There’s an interesting word that is used a lot in the workplace, but not only. Originally, it’s a verb: impiegare (to use, to employ, to spend time), to invest.
But as often happens, the past participle of a verb becomes an adjective and/or noun, in this case: impiegato.
We might use the past participle when we refer to time or energy spent or used for something.
In the following example, Francesca has made a big snowball. Admittedly, it has nothing to do with the workplace, but it has to do with spending time doing something.
Ah, che fatica, amici! Ho veramente impiegato molto tempo e molta energia per creare questa enorme palla di neve, che somiglia quasi a una slavina.
Oh, what a job, friends! I truly spent a lot of time, and lots of energy to create this enormous snowball, which almost resembles an avalanche.
Captions 31-34, Francesca - neve - Part 3Play Caption
Just as we can use the verb “to employ” to mean “to use” or “to hire” in English, Italian uses impiegare in much the same way.
Ho impiegato questo coltello come cacciavite.
I employed this knife as a screwdriver.
When referring to an office situation, we often use impiegato (the past participle of the verb impiegare) as a noun. Un impiegato is an employee or clerk in some kind of office, whereas “employee” in English is a bit more general.
Susanna lavora come impiegata nell’azienda di suo padre.
Susanna works as a clerk/office worker in her father’s company.
Suo fratello invece è operaio.
Her brother is a worker, on the other hand.
The following example is from a Totò comedy film.
Ma un giorno mi farete vostra sposa?
But one day will you make me your bride?
Mia sposa? No, non posso. Come oso? Sposare voi, un umile impiegato morto di fame e sempre squattrinato.
My bride? No, I can't. How dare I marry you, [me] a humble, starving employee/office worker and always penniless.
Captions 25-28, Totò e Lia Zoppelli - Romeo e GiuliettaPlay Caption
We can also use the noun un impiego (a job, a post, employment). Il Centro per l’impiego is a center for finding employment when you are unemployed. To collect unemployment, you have to go there to prove you are looking for a job.
When we use the term operaio, it usually implies manual labor, in a factory or on a site, but not in an office, not at a desk.
Questi pettini vengono utilizzati dagli operai per scuotere le foglie e le olive stesse.
These combs are used by workers to shake down the leaves and the olives themselves.Play Caption
Another word commonly used to mean “employee” is dipendente. It looks like “dependent,” and in fact, it implies that someone works for someone else and is dependent on them for his or her monthly or weekly paycheck. A business may have ten employees: dieci dipendenti. They may have different roles. Some may be operai, some may be impiegati, but they all work for il capo (the boss) and are called dipendenti.
Nel mese di dicembre, chi è lavoratore dipendente, riceve la cosiddetta tredicesima, quindi uno stipendio ulteriore a quegli [sic] presi precedentemente.
In the month of December, those that are hired employees, receive the so-called thirteenth, that is, a paycheck in addition to the one already received.
Captions 15-16, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 5Play Caption
In the above example, dipendente is used as an adjective, but it is very often used as a noun: un dipendente, più dipendenti.
Some people have the security of a regular paycheck and a Christmas bonus: la tredicesima, an “extra, thirteenth” paycheck at Christmastime. They are lavoratori dipendenti ordipendenti. Others are lavoratori autonomi (self-employed workers). They have to drum up work, make out invoices, and get paid by their clients.
We’ll talk about the paycheck itself in a future lesson. There is more to a paycheck than just the money you take home.
It’s always handy to know what you are sitting on, so here are some of the basics.
A seat for a single person may be una sedia (a chair). It has four legs, a seat, and a back.
"Per favore, sollevami sulla sedia e fammi sedere accanto a te."
"Please, lift me onto the chair and let me sit next to you."Play Caption
The noun la sedia comes from the verb sedere (to sit). The following example is from a movie scene that’s a take-off on the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, so the Italian is archaic, and some of the words are truncated or modified. The reflexive form of sedere — sedersi — the form generally used to mean “to sit,” is omitted here, and the normal verb sedere is used.
Siedi piuttosto e non avere fretta.
Sit down instead and don't be in a hurry.
Caption 9, Totò e Lia Zoppelli - Romeo e GiuliettaPlay Caption
And here we have another seat for one person: lo sgabello (the stool). Lo sgabello can be low or high, made of wood or another material. It can be used to sit on or to stand on, to reach a high cupboard for example.
Ma dove seder degg'io, se qui sgabel non v'è?
But where do I sit down, when there is no stool here?
Caption 10, Totò e Lia Zoppelli - Romeo e GiuliettaPlay Caption
These days, pianists usually use uno sgabello regolabile (a piano stool that can be raised or lowered), but traditionally, and in homes, the piano has una panca per pianoforte (a piano bench) made of wood to match the piano. As opposed to a sgabello, una panca per pianofortecan fit two people nicely.
Whether we know the definition of a word or not, logic would tell us that panchina is a small panca, because there is a diminutive suffix: ino/ina. In this case, however, we can throw logic out the window because size doesn’t play a role. In fact, panca and panchina basically mean the same thing — a (wooden) seat, often backless, for two or more people — but they’re used in different situations.
In church, we talk about le panche, the pews. Traditionally, these pews would have been backless, but in modern times, church pews usually have backs to them. In some regions, people use the word banco for a church pew.
La panca is usually found indoors, and is generally made of wood. It seats several people around a table. This kind of panca doesn’t usually have a back to it, and is thought of as being rustic.
Una panca can be found in a gym, for doing crunches and weights.
La panca can used to seat people at a performance, usually in a makeshift theater. This may be indoors or outdoors.
"Ah, questa parola non l'hai scandita bene, picchì [ perché] l'ultimo spettatore del, dell'ultima panca ava a sentiri bonu chiddu ca' dici [deve sentire bene quello che dici]".
"Ah, you didn't articulate this word well, because the last spectator on the, on the last bench has to hear what you're saying clearly."
Captions 49-51, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storie - Part 11Play Caption
If we go out of doors, we start talking about la panchina.
A "park bench," whether it has a back to it or not, is una panchina. The diminutive suffix -inahas become part of the word, so as mentioned above, size doesn’t matter.
In sports, an inactive player sitting in the dugout or on the sidelines is in panchina.
Un panchetto or una panchetta, on the other hand, is a low stool, often, more elegant than a sgabello, and usually used to rest one’s feet upon. Using the masculine or feminine form depends on the region.
In Part Two, we’ll talk about more comfortable places to sit.