Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Vocabulary

S prefix: overview

We've talked about words that change when an "S" prefix is added, but let's take a closer look at this particular way of altering words. The resulting words are called parole alterate in Italian because the word also exists in its unaltered state, or at least it once did. 


While the addition of an S at the beginning of the word often negates it, or gives it an opposite meaning, it's not always the case. Sometimes it adds strength or some other quality, and sometimes it doesn't really change anything but is just a variant. We'll try to cover the common ways the S prefix changes words in this and subsequent lessons, but let's go back to the prefix itself: S.


You might be wondering where this S prefix comes from? An early source is "ex-" in Latin. Another is the Italian prefix dis-. 


Sometimes dis- and s- are both used interchangeably. For instance, some people use the verb disfare and some people say sfare. They both mean "to undo." Fare means "to make" or "to do." This is a case where the S confers a contrasting or negative meaning to the word. 

Era quella che faceva la coperta di giorno e la disfaceva la notte.

She [Penelope] was the one who made the cover during the day and took it apart during the night.

Captions 49-50, Sposami EP 4 - Part 22

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Another word like this is dispiacere. Some people say mi dispiace, but some say mi spiace. See the long list of examples of spiace here.  And here is the list of instances of dispiace in Yabla videos. They mean the same thing. And they are both alterations of the verb piacere (to please).

Mi spiace, sono in ritardo. -Va bene...

I'm sorry, I am late. -All right...

Caption 59, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 22

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Ti dispiace se parliamo dopo? -No, no, no.

Do you mind if we talk later? -No, no, no.

Caption 34, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 4

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The verb dispiacere has different nuances of meanings, which we have discussed in other lessons: How to say you're sorry in Italian and To mind or not to mind with dispiacere.


As a negation or the opposite of the root word, there are countless examples. Here is just one:

Certo che Luca è un ragazzo fortunato ad avere un'amica come te!

Luca sure is a lucky guy to have a friend like you!

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 8

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Poverino, proprio sfortunato.

Poor thing, really unlucky.

Caption 11, La Ladra EP. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 8

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The S prefix is used with verbs, adjectives, and nouns. But let's keep in mind that lots of words start with S naturally, at their root. 


 In the next lesson, we will trace a verb with an S prefix back to its origins to see how it evolved. 

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L'erbaccia: Che cos'è?

On Yabla there is an animated series featuring two maialini (piglets) who are brothers. In each short episode, the younger one, Piggeldy, always has a new question for his older brother, Federico.


Although Yabla has recorded new Italian narration, the original version of this animation was in German, and this is evident in a recent episode in particular. The primary hint is that one of the crops in the fields the brothers walk past or through is segale (rye). Italians, except in the northern parts of Italy where German is spoken, don't commonly eat a lot of rye bread, although it does exist and has become more popular in recent years. In countries such as Germany, Poland, Russia, and Austria, it's much more common, and rye is also cultivated there. But more importantly, the topic of the episode is erbaccia, a good word to know. 


In this episode, Piggeldy wants to know what erbaccia is.

"Federico, che cos'è l'erbaccia?"

"Federico, what is a weed?"

Caption 3, Piggeldy e Federico L'erbaccia

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Let's look at this word. We can detect the noun erba, which means "grass," but not only. As a collective noun erba does mean "grass," but as a countable noun, it means herb. We think of herbs and spices, but in Italian, erbe (in the plural, usually) refers to wild greens, either edible or medicinal. 


Some of us have already learned that the suffix -accio or -accia is pejorative, indicating a lower quality of something. So we could easily equate erbaccia with "crabgrass." Although crabgrass does have a botanical name and is technically a specific kind of grass, we do use "crabgrass" generically to describe a kind of creeping, invasive grass that's hard to get rid of. We could also call it "a weed" or "weeds," although weeds are not necessarily a kind of grass. 

E se no ci sarebbe stata tutta erbaccia, perché prima passava un pecoraro [pecoraio], Belardo se [si] chiamava, no? Nel settanta, co e passava co ste [queste] pecore, mangiava... era tutto pulito era na [una] bellezza.

And otherwise there would have been weeds all over, because before now a shepherd would pass by, Belardo was his name, right? In [nineteen] seventy, with, and he'd passed by with these sheep, they would eat... it was all tidy, it was beautiful.

Captions 53-56, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 3

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The -accio or -accia ending implies that the plant with this suffix is unwanted. Of course, one person's weed is another person's wildflower, or spontaneous plant.


The plant that Piggeldy sees, the cornflower, il fiordaliso in Italian, is a beautiful blue wildflower, considered by farmers to be a weed when we're talking about crops. It used to be a common sight in fields of wheat and corn. Its botanical name is Centaurea cyanus L.

Cornflowers in a wheatfield

In the real world, cornflowers got their name because they used to be a common weed in cultivated fields [of corn or wheat]. They're native to Europe, but while they can now be found distributed quite widely across the world, they're actually endangered in their native habitat by the mass use of weedkillers on European farms. In some parts of Austria, the fiordaliso is still visible as a beautiful contrast to the golden wheat.


As a little aside, if we then look at a recent episode of the series JAMS, there is a scene where a student is being questioned about the story of Achilles. It's interesting to note that the plant that healed his heel from the poisoned arrow is the cornflower!


So-called "weeds" are an important part of Italian rural culture. There are plenty of edible greens for the taking, and Italians are famous for making the most of them. Old folks remember well the times (such as during World War II) in which any cultivated green vegetable was hard to find, so foraging was the way to go. Even now, in Italy, if you see an abandoned field or a roadside, chances are you will see someone taking advantage of the free food there. There is always something edible coming up. 

Poi, conoscevo le erbe selvatiche no, e andavo per queste fiumare bellissime dove c'erano piantagioni di erbe spontanee, guarda, una cosa meravigliosa.

Besides, I knew about wild greens, right? And I would go to these beautiful streams, where there were patches of wild herbs, look, a marvelous thing.

Captions 40-42, In giro per l'Italia Pentidattilo - Part 2

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So the upshot is that erba does mean "grass," but erbaccia indicates weeds and erbe can mean "herbs" (for seasoning, often specified as erbe aromatiche — aromatic herbs) or "wild greens" (for eating).  Buon appetito!


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Adverbs of time with multiple meanings

Let's talk about some adverbs of time and how Italians use them. Some adverbs of time have multiple meanings and need context to be understood and used precisely.



We can detect the noun notte (night) as part of the time adverb stanotte. The beginning, on the other hand, is sta, a short form of questa (this). 


Non ti dispiace se rimango qui stanotte, vero?

You don't mind if I stay here tonight, do you?

Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9

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But sometimes, the same adverb stanotte refers to "last night."

E mio marito non è rientrato stanotte e non ha nemmeno avvertito...

And my husband didn't come home last night and he didn't even let me know...

Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2

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We can use the same form to talk about the evening: stasera. Normally, we'd say that stasera means "this evening" but in English, we often use "tonight" when referring to the dinner hour, so sometimes "tonight" is the best translation.

La lista della spesa per la cena di stasera.

The shopping list for tonight's dinner.

Caption 2, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1

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While we say things like "I'm going out tonight," Italians will choose stasera over stanotte, unless we are talking about something happening in the middle of the night. But let's remember that sera generally means "evening." 


Ma', stasera esco. -Dove vai?

Mom, tonight I'm going out. -Where are you going?

Caption 53, Acqua in bocca Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

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Also, let's take the opportunity to remind ourselves that buonasera is a greeting upon arrival, whereas buonanotte is when you're leaving (and perhaps headed for bed).



