In this lesson, we will talk about words that stem from the root word, quadro. For more about the word quadro itself, please see this lesson, where we discuss various meanings of the word. For the purposes here, let's think of un quadro as a picture, or a painting. We can imagine it as being framed and hanging on the wall.
Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo.
Cristina told us that you were able to sell a few of his paintings.Play Caption
A frame is often square or rectangular, and in fact, quadro is another word for square. In a camera, we see a square (or frame) around the subject we want in the shot.
In concrete terms, l'inquadratura is the act or result of framing something in a camera, telescope, binoculars, or some such appliance. The verb form is inquadrare. You want to make it so your subject is in a certain position within the frame you see in your viewfinder or live-view screen. In other words, in the shot.
Qua si vede un'anfora, un'urna cineraria per l'esattezza, quasi intatta. Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.
Here you can see an amphora, a cinerary urn to be precise, almost intact. Are you able to get it in the shot? -Yes.
Captions 21-22, Anna e Marika Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 4
In photographic terms, the kind of shot is often described in Italian with the noun piano (plane) or campo (field of view). But for the subject we focus on, or that we want in the frame, we use inquadrare.
Primi piani, totali, campi medi, tutto con il quaranta, semplicemente allontanandosi o avvicinandosi al soggetto o a... alla cosa da inquadrare.
Close ups, long shots, medium shots, all with the forty [mm], simply by going further away or by getting closer to the subject or to the... the thing to capture in the frame.
Captions 5-7, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 11Play Caption
Io La guardo sempre alla TV, ma dal vivo sembra più alto. -Be', dipende molto dall'inquadratura. Spesso un'angolazione può dare l'impressione...
I always watch you on TV, but in person you seem taller. -Well, it depends a lot on the framing. Often a camera angle can give an impression...
Captions 53-55, PsicoVip Gli occhiali - Ep 24Play Caption
But we can also use the verb inquadrare figuratively. "We get the picture."
Tanto ho capito, io il tipo l'ho inquadrato. Non mi fido.
Anyway I understand, I have that guy figured out. I don't trust him.Play Caption
There are various ways of translating inquadrare in the following example, but we don't know exactly what she was thinking, so we opted for "to categorize."
Inquadrava i suoi corteggiatori come amici, quindi li invitava tutti insieme. Si odiavano tra di loro,
She categorized her suitors as friends, so she would invite them all together. They hated one another,
Captions 5-6, Vera e Giuliano Montaldo - Part 4Play Caption
E noi abbiamo inquadrato lì la porta...
And we focused on the door there...
Caption 18, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 1Play Caption
Inquadrare isn't actually focusing, in the technical sense of getting your subject in focus, or sharp, but you are focusing on something important in the shot, so sometimes it's synonymous with focusing. Usually, you want the subject in your frame to be in focus. When we are technically focusing on a part of the shot, we use the focus ring or use autofocus and we "put the image into focus": mettere a fuoco. Once the image is sharp, è a fuoco (it's in focus).
Just as inquadrare can be figurative, so can mettere a fuoco.
Poi, c'ho una nuova idea in testa, così, ma ancora... ancora un pochino confusa, che spero di mettere a fuoco abbastanza presto.
Then, I have a new idea in mind, like, but still... still a bit confused, which I hope to bring into focus fairly soon.
Captions 48-49, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 7Play Caption
Fare il punto della situazione, invece, vuol dire mettere a fuoco gli aspetti principali di quella situazione, mentre fare il quadro della situazione, invece, significa descrivere quella situazione in modo molto dettagliato.
To make the point [to sum up] of the situation, instead means to put into focus the principal aspects of that situation, whereas "to make the picture" of a situation, instead, means to describe that situation in a very detailed way.
Captions 61-64, Marika spiega Il verbo farePlay Caption
Just as we have two separate words in English for when we use our ears — "to listen" and "to hear" — we have them in Italian, too. There are a few things to know about the two verbs we use: ascoltare and sentire. On a very basic level, ascoltare (to listen) is more active than sentire (to hear).
E Lei non si è messa dietro la porta ad ascoltare?
