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3 ways to use the verb prescindere:

In this lesson, we look at prescindere, an interesting verb that can be used at least 3 different ways. It always involves a preposition, either after it, before it, or both. The basic meaning remains the same, but as you will see, it can be tricky to translate. We will look at all three ways, but let's keep in mind that the first way is the most complicated because we use the conjugated form of the verb. The other two ways use the infinitive, making it easier to figure out. 



First, let's unpack this verb because it looks like it might be formed from another verb such as scindere, plus the prefix pre-, standing for "before." And yes! Scindere does exist! It means "to divide," "to separate," or, figuratively, "to differentiate" or "to distinguish."  With this in mind, let's look at this "compound" verb that will become part of a phrasal verb.


Prescindere da

What does the dictionary say about prescindere? One synonym for the verb prescindere is escludere (to exclude), in other words, to leave out or set aside. 

Nasco uomo d'acqua, e il mio racconto non può prescindere da avvenimenti scanditi dal ritmo delle acque, con le sue nebbie, che si disperdono nelle pianure.

I was born a man of the water, and my story can't leave out events articulated by the rhythm of the water, with its fog, that gets lost in the plains.

Captions 14-16, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 7

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We could also say "My story can't be separate from events..." My story can't be divorced from events..."


The funny thing about prescindere is that it is intransitive, so it doesn't take a direct object, but instead is (usually) followed by the preposition da (of, from). As we have seen in the past, the series about chef Gualtiero Marchesi has moments of fancy prose, and the previous citation is a great example. We note that the English verb "to prescind" does exist, but it's rare. We could even use it as a translation, but it might not be all that helpful to the learner.  Language nerds might want to compare and contrast it with "to rescind," which we do use quite a bit, especially in legal contexts. 


In the following example, a writer is talking about childhood using prescindere as a conjugated verb, with the preposition da following it. We have translated it in this case with "to be independent of" but it could also be "to be separate from," among other solutions. 

Una delle cose più sorprendenti dei figli di solito è realizzare che i propri genitori hanno una vita che prescinde da loro, che li precede e, in parte, li esclude.

One of the most surprising things about children usually is realizing that their parents have a life, which is independent of them, which precedes them, and, in part, excludes them.

Captions 46-49, Romanzo Italiano Lazio - Part 6

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In everyday life, if you listen to Italians converse, you'll often hear prescindere with the preposition a just before it and da just after it: a prescindere da... and we will look at examples of this below. But it might be easier to understand a kind of synonym many Italians use to mean pretty much the same thing: indipendentemente da. That's a mouthful, but easier to understand. 

Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", "cui", "cui", "cui", che è invariabile,

Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," "which," "which," "which," which is invariable,

Captions 43-44, Corso di italiano con Daniela Pronomi relativi - Part 3

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Quindi, io posso scegliere una di queste forme indipendentemente... non ci [sic]... indipendentemente da tutto, non c'è una regola.

So, I can choose one of these forms, not taking into account... there's no... regardless of anything. There's no rule.

Captions 30-33, Corso di italiano con Daniela Superlativo assoluto - Part 2

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A prescindere da

Let's look at some examples from Yabla videos to discover how a prescindere da is used in a sentence. We begin with Marika, who is speaking pretty casually. 

Oggi, a prescindere da come sia iniziata questa cosa, Burano è famosa per questi colori bellissimi che continuano a essere usati.

Today, regardless of how this thing got started, Burano is famous for these very beautiful colors that continue to be used.

Captions 26-27, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 9

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So one meaning of a prescindere (as well as indipendentemente) is "regardless." Good to know, but would you have guessed that without context? Did you notice that Marika used the subjunctive following it? That's what can make it tricky. 


A prescindere

But we can also use a prescindere without its second preposition. It can mean something like "in any case," or "no matter what." In the following example, one of the Taviani brothers is talking to the other about setting up a scene on the set of their movie. The positioning is not so important because he is planning to do a close-up.

Va bene quasi a prescindere. Se facciamo un primo piano...

It's fine, almost no matter what. If we do a close-up...

Captions 52-53, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 25

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In this case we are leaving what might follow prescindere up to the listener or reader.  

Let's say we're talking about a movie that was not well-made on some level, but you liked it anyway.

Mi è piaciuto il film a prescindere (I liked it anyway).

Let's say you have a hike planned for the next day, but the forecast says "rain." Rain or shine, you are going to show up.

Ci vengo a prescindere (I'm coming no matter what). 



Absolutely Superlative!


We've talked recently about comparatives of equality, and so it makes sense to talk about yet another kind of comparative. We're not really comparing two or more items, but rather giving one item a very high vote.


In English we use words or prefixes such as "super," "very," "extra," "maximum," "mega."


There is a super easy way to make adjectives into absolute superlatives in Italian.


Daniela explains how this works:

Ripeto due volte la parola "bravo" e dico: "Lui è bravo bravo".

I repeat the word “brilliant” twice and I say, “He is brilliant brilliant.”

Captions 5-6, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Superlativo assoluto - Part 2

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There are certain adjectives we use quite frequently in this form to express an absolute superlative.


One is bello (beautiful, nice):

Là, a quelle, in mezzo a quelle canne ci sono due belle fagiani [fagiane] con un maschione bello bello.

There, in those, in the middle of those canes, there are two nice pheasants with a really nice big male.

Captions 70-71, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 3

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Another is piccolo (small):

e aveva soltanto un balcone... per prendere un po' d'aria e un appartamento piccolo piccolo.

and he only had a balcony... for getting a bit of air, and a tiny, tiny apartment.

Captions 22-24, Andromeda - e i gatti 2 - Part 1

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Still another is nuovo (new):

Se si vince, si prende il primo premio. Me lo dici che premio è? Un carro armato vero, nuovo nuovo.

If we win, we'll get the first prize. Will you tell me what the prize is? A real tank, brand new.

Captions 19-21, Trailer - La vita è bella - Roberto Benigni

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There are lots of others, and you will, little by little, start noticing them as you listen to spoken Italian, where they occur most frequently.


Think of things in your everyday life, and try forming sentences with this form of the superlativo assoluto. It's fun and easy.

Here's a head start.

Il frigo è vuoto vuoto (the fridge is completely empty).
Questo pavimento è sporco sporco (this floor is very dirty).
Il disco rigido è pieno pieno (the hard drive is totally full).
Questo video era facile facile da capire (this video was super easy to understand).
Tieni il volume basso basso (keep the volume really low).