The adjective "free" in English means several things, so when you're wondering how to translate it, you may have to stop and think. So let's have a look at some of the different ways to say "free" in Italian.
The first way we translate the adjective "free" is with libero. Think of the word "liberty" as meaning "freedom," and you'll be all set.
Nel tempo libero mi piace uscire con i miei amici.
In my free time, I like to go out with my friends.
Caption 38, Erica si presentaPlay Caption
One occasion in which you'll need this word is when looking for a seat on a train. You can simply ask, while using a gesture:
È libero (is it free)?
È libero questo posto/quel posto (is this/that seat free)?
Tip: Learn to use questo and quello in this week's lesson with Daniela!
Do you know the opposite of libero in this case?
Questo posto è occupato (this seat is occupied).
No, è occupato (it's occupied).
We also use libero to talk about ourselves. In this case the person in question is a girl or a woman.
Sei libera venderdì sera (are you free Friday night)?
Si, sono libera (yes, I'm free).
Mi dispiace, sono occupata (sorry, I'm busy).
An adjective that's close to "free" in this sense is "available." It translates as disponibile. If you look at the context in the following example, both libero and free would also work. Disponibile is a handy, very useful word to know, as it is extremely common in everyday conversation.
L'unico tavolo sotto la cassa sei riuscito a trovarlo tu! -Per favore, per favore! Ho prenotato, l'unico disponibile era questo. Che vuoi da me?
You succeeded in getting the only table right under the loudspeaker! Please, please! I reserved, the only one available was this one. What do you want from me?
Captions 12-14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 13Play Caption
A completely different meaning of "free" is that of not costing anything. There are two closely related ways to say this in Italian:
Gratis and gratuito. They are interchangeable. Gratis comes directly from the Latin, meaning "grace," "favor."
Ma se fosse per me, lo sport dovrebbe essere gratis per tutti. Ma la palestra costa.
But if it were up to me, sports should be free for everyone. But the gym costs money.
Captions 41-42, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 3Play Caption
Gratuito is Italian, and is a common choice when it comes after to the noun it modifies, as in the following example.
Ma oggi c'è il Wi-Fi gratuito dappertutto, per cui è un posto che si può assolutamente vivere quotidianamente anche nel ventesimo secolo, anzi ventunesimo.
But today there's free wi-fi everywhere, so it's a place one can absolutely experience on a daily basis, even in the twentieth, or rather twenty-first century.
Captions 22-24, Anna e Marika Villa Torlonia - Casino NobilePlay Caption
Fun fact: gratuito can be pronounced correctly with the accent on either the u or the i. You'll probably find more people who place the accent on the u, but it's not wrong the other way.
Another important translation of "free," when it means something you don't pay for, is omaggio.
The cognate of omaggio, as a noun, is "homage," and in fact omaggio is also used to mean "homage." But it is also used to mean a free sample, or free gift. The shopkeeper is paying you homage by giving you a gift!
Dimenticavo che mi hanno portato quattro biglietti omaggio per dei massaggi, interessa?
I almost forgot: Someone brought me four free coupons for some massages. Interested?
Caption 36, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1Play Caption
Omaggio can be used as an adjective (that doesn't change with gender and number) as in the previous example.
Otherwise, omaggio is a noun that means "complimentary gift."
When you get a free gift at the checkout counter, a shopkeeper or cashier might simply say un omaggio.
Lastly, "free" can be translated as senza (without), as in "gluten-free" or "sugar-free."
Questi biscotti sono senza zucchero, senza glutine e senza grassi.
This cookies are sugar-free, gluten-free, and fat-free.
See you in the next lesson! Alla prossima!
Italians have a reputation for being concerned with drafts, chills, sudden changes of temperature, etc. This translates to parents often being very protective of their kids when it comes to wearing the appropriate clothing for a given situation.
There's a little song featured on Yabla all about this struggle between parents and their children on this subject.
Che senza canottiera
Poi mi prendo il raffreddore
That with no undershirt
I will catch a cold later
Captions 17-18, Zecchino d'Oro Metti la canottieraPlay Caption
Note the verb used to catch or get a cold is prendere (to take). It's often used reflexively, prendersi Another verb that is often used for getting sick, is beccare as in the following example.
