Italian Lessons

Topics

Legno or Legna ?

It's coming on winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, where Italy is located.

In many places in Italy, people heat their houses using wood. Or, In the country and in small villages, lots of people have fireplaces in their kitchens. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Wood is Wood, right?

Right and wrong. In English, we think of wood as wood, whatever its use. But in Italian, there are two similar but different words, depending on what we do with the wood.

 

Legno

To construct something we use legno (wood), a masculine noun. This has its root in the Latin noun "lignum." 

 

Interestingly, Italians use two basic prepositions with legno to correspond to "wooden": in and di which can both mean "of."

 

Questo meraviglioso piano in legno

This marvelous wooden surface

si chiama spianatoia

is called a pastry board

e serve proprio per impastare la nostra pasta fresca.

and it's used exactly for making our fresh pasta dough.

Captions 90-92, L'Italia a tavola - Culurgiones D'Ogliastra

 Play Caption

 

Veniva impastato in casa,

The dough was worked at home,

proprio su quella superficie di legno

right on that wooden surface

e poi messa [sic: messo], questo impasto,

and then this dough was put

su quella specie di tavola, veniva portato al forno,

on that type of wooden board and brought to the oven,

perché in casa non c'erano dei forni.

because there were no ovens in houses.

Captions 64-68, Meraviglie - EP. 1 Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Legna

To build a fire for heating or cooking, we use the feminine noun la legna. This comes, again from the Latin, from the plural of "lignum": "ligna." In fact, la legna, just like the collective noun "firewood," usually refers to a collection of pieces of wood to be used for burning. 

 

If we ask what kind of wood is used, then we can use legno. In the following example, someone is asking the pizzaiolo what kind of wood he uses in his forno a legna.

 

Quello è il forno a legna. Che legno usate?

That's the wood oven. What kind of wood do you use?

Captions 39-40, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

 Play Caption

 

To be even more specific, we can expand on legna: legna da ardere (wood for burning/firewood). The following example is from a fascinating video on Yabla about olive trees and making olive oil.

 

Quando avveniva questo distacco delle due parti dell'ulivo,

When this detachment took place of the two parts of the olive tree,

una della due parti veniva sacrificata come legna da ardere.

one of the two parts was sacrificed as firewood.

Captions 47-48, Olio Extra Vergine Pugliese - Introduzione e cenni storici

 Play Caption

 

What are some contexts for legna?

The fireplace is often called il camino (note the single M) and more often than not, the diminutive is used:  il caminetto. The chimney is the canna fumaria (the smokestack). 

 

In place of la  caldaia (furnace, hot water heater), some people have una stufa a legna (wood stove).

 

And let's not forget that the best pizza is said to be made in a forno a legna (wood-burning oven). In these cases the preposition a is used, referring to the function. What makes it run?

 

Peppe ha infornato la pizza nel forno a legna, che è un forno tradizionale.

Peppe has put the pizza in the wood oven, which is a traditional oven.

Caption 48, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

 Play Caption

 

This goes for bread, too.

 

Antico a lievitazione naturale, cotto a legna, ci sono altri tipi...

Traditional sourdough, baked in a wood oven, there are other kinds...

Caption 64, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Now you know the difference between legno and legna. They are both right; you just need to know the context. 

Solutions to Exercises from "A Relative Pronoun Shortcut"

Here are the solutions to the exercises in the lesson: A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Here are some ways to say the same thing using in cui or nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, nelle quale (in which).

 

This is a grammar exercise, so not necessarily will a new solution be a good-sounding solution. The point is to see how different relative pronouns can be placed inside a sentence. When you use "quale" with its preposition and article, you need to determine the gender and number. The reference noun and article are in boldface.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla in cui si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla nella quale si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 

Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, in cui potermi riposare.

Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, nel quale potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

 Play Caption

 

 

Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo in cui si gestiva il potere.

Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo nel quale si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, in cui si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

​Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, nei quali si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption

 

Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, in cui ci sono scoperte...

​Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, nei quali ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

 Play Caption

 

Poi c'è un giorno a settimana in cui i negozi sono chiusi.

