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How to talk about frequency regarding time

How do we talk about frequency — how many times in a period of time something happens or should happen? Let's find out.

 

Just as English has "every" and "each," so does Italian. Italian has tutti  (all) and ogni (each). For more about tutti see this lesson

In Italia, come ben sapete, la pasta è un alimento consumato tutti i giorni.

In Italy, as you well know, pasta's a food that's eaten every day.

Caption 1, Anna e Marika La pasta fresca

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Note that with tutti, we use the plural. Both the noun giorni and the adjective tutti are in the plural. Not only that. If we replace giorni (days) with settimane (weeks), we have to change tutti  to tutte, as settimana is a feminine noun. Note also that we have tutto il giorno, which means "all day." Here tutto is singular, so try not to get mixed up (we'll talk about this in a different lesson).

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Usciamo quasi tutte le settimane, il sabato sera,

We go out almost every week, on Saturday night,

Caption 40, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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When we use ogni (each), on the other hand, it's always singular. 

 

Qui in Sicilia, in estate si va ogni giorno al mare e la sera si esce.

Here in Sicily, in the summer we go to the beach every day and in the evenings we go out.

Caption 49, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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What if we want to talk about "every other day?" We can say ogni due giorni (every two days) or we can say un giorno sì e un giorno no (one day yes and one day no).

Ah no, eh? E tu come lo chiami un bambino che vomita un giorno sì e un giorno no?

No? And what do you call a little boy who vomits every other day?

Captions 95-96, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 3

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When it comes to doing something once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a year, we use the noun volta, which we can also use in the plural when appropriate. It is followed by the preposition a (at, to, in)

Allora, amici di Yabla, all'interno del mio negozio, una volta al mese ospito degli artisti...

So, Yabla friends, inside my shop, I host artists once a month...

Captions 56-57, Adriano Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Note that the noun volta has other meanings and connotations, so consider checking out the dictionary entry linked to above. Learn more about the noun volta meaning "time" in this lesson

 

una volta al giorno (once a day)

due volte al giorno (twice a day)

una volta alla settimana (once a week)

due volte alla settimana (twice a week)

una volta al mese (once a month)

due volte al mese (twice a month)

una volta all'anno (once a year)

due volte all'anno (twice a year)

 

There is a lot to talk about regarding time. We've covered one aspect of frequency in this lesson, but in future lessons, we'll talk about ways to say "usually," "sometimes," "always," "never," and so on.

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4 ways to translate "way" into Italian

Sometimes the challenge is understanding what someone tells you in Italian, but sometimes it's about coming up with the right Italian word for what we are trying to say (when we happen to be thinking English). So let's start with an English word this time. Let's start out with the English noun "way." We can translate it into Italian in a few different ways.

the way - la via 

the way - il modo

the way - la maniera

 

La via

What's the best way to solve this problem or get out of the situation? We're pretty much talking about a direction here, either literal or figurative. Which way? What route or path do we take? 

Sembra che non ci sia più via d'uscita.

It looks like there won't be any way out.

Caption 31, Anna e Marika in La Gazza Ladra - Part 2

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We can often use the word "pathway" for viaVia, being more about "by what means," and also meaning "road," stands out from the other words we will be talking about, which are more about "how": the way to do something.

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Il modo

 

If we are talking about the way someone does something, then we will likely use il modo (the way, the manner).

Ma questo modo di conservare gli alimenti, paradossalmente, è un po' più rispettoso della natura...

But this way of conserving food, paradoxically, is a bit more respectful of nature...

Captions 28-29, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 4

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Le stagioni hanno specifici colori, clima, temperatura, e influenzano il nostro modo di vivere.

The seasons have specific colors, weather, temperatures, and influence the way we live.

Captions 5-6, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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A question to ask with modo is: in che modo (in what way, how)? It often goes hand in hand with the question come (how)?

 

We can use modo when we ask for or give instructions, such as in cooking. How should we slice the onion?