Ah, buongiorno. Scusate se starnutisco, ma, purtroppo, mi sono beccata l'influenza. L'influenza è un bruttissimo raffreddore, anzi, un po' più di un raffreddore perché ti prende tutto il corpo e senti i brividi e ti senti debole, ti senti stanca.
Ah, good morning. Sorry if I'm sneezing, but, unfortunately, I've caught the flu. The flu is a really awful cold, rather, a bit more than a cold because it affects your whole body, and you feel shivers, and you feel weak, you feel tired.
Captions 1-5, Marika spiega Il raffreddorePlay Caption
Marika could have said: Mi sono presa un brutto raffreddore (I caught a bad cold).
When a cold is really bad (as described above by Marika) and you have to stay home from work or school, it's often called l'influenza, even though it might or might not technically be the flu as we understand it.
Note also that l'influenza also means "the influence" and has a verb form influenzare (to influence).
Non credo che la Francia abbia influenzato in modo determinante la mia cucina.
I don't believe that France influenced my cooking in a decisive way.
Caption 13, L'arte della cucina I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 11Play Caption
We use the verb beccare to talk about insect bites, too. In this case it isn't reflexive. The mosquito is doing the biting.
M'ha beccato una zanzara.
A mosquito bit me.
When we don't have a full-blown cold, but suspect we're about to because we got a chill, we might say:
Ho preso freddo
(I got a chill).
The verb is still prendere (to take, to get).
Prendere freddo is often the reason given for catching a cold. Things Italians watch out for to avoid this are uno spiffero or corrente (a draft), climatizzatori (air conditioners), ventilatori (fans), and especially not covering up or taking a shower after working up a sweat.
In the movie Chi m'ha visto being currently offered on Yabla, a curious adjective has cropped up in a newspaper headline: musicista precario. It's used to describe Martino, the guitarist, and it happens that he was quite upset when he read it.
Musicista precario a me?
An occasional musician? Me?
Caption 35, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 12Play Caption
Guitarist. A temp.
Caption 2, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 13Play Caption
Let's delve into this adjective for a moment. The English cognate for precario is "precarious," but it has a specific meaning to Italians in the modern-day world.
Primarily, precario is used to describe someone who doesn't have tenure, doesn't have a permanent job. For instance, many public school teachers in Italy find themselves in the position of being precario, and the word is also often used as a noun: un precario. Someone in this position can also be described as un supplente, a substitute teacher, even though they have been teaching in the same school for years. At the end of the school year, un supplente is let go, and has no guarantee of being re-hired for another year. These "substitute" teachers don't get paid during the summer months, but they have to be ready to start work (or not) from one day to the next, come September — definitely a precarious work situation!
Precario may also be used to describe a temporary worker or temporary job.
Poi però... con questa crisi ho perso l'ultimo lavoro precario
Then, however... with this crisis, I lost my last temporary job
Caption 25, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 8Play Caption
In Martino's case, the headline implies that he doesn't have a steady band he plays with on a regular basis. He has no guaranteed work and plays concerts only occasionally. In fact, he is just about unemployed.
Precario can also mean the same as "precarious" in other situations, such as walking a tightrope.
While we are on the subject of precariousness, there is another curious word that means much the same thing (but not in the context of job security): in bilico. Essere in bilico is "to teeter," "to be in a precarious equilibrium." It's also used to mean "undecided."
Ero in bilico tra l'essere vittima, essere giudice
I was teetering between being a victim and being a judge
Caption 50, Måneskin Torna a casaPlay Caption
Ma sotto questa tua corazza lo so C'è una ragazza che sta lì in bilico
But underneath this armor of yours I know There's a girl who is there on the verge of falling
Captions 24-25, Max Gazzè Ti Sembra NormalePlay Caption
How do we refer to punctuation or use punctuation terms when speaking Italian?
When we start a new paragraph, we say punto e a capo (period, new paragraph). This can happen if we are dictating.
Punto is how we say "full stop" or "period" in Italian.
Capo means "head," and so we are at the head of a new paragraph.
But we also use punto e a capo and similar terms metaphorically in everyday speech. Here's a lesson about that!
A comma, on the other hand, is una virgola. While a comma works somewhat similarly between English and Italian, there is an important peculiarity to note, as we see in the following example. Instead of a decimal point, Italian employs the virgola (comma). If we look at it numerically, it's like this: English: 5.2 km, Italian: 5,2 km.
