Italian Lessons

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Making Do with Accontentarsi

A single verb that expresses the idea of "making do" is accontentarsi (to be content with something/to make oneself be content). The adjective it stems from is contento (happy, content). The non-reflexive verb accontentare can be translated as "to satisfy."

 

Me lo avete chiesto voi, eh, quindi io vi accontento.

You asked me for it, huh, so I will satisfy you.

Caption 6, Marika spiega - I verbi cavare e togliere

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You are giving someone what they want. You are making them happy.

 

Making do

The reflexive verb accontentarsi implies that something may not be up to our highest expectations or greatest desires, but it will do, because we decide to accept it. We settle for it. 

 

Quando ho molto tempo, preferisco mangiare frutta, latte e cereali;

When I have lots of time, I prefer to eat fruit, milk and cereal;

quando ho poco tempo,

when I have little time,

mi accontento del classico caffè e del cornetto o brioche.

I make do with a classic espresso and croissant or brioche.

Captions 20-23, Adriano - Giornata

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Adding some color

The verb accontentarsi has a lot of information in it, but Italians have an expression that enhances it even further. Italy, being a Roman Catholic country historically, is not lacking in monasteries and convents. While in English, "convent" tends to be understood as a convent of nuns, in Italian, un convento implies a religious community and may be either di suore (of nuns  = convent) or di frati (of monks = monastery). Many conventi around Italy offer hospitality to travelers, but the food that is served is the humble and simple fare the monks or nuns are served. And of course, they don't complain about it. 

 

So let's say someone asks you to stay for dinner on the spur of the moment and doesn't have anything special to offer. 

Se ti accontenti di quel che passa il convento, sei il benvenuto (if you make do with what the convent is serving [what we have on hand], you are welcome to stay for dinner).

 

But the expression is used outside of the realm of food, too. In this clip, we're talking about what kind of work one can get.

 

Guardi che Gigi c'ha pure due lauree.

Look, Gigi even has two degrees.

-E fa il deejay?

-And he is deejaying?

-E questo passa il convento.

-Well, that's what the convent offers [beggars can't be choosers].

Captions 13-15, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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In an episode of Volare, the expression is used rather vulgarly, referring to a woman. But now, when you watch the video, you'll understand what's behind this expression.

 

Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] accontentato di quel che passava il convento.

I made do with what the convent was serving.

Caption 40, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno - Ep. 1

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A couple of additional examples:

 

-I'm talking to my husband about lunch:

Vuoi anche un secondo o ti accontenti di un piatto di pasta e un'insalata? (do you want a second course or are you happy with pasta and salad)?

 

-My boss asks me:

Mi puoi fare una bozza per domani (can you give me a rough draft by tomorrow)?

I answer:

Non so se ce la faccio, ma farò del mio meglio per accontentarti (I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'll do my best to satisfy you).

Presso Answers the Question Dove (Where)?

If you hang out in Italy for even just a visit, you are likely to see the word presso written somewhere, and you may or may not hear it. It's not all that easy to figure out, so let's take a look.

 

These days most folks use email to communicate, rather than mailing letters. This avoids, in many cases, needing to write your address anywhere, except possibly on an immigration form at the airport. But if you do have to write down where you are staying, for example, then you might need presso. One of its very basic meanings is "at" or "in." But that isn't very helpful since we use these prepositions in so many ways.

 

If, for instance, I am staying at the Hotel Verdi, in Pisa, then I might use presso. It's not my house, but that's where I am temporarily lodged. One dictionary gives this definition for presso:

indica un indirizzo preciso ma non specificato

(it indicates a precise, but not specified address).

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Presso is a preposition, and we can use it to mean in casa di (at the home of), the equivalent of: "in care of," or "c/o," as you would write when addressing an envelope. Maybe you are writing to an exchange student friend staying at the home of a family in Tuscany.

Signorina Giovanna Bossi

     presso la famiglia Bianchi

via Verdi, 4

56036 Forcoli PI

 

Biancaneve vive presso i sette nani nel bosco.

Snow White lives with the seven dwarfs in the wood.

Caption 11, Ti racconto una fiaba - Biancaneve

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We immediately visualize that Snow White is staying with the dwarfs, or that she is staying at the home of the dwarfs.

 

1) Your friend is in the hospital and someone asks you where, for example: (dov'è ricoverato Giacomo?): How could you answer?

 

We can use it to mean "in a place," for example, where you work.

 

Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni

Hi guys! I'm Adriano, an Italian guy of twenty-seven

e lavoro presso un agenzia di programmatori informatici.

and I work at a computer programing agency.

Captions 1-2, Adriano - Giornata

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Adriano is implying that he also works for this agency. He could have said:

Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni e lavoro in un agenzia di programmatori informatici.

 

Presso is a bit more formal, a bit more refined.

 

2) Tu dove lavori/studi (where do you work/go to school)?

 

Arianna and Erica both used presso when talking about where they went to school.

 

Mi sono laureata presso l'Università di Perugia

I got my degree at the University of Perugia

in Lingue Straniere per la comunicazione internazionale.

in foreign languages for international communications.

Captions 5-6, Arianna spiega - vivere all'estero

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Quindi mi sono iscritta a, all'indirizzo archeologico

So I enrolled in, in the Archeology course of study

presso l'Università di Pisa.

at the University of Pisa.

Captions 10-11, Professioni e mestieri - Erica - archeologa

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Martina is talking about what she would like to do when she finishes her university studies.