You may already be familiar with the word for "yesterday." It's ieri. Just in case stanotte might not be clear enough, we have the choice of using ieri notte to mean "last night." If you are just getting up in the morning, you'll probably use stanotte to talk about the night before, but if it is later in the day, ieri notte makes sense. 

Ieri notte tre ladri hanno pensato bene di svaligiare un atelier di abiti da sposa.

Last night, three thieves had the bright idea of cleaning out a wedding gown studio.

Caption 40, La Ladra EP. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 13

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If we say ieri sera, we can translate it with either "last night" or "yesterday evening," depending on how we think of it. But sera is generally used until late, let's say, until bedtime, whenever that is. 

E voi due ieri sera eravate in casa? Sì, stavamo guardando la televisione.

And you two last night were at home? Yes, we were watching television.

Captions 47-48, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 2

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The day before yesterday

We have said that ieri means "yesterday," but what about the day before yesterday? 


One way to say this is l'altro ieri (the other yesterday). 

Quando l'hai vista l'ultima volta? -L'altro ieri.

When did you last see her? -The day before yesterday.

Captions 5-6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 5

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Some people invert the words and say ieri l'altro.


Of course, we can also say due giorni fa (2 days ago). 

E quando l'hai vista l'ultima volta? -Due giorni fa.

And when did you see her last? -Two days ago.

Captions 50-51, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 4

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If we don't need to be precise, we can say "the other day."

No, scusa l'altro giorno non t'ho potuto richiamare, ma dovevi dirmi qualcosa di lavoro?

No, sorry, the other day I couldn't call you back, but did you have something about work to tell me?

Captions 29-30, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 16

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When we're referring to the past with these adverbs of time, we'll want to use the passato prossimo (which works like the present perfect) tense. The exception is when we use the verb essere (to be). In this case, we might also use the imperfetto


Note that we don't say il giorno prima di ieri to correspond to "the day before yesterday!" But if that's all you can think of, people will understand. They'll probably say, "Oh, sì, l'altro ieri."


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An additional meaning for capace

Usually, we understand the adjective capace to mean "capable." 

Guarda che se non sei capace a dirgli di no, ti fai male!

Look, if you're not capable of telling him no, you'll hurt yourself!

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 1

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E... ma sai fare un po' di pasta fresca tu? Sei capace?

And... but do you know how to make a little fresh pasta? Are you capable?

Caption 11, Anna e Marika La pasta fresca

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But there is another, more colloquial way to use capace for predicting something, where it means something more akin to "possible." It's colloquial and used in central and southern Italy. Not everyone uses it with the subjunctive, but theoretically, the subjunctive should be used, since it has to do with uncertainty and is followed by che


From the horse's mouth: Tuscans, when asked, say you don't need the subjunctive, and you don't even need the verb (è). They say, Capace che piove, (it might very well rain) or even Capace piove, without the che!


È capace che Iside l'ammazza [sic: l'ammazzi].

It could be that Iside kills her.

Caption 2, Sposami EP 6 - Part 20

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Certainly, if you hang out in Tuscany, you will hear this usage of the word capace.  


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What do Renaissance Italian coins have to do with us?

Sometimes, while translating a video for Yabla, a word crops up that leaves us perplexed. It doesn't appear to be in a dictionary, and even if it is, it doesn't make enough sense to be able to translate it correctly. So we start researching it on our preferred search engine. We might find the answer and that's that, but sometimes we go down some interesting rabbit holes. So this week, we'd like to share what we learned, because it relates to some good-to-know euphemisms people use when talking about money. 



We're talking about the documentary series called L'Italia che piace (the Italy people like), which has recently focused on Novara, a city in northern Italy, not far from Milan. You will hear about its history in the video, but one thing gets mentioned only briefly, so we set out to learn more. 

Viene costruita dalla cittadinanza, con i soldi che vengono raccolti proprio con la tassa del sesino, la tassa sull'acquisto della carne.

It's built by the citizenry, with the money that is collected, actually, by way of the "sesino" tax, the tax on buying meat.

Captions 5-8, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 9

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The documentary mentions the building of the dome on top of the basilica in the middle of the city. It ended up being paid for in a particular way. Citizens contributed voluntarily to the project, but there was also a special tax called l’arbitrio del sesino or l'imposta del sesino. We wondered, "What's a sesino?"


A little research revealed that un sesino is a particular coin. Why is it called sesino? We might be able to guess it has something to do with the number 6 — sei. And we would be right! With a little more searching, we found, on a numismatic website:


The name of the coin un sesino indicates that the coin is equal to 6 denari.


Along with the sesino, there were: la trillina (3 denari) and il quattrino (4 denari). These coins were used from the 14th to the 18th century in various cities.


It all starts to make sense, because whoever has lived in Italy has heard people use quattrino or quattrini to mean "money."

Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza... era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco.

If we really want to call it a weakness... he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it.

Captions 73-74, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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In fact, in Renaissance times, un quattrino was a quarter of a fiorino in Florence. We often translate it as "a farthing." But unless you studied Italian history, you might not make that connection.


Still today, il denaro is another word for "money." Sometimes it's called il danaro. And in playing cards, denari is a suit in a Neapolitan deck of cards. 

Neapolitan deck of cards, photo courtesy Rex Pitts


We learn in the video that this particular sesino tax was on meat. On a website about Novara, we further learn that it was un'imposta per ogni libbra di carne non bovina acquistata in città (a tax on each pound of non-bovine meat purchased in the city).


So, in short, it would seem that people had to pay one sesino for every pound of meat that wasn't beef. This was to pay for the dome of the basilica. We do wonder why the tax was just meat that wasn't beef. That will remain for another day of research.


Note there are two spellings for libra: with one b or two. Did you ever wonder why the abbreviation for pound is "lb"? The English word "pound" comes from pondo meaning "body." A unit of measure in Roman times was "libra pondo," which meant "a pound by weight." The abbreviation "lb" is derived from the libra part of the expression.


There you have it. A little extra information, which, si spera (hopefully), will whet your appetite to watch the video!



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Getting over things, with superare, uscire, and reagire

When we are thinking in English, it's hard sometimes to find the right word in Italian because we likely use phrasal verbs and expressions in English, and turning those into the right word in Italian often results in being at a loss for words. That's why it's so important to listen and repeat, and when possible, have conversations with people in Italian, even if your Italian doesn't feel "good enough." The sooner you can start thinking in Italian, even simple Italian, the sooner you will come up with the right words in a given situation.



When people talk about their problems, especially problems such as depression, an illness, or a relationship that has ended, there are certain words they use all the time, but which we might not come up with. Let's have a look. 



The verb superare is a very common verb for getting over something, getting through something, getting past something.

Quando si perde qualcuno, c'è il pericolo di chiudersi in se stessi e di non superare la situazione con il supporto degli altri.

When one loses someone, there's the danger of closing oneself in and not getting over the situation with the support of others.

Captions 40-42, Marika spiega Il verbo chiudere

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This same verb is used when passing a test  — superare un esame — or passing another car — superare una macchina — on the road. 



Another way people talk about getting over something, is with uscire (to come out of it). Here is a guy with cancer talking to his wife.

Che sto reagendo bene. -Che stai reagendo bene? -Sì. Dici che ce la faccio a uscire da questa situazione?

That I am reacting well. -That you are reacting well? -Yes. Do you think I will manage to get/come out of this situation?

Captions 25-26, La linea verticale EP3 - Part 5

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Another way of saying that in English would be "Do you think I will manage to survive this situation, to overcome this situation, to get past this situation?" Let's also remember that uscire means "to exit," just as l'uscita means "the exit."



