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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

Wild: Selvatico/Selvaggio

There are two basic words for "wild" in Italian, and they're sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. They're also rather similar in that the root is the same: selva (woods, forest).

One of the adjectives for "wild" is selvatico (wild, uncultivated, growing spontaneously, feral).

 

Sto cercando di renderla un po' meno selvatica e un pochettino più civile.

I'm trying to make it a little less wild, and a tiny bit more civilized.

Caption 27, Gianni si racconta - L'olivo e i rovi

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When there are two varieties of a plant such as finocchio (fennel), the wild one gets qualified with an adjective: finocchio selvatico.

 

Il Monte Pellegrino ospita centinaia di specie diverse di piante. Dal cipresso al pino, ci sono numerose pinete, agli alberi di fico d'india, ai gelsomini, al finocchio selvatico, che da una sensazione di freschezza all'ambiente.

Monte Pellegrino hosts hundreds of different plant species. From cypress to pine, there are a number of pinewoods, to prickly pear, to jasmines, to wild fennel, which gives a sense of freshness to the place.

Captions 25-28, Adriano - Monte Pellegrino

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Sometimes wild fennel is called finocchietto (becoming an altered noun, by means of the diminuitive suffix -etto) because the plant has a smaller bulb, and is of "minor" importance. Other times, though redundant, the wild kind of fennel is called finocchietto selvatico. This pianta spontanea (spontaneous, or wild plant) is an ingredient in many central and southern Italian preparations, from salame to minestre (soups), to castagne lesse (boiled chestnuts). It blooms in late summer, and if you wonder what part people use, well, they might tell you, "whatever part is on hand when you want to make your dish." The seeds are tasty right off the plant, but they can also be dried and boiled to make a refreshing and aromatic hot tea that aids digestion. It's one of those plants that's worked itself into a great many recipes, both humble and otherwise, because, in addition to being aromatico (aromatic) and gustoso (tasty), it grows just about everywhere, and is free for the picking! The bulb (the white part) of cultivated fennel is eaten raw in salads, in pinzimonio, or cooked in a variety of ways.

 

The other word  for "wild" is the adjective selvaggio, especially referring to unrestrained people or savage animals, or places that have no law, or terrains that are particularly difficult to navigate.

Selvaggio can also be used as a noun, as in the following example.

 

Rapiti dal fascino dell'eterno selvaggio, narrando delle culture con cui venivano a contatto.

Captivated by the appeal of the eternal wild, telling of cultures with whom they came into contact.

Captions 4-5, Linea Blu - Le Eolie - Part 2

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When referring to meat from hunted animals, for example cinghiale (wild boar), we use the term selvaggina (game), also called cacciagione (hunted meat).

 

Tavole imbandite senza posate, com'era uso, e con i cibi dei ricchi e dei nobili. Paste reali fatte di pasta di mandorle, anatre all'arancia, maialini farciti con spezie e molta selvaggina.

Tables decked without silverware, as was the custom, and with the food of the rich and the noble. Royal pastries made with almond paste, ducks with orange sauce, suckling pigs stuffed with spices and lots of wild game.

Captions 13-18, Linea Blu - Sicilia - Part 16

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In a nutshell:

When you think about wild beasts, or when the words "savage" and "primitive" come to mind, then use selvaggio. When you think of spontaneous and wild plants, you'll want selvatico.

 

 

Vocabulary

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Caption 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13
Intermediate

Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu

In this week's lesson, Daniela shows us how different colors behave differently according to gender and number. Some of the colors are easy to understand, and to find equivalent names for, but when it comes to blue, Italians make some important distinctions. The three basic shades of blue are bluazzurro, and celeste.

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Blu is the most basic and can have an adjective attached to it such as in blu notte (midnight blue, dark blue, or navy blue) or blu elettrico (electric blue) or blu petrolio (oil blue or teal blue)It's the darkest of the three and also the "bluest." Think of the American or French flag. That's blu.

Azzurro isn't just any blue. It's a blue that reminds us of the transparent waters of the Mediterranean Sea along a rocky coast, the sky when it's so incredibly clear, that it seems unreal, with the sun shining high in the sky. It's a blue that has a tiny bit of green in it, tending more towards turquoise than deep blue, or even royal blue. Azzurro is also the name given to the Italian national sports teams. They wear jerseys or shorts of this color. The color azure exists in English, but it's not commonly used to describe the color of everyday items. 

Celeste is a kind of sky blue (think: "celestial"), like the sky in the early evening or early morning on a summer day. There's not a whole lot of sun, and the sky is clear but not intense. That's celeste. Baby blue is quite close to celeste.

In describing Sicily, Adriano uses both blu and azzurro:

 

Ma quello che di più colpisce è il contrasto spettacolare tra il colore azzurro, blu del mare che si staglia sul verde della montagna di Monte Pellegrino.

But what is most stunning is the spectacular contrast between the blue color, the blue of the sea that's outlined on the green of the mountain of Monte Pellegrino.

Captions 42-44, Adriano - Monte Pellegrino

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Milena is showing us some items at the supermarket. There may be some discussion as to whether the cap on the milk container is azzurro or celeste, but it's clear that it's a blue that's on the light side, to indicate "light" milk. 

 

Questo è il latte parzialmente scremato. Di solito ha il tappo celeste.

This is partially skimmed milk. Usually it has a sky-blue cap.

Captions 23-24, Milena - al supermercato

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These two lines from Adriano Celentano's hit song, Azzurro, sung by Milena and friends, give you an idea of what azzurro is all about:

 

Cerco l'estate tutto l'anno e all'improvviso, eccola qua

I've been looking for summer all year long and all of a sudden, here it is

Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me

Blue, the afternoon is too blue and long for me

Captions 2-5, Amiche - È tempo di cantare

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Another famous Italian song known as Volare, by Domenico Modugno, uses blu, notazzurro, to describe the sky. It must be said that blu rhymes with a lot more words than azzurro!

Nel blu dipinto di blu 
In the blue painted blue
Felice di stare lassù
Happy to be up there

 

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Learning suggestion:

Take a look around at all the blue items you can see. Try to say which color they are in Italian, and, after following Daniela's lesson, use the colors as adjectives in both the singular and the plural. Bluazzurro, or celeste

 

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