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Chiaro and Chiaramente

A user wrote in with a question about these two words. Is there a difference? Yes, there is: chiaro is an adjective, and chiaramente is an adverb. But that’s the simple answer.

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Language is in constant flux, and chiaro has various meanings, just as “clear” in English does. And this adjective has come to take on the job of an adverb in certain contexts, as Marika mentions in her lesson on adverbs.

"Non fare troppi giri di parole, parla chiaro".

"Don't beat around the bush. Speak plainly."

Caption 29, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi di modo

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As a matter of fact, dictionaries list chiaro as both an adjective and adverb, but as an adverb, it's used only in certain circumstances, with certain verbs.

What’s the difference between parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente?

Well, sometimes there isn’t much difference.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaro.

Moreover, the report from my colleague in Milano is clear.

Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3

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In the example above, the speaker could have used the adverbial form to mean the same thing.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaramente.

 

Parlare chiaro has become an idiomatic expression — un modo di dire. It gets the message across very clearly.  It implies not using flowery language, wasting words, or trying to be too polite. But parlare chiaramente can have more to do with enunciation, articulation, ormaking oneself understood. So, sometimes parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente can coincide, but not necessarily.

 

Apart from this modo di dire, the adjective and adverb forms are used a bit differently in grammatical terms.

 

Since chiaro is an adjective, it normally describes or modifies a noun. To be correct, then, we often use è (it is).

È chiaro che non lo deve sapere nessuno perché il marito è gelosissimo.

It's clear that no one should know, because her husband is very jealous.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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Chiaro may be used by itself with a question mark to ask, “Is that clear?”

E non sono tenuto a spiegarti niente, chiaro?

And I'm not obliged to explain anything to you, is that clear?

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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The adverb chiaramente, on the other hand, can stand alone before or after another clause or can be inserted just about anywhere in a sentence.

Natoli ha chiaramente bisogno di glutine, eh.

Natoli clearly needs gluten, huh.

Caption 33, La Tempesta - film - Part 5

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Using chiaro, Paolo could have said:

È chiaro che Natoli ha bisogno di glutine.
It’s clear that Natoli needs gluten.

 

But chiaro has a special in-between meaning when it’s used in place of an adverb with verbs such as parlare (to speak) and vedere (to see).

Finché non ci ho visto chiaro la tengo io.

Until I've seen things clearly I'm keeping it.

Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:

Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.

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Practice:
Look for sentences with either chiaro or chiaramente and try switching them, making the necessary changes. Doing a search on the video tab will give you plenty of examples.

When Accents Make a Difference

Let’s talk about some other common Italian words containing written accents. In case you missed the lesson in which we started talking about accents, read it here.

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The accent on the u at the end of più (more) tells us that the accent of the word doesn’t fall on the iwhich is where it would naturally fall. 

Più gli ingredienti sono freschi e più è buono.

The fresher the ingredients are, the better it is.

Caption 16, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

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A similar-looking word is pio (pious) where the accent does fall on the i, and indeed there is no accent on any letter.

È pio, eh di, di nome e di fatto.

He's Pio [pious], uh in, in name and in fact.

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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In the same manner, ciò  (that, what) has an accent on the to tell us the accent is not on the i where it would normally fall.

È uno che di fronte a una bella donna si dimentica di ciò che è giusto e ciò che è sbagliato.

He's someone who, faced with a beautiful woman, forgets what's right and what's wrong.

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10

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All the days of the week except il sabato (Saturday) and la domenica (Sunday) have an accent on the i at the end: lunedì (Monday), martedì (Tuesday), mercoledì (Wednesday), giovedì (Thursday), venerdì (Friday). In fact,  is another word for "day" (normally giorno).

Un bel vedremo.

One beautiful day we'll see.

Caption 13, Anna presenta - Madama butterfly di Giacomo Puccini

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Without the accent on the i, it's di (of).

Eppure io non ho mai smesso né di aspettarlo né di amarlo.

Nonetheless I never ceased to wait for him or to love him.

Caption 11, Anna presenta - Madama butterfly di Giacomo Puccini

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Similarly, da (of, from, to, at) has no accent, but when we conjugate the third person singular of the verb dare (to give), we use an accent to distinguish it from da.