 

Quando finirò i miei studi, vorrei diventare

When I finish my studies, I would like to become

o perito minorile o giudice onorario presso il tribunale per i minori.

either an evaluator of minors, or lay judge at juvenile court.

Captions 28-29, Serena - presenta Martina

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Daniela teaches some video lessons about writing letters, both formal and informal. She describes a letter applying for a job.

 

Per esempio io, io, Daniela Rossi,

For example, I, I, Daniela Rossi,

sto cercando un lavoro presso la casa editrice Feltrinelli

am looking for a job at the Feltrinelli Publishing House,

e scrivo al dottor Luca Monti, responsabile del personale,

and I am writing to Doctor Luca Monti, Personnel Manager,

per mandare la mia candidatura

to send in my application

e vedere se c'è una possibilità di lavoro per me.

and to see if there is a possibility of a job for me.

Captions 43-47, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Lettera formale

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We can also use it to mean "among," "in," "for," or "with": 

Presso gli Etruschi, l'aldilà era molto importante.

For the Etruscans, the afterlife was very important.

 

Lui è partito con... diciamo, all'interno del... di questa,

He set off... let's say, at the center of the... of this,

di questo movimento che

of this, of this movement that

fu chiamato la Nouvelle Cuisine,

was called la Nouvelle cuisine,

ma poi, dopo aver fatto, per esempio, esperienze molto intense

but then, after having had, for example, very intensive experiences

presso le cucine orientali e in particolare la... la cucina giapponese,

with Asian cooking, and in particular... Japanese cooking,

la sua attenzione è stata subito attratta da una delle più grandi cucine...

his attention was immediately drawn to one of the greatest cuisines...

Captions 40-45, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni

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Translating presso isn't always easy, but the important thing is to grasp the idea of what it means. 

 

3) What if I wanted to say that in Italian, we often leave out the personal pronoun?

 

Presso as "near," "close by," "by"

Another meaning of presso is "near," "by," "close by."

 

Il sole splende in Val Rendena

The sun shines in the Rendena Valley

illuminando il fianco destro della chiesa di San Vigilio,

illuminating the right side of the church of San Vigilio

presso il cimitero di Pinzolo.

by Pinzolo's cemetery.

Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza - Trentino Alto Adige

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4) Dove ci incontriamo Where shall we meet? You can answer by suggesting the bar near the train station, even if you don't know the name of it.

 

To conclude:

You can get away without using the preposition presso,  but isn't it nice to able to understand it if someone else uses it? And if you do use it, people will be impressed!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Possible solutions:

1) È ricoverato presso l'ospedale XXX.

2a) Lavoro presso una scuola di lingue.

2b) Studio presso l'Università di Firenze.

3) Presso la lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

I could also say:

Nella lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

4) Ci vediamo nel bar presso la stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar vicino alla stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar all'interno della stazione.

Or in Tuscan Italian:

Ci si vede nel bar...

 

As always, if you have questions or comments about the lesson, we love to hear from you! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

Combining the Preposition A with a Definite Article

We have talked about the main uses of the preposition a, and that it can mean "at," "in," or "to," as well as "in the manner of," so in this lesson, we will see how this preposition is transformed when it is followed by a definite article. 

 

Here is how we combine the preposition a with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"):

a + il = al

a + lo = allo

a + l’ = all’

a + la = alla

a + i = ai

a + gli = agli

a + le = alle

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Let's look at each combination in context:

Al is the combination of the preposition a and the definite article il.

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

 

E durante l'estate, il porto di Maratea diventa un ritrovo,

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place,

soprattutto per i ragazzi,

above all for the kids,

i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani,

he younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones,

che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena - al porto di Maratea

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is a possessive pronoun that has to agree with the noun, as well as an adjective. The two people in the video are probably having a drink together. The clink their glasses and say "to your..." and in this case we use the preposition a.

 

Allora al tuo prossimo concerto.

To your next concert then.

Caption 22, Milena e Mattia - Al ristorante

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Allo is the combination of the preposition a and the (masculine singular) definite article lo.

 

Oggi ci troviamo allo stadio comunale Renzo Barbera di Palermo.

Today we're at the municipal stadium Renzo Barbera of Palermo.

Caption 2, Adriano - Forza Palermo

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In the following example, even though we say il modo, not lo modo,  we do use a plus the definite article lo and it becomes allo. This is because first 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.

 

Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo...

In fact, we talk (inthe same way...

e facciamo le stesse cose.

and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche - sulla spiaggia

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All' is the combination of the prepositon a and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

 

Anche lui all'inizio pensava di essere un uomo libero.

At the beginning he also thought he was a free man.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  This can be a headache for learners:

 

All'entrata del Palazzo Vecchio, ci sono due statue.

At the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, there are two statues.

Caption 23, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze

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Alla is the combination of the preposition a and the feminine singular definite article la.

Here is what you say when you want to say, "See you next time!"

 

Ciao a tutti, alla prossima.

Bye, everyone, see you next time. [literally, "to the next"]

Caption 76, Andromeda - La storia di Ulisse

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If you visit Bologna, you might want to try le tagliatelle alla bolognese.  There is a word that gets left out of this phrase but is implied: la maniera. So it is alla maniera (in the manner of) 

We use alla with an adjective in Italian where in English we might use an adverb or adverbial phrase:

alla cieca (blindly)

alla buona (in a laid back, casual way)

 

If, instead of saying allo stesso modo, we want to say alla stessa maniera, (which means something similar: "in the same way"), note that even though stessa begins with an s + a consonant, the noun is feminine and so we say la stessa maniera, alla stessa maniera. But if we think about the fact that la stessa is easy to say, and il stesso would be difficult, it makes a certain amount of sense:... it's easier to say. In fact if we think about it, the flow of a language is an important factor in its evolution.

