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Using suffixes for emphasis

When you are learning a language, you tend to pay attention to what people say (unless you are tuning it out). I don't know about you, but when I hear a word for the first time, I know it's a first and put a mental asterisk next to it. Often, I just say, "Hey, I have never heard that word. What does it mean?" But much of the time I can figure out what a word means just by the context.


Italians use a variety of suffixes. There are various reasons to use a suffix, and sometimes it's just a personal preference to give a little emphasis to the word. Suffixes may change according to the area of Italy, so be prepared to learn some new ones depending on where you go.



I still remember the first time I heard the suffix -uccio in Italian. Many years ago, I happened to be near Rome in a house where a group of young music students were making lunch. That was already very interesting to watch, of course. But it was summer, it was hot, and one of the girls said, Che calduccio!  It stuck in my mind. Isn't the word for "hot" just caldo? That one I knew, or thought I did. Why does she say calduccio? And is it a noun or an adjective? I might have been too shy to ask about that word, but I never forgot it. 


I also had to figure out that sometimes there's a fine line between adjectives and nouns, that che can mean "what," as in "What tremendous heat!" or "how," as in "How tremendously hot it is!"


In the following example, we can sense the enveloping positive heat with the suffix -uccio. So, -uccio isn't necessarily positive or negative, but it's a way of reinforcing the adjective and providing it with something personal. 


Adding -uccio is a way of emphasizing the quantity, quality, or intensity of heat being felt. Caldo by itself might be felt as neutral, but adding the -uccio assures you that things are going to be cozy.

E io farò un bel calduccio.

And I will make some nice heat.

Caption 50, PIMPA S3 EP 5 Il signor Inverno

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Sometimes -uccio is a suffix of endearment.


I have been called tesoruccio (dear/little treasure) or amoruccio (dear/little love) in the past. Translated literally, it sounds very stilted in English but it is pretty common in Italian and is a kind of equivalent of "sweetheart," darling," or "honey." It just adds some endearment and is more personal.

Tesoruccio mio, ti prego, perdonami.

Little treasure of mine, I beg you to forgive me.

Caption 33, La Ladra EP. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 12

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Sometimes -uccio is diminutive, such as in minimizing un difetto (a defect).

Quando si parla troppo bene delle persone, senza neanche trovargli un difettuccio... Significa essere innamorata, zia.

When you talk too positively about people, without finding even one teensy flaw... It means being in love, Aunt.

Captions 35-37, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 1

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We can use the suffix -uccio for emphasis with the adverb male (bad, badly). It can mean something like "kind of badly," or "pretty badly."

Com'è andata l'audizione? -Maluccio.

How did the audition go? -Pretty badly.


If the audition had gone really badly, the person might have answered: Male male, malissimo, or molto male. 


There are lots of suffixes Italians use all the time, such as "-etto," "ino," "one," but It's impossible to predict, right off the bat, which suffixes go with which adjectives or nouns. You just have to listen a lot and adopt the ones that stick. 


For more about parole alternate (modified or altered words) see this lesson


Qualifying Adverbs: troppo, tanto

Troppo (too, too much, too many) is an essential word to know. It's also easy because its meaning is clear even if you use it by itself, even if you use it incorrectly. It is a word that will serve you well if you travel to Italy, and especially if you do any shopping. But let's remember that it can be used as either an adverb or an adjective. So it's just one more thing to think about when using it (correctly). 


Troppo caro! is an important phrase to memorize. Too expensive!



The question you might ask before saying that is:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

If you don't understand the answer, try to get the vendor to write down the price.


Here below, troppo is used as an adverb. We see there is an adjective following it: caro (expensive, dear).


Ma è troppo caro, ma questo vasetto qua...

But that's too expensive, but this little pot here...

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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You can also just say È troppo (it's too much) or Costa troppo (it costs too much).


Typical uses of troppo as an adverb:

Troppo difficile (too difficult)

Troppo forte (too loud, too strong)

Troppo caldo (too hot)

Troppo complicato (too complicated)


Even when the adjective modifies an adjective with a feminine ending, troppo (as an adverb) remains the same.