Con i suoi cinque virgola due chilometri quadrati, Alicudi è una delle più piccole isole delle Eolie,
With its five point two square kilometers, Alicudi is one of the smallest islands of the Aeolians,
Captions 9-10, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 18Play Caption
By the same token, Italian employs the comma in currency: $5.50, but €5,50.
In English we use a comma in writing "one thousand": $1,000.00, but in Italian, a point or period is used. €1.000,00.
It can also be omitted. 1000,00.
Virgolette, on the other hand are little commas, and when we turn them upside down, they become quotation marks, or inverted commas.
So, in conversation, we might make air quotes if people can see us talking, but in Italian it's common to say tra virgolette (in quotes, or literally, "between quotation marks"). We can translate this with "quote unquote," or we can sometimes say "so-called" (cosìdetto).
...cioè delle costruzioni, tra virgolette temporanee
in other words, quote unquote temporary buildings —
Caption 38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12Play Caption
e perché poi erano facili da smontare, tra virgolette,
uh, because they were in any case easy to quote unquote dismantle,
Caption 45, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12Play Caption
Versace è nata da un ritorno alla tradizione, tra virgolette,
Versace was created as a, quote unquote, return to tradition,
Caption 13, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 1Play Caption
One more important thing about virgolette: In American English, most punctuation marks go inside quotation marks, but in Italian, they go on the outside. If you pay attention to the captions in Yabla videos, you will see this regularly.
Thanks for reading and a presto!
Let's talk about emotions.
Le emozioni are "the emotions." That's a true cognate, but the Italian adjective emozionato doesn't have a true cognate.
Let's say you have to talk in front of the class, you have to play a solo in the next student concert, or you're receiving an award. What's the feeling you have?
In English, we would probably use the adjective "nervous." But the adjective we naturally think of in Italian, nervoso, is more about being irritable, in a bad mood. When you are nervous about doing something new, difficult, exciting, the Italian adjective we're looking for is emozionato.
So emozionato can have a somewhat negative connotation in the sense that you try not to let your emotions get the better of you, yet your voice trembles, you get butterflies in your stomach...
"Nervous" is the closest we can get in this sense. It's when your emotions get the better of you in a negative way.
Ho messo il mio vestito migliore per l'occasione e sono in anticipo di un paio di minuti, tanto per essere sicura. Sono molto emozionata.
I put on my best outfit for the occasion and I'm a couple of minutes early, just to be sure. I'm very nervous.
Captions 2-5, Italiano commerciale - Colloquio di lavoro - Part 2Play Caption
The funny thing is that emozionato also means "excited," in other words, a positive emotion. It's not always crystal clear what someone means when they use emozionato, as in the previous example, where Arianna might have been more excited than nervous. We can only guess from the context. In the following example, Adriano may be both nervous and excited, since the baptism of his baby boy is about to take place in a very special chapel in Palermo.
Con tutti i nostri parenti, festeggeremo questo giorno importante nella Cappella Palatina di Palermo. Io sono molto emozionato.
With all our relatives, we'll celebrate this important day in the Palatine Chapel of Palermo. I'm very excited.
Captions 21-23, Adriano - Battesimo di Philip - Part 1Play Caption
Nervoso, on the other hand, often has to do with "stress," an English word that has become ubiquitous in Italian, too.
Caption 17, Marika spiega - Le emozioniPlay Caption
When someone is nervoso, you tiptoe around so they don't snap at you. You don't want to get on their nerves. In fact, Italians use il nervoso as a noun to mean "nerves," as in:
Mi fa venire il nervoso.
He gets on my nerves.
He irritates me.
For more about emotions, see this video.
That's it for today's lesson. Thanks for reading and we'll see you next time. Don't forget to send your comments and questions to email@example.com.
Many of those who subscribe to Yabla Italian have enjoyed the TV series Commissario Manara. In the first season, Luca Manara had a romantic relationship with Lara, a fellow police investigator. It just so happened that she had an aunt who was very kind and sociable, and would often contribute in her special way to solving a case, along with her dog, Brigadiere. The character was Zia Caterina.
