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Combining the preposition di with a definite article

The preposition di (of) is one of the most common simple prepositions. It's used to show possession, but also means, origin, manner, quantity. Take a look at the WordReference entry to get an idea.

 

The simple preposition di can be combined with an article to form what is called una preposizione articolata. In doing this, it is transformed a bit, so this is just something we need to learn. Marika has a video series about the prepositions, and begins with the common preposition di. In this lesson we will set out to put things in a visual context with a list of how di can combine with definite articles, and we'll give you some examples from Yabla videos, so you can hear them in context.

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Here is how we combine the preposition di with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"): The main thing to notice is that the i in di is transformed in e.

di + il = del

di + lo = dello

di + l’ = dell’

di + la = della

di + i = dei

di + gli = degli

di + le = delle

 

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Let's look at each combination in context:

Del is the combination of the preposition di and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.

In tutte le città del mondo ci sono ristoranti italiani.

In all the cities of the world, there are Italian restaurants.

Caption 8, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is an adjective, famoso (famous) which also agrees with the masculine noun. 

Pinocchio è il protagonista del famoso romanzo dell'autore Collodi:

Pinocchio is the main character of the famous novel by the author Collodi:

Caption 29, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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Dello is the combination of the preposition di and the masculine singular definite article lo. Note that there are two L's!

Note that there is another example of dello in the title of the episode. Translated it would be: The shark's gold.

Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the door of the locker room?

Caption 30, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 13

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In the following example, even though we say il colore, not lo colore,  we do use di plus the definite article lo and it becomes dello. This is because before the noun, we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson, we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.

E una bella borsa dello stesso colore.

And a nice handbag of the same color.

Caption 37, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 3

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Dell' is the combination of the preposition di and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Le pulizie della casa, dell'appartamento si chiamano anche "faccende domestiche" oppure "pulizie casalinghe".

The cleaning of the house, of the apartment, is also called "housework" or "household cleaning."

Captions 32-33, Marika spiega Le pulizie di primavera - Part 1

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  It's a truncated version of della, which we'll look at next.This can be a headache for learners:

Io mi occupo della contabilità dell'azienda.

I take care of the accounts of the business.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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Della is the combination of the preposition di and the feminine singular definite article la. Just like dello, we double the L.

La grande tragedia della guerra lascia memorie che non si cancellano.

The great tragedy of the war leaves memories that don't get erased.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 5

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Now let's move on to di plus a plural definite article.

Dei is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article i.

Da quando in qua un uomo si deve occupare dei neonati?

Since when should a man have to take care of [the] newborns?

Caption 16, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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Note that Italian uses the definite article, where in English, none is necessary. This is common and takes some effort in getting used to it.

 

In the next example, we have the combined preposition followed by the possessive pronoun miei (the plural masculine form of mio).  Here too, the article is there (attached to di = dei ).

È una ricetta dei miei nonni che coltivavano le arance di Sicilia.

It's a recipe from my grandparents, who cultivated Sicilian oranges.

Caption 12, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Degli is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Degli is hard to pronounce for lots of folks. Here, too, the definite article is included, while English leaves it out.

Pensate che il novanta percento degli italiani beve caffè quotidianamente.

Just think that ninety percent of Italians drink coffee on a daily basis.

Caption 7, Adriano Il caffè

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Delle is the combination of the preposition di and the plural feminine definite article le.

Sarà la forma delle note a stabilire qual è la durata dei suoni,

It's the shape of the notes that determines the duration of the sounds,

Caption 37, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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Practice:

If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  

 

For other preposizioni articolate, check out:

Using the preposition a with a definite article

Using the preposition in with a definite article

 

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

Perfecting the Imperfetto

This week, Michela starts a three-part lesson on the imperfetto. She makes use of a timeline which should help you get the picture. But let’s take a look at the imperfetto from an English language perspective.

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The imperfetto, or “imperfect” past tense is just one of the several past tenses in Italian. As we can see from its name, it’s not perfect, meaning it doesn’t use an auxiliary verb like essere (to be) or avere (to have) plus a participle. It stands alone as a verb and is conjugated, and so it is similar in structure to the simple past in English. Attenzione! Knowing when to use it is not always clear-cut, and usage differs from region to region. There may also be more than one possible English translation in a given case.

 

Perhaps the easiest way to get a feel for this tense is to use it when comparing the past to the present: the way it was then, and the way it is now. Be aware that there are three basic ways to translate the imperfetto into English. One way is with the simple past tense.

Ma certo che lo conosco. Io venivo sempre qui in vacanza!

But of course I know him. I always came here on vacation!

Caption 79, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 4

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In the above example, we’re talking about something in the past. The adverb sempre (always), indicating a repetitive action in the past, along with the fact that it is no longer true, help us understand that we need the imperfetto.

 

It wasn’t a one-time, specific action in the past. If it had been, we might have used the passato prossimo:

Sono venuto qui l’anno scorso in vacanza.
I came here on vacation last year.

