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Cognates Featuring à in Italian and "y" in English

Luckily, many words are similar in English and Italian. Sometimes they mean different things so we call them "false friends," and some of them look and sound similar and also mean similar things. They are our true friends. If they were born of the same original word, etymologically speaking, they are true cognates.


Language nerds throw around the word "cognate" a lot, so it might be nice to look at the origins of this word. Here's what the dictionary says about the word "cognate."

Etymology: 17th Century: from Latin cognātus, from co- same + gnātus born, a variant of nātus, past participle of nāscī to be born. So in plain English, we're talking about words that have the same origin. 


But let's get down to the words themselves.



Some words are easy to guess, whether you are translating from Italian into English, or struggling to find a word in Italian.


Here's a partial list of some nouns you don't have to think about too much. These end in à, an A with an accent. In all these cases, that accented à is replaced by a Y in English. Of course, there are other letters in the words that change between the two languages, but they are similar enough that you can probably guess them fairly easily, primarily when you are reading them. You can listen to them in context when you hit "play caption."


l'intensità (the intensity)


Raramente lo schermo ha raccontato

Rarely has the screen told,

con tanta intensità e tanta efficacia

with so much intensity and so much potency

una storia più nuova e più coraggiosa.

a fresher and more courageous story.

Captions 4-5, Trailer ufficiale - La Strada

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la generosità (the generosity)


La generosità di questa terra

The generosity of this land

è celebrata anche nelle specialità della cucina.

is celebrated in culinary specialities as well.

Caption 41, Marche - Opera Unica

 Play Caption


la velocità (the velocity)


Ma lo sai che c'è il limite di velocità qua, ah?

But don't you know there's a speed limit here, huh?

Caption 34, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro

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la città (the city)


Il fiume Tevere attraversa tutta la città di Roma...

The Tiber river crosses the entire city of Rome...

Caption 12, Anna e Marika - Il fiume Tevere

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la stupidità (the stupidity)


Non mi sembra che la stupidità sia un reato.

I don't think that stupidity is a crime.

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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la libertà (the liberty)


Gestiva il suo tempo in assoluta libertà.

She managed her time in complete liberty.

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola

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la crudeltà (the cruelty)


Quindi senza derivati animali, senza crudeltà.

So, without ingredients derived from animals, without cruelty.

Caption 39, Dolcetti vegan - al cocco e cioccolato

 Play Caption


la familiarità (the familiarity)


Silenzi, che familiarità

Silences, what familiarity

Caption 28, Fiorella Mannoia - Quello che le donne non dicono

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la qualità (the quality)


Al momento dobbiamo privilegiare la quantità alla qualità.

At the moment we have to favor quantity over quality.

Caption 12, La Ladra - EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo

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la possibilità (the possibility)


E poi, oltre a questo,

And then, beyond this,

ho anche avuto la possibilità di conoscere tantissime persone.

I also had the possibility of meeting huge number of people.

Caption 23, Arianna e Marika - Il Progetto Erasmus

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la probabilità (the probability)


E sappiamo che, con ogni probabilità, c'erano dei riti legati al fuoco.

And we know that, in all probability, there were rituals involving fire.

Caption 56, Meraviglie - EP. 2 - Part 3

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This isn't the only way that Italian words ending in à have cognates. Also, we don't always choose the cognate in English. Instead of "velocity" we say "speed" most of the time in colloquial speech, but you understand the noun "velocity," so you can guess what velocità means. That's the idea anyway. Let us know if this lesson was helpful or not, and thanks for reading.

Cognates Nouns

Solido and Sodo

This week, Marika talks about adverbs. But she also talks about adjectives used as adverbs in idiomatic expressions. If we think about it, this happens in English, too, as we shall see.


One adjective she uses is sodo. It is very similar to solido, and indeed, they are pretty equivalent and have the same Latin origin: “solidus.”

Solido is a true cognate, and means “solid.”


Il composto è stato a riposare in frigo. Adesso è più solido

The dough has been resting in the fridge. Now it's stiffer

e così possiamo preparare le palline.

and that way we can prepare the little balls.

Captions 33-34, Dolcetti vegan - al cocco e cioccolato

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Sodo is just a bit different, and used primarily in different contexts. One of the most common uses for sodo is when talking about how long an egg is cooked. If it’s hard-boiled, it’s sodo. We can well visualize the shell coming off the egg, and its being solid enough to hold in your hand: sodo.


While we’re on the subject of eggs, here are some different ways of cooking eggs in Italian: Let’s remember that the noun uovo has an irregular plural. Un uovo (an egg), due uova (two eggs), delle uova (some eggs).

uova strapazzate (literally, “over-worked eggs,” scrambled eggs)  
uovo affogato (literally, “drowned egg”) or in camicia (literally, “in its jacket,”  poached egg)  
uovo alla coque  (literally, “egg in its shell," soft-boiled egg, often eaten in its shell in an egg cup)
uovo sodo (hard-boiled egg)  
uovo al tegameuovo al tegamino (fried egg)
all'occhio di bue (literally, “like an ox’s eye,” sunny-side up)

There is an Italian film by Paolo Virzì called OvosodoOvo is Tuscan for uovoHere is an English language description of the movie.


We also use sodo when referring to working hard. This is similar to English, where we have the adjective “hard” functioning like an adverb, modifying, or describing the verb lavorare (to work).


"Bisogna lavorare sodo per ottenere dei buoni risultati".

"You have to work hard to obtain good results."

Caption 31, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi di modo

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Sodo can also be used a bit like nocciolo (the kernel, the point, the heart of the matter). In this case, the adjective sodo is used as a noun, to mean something like  “the serious stuff.” See this lesson about nocciolo.

Arriviamo al sodo (let’s get down to brass tacks, let’s get to the point).
Va subito al sodo. Non gira intorno (he gets right to the point. He doesn’t beat around the bush).


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