Poi c'è un giorno a settimana nel quale i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

 Play Caption

 

Un altro caso in cui uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Un altro caso nel quale uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

How did you do? Do you still have doubts or questions? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com

A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

 

After telling us about the different relative pronouns, which in some cases are interchangeable, Daniela finishes up by telling us that in certain cases, when we are talking about a place or situation, we can use dove (where) instead of in cui (in which)To back up a moment, we're talking about object relative pronouns, indeed, indirect object pronouns, because in the case of cui (which), we often need a preposition right before it. Here's how she summarizes cui. If you can watch the lesson it might be helpful!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", che è invariabile, sempre preceduto da una preposizione semplice, quindi da "di", da "da", o da "a".

Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," which is invariable, always preceded by a simple preposition, so by "of," by "from," or by "to."

Captions 43-46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

The good news here is that we don't have to consider gender when we use cui.  Getting stuck mid-sentence looking for the right article can hamper the telling of a good story. So cui is a good relative pronoun to be familiar with. But many of us might not feel so comfortable using cui. Indeed, you don't need to think about gender, but you do have to think about which preposition to use: There is an alternative that you might like.

 

Using dove (where) can simplify life, actually. Certainly, Italians use dove (where) as a relative pronoun, even when we're not strictly talking about places and situations. And we do this in English, too, so it won’t seem too odd!

 

Following are some examples from Yabla videos. Let's remember that dove (where) is not always a relative pronoun, and it is not always a relative pronoun taking the place of in cui, but the following examples have been selected because they do fit into this category.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla dove si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, dove potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

 Play Caption

 

Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo dove si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, dove si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption

 

Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, dove ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

 Play Caption

 

Poi c'è un giorno a settimana dove i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

 Play Caption

 

Un altro caso dove uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

Now that you have looked at all these examples, why not try transforming them into sentences with in cui? If that is too easy, try the same thing with nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, or nelle quale. For this, you will need to consider gender and number! Here’s the link to suggested solutions. Non barare (don't cheat) — unless you have to! 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Let us know if you like this system of exercises and their solutions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

 

Ways to Say “About” in Italian

"About" is a very common word in English. It is a preposition, but also an adjective and adverb. For now, we'll focus on the prepositional meaning "on the subject of" or "concerning." As in English, Italian provides a few different options. So let's take a look.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The first way: the preposition di (of/about).

 

If you think back to stories you have heard, even English uses “of” sometimes to mean “about.”

I will speak to you of love.

 

It may seem a bit antiquated, but it does exist. In Italian, it’s very common. In fact, Adriano speaks a very everyday kind of Italian, and normally uses the preposition di (about, of) to mean “about.”

Vi parlo della colazione, di una colazione italiana.

I'm going to talk to you about breakfast, about an Italian breakfast.

Caption 2, Adriano - fa colazione

 Play Caption

 

Oggi vi parlerò delle stagioni.

Today I'm going to talk to you about the seasons.

Caption 2, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'anno

 Play Caption

 

The second way: a (to, at).

The preposition a is used with the verb pensare (to think). We could also say “to reflect.” Then the preposition “on” could make sense. “To reflect on life.”

Sì, mi metto a pensare alla vita in generale. A...  a tutto.

Yes, I get to thinking about life in general. About... about everything.

Captions 6-7, Amiche - Filosofie

 Play Caption

 

But the preposition di can also be used with the verb pensare.

Cosa pensi di questo vestito?
What do you think about/of this dress?

 

You might have run across the pronoun ne in videos and lessons about particelle (particles).

Cosa ne pensi?
What do you think about it?

 

The third way: su (on).

Allora Rossana, ti faccio qualche domanda sul tuo mestiere, insomma.

So Rossana, I'm going to ask you a few questions about your profession, in short.

Caption 54, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption

 

The fourth way: proposito.

 

In a recent Yabla video on business English, Arianna is settling into her new job, but already has a problem she needs to discuss with her boss. She uses a more formal, longer way to say “about.” It’s a bit more precise, and, well, businesslike, and gives the topic a bit more importance.

Sì, certo. Ho anche bisogno di parlarti a proposito del nostro contatto della stampa estera.

Yes, of course. I also need to talk to you about our foreign press contact.

