Italian Lessons

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Big and small with endings: -one and -ino

Instead of using adjectives to talk about size, Italian has the device of altering the noun itself, thus producing a new word. Different endings are added onto the root word. Let's look at how this works with some nouns with feminine endings.

Pentola

An example of this is pentola. Una pentola is a pot. It's already pretty big, big enough for cooking pasta. Un pentolone is an even bigger pot for if you're cooking lots of pasta or canning tomatoes, as in the second example below. We could also say una pentola grande, (a big pot) but sometimes it's easier to say pentolone. So, when you hear a word that ends in -one, it's likely a large version of something that comes in various sizes. 

Ci serve, naturalmente, anche qualcosa per cuocere la pasta. Una pentola, un'altra pentola per la pasta,

We also need, naturally, something for cooking the pasta. A pot, another pot for the pasta,

Captions 79-81, L'Italia a tavola Tonnarelli cacio e pepe - Part 1

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Here, a woman is describing how to make tomato sauce to can. She's going to make a big batch.

Alcuni, eh, lo fanno appassire un po' dentro i pentoloni sul fuoco...

Some, uh, cook them down a bit in big pots on the burner...

Caption 28, Giovanna spiega La passata di pomodori

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When the item in discussion is the smalller version, the ending -ino is typical: 

E per farlo, prendiamo un pentolino come questo e ci mettiamo un pochino di olio extravergine di oliva.

And to do that we take a saucepan like this and we put a little extra virgin olive oil in it.

Captions 18-19, Marika spiega La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 1

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Capanna

Una capanna is a shack,  shed, or hut. It's a feminine noun.

...oppure costruivamo una capanna con delle sedie e delle coperte

...or else we'd build a hut out of chairs and bed covers

Caption 8, Anna e Marika ricordi di infanzia

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Un capannone can either be called a "shed," even though it's big, a "hangar," or, in the case of a mechanic's workplace, a "garage." It will have a different name in English depending on its use. It may or may not have 4 walls. It may or may not be makeshift.

 

...che segnalava la presenza di auto truccate in un capannone al Quadraro e trac. Va be', allora vogliamo brindare?

...that reported the presence of souped-up cars in a hangar in Quadraro, and boom. OK, so do we want to make a toast?

Captions 35-37, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 14

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If the shack or hut is tiny, as it would be for a hunter's blind, then il capannino is the word of choice. There might be room for just one person.

 

Macchina

Although una macchina can be any kind of machine, it's also the word for car. The more official Italian word is automobile, just like in English. The stress goes on the second O, however.

Infatti, quando ho compiuto venti anni, mi ha regalato una macchina nuova.

In fact, when I turned twenty, she got me a new car.

Captions 31-32, Adriano Nonna

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Ci porta Giampi, che lui c'ha un macchinone.

Giampi will take us. He has a big car.

Caption 53, Sposami EP 3 - Part 7

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Sometimes the resulting word can retain the gender of the original word, as in the case of macchina

E sotto c'era un altro cartellino bianco con disegnato su un camioncino con un gancettino che si porta via una macchinina.

And below it was another little white sign picturing a little truck with a little hook on it, which is towing a little car away.

Captions 89-91, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

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As you listen to more videos, you will start noticing the endings -one and -ino. Look for the noun within the noun and you'll often be able to figure out what a word means.

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What does su mean?

Let's have a look at the preposition su. Its most common meaning in English is "on." As Marika has been explaining in video lessons such as this one, the simple preposition su can be combined with a definite article — in Italian, there are several forms, based on gender and quantity — to become a preposizione articolata (a preposition combined with a definite article — ("the" in English).

 

So to say, "on the table," instead of saying su il tavolo, we say sul tavolo. The preposition and definite article combine into one word.

Aspettate, lascio il libro sul tavolo

Wait, I'll leave the book on the table

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il futuro - Part 4

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This process is similar for all the different forms of definite articles in Italian.

sul = su + il

sull' = su + l'

...nubi invece sull'Umbria e sulle zone interne della Toscana.

...clouds, instead, in Umbria and in the inland areas of Tuscany.

Caption 63, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 2

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sulla =  su + la

Allora, siamo qui con la nostra? -Chiara. Che ci risponderà a un po' di domande sulla mozzarella di bufala.

So, we're here with our... -Chiara. Who will answer a few of our questions about buffalo mozzarella.

Captions 1-2, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 2

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sullo = su + lo

 

Sullo sfondo potete vedere il Vesuvio

In the background, you can see Vesuvius

Caption 4, Escursioni Campane Castello Normanno - Part 1

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sui = su + i

Allora, questa lista la scriviamo tutti insieme, io alla lavagna e voi sui quaderni.

So, this list we'll all write together, I on the blackboard and you in your notebooks.

Captions 10-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il condizionale - Part 5

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sugli = su + gli

Multiple meanings of su

 

Just as in English, prepositions often have multiple meanings and su is no exception.

Su can mean "on," but also "in," sometimes:

L'ho letto sul giornale.

I read about it in the newspaper.

Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 10

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Su often means "about."

E vi racconto qualche storia semplice sul gelato, ma molto interessante.

And I'll tell you a few simple stories about ice cream, but very interesting.

Caption 10, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 1

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Note that sometimes definite articles are used in Italian but not in English, as in the example above.

 

Su can mean "out of," as in the following example:

Nove volte su dieci lo fa perché ha qualcosa da nascondere.

Nine times out of ten, he does it because he has something to hide.

Caption 25, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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An expression with su

 

A good expression to know is sul serio (seriously)?

Sul serio?

Seriously?

Caption 4, Marika spiega La formazione degli aggettivi

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It can also be interpreted as "for real."

Però voglio dirti una cosa, questa è importante sul serio.

But I want to tell you something. This is important for real.

Caption 45, Francesca Cavalli - Part 1

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Being approximate

Another way we use the preposition su is to give an approximate time, weight, or age.

Arriverò sul presto (I'll get there on the early side).

Aveva sui cinquant'anni (he was around fifty years old).

 

Note that in this lesson, we talked about the preposition su, but su is also an adverb meaning up, upwards. We'll talk about that in a future lesson.

Maybe you have seen or heard other uses of su we didn't mention here. Let us know!

Prepositions

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