 

Now we will move on to a plus a plural definite article.

Ai is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article i.

 

Come tutte le nonne, fa tanti regali ai nipoti.

Like all grandmothers, she gives many presents to her grandchildren.

Caption 28, Adriano - Nonna

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Let's note that lots of times, Italians use a normal definite article, when in English, we would use a possessive adjective (as in the previous example). 

Agli is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Agli is hard to say for lots of people. And as an aside, agli is also the plural of aglio (garlic). Don't worry. We mostly use aglio (garlic) in the singular, just like in English.

 

Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo.

Cristina told us that you were able to sell a few of his paintings.

Sì, agli amici.

Yes, to friends.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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Alle is the combination of the preposition a and the plural feminine definite article le.

One important way we use this combination preposition is when talking about time. The hour is said in the plural which makes sense if we think back to times when people would tell time by counting how many times the bell would chime.

 

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano - Giornata

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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.  

 

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

Let's Talk about the Italian Preposition A

In a previous lesson we talked about the preposition in, and in a subsequent lesson we talked about how we modify the preposition in when a definite article follows it. The preposition a works in a similar way, and sometimes means the same thing as in, but certainly not always. 

Places

A is used to refer to places, both going somewhere and being somewhere. Sound familiar? Yes. Just like in, a can mean "to" (indicating direction to a place) or "at" (indicating being in a place). Consider this short example.

 

OK, ho finito. Vado a casa (OK, I'm done. I'm going home).

Che bello! Finalmente sono a casa (How great! I'm finally home)!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Note that if I say sono in casa, I imply that I am inside the house, whereas if I say sono a casa, it might mean I am at home, but outside in the garden!

 

If we look at the preposition a in the dictionary, there's a long list of meanings, or rather, uses. But in this lesson, we'll look at just a few of the most common ways you need to know how to use this preposition.

 

We also say a scuola with no article. This is similar to English.

 

Sono a scuola (I'm at school).

Sto andando a scuola (I'm going to school).

 

Although these locations without an article are exceptions, they are important ones, since most of us have a home and many of us go to school or have kids or friends who go to school. Another perhaps less crucial one is a teatro ("to" or "at the theater").

 

In most other cases regarding places, we do need a definite article after the preposition, as in:

 

A me e a Vladi piace andare a ballare la sera,

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night,

uscire con gli amici,

going out with our friends,

andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema

going to see a good film at the movies

e fare molto sport.

and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

From Umbria to Tuscany, it's but a short way.

Caption 2, Meraviglie - EP. 4 - Part 6

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Watch this space!

  • In the next lesson we will give you the rundown (with videoclip examples) on how we modify a when followed by a definite article, just as we did with the preposition in. However, even in this lesson, we can't avoid looking at some examples where we do use a definite article.
  •  
  • We will also devote a specific lesson to the prickly topic of prepositions preceding cities, states, countries, and regions. Knowing when to use in and when to use a is a common challenge for those of us learning Italian, even if we have lived in Italy for years and years.

 

But for now, let's look at some other ways we use the preposition a.

Time

We use a to talk about "when" or "until when." 

For example, when we talk about "at what time" something is going to happen, we use a and in this case we use a definite article when talking about "at what time."

 

La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano - Giornata

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Why is it le otto? Isn't that plural? Yes. We use the feminine plural definite article (lebecause there's a "hidden" word: le ore (the hours). Think of a clock striking the hours. So, yes. Time, when considered by the clock, is expressed in the plural, and of course, it takes some getting used to. For more about telling time, see this video from Marika.

 

But if we are talking about noon or midnight, then it's in the singular and there is no article.

 

Io mi ricordo che a casa mia si mangiava, allora, il,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the,

a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo,

at noon we'd eat: the first course,

la carne, il contorno e la frutta.

meat, vegetable and fruit.

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá

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We also use a when we talk about until what time something will go on.

 

Sì, ma fino a mezzanotte il commissario sono io.

Yes, but until midnight, I'm the commissioner.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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When we mention the months or a holiday, we use a:

 

Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse

It seemed as though there was fog

anche a Ferragosto.

even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni

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E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once.

Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre,

Different installments that are due every semester,

perché l'anno dell'u'...

because the school year...

l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri.

the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters.

-Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio,

-The first that goes from September to January,

e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena - sistema universitario italiano

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How?

And finally, we use a when we say what something is like, what something is made of, or in what way something is done. We often use "with" for this in English, or we use an adjective. This topic is addressed in the Yabla lesson: A Righe or a Quadretti?

 

We talk about olio di oliva spremuto a freddo (cold-pressed olive oil).

 

In the following example, Monica Bellucci is describing how she goes about her career. Note that since istinto (instinct) starts with a vowel, she adds a d to the a!

 

Ma io non ho una formula, guarda,

Well I don't have a formula, look,

vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

I go... I go along very much by instinct.

Caption 47, That's Italy - Episode 1 - Part 3

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Expressions

Here are two expressions, one with a and one with in, that essentially mean the same thing. You just have to remember which is which. They are worth memorizing.

 

Ad ogni modo, mi piace tanto.

In any case, I like her a lot.