If we go back to the previous example, we see Luigi and his wife use the verb reagire. It basically means "to react." This is a very common verb for when you have to deal with something, an illness, a loss, a break-up, a disappointment. In this case, they might be talking about the fact that the therapy is working. We can translate it with "to react," but reagire is also used for not being apathetic, for example.


In the example below, the woman speaking to Michele believes he had been assaulted in prison before being sentenced to living in the commune called Il Nido (the nest). She assumes he has been feeling traumatized.

Michele, ma è una cosa bellissima che tu voglia reagire.

Michele, but it's such a wonderful thing that you want to react [to spring back].

Caption 3, Liberi tutti EP3 Quanto è libero un fringuello? - Part 1

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Reagire, in this sense, is the opposite of letting oneself go, getting depressed, or closing oneself off. 


You might say to a friend who is having trouble overcoming something:

Devi reagire (you have to do something) (you have to snap out of it), (you have to get out of your funk)!


These are just a few words we can use when talking about getting well, or getting over something. Have you found words you have heard but don't quite understand? Let us know at or write a comment on the videos page


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Una rosa, due rose

The Italian expression featured in this mini-lesson is something people say when two people get together as a couple, when someone finds a new job, or when a business starts up... things like that. They say:

Se son rose, fioriranno (if they are roses, they'll bloom).


It's a poetic way of saying "Time will tell," or, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Se son rose fioriranno presto.

If they're roses, they'll bloom soon.

Caption 34, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 8

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la rosa

Let's remember that while "rose" is singular in English, rose, in Italian, is the plural of rosa

Quando questa rosa sarà appassita, io sparirò.

When this rose wilts, I will disappear.

Captions 36-37, La Ladra EP. 11 - Un esame importante - Part 11

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colore rosa

Let's note that rosa is also a color, corresponding to "pink." It's one of those colors that doesn't change in number and gender when used as an adjective, as opposed to nero (black), bianco (white), grigio (grey), and verde (green), among others, which do have to agree with the noun they modify. When rosa the color is used as a noun, it's a masculine noun because the noun colore (color) is masculine. Il colore, un colore.

I pantaloni rosa, il foulard beige, le scarpe blu... sempre lo stesso. OK?

The pink pants, the beige scarf, the blue shoes... always the same, OK?

Captions 33-34, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 1

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If this is new to you, check out Daniela's lessons about colors. 


Rosa is also a name. 


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What's accoglienza?

If you live in a place and hear a certain word enough times, you just know what it means. But that doesn't mean that you can translate the word... The word that has perplexed us translators several times is l'accoglienzaThat's because in recent times, it conjures up the image of boat people and migrants needing shelter and help as they come into the country. It is so much more than "welcoming" or "reception."




Pochi anni fa, nel corso del problema dei profughi che arrivavano a Lampedusa dall'Africa, la Caritas spezzina, ci hanno [sic: ci ha] chiesto di fare accoglienza.

A few years ago, during the problem with the refugees, who arrived in Lampedusa from Africa, the Caritas of La Spezia asked us to receive some of them.

Captions 1-3, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 6

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Accoglienza is a word Italians associate with everything people and organizations do to help refugees once they reach the shores of Italy. When refugees land on the island of Lampedusa, for example, in Sicily, it's necessary to find accommodations, temporary housing, job possibilities, health care, food, and more. All of this is accoglienza. We've seen accoglienza used this way before in Yabla videos. 

In Sposami, a young Polish man wants to get married in an immigrant shelter.

Dentro il centro di accoglienza c'è una piccola cappella.

Inside the immigrant shelter, there is a small chapel.

Caption 34, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

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So it can mean "shelter," either for the homeless, migrants, or refugees, and can also be a rehabilitation center for addicts, or where people have AA meetings. It's for anyone who needs shelter or help and is often called un centro di accoglienza (sheltering center). In the same episode of Sposami, it's called a "community center" in English. In fact, we can't know for sure what kind of shelter it is. 

Ma... come mai avete scelto di sposarvi in un centro di accoglienza?

But... why did you choose to get married in a community center?

Caption 42, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

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You will find various translations for centro di accoglienza and accoglienza itself, but we hope you have gotten the idea by now. 

e infatti riuscì a scappare dal centro di accoglienza prima di essere rimpatriata.

and, in fact, she managed to escape from the refugee center before she could be repatriated.

Caption 23, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 12

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The noun accoglienza comes from the verb accogliere

Signorina, non è certo questo il modo di accogliere delle potenziali clienti, no?

Miss, this certainly isn't any way to welcome potential clients is it?

Caption 55, La Ladra EP. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3

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Sometimes accogliere can mean "to receive."

Perché hanno proprio... sembrano quasi dei letti pronti per accogliere la salma...

Because they have actual... they almost look like beds ready to receive the corpses...

Captions 13-14, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 4

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And, although the English word  "la reception" is used in places like hotels, accoglienza can mean "the hospitality." 


In a future lesson, we will look at related verbs, such as cogliere and raccogliere

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Addressing people in Italian

As we have seen and heard in Yabla videos, addressing people in Italian isn't always easy to figure out. Let's try to make some sense out of it.


In I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, for example, Lojacono always introduces himself as ispettore (detective) Lojacono, not commissario (inspector), but some people call him commissario, just in case. The following exchange highlights the tendency of many people (often of an older generation) to address someone with a higher rank than the person actually has. That way, they feel they can avoid offending the person.  

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, commissario bello. -No, ispettore, sempre ispettore sono.

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, kind Inspector. -No. Detective. I am still a detective.

Captions 41-42, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP 3 Vicini - Part 3

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This often means addressing someone as dottore (doctor) or dottoressa (female doctor). The idea is that you can't go wrong that way.


While ispettore or commissario are often used by themselves, we find that questore (commissioner) will likely have signor before it. That's just the way it works. 

Buonasera, signor questore.

Good evening, Commissioner, sir.

Caption 10, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 28

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As Marika tells us in her video about different professions:

Ciao. Il termine "dottore" viene da "dotto", che vuole dire sapiente. Puoi diventare dottore se hai studiato tanto e hai ottenuto una laurea.

Hi. The term "doctor" comes from "dotto," which means "learned." You can become a doctor if you have studied a great deal and you have attained a degree.

Captions 3-6, Marika spiega Medico o dottore?

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In a workplace where people are formal, the boss is often addressed as dottore or dottoressa, whether or not he or she has a degree. It's a sign of respect. In the following example, the speaker is a secretary or an assistant and she is speaking to her boss, who is a notary. 

Ci dica, dottore.

What is it, sir?

Caption 36, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 19

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Again, in I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, we have a female DA. People address her as dottoressa, because they assume that she has a degree and because she has a position that warrants respect. In Italy, once you have your university degree, called un dottorato, you can be called dottore or dottoressa

Cosa prende, dottoressa? -Un caffè.

What will you have, Ma'am? -A coffee.

Caption 6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 8

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It's always tricky to translate these forms of address because they are so different from English usage. In the previous example, we opted for "Ma'am." But we could imagine Lojacono saying, "What will you have, DA Piras?" 


If you are dealing with a professional, it is customary (in many cases) to use their professional title in addressing them. Daniela talks about this in her video lessons about writing formal letters and emails. The same can hold true when addressing someone in person. 


Allora, se il destinatario possiede un titolo riconosciuto, e quindi è importante scriverlo, possiamo sostituire "signor" e "signora" con il titolo.