And you didn't get behind the door to listen in?Play Caption
Ama sentire il rumore dei suoi passi nei corridoi semideserti,
He loves to hear the noise of his steps in the semi-deserted corridors,Play Caption
Signore e signori, è con grande piacere che ascoltiamo la prossima canzone.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we will listen to the next song.Play Caption
We can just say ascolta (listen)! or ascoltate (listen [pl])! But we often use an object pronoun, too, as in the following example. Note that we sometimes attach the object pronoun and end up with one word. This can happen with the informal version of the imperative. As you will see, the polite form is different.
Allora, ascoltami bene. Tu non c'hai la mamma, stai qua a fare la cameriera a tutti, qualcuno te le dà pure...
Then, listen to me carefully. You don't have a mother, you're here being a maid to everyone, someone even beats you up...Play Caption
If I answer that command, to say, for example, "I am listening to you," then I put the object pronoun first, and it's separate.
I'm listening [to you].Play Caption
When we use the polite form of address, we can't attach the personal pronoun to the verb.
Manara, mi ascolti bene.
Manara, listen to me carefully.Play Caption
We can listen to a person, but we can also listen to sounds, to music, to the radio.
Era mattina presto e ascoltavo la radio.
It was early morning, and I was listening to the radio.Play Caption
We also have the noun form, l'ascolto. We use it with verbs such as dare (to give) or prestare (to lend).
Mamma non mi vuole mandare al concerto. -Non se lo merita. Papà, non le dare ascolto.
Mom doesn't want to let me go to the concert. -She doesn't deserve it. Daddy, don't listen to her.Play Caption
Colleghi e cittadini... -Attenzione, attenzione, prestatemi ascolto.
Colleagues and citizens... -Hear ye, hear ye, lend me your ear.
Captions 62-63, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 15Play Caption
We have already mentioned that sentire is more of a passive verb than ascoltare. It corresponds to the verb "to hear." But that's not all! Sentire has to do with the senses, and the sense of hearing — l'udito — is one of them. But sentire is also used for the sense of smell, the sense of touch, and even the sense of taste sometimes.
Sentire can be used to get someone's attention, for example, in a restaurant when you want to call the waiter or waitress. Although literally, it's "Hear [me]," it's a very common way to say, "Excuse me."
Senta, mi sa dire che ore sono adesso?
Excuse me, can you tell me what time it is now?
Caption 11, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'oraPlay Caption
In the first instance of the man wanting to know the time in the video, he uses mi scusi (excuse me).
Mi scusi, buon uomo. Mi sa dire l'ora, per favore?
Pardon me, my good man. Can you tell me the time, please?
Captions 1-2, Barzellette L'asino che dà l'oraPlay Caption
Senta is a different way of saying the same thing, even though it really means "to hear."
In the following example, on the other hand, it's clear we're talking about hearing.
Come dici? No, no, non ti sento.
What are you saying? No, no, I can't hear you.Play Caption
In the following example, we have translated sentire with "to hear," but, come to think of it, Eva might have been talking about not smelling the potatoes frying. Il risultato non cambia (the result is the same)!
Ferruccio, non sento friggere le patate.
Ferruccio, I don't hear any potatoes frying.
Caption 65, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 9Play Caption
So sentire presents problems that ascoltare does not. Another issue is that we use sentire very often in its reflexive form, sentirsi. In this case, it means "to feel."
Vi prego, mi sento male!
Please, I'm feeling ill.
Caption 17, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 13Play Caption
There's a common expression with sentirsi plus some particles. It's used when you don't feel up to something, and more often than not is used in the negative.
Sì, lo so, ma io ancora non me la sento di affrontare questo argomento.
Yes, I know, but I don't feel up to facing this subject just yet.
Caption 7, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 2Play Caption
Or it can be used in a question: Can you do this? Are you up to it?
Te la senti? and in the polite form: Se la sente?
We have talked about both ascoltare and sentire in a previous lesson, with a different slant, so feel free to check it out!
Let's look at 4 more ways to use the noun il conto in everyday conversation. The first two involve prepositions:
When we do something on someone's behalf, we use per conto di.
La leggenda racconta di miniere dove a scavare erano dei nani
The legend tells of mines where dwarfs were excavating
per conto del re Laurino.
on behalf of the king Laurin.
Captions 23-24, Meraviglie - EP. 5 - Part 10Play Caption
Oltre a questo lavoro giornalistico più specifico,
Besides this more specific journalistic job,
lavoro anche come, come responsabile di uffici stampa
I also work as head of press offices
per conto di varie realtà.
on behalf of various organizations.
