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Anche se and Persino in Context

A Yabla Italian subscriber has asked about how to use anche se (even if) and perfino se (even if). These word combinations have to do with connecting two ideas in a sentence.

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Let’s examine anche se (although, even if). The individual words themselves are easy enough — anche means “also” or “even,” and se means “if” — but let’s see how these words fit into sentences, and more importantly, which contexts translate with which English equivalents.

 

In the following example, we use se (if) in Italian but it doesn’t make sense to use “if” in English, so we need “although,” or the more emphatic “even though.”

 

Dopo mezzogiorno, cominciamo a dire "Buonasera", anche se, in realtà, non è proprio sera, è pomeriggio.

After noon, we start saying "good evening," even though, actually, it's not really evening; it's the afternoon.

Captions 19-20, Marika spiega - L'orologio

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In the next example, we use anche se to connect a subjunctive clause with a conditional one. Remember that where we see se (if), there might be a verb in the subjunctive lurking nearby. See this lesson about the subjunctive and conditional.

 

Anche se mi pagasse cento euro, non gli farei quel lavoro.
Even if he paid me a hundred euros, I wouldn’t do the job for him.

 

In the above example, we could also use the other word our subscriber asked about:  persino se.

 

Persino se mi pagasse trecento euro...

 

Persino is stronger, with more extreme limits, than anche se

 

Let’s look at this adverb persino. The first part is per which means “for” or sometimes “to.”
Sino is another way of saying fino (and in fact perfino also exists). Fino means “until,” among other things. So we can think of perfino as meaning “[up] to the degree.”

 

The following examples give us an idea of the difference between fino and perfino.

 

Lavorerò fino a mezzogiorno, poi smetto.
I’ll work until noon, then I’ll quit.

Potrei lavorare persino fino a mezzanotte, ma non finirei mai.
I could even work until midnight, but I would never finish.

 

Perfino and persino may be used interchangeably to mean “even” or “to the point of.” We choose one over the other for reasons of eufonia (euphony), that is, harmonious sound, in other words, because it sounds better.  When speaking properly, Italians try to avoid cacofonia (cacophony), which is what happens when there are too many instances of one particular consonant all together. A good example is: tra fratelli  (between or among brothers). We don’t say fra fratelli  because to Italian ears, the two F’s sound bad together, even though they both are equally correct in meaning.

 

The above example, which uses both perfino and fino, sounds much clearer with persino. You might very well be thinking perfino would have worked better than persino in the first example above, since the next word starts with an s. You might be right!

 

Perfino se mi pagasse trecento euro...
Even if he paid me three hundred euros...

 

In the following example, persino was used. This is perhaps because fu (was) starts with “F.”

 

Persino la regina cattiva fu invitata,

Even the wicked queen had been invited,

Caption 46, Ti racconto una fiaba - Biancaneve - Part 2

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In the following example, Marika could have used anche (also, even) in place of perfino, but perfino gives a better idea of something pushed to its limit.

 

Cerchi sempre il pelo nell'uovo e sei perfino capace di trovarlo, attenta e scrupolosa come sei.

You always look for the hair in the egg (you split hairs), and you're even capable of finding it, careful and conscientious as you are.

Captions 29-31, Marika spiega - I segni dello Zodiaco - Part 2

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A common synonym for perfino is addirittura.

 

Qui accanto a me c'è un albero che ha addirittura quattrocento anni di vita.

Here next to me, there's a tree that is actually four hundred years old.

Caption 20, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese - Part 1

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope this has helped in understanding anche se and perfino.

Vocabulary

The Mystery of the Hidden Pronouns

To form a sentence, we need a subject and a verb. For the moment, let’s stick to the most normal kinds of subjects: nouns and pronouns.

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At the beginning of the following example, it’s fairly easy to find the subject and verb:

Dixi uscì di casa leggero più di una piuma leggera, perché non aveva ancora fatto merenda.

Dixi left the house, lighter than a light feather because he had not yet had a snack.

Captions 3-4, Dixieland - Il singhiozzo

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If we look at the second part of the sentence, however, we see the verb avere (to have) in its simple past tense aveva (had). But where is the equivalent of the pronoun “he” that we see in the English translation?

That’s one of the tricky things about learning Italian. The pronoun is included in the verb.

 

It can be hard to find the subject if we can't see it! How can we tell what the pronoun would be if we can’t see it? Conjugation tables help in finding out what person the verb is expressed in but we also have to get used to the fact that we "get" more than we "see."

 

Here are a few examples of how this works:

Ho (I have)
Hai (you have)
Ha (he, she, it has)
Abbiamo (we have)
Avete (you [plural] have)
Hanno (they have)

 

We can’t always know if the implied pronoun is masculine or feminine, because “he” and “she” have the same conjugation. We have to rely on previous information in the sentence or paragraph to know more precisely which it is. In the example above, the subject is Dixi, the flying elephant, who, for our purposes, is a male. Since we’ve already mentioned him by name at the beginning of the sentence, we don’t need to repeat it. Aveva means “he had.” But we could also say:

Dixi non aveva ancora fatto merenda (Dixi had not yet had a snack).

 

So, the verb is identical whether the noun is present or not. The noun will only be repeated if we want to emphasize that it’s Dixi, and not someone else.

 

By the same token, if we wanted to include a pronoun, we could. If we needed to stress “he,” we could say:

Lui non aveva ancora fatto merenda (he had not yet had a snack).

If Dixi were a female, we’d say:

Lei non aveva ancora fatto merenda (she had not yet had a snack).

So aveva could mean “he had,” “she had,” “it had,” or just “had.”

 

In the present tense, it can be tricky to perceive or use the verb avere (to have) or essere (to be) in the third person singular because they’re both such short words, and not only that: Ha (has, he has, she has, it has) is written with an H but that H is silent! So what are we left with? A lonely “Ah” sound. È (is, he is, she is, it is) is short, too, and you need to be careful to use an open “E.” Otherwise, without the grave accent, it means “and.”

 

So not only do these two verbs go by quickly, but the pronoun “he,” “she,”  or “it” may also be hidden within it!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In the following example, we see that the subject of the paragraph is Villa Borghese. Once it has been mentioned by name, we don’t need to repeat it, as long as no other word gets in the way to cause confusion. We use a pronoun, just as we would in English, but it’s important to remember that in Italian, the pronoun is included in the verb itself, so we don’t see it. The second sentence uses the verb essere in the third person singular, and the third sentence uses avere in the third person singular.

Villa Borghese è un grandissimo parco.

Villa Borghese is a very large park.

È il più grande di Roma dopo Villa Doria Pamphilj e dopo Villa Ada.

It's the biggest park of Rome after Villa Doria Pamphilj and after Villa Ada.

Ha nove ingressi. Tutti diversi naturalmente.

It has nine entrances. All different obviously.

Captions 3-6, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese - Part 1

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Grammar

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