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Adjectives as adverbs and vice versa

An adverb modifies, or describes, a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. But in Italian (as in other languages), we sometimes mix and match. Sometimes we use an adjective like an adverb and vice versa. Let's look at a few of the common adjectives that fall into this category. 


One of these cases is the adjective leggero (light, lightweight). It might be more correct to say Guarda come vola in modo leggero, (look how she is flying, as light as a feather). Or we could consider leggera (lightweight) as modifying the noun, in this case, una farfalle (a butterfly). 

Guarda come vola leggera.

See how weightlessly it's flying.

Caption 19, Gatto Mirò EP 10 Piantiamo un albero

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Another is forte. It's basically an adjective, as in the following example.

Orfeo era... aveva un carattere forte.

Orfeo was... He had a strong personality.

Caption 35, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

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But forte is used quite often as an adverb, especially after a verb. In the following example, it's translated as "great," also primarily an adjective, but we use it as an adverb, too.

Sto andando forte, eh?

I'm doing great, right?

Caption 24, Non è mai troppo tardi EP 2 - Part 12

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Fortemente exists as an adverb and is used in some contexts, especially before the adjective it happens to be modifying. 

Io non le ho prese. -Non lo so, ma sei fortemente indiziata! -Ma!

I didn't take them. -I don't know, but you're a very strong suspect [strongly suspected]. -Well!

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

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But it's very common to use the forte when it comes to modifying verbs. Fortemente would sound wrong. 

Dai papà, alza la testa e fai resistenza mentre io ti spingo giù, ispirando forte.

Come on Daddy, lift your head and press while I push you down, inhaling deeply.

Captions 18-19, Provaci ancora prof! S2E3 Dietro la porta - Part 22

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Like forte, veloce is often used in place of the adverb velocemente

Dixi l'aveva soprannominata saetta, perché andava veloce come un fulmine.

Dixi nicknamed it "Saetta" (lightning bolt), because it went fast like lightning.

Captions 8-9, Dixiland In bicicletta

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E perché, vado troppo veloce?

And why? Am I going too fast?

Caption 56, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 3

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Oh cowboy, se tu cambi obiettivo così velocemente, la selvaggina scappa!

Oh, cowboy, if you change your target so quickly, the game gets away!

Caption 35, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 6

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Piano is the opposite of both forte and veloce. There is no specific adverbial version, but it can be used both as an adjective and an adverb. Piano has different meanings, so it's not always clear, even from the context, which meaning it has. 

Ciao. -A presto. Vai piano.

Bye. -See you soon. Go slowly.

Captions 48-49, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 6

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Luca, non senza autorizzazione! -Shh. Parla piano.

Luca, not without authorization! -Shh, speak softly.

Captions 46-47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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Let's keep in mind that adjectives used as adjectives need to agree with the nouns they modify, but when they are used as adverbs, they stay just the way they are. In the following example, forte is used as an adjective to describe i sentimenti (the feelings).

Spero solo che anche i suoi sentimenti siano altrettanto forti.

I only hope that his feelings are as strong as yours.

Caption 12, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 11

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Lo spada è uno dei pesci più veloci esistenti,

Swordfish is one of the fastest fish in existence.

Caption 10, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 3

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Some cases don't seem to fit the pattern. In this final example, veloce seems to be used as an adverb, but its plural ending agrees with the plural noun like an adjective. 

Poi dice che sono gli etiopi che corrono veloci, eh.

Then they say that the Ethiopians are the ones who run fast, huh.

Caption 42, Sposami EP 6 - Part 4

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Being Supportive in Italian by Staying Close By

When someone is having a hard time, we often try to be supportive. Or we can give someone some support. That's how we say it in English, but Italians say it a bit differently. They use more words.


In Italian, we are supportive by staying close to someone, we are by their side. We're there for them. 



Being supportive by staying close

So in the following exchange between Ugo and Nora, he is actually accusing her of not having been there for him, not having been supportive.


Non mi sei stata molto vicina in quel periodo, lo sai?

You weren't really by my side in that period, you know that?

Caption 19, Sposami - EP 2

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A less literal translation would be:

You weren't very supportive [of me] during that period, you know that?


You didn't give me much support during that period, you know that?


You weren't really there for me during that period, you know that? 


A little further on in the dialogue, there is a play on words because Nora goes on to accuse Ugo of having had the American woman (the one he was having an affair with) literally by his side — in bed!


E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?

But the American was by your side?

Caption 25, Sposami - EP 2

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Sometimes the meaning is literal, so we need to be aware of the context. It can also be a mix of being physically nearby and being there for someone, being supportive.


How to use this expression

Now that we have looked at the meaning, we can look at how to use the expression. The formula is stare (to be, to stay) + vicino (close) + a (to) + qualcuno (someone). When we use pronouns, they can get attached to the verb, as in the following example.


Here are a few more examples:


Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.

Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 11

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The translation is pretty clear, but, depending on the intention of the speaker, it could also be:

 Adriano is ill and I want to be there for him.


Note that since there is a modal verb, in this case, volere (to want to), the verb stare will be in the infinitive and volere will be conjugated.


1) What about a version where the verb stare is separated from the pronoun?

2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?

3) What if you were talking directly to the person who is ill?


Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous

In the following example, the staying close is more physical, since Paola asks Adriano to hold her close, but she is also asking Adriano to be there for her, to give her some support because the entire conversation is about her problems and the fact that she feels alone. She uses the second person informal imperative of stare with the personal (indirect object) pronoun attached to it.


Senti, facciamo così, dormiamoci sopra.

Listen. Let's do this. We'll sleep on it.

Poi domani mattina sarai più lucida.

Then tomorrow morning, you will be more clear-headed.

-Tu stammi vicino, però. Stringimi.

-You stay close to me, though. Hold me tight.

Captions 32-35, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14

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4) As an exercise, what if Paola were using the polite form of address? 


Attenzione: Let's avoid the temptation to use the suspiciously similar sopportare in this case, because it means "to bear," "to tolerate."


Ma non ce la facevo più a sopportare i suoi deliri.

But I couldn't bear to tolerate her ravings anymore.

Caption 63, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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We hope this little lesson will help you understand the discussion Nora and Ugo have about their past in Sposami. And let's hope they can make up and move on!


1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.

2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.

3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino

3b) Tu stai male e ti voglio stare vicino.

4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.