Italian Lessons

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La storia: History or Story?

In this lesson, we'll take a look at a noun, a cognate in fact, that easy as it is to guess, can also create confusion sometimes, because it means a couple of different things. In English we distinguish among history, story, experience,and love affair. Italian relies on this one noun, la storia, to tell plenty of different stories! 

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We mention, for those interested, that in literature, we might also find istoria as a version of the word, and that la storia comes from the Greek "istoria" and the Latin "historia."

But let's talk about how people use la storia practically, in conversation. It's hard to get through a day without using this word in one way or another. 

History

In the following example, it's clear we're talking about history. 

Nella storia si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

Historically, different clefs were used to make it so that all the notes would be, as much as possible, inside the staff.

Captions 18-19, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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1) Can you say the same thing turning storia into an adverb, as in the translation? 

 

Here, too, it's clear. It's also clear because storia is used with no article, and it's singular.

Io quando sono in questi posti pieni di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

When I'm in these places so full of history, I have profound thoughts.

Captions 2-3, Amiche Filosofie

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2) What if Anna (the speaker) was just talking about one specific place? What would she say?

 

Sometimes it's hard to know whether we're talking about history or stories, but it doesn't always matter. A translator has to make a choice, but the learner, reader, or listener doesn't. We're talking about past events, and if they are true, then we could also say, "history."

Voglio raccontarvi qualcosa di me, della mia vita, della mia storia.

I want to tell you something about myself, about my life, about my story.

Captions 13-14, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 2

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Romance

When it comes to romance, there are different ways to talk about a relationship. The most common way, and this doesn't really have an equivalent in English, is with the noun storia. Of course we can say "love story" in English, (and we can say storia d'amore in Italian) but we don't so much these days, and it is usually an important relationship in one's life. In fact, translators can have a hard time finding the right word for translating storia. The following clip is from the story of an opera, so an old-fashioned word like "romance" seemed appropriate.

Abbiamo riso, abbiamo parlato. Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We laughed, we talked. We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Captions 16-17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

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Ho avuto anch'io una storia con una collega.

I also had a relationship with a colleague.

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 15

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In the previous example, we might have said "affair" instead of relationship, or possibly "fling." But not knowing the details, it's hard to know what the appropriate word might be.

 

In the next example, however, Luca Manara calls the relationship una relazione, another common term for a romantic relationship, close in meaning to storia, but una storia is often short-term with a beginning and an end, whereas una relazione can give the idea of something ongoing. But as we can see, here the two terms seem to be fairly equivalent. 

Prima le bugie sul tuo trasferimento qua, poi sulla tua relazione con Raimondi. -La mia storia con Fabrizio non ti riguarda.

First, the lies about your getting transferred here, then about your relationship with Raimondi. -My relationship with Fabrizio doesn't concern you.

Captions 15-17, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

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When a relationship is short or not very serious, we can use a suffix to modify the word storia.

Una storiella con un vigile urbano.

A fling with a traffic cop.

Caption 9, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 12

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We can also use storiella or even storia to mean "fib" or "lie."

Situation or "thing"

We can always count on the Luca Manara TV series to give us great examples of everyday conversation. Something to memorize is what you see in boldface below: Cos'è questa storia?

Allora, Manara, che cos'è questa storia del contadino fratello del Conte?

So, Manara, what's this story about the farmer-brother of the Count's?

Caption 15, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 17

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When you say it by itself, you can think: "What's going on?" "What is this?"

 

Storia can often just be translated with "thing." It's a word we use to cover a lot of ground: storia in Italian and "thing" in English. 

Che c'hai? No, niente, 'sta [questa] storia di Lara che è nervosa per il matrimonio...

What's the matter with you? No, nothing. This thing with Lara who's anxious about the wedding...

Captions 2-3, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

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You will likely have noticed that questa is often shortened to 'sta.

Another expression to memorize, and this is used in English too, so it should be pretty straightforward.

Ne mangiasse almeno una di queste mele, tutti i giorni la stessa storia.

If he would only eat at least one of these apples, every day, it's the same story.

Captions 4-5, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 1

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È sempre la stessa storia (It's always the same old story)!

 

Bed-time story

Let's not forget that storia can just mean story as in telling a story, a fairy-tale, a fable, or reading a bed-time story. 

La morale di questa storia ci dice che l'unione fa la forza.