Captions 1-3, Francesca Vitalini - Fare la giornalista pubblicistaPlay Caption
An expression we might see in a contract about power of attorney is:
agire in nome e per conto di (to act in the name of and on behalf of)
This expression can also mean "of one's own" and is used quite frequently as in the following example.
Perché la mi' figliola [mia figlia] c'ha già tanti problemi per conto suo.
Because my daughter has enough problems of her own.Play Caption
It can also mean on one's own:
Non faccio in tempo a venire a casa per pranzo. Mangio per conto mio.
I don't have time to come home for lunch. I'll eat on my own.
If we use the preposition su (on) then it can mean "about." We usually use it in reference to people.
No, io devo smentire delle cattiverie che girano sul mio conto.
No, I have to prove wrong the maliciousness that's circulating about me.Play Caption
Anche se ultimamente si dicono un sacco di cose sul suo conto...
Even though lately they've said a lot of things about her...Play Caption
These next examples involve a verb plus conto:
Mah, la libertà è una grossa parola,
Well, freedom is a strong word,
perché bisogna sempre tener conto
because we always have to take into account
delle persone che abbiamo intorno.
the people we're surrounded by.
Captions 22-23, Che tempo che fa - Monica BellucciPlay Caption
Here's an example using the particle ne (about it, of it) as well. It takes the place of di qualcosa (about/of something):
Tu vedrai che i giudici ne terranno conto, ascoltami.
You will see that the judges will take it into account, listen to me.Play Caption
When someone is telling you to listen to how things add up, or how things fit together, they might say:
Fai conto... (take this into consideration, do the math..., let's see... figure this in...)
Like many expressions, there are some people who use this expression regularly, and others who never use it. It can be added into a sentence as is, on its own. Instead of doing the math oneself, the speaker is having you participate. It's a modo di dire.
Ci vogliono, fai conto, tre ore per andare da Pisa a Bologna in macchina.
It will take — you should count — three hours to go from Pisa to Bologna by car.
Cammina, cammina. Sai quanti chilometri faccio io al giorno?
Yeah, walk. You know how many kilometers I do per day?
-Quanti? -Fai conto tre pedinamenti, per dire, eh.
-How many? -Figure three tails, to give you an idea, huh.
Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiroPlay Caption
Fare conto can also be used with che (that) to make a more complex sentence.
Fai conto che io faccio tanti kilometri al giorno.
Take into account that I do three kilometers per day.
Fare conto doesn't necessarily have to do with numbers or counting. It can also mean "to assume that" or even "to pretend that" in certain contexts and in this case it takes the subjunctive.
Fai conto che io sia tua madre (anche se sono la zia), e devi fare quello che dico io.
Think of me as your mother (even though I am your aunt) and you have to do as I say.
We hope these ways for using il conto will be useful to you. Maybe you will hear them used in a movie, or when an Italian is explaining something to you. Now you know!
Can you think of other ways this noun is used? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have recently come to the end of the disturbing but fascinating documentary about Italian Fascism and the Italian language. We hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two about Italian history.
One important concept put forth in this final segment is that language is an equalizer, allowing us to express ourselves and understand others.
Uguale è chi sa esprimersi e intendere l'espressione altrui.
An equal is one who is able to express himself and understand how others express themselves.Play Caption
There’s a curious little word in that caption: altrui. It’s an odd word, not following the usual rules for adjectives. In earlier times, the three famous fourteenth-century Florentine "authors" of the Italian language (Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio) also used it as a pronoun to mean “others.” It was used with various prepositions: di (of), a (to), or con (with).
More commonly, altrui is used as a possessive adjective to mean “of others” or “belonging to others/someone else.” So we might say the preposition is built-in. And once you're in the know, it's also easy to use because it doesn’t change according to number or gender. To translate altrui into English, we would most likely use the possessive form with an apostrophe.
In the first episode of Commissario Manara, Toscani is looking at his new boss with a bit of envy. His wife calls him on it.
Toscani, non essere invidioso del posto altrui.
Toscani, don't be jealous of other people's positions.Play Caption
The meaning of altrui is also fairly easy to guess. In Italian, you can think of the noun or adjective altro-altra-altri (other/others) or think of “altruism” or “altruistic” and you’ll get it! Just remember you don’t need a preposition.
Check out these examples of sentences with altrui.
