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Business Vocabulary and Expresssions Part 1

We've had a request for a lesson about vocabulary in the workplace. It's a great request, and the topic is an important one. 


Let's first look at the workplaces themselves. The most basic thing we'll want to say is, "I'm going to work, bye."


There are a couple of different variations on the expression.



Some say Vado al lavoro. This implies you are going to your workplace, where you work.


Be', mamma, io vado al lavoro, ci vediamo stasera.

Well, Mom, I'm going to work. I'll see you tonight.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 13

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Some say vado a lavoro. It means the same thing, but there is no article. It's just a matter of personal preference or regional usage.


Some say: vado a lavorare. It is a general word but tends to be used when the job isn't in an office, but rather in a factory, or some place where the work is manual in nature.


I bambini vanno a scuola e le persone vanno a lavorare.

Children go to school and people go to work.

Captions 39-40, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

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Then we come back from work. The verb is tornare (to return)


E quando mia madre e mio padre sono tornati dal lavoro,

And when my mother and father came home from work,

ci hanno trovato con dei cucchiai

they found us with some spoons

che fingevano i microfoni e noi cantavamo.

which we pretended were microphones, and we would sing.

Captions 19-21, Anna e Marika - ricordi di infanzia

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Similar to English, Italians talk about going to the office. For this, we use the preposition in, not a. They both can mean "to." When coming and going, we don't use the article before ufficio (office).


Allora, ti dico che devi tornare subito in ufficio.

So, I'm telling you that you have to come back to the office right away.

Caption 78, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 8

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Another word that can mean "office" is lo studio. Although uno studio can be a studio for photography, filming, recording, or creating art, and the like, it's also used to mean "office." This often implies a small place and is used for professions such as dentists, doctors, architects, attorneys, graphic designers, etc.


Abita a Matera e ha uno studio grafico in via Bixio.

He lives in Matera and has a graphics studio on Via Bixio.

Caption 35, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1 EP3 I giardini della memoria

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Un momento prima sei al lavoro,

One moment earlier, you're at work,

o nel traffico o a casa tua

or in traffic, or at home,

e un momento dopo

and one moment later,

sei sul letto di uno studio urologico.

you are on the exam table at the urologist's office.

Captions 8-10, La linea verticale - EP1 - Part 2

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La fabbrica is a factory or plant.


Ma Lei lo sa che è stato licenziato dalla fabbrica dove lavorava

But did you know that he was fired from the factory where he worked

perché ha sferrato un pugno al suo capo reparto.

because he punched his department head?

Captions 57-58, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi

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Lots of factories are grouped in a part of a city zoned for industry. It's called la zona industriale.


Now let's talk about what to call the people who work in places. The most general term is un lavoratore (a worker). We can see the verb lavorare (to work) and the noun il lavoro (the job). But let's look at some words that are a bit more specific. 



When we're talking about a factory-type situation, where workers do manual work, then one word we use is operaio (worker). 


In a factory situation, workers generally have one shift or another. This is il turno. We can have il turno di giorno or il turno di notte. Some factories have three shifts or turni. 6:00 AM - 2:00 PM, 2:00 PM - 10:00 PM, and 10:00 PM - 6:00 AM.


Questo è l'altro operaio

This is the other worker

che faceva il turno di notte sabato sera?

who was working the night shift on Saturday night?

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 5

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In an office situation, on the other hand, an employee working at a desk or a counter is usually indicated with the generic term, l'impiegato or l'impiegata depending on whether they are male or female. This nomenclature comes from the verb impiegare (to use, to employ).


Sposare voi, un umile

Marry you, [me] a humble,

impiegato morto di fame e sempre squattrinato.

starving employee and always penniless.

Caption 28, Totò e Lia Zoppelli - Romeo e Giulietta

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Il dipendente

Un impiegato is almost surely also un dipendente: someone who works for someone else. Dipendente is even more generic than impiegato. It's more about being paid by someone else.


Lei è Adriano Olivetti?

Are you Adriano Olivetti?

Non mi conosce.

You don't know me.

Sono la figlia di un Suo dipendente, Mario Pagani.

I'm the daughter of one of your employees, Mario Pagani.

Captions 16-17, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 26

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L'azienda - la ditta


So if you want to mention how many people work in a company, you use the noun dipendente. The company someone works for may be called un'azienda, (which gives the impression of a large company) or una ditta.


L'azienda è in espansione,

The company is expanding.

ha ormai sedicimila dipendenti.

By now it has sixteen thousand employees.

Caption 38, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 3

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E poi vedi di scoprire qualcosa su quest'altra ditta,

And then try to discover something about this other company,

quella che fornisce il latte.

the one that supplies the milk.

Caption 54, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 4

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So we have two different nouns — dipendente and impiegato — that are generally translated as "employee," so this can be confusing. Impiegato/a usually describes someone who works at a computer or at a desk or counter. Dipendente is more about the relationship between who pays and who gets paid. 


Note that impiegato and dipendente are also adjectives. 

In Part 2, we will talk about other roles in a workplace.