So, if the recipient has a recognized qualification, and therefore it is important to write it, we can replace "Mister" and "Missus" with the title.

Captions 1-4, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera formale - Part 3

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If the person is an architect, for example, you can say architetto instead of signore

Architetto, Lei abita qua?

Architect, do you live here?

Caption 12, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 13

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Of course, if you don't know he is an architetto, then signore will do fine, or signor and his last name. 


But this also exhibits the Italian tendency to avoid using names when addressing someone. Sometimes you don't know someone's name, so you use signore, signora, or signorina according to gender and presumed age group. 


When the person being addressed is a young man, we can use giovanotto in a semi-formal way. It's perhaps used more by older folks. Younger folks might just say, ragazzo or ragazzino.

Giovanotto, ma che stiamo facendo? Il cinema?

Young man, what are we doing? Making a movie?

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

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For a young woman or girl, signorina is the way to go. When in doubt, signorina is more flattering than signora.

Lei, signorina, ha un grande talento.

You, Miss, have great talent.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 16

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Let's remember that language is in constant evolution. It also changes according to the region. If you are traveling in Italy, you need to keep your eyes and ears open to see how people handle addressing you and others.


If you have watched La linea verticale, you will have noticed that patients and their family members often call the surgeon, the specialist, or any lead doctor, professore,  while in English, we address all doctors as "Doctor."  Professore is higher up in the hierarchy than dottore. And to get into the nitty-gritty, there are occasions when we will capitalize someone's title, to give them even more importance. In Italian, this is called maiuscola di rispetto o reverenziale  (capitalization out of respect or reverence). So sometimes professore will merit a capital letter and become Professore

Buongiorno, Professore. -Come stai? -Bene, Professore, però non sento le gambe.

Hello, Doctor. -How are you? -Fine, Doctor, but I don't feel my legs.

Captions 42-44, La linea verticale EP4 - Part 5

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In certain situations, there is a mix of familiar and formal. In a business, you might call your boss dottore, but pair it with his first name. Dottor Nino, for example, or dottoressa Cecilia. The same goes for signor and signora. Lots of times, you don't know someone's last name, so you can still address them formally, by using their first name: signor Giorgio, signora Letizia, or signorina Giulia.

We have addressed the question of forms of address in past lessons, so check out these lessons:


How to address your teacher in Italian

Getting someone's attention in Italian: ascoltare and sentire 

The dottore is in


In a future lesson, we'll get into specifics about addressing people with certain jobs. 


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Travel vocabulary 2 - Arriving

When traveling to Italy, we might arrive by plane. So let's go over some vocabulary you might need when you arrive and when you go back to the airport.



You might want to send a message to your host to say you have landed. 

Questa, questa è una matta scatenata. Guardi, guardi questo telex: è appena atterrata a Saigon, senza autorizzazione, senza addebito su banca locale,

This gal, this gal is an unleashed madwoman. Look, look at this telex: She just landed in Saigon, without authorization, without access to funds at area banks,

Captions 18-20, L'Oriana film - Part 4

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Your text could just use one word and say, "Atterrati!" 

If you say atterrati, you're including yourself and the other passengers on the flight (using the first person plural). You can also choose to say this in the singular: atterrata (if you are female) or atterrato (if you are a male). The verb is atterrare.  We can detect the word terra in atterrareLa terra means "the earth," or "the land."


You might want to let someone know your flight is delayed. 

Il volo è in ritardo (the flight is late/delayed).

Siamo in ritardo (we're late).

Il volo ha subito un ritardo (the flight underwent a delay).


Trovi? -Eh, e sei arrivata pure in ritardo.

You think so? -Yeah, you even came late.

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 8

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You might want to meet your host outside in front of "Arrivals." Gli arrivi.

Ah, il mio volo arriva un'ora dopo il tuo. Aspettami agli arrivi, eh.

Ah, my flight arrives one hour later than yours. Wait for me at "arrivals," huh.

Captions 60-61, Sei mai stata sulla Luna? film - Part 2

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If you have to take a taxi, you will see that the word is the same as in English, even though the official Italian word is tassìO con il taxi e qui c'è la stazione dei taxi.

Or by taxi, and here there's the taxi stand.

Caption 40, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

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You might hear tassì, but it's easily understandable. 

Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso.

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room.

Caption 1, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 15

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When present, la metropolitana is a fast and convenient way to get around big cities, such as Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin. 

Poi, ho preso la metropolitana e sono scesa a Rho Fiera Milano;

Then I took the subway and got off at "Rho Fiera Milano,"

Caption 26, Marika spiega Expo 2015 - Part 2

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After your stay, you might go back to the airport. 

Per arrivare all'aeroporto di Firenze c'è un bus, un autobus che parte dalla stazione degli autobus, che è laggiù.

To get to the Florence airport, there's a bus, a bus that leaves from the bus station, which is down there.

Captions 38-39, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

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L'uscita (the gate) is where you show your carta d'imbarco boarding pass and passaporto (passport) and then board the plane. L'uscita comes from the verb uscire (to exit). L'imbarco comes from the verb imbarcare (to board). In turn, it comes from the noun la barca (the boat). Obviously, the term came into being before airplanes!

Attenzione, prego. Stiamo per imbarcare il volo Enitalia settantadue settanta diretto a Kingston. Tutti i passeggeri sono pregati di recarsi all'uscita B ventuno, uscita B ventuno.

Attention please. We're about to board Enitalia flight seventy-two seventy to Kingston. All passengers are requested to make their way to gate B twenty-one. Gate B twenty-one.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 7

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When you hear your volo (flight) announced, you might also hear a destinazione di ..... and then the city you are flying to. Or you might hear diretto a (in the direction of) as in the previous example.

No pare, ha acquistato un biglietto aereo. Stesso volo, stessa destinazione della moglie della vittima.

It doesn't seem, he did buy a plane ticket. Same flight, same destination as the victim's wife.

Captions 53-54, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 10

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Words we have discussed in this lesson:

imbarcare (to board)

la carte d'imbarco (the boarding pass)

il passaporto (the passport)

l'aeroporto (the airport)

l'uscita (the gate)

il tassì / il taxi (the taxi)

la metropolitana / la metro (the underground, the subway)

gli arrivi (arrivals)

atterrare (to land)

a destinazione di  (traveling to)

diretto a (in the direction of)

il volo (the flight)

in ritardo (late, delayed)

il ritardo (the delay)

il passaggero (the passenger)



More travel vocabulary in a future lesson. See part 1 here. And let us know if there are travel topics you would like to know more about. Write to us at

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Travel vocabulary - 1: Trains and buses

When traveling, it's good to have a handle on the words we might need when getting around a new place. But depending on where we are and who we are talking with, we might hear different names for the same thing. 



Taking the train

The word for "train" is easy. It's il treno

Where do we catch or meet a train? Alla stazione. That's a good cognate, too. So already these two words, il treno and la stazione are essential to have in your toolkit.


One important question you might want to ask is: Dov'è la stazione (where is the train station)? Or you can keep it even simpler:

Allora, dico: "scusi, per la stazione?" Semplicissimo.

So, I say, "Excuse me, for the station?" Very simple.

Caption 18, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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We don't always need to speak in full sentences, and when we do try, we can easily stumble. You can even just say: La stazione?


The railroad

When we're talking about the railroad in general, however, we usually say la ferrovia. The rails are made of iron, and ferro means "iron." Via is "way" or "road," so it makes sense. 

Il ponte della ferrovia,

The railroad bridge,

Caption 45, Rosalba al parco della donna gatto - Part 1

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Ferrovia isn't too hard to pronounce, but when we turn it into an adjective, it's a bit trickier. 