La nostra cipolla va affettata in modo molto sottile.

Our onion is to be sliced very thinly.

Caption 6, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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Keep in mind that in many cases in which we might likely use an adverb in English (in this case "thinly"), an adjective after modo seems to work better in Italian (in modo sottile).

 

Here are a few more examples of this:

 

a roughly chopped onion  - una cipolla tagliata in modo grossolano

uniformly - in modo uniforme

strangely - in modo strano

unusually - in modo insolito

messily - in modo disordinato

 

When you don't like someone's manner, you don't like the way they go about doing things, you can use modo.

Non mi piace il suo modo di fare (I don't like the way he does things).

 

La maniera

 

The cognate for maniera is "manner," which often means "way." So that's easy.

 

In questa maniera, usando la pasta all'uovo la stessa ricetta, lasagna se ne vende a profusione qui da noi.

This way, the same recipe using egg pasta, lasagna sells profusely here at our place.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 2

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Modo and maniera are very similar, and are pretty interchangeable, but keep in mind that modo is masculine and maniera is feminine.

 

Ha una maniera strana di parlare (he has a strange way of talking).

Parla in modo strano (he has a strange way of talking). 

 

Il senso

We have one more translation for "way," and that is senso

 

Strangely enough, in the dictionary, we don't immediately see il senso as an Italian translation of "the way." Yet, when we look up il senso, "the way" turns up as the fourth choice as a translation.

 

Senso is a great word, and one Italians use all the time. Let's talk about 2 popular ways it is used to mean "way." When used in a statement, it's common to find the adjective certo (certain) before it. We have translated it, but you could also leave it out: "In a way..."

e in un certo senso, l'abbiamo anche conquistata

in a certain way, we even conquered it

Caption 22, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 3

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The other way Italians use senso is when they want a more complete explanation of something they didn't quite understand.

 

They'll ask, In che senso? 

Perché? -Perché così nessuno avrebbe saputo che erano false. False? -False? -False in che senso, scusi? -Falsissime.

Why? -Because that way no one would have known they were fakes. Fakes? -Fakes? -Fakes in what way, sorry? -Very fake.

Captions 54-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 16

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They are asking, "In what way?"  but they might also be asking, "What do you mean by "fake"?" or "How do you mean?"

 

We might want to keep in mind that another meaning of il senso is "meaning."

il senso della vita (the meaning of life)

 

Check out these lessons that explore the noun, il senso.

Making Sense of Senso

A common expression: nel senso...

 

 

Here's how we generally put these different ways of saying "way" into context:

 

in un certo senso (in a way)

in che senso (how do you mean, what do you mean by that)?

in qualche modo (in some way, somehow)

in qualche maniera (in some way, somehow)

ad ogni modo (anyway, anyhow)

per quale via (by what means)?

 

Now when you watch Yabla videos, maybe you will be a bit more tuned in to how people use via, modo, maniera and senso. They all mean "way."

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Vocabulary

Talking about Dates in Italian

When we are learning a new language we pay attention to things that native speakers don't necessarily pay attention to. They don't have to. But we do! That is how we learn.

 

Here's a case in point. A learner was watching a Yabla video about numbers. When do we use ordinal numbers, and when do we use cardinal numbers? In the video in question, Marika is talking about dates. Every language expresses dates a bit differently, and there are often different options. The basic premise is that in contrast to how we do it in English, Italians mostly use a cardinal number (not an ordinal number as in English) when talking about a specific date, preceded by the definite article.

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The learner's question was, "Is there some special reason why Marika uses the preposition di (of) when talking about August, but not for the other dates?" It's a great question, and it is exactly the kind of question we like learners to ask. Because native speakers, or even experienced non-native speakers, might not be aware they are saying di (of). They just know it sounds right without thinking about it and may or not be able to explain why.