Lei è troppo ansiosa (she is too anxious).

I miei professori sono troppo esigenti (my teachers are too demanding).


But we can also use troppo as an adjective. Attenzione! When we use troppo as an adjective it has to agree, or correspond, to the noun it is modifying. We have to consider gender and number and thus, in translating troppo as an adjective, we have to think of whether it's "too much" or "too many."


So let's say we are again finding an item to be too expensive. We can say: 

Sono troppi soldi (that's too much money) .


Remember money is countable in Italian. Un soldo (a penny) or i soldi (the money).


Chances are that when you see troppo (with an o at the end) it will be an adverb but look around to see whether there is an adjective or a noun after it.


C'è troppo aglio.

There's too much garlic.

Caption 1, Dafne - Film - Part 18

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When you see troppi or troppe, then you know they are adjectives.


Tu ti fai troppi problemi, troppi.

You're having too many scruples, too many.

Caption 16, Sposami - EP 3 - Part 20

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Ti ho perdonato... ti ho perdonato troppe volte.

I've forgiven you... I've forgiven you too many times.

Caption 43, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee

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Let's also be aware that troppo is often used by itself: È troppo! to mean, "that's too much!" in a figurative way.



Tanto is another word that is very useful and very common, although it does have various meanings and uses that we won't cover here.  We'll limit ourselves to talking about its function as an adjective or adverb to mean "a lot," "much," "many," or "very."


Ben presto però si sviluppò in Europa, dove ebbe tanto successo.

Quite early on, it spread to Europe, where it had a lot of success.

Caption 7, Adriano - balla il Tango Argentino

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In the example above, there's a noun after tanto, so we can see it's an adjective. But in the following example, there's an adjective after tanto, so it's an adverb. When translating, we'll need "very" when tanto is used as an adverb.


Il problema principale è che Boss era un gatto...

The main problem was that Boss was a cat...

era ed è un gatto tanto socievole.

he was, and is, a very sociable cat.

Captions 31-32, Andromeda - La storia di Boss

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We use tanto a lot in negative sentences too, or we can use poco the same way:

Non è tanto bello (it's not very nice).

È poco bello (it's not very nice).


When tanto is used as an adjective, we have to watch the endings, just as we did with troppo.


Si può aggiungere il caffè, si possono aggiungere tanti ingredienti...

One can add coffee, one can add many ingredients...

Caption 10, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato

 Play Caption vista di tante passeggiate all'aria aperta. anticipation of many walks in the open air.

Caption 35, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

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So basically troppo and tanto work the same way, in terms of grammar. As we said before, tanto has other meanings or nuances, so we suggest doing a search of tanto in the lessons tab, to see multiple lessons about the word. Check them out! 


Wasting Time and Leaky Faucets: All about the Verb Perdere

When talking about winning and losing, vincere (to win) and perdere (to lose) are the words you’re looking for. When talking about finding something and losing something, trovare (to find) and perdere (to lose) are useful, too. But perdere also has some other important common uses.

When you miss a train, you lose it: perdere il treno (to miss the train).



Il sette dicembre del duemila,

On the seventh of December of the year two thousand,

io avevo avuto un grosso imprevisto

I had had something unexpected happen

che mi fece perdere il treno per Londra.

that made me miss the train for London.

Captions 54-55, Anna e Marika - Il verbo avere

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When you waste time, you lose it: perdere tempo (to waste time).


Lo sapevo che non dovevo venire.

I knew I shouldn't have come.

Mi state facendo perdere solo tempo.

You're just wasting my time.

Captions 49-50, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee

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When there’s a leaky faucet, it loses water: perde (it leaks).


Ma guarda che l'ho aggiustato il rubinetto, adesso perde poco!

But look, I fixed the faucet, now it leaks very little!

Caption 49, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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When you let something go, you drop it, you forget about it, you let it get lost: lasciare perdere (to let it be).


Ti aiuto ad asciugare? -No, lascia perdere, sei stanco, lavati! Eh...

Shall I help you dry? -No, forget it, you're tired, wash up! Uh...