Valeria Valeri, the actress who played Zia Caterina, passed away just a week ago, at the ripe old age of 97, and so we remember her here.
As a matter of fact, Commissario Manara was one of her last TV performances.
Zia Caterina was a character along the lines of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Caterina was always wearing outlandish earrings, funny straw hats and always had a smile on her face. She had a dog that was a good investigator too.
Speaking of Murder She Wrote, did you know the Italian version of Murder She Wrote was called La Signora in Giallo? Read about the special meaning of giallo in Italian.
In Italian, there’s a tradition of calling someone Zia (aunt) or Zio (uncle) without their name attached.
Solo tu potevi salvarci zia...
Only you could have saved us, Aunt...Play Caption
Note that Italians don't capitalize affectionate names like zia, zio, signora.
Let's now take the opportunity of Valeri's passing to talk about how Italians talk about death. It's never easy, and it's not a happy subject, but sometimes knowing how to talk about death can save you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here is what the headlines have been saying about Valeria Valeri's death.
Purtroppo è venuta a mancare Valeria Valeri.
Sadly, Valeria Valeri has come to be missing.
It’s an elegant and indirect way to say someone has died, and the verb mancare is often used in this sense.
We also use mancare to miss someone, but this verb works in a completely different way from the English verb "to miss." More about that here.
A 97 anni, dopo una vita spesa in palcoscenico, si è spenta ieri a Roma Valeria Valeri, una grande attrice e una grande voce del teatro italiano ...
At ninety-seven years, after a life on the stage, Valeria Valeri died in Rome. She was a great actress and one of the great voices of Italian theater.
Si è spenta.
Spegnere means "to turn off."
Her light went out.
She stopped living.
È morta Valeria Valeri.
Valeria Valeri died.
Valeria Valeri is dead.
Morire is the classical, literal word for “to die.”
Let’s not forget that morto/morta can be either the past participle, as in "she has died," or it can be an adjective, as in "she is dead." More about that here.
One more way to say someone died is to say they are gone, or they have gone. They have taken their leave.
Valeria Valeri se ne andata.
Valeria Valeri has left. Valeria Valeri is gone.
We will miss her.
Most will agree that Zia Caterina was a great addition to the cast of Manara, and that knowing she is gone for good is a little sad, although she lived to be almost a hundred!
Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to 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.
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 2Play Caption
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 SerenaPlay Caption
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 1Play Caption
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? -Eh?
Do you want some more of it? -Huh?Play Caption
And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”
Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti, perché mi hai fatto fare un tuffo nel passato!
OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets, because it made me take a dive into the past!
Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10Play Caption
Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,
OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,Play Caption
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.
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)?
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?Play Caption
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.
Caption 35, Marika spiega - Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1Play Caption
Non sei d'accordo?
Don't you agree? (Don't you think so?)Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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?)
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.Play Caption
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?
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.
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 2Play Caption
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).
Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!
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).
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."
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.Play Caption
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].
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!
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!
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 1Play Caption
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 16Play Caption
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 1Play Caption
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 - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 5Play Caption
There are other meanings and sfumature (nuances) for the word quadro, and Marika talks about one of them here.
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 11Play Caption
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 8Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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 5Play Caption
Eva, fidati, assaggia. Solo per scrupolo.
Eva, trust me, taste. Just to make sure.
Captions 22-23, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3Play Caption
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.
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.
Captions 45-47, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 5Play Caption
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 S2 - EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4Play Caption
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.
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 2Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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 regaloPlay Caption
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 AnnaPlay Caption
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 dispiace, non ho spiccioli.
I'm sorry, I don't have any change.
Caption 21, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
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 AnnaPlay Caption
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 email@example.com.
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 10Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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! Eh, le tradizioni sono tradizioni! Eh! -C'è poco da fare! -Pappa!
Good! It smells good, huh! Yes, traditions are traditions! Yeah! -There's little to do about it! -Food!Play Caption
Viva la pappa!
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 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. 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 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 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."
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.Play Caption
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. Che succede? -Signora, Giacomo non risponde. -Giacomo!
Doctor! -Gina! - Doctor! Doctor Giacomo. What's going on? -Ma'am, Giacomo isn't responding. -Giacomo!Play Caption
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?
Doctor, excuse me, but why do you want to give us this gift?
Caption 24, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 14Play Caption
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 3Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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.