The verb mancare (to miss, to be missing, to lack) is important to learn, to be able to tell someone you miss him or her, but mancare also has some other contexts, and learning these might help to understand this tricky verb.
In the following example, there's a piece of information we don't have. We're lacking something. It's absent.
Manca un'informazione importante.
An important piece of information is missing.
Caption 36, A scuola di musica - con AlessioPlay Caption
Here's a typical thing to say at the dinner table:
Manca il sale nella pasta.
The pasta lacks salt [salt is lacking in the pasta].
Let's transpose this to talking about people. Let's say there's a meeting, but not everyone is there. Someone says:
Chi manca (who's missing)? Chi non c'è (who's not here)?
Manca Alice (Alice is missing). Non c'è Alice (Alice isn't here).
That has no sentimental value. Alice should be there and she's not. But when we add a personal pronoun, in this case, an indirect object pronoun like mi (to me), ti (to you), gli (to him), le (to her), ci (to us), vi (to you plural), a loro (to them), we make it about us, we make it personal. We personally feel the fact of that person's absence. That's how Italians miss someone.
Un altro significato è "sentire la mancanza".
Another meaning is "to feel the absence."
Caption 18, Marika spiega - Il verbo mancarePlay Caption
She uses mancare in this context:
"Mia sorella è appena partita e già mi manca!"
“My sister has just left and I already miss her!”
Caption 20, Marika spiega - Il verbo mancarePlay Caption
In the following example, Luca Manara is feeling nostalgic about the past, and feels the absence of certain moments. Using the indirect object pronoun mi makes it about him, about how he feels.
Mi mancano quei momenti
I miss those times
in cui non conoscevo la risoluzione dei problemi
when I didn't know the answers to the questions
e tu mi passavi le risposte sotto al banco.
and you passed me the answers under the desk.
Captions 64-65, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfettoPlay Caption
One of our Yabla subscribers has asked about the word pure. It does get translated differently in different contexts, so it can be a bit confusing. This one short word has a few different but related connotations. On the simple end of the scale it’s an adverb—another way of saying anche (also, too, as well).
In the following example, both anch’io and io pure mean pretty much the same thing. There’s no particular emotion attached to the word. It’s matter-of-fact.
Anch'io. -Anch'io. -Io pure.
So do I. -So do I. -Me too.Play Caption
In the example below, however, the meaning of pure is technically the same (meaning “also,” “too,” “as well”) but there’s some sort of emotion involved, as if one were saying, “not only is she pretty, but she’s smart too!” (as if that weren't to be expected...):
Bellina e pure brava questa Rubino.
Pretty, and also smart, this Rubino.Play Caption
In the example below, pure is still an adverb, but this time gets translated as “even.” Let’s remember that anche can also mean “even” in certain situations. Some Italians will tell you that pure quite simply means anche. In fact, one could even swap pure with anche, and it would mean much the same thing.
È incredibile, fai pure finta di non ricordare.
It's incredible, you even pretend not to remember.Play Caption
Below is another example where the sense of pure is “even.” We could use “as well” or “too,” but it would be a bit of a stretch. In fact pure is a way to raise your eyebrows without actually doing so. It adds an emotional element.
Eh, questo, fa resuscitare pure i morti!
Yes, this, will revive even the dead!Play Caption
The following example is one in which pure requires more than a one-word translation. It’s used in contexts where we would use “go ahead” in English.
Senti, se ti va di metterti nei guai fallo pure,
Listen, if you want to get yourself in trouble, go ahead.Play Caption
Fallo pure! can be translated as “go right ahead!” [literally: “do it nevertheless”].
Pure as “go ahead” is also used a lot in offices and such places, where someone will either ask you to have a seat, or to go in. It can also be interpreted as “it’s OK if you…” since when you say “go ahead,” you’re giving permission. Here are some formal and informal examples:
Si sieda pure.
Go ahead and have a seat.
Go ahead and sit down.
Si accomodi pure.
Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. [Have a seat.]
Go ahead and make yourself at home. [Also, as a sarcastic retort: "Be my guest!"]
Vada pure avanti.
Go ahead and lead. [After you.]
Vai pure avanti.
Go right ahead.
Go ahead and take the lead.
It’s all right if you go in front of me.
