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Ecco: an ancient and useful adverb

Ecco (here it is), from the Latin ecce or eccum, is about presenting a person, thing, or idea and inviting you to perceive it at the very moment it appears.

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Ecco la primavera is a 14th century song by Francesco Landini. It’s a song about the coming of spring. We might translate the title as “Behold, spring has come!” The entire Italian text with a non-literal English translation opposite may be viewed here.

 

So this way of calling our attention to something goes way back. Despite its very ancient origins, it’s a popular word that Italians use constantly. We say ecco to call attention to something or someone arriving, or when we find something we were looking for.

 

We no longer use the word “behold” in English, but we might say, “well will you look at that,” “there you go!” In the following example, Anna gets her question about long-lasting bread answered before she asks it, so she says ecco, to acknowledge the fact.

È un pane che dura tantissimo.

It's a kind of bread that lasts a very long time.

Ah ecco! Perché volevo appunto chiedere, qual è il tipo di pane che dura di più.

Ah, there you go! Because I wanted to ask you just that, what type of bread lasts the longest?

Captions 61-62, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Ecco can stand alone (just about anywhere in a sentence) as in the above example, or can precede a noun to present it, as in ecco la primavera. When a pronoun is used, on the other hand, ecco gets attached to it. This goes for all the different direct object pronouns (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, and le).

Aha. Sì. Eccolo, eccolo, è arrivato. Sì, sì.

Aha. Yes. Here he is, here he is, he's here. Yes, yes.

Captions 13-14, Francesca - alla guida - Part 1

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One common way ecco is used is with perché (why, because) to mean “that’s why” or “you see why” or even “here’s why.”

Ecco perché io non me ne voglio andare.

That's why I don't want to leave it.

Caption 5, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare - Part 1

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Another common usage is ecco qua (here you are). It calls your visual attention to what is being presented. In the following example, a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is removing a mouth-watering pizza from his forno a legna (wood oven)!

È quasi pronta... Ecco qua!

It's almost ready... Here it is!

Captions 26-27, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

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Ecco is also a filler word much like “OK,” “you know,” or “that's all” that can wrap up what one has said so far:

Io vorrei semplicemente che ognuno avesse la sua porzione, ecco.

I would simply like everyone to have his portion, that's all.

Caption 19, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 11

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Or it can introduce what one is about to say, much like “look,” “this is how it is,” or “here’s the thing.”

Però, ecco, per quanto mi riguarda, io vedo lì una cassata siciliana!

But, there you go, from my point of view, I see a Sicilian Cassata there!

Caption 11, Susanna Cutini - Dolci delle tradizioni di Pasqua

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Ecco is often difficult or even impossible to translate accurately. But once you start listening for the word and noticing it, you'll get a feel for it, and it will start creeping into your conversation naturally. Doing a Yabla search will display a very long list of examples from videos, so you can see the different contexts in which it’s used.

 

Ecco! (And there you have it!)

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P.S. If you neglect to pronounce the double "c" in ecco, you'll obtain eco which means "echo." 

The Future is Now (Probably)!

In this lesson, we're going to talk about the future tense in Italian, and how it's used, not just for the future, but also for probability.

In our first example, Federico Fellini is talking about a future meeting with Ingmar Bergman, and as you can see from the translation, he uses the verb essere in its future tense in a straightforward way. He has no doubts about the outcome: It’s going to be stimulating!

 

Io penso che l'incontro fra lui e me sarà veramente molto stimolante.

I think that the encounter between him and me will be really very stimulating.

Caption 37, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato

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In this next example, however, the verb essere is again used in the future tense, but here it means something completely different! In fact, one of the uses of the future tense in Italian is to express a supposition, probability, uncertainty, or doubt. In this case, the element of time is no longer taken into consideration and is replaced by a kind of conditional mood (appunto, the future is now—probably).

 

Guarda, stamattina ho appetito. Sarà l'aria di campagna...

Look, this morning I have an appetite. It must be the country air...

Captions 21-22, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Although this special use can be applied to any verb, it’s most common with essere and avere. In Un medico in famiglia, Lele is reassuring his daughter, Maria, about the future. He’s sure!

 

Sono sicuro che ti piacerà la nuova scuola e avrai un sacco di nuovi amichetti.

I am sure you will like the new school and you will have a lot of new playmates.

Captions 11-12, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova

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But here, the signora is just making a good guess as to how hungry her passenger Alessio is.

 

Avrai fame immagino, sì? Andiamo?

You must be hungry, I'd imagine, right? Shall we go?

Captions 14-15, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato

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In her Yabla newscast, Marika is giving us some very suspicious news from another planet, and she expresses her consternation:

 

Sarà vero?

Could it be true?

Caption 47, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo

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Another way to ask the above question would be: potrebbe essere vero? (could it be true?) or even può essere vero? (can it be true?). But more often than not, the future tense will be used when talking about probability in the present, or even in the past (together with a participle), as in the following example, where there’s uncertainty in retrospect.

 

Non lo so. Sarà stata una buona idea farlo venire qua?

I don't know. Was it such a good idea to have him come here?

Captions 30-31, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato

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Here are a couple more examples to give you an idea.  

In an episode of Un medico in famiglia, the family members are wondering what Cetinka is about to take out of her suitcase:

 

Che è, che sarà? -Non lo so!

What is it, what could it be? -I don't know!

Caption 54, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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In a lively discussion between Lara and her zia about Ginevra, the attractive medical examiner, the aunt defends Commissario Manara, which infuriates Lara even more.

 

E Luca la sta coprendo! -Avrà le sue buone ragioni, eh!

And Luca is covering for her! -He must have a good reason, huh!

Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Learning suggestion:

As you watch and listen to Yabla videos, notice how the future tense is used. You may be surprised at how often it is used to express probability, supposition, or uncertainty. And as you go about your day, maybe talking to yourself in Italian, use the future tense of essere or avere to wonder about things and their probability. Sometimes you may really be wondering about the future, as in:

Sarà una bella giornata?

Will it be a nice day?

But other times you may just be conjecturing:

Sarà una brava persona, ma dal suo comportamento non sembra proprio.

He may be a good person, but from his behavior it certainly doesn’t seem like it.

Sento bussare alla porta. Sarà il postino.

I hear someone knocking at the door. It’s probably the postman.

Perché non è ancora arrivato? Avrà avuto un contrattempo!

Why hasn’t he come yet? He must have had a setback.

So as you can see, in Italian, the future can be right now!

Grammar

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