Caption 36, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing,

ho deciso di prendere Ulisse.

I decided to take Ulisse.

Captions 28-29, Andromeda - La storia di Ulisse

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson. A presto!

Getting by with Cavarsela

You may know that we can ask someone how things are going with come va (how's it going)? It's the simplest and least personal way to ask that. More personal is come stai (how are you)?

 

"Ciao, come va?"

"Hi, how's it going?"

Si può anche dire "come stai?"

You can also say, "how are you?"

Come stai.

How are you?

Captions 5-7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Chiedere "Come va?"

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Here's yet another way to talk about how things are going for someone. We use it in both questions and answers when the situation or outcome is uncertain, like, for example, the one we are experiencing at the moment all over the world. 

And the verb is.... cavarsela. It's a pronominal verb — a verb that has pronouns attached to it — so let's take it apart.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The main verb inside this pronominal verb is cavare (to remove, to extract). If you think of a cavity, something has been removed to create it. 

 

As a matter of fact, Marika has done a video about 2 similar verbs: cavare and togliere, which can both mean to remove.

 

Cavare vuol dire estrarre,

"Cavare" means to extract,

tirare fuori qualcosa da qualche parte.

to pull something out from somewhere.

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega - I verbi cavare e togliere

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As with many pronominal verbs, cavare can also be reflexive, becoming cavarsi. There are two ways to look at this. One is as a typical reflexive verb like levarsi, togliersi, when talking about taking one's shoes off, for example. 

 

Mi tolgo le scarpe... indosso una vestaglia,

I take off my shoes... I put on a robe,

mi distendo sul divano,

I stretch out on the couch,

guardo un po' di televisione.

I watch a little TV.

Captions 40-42, Adriano - Giornata

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If you are familiar with the verbs togliere and levare, you don't need to remember cavarsi in this context, as it is not the most common word people use.

 

There is, however another context, where we commonly do use the reflexive cavarsi, when it means to get out of a dicey situation, but we add la which in this case means "it." "It" in turn, represents a situation, often a difficult one.

 

As we mentioned above, the pronominal verb is cavarsela:

cavare + si + la.

 

When putting the verb into its infinitive form, we remove the "e" ending of the original verb in its infinitive, so cavare becomes cavar. Then, since we are going to have a direct object pronoun in there, too, si (usually an indirect object pronoun meaning "to oneself") becomes se. And then we add, at the end, la, which is a direct object pronoun (meaning a generic "it") — cavarsela.

 

Cavarsela can mean "getting [oneself] out of a situation," like an exam you hadn't studied for, but you got through anyway.

Me la sono cavata, menomale (I got through it, thank goodness).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

But it often means "managing," "getting by."

 

Insomma, neanche in sogno riesco a cavarmela da solo.

Anyway, not even in a dream can I get by on my own.

Caption 58, Psicovip - I Minivips - Ep 13

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Practically speaking

OK, but how do we use cavarsela when we're talking, and when we need to conjugate the verb rather than using it in the infinitive? Great question! Ottima domanda!

 

Questions

 

Let's start with how we use cavarsela in a question. A woman who has horses is thinking of hiring some help. She asks:

 

Come te la cavi con i cavalli?

How do you manage with horses?

How good are you with horses?

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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An answer to this question might be:

Me la cavo (I do all right).

 

In a different context, you might ask someone how they are getting on in a certain situation, say, during lockdown.

 

The present tense can work:

Come te la cavi (how are you getting on)?

 

or you can use the present continuous:

Come te la stai cavando (how are you getting on, how are you managing)?

 

When lockdown is over, you might ask:

Come te la sei cavato/a (how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?

 

If you are talking to two or more people:

Come ve la siete cavati(how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?

 

Answering the question

Ce la caviamo bene (we'll manage), we're managing).

Ce la stiamo cavando (we're managing).

Me la sono cavata/o bene (I did fine).

 

and in the plural:

Ce la siamo cavati così così (We did just OK).

 

E tu? Come te la stai cavando con l'italiano?

 

Comparatives of Equality

We have seen that comparatives work a bit differently in Italian as compared to English. Read more here. For most adjectives and adverbs in Italian, there is no specific comparative form. We use the adverbs più (more) or meno  (less) to form the comparative. Notable exceptions are buono (good) and bene (well), which have their own comparative forms. We have discussed them here

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

But things get tricky when we compare things that are equal. For the most part, in English, we use the same adverb or conjunction "as" in both parts of the comparison. 

 

You are as tall as I am. We are both the same height.

 

In Italian, there are basically two pairs of words that are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. Tanto (lots, as much) pairs with quanto (how much), and così (like, so) pairs with come (how, as).

Il comparativo di uguaglianza si forma facendo precedere l'aggettivo dall'avverbio "tanto", o "così", seguito dall'aggettivo, più "come" o "quanto".

The comparative of equality is formed by placing the adverb "tanto" [as much] or "cosi" [like, as], followed by the adjective, plus "as" or "as much."

Captions 23-28, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Comparativo - Part 3

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And sometimes we can omit one of the two words in a pair. Tutto sommato (all in all), it can be a bit confusing.

 

Here are some examples of complete sentences from Yabla that feature comparatives of equality, so you can become more familiar with them. 

Insomma, i ponti sono tanto frequentati quanto sconosciuti ai romani di oggi.

In other words, the bridges are as traveled as they are unknown to the Romans of today.

Caption 44, I Love Roma - guida della città - Part 8

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Ed è stata tanto colpa nostra quanto colpa sua.