We often hear a more literary form of pure: pur, which basically means the same thing, although it’s considered a conjunction. It’s used to mean “though,” “although,” “yet,” and tends to occur before a gerundio (gerund) form of a verb, as in the following example.
Pur essendo partito in una situazione di un ristorante
Though getting its start as a restaurant situated
di fronte all'ortofrutta [fruttivendolo]...
across from the vegetable market...
Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 6Play Caption
It’s also frequent to find eppure (and yet, yet, still, but, nevertheless, all the same), which has the same root. In this case it’s a stand-alone conjunction and will likely be followed by a comma.
Eppure, il rischio vulcanico non ha mai allontanato i suoi abitanti.
And yet the volcanic risk has never sent its inhabitants away.
Caption 23, Linea Blu - Sicilia Part 9Play Caption
In the same vein, we have neppure, which like neanche means “not even.”
E per di più non è neppure la stessa persona
And what's more, it's not even the same personPlay Caption
Tying it all together in context, just for fun:
Dialogo fra 2 maratonisti:
Francesca: Pur essendo anziano, vai forte!
Massimo: Sì, ma vai pure avanti, ti raggiungo dopo la corsa. Mi sono allenato come un pazzo, eppure, sto facendo fatica.
Francesca: Pure io sto facendo fatica. Fermati pure due minuti per riprendere fiato!
Massimo: Se tu ti vuoi fermare, fallo pure. Io non ci penso neanche! Neppure per sogno!
Francesca: Io pure non voglio fermarmi. A dopo!
Francesca: Ma... Sei arrivato prima tu! Eppure, eri stanchissimo.
Massimo: È vero, mi hai pure superato ad un certo punto, t’ho visto. Ma poi... puressendo stanco morto, ce l’ho fatta!
Dialogue between two marathon runners:
Francesca: Even though you’re old, you’re fast!
Massimo: Yes, but go ahead and go, I’ll catch up to you after the race. I trained like crazy, but nevertheless, I’m having a tough time.
Francesca: I’m having a tough time as well. Go ahead and stop two minutes to catch your breath!
Massimo: If you want to stop, go right ahead. I won’t even think of it! [No way!] I wouldn’t even dream of it!
Francesca: I don’t want to stop, either. See you later!
At the finish line...
Francesca: But... You finished before me! And yet, you were very tired.
Massimo: It’s true. You even passed me at a certain point, I saw you. But then... even though I was dead tired, I made it!
One way to get someone’s attention is to use the imperative command form of a verb. Two useful verbs for this purpose are ascoltare (to listen) and sentire (to hear). In Italian it’s important to know to whom you are giving the command; this will determine both the word choice and its conjugation.
Commissioner Manara has a familiar relationship with Lara and uses the informal form of address: He’s getting her attention by saying ascolta (listen). There’s a slight urgency with ascolta.
Ascolta Lara, a volte bisogna prendere delle scorciatoie, no?
Listen Lara, sometimes you have to take shortcuts, right?
Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio VerdePlay Caption
In the next example, there’s a bit of urgency, but this is Manara’s boss talking to him. They use the polite or formal form of address:
Manara, mi ascolti bene.
Manara, listen to me carefully.Play Caption
Note that the imperative verb can stand alone, or be paired with an object personal pronoun as in the above example. It adds to the urgency, and makes it more personal. Manara’s boss could have added mi raccomando (make sure) for extra urgency:
Manara, mi ascolti bene, mi raccomando!
This next example is between two people who really don’t know each other at all. It’s a formal situation, so the Lei form of “you” is used. Senta is more passive and less intrusive than ascolti. In fact, it means “hear” or “listen,” but is actually a way of saying “excuse me.”
Senta signora, oltre a Lei, chi lo sapeva di queste lettere?
Excuse me ma'am, other than you, who knew about these letters?Play Caption
Senta (listen, excuse me, or hear me) is a command you’ll use in a restaurant when wishing to get the attention of the cameriere (waiter).
Senta, possiamo ordinare?
Excuse me, may we order?
Often, senta (listen) goes hand in hand with scusi (excuse me), to be extra polite.
Buonasera. Senta scusi, Lei conosceva il dottor Lenni, giusto?
Good evening. Listen, excuse me. You knew Doctor Lenni, right?Play Caption
And in a familiar situation, such as between Marika and the mozzarella vendor in Rome, there’s no urgency but Marika wants to get the vendor’s attention before asking her a question.
