Italian Lessons


Follow me!

The word for "to follow" in Italian is seguire. It's a transitive verb most of the time, but not all the time. In many cases, it works just like English. It's used for following instructions:


Quindi, ho cominciato a seguire le istruzioni e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, ho montato la cassettiera.

So, I started following the instructions and in just about an hour, I assembled the chest of drawers.

Captions 14-15, Marika spiega Gli attrezzi

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1,2) What if 2 people are trying to put together this chest of drawers. How could the sentence change? (more than one possibility)



When Italians take a course in something, they "follow it." 

Allora, innanzitutto, quando si ha la passione del doppiaggio o del... della narrazione, è importante seguire un corso:

So, first of all, when one has a passion for dubbing, or for... for narration, it's important to take a course:

Captions 10-11, Arianna e Marika Il lavoro di doppiatrice

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Alternatively, they do a course with fare.

Certo, ho fatto il corso su internet. Vuol vedere l'attestato?

Of course, I've taken the online course. Would you like to see the certification?

Caption 59, Psicovip Buon Natale Minivip Ep 26

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Seguire is used for following someone, literally.

Ciao. Oggi ti mostro alcune direzioni. Seguimi.

Hi. Today I'm going to show you some directions [prepositions of place and direction]. Follow me.

Captions 1-2, Marika spiega Direzioni

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3) What if you are asking someone you don't know to follow you? 


This can also be figurative when following what someone is saying.

Mi segui?

Do you follow me?


4) What if you are asking someone you don't know if they follow what you are saying? 


You have seen the expression, "Follow us on facebook" which is a figurative way to say you check in on that person or organization, you see what they are up to. Fellini was talking about his audience, his fans, in the following clip. 

Siamo sempre seguiti da una platea di romani così molto... che ci segue con molto affetto e simpatia... specialmente stasera,

We're always followed by an audience of Romans, so very... who follow us, with a lot of affection and warmth... especially this evening,

Captions 3-4, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 4

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But there is another way Italians use the verb seguire.

It's somewhat akin to the way fans follow a star, or a trend, but it's a little different. Because rather than "following the leader or the trend,"  it's the leader, teacher, therapist, or doctor who is checking in on you, treating you, in the case of a doctor or health worker. This way of using seguire is used a whole lot in teacher-pupil relationships, or doctor-patient relationships and the like, and has to do with following a pupil or patient's progress, or simply giving them support, or attention, treatment, or checking in to see how things are going. In some instances, we might say, seguire is "to give guidance on a continuing basis."


We have an example of this use in a new video this week.

It's part of the story about a couple who had to go through quarantine because of Covid-19. 

È un metodo attraverso il quale non congestionano i, gli ospedali, per i casi meno gravi, e ti seguono telefonicamente.

It's a method whereby they don't overcrowd the, the hospitals, for the less serious cases, and they attend to you over the phone.

Captions 25-28, COVID-19 3) La quarantena

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When we use seguire this way, it basically means someone is there for you in a professional way. We all know what it feels like to have a teacher or doctor who seems like they don't really care about you. They don't seem invested. 

Non ti seguono.

They don't check in on you.


But it can also simply mean "to treat," as in giving a treatment. 


Sì, sì, ho parlato anche col professore che lo segue. -OK.

Yes, yes. I even spoke with the professor who is treating him. -OK.

Caption 43, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 14

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5) What if there is a team of doctors who treat the patient in question?


If you watch Yabla videos, you will see the verb seguire a lot, in all sorts of conjugations and nuances of meanng. Sometimes it's translated as "to follow," but not always.

Let us know if you a translation you don't understand, and we'll try to help out.

"Extra credit"

1) Quindi, abbiamo cominciato a seguire le istruzioni e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, abbiamo montato la cassettiera.

2) Quindi, hanno cominciato a seguire le istruzioni e, e nell'arco di un'oretta, hanno montato la cassettiera.

3) Salve. Oggi le mostro alcune direzioni. Mi segua.

4) Mi segue?​

5) Sì, sì, ho parlato anche coi professori che lo seguono. -OK.​



Being Up to It, with “In Grado”

In the exciting first episode of the movie Stai Lontana da Me (Stay Away from Me), prima di tutto (first of all) we can see that someone is directing the title phrase at a woman because of the feminine a ending at the end of lontana (far, far away). The business of changing the endings of adjectives according to number, gender, and person is a little tricky but important. Learn about adjective endings both in Michela’s lesson about adjectives, and in Daniela’s lesson about adjectives.


In Stai Lontana da Me, the narrator uses the term essere in grado. It’s hard to find an easy-to-remember cognate for this, so let’s give it some attention. Il grado (the degree) is the basic noun, which is used for things like temperatures and burns, and not for college degrees. But together with the preposition in (at, in), it means “able to,” “capable of”:


Ci vuole solo un miracolo o qualcuno che sia in grado di farlo.

Only a miracle will do, or someone capable of working one.

Captions 46-47, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 1

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In English, the adjective “capable” can describe the way a person is in general, but in Italian, in grado is specific to a task and is followed by the preposition di (of) plus a verb in the infinitive, which may or may not actually be expressed. It’s usually preceded by the verb essere (to be):


Io ti affido un compitino da fare a casa, e vediamo se sei in grado di farlo.

I'll entrust you with a little assignment to do at home, and let's see if you're able to do it.

Captions 36-37, Marika spiega La divisione in sillabe - Part 2

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Do a Yabla video search to see a nice list of examples with in grado.

In grado doesn’t only refer to people. A machine can also be in grado. It’s often used when referring to the capabilities of a car or other instrument.

Questa macchina è in grado di darti tante soddisfazioni.
This car is capable of giving you lots of satisfaction.

In grado has more to do with being trained or properly prepared for a task than merely being good or not good at something. It’s a bit less personal, more formal, maybe less judgmental.

Non sono in grado di usare questo software.
This software is beyond my capabilities (because I haven’t learned how).

Another way of thinking about this is “being up to a task.”

Il mio computer non è in grado di fare montaggi video.
My computer is not up to the task of editing video.

We can substitute in grado with capace (capable), remembering that capace is more personal.


In the following example, Marika has been asked to do a favor for a friend, and in this case in grado and capace are interchangeable, because there is a preposition + verb (present or implicit).


Non è in grado di montare la cassettiera.

She isn't capable of putting together the chest of drawers.

Caption 3, Marika spiega - Gli attrezzi

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E sapendo che invece io ne sono capace...

And knowing that I, instead, am capable of doing it...

Caption 6, Marika spiega - Gli attrezzi

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Capace, like “capable,” may also be used to describe a person, and in this case cannot be replaced with in grado because there’s no preposition + verb.

Daniela è molto capace come insegnante.
Daniela is very capable as a teacher.


But we can add:

È in grado di spiegare anche concetti complicati.
She’s also capable of explaining complicated concepts.


Sei in grado di trovare esempi in Yabla dove puoi sostituire in grado concapace e vice versa?
Are you able to find Yabla examples where you can replace in grado withcapace and vice versa?


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