And it was as much our fault as his fault.

Caption 55, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 3

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The following example uses che, another ingredient of comparatives, as described by Daniela, but here, it's used incorrectly. This just goes to show that comparatives of equality can be tricky for Italians, too.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto della vita che della cucina.

Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, as much in life as in cuisine.

Caption 18, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 10

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Here is what the speaker should have said.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto nella vita quanto nella cucina.
Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, in life as well as in the kitchen.

 

This next example compares two comparatives on equal terms (more=more). Can you wrap your head around it

Quanto più l'impasto è durotanto meglio viene la pasta.

The stiffer the dough, the better the pasta will be.

Caption 45, Marino - La maccaronara

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In the following example, Adriano is using così come to compare the adjective intenso (intense) on an equal basis between one day and other days.  

Spero che anche voi possiate avere delle giornate così intense come questa.

I hope that you too can have days that are as intense as this one.

Caption 56, Adriano - Giornata

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We often find così and come together in a sentence and it can often be translated as "just as" or "just like."

Al verso è docile e al contro è duro, così come la vita.

Along the grain it's soft and against the grain it's hard, just like life.

Captions 11-12, Claudio Capotondi - Scultore - Part 1

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Here are examples of the two types of pairings, along with versions where the first adverb is omitted, as described by Daniela.

Non conosco nessuno così bravo come te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo come te.
I don't know anyone smart like you.
Non conosco nessuno tanto bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.

 

Practice: 
Try looking around your home and comparing things. 

Questa stanza è più grande di quella (this room is bigger than that one).
Quella stanza è meno grande di questa (That room is smaller than this one).
Questo tavolo è tanto grande quanto quel tavolo lì (this table is as big as that one there).
Questo tavolo è grande quanto quello lì (this table is as big as that one there).
La mia poltrona è tanto comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).
La mia poltrona è comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Start simple and get comfortable. Hint: In comparisons of equality, it's more common to omit the first adverb than to include it, at least in everyday speech. Whew! 

Grammar

Comodo: Comfortable or Handy?

The adjective comodo (comfortable) is easy to find in the dictionary, and is easy to understand, too, in a normal context.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Che dici, sarà comodo questo letto per la tedesca con la puzza sotto il naso?

What do you say? Will this bed be comfortable for the snobbish German lady?

Captions 12-13, Sposami EP 3 - Part 5

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Quindi non dimenticatevi di indossare delle scarpe comode, un abbigliamento comodo per potervi godere questo spettacolo meraviglioso.

So don't forget to wear comfortable shoes, comfortable clothing, to be able to enjoy this marvelous show.

Captions 45-46, Marika spiega Expo 2015 - Part 2

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Grammar corner

As you can see, comodo ends in "O." So when using it to describe a noun, you have to pay attention to both the gender and the number of the noun it's describing. There are 4 possibilities: o, a, i, and e. Here are some examples.

Questo vestito è comodo (this dress is comfortable).

Questa gonna è comoda (this skirt is comfortable).

Questi pantaloni sono comodi (these pants are comfortable).

Queste scarpe sono comode (these shoes are comfortable).

 

❇️ 

Try making sentences with other appropriate nouns you know, such as la sedia, il letto, la maglietta, il cappotto, gli stivali, i calzini, l'anello, il divano, il cuscino, i guanti, 

 

The opposite of comfortable

To say "uncomfortable," we use the famous "S" prefix: scomodo.  Quite often, but certainly not always, the S prefix will indicate the opposite of the original meaning of the word. For more about how the S prefix works, examples, see this lesson

Ma perché le donne devono aver un abito così scomodo?

But why do women have to have such uncomfortable clothing?

Caption 52, L'Oriana film - Part 23

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❇️ 

Try doing the same exercises as above (with comodo) with scomodo. It works the same way! Make sure and say your sentences out loud, if possible.

 

Being comfortable

Up until now, we have talked about things that are or aren't comfortable. We can use the verb essere (to be). But when it comes to how we are feeling, such as sitting in an armchair, we use comodo and scomodo  with the verb stare, also translated as "to be." We're talking about our state of being. Let's assume a woman is talking. She might say:

Su questa sedia, sto un po' scomoda. Manca un cuscino (I'm kind of uncomfortable on this chair. There's no cushion).

Su quell'altra, sto piuttosto comoda, invece (but on that other one, I am pretty comfortable).

 

❇️ Food for thought:

What if a guy were talking?

What if a couple were talking together about how they feel sleeping on the ground?

What if you were asking someone if they are comfortable, when it's clear they are not comfortable?

 

Stare is also used with comodo in another situation. Sometimes comodo specifically implies remaining seated, as in the command:

 Stai comodo (don't bother getting up).

 

Getting comfortable

When you get comfortable, the verb is mettersi (to put oneself). We use the reflexive form of mettere (to put) as if to say, "Put yourself" into a comfortable position or state.

Quando torno a casa, la prima cosa che faccio è mettermi comodo.

When I get back home, the first thing I do is to get comfortable.

Caption 39, Adriano Giornata

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If I invite you to my place, and you are just standing in the entranceway, I might say:

Mettiti comodo (relax, make yourself at home, take off your shoes if you want, have a seat). 

 

Comodo meaning "convenient"

There are other contexts in which comodo is used in Italian, and these might be a bit harder to grasp. Comodo can mean "convenient," as in an easy answer, as in over-simplifying.

 

Ho cambiato idea, me ne ero dimenticato, non gliel'ho detto?