Caption 44, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Much of the time perdere means “to lose,” but, non perdere di vista (don’t lose sight of) the common expressions above!


Here are some more instances where perdere is used:

When you’ve missed the beginning of a movie:  

Ho perso l’inizio!

I missed the beginning!

When you’ve lost weight: 

Ho perso dieci chili!

I lost ten kilos!

When you don’t want to miss something: 

Venezia è da non perdere!

Venice is not to be missed!

When you can’t find your way:

Sono perso.

I’m lost.


Learning suggestion:

Be on the lookout for these particular meanings of perdere. You’ll find them cropping up often in Yabla videos, and in real life, if you’re lucky enough to listen to Italian conversation. Soon enough all these meanings will become familiar to you. And when you next miss a train, or a flight, or have a leaky faucet, or get lost, or waste time, ricordatevi (remember) that perdere is a word da non perdere (not to be missed).


How to say you're sorry in Italian

Sometimes saying you’re sorry is a quick thing, because you did something like bumping into someone by accident. In Italian, depending on how you say it, you might have to make a quick decision: How well do I know this person, and how formal should I be? 



The familiar form is scusami (excuse me), or simply scusa. Grammatically speaking, we’re using the imperative form of scusare (to excuse). If you look at the conjugation of scusare, you’ll see that it’s conjugated like other verbs ending in -are (soon to be explained by Daniela in her popular grammar lesson series!). You’ll also see that it’s easy to get things mixed up. 


Learning conjugations can be daunting, but it’s worth learning the imperatives of scusare, since it’s a verb you’ll need in many situations. While you’re at it, you might do the same with perdonare (to pardon, to forgive), which conjugates the same way, and can have a similar meaning, as in the following situation where Marika is pretending to be distracted.


Perdonami, scusami tanto, ma ero sovrappensiero.

Forgive me, really sorry, but I was lost in thought.

Caption 25, Marika e Daniela - Il verbo chiedere

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It can be helpful to remember that in the familiar form, the mi (me) gets tacked onto the end of the verb: scusami, perdonami (and in the familiar second person plural: scusatemi, perdonatemi). But when using the polite form you need to put the mi first, making two words: mi scusi, mi perdoni


Signora mi scusi, Lei è parente della vittima?

Madam, excuse me, are you a relative of the victim?

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Attenzione! If you ask a friend to forgive you, the question is: mi perdoni? If instead you’re saying “pardon me” to a stranger, it’s mi perdoni (and is not a question, but a command). It all has to do with inflection and context. 

Sono in ritardo, mi perdoni?

I’m late. Will you forgive me?

Mi perdoni, non ho sentito il Suo nome.

Pardon me, I didn’t hear your name.

In many cases, you can use the generic chiedo scusa (I ask for pardon, I ask forgiveness). This way, no worries about complicated conjugations!

On Italian TV interviews are conducted using the polite form of address, but in this case the intervistatore (interviewer) knows the intervistato (interviewee) Tiziano Terzani very well, and would like to make an exception.


Chiedo scusa ai telespettatori se

I'll ask the television audience for forgiveness if

userò il "tu" con lui.

I use the "tu" form with him.

Captions 24-25, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca

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Another way to say you’re sorry is mi dispiace (I’m sorry), often shortened to mi spiace (I’m sorry), which is a bit weightier than “excuse me” and doesn’t necessarily involve the other person pardoning you. 


Mi spiace, ma qualcuno doveva pur dirvelo.

I'm sorry, but someone had to say it to you.

Questa è la realtà.

This is the reality.

Captions 74-75, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio - A corto di idee

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Mi dispiace is used even when it’s not at all a question of asking pardon, such as when we hear about a disgrazia (adversity, terrible loss). In the following example, the father is using lasciare (to leave) to mean his daughter has died. Notice the plural ending of the participle (normally lasciato) that agrees with ci (us).


Angela ci ha lasciati. -Mi dispiace.

Angela's left us. -I'm sorry.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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There’s much more to say about being sorry, and about using the verb dispiacere. Ci dispiace (we’re sorry), but it will have to wait for another lesson. A presto!