...e la ricevuta di un biglietto ferroviario di sola andata Bologna-Roma.

...and the receipt for a train ticket, one way, Bologna to Rome.

Captions 16-17, Provaci ancora prof! S2E5 Vita da cani - Part 6

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Taking the bus

There are 3 different terms people use when they refer to a bus. The easiest one is autobus, as it contains the word "bus" we recognize. 


L'autobus often refers to local transportation within a city, but it's also used generally, especially by young people. 

Da qui partono gli autobus, tra l'altro, per gli aeroporti di Pisa e di Firenze...

From here, the buses leave for the Pisa and Florence airports, among other places...

Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

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La corriera is a term that's a bit outdated (and it was used for stagecoaches in earlier times), but if you are talking to someone of a certain age, or if you are in a remote village, corriera is a term they might use.

Mi scusi, la corriera per Milano?

Excuse me, the bus for Milan?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 9

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Attenzione! Let's also mention that both la corriera (the bus) and il corriere (the courier) have the same origins. In earlier times, a stagecoach would carry passengers but also letters and packages. Nowadays, la corriera carries passengers and il corriere carries packages. We can detect the verb correre in the term, which hints at speed.


Usually, with la stazione, it is pretty clear you are talking about the train station, but if you are asking for the bus station, you will want to specify that. Il pullman, is a word you'll likely recognize from English. 

È arrivata zia, è alla stazione dei pullman.

My aunt has arrived. She's at the bus station.

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 11

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Note that la corriera is feminine and il pullman is masculine. Often, these two terms indicate buses that go long distances, from city to city (like Greyhound in the U.S). 


When there is a proper bus station, you can buy your biglietto (ticket) at la biglietteria, but more and more, there are self-service machines where you can pay in cash or by credit card. In some places, however, you have to buy your ticket at the bar or dal tabaccaio (at the tobacconist's). 


Taking the tram

Some cities have had trams since the 19th century. In some cities, they were once in vogue, then went out of vogue, but are coming back. Whoever is interested in an overview of the tramways in Italy can consult this Wikipedia article. It's called il tram in Italian (so that's easy!). It runs on rails and is (now) electric. 

Bene, una volta arrivati a Napoli, prendete il tram che vi porta al porto.

Good, once you've arrived in Naples, you'll get a tram that will take you to the harbor.

Caption 28, Marika spiega I veicoli

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Other cities have a kind of bus that's powered electrically, from above. It's called il filobus (the trolley bus). Il filo is the word for "the wire".




Here are the words we discussed in this lesson. In a future lesson, we'll dive deeper into travel vocabulary, as this list is only partial.


l'autobus (the city bus)

la corriera (the bus, the coach)

il corriere (the courier)

il pullman (the bus, the long-distance bus)

il treno (the train)

la ferrovia (the railroad)

il biglietto (the ticket)

la stazione (the station)

il filobus (the trolley bus)



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3 verbs that end in -are

Three interesting verbs found in this week's videos are:






All three have very literal translations, but they have nuances, too, that are important to know for anyone looking to get comfortable speaking Italian.



Gonfiare (to inflate)


The adjective gonfio comes from the verb gonfiare (to inflate). So we can talk about pumping up our tires, or blowing up a balloon.

"Andare a gonfie vele" significa che tutto procede al meglio.

"Going with full sails" [full steam ahead] means that everything is proceeding well.

Caption 27, Marika spiega Espressioni legate al mare e al mondo nautico - Part 2

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We can imagine a full sail puffing out and looking swollen.


There is a reflexive form as well, so when we get a bruise, sometimes it swells — Si gonfia.

Poi l'universo ha cominciato a gonfiarsi, a gonfiarsi come un palloncino.

Then the universe began to inflate, to inflate like a balloon.

Captions 3-4, Illuminate Margherita Hack - Part 10

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We can use the past participle as an adjective with pallone to mean "hot air balloon," figuratively speaking.

Ma che infame, mentitore, pallone gonfiato, pieno di sé.

You are wicked, a liar, a hot-air balloon, full of yourself.

Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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Cioè, tu hai permesso a quel pallone gonfiato di usare la mia cucina per fare la sua torta?

That is, you allowed that hot-air balloon to use my kitchen to make his cake?

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3

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Translating is not an exact science, so we're not talking about the kind of serene mongolfiera (hot air balloon) we see floating over the countryside, but rather someone who is full of him/herself and hot air (instead of substance). Un pallone is "a big ball" (also a soccer ball), so it can also refer to someone's head if we're thinking about the shape, but un palloncino is "a balloon," so un pallone could also be a big balloon, like one of those hot air balloons. We can talk about someone spouting hot air, so although a direct translation doesn't exactly do the trick, now you get the idea! You undoubtedly know someone who is un pallone gonfiato.


Rosicare (to gnaw)


This verb can be used in reference to animals, such as a dog gnawing at a bone, but it's used with people, too, when they are envious. Here's a little scene from JAMS where someone tends to be a sore loser. Once again, it is a bit tough to translate precisely. That's why we wrote a lesson about it. 

No! -E mamma mia, non rosicare sempre! Abbiamo perso, no "non rosicare"! -E va be', abbiamo perso correttamente, però. -Non va bene.

No! -For heaven's sake, don't always let it gnaw at you! We lost, not "Don't let it gnaw!" -OK, so what? We lost fair and square, though. -It's not OK.

Captions 11-13, JAMS S1 EP 3 - Part 5

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Ignorare is a very interesting verb, together with the adjective, ignorante, that comes from it. It is a partially true cognate, but not totally, and that is why we are mentioning it here. 


One meaning of ignorare is "to ignore," in other words, to neglect to take into consideration. But its other meaning is "not to know." There's a big difference between the two! So in the following passage, it's not totally clear which it is. 

Farà male? -Vuoi la verità? Sì. -Anna. E così mi ignori la primissima regola di questo mestiere.

Will it hurt? -Do you want the truth? Yes. -Anna. And so you ignore the very first rule of this profession on me.

Captions 3-5, La linea verticale EP8 - Part 2

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In this next example, the meaning clearly has to do with not being schooled, with not knowing how to read and write, for example.

Sarò anche una povera vecchia contadina ignorante,

I might even be an old, ignorant farm woman,

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 7

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But ignorante is widely used to mean something similar to maleducato — being a boor or a lout. We can see how it is combined with other similar insults here.

Prepotente, zotico, ignorante!

Arrogant, boorish, rude!

Caption 3, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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Can you use these words to describe someone you know or someone you've seen in televisione or al cinema


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The verb aspettare and its nuances

If you look up the verb aspettare in the dictionary, the first English translation you will find is "to wait." Or almost. You might see "to await." That is because, even though we don't use the verb "to await" much in general conversation, it's a transitive verb, and so is aspettare. They can line up. So that's something to remember.


Aspettare is transitive most of the time (except when it means something like "Hey wait!"). We don't need a preposition after it as we do in English — "to wait for." This lesson isn't about English, but let's just mention that lots of people use "to wait on" in certain contexts, and other people use "to wait for." In Italian, we don't have to worry about that. 

Adesso bisogna aspettare il risultato dell'autopsia e poi finalmente potrete organizzare il funerale.

Now we have to wait for the results of the autopsy and then, finally, you'll be able to organize the funeral.

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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Waiting with aspettare


Just as in English, we can use the imperative form aspetta! (informal singular), aspettate! (informal plural), aspettiamo (first person plural) or aspetti (formal, singular) on its own to mean "Wait!"