 

Si dice il cinque aprile, il quattro luglio,

One says the fifth of Aprilthe fourth of July,

il nove maggio, ehm, il venti di agosto.

the ninth of May, uhm, the twentieth of August.

Captions 24-25, Marika spiega - Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

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So the short answer is that when talking about a specific date, you can just say the cardinal number (with the definite article before it) followed by the month. There was nothing special about the month of August to cause Marika to use the preposition di. She might have used it because it was the last month she said in a series and it just sounded better to her. And it's a valid option. So it is not wrong to use the preposition, but more often than not, Italians don't use it. 

 

Let's look at another example. Antonio is telling us about a festival in August, in his area of Italy. In the following example, he just says the cardinal number and the month. He is talking about a specific date.

 

E poi il diciotto agosto

And then on the eighteenth of August

la statua rientra qui nel... ehm, nel santuario.

the statue returns here, in the... uh, in the sanctuary.

Captions 19-20, Antonio - al Santuario

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In the same video, a few captions earlier, he is again talking about the dates of the festival. He uses the preposition di in the first instance.

 

Ehm, la Madonna della Grotta è la protettrice di Praia a Mare

Um, the Madonna of the Cave is the patron saint of Praia a Mare

e viene fatta una festa il quattordici e quindici d'agosto.

and there is a feast on the fourteenth and fifteenth of August.

Per l'esattezza inizia il quattordici a mezzanotte

To be exact it starts on the fourteenth at midnight

e finisce il diciotto agosto di ogni anno.

and ends on the eighteenth of August every year.

Captions 13-16, Antonio - al Santuario

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When he cited two dates together he used the preposition di before agosto. Sometimes it just seems clearer to add it. It could also be that since agosto starts with a vowel and diciotto ends with a vowel, it's easier to put a consonant in the middle, so it's clearer and easier to say.

 

Marika, in this video about the news, doesn't add the preposition (febbraio starts with a consonant!).

 

Il ventiquattro e venticinque febbraio,

On the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of February,

in Italia si terranno le elezioni politiche,

Italy will hold political elections

che decreteranno la scelta di un nuovo governo.

that will ratify the choice of a new government.

Captions 8-9, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo

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The important thing to know is that it is correct to leave out that preposition and that we generally use a cardinal number except for when it's the first. When it's the first of the month, we use the ordinal number primo (first).

 

E si dice: il primo luglio, il primo agosto,

And one says: the first of Julythe first of August,

il primo settembre.

the first of September.

Caption 28, Marika spiega - Numeri Cardinali e Ordinali

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And if we are talking about the first few days of a month, we can say it like this with the plural of primo (note we use the preposition di (of)):

I primi di gennaio (the first days of January)

 

I mesi che ci interessano sono quelli di metà marzo, aprile,

The months that interest us here are half of March, April,

maggio e i primi di giugno.

May, and the first [days] of June.

Captions 29-30, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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It's funny this question has come up about the preposition di, because in our previous lesson we also talked about the preposition di and how it is common to use it when talking about saying "yes" and "no." In that case, too, it's an option. Learning which option works better comes with a lot of listening and repeating, and keeping your eyes and ears open. We thank the learner who wrote in about this topic!

Di is one of those prepositions that most learners of Italian struggle with, so don't feel bad if you often get it wrong. You are not alone! Non sei solo/sola!

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Caption 16, 15, 14, 13, 20, 19
Intermediate

What Does "Proprio" Actually Mean?

If we listen to an Italian speaking, either formally or informally, one word we will hear constantly is proprio. With its various meanings, it can be confusing to start using. Proprio sounds a lot like "proper," of course, and that is one meaning, although not the most common.

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Let's start with one of the few cases in which proprio can connote "proper": the expression vero e proprio. Literally, "true and proper," it always comes as two words connected by the conjunction e (and). The expression can mean "proper" or "veritable" (as in the case of the example below). "Genuine," "real," or "actual" can work, too. Italians really like to say vero e proprio "true and proper." Think of it as one word.