I changed my mind, I had forgotten, didn't I tell you?

Troppo comodo, Manara.

Too convenient, Manara.

Ormai le sue dimissioni saranno già protocollate.

At this point, your resignation will have been registered.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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And to talk about inconveniencing someone, the verb is scomodare

Non ti voglio scomodare (I don't want to inconvenience you).

 

Fare comodo

A common expression is fare comodo (to be or to come in useful, handy, or to be convenient). So in Italian, the verb is fare, while in English it's "to be" or "to come in."

 

Here's an example that's close to home for Yabla users:

Fa molto comodo avere i sottotitoli in due lingue, no?

Having subtitles in two languages is very handy, isn't it?

Having subtitles in two languages comes in very handy, doesn't it?

 

The following example is in the past conditional. They wished they'd had a beach umbrella.

 

Che caldo!

It's so hot!

Certo, un ombrellone nelle ore centrali del giorno  avrebbe fatto veramente comodo.

Of course, an umbrella for the middle of the day would have come in really handy.

Captions 1-2, Una gita - al lago - Part 3

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In a future lesson, we'll talk about comodo as a noun.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Meglio or Migliore?

In our last lesson, there was mention of the Italian comparative adjective migliore (better).  This brought up an excellent question on the part of one of our readers. What's the difference between migliore and meglio? They both mean "better." When should we use meglio instead of migliore?

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

It's a great question, because the answer is not so simple. On a very basic level, migliore is an adjective and is the comparative of buono (good). It is also, with the addition of an article, the superlative of buono (good), as in the following example.

La moto è il mezzo migliore per superare il traffico.

The motorbike is the best means of transportation for getting past the traffic.

Caption 27, Adriano - Giornata

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Migliore stays the same in both the masculine and the feminine.

Io voglio solo una vita migliore di questa.

I just want a better life than this.

Caption 70, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 5

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La mia migliore amica.

My best [girl]friend.

Caption 53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7

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But in the plural it's always migliori, for both the masculine and the feminine.

Ed è uno dei vini migliori della Basilicata, è chiamato Aglianico.

And it's one of the best wines of Basilicata, it's called Aglianico.

Caption 2, Milena - al supermercato

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No, veramente le cose migliori le abbiamo fatte insieme, no?

No, actually the best things are the ones we've done together, right?

Caption 47, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 7

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Migliore and its plural form migliori can also be nouns, just like in English. 

Sei il/la migliore!
You're the best!

 

Migliore is either an adjective or a noun — never an adverb.

 

Meglio, on the other hand, is basically an adverb, so it makes sense for it to be the comparative of bene (well). Meglio often means in modo migliore (in a better way).

Facciamo un esempio così capite meglio.

We'll provide an example, that way you'll understand better.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Approfondimento Verbi Modali - Part 1

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But meglio has a gray area, too, and is much more flexible than migliore. Unlike migliore, which is either an adjective or a noun, meglio, in addition to being an adverb, is often also used colloquially as an adjective or in some contexts as a noun. It's also used in a huge number of expressions. 

 

Note that the verb migliorare exists, too, to mean "to improve," to "get better."

Se posso migliorare, perché non farlo?

If I can improve, why not do so?

Caption 4, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 13

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Il mio italiano è molto migliorato.
My Italian has gotten much better.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We'll focus on meglio next week, but in the meantime, why not compare things with migliorein your home or workplace?

Think about food, movies, books, the time of day/year for doing something.

Per esempio:

In questo bar, fanno il miglior caffè della città.
In this bar, they make the best coffee in the city.

Il mio italiano scritto è migliore di qualche anno fa.
My written Italian is better than a few years ago.

Non ero la migliore della classe quando andavo a scuola. 
I wasn't the best in the class when I went to school.

Qual è la stagione migliore per visitare la Sicilia?
What's the best month for visiting Sicily?

Fare and Food

Fare translates as “to make” or “to do.”  But we also use fare in contexts where English uses the verb “to have.” 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Let's look at some ways fare is used when referring to food — the cooking of it and the eating of it. It can be straightforward and mean “to make”:

Fa il pane ogni venerdì (he makes bread every Friday).

 

But let’s look at some less predictable uses of fare and see where they lead.

 

In English, we say: “I’ll fix dinner” or “I’ll make dinner,” but in Italian, it’s common to say preparo la cena (I’ll prepare dinner) or, to be more generic and informal, faccio da mangiare (I’ll make something to eat). Note that the verb cucinare (to cook) is the actual proper Italian verb for this.

Dovrei fare da mangiare ma invece leggerò il giornale (I should fix something to eat, but instead, I'm going to read the paper).

 

“Eating breakfast” or "having breakfast" uses the verb fare in Italian: fare colazione (to have breakfast or “to eat breakfast”).

 

Non esco mai da casa senza aver fatto una buona colazione.

I never leave the house without having eaten a good breakfast.

Caption 15, Adriano - Giornata

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In Italian, unlike English, having lunch or dinner is often referred to using the verb forms of pranzo (lunch) and cena (dinner): pranzare and cenare

Ho pranzato a mezzogiorno e mezzo (I had lunch at half past twelve).

Aveva già cenato quando sono arrivata io (he had already eaten dinner when I got there).

A che ora pranzi di solito (what time do you usually have lunch)?

Oggi non pranzo. Ho mangiato un panino per strada (I’m not having lunch today. I ate a sandwich on the way).

