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This and That - Questo e Quello

Questo/questa (this), and quello/quella (that) are both adjectives when they come before a noun or pronoun, and pronouns when replacing a noun. This happens in both English and Italian.


In the following examples, we have adjectives.


In questo caso, perché uso il congiuntivo?

In this case, why do I use the subjunctive?

Caption 10, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo

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Questa storia vuole dire che bisogna imparare dalle esperienze degli altri.

This story means that you need to learn from the experiences of others.

Caption 24, Adriano - Fiaba

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Quella donna ha sempre avuto un aria un po' triste, poveretta.

That woman has always had a sad air about her, poor thing.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola

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In the following example, quello is shortened to quel but it works the same way.


In quel caso non ho bisogno della preposizione.

In that case I do not need the preposition.

Caption 54, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito + preposizione DI

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If there were an “S” plus “P” in a masculine noun, as in the following example, we might say:

Luigi ha quello spirito di avventura che io non ho.
Luigi has that spirit of adventure that I do not have.


As a pronoun, questoquestaquello or quella may replace both objects and people. In some cases, it’s true in English, too, as in:

Questo è per te.
This is for you.

Here, in the same sentence, we have the pronoun and person the pronoun refers to.

Questa è mia zia.
This is my aunt.


But attenzione. In Italian, we can use the pronoun form to replace people or things even when in English we need the adjective form plus a pronoun. In the example below, questo is a pronoun, representing “this person” but in English, we need to use the adjective “this” plus the pronoun “one” that stands for a person we aren’t identifying by name. We could also say “this guy” or “that guy.”


Questo è pazzo completo, or more correctly, [questo è completamente pazzo]

This one/this guy is completely crazy.

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara

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So watch out for examples such as the above, where the Italian pronoun corresponds to an adjective plus pronoun in English. 


La sua scrivania è quella là, dottoressa.

Your desk is that one over there, ma'am.

Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola

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In English, we could say, “That’s your desk,” but it would be wrong to say, “Your desk is that over there.”


Uno di loro, per l'esattezza quello che voleva tagliarti la gola...

One of them, to be precise, the one who wanted to cut your throat...

Caption 23, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

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Sometimes, questoquesta, or quelloquella represents something unspecified and we might translate it as “what,” or “whatever.”


"Se fossi in te io non lo chiamerei,

“If I were you, I would not call him,

poi tu fai quello che ti senti di fare".

but you do whatever you feel up to doing.”

Captions 64-65, Marika spiega Gli avverbi - Avverbi di tempo

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When using these adjective/pronouns, we just need to remember that they work similarly in English and Italian, but only up to a point. What's been discussed here is a detail, but it can easily trip us up when we're trying to speak our best Italian or understand what someone is talking about.


Further learning:
As you watch Yabla videos, see if you can determine when questoquestaquello and quellabehave as adjectives and when they are pronouns. Don’t forget that you can also click on the transcript of a video and see the whole text printed out in one or both languages. It may be easier to pick them out.


Cercare, Tentare and Provare: to Try

Cercaretentareprovare: All three of these verbs have multiple meanings, but they are also all synonyms meaning “to try.” There are nuances in their meanings that lead us to choose one over the other in a given situation, but that will get easier over time.


This week Daniela explains about using the verb cercare with infinitives when it means “to try.” Cercare takes the preposition di (to) before a verb in the infinitive.


Cerco di aprire la bottiglia.

I try to open the bottle.

Caption 62, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito + preposizione DI

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We could use the verb tentare to mean much the same thing. It also takes the preposition di when used with a second verb in the infinitive.

Ho tentato di aprire la bottiglia, ma ...
I tried to open the bottle, but...


A helpful cognate for this verb is “to attempt.”

attempted to open the bottle...


We can say something similar with the verb provareAttenzione! Provare takes the preposition a. Daniela will soon be talking about this preposition. When she does, you’ll be ready!

Ho provato ad aprire la bottiglia.
I tried to open the bottle.


All three of these verbs have additional meanings.
Daniela told us about cercare. You use it when you’re searching for something.

Ho cercato il libro, ma non l’ho trovato.
I looked for the book but I didn’t find it.


Tentare has an additional meaning, “to tempt.“

Non mi tentare con quel dolce. Sono a dieta.
Don’t tempt me with that dessert. I’m on a diet.


There’s a noun form, too: una tentazione (a temptation).


Provare has an English cognate “to prove,” which is a synonym for dimostrare (to demonstrate).

Non ha rubato le scarpe, ma non lo può provare.
He didn't steal the shoes, but he can't prove it.


The noun form is la prova (the proof, the evidence).


e quindi tutte le prove sono a carico di Ninetta.

and so all the proof is against Ninetta.

Caption 63, Anna e Marika - in La Gazza Ladra

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But provare also has to do with feelings, and in this case is a synonym for sentire (to feel). In the following example the impersonal si is used.


Ce la fai a dirci che cosa si prova in questo momento?

Can you let us know what you're feeling right now?

È un'emozione grandissima, sono emozionatissima.

It's a very great emotion, I'm very excited.

Captions 8-9, Gioia Marconi - Vado avanti

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It should be mentioned that we use la prova, or le prove, for when we practice music, theater, or dance with others, when we rehearse. This meaning has more to do with provare when it means “to try.”


Dove devi andare?

Where do you have to go?

A fare le prove per il concerto.

To practice for the concert.

Captions 28-29, Milena e Mattia - L'incontro

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Try switching verbs among cercaretentare, and provare. Remember to use the correct preposition! In this exercise we are only dealing with cercaretentare and provare when they mean "to try."


Tutti i giorni, cerco di arrivare puntuale a scuola (every day, I try to get to school on time).


A volte provo ad andarci in bici, ma arrivo troppo stanco (sometimes I try to go by bike but I arrive tuckered out).


Ho tentato di chiedere un passaggio alla zia, ma lei parte troppo tardi (I tried asking my aunt for a ride, but she leaves too late).


Hai provato a chiamare il dottore (did you try to call the doctor)?


Tenterò di dire qualche parola in inglese (I will try to say a few words in English).


Cerca di parlare un po’ più piano, altrimenti non ti capiscano (try speaking more slowly, otherwise they don’t understand).


Cercherò di darti una  risposta entro questa settimana (I will try to give you an answer within the week).


L’ultima volta che ho cercato di cucinare il pesce, è stato un fallimento (the last time I tried cooking fish, it was a failure).