 

Il Duomo di Siena è un vero e proprio scrigno.

The Duomo of Siena is a veritable treasure chest.

Caption 1, Meraviglie - EP. 3 - Part 5

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Very often, proprio means "just," or "exactly," as in the following example. 

A volte molto freddo, specie a gennaio e a febbraio.

Sometimes, very cold, especially in January and February.

Ecco perché bisogna vestirsi pesanti, proprio come me.

That's why we need to dress in heavy clothing, just like me.

Captions 12-13, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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Proprio can mean "actually" or "indeed."

Vedrete come la prima sillaba di ogni verso è proprio il nome che poi è rimasto alle sette note.

You'll see how the first syllable of each line is indeed the name which has since remained, for the seven notes.

Captions 29-30, A scuola di musica - con Alessio

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We use proprio to give more emphasis to an adjective.

Proprio buono!

Really good!

Caption 46, Adriano - Il caffè

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We also use proprio when in English, we would say "right" as an adverb, for example, proprio lì (right there).

Ciao, ragazzi e ragazze [ragazze e ragazzi]. Mi trovo proprio al ristorante Pinocchio.

Hi guys and gals, I'm right in the Pinocchio restaurant.

Caption 3, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio

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We also use propio to indicate ownership. We add this example so that you know about this use. Not all Italians uses this properly, so don't worry about it too much, but if you don't know this meaning, there may be cause for confusion. We'll talk about this more in a future lesson.

 

Una città dove non c'è più egoismo e ognuno fa il proprio dovere di creare e agire.

A city where there's no more egotism and everyone does one's own duty — to create and act.

Captions 11-12, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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One way to take advantage of Yabla is to do a search of proprio on the videos page.  You'll see example after example of this word in various contexts. If there are examples you don't quite understand, let us know! We're here to help.

Ways to Say “About” in Italian

"About" is a very common word in English. It is a preposition, but also an adjective and adverb. For now, we'll focus on the prepositional meaning "on the subject of" or "concerning." As in English, Italian provides a few different options. So let's take a look.

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The first way: the preposition di (of/about).

 

If you think back to stories you have heard, even English uses “of” sometimes to mean “about.”

I will speak to you of love.

 

It may seem a bit antiquated, but it does exist. In Italian, it’s very common. In fact, Adriano speaks a very everyday kind of Italian, and normally uses the preposition di (about, of) to mean “about.”

 

Vi parlo della colazione, di una colazione italiana.

I'm going to talk to you about breakfast, about an Italian breakfast.

Caption 2, Adriano - fa colazione

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Oggi vi parlerò delle stagioni.

Today I'm going to talk to you about the seasons.

Caption 2, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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The second way: a (to, at).

The preposition a is used with the verb pensare (to think). We could also say “to reflect.” Then the preposition “on” could make sense. “To reflect on life.”

 

Sì, mi metto a pensare alla vita in generale. A...

Yes, I get to thinking about life in general. About...

a tutto.

about everything.

Captions 6-7, Amiche - Filosofie

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But the preposition di can also be used with the verb pensare.

Cosa pensi di questo vestito?
What do you think about/of this dress?

 

You might have run across the pronoun ne in videos and lessons about particelle (particles).

Cosa ne pensi?
What do you think about it?

 

The third way: su (on).

 

Allora Rossana, ti faccio qualche domanda sul tuo mestiere, insomma.

So Rossana, I'm going to ask you a few questions about your profession, in short.

Caption 54, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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The fourth way: proposito.

 

In a recent Yabla video on business Italian, Arianna is settling into her new job, but already has a problem she needs to discuss with her boss. She uses a more formal, longer way to say “about.” It’s a bit more precise, and, well, businesslike, and gives the topic a bit more importance.

 

Sì, certo. Ho anche bisogno di parlarti

Yes, of course. I also need to talk to you

a proposito del nostro contatto della stampa estera.

about our foreign press contact.