 

And if we mention the specific times in the past rather than a span of time, we also use the passato prossimo.

Sono venuto qui tante volte in vacanza.
I have come here many times on vacation.

 

Note that in the above examples, we use the passato prossimo in both cases, but the English translation changes!

 

Another way we translate the imperfetto in English is with “would” plus the infinitive, when describing the past as opposed to the present.

 

In the following example, Marika is explaining how people mopped the floor in the past.

Un tempo si usava un'asta di legno con uno strofinaccio...

In the past one would use a wooden pole with a floor cloth...

Si prendeva lo strofinaccio, si metteva in un secchio.

You would take the floor cloth, you would put it in a bucket.

Captions 20-23, Marika spiega - Le pulizie di primavera - Part 1

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A third way the imperfetto can be translated is with the English past continuous tense. 

E allora che cosa ci faceva nel nostro giardino?

And so what were you doing in our garden?

Cercavo un posto sicuro per passare la notte.

I was looking for a safe place to spend the night.

Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 12

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The past continuous exists in Italian, too, as the passato progressivo. Much of the time, it’s interchangeable with the imperfetto, and perhaps a bit more specific in pinpointing the moment of speaking in the  timeline.

 

In the above example, the Italian passato progressivo could have been used with same result in English:

Allora che cosa stava facendo nel nostro giardino?
Stavo cercando un posto sicuro per passare la notte.

 

So these three ways of translating are important for understanding Italian, and just as important when trying to think and speak in Italian.

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Learning suggestions:
To get an overview of this tense in context, do a Yabla search of various verbs in their imperfetto conjugations and see all the examples.

See Marika and Anna talk about their childhoods using the imperfetto!

Can you compare your childhood or youth to the present using the imperfetto as opposed to the presente?

 

Here’s an example.

Quando ero più giovane avevo più capelli.
When I was younger, I had more hair.
Ora sono quasi senza capelli del tutto.
Now I have almost no hair at all.

Grammar

In fondo in fondo

When you arrive in a new country, one of the first challenges is to find your way around. Asking directions is one thing. Understanding them is another!

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A destra (to the right) and a sinistra (to the left) are pretty basic, but when someone starts saying in fondo (at the end, in the end, at the bottom), there may be some confusion as to exactly what’s meant. 

 

Fondo has to do with distance and depth. Let’s first look at its literal, physical meaning.

 

Ha bisogno di qualcosa? Sì, sì, un bagno. È in fondo a destra. -Scusi.

Do you need anything? Yes, yes, a bathroom. It's at the end of the hall, to the right. -Excuse me.

Captions 40-42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

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The above is a very typical answer to the question, “Where is the restroom?”

In fondo may indicate the furthest point (at the end) or the lowest point, as in in fondo alle scale (at the bottom of the stairs). If you’re late for a movie, you will probably sit in fondo (at the back).

 

Fondo often has to do with long distance, as in sci di fondo (cross-country skiing). A long-distance bicycle race will be il gran fondo. Note that the word profondo (deep) contains the root fondo! A very low bass singer will be a basso profondo

 

Ed ecco davanti a noi, nel blu profondo, una forma scura come quella di un grosso pesce adagiato sul fondo.

And here, in front of us, in the deep blue, a dark form shaped like a big fish lying on the bottom.

Captions 38-39, Linea Blu - Sicilia

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Italians often use piatti fondi (soup plates) for eating pasta or brodo (broth). They’re deep enough to hold liquids. 

 

Note that fondo is used both as a noun and as an adjective! Un fondo can be a fund, it can be a storage area, it can be a backdrop or background. It can be a piece of land. In makeup, fondotinta is your makeup base or foundation. 

 

Turning now to concepts rather than physical things, fondo, preceded by the preposition a (to, at, in), takes on the idea of “in depth,” or “thorough.”

 

In bagno, è molto importante pulire a fondo.

In the bathroom it's very important to clean thoroughly.

Caption 34, Marika spiega - Le pulizie di primavera

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If you think about getting “to the bottom” of things, a fondo makes sense.

If you want to go all the way, vai fino in fondo (you go all the way), both literally and figuratively.

In fondo is used to mean “in the end,” or “after all is said and done,” or “deep down.”

 

Per questo preferisco i gatti. E poi, i gatti in fondo hanno sempre sette vite.

That's why I prefer cats. And then, after all, they always have seven lives.

Captions 30-31, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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Then there’s a popular expression in fondo in fondo (deep down) used primarily in talking about people:

 

Insomma, sai che ti dico, zia? Che come commissario, in fondo in fondo, non è poi così male...

All in all, you know what I have to say, Aunt? That as a commissioner, deep down, he's not really so bad...

Captions 11-12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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It wouldn’t hurt to approfondire (to go into things more thoroughly, more deeply) a bit regarding the word fondo. There are plenty of examples in Yabla videos, and there are plenty of examples on WordReference.com. Remember that context is key! In fondo in fondo, è una parola molto utile! (All in all, it’s a very useful word!)

Vocabulary

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