 

Note that the verb avere (to have) can be used as an auxiliary verb, as in ho mangiato (I ate), or ho fatto colazione (I had breakfast), but is not used the way we use it in English as a kind of substitute for "to eat." Avere (to have) might be used as follows:

Ho un po' di pasta avanzata. La vuoi mangiare (I have some leftover pasta. Do you want to have it)?

 

In a nutshell:

For breakfast, we use fare colazione (to have breakfast), but for lunch and dinner, we use pranzare and cenare. Fare da mangiare is a general term meaning to prepare or make something to eat.

 

Further practice:

As you go through your day, think about your meals, answer these questions, and, if you can, make up new ones, changing the conjugations or other elements in the sentence.

Chi fa da mangiare in casa tua (who cooks the meals in your house)

A che ora hai fatto colazione stamattina (what time did you have breakfast this morning)?

Con chi ha pranzato tuo fratello (with whom did your brother have lunch)? Cosa hanno mangiato (what did they eat)?

Note that when you get specific about the food you eat, then you can use the verb mangiare (to eat), but remember you don’t “eat lunch” in Italian, you eat something (such as pasta) at/for lunch:

pranzo i miei genitori hanno mangiato dei fagioli col tonno (my parents had beans and tuna for lunch). Tu che cosa hai mangiato (what did you have)?

Ti va di cenare con solo verdura (do you feel like having just vegetables for dinner)?

Note that in Italian, we sometimes use per (for) pranzo/cena and we sometimes use (at) pranzo/cena.

Cosa c’è per cena (what’s for dinner)?

Cosa mangiamo a cena (what shall we have for dinner?)

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

There’s always more to learn about verbs such as fare. Remember, it’s an irregular verb, and a very common one, so it’s a handy verb to know how to conjugate.
 

Vocabulary

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Places to Sit in Italian - Part 2

Places to Sit in Italian - Part 1

In a previous lesson we talked about sedie (chairs), panche (benches), and panchine (park benches). But now let’s examine some more comfortable places to sit.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Normally, if there are arms on a chair, as in “armchair,” it’s una poltrona, for Italians, especially if it’s got padding and is comfortable. A smaller armchair, that is, a chair with braccioli (arms or armrests), may be called una poltroncina. It’s not necessarily comfortable. Il bracciolo (arm, armrest) comes from il braccio (the arm).

 

If we want to seat two people, we can talk about un divanetto. It is usually smaller in size and importance than a proper divano (sofa, couch) where you can usually lie down, put your feet up,  and take up space.

 

Mi distendo sul divano, guardo un po' di televisione.

I stretch out on the couch, I watch a little TV.

Captions 41-42, Adriano - Giornata

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Sometimes people have a divano letto (a sofa bed) for guests, or even for themselves, if they lack space.

 

What you sit on in a car, train or plane, or other means of transport is un sedile (a seat). They are often called posti a sedere (places to sit).

In prima classe, i sedili sono più comodi.
In first class, the seats are more comfortable.

 

Babies and young children need special seats in a car.

 

È passeggino per i bambini molto piccoli, oppure seggiolino auto.

It’s a stroller for very small babies, or else a little car seat.

Caption 42, Anna presenta - Attrezzature per un neonato

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Babies eat in special chairs called seggioloni (highchairs).

 

If you go skiing in Italy, you may want to travel up the slopes on a seggiovia (chairlift).

 

And if you really want to get comfortable, you can stretch out on un letto matrimoniale (a double or king-size bed) or un lettino (usually a single bed), or if you go to the doctor’s or to see a massage therapist, or even a psychoanalyst, you might also find yourself lying on un lettino.

 

Si metta sul lettino e mi parli del Suo rapporto con i piedi.

Get on the couch and tell me about your relationship with your feet.

Caption 7, Psicovip - Cappuccetto Rosso

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Un lettino may also be seen at the edge of pools or at the beach.

 

E quanto costa affittare un lettino?

And how much does it cost to rent a sunbed?

Caption 7, Una gita - al lago

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Another comfortable seat is uno sdraio (a deck chair, a recliner).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Sdraio comes from the verb sdraiare (to lay down) or its reflexive version, sdraiarsi (to lie down, to recline). The plural is the same as the singular as we see in the following example.

 

Vengono messi ombrelloni, sdraio.

Beach umbrellas, beach chairs will be installed.

Caption 5, Antonio - e il Lido Costa Blu

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Vocabulary

Making Sense of Senso

Il senso (the sense, the way, the feeling) is a very useful noun and has several meanings. Some of the meanings jibe with the English cognate “sense,” but it’s not always a perfect fit. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using the wrong verb with this noun, thus saying something different from what we mean.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

One of the most common ways to use senso is when it has to do with “meaning” or “sense.” Note that the verb here is avere (to have) but we translate it into English using the verb “to make.”

 

Scusa, eh, ma se devi stare così,

Excuse me, huh, but if you have to feel like this,

mi dici che senso ha?

will you tell me what sense that makes?

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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The response to the above question could be:

Non ha nessun senso (it doesn’t make sense at all).
Infatti, è senza senso (in fact, it doesn’t make sense, it’s senseless).

 

Senso also refers to one of the five senses. It also refers to “sense,” meaning “feeling” or “sensation.” The English cognate “sense” fits pretty well here and both Italian and English can use the verb “to give.”

  

Il secondo motivo, il più importante,

The second reason, the most important one,

è perché amo la moto

is because I love the motorbike

e mi dà un senso di libertà.

and it gives me a sense of freedom.

