The word "no" is pretty clear. It means the same thing in both English and Italian. But there are a few things to remember when using this word. When you want to say, "No" just say, "No." It will be absolutely clear. No (No)!
But when you are asking someone to give you a yes or no answer about something, or talking about someone saying "yes," or "no," then you usually add the preposition: di (of). At that point, it is no longer directly reported speech and therefore no quotation marks are necessary. Keep in mind that leaving out the preposition is not wrong, it's just much more common to use it.
Instead of just using the word "no," we say:
Per fortuna Manrico non ce l'ha fatta a dire di no a Melody.
Luckily, Manrico didn't succeed in saying no to Melody.
Caption 38, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 13Play Caption
E quindi dissi di no.
And so I said no.
Quando mi mandarono le foto di Ulisse, non so perché,
When they sent me the photo of Ulisse, I don't know why,
è scattato qualcosa dentro di me
something clicked inside me
e... ho detto di sì.
and... I said yes.
Captions 21-24, Andromeda - La storia di UlissePlay Caption
Although we are primarily talking about the word no in this lesson, the same goes for sì (yes). And if we replace dire (to say) with another verb, such as sperare (to hope), we do the same thing. In the following example, actress Alessandra Mastronardi says the same thing in two different ways:
Ma, io spe' [sic], mi auguro di sì.
Well, I ho' [sic], I hope so.
Alla fine è stato coronato il sogno che tante persone volevano,
In the end the dream many people wanted was crowned,
quello che si ritor' [sic], si riformasse la famiglia e che Eva e Marco... fortunatamente...
the one in which the family retur [sic], re-forms and in which Eva and Marco... fortunately...
e così è andata, quindi spero di sì.
and that's how it went, so I hope so.
Captions 40-43, Alessandra Mastronardi - Non smettere di sognarePlay Caption
As we have seen, she uses two different ways to say "I hope so." Mi auguro di sì and spero di sì. Mi auguro di sì is a bit stronger, a little bit more personal (your eyes open wider). Maybe you are worried that things are not going to go as you hoped, or else, the end result is really crucial. It might also be that you are fully expecting something to happen in a certain way: It had better! It's kind of the difference between "I hope so" and "I certainly hope so." When using augurare or sperare, we can't leave out the di (of).
1) We can put this in the negative in the exact same way: Is your landlord going to kick you out? Can you give a couple of answers?
2) What if you are talking about when you asked someone out on a date. How did he or she answer you? M'ha...
One very common expression, as a retort, uses the word "no" to mean "yes" or rather, "for sure!" "of course!" It's a way to confirm something, and literally means, "how not?" Or we could say, "How could that not be?" "How could you doubt it?"
Anche se la politica non ci ha aiutati, ce l'abbiamo fatta, no?
Even if politics didn't help us, we did it, didn't we?
Captions 31-32, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 2 - Part 18Play Caption
The important thing here is, first of all, to understand that when someone says, "Come no!" they are saying something positive, like "of course!". Then, once you have heard it many, many times, you might be ready to use it yourself.
In English we have the dreaded question tags... dreaded by people trying to learn English, that is. In Italian, however, it is way easier. All you have to do is add no and a question mark to the end of your statement. That's all the question tag you need.
Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...
Well, it shouldn't be so hard to put the carriage back in, should it? -I...Play Caption
3) Can you say this in a more positive way?
È carino, no? Ti piace?
It's cute, isn't it? Do you like it?Play Caption
4) What if you put a question tag after ti piace (you like it)?
Using no as a question tag should come as a relief to Italian learners. You didn't know there was such an easy way to insert one, did you?
Another way to get the same result is to use the adjective vero (true) with a question mark. It's short for non è vero (isn't it true)? So I might say the same thing with the question tag, vero?
Be', non dovrebbe essere difficile far entrare il carrello, vero? -Io...
5) In reference to the previous example with carino, what if you think something is nice but you don't think the other person likes something?
1) Mi auguro di no! Spero di no!
2) M'ha detto di sì. Mi ha detto di no.
3) Be', dovrebbe essere facile far entrare il carrello, no? -Io...
4) È carino, no? Ti piace, no?
5) È carino, no? Non ti piace, vero?
There is more to say about saying no in Italian and using the word no... so stay tuned!