Aspetta, aspetta, ti levo il cerotto piano piano. Aspetta, aspetta.

Wait, wait, I'll remove the band-aid slowly, slowly. Wait, wait.

Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 12

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Aspettate, lascio il libro sul tavolo

Wait, I'll leave the book on the table

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il futuro - Part 4

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Dottor Barale, aspetti!

Mister Barale, wait!

Caption 29, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 18

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In a question, let's remember again that aspettare is transitive. So if you want to ask the common question: "What are you waiting for?" you don't need the preposition. 

Mai. -E che aspetti?

Never. -And what are you waiting for?

Caption 44, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 8

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Expectations with aspettarsi


When we use aspettare reflexively, in other words — aspettarsi — the meaning changes. It becomes "to expect." 

Cioè, il ladro può essere entrato in biblioteca senza aspettarsi che Fazi fosse lì.

That is, the thief could have gone into the library without expecting Fazi to be there.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 7

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So when the verb is conjugated rather than in the infinitive, we have to look for an object pronoun (or noun). Here are two examples. The first is not reflexive so aspettare here means "to wait."

Erano cinque anni che aspettavo questo momento.

I'd been waiting five years for this moment.

Caption 16, L'Oriana film - Part 15

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If we find an object pronoun nearby (in this case mi), then we're likely looking at the reflexive version of aspettare and it will mean "to expect." And in many cases, we'll see some sort of preposition afterwards. In the examples below, first we have di and then, in the next example, we have da. We also often find the conjunction che, as in the third example below. 

Grazie. -E non mi aspettavo di rivedervi così presto.

Thank you. -Uh, I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon.

Caption 21, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 19

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Cosa ti aspetti da questo Real Madrid?

What do you expect from this Real Madrid [team]?

Caption 12, Spot Sky Sport con Perrotta, Totti, Marchisio

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Mi aspettavo che tu fossi più sincera,

I expected that you'd be more sincere,

Caption 30, Anna e Marika Il verbo essere - Part 4

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And, since an expectation is often tied to uncertainty, and che triggers the subjunctive, we will likely find the subjunctive form of the verb in the subordinate clause. 


The nuance


But... sometimes the difference is nuanced. For example, when a person is pregnant, we use "expecting" in English. In Italian, not necessarily. 


We usually hear the non-reflexive form of aspettare

È vero, aspetto un bambino da Arturo.

It's true, I am expecting a baby of Arturo's.

Caption 6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 21

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When you're expecting a package, or sometimes a person, you'll likely use the non-reflexive version. 

Senta, Lei è un bel tipo, io non lo posso negare, però io sto aspettando una persona molto importante.

Listen, you're a cute guy, I can't deny it, but I'm expecting a very important person.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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Another case in which English might use "expect," is when you invite someone and then you expect them at a certain hour. "I'll be expecting you!" Italians just use aspettare. Think of the end of a video when Marika talks about seeing you in the next video. She might say: 

Io ti lascio lavorare in pace e ti aspetto nel prossimo video!

I'll leave you to work in peace, and I'll be waiting for you in the next video!

Caption 56, Marika spiega I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

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We've translated this with the verb "to wait," because there is no reflexive, but it could have been, "I'll be expecting you in the next video" or "I look forward to seeing you in the next video." 


If we look at the Italian translation of the verb "to expect," we can see that there are all sorts of nuances. But what we can say is that when it's about waiting for something to arrive, as in expecting a package, expecting a child, or expecting a guest, we can use aspettare


This is one more thing to have fun paying attention to when you watch Yabla videos!


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Talking about the seasons in Italian

Do you already know the 4 seasons in Italian? Here they are.

L'inverno (the winter)

La primavera (the spring)

L'estate (the summer)

L'autunno (the autumn)


Check out this beginner video.

Ciao, sono Marika e oggi ti insegnerò i giorni della settimana, le stagioni e i mesi dell'anno.

Hi, I'm Marika and today I'm going to teach you the days of the week, the seasons and the months of the year.

Captions 1-2, Marika spiega Settimana, stagioni e mesi

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Adriano talks about the 4 seasons, what to wear, the colors he associates with each, his favorites, and so on. 

Oggi vi parlerò delle stagioni.

Today I'm going to talk to you about the seasons.

Caption 2, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Grammar tip: The noun la stagione is one of those nouns that ends in E. We don't think of it automatically as being feminine because it doesn't end in A as the majority of feminine nouns do. But it is indeed feminine, so when we form the plural we have to add an I at the end (there's already an e in the singular!). La stagione, le stagioni. We just have to think a bit harder when using these kinds of nouns. 


So if you aren't familiar with the seasons, the videos mentioned above will help out. But in this lesson, we're going to talk about words that have to do with the seasons, or words or expressions that include the Italian word for season: stagione.  


In the following example, Marika is talking about an Italian household ritual, often left to la mamma (the mom). It's a common excuse for not going out with friends on a weekend at the end of April or October. It's a thankless job, but also a good opportunity for throwing things away — eliminare (to eliminate), scartare (to discard), dar via (to give away). It's il cambio degli armadi (the closet switching), or il cambio di stagione.

Come tu ben sai, eh, l'Italia, come anche altri paesi del mondo, è soggetta alle stagioni, e quindi noi ogni sei mesi facciamo il cambio di stagione, che vuol dire che svuotiamo il nostro armadio dei vestiti invernali e le [sic] prepariamo a quelli primaverili ed estivi, oppure autunnali.

As you well know, uh, Italy, like other countries in the world, is subject to the seasons, and so every six months, we do a season change, which means that we empty our closet of winter clothes and we prepare them [sic] for the spring or summer ones, or else the fall ones.

Captions 24-27, Marika spiega L'abbigliamento - Part 1

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***A note about how things work in Italy. In apartments and homes, it's not so common for there to be built-in closets. You have to buy one, and they take up a lot of space in the bedroom. The bigger ones are often called quattro stagioni (four seasons) because you put the things up high that you don't need for the current season, and do some rotating during the year, to have the clothes you need handy. 


When we talk about the seasons, we tend to first think about the more extreme ones, summer and winter, with their relative temperatures, caldo (hot) and freddo (cold). The seasons in between — spring and fall — have their characteristics, too. La primavera (spring) is often referred to as la bella stagione. La bella stagione can also simply refer to "the warm weather," or the season in which the weather is nice and warm.

A risvegliarsi dal torpore invernale, sono uomini ed animali, decisi a sfruttare la bella stagione per esplorare nuovi sentieri in una natura selvaggia, ma accogliente.

Awakening from the winter torpor are men and animals, determined to take advantage of the "beautiful season" [spring] to explore new paths in a wild but welcoming nature.

Captions 24-26, Formaggi D'autore - Part 3

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Another way to think about the in-between seasons of primavera and autunno, is by calling them "half-seasons" or "in-between seasons," La mezza stagione. This applies primarily to what to wear. La mezza stagione is when we tend to dress a cipolla (like an onion, in layers) and be ready for anything. But it can also refer to "mid-season."

Ma l'ultima neve ha i giorni contati. In un paesaggio da mezza stagione, la transizione verso la primavera è iniziata.

But the days of the last snow are numbered. In a mid-season landscape, the transition to spring has begun.

Captions 21-23, Formaggi D'autore - Part 3

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The best time to buy clothes for less is a fine stagione (at the end of the season). That's when shops have saldi (sales).

Tigrotto, non avevo più niente da mettermi e ho comprato due cosine ai saldi. -Hai fatto bene, ma...

