English, an Italian would write something like ìmeil. Pretty weird, right?

 

Accent:
In English, we put the accent on the "E," and when the word came into being, there was a hyphen so it was easier to figure this out, but Italians don't necessarily realize that it's the letter "E" as an abbreviation for "electronic." They just read it as they see it and the accent ends up on "mail."

 

So we get la email or worse, una email, with two vowels juxtaposed: "A" followed by "E," neither of which is accented. It's awkward.

 

So lots of people just shorten email to mail

Ti mando una mail.
I'll send you an email.

 

In the latest episode of La Ladra, someone is sending some files via email. But what they say is via mail. It has become very common to say it this way.

Allora, io Le mando via mail tutti i dati della villa
So, I will send you all the information about the villa by email.
Caption 52, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3 of 14

 

In the following example, la mail refers to a single email.

L'hai mandata la mail al commercialista?
Did you send the email to the accountant?
Caption 30, Marika spiega: Pettegolezzi in ufficio con Anna

 

In the following example, what's meant is the email account.

Se per te privacy è entrar nella mia mail e scrivere a Marco al posto mio...
If privacy for you means going into my email account and writing to Marco in my place...
Caption 55, Stai lontana da me: Rai Cinema - Part 11 

 

Sometimes you need to provide your email address.

Certo. Qual è l'indirizzo mail?
Sure thing. What's your email address?
Caption 68, Italiano commerciale: Cominciare un nuovo lavoro - Part 2 of 2

 

Italians have found a darling way to name the @: the "at" sign. They call it a chiocciola (a snail).

Sì, certo. È Arianna chiocciola Phones and More punto it.
Yes, of course. It's A - R - I - A - N - N - A at Phones and More dot it.
Caption 68, Italiano commerciale - Cominciare un nuovo lavoro - Part 2 of 2

 

Can you provide your email address in Italian? If you can't remember how to say the names of the letters, check out Marika's video. If you have trouble making yourself understood, check out this handy telephone alphabet. Remember that punto (point, period, full stop, dot) is what you say for the dot in "dot com." In Italy, some email addresses end in "com," but many end in it for Italy. Sometimes it gets spelled "I-T" but sometimes it gets pronounced as a word, as in the previous example. 

 

Italians use English words more and more frequently, but they might differ from the original in meaning and in pronunciation, so they might be the hardest words to understand when an Italian is using them in the middle of an Italian sentence.

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Meglio or Migliore?

In our last lesson, there was mention of the Italian comparative adjective migliore (better).  This brought up an excellent question on the part of one of our readers. What's the difference between migliore and meglio? They both mean "better." When should we use meglio instead of migliore?

 

It's a great question, because the answer is not so simple. On a very basic level, migliore is an adjective and is the comparative of buono (good). It is also, with the addition of an article, the superlative of buono (good), as in the following example.

 

La moto è il mezzo migliore per superare il traffico.
The motorbike is the best means of transportation for getting past the traffic.
Caption 27, Adriano: Giornata 

 

Migliore stays the same in both the masculine and the feminine.

Io voglio solo una vita migliore di questa.
I just want a better life than this.
Caption 70, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 5 of 25 

 

La mia migliore amica.
My best [girl]friend.
Caption 53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7  

 

But in the plural it's always migliori, for both the masculine and the feminine.

Ed è uno dei vini migliori della Basilicata, è chiamato Aglianico.
And it's one of the best wines of Basilicata, it's called Aglianico.
Caption 53, Milena: al supermercato

 

No, veramente le cose migliori le abbiamo fatte insieme, no?
No, actually, the best things are the ones we've done together, right?
Caption 47, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7 of 12

 

Migliore and its plural form migliori can also be nouns, just like in English. 

Sei il/la migliore!
You're the best!

 

Migliore is either an adjective or a noun — never an adverb.

 

Meglio, on the other hand, is basically an adverb, so it makes sense for it to be the comparative of bene (well). Meglio often means in modo migliore (in a better way).

Facciamo un esempio così capite meglio.
Let's make up an example, that way you'll understand better.
Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Approfondimento Verbi Modali - Part 1 of 2

 

But meglio has a gray area, too, and is much more flexible than migliore. Unlike migliore, which is either an adjective or a noun, meglio, in addition to being an adverb, is often also used colloquially as an adjective or in some contexts as a noun. It's also used in a huge number of expressions. 

 

Note that the verb migliorare exists, too, to mean "to improve," to "get better."

Se posso migliorare, perché non farlo?
If I can improve, why not do so?
Caption 4, L'arte della cucina: L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 13 of 16

Il mio italiano è molto migliorato.
My Italian has gotten much better.

 

We'll focus on meglio next week, but in the meantime, why not compare things with migliorein your home or workplace?

Think about food, movies, books, the time of day/year for doing something.

Per esempio:

In questo bar, fanno il miglior caffè della città.
In this bar, they make the best coffee in the city.

Il mio italiano scritto è migliore di qualche anno fa.
My written Italian is better than a few years ago.

Non ero la migliore della classe quando andavo a scuola. 
I wasn't the best in the class when I went to school.

Qual è la stagione migliore per visitare la Sicilia?
What's the best month for visiting Sicily?

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