A recent user comment prompted this lesson about servire when it's used to express need. The Italian approach to expressing need bears some explaining. In fact, we have already addressed this before.
One way to express need is with the noun il bisogno (the need) and the odd verb bisognare only ever used in the third person singular impersonal. See this previous lesson. We can also use the verb servire (to be necessary, to be useful, to be used). In fact, we have already had a look at this interesting verb in this lesson. Take a look at these two lessons to get up to speed. In the present lesson, we will talk some more about how to use servire. It can be tricky!
There has been some discussion about a caption in a recent Yabla video. It's the story of Adriano Olivetti —Yes, that Olivetti: the typewriter guy. This is a fictionalized RAI production, starring Luca Zingaretti, famous as Commissario Montalbano in the well-known Italian TV series of the same name.
Here's the Italian sentence:
Serviranno dei fondi.
Here's our original translation:
We'll need funds.
A learner wrote in to say the translation should be "They will need funds."
Indeed, serviranno appears in its third person plural form. So, of course, you would think it should be "they."
This comment reminds us that the verb servire doesn't really have a counterpart in English, not one that works the same way, at any rate.
Yabla translators have since modified the translation to be less conversational, but easier to grasp. As a matter of fact, the verb servire is often best translated with the passive voice. As freshly modified, it is easier to see that the third person plural (future tense) serviranno comes from "the funds."
Serviranno dei fondi.
Funds will be needed.
Caption 63, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2Play Caption
Indeed, Adriano could have said, ci serviranno dei fondi, making it personal, but he didn't (although we can infer it) and that's why it was particularly confusing.
In the following example, the indirect object ci (for us, to us) is present, so it's a bit easier to understand. Serviranno, the third person plural of servire, refers to the utensili (the utensils) listed: lemon squeezer, knife, etc.
Per quanto riguarda gli utensili, ci serviranno, dunque,
In regard to utensils, we will need, accordingly,
uno spremiagrumi per i limoni, un coltello per tagliare i limoni.
a lemon squeezer for the lemons, a knife to cut the lemons.
Captions 40-44, L'Italia a tavola - Involtini di aliciPlay Caption
In English, especially in speech, we often use "to need" in an active way, as a transitive verb. "I need something." You may have discovered that there is no Italian verb we can use the same way. When we use servire, the thing we need is the subject and we use an indirect object with it. In the following example, Martino is asking himself what he needs to camp out in an old farmhouse. "What is necessary for me to take with me?"
Che mi può servire?
What do I need?
Caption 30, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 9Play Caption
To make things more complicated, servire also means "to be used." In this case, servire is used with the preposition a (to, for). We may ask the question:
A che cosa serve (what is it used for, what is it for)?
Serve a [insert verb in the infinitive or a noun] (it's used for, it's for [insert a gerund or a noun]).
Ecco a cosa serve il brodo vegetale.
That's what the vegetable broth is for.
Caption 95, L'Italia a tavola - La pappa al pomodoroPlay Caption
The following example shows how needing, being useful, or being used are so close that Italians use the same word.
Una fabbrica che funziona, in una società che non funziona, non serve a niente.
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is useless.
Caption 26, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1Play Caption
We can translate non serve a niente in a couple of additional ways:
Who needs a factory that works, if the society it is part of doesn't work?
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is of no use to anyone.
A factory that works in a society that doesn't work serves no purpose.
Note: Servire can also mean "to serve" as in serving someone at the table, or at the counter in a post office, supermarket or any other place. But that's much less complicated and not what this lesson was about.
We hope we have been successful in clarifying the verb servire, at least in part. We'll leave you with a few exercises that may further clarify the verb as you do them.
Change these sentences with bisogno or bisogna to one with servire or the contrary. Add personal pronouns where necessary or desirable.
Per questa ricetta, ho bisogno di tre uova (For this recipe, I need three eggs).
Di che cosa hai bisogno (What do you need)?
Non c'è bisogno di prendere l'autobus, il posto è a due passi a piedi (No need to take the bus. The place is well within walking distance).
Che bisogno c'era di essere così cattivo (Why did you need to be so mean)?
Servirà un ombrello, visto il cielo (Judging from the sky, an umbrella will be necessary).
Serve un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico (We need another place at the table, because a friend of mine is coming).
Have fun. You'll find some possible solutions here. If you think your solution is correct, but isn't present among the possible solutions, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.