Senti, ma quante mozzarelle dobbiamo comprare per la nostra cena?
Listen, but how many mozzarellas should we buy for our dinner?Play Caption
In the next example, the speaker could have said, Ascolta, Adriano, and it would have meant the same thing. Personal preference and regional usage often account for the difference.
Senti, Adriano, io lavoro qui da quando avevo dodici anni.
Listen Adriano, I've been working here since I was twelve years old.
Caption 37, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2Play Caption
Without necessarily studying all the conjugations of sentire and scusare, it’s a good idea to just remember that in polite speech, the imperative has an “a” at the end of senta, but an “i” at the end of scusi. The familiar command form would be senti, scusa. These endings can be tricky for beginners because they seem wrong, being the opposite of the indicative endings. It’s quite easy to get mixed up. The command form originally comes from the subjunctive, which is why it has a different, special conjugation.
Getting someone’s attention is part of the basic toolkit you need to communicate in Italian, so why not practice a bit, in your mind? Look at someone and get their attention using the correct verb and correct form.
If you don’t know the person, or you address them formally for some other reason, you use:
Senta! Senta, scusi.
Senta, mi scusi.
[Mi] ascolti. (Not so common, and a bit aggressive, useful if you’re a boss.)
If you’re trying to get the attention of a friend, you’ll use:
Senti... (It’s almost like saying, “Hey...”)
Ascoltami... (This can be aggressive or intimate depending on the tone and the context.)
Learn more about the imperative in Italian here.
It's very important to be able to say what you like and what you don't like. In English, “to like” is an active verb, as in “I like strawberries.” Italians use the verb piacere (to be pleasing, to delight) to say they like something. But attenzione! In Italian it gets turned around like this:
I like snow. (To me snow is pleasing.)
Mi piace la neve.
"Snow" is singular, so piace is singular. If what we like is in the plural, like "strawberries," piacere will get conjugated in the plural (in this case, third person plural).
Mi piacciono queste fragole.
To me these strawberries are pleasing [I like these strawberries.]
This can all be very confusing for new Italian speakers, but if you think about the fact that when you like something, it’s pleasing to you, it will make more sense.
So "I like" becomes mi piace. In her lesson on mi piace Daniela explains that mi (to me) is really just a contraction of a me (to me). A me is used when we want to emphasize the person, as opposed to the object the person likes, as in this hit song by Nina Zilli, "Cinquantamila lacrime" ("Fifty Thousand Tears").
A me piace così -A me piace così
I like it like that. -I like it like that
Caption 7, Nina Zilli - 50 milaPlay Caption
Remember that mi is an indirect object meaning "to me." Whatever or whoever is doing the pleasing (for example, strawberries) on the other hand, becomes the subject of the sentence (and governs the conjugation of piacere).
You may hear Italians say: a me mi piace. Now that you know that mi is short for a me, you may sense that it's wrong because it's a repetition. In fact, it's bad grammar. Still, people say it because it emphasizes just about everything in the sentence. It's sort of like saying, "Me, I like it."
So, what if I want to tell a person I like him or her?
You please me. [I like you.]
Although mi piaci or mi piace can just refer to liking someone in general, more often than not, it’s about finding the other person attractive. To say that someone is generally likable or agreeable without alluding to their attractiveness, Italian uses a word that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent: simpatico (agreeable, likable).
If you say mi sei simpatico or, as is more common in the south, mi stai simpatico (you're agreeable to me, you’re likable to me), you’re essentially telling the person you like him! It’s safer than mi piaci in many situations.
Let’s take an example from our favorite commissioner, Manara. He’s convinced his new colleagues don’t like him, but there’s a job to do.
Sentite, che io non vi sto simpatico l'ho capito perfettamente.
Listen, I understand perfectly that you don't like me.
Però abbiamo un caso molto complicato da risolvere,
However, we've got a very complicated case to solve,
Captions 43-44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfettoPlay Caption
In a nutshell:
In English, the person doing the liking is the subject, and the thing or person one likes is the object. In Italian, the person or thing that pleases is the subject, and the person who does the liking, or who’s pleased, is the object!
Look around you and see what you like and what you don’t like. Saying it out out loud in Italian will give you practice conjugating the verb piacere. Remember that when you don’t like something, just put non in front of mi: Non mi piace questo vino (I don’t like this wine).