Invito Sigrid, una mia studentessa a farvelo sentire, in modo da mettere in evidenza appunto ogni sillaba che il nome alle note.

I invite Sigrid, a student of mine, to let you hear it in order to highlight, precisely each syllable that gives its name to the notes.

Captions 37-39, A scuola di musica - con Alessio - Part 1

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Remember that except for e, where the accent may be either grave (è) or acute (é) to distinguish between an open (è) or closed (ée, all the accents will be “grave,” that is, going down from left to right (àìòù). 

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Try learning these words one by one, making the accent part of the word as you learn it. Needless to say, taking advantage of the Yabla games, from multiple choice to Scribe, will help you nail it.
 

Two Words in One, with a Catch: Perché

When someone asks you perché? (why?), you can recycle the same word in your response because perché also means “because”! Yes, two in one! Let’s look at the following example, where Daniela is asking her students to justify using one article over another. Make sure to look at the context and listen to the inflection!

 

L'articolo è uno. Uno scontrino, perché?

The article is "uno." "Uno scontrino" (a receipt). Why?

Perché la parola inizia per s più consonante.

Because the word starts with "s" plus a consonant.

Captions 54-56, Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo

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So perché actually has two grammatical forms. One is as an adverb meaning “for what reason.” It’s used in forming a question:

Perché l’hai interrogato?
Why did you interrogate him?

The other grammatical form of perché is a “causal conjunction” meaning “because.” It’s used to introduce the cause when it follows the effect (which might be simply implied as in our first example above). If we use a full sentence to respond to the above question, it might go something like this:

L’ho interrogato perché non l’hai fatto tu!
I interrogated him because you didn’t do it!

In the above example, “I interrogated him” is the effect and “you didn’t do it” is the cause, so perché (because) goes in the middle: effect-perché-cause. 

But here’s the catch. If you want to put the cause first, such as when you’re explaining yourself without being asked, or elaborating on your reasons, then things change in Italian. In English you could technically start your full sentence answer with the cause, using “because.”

Because you didn’t interrogate him, I did.

However, in Italian you cannot use perché in this case. The word to go to is siccome (because, as, given that, whereas, or since), used exclusively to introduce the cause when it precedes the effect: siccome-cause-effect. Siccome and perché have similar meanings but are not interchangeable within the structure of the sentence. This may seem complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it will become natural. Here’s an example in context, where Lara is explaining her actions to Luca Manara.

 

Ginevra deve essere iscritta nella lista degli indagati e deve essere interrogata,

Ginevra must be recorded on the list of suspects and has to be interrogated,

e siccome non lo fai tu lo faccio io, tutto qui.

and because you're not doing it, I'm doing it, that's all.

Captions 17-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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In the above example you could replace “because” with “given that,” "as," “whereas,” or “since.” But you can’t replace siccome with perché!

As your Italian becomes more fluent, you’ll find siccome to be extremely handy when you’re telling stories and explaining things. There are other similar words to call on as well, but we’ll save them for another time.

 

Learning suggestion:
To get a feel for perché in both of its two contrasting but related meanings, “why” and “because,” check out their occurrences in Yabla videos (and figure out which is which). Do a search with siccome to get acquainted with it, and hear it in context. Then, to really grasp the mechanism, ask yourself some questions, and answer them. Get used to using perché as both the question “why” and the answer “because.” Then, elaborate on your answers using siccome and perché according to how you structure your sentence. Don’t forget the accent on perché!

 

Here’s a head start:

Perché sei così nervoso?
-Perché... è una storia lunga. Siccome avevo dimenticato di caricare la sveglia ieri sera, stamattina mi sono alzata tardi. E siccome avevo un appuntamento alle nove, non avevo tempo per fare colazione. Farò colazione al bar, perché ora ho fame. Dopo mi sentirò meglio, perché avrò la pancia piena. Siccome la pancia sarà piena, mi sentirò molto meglio.

Why are you so tense?
-Because... it’s a long story. Since I had forgotten to set the alarm last night, this morning I got up late. And because I had an appointment at nine, I didn’t have time for breakfast. I’ll have breakfast at the coffee shop because now I’m hungry. Afterwards I’ll feel better, because my stomach will be full. Since my stomach will be full, I’ll feel better.

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To enhance your skills, make sure you practice ad alta voce (out loud), too. 

Perché? Perché sì!

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