Tiger Cub, I had nothing to wear and I bought two little things at the sales. -You did the right thing, but...

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 17

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If you are traveling to Italy and want to save money, you'll go during la bassa stagione (the off-season). Prices are cheaper. We can also talk about fuori stagione ("out of the season" or "off-season") indicating the non-tourist season. 

Questa bella piscina, che non è sempre così perché siamo fuori stagione e di solito è più ricca di persone, perché è sempre pieno qua di persone. Questa casa vacanze che è, insomma, è per poter [sic] ospitare delle famiglie,

This beautiful swimming pool, which isn't always like this because we're in the off season... and usually it's more crowded with people, because here it's always full of people. This vacation rental that is, in short, is to be able to host families,

Captions 41-44, Sicilia - Marsala Casa vacanze Torre Lupa

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50 good-to know adjectives part 5

We've come to the final 10 adjectives of the list of 50 good-to-know Italian adjectives. If you can learn these and use them in a sentence, you will have a good basis for conversation in many situations. Of course, there are many more and we'll feature new lists from time to time. 


41) simpatico (likeable, congenial, nice)

This is such a great Italian adjective, but it’s hard to translate into English. It describes a person that you want to get to know, someone who is attractive as a person, rather than physically, someone with a great personality, and a warm smile. More about simpatico here.

E poi il cuoco è uno simpatico, stava simpatico pure a te.

And besides, the cook is a nice guy. You liked him, too.

Caption 62, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 9

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41a) antipatico (unpleasant, troublesome, nasty)

The opposite of simpatico, antipatico can describe a person, but also behavior or a situation.

È severo e pure un po' antipatico.

He is stern and also a bit unfriendly.

Caption 41, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 4

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Ti devo dare una notizia un po’ antipatica (I have to give you some unpleasant news).

Il mio insegnante di Italiano è veramente antipatico (my Italian teacher is really not very nice).


42-42a) Educato (polite, well-behaved, good-mannered) and its opposite, maleducato (rude, ill-mannered, impolite) have nothing, or very little, to do with going to school and getting an education. They have to do with manners and behavior, and also training as regards children and animals.

È una ragazza madre ed è una persona tanto carina, tanto gentile, educata.

She's a single mother and is a very nice person, very kind, polite.

Caption 43, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 6

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Non si azzardi più a chiamarmi a quest'ora, maleducato!

Don't you dare call me again at this hour, how rude!

Caption 69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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In other words, educato and maleducato are generally false friends. They do not mean "educated" and "uneducated."


43) Sospettoso mostly describes a person. For something that’s suspicious-looking, the adjective sospetto is normally used. Il sospetto is a noun that means  “the suspect.”

No, il barone era sospettoso e faceva assaggiare il cibo prima di mangiare alla moglie,

No, the baron was suspicious and had the food tasted, before eating it, by his wife,

Captions 14-16, Caravaggio EP1 - Part 20

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44) affettuoso (affectionate, loving, tender)

Un tipo affascinante, simpatico, affettuoso.

A charming, friendly, affectionate type.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 10

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45) ingenuo (naive, gullible, inexperienced, innocent)

Someone who is ingenuo isn’t all that familiar with the ways of the world. They may be too trustful and might easily get conned.

Mi crede così ingenuo da affidare a Lei un compito così delicato?

Do you think I'm so naive that I would entrust such a delicate task to you?

Caption 47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 3

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46) tranquillo (tranquillo, calm, with no worries)

This very useful adjective covers a lot of ground, so it’s a good one to have in your Italian vocabulary. If you travel in Italy, you’ll undoubtedly hear this expression a lot: Stai tranquillo. It means, “Don’t worry.” The polite version is Stia tranquillo. It can also mean, “Stay calm.”

Lei non è incriminato di niente, deve stare tranquillo, va bene?

You haven't been incriminated of anything, you can rest easy, all right?

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 7

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47) preoccupato (worried, concerned)

This adjective looks like it should mean “preoccupied,” but it basically means “worried.” 

Sono molto preoccupato per mio figlio (I’m very worried about my son).

And someone might say to you:

Non ti preoccupare (Don’t worry). 

And if the situation is formal:

Non si preoccupi (Don’t worry [formal]).

More about worrying in Italian, here.

48) intelligente (intelligent)
This is an easy cognate and it means just what you would think!


49) stupido (stupid)
This is another adjective that means just what you would imagine it would.


50) pazzo (crazy)

This is a fun word and primarily describes a person or animal. Note that just as in English we can be crazy about something or someone, Italian uses this adjective, too.

Sono pazza/pazzo di te (I’m crazy about you).

And “to go crazy” is diventare pazzo (to become crazy).


When we are talking about something, on the other hand, we need the adjective pazzesco. Pazzo is only for humans and animals.

Hai avuto un successo pazzesco, eh?

You were wildly successful, huh?

Caption 1, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 2

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51) furbo (clever, cunning, shrewd)

Ho detto: "Non fare il furbo".

I said "Don't be a wise guy."

Caption 39, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sul Piemonte

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This adjective can either be positive or somewhat pejorative, depending on the context. It is sometimes transformed into a noun, as in the example above.

And with that, we’ve given you more than 50 (but who’s counting?) good-to-know Italian adjectives to put in your pocket. Try them out for size — practice them as you go about your day, observing your human, animal, and physical surroundings.

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Practical examples of these adjectives can be found throughout Yabla videos available with a subscription. Yabla offers you the possibility of learning at your own pace and through videos pertaining to your interests. Expand your horizons by learning one of the most romantic languages in the world.


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A tale of 2 related adverbs: a malapena and appena

Let's check out this great Italian two-word adverb: a malapena. We rarely, if ever, see malapena without its preposition, so we can almost think of it as one word. Let's look at some examples in context to absorb its meaning, and then we'll unpack it.



In this first example, Imma, the deputy public prosecutor of the city of Matera, is at a dinner party at the home of one of her colleagues, the last place she wanted to be, and in fact, some of the other guests are making disparaging remarks about her. 

Pensare che parlava a malapena l'italiano e mò [lucano: ora] è diventata pure PM [Pubblico Ministero].

Just think that she barely spoke Italian and now she has even become a public prosecutor.

Captions 55-56, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi - Part 10

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In this wonderful film for TV, based on a true story about teaching adults how to read and write on TV, Antonio argues with the school principal criticizing his teaching methods. He defends himself by asking her why his methods work, while hers clearly don't. 

Mi sa spiegare perché a malapena sanno leggere e scrivere?

Can you explain to me why they can barely read and write?

Captions 62-63, Non è mai troppo tardi EP 2 - Part 5

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In La tempesta, a comedy set in the Venetian city of Treviso, Paolo, a photographer, knocks at the door of his new neighbor (a woman), wanting a favor. She doesn't want to open the door.

No, io a malapena ti conosco. No. -Va bene, allora facciamo le presentazioni:

No. I hardly know you. No. -All right, then let's introduce ourselves.

Captions 50-51, La Tempesta film - Part 1

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In the next example, the context is a bit different, as we are talking about the number of bottles of wine a new winery has produced.  

Cavour impiega almeno una quindicina di anni per riuscire a produrre le prime bottiglie. Sono a malapena cento.

Cavour takes at least fifteen years to succeed in producing the first bottles. There were barely a hundred of them.