The moral of this story tells us that unity is what gives strength [united we stand, divided we fall].

Caption 33, Adriano Fiaba - Part 1

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As usual, there is more to this story than we have mentioned in this lesson. As Gualtiero Marchesi said at the end of his episodes about gastronomia (gourmet cooking and food in general):

 

Ah, ma questa è un'altra storia. Quella della prossima puntata.

Ah, but that's another story. The one in the next episode.

Captions 43-44, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

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So stay tuned!

1) Storicamente si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

2)  Io quando sono in questo posto pieno di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

Vocabulary

How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 1

 
How do adjectives work in Italian?
 
First off, let's review what an adjective is and what it does. An adjective describes or modifies a noun, as opposed to an adverb, which describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

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The distinction is important because in Italian, adjectives need to agree with the nouns they describe, whereas adverbs don't. This means that the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender and number of the noun it describes. In English, we don't have this problem, so it can be tough to learn in a language where it does matter.
 
 
The first thing we need to consider is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?
 
There are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in e in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular masculine form of the adjective. 
 
If you would like to learn about adjectives in Italian, see Daniela's lessons: Don't forget: you can turn English and Italian captions on and off!
 

In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi:

In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives.

noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.

We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.

Captions 23-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi positivi e neutri

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An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).

An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).

 
The second thing we have to consider is: What's the gender of the noun we are describing? Masculine or feminine?
 
The noun that the adjective describes may be masculine or feminine. Often, a masculine noun will end in o when in the singular, but not always.
 
Il forno (the oven, the bakery) ends in "o" but il pane (the bread) ends in "e." Both are masculine, singular nouns.
 
Tip: It's always a good idea to learn the article that goes with a noun when you learn the noun. It will make using adjectives easier.
 
The third thing we have to consider is: Is the noun we are describing singular or plural?
 
This factor, together with the gender and the type of adjective (o or e / positive or neutral) will determine the ending of the adjective. That's a lot to think about, so let's look at each of the four possible endings one by one in the "positive" adjective category.
 
Adjectives that end in "o":
This is the more common of the two kinds of adjectives, so let's see how these adjective endings work.
There can be 4 different endings for this kind of adjective if the noun it describes has both a masculine and a feminine form (like il ragazzo (boy) / la ragazza (the girl) / i ragazzi (the boys / le ragazze (the girls).
 
 
Masculine + singular = o.
 

È un tipico teatro diciamo shakespeariano, con il palco rotondo al centro.

It's a typical, let's say, Shakespearean theatre, with a round stage in the center.

Caption 18, Anna presenta - Villa Borghese

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Feminine + singular = a.
 

La spiaggia è molto pulita.

The beach is very clean.

Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorni

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Masculine + plural = i
 

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

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Feminine + plural = e.
 

Si aggiustano le scarpe rotte, se ne creano nuove su misura.

They repair broken shoes; they custom make new ones.

Caption 5, Marika spiega - Il nome dei negozi

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Bambino means "child" or "baby." Piccolo means "small."  Bambino is the type of noun that can change according to gender, so as a consequence, it's quite easy to see the different endings of the adjective piccolo.
 
Il bambino è piccolo (the little boy is small).
La bambina è piccola (the little girl is small).
I bambini sono piccoli (the little boys are small).
Le bambine sono piccole (the little girls are small).
 
This noun - adjective combination is straightforward. In other words, you see a certain letter at the end of the noun, and the adjective ends the same way. But don't be fooled into thinking all nouns and adjectives are like this. They often are, so it may be a good guess, but not all the time.
 
What are some other common positive Italian adjectives (ending in "o")?
 
bello (beautiful or handsome)
brutto (ugly or bad)
buono (good)
cattivo (bad)
duro (hard, difficult)
caro (dear, expensive)
crudo (raw, uncooked)
cotto (cooked)
creativo (creative)
pulito (clean)
sporco (dirty)
rosso (red)
grosso (big)
pieno (full)
vuoto (empty)
bianco (white)
bravo (good)
 
To sum up about adjectives that end in "o," if the noun is masculine and singular, like, for example, il cielo (the sky) which also happens to end in "o," the adjective will end in "o," as well: un cielo nuvoloso, cielo scuro (cloudy sky, dark sky), not because the noun ends in "o" but because it's masculine and singular. Even if the noun ends in "e," such as il pane (the bread), or in "a" such as il sistema (the system), the positive adjective will still end in "o."
 
