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.
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 2Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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.
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.Play Caption
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?
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 14Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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.