-This article will help you get the grammatical lay of the land regarding liking things in Italian.
-This article provides some extra input on using piacere.
The instrument we know as the piano is called il pianoforte in Italian. What made it special when it was invented was that it could be played both piano (softly) and forte (loudly). Many of us are familiar with these musical terms, but actually, forte and piano are ordinary words (used as both adjectives and adverbs) and much of the time have nothing to do with music.
Piano piano, lentamente.
Slow, slow, slowly.
Caption 36, Francesca - alla guida - Part 2Play Caption
Forte! C'è il giardino con l'erba e tutto. -Ti piace?
Cool! There's a garden with a lawn and everything. -You like it?Play Caption
Lasciatemi cantare una canzone piano piano
Let me sing a song slowly, slowly [or: softly, softly]
Caption 12, Amiche - È tempo di cantarePlay Caption
La moglie di Andrea si bacia in macchina con l'avvocato del quinto piano.
Andrea's wife kisses the lawyer from the fifth floor in the car.Play Caption
Cominciamo con i piatti: questo è un piatto piano.
Let's begin with the plates, this is a flat plate [dinner plate].
Poi, c'è il piatto fondo...
Then, there's the soup plate...
Captions 7-8, Marika spiega - Le pentole e le posatePlay Caption
Le questioni personali vanno messe in secondo piano.
Personal matters should get put aside [literally, put in the background].Play Caption
Tranquilli, ho un piano.Don't worry, I have a plan.
Most of us know what arrivederci means: “goodbye,” or literally, “until we see each other again.” Ci in this case means “us” or “to us” or “each other.” Take a look at how ci works in this evocative hymn to one of our most precious resources, water:
Ci ricorda qualcosa che abbiamo dimenticato.
It reminds us of something that we have forgotten.
Caption 22, Inno all'acqua - un bene prezioso da difenderePlay Caption
When we like something, it gets "turned around" in Italian:
Ci piace molto questo posto!
We like this place a lot! [Literally: This place pleases us a lot!]
Sometimes ci gets attached to a verb, like here, where Commissioner Manara has just arrived at the crime scene and is dispatching his team to question a cyclist:
Perché non vai a sentire cos'ha da dirci? [Another way to say this would be: Perché non vai a sentire cosa ci ha da dire?]
Why don't you go and listen to what he has to tell us?Play Caption
Ci is often used in reflexive constructions, which are more common in Italian than in English.
Noi ci troviamo in Campania...
We are [we find ourselves] in Campania...
Caption 16, Giovanna spiega - La passata di pomodoriPlay Caption
In all the above examples, ci is the plural of mi (me, to me, myself). But the word ci can also mean “there,” expressing place, presence, or existence. It’s frequently hidden in a contraction, thus not alway easy to recognize. On his first day of work, Commissioner Manara checks into a pensione (small, family-run hotel) and asks the receptionist:
Il televisore c'è in camera?
Is there a TV in the room?
-Eh, certo che c'è.
-Eh, of course there is.
Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6Play Caption
He walks in on his colleagues who are gossiping about him:
Che c'è, assemblea c'è?
What's up, is there an assembly?Play Caption
In the above examples, c’è stands for ci è (there is), just like ci sono means “there are.” But, as we can see, it also means “is there?”—it’s the inflection (or punctuation if it’s written) that tells you whether it’s a question or a statement. (Learn more here and here.)
If I care whether you understand something or not, I will ask:
Do you get it? Are you with me? [Literally: Are you there?]
If I don’t care so much, I might say:
Chi c’è c’è, chi non c’è non c’è.
If you're with me you're with me; if you're not, you’re not. [Literally, “whoever is there is there; whoever isn’t there, isn’t there.”]
There! Ci is pretty easy when you get the hang of it! (Tip: Do a search for ci in the Yabla videos to instantly see lots of different examples in context.) Stay tuned for Part 2 of this lesson, where we’ll find out how ci worms its way into all sorts of other situations!
Make a shopping list, even just mentally, and as you do, ask yourself if you have those items in the fridge or in the cupboard. For singular things, or collective nouns, you will use c’è and for countable items in the plural, you will use ci sono. To get started:
C’è del formaggio? No, non c’è. (Is there any cheese? No, there isn’t.)
Ci sono delle uova? Si, ci sono. (Are there any eggs? Yes, there are.)