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Using 4 eyes to talk

There are some expressions that can be figured out if you know all the words, but which we would never come up with on our own. The expression we talk about in this lesson is a fun one. It's all about one-on-one conversations. 


Parlare a quattr'occhi

Here's the expression:

E ancora, "quattr'occhi". È meglio se io e te parliamo a quattr'occhi. Questa espressione vuol dire: in privato, tra di noi.

And further, "four eyes." "It's better if you and I talk with four eyes." This expression means "in private," between us.

Captions 45-47, Marika spiega L'elisione - Part 2

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Literally, this expression means, "to talk in the manner of four eyes." But let's unpack it so that it makes sense. 



Unpacking the expression a quattr'occhi


Parlare means "to talk, to speak." 

A is a preposition that can mean "at, to, in, by, "in the manner of," and other things too. For more about the preposition a, see these lessons.


Quattro means "four."

Occhi is the plural of occhio (eye).


This expression is all about talking face to face, in person, privately. This way, two people can look each other in the eye. 


Using the expression a quattr'occhi


So if you're on the phone with someone, or writing them an email, and you would prefer to have a conversation in person, or privately, you can say:

È meglio se parliamo a quattr'occhi.
It's better if we talk, just you and I.


The noun occhio

In the above-mentioned expression, there's no need for an article. But let's take the opportunity to talk about the noun occhio. It's a masculine noun, and since it starts with a vowel, we use L with an apostrophe for the singular: 

l'occhio (the eye).


But in the plural, it gets a bit more complicated. We need to use gli  as a plural article with a masculine noun beginning with a vowel.

gli occhi (the eyes).



It's a mouthful, for sure.  Here are some examples to watch and listen to! Listen carefully and try to repeat. If you do a search on the videos page, there will be plenty of other examples to try pronouncing.


Tieni gli occhi chiusi adesso, eh.

Keep your eyes closed, now, huh.

Caption 28, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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Dixi alzò gli occhi, guardò in cielo,

Dixi raised his eyes, and looked into the sky,

Caption 13, Dixiland Cometa caduta

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Per ora, posso semplicemente proteggere gli occhi dal sole con dei leggeri e maneggevoli occhiali da sole.

For now, I can simply protect my eyes from the sun with light and manageable sunglasses.

Captions 35-36, Francesca neve - Part 2

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Si fanno dei buchi per gli occhi e la maschera è pronta.

One makes holes for the eyes and the mask is ready.

Caption 36, Gatto Mirò EP3 La festa in maschera

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While we're here, let's note that in the examples above, in English we use a possessive pronoun, "my eyes," "his eyes," and so forth, but in Italian, when it's clear who we're talking about, we just use the article. 




Fare i conti (Taking Things into Account) Part 2

In a previous lesson, we talked about the noun conto as part of the phasal verb rendersi conto (to realize). A learner has written in asking if this can be synonymous with accorgersene (to notice, to realize). The answer is yes, sometimes, depending on the context. There is a lesson on the pronominal, reflexive verb accorgersene, so check it out.


Fare i conti (coming to terms, reckoning)

In this lesson, we will continue to look at the noun il conto and how it fits into various expressions, with meanings that might seem to depart from the cognate "account." But let's keep in mind that in many cases, although English speakers prefer different turns of phrase, we can connect these with "account," if we look hard enough. After all, in English, we use the word "account" in lots of different ways, too.



Here are some examples from Yabla videos of how people use conto or conti in authentic speech.


Dopotutto bisogna fare i conti con i propri limiti ogni tanto, o no?

After all, one has to come to terms with one's own limits, every now and then, right?

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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The previous example is from the biopic about Adriano Olivetti, which has been proven to be quite popular with subscribers. At the Olivetti typewriter factory, they're talking about selling it!


In the example below, the subject is Covid-19, and the fact that we have to come to terms with it, to reckon with it. Different translations but a similar concept. 


Come ormai tutti sapete, non solo l'Italia,

As everyone knows by now, not only Italy

ma tutto il mondo sta cominciando a fare i conti

but the whole world is starting to have to reckon

con questa [sic: questo] assassino invisibile.

with this invisible killer.

Captions 7-9, COVID-19 - Andrà tutto bene

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So we're talking about dealing with something, facing something, taking something into consideration, taking something into account, or even taking stock.


Practically speaking

Here's a practical situation in which one might use fare i conti. This time it does have to do with money.


Let's say I have someone do a job for me, say, getting a swimming pool up and running after the winter, and afterwards, I want to know how much I have to pay for it. Instead of just saying quanto ti devo? (how much do I owe you?), I can be a bit more roundabout. I can leave the door open for a conversation and allow for a justification of the fee I will be paying, compared to the initial preventivo (estimate), or for talking about a discount. I am letting the person I hired know that I am ready to settle up or at least to determine how much it will come to.

Dobbiamo fare i conti (we have to tally up, or "Let's figure out how much I owe you").


Making it casual

We can make the act of tallying up more casual, perhaps less about money, by using un po'  (a little, a few) or due (two), which doesn't really mean the number 2, but is a generic low-grade plural to mean "some." In the following example, the number due (two) could replace un po'


Che poi se facciamo un po' di conti,

Which, after all, if we do the math here,

sono sempre io a perdonare per prima.

I'm always the first one to forgive.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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Uno si fa due conti e inizia a pensare

You add things up and start thinking

che se tutti si vogliono innamorare, un motivo ci sarà.

that if everyone wants to fall in love, there must be a reason.

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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All things considered

Another expression with conti comes from math and accounts, but has to do with summing up. It's a way of saying, "All in all," "in the end," "all things considered," "after all is said and done..."


Be', in fin dei conti, si tratta solo di ratificare uno stato di fatto.

Well, in the end, it's just a matter of ratifying a state of affairs.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 5

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Something's fishy

An expression that is used both in talking about money and about pretty much anything, is the the equivalent of "things don't add up."


E hai scoperto qualcosa?

And did you discover anything?

-Non ancora, ma i conti non tornano.

-Not yet, but things don't add up.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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There is still plenty to say about the noun conto, but we'll save it for next time!  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.