Captions 38-40, Meraviglie EP. 5 - Part 2

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If we look up a malapena in the dictionary, we find some synonyms: a stento, a fatica, con fatica. But if we do a little more digging, we see it also means appena. If we look for the etymology, we find that malapena is malo (an adjective meaning "bad" or an adverb meaning "badly") plus pena. While la pena is a noun meaning "suffering," a malapena likely comes from appena, from the Latin "ad paene," meaning "almost." In addition, the verb penare means "to struggle." One translation of a malapena is "with difficulty." The evolution of a word, as we have seen on many occasions, is not a straight line!


So we could say a malapena means "almost" but in the negative sense, in other words, "barely."  We can use it when we have gone further than "almost," but just by a hair. You made it, but you almost didn't make it! And it took an effort, a struggle, to make it by that small margin. 


So if we take our video examples, one by one, we could give these alternative (though inelegant) translations:


"She almost didn't speak Italian." "She struggled to speak Italian."

"They almost don't know how to read and write." "They struggle to read and write."

"I almost don't know you."

"There were almost less than a hundred bottles." "It was a struggle to reach one hundred bottles." 


We could use appena in place of a malapena in our video examples (see above):


Pensare che parlava appena l'italiano...

Mi sa spiegare perché sanno appena leggere e scrivere?

No, io ti conosco appena.

Sono appena cento [bottiglie].


Using a malapena instead of appena gives the idea more weight, more effort to reach a limit. With mal as a sort of prefix (meaning malo), there is also a hint of a negative connotation.


In a previous lesson, we looked at the adverb appena in a different context to mean "as soon as" and "just as."  But we also use appena to mean "a small amount." Almost nothing! 


In the following example, we can keep to the "almost" meaning by thinking that they almost didn't know each other!

Lui e lei si sono appena conosciuti, ma già si amano.

He and she just met, but they already love each other.

Captions 6-7, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 19

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Appena in tempo, translated as "just in time," could also be interpreted as "almost late."

"Basta!" -Appena in tempo.

"Stop!" -Just in time.

Caption 33, Dixiland Coppa di cioccolato

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Here is an example of appena used just like a malapena.

Lo conoscevo proprio appena, perché vivo in Italia da un anno e...

I barely knew him, because I've been living in Italy for a year, and...

Caption 8, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 3

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I almost didn't know him, because...


To round out this lesson about a malapena and appena, let's just add that when you are talking about something very, very slight, it's common to repeat the adverb appena.

Qui ci sono ancora le tracce del colore originario che si riescono appena appena a vedere.

Here, there are still traces of the original color which one can just barely see.

Captions 13-14, In giro per l'Italia Asciano - S. Giuliano Terme: Villa Bosniascki - Part 2

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For sure, appena is used more often than a malapena, but now we see where they cross paths. Do a Yabla search of appena on the videos page and you will see scores of examples. See if you can single out the nuances of meaning. 


Have questions or comments? Write to us. We love to hear from you!


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Using suffixes for emphasis

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


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



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


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


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


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

E io farò un bel calduccio.

And I will make some nice heat.

Caption 50, PIMPA S3 EP 5 Il signor Inverno

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Sometimes -uccio is a suffix of endearment.


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

Tesoruccio mio, ti prego, perdonami.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Com'è andata l'audizione? -Maluccio.

How did the audition go? -Pretty badly.


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


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


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


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50 Italian good-to-know adjectives part 4 - emotions

Good-to-know Italian Adjectives Describing Someone’s Mood or Feelings

31) felice (happy)

Apart from its most common meaning, felice can also mean “fitting” or "well-chosen.” We can also make this adjective into its opposite by adding the prefix in: infelice = unhappy.

Sono felice di averLa conosciuta.

I'm happy to have met you.

Caption 48, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 1

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32) triste (sad)

Il canile è un luogo molto triste per un cane.

The dog pound is a very sad place for a dog.

Caption 11, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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Whereas infelice is a general state, triste more often describes a momentary feeling or something that brings on feelings of sadness, such as a sad story.

33) arrabbiato (angry)

When you eat in an Italian restaurant, you often find penne all’arrabbiata on the menu. The color is red, and it’s hot with peperoncino (hot pepper). The color red is associated with anger. The adjective comes from the verb arrabbiare (to get angry).

È arrabbiato con la moglie, allora se la prende con tutti.

He's angry with his wife, so he takes it out on everyone.

Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 1

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34) fiducioso (hopeful, confident, optimistic, trusting)

Italian doesn’t have a cognate for “hopeful,”— or rather, it does — speranzoso, but it is rarely used. As a result, fiducioso is a good bet, especially when you are optimistically hopeful. Fiducioso comes from the reflexive verb fidarsi (to trust) and the noun la fiducia (the trust).

Ma io sono fiduciosa.

But I am confident.

Caption 17, Sei mai stata sulla Luna? film - Part 13

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35) volenteroso (willing)

Non l'ho fatta io questa palla di neve, ma sicuramente qualcuno molto più volenteroso di me.

I didn't make this snowball, but for sure, somebody much keener than me.

Captions 39-40, Francesca neve - Part 3

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This adjective is used to describe a person who pitches in and helps, or is willing to learn. It comes from the verb volere (to want, to want to). Someone who is volenteroso will likely offer his or her services as a volunteer, a cognate to help you remember its meaning. See this Yabla lesson: Being Willing with Volentieri. When someone asks you to do something you would like to do, you can answer, Volentieri (I'd love to).

36) scoraggiato (discouraged, disheartened)

The s prefix turns incoraggiare (to encourage) into scoraggiare (to discourage), and the adjective scoraggiato comes from the past participle of the verb scoraggiare.

Sì, ma guarda, ne ho sentiti trentadue, un disastro. Sono veramente scoraggiata.

Yes, but look, I have heard thirty-two of them, a disaster. I am really discouraged.

Captions 9-10, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 10

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37) stufo (fed up, sick and tired)

This is a great adjective to have in your toolbox, and comes from stufare (literally, “to stew”). It’s commonly used in the reflexive — stufarsi (to get fed up with) — but the adjective is good to know, too.

Fabrizio, basta. Basta. Sono stufa delle tue promesse.

Fabrizio, that's enough. Enough. I'm sick of your promises.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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38) svogliato (unenthusiastic, listless)

Svogliato has the s prefix, indicating the opposite of the original word (often making it negative) and comes from the verb volere (to want). This is a great word for when you really don’t feel like doing what you have to do.

Oh, guarda un po' se c'è un programma per riattivare un marito svogliato?

Oh, look and see if there's a program for reactivating a listless husband.

Caption 49, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 5

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39) nervoso (tense, irritable, stressed out)

False friend alert! Nervoso really seems like a great translation for “nervous,” and it does have to do with nerves, but when you are nervous, there’s a different word (next on our list). Nervoso is more like when your kids are acting up and you have work to do and you are having trouble staying calm and collected. Irritable is a good equivalent. Stressed out works, too. See this Yabla lesson: Emozionato or Nervoso? What’s the Difference? 

Non ti innervosire, mica... -No, non sono nervoso, Toscani.

Don't get stressed out... it's not as if... -No, I'm not stressed out, Toscani.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 1

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40) emozionato (nervous, excited, moved, touched, thrilled).

Diciamo, adesso sono un po' emozionato, è la prima volta, vedo la cinepresa, registi, ciak, cose, insomma per me è una grande emozione questo momento.

Let's say, right now, I am a bit nervous. It's my first time. I see the camera, the directors, the clapperboard, in short, for me this is a moment of great excitement.

Captions 14-16, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 7

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See part 1

See part 2

See part 3

Learn more!
Practical examples of these adjectives can be found throughout Yabla videos. Yabla offers you the possibility of learning at your own pace through videos pertaining to your interests. Expand your horizons by learning one of the most romantic languages in the world.


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