Caption 11, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti

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In the above example, we might also translate proposito as “regarding,” since it’s a moderately formal situation. In actual fact, these days, “regarding” would more likely be found in a letter than in a normal office conversation. The meaning is pretty much the same.

 

In the following example, too, proposito could be translated as “regarding.” We would need some extra context to determine which would work better. If either Lara or Luca were talking to their boss, then “regarding” might be more appropriate.

 

proposito del caso del cimitero...

Speaking of the cemetery case...

Regarding the cemetery case...

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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It all depends on who is talking to whom, and whether they want to be formal or informal, or if the question is a bit off the cuff, or planned out.

 

Note: One important, and very common way proposito is used, is all by itself, without a specified object: proposito... In this case, it can mean “speaking of which” or “by the way.” It’s a rather non-aggressive means of getting a word in edgewise, changing the subject, or bringing up a topic out of the blue.

 

Ne parliamo stasera, OK?

We'll talk about it tonight, OK?

-A proposito, hai comprato il vino?

-Speaking of which, did you buy wine?/By the way, did you buy wine?

Captions 29-30, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto

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Sometimes these different ways of saying "about" are interchangeable, and sometimes one works better than the other. Experience will help you determine the best one for any given situation. Keep your ears open!

Vocabulary

Indietro Non si Torna (You Can’t Go Back)

In a new video from Yabla, Adriano tells us about a book he wrote. He uses the verb importare (to matter, to be important) a few times. Importare sounds much like the English adjective “important,” but it’s a verb, and needs to be handled accordingly. If you’re not familiar with importare, take a look at this lesson about it. Adriano adds the indirect object pronoun a me/mi to importare, to mean that something does or doesn't matter to him. It’s a little stronger and more personal than non importa (it doesn’t matter). 

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Ma questo a me non importa.

But this doesn't matter to me.

Caption 5, Adriano - Indietro non si torna

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He could also have said, ma questo non m'importa.

 

Another verb he uses is vivere. It means “to live” but also “to experience,” so see this lesson about how Italians use vivere.

 

Bisogna vivere il presente in maniera intensa.

One needs to experience the present in an intense way.

Caption 47, Adriano - Indietro non si torna

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Let’s talk for a moment about the title of Adriano’s book, Indietro non si torna (One Can’t Go Back). First of all, he turns the phrase around to put the emphasis on indietro (back, backwards). He could have entitled it Non si torna indietro and it would mean the same thing, but it would have less impact. The emphasis would have been on non (not).

 

He uses the impersonal form of the verb tornare (to return, to go back). The impersonal form is peculiar to Latin-based languages and is used quite a bit in Italian, but can be difficult for learners to grasp. See these lessons about the impersonale. To express the same idea in English we often use the passive voice, or, especially in the negative, a general “you” that means anyone and everyone. Although not used much in conversation, English also employs the neutral "one" in the third person singular for the same purpose. In the negative impersonal, the implication is that you shouldn’t or can’t do something. So, we might freely translate Adriano's title as "You can't go back," or "There's no going back."

 

"A me mi" non si dice.

"To me I" isn't said [you shouldn’t say, you can’t say, you don’t say, one doesn't say].

Caption 12, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

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Note how Italians change the word order where in English, it's less common. If we turn the Italian sentence around, it's clearer.

 

Non si dice "a me mi".
One doesn't say "to me, I."

 

In an impersonal positive statement, we often use “they” or the passive voice in English.

 

Si dice che qui il sole spacca le pietre.

It's said [They say] that here, the sun splits rocks.

Caption 41, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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Hopefully, these words about Adriano's video have helped you understand some of the contents a bit better, or have reinforced what you already knew. Keep up the good work, and thanks for reading.

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To watch other videos featuring Adriano, just do a search with his name. His videos are generally easy to understand, by way of his clearly articulated and well-paced way of speaking.

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