Captions 29-30, Adriano - Giornata

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In the following example, senso has to do with feelings but is used with the verb fare (to make). It means something entirely different from what we looked at above. It’s about feelings, but specifically negative ones, as you can see from the translation. Something gives you a sense of creepiness, repulsion, or repugnance. So, it’s important not to use the verb fare “to make” with senso unless you really mean it this way.

 

I topi mi fanno un senso.

Mice give me the creeps.

Caption 8, PsicoVip - Il topo

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Let’s remember that senso also means “way.” And just as “way” has various meanings, so does senso.

One very common question to ask someone is in che senso (in what way)? We ask this question when we need more details. It’s another way of saying, “What do you mean?”

 

No, per quello ho disposto diversamente.

No, for that I've distributed it differently.

-In che senso?

-In what way?

Captions 60-61, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Just as in English, senso means “way” in traffic too.

Questa strada è a senso unico.
This is a one-way street.

 

In a nutshell:

Fare senso: to give a sense of repulsion, fear, or disgust

 I ragni mi fanno senso.
 Spiders disgust me.

Avere senso: to make sense, to have meaning

 Ha senso arrivare due ore in anticipo?
 Does it make sense to arrive two hours early?

Dare un senso: to give a sense, to give meaning


 Ti dà un senso di sicurezza.
 It gives you a sense of security.
 Aiutare gli altri ti può dare un senso alla vita.
 Helping others can give some meaning to your life.

 

Senso unico: one way
I cinque sensithe five senses

For even more about senso, see this lesson.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Vocabulary

Pizza al taglio, aperitivi, and stuzzichini

Italy is known for its three-course lunches and dinners, but in most cities and towns, there’ll be a more casual type of place where you can get take out, eat at a little table, or mangiare in piedi (eat standing up). 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is very popular all over Italy, especially in Rome. As Anna explains, prices vary according to size and what’s on the pizza.

 

Tu scegli il pezzo di pizza, viene pesato, a seconda del tipo di pizza, ha un prezzo diverso al chilo,

You choose the piece of pizza, it's weighed, depending on the kind of pizza, it has a varying price per kilo,

e paghi a seconda della grandezza e del peso di pizza che hai scelto.

and you pay depending on the size and the weight of the pizza you've chosen.

Captions 79-81, Anna e Marika - Pizza al taglio romana

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You can certainly find pizza al taglio in Tuscany, but in addition, and baked in the same oven, you’ll often see la cecina, made from farina di ceci (chickpea flour). Learn more here. Liguria and Tuscany, as well as Puglia have focaccia, in some areas called schiacciata, which is made with flour, water, oil and yeast, like pizza, and often takes the place of bread. You’ll find it in bakeries, bars, and pizzerie. As a quick snack, Romagna has the piadina, a flat bread made with lard rather than olive oil, which gets filled with cured meats or cheese. Learn more here.

A way for people to get together socially, without having to spend lots of money on dinner, is to have drinks before they go home for dinner: fare or prendere l’aperitivo (to have an aperitif). As we’ll see, aperitivo has different sfumature (shades of meaning).

 

Prima di andare a cena, quindi verso le sei o le sette, gli italiani fanno un aperitivo.

Before going to have dinner, so, around six or seven o'clock, Italians have cocktails.

Captions 1-2, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'aperitivo

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Adriano, in describing his day, includes an aperitivo, at least on the weekend.

 

Mi rilasso e mi sfogo con gli amici dopo una lunga giornata di lavoro.

I relax and I let off steam with my friends after a long day of work.

Mi concedo qualche aperitivo e poi anche qualche cocktail alcolico.

I allow myself some aperitifs and then also some cocktails.

Captions 48-51, Adriano - Giornata

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It’s pretty clear that Adriano considers aperitivo in its broader sense, and he uses qualche aperitivo here to mean a few appetizers. For an explanation of how to use qualche, see this previous lesson. For the drink itself, Adriano uses "cocktail.” As with most English words integrated into the Italian language, "cocktail" will remain in the singular no matter how many he has.

While the aperitivo, usually served with patatine (potato chips) or olive (olives), is an established ritual in most parts of Italy, one of the latest trends is the apericena. If you combine aperitivo (drinks) with cena (dinner), you get apericena. What is it? It’s drinks and appetizers, both savory and sweet, that are varied and abundant enough to replace dinner, served buffet style. The apericena exists both in bars about town, offering an alternative to a costly tab in a restaurant, and in homes, making for a relatively low-budget, flexible, and fashionable alternative to a sit-down dinner. It encourages mingling, conversation, and allows for guests to just stop by. These light buffet dinners are becoming more and more popular all over Italy.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

All over the world there's a tendency to take foreign words and knowingly or unknowingly give them a meaning different from the original. So, be aware that in bars, the apericena or the aperitivo (depending on how much there is to eat) is sometimes called a “happy hour,” which in Italy is not about discounts on drinks as in the United States, but rather having drinks accompanied by a small buffet of stuzzichini (appetizers) for a fixed, though variable, price. More about the Italian happy hour here. The word for “toothpick” in Italian is stuzzicadenti. Little bite-size appetizers are often served with toothpicks, thus the term stuzzichini. If you travel to Venice, you'll want to check out the Venetian version of stuzzichini: cicchetti.

Learn more here. This is an important tip, given that it’s quite a challenge finding good food at reasonable prices in Venezia.

Buon appetito!

Culture Food

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Caption 51, 50, 49, 48
Intermediate

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