Il pane duro (the hard bread)
Il pane vecchio (the old bread)
il pesce fresco (the fresh fish)
il vecchio sistema (the old system)
il ponte nuovo (the new bridge)
 
By the same token, if you have a singular feminine noun such as la giornata (the day), the positive adjective will end in "a." La giornata nuvolosa (the cloudy day). Una giornata scura (a dark day), la strada vecchia (the old road), una fine inaspettata (an unexpected ending), la mano ferma (the steady hand).
 
Practically speaking:
You can now take the positive adjectives in the list above and apply them to any appropriate noun. Remember, both gender and number count, but, as you will see, not all nouns are like bambino/bambina. Not all nouns have both masculine and feminine versions.
 
Here's a short list of nouns and adjectives to get you started.
 
La casa (the house) pulita, sporca, vecchia, nuova, rossa, grossa, etc.
Le case (the houses) pulite, sporche, vecchie, nuove, rosse, grosse, etc.
Il lavandino (the sink) pieno, vuoto, sporco, pulito, bianco, etc.
I lavandini (the sinks) pieni, vuoti, sporchi, puliti, bianchi, etc.
Gli spaghetti crudi, buoni, cotti, duri, cattivi, etc.
La pasta cruda, buona, cotta, dura, cattiva, etc.
Il prosciutto crudo, cotto, buono, cattivo, etc.
 
Get the idea? Can you find positive adjectives to go with these nouns?
 
La verdura (the vegetables) (this noun can be used in the plural, but is generally used as a singular collective noun).
Una stanza (a room)
Le mele (the apples)
Gli alberi (the trees)
Un letto (a bed)
Un fiore (a flower)
Una pianta (a plant)

Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.

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Write to us if you have questions!

Stay tuned for the next part of this lesson about adjectives, when will discuss aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives), or those adjectives that end in "e" and do not change according to gender: they only change according to singular and plural. Thus, they have only 2 possible endings.

Bear Up with Sopportare and Reggere

In a previous lesson we discussed not being able to stand someone, using the verb vedere (to see):

Non lo posso vedere!
I can’t stand him!

In an episode of "Commissario Manara," we hear another verb employed to express a similar sentiment: sopportare (to bear, to put up with, to tolerate). Lara is talking about her situation with Luca. She may be saying she can’t stand him, or that she can’t stand it (the situation).

  

Non lo sopporto!

I can't bear it/ I can't stand him!

Caption 34, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Another way to say this would be:

E’ insopportabile!
It’s unbearable/He's unbearable!

Another verb that is useful in this context is reggere (to hold, to hold up, to bear). Reggere, too, may be used when you can’t stand or bear someone or something.

Non lo reggo!
I can’t bear him!
I can’t bear it!

You may recall reading about retto as a noun in a completely different context in another lesson, but in the following example, retto is the participle of reggere.

 

Rodolfo non ha retto il peso della mia malattia.

Rodolfo couldn't bear the burden of my illness.

Caption 3, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

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It can mean physically holding something, as in:

Mi reggi questa borsa un attimo?
Could you hold this bag for me a moment?

Or holding onto, as in:

 

L'alcol, l'alcol, non lo regge, -Mh. Eh... si vede che... -Che, tu lo reggi?

The alcohol, alcohol, he can't hold his, -Hm. Yeah... it turns out that... -Because, you can hold yours?

Captions 48-49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

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Reggere is often used when talking about how sturdy something is.

Questa scala è un po’ marcia. Reggerà?
This ladder is a bit rotten. Will it hold up?

Sopportare and reggere are useful words in all kinds of contexts. Have a look at the online dictionary of your choice to get an even better grasp of them. 

Just for fun:


Questo tetto non reggerà per molto. L’ho detto a mio marito, ma lui non sopporta l’idea di dover spendere soldi. Il suo atteggiamento lo trovo insopportabile, e non lo reggo proprio quando si comporta così. Vedremo per quanto ancora reggerà il tetto, e per quanto tempo ancora io potrò sopportare mio marito! Quasi quasi, se mi reggi questa scala, andrò io a dare un'occhiata al tetto!

This roof won’t hold up for long. I told my husband this, but he can’t stand the idea of having to spend money. His attitude I find to be intolerable, and I can’t stand him when he behaves that way. We’ll see how much longer the roof will hold, and for how long I’ll be able to stand my husband! On second thought, if you hold this ladder for me, I'll go and have a look at the roof myself.