Caption 11, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

In the above example, we might also translate proposito as “regarding,” since it’s a moderately formal situation. In actual fact, these days, “regarding” would more likely be found in a letter than in a normal office conversation. The meaning is pretty much the same.

 

In the following example, too, proposito could be translated as “regarding.” We would need some extra context to determine which would work better. If either Lara or Luca were talking to their boss, then “regarding” might be more appropriate.

proposito del caso del cimitero...

Speaking of the cemetery case...

Regarding the cemetery case...

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

It all depends on who is talking to whom, and whether they want to be formal or informal, or if the question is a bit off the cuff, or planned out.

 

Note: One important, and very common way proposito is used, is all by itself, without a specified object: proposito... In this case, it can mean “speaking of which” or “by the way.” It’s a rather non-aggressive means of getting a word in edgewise, changing the subject, or bringing up a topic out of the blue.

Ne parliamo stasera, OK? -A proposito, hai comprato il vino?

We'll talk about it tonight, OK? -Speaking of which, did you buy wine?/By the way, did you buy wine?

Captions 29-30, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Sometimes these different ways of saying "about" are interchangeable, and sometimes one works better than the other. Experience will help you determine the best one for any given situation. Keep your ears open!

Vocabulary

Ecco: an ancient and useful adverb

Ecco (here it is), from the Latin ecce or eccum, is about presenting a person, thing, or idea and inviting you to perceive it at the very moment it appears.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Ecco la primavera is a 14th century song by Francesco Landini. It’s a song about the coming of spring. We might translate the title as “Behold, spring has come!” The entire Italian text with a non-literal English translation opposite may be viewed here.

 

So this way of calling our attention to something goes way back. Despite its very ancient origins, it’s a popular word that Italians use constantly. We say ecco to call attention to something or someone arriving, or when we find something we were looking for.

 

We no longer use the word “behold” in English, but we might say, “well will you look at that,” “there you go!” In the following example, Anna gets her question about long-lasting bread answered before she asks it, so she says ecco, to acknowledge the fact.

È un pane che dura tantissimo.

It's a kind of bread that lasts a very long time.

Ah ecco! Perché volevo appunto chiedere, qual è il tipo di pane che dura di più.

Ah, there you go! Because I wanted to ask you just that, what type of bread lasts the longest?

Captions 61-62, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption

 

Ecco can stand alone (just about anywhere in a sentence) as in the above example, or can precede a noun to present it, as in ecco la primavera. When a pronoun is used, on the other hand, ecco gets attached to it. This goes for all the different direct object pronouns (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, and le).

Aha. Sì. Eccolo, eccolo, è arrivato. Sì, sì.

Aha. Yes. Here he is, here he is, he's here. Yes, yes.

Captions 13-14, Francesca - alla guida - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

One common way ecco is used is with perché (why, because) to mean “that’s why” or “you see why” or even “here’s why.”

Ecco perché io non me ne voglio andare.

That's why I don't want to leave it.

Caption 5, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Another common usage is ecco qua (here you are). It calls your visual attention to what is being presented. In the following example, a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is removing a mouth-watering pizza from his forno a legna (wood oven)!

È quasi pronta... Ecco qua!

It's almost ready... Here it is!

Captions 26-27, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

 Play Caption

 

Ecco is also a filler word much like “OK,” “you know,” or “that's all” that can wrap up what one has said so far:

Io vorrei semplicemente che ognuno avesse la sua porzione, ecco.

I would simply like everyone to have his portion, that's all.

Caption 19, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

Or it can introduce what one is about to say, much like “look,” “this is how it is,” or “here’s the thing.”

Però, ecco, per quanto mi riguarda, io vedo lì una cassata siciliana!

But, there you go, from my point of view, I see a Sicilian Cassata there!

Caption 11, Susanna Cutini - Dolci delle tradizioni di Pasqua

 Play Caption

 

Ecco is often difficult or even impossible to translate accurately. But once you start listening for the word and noticing it, you'll get a feel for it, and it will start creeping into your conversation naturally. Doing a Yabla search will display a very long list of examples from videos, so you can see the different contexts in which it’s used.

 

Ecco! (And there you have it!)

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

P.S. If you neglect to pronounce the double "c" in ecco, you'll obtain eco which means "echo." 

You May Also Like