Italian Lessons

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Big and small with endings: -one and -ino

Instead of using adjectives to talk about size, Italian has the device of altering the noun itself, thus producing a new word. Different endings are added onto the root word. Let's look at how this works with some nouns with feminine endings.

Pentola

An example of this is pentola. Una pentola is a pot. It's already pretty big, big enough for cooking pasta. Un pentolone is an even bigger pot for if you're cooking lots of pasta or canning tomatoes, as in the second example below. We could also say una pentola grande, (a big pot) but sometimes it's easier to say pentolone. So, when you hear a word that ends in -one, it's likely a large version of something that comes in various sizes. 

Ci serve, naturalmente, anche qualcosa per cuocere la pasta. Una pentola, un'altra pentola per la pasta,

We also need, naturally, something for cooking the pasta. A pot, another pot for the pasta,

Captions 79-81, L'Italia a tavola Tonnarelli cacio e pepe - Part 1

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Here, a woman is describing how to make tomato sauce to can. She's going to make a big batch.

Alcuni, eh, lo fanno appassire un po' dentro i pentoloni sul fuoco...

Some, uh, cook them down a bit in big pots on the burner...

Caption 28, Giovanna spiega La passata di pomodori

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When the item in discussion is the smalller version, the ending -ino is typical: 

E per farlo, prendiamo un pentolino come questo e ci mettiamo un pochino di olio extravergine di oliva.

And to do that we take a saucepan like this and we put a little extra virgin olive oil in it.

Captions 18-19, Marika spiega La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 1

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Capanna

Una capanna is a shack,  shed, or hut. It's a feminine noun.

...oppure costruivamo una capanna con delle sedie e delle coperte

...or else we'd build a hut out of chairs and bed covers

Caption 8, Anna e Marika ricordi di infanzia

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Un capannone can either be called a "shed," even though it's big, a "hangar," or, in the case of a mechanic's workplace, a "garage." It will have a different name in English depending on its use. It may or may not have 4 walls. It may or may not be makeshift.

 

...che segnalava la presenza di auto truccate in un capannone al Quadraro e trac. Va be', allora vogliamo brindare?

...that reported the presence of souped-up cars in a hangar in Quadraro, and boom. OK, so do we want to make a toast?

Captions 35-37, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 14

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If the shack or hut is tiny, as it would be for a hunter's blind, then il capannino is the word of choice. There might be room for just one person.

 

Macchina

Although una macchina can be any kind of machine, it's also the word for car. The more official Italian word is automobile, just like in English. The stress goes on the second O, however.

Infatti, quando ho compiuto venti anni, mi ha regalato una macchina nuova.

In fact, when I turned twenty, she got me a new car.

Captions 31-32, Adriano Nonna

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Ci porta Giampi, che lui c'ha un macchinone.

Giampi will take us. He has a big car.

Caption 53, Sposami EP 3 - Part 7

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Sometimes the resulting word can retain the gender of the original word, as in the case of macchina

E sotto c'era un altro cartellino bianco con disegnato su un camioncino con un gancettino che si porta via una macchinina.

And below it was another little white sign picturing a little truck with a little hook on it, which is towing a little car away.

Captions 89-91, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

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As you listen to more videos, you will start noticing the endings -one and -ino. Look for the noun within the noun and you'll often be able to figure out what a word means.

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Ci Gets Around - Part 1

Ci Gets Around - Part 2

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 difendere

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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?

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 2

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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 pomodori

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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? -Eh, certo che c'è.

Is there a TV in the room? -Eh, of course there is.

Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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He walks in on his colleagues who are gossiping about him:

 

Che c'è, assemblea c'è?

What's up, is there an assembly?

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8

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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:

Ci sei?

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!  

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Learning tip:

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.)

Ci sei? 

Grammar

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