Think about things you (and people you know) can or cannot put up with, and use sopportare and reggere to talk about it!

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Vocabulary

Ricordare: Remembering and Reminding

One of Italy’s most beloved singer-songwriters ci ha lasciato (passed away): Pino Daniele. Italian uses the verb ricordare to express remembrance on such occasions.

Lo ricorderemo con affetto.

We’ll remember him with affection.

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In Quando (When), one of his most famous songs, Pino sings about, among other things, ricordi (memories).

 

Fra i ricordi e questa strana pazzia E il paradiso che forse esiste

Among memories and this strange madness And a paradise that might exist

Captions 29-30, Pino Daniele - Quando

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Ricordare has another, closely related meaning—“to remind,” as in the following example.

 

Ah, un'altra cosa, scusami Anna, che volevo ricordare ai nostri amici di Yabla, come usanza, noi italiani a tavola non mangiamo mai pane e pasta insieme.

Ah, another thing, sorry Anna, that I wanted to remind our Yabla friends of, customarily, we Italians at table we don't eat bread and pasta together.

Captions 41-42, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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When using ricordare as “to remind,” it becomes ricordare a and gets used with an indirect object, as in the above example. The preposition a (to)—sometimes connected to an article, as above—goes between ricordare and the person getting reminded. In the above example, the direct object is cosa.

 

But when the indirect object is a personal pronoun, the spelling shifts, as in the following example, where ti stands for a te (to you). See an explanation and chart of Italian indirect object pronouns here.

 

E tra l'altro, ti volevo ricordare, che questa era una palude.

And besides, I wanted to remind you, that this was a swamp.

Caption 18, Marika e Daniela - Il Foro Romano

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In the following example, the personal pronoun as indirect object is attached to the verb itself. See more about this in previous lessons Ci gets around, part one and part two.

 

Hm... Rosmini. -Hm. -Ricordami il nome? -Ginevra.

Hmm... Rosmini. -Uh huh. -Remind me of your [first] name? -Ginevra.

Captions 80-81, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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In English we have two distinct but related words, “to remember” and “to remind,” while in Italian the difference is considered so minimal that the same word is used, but there are some subtle differences.

 

More often than not, when we’re remembering, ricordare is used reflexively: ricordarsi, as in mi ricordo (I remember). (See the lesson: Reflections on the Reflexive.) When using the past tense, as in the following example, essere (to be) is the auxiliary verb.

 

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

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If you think of ricordare as meaning “to call to mind,” it may be easier to see how one word can fill two bills. While ricordarsi (to remember) is reflexive, and involves the person who’s remembering, ricordare a (to remind) involves two or more people.

 

Things get a little tricky when personal pronouns are used (which is a lot of the time)! Notice the object pronouns and conjugated verb. When ricordare means “to remember” the conjugation of ricordare matches the object pronoun, such as in ti ricordi? (do you remember?), si ricorda (he/she/it/one remembers), vi ricordate (you remember), ci ricordiamo (we remember). But in ricordare as reminding, there are usually at least two different people involved: ti ricordo (I remind you), ci ha ricordato (he/she/it reminded us), mi poteva ricordare (he could have reminded me).

 

In a nutshell:

Ricordare and its reflexive form ricordarsi (to remember): takes essere (to be) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci siamo ricordati), can be reflexive (same person)

Ricordare a (to remind): takes avere (to have) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci ha ricordato), is two-way (different people)

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Here are a few more examples to help you remember...

Ti ricorderai di comprare il pane, o te lo devo ricordare?

Will you remember to buy bread, or do I have to remind you of it?

Ricordamelo pure, ma forse non mi ricorderò!

Go ahead and remind me of it, but maybe I won’t remember!

Come faccio a ricordarmi di ricordarti?

How can I remember to remind you?

Ti ho già ricordato due volte.

I’ve already reminded you twice.

When we’re una squadra di uno (a team of one), then we need stesso (self) to remind ourselves of something:

Alla fine, sarà più semplice ricordare a me stesso/stessa di comprare il pane, che di ricordarmi di ricordare a qualcun altro.

In the end, it’ll be easier to remind myself to buy bread, than to remember to remind someone else.

Vocabulary

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