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Talking about il coronavirus in Italian

The main topic of conversation in lots of places right now is "coronavirus." We hope that it won't last too long, because in addition to making people sick, with some people even dying, it's also wildly disrupting the life of many people around the world. 

 

Italy has been hit particularly hard and is consequently in the spotlight, so let's look at some of the words people and newspapers are using to talk about it.

 

In English, we talk about "lockdown" to describe the measures Italy is taking to try to prevent the spread of the virus. There are a few options for an Italian translation: l'isolamento (the isolation), il blocco (the blocking, the closing off), blindare (to lock down) blindato (locked down). 

 

Let's talk about some of the vocabulary Italians are using to talk about what's going on.

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To begin with, let's look at a headline from Sunday, March 8, when new rules went into effect for the zone rosse (the red zones, or epicenters), including Lombardy, the Veneto, and other regions. 

 

Covid-19, nuove regole: evitare ogni spostamento nelle zone colpite.

(Covid -19, new rules: avoid any traveling/moving around in the affected areas). 

 

Let's look at the words in the headline.

Nuove regole (new rules)

This is pretty self-explanatory. The two words are similar to their English counterparts: the adjective nuovo (new) and the noun la regola. In this case, it is a feminine noun in the plural — le regole. The adjective nuovo has to agree with the noun, so its "o" ending changes to "e" the feminine plural ending.

Evitare (to avoid)

Here, evitare  is basically intended as a command although it's not in the imperative. Using the infinitive form of the verb is simple and effective and can apply to everyone. It's the explanation of one of the nuove regole (new rules). Other ways to use this verb in the imperative: evitate (avoid — second person plural), evita (avoid — second person singular imperative [informal]), eviti (avoid — second person singular imperative [formal]).

 

...usare i pronomi relativi "quale" e "quali",

...to use the relative pronouns "quale" and "quali,"

per evitare possibili ambiguità.

to avoid possible ambiguities.

Captions 7-8, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi

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Ogni (each, every, any)

This easy, common, and useful adjective never changes. it's worth looking up in your dictionary of choice because it can be used in such a variety of ways. One common expression is ogni tanto (every now and then).

 

E ogni tanto, però, parlavamo di cose serie.

And every now and then, though, we talked about serious things.

Caption 32, Silvana e Luciano - Il nostro incontro

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In the headline, of course, we are talking about "each and every." In other words, "Avoid unnecessary travel." "Avoid all cases of moving around the area."

Lo spostamento (the moving around, the re-positioning)

This interesting noun comes from the verb spostare, also an interesting word. It's interesting because there is no specific equivalent in English,  yet once you learn it in Italian, you'll wonder how you could do without it. Did you detect another word inside the verb spostare? Yes, it's posto, the noun, il posto (the place, the position, the location). So spostare, with its telltale "s" prefix, means to take something away from its place. And it can be used reflexively when you are the one moving yourself away from a place. What a wonderful verb! Usually, we use the verb "to move" to translate spostare, but sometimes it's "to shift," "to re-locate," "to transfer," "to move around." In short, if you live in the zona rossa (red zone) you should move around the area as little as possible.

 

Il verbo "andare" indica uno spostamento verso un luogo

The verb “andare” indicates a movement towards a place,

ed è seguito da diverse preposizioni

and is followed by various prepositions,

a seconda del nome che lo segue.

according to the noun that follows it.

Captions 31-33, Marika spiega - I verbi venire e andare

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Le zone (the areas)

This is an easy noun with a "friendly" English cognate. Just remember that the original noun is la zona. Zone is plural. La zona is often translated with "the area."

 

Colpite

This past participle comes from the verb colpire (to hit, to affect, to make an impression on). Since it's a headline, all the little words that tell you it's a past participle are missing:

Le zone che sono state colpite (the zones that were hit). Colpire can have literal and figuarative meanings of different kinds.

 

Poi un'altra cosa che mi ha colpito molto

Then, another thing that made a strong impression

è che io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso,

on me was that I come from a land where water is a precious resource,

non ce n'è molta.

there isn't much of it.

Captions 43-45, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

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In the headline, the connotation of colpire is "to affect."

Let's have just a quick look at some of the other rules:

 

Quarantena: vietato uscire di casa (quarantine: leaving home is prohibited).

Divieto assoluto di uscire dalla propria abitazione per chi è sottoposto alla quarantena o è risultato positivo al virus.

If you have been quarantined or if you have tested positive to the virus, you must not leave your home.

 

The verb vietare (to prohibit, to ban) and the noun il divieto (the ban) are related.

 

Ma cos'è questo fumo?

But, what is this smoke?

Hm. -Perché mi guarda così?

Uhm. -Why are you looking at me like that?

Perché qui è vietato fumare.

Because here smoking is prohibited.

Captions 20-22, Psicovip - Il fulmine

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Stop a eventi e competizioni sportive (no sporting events and competitions)

Stop is pretty clear! In the explanation that follows the rule, however, the Italian word sospesi (suspended) is used.

Sono sospesi gli eventi e le competizioni sportive di ogni ordine e disciplina... (sporting events and competitions on every level and of every kind have been suspended...)

Favorire congedo ordinario o ferie (encourage leaves of absence and vacation days).

 

Favorire is another verb that is partly a true cognate, but often means "to encourage," "to foster."

 

Chiusi cinema, teatri, pub, discoteche, sale bingo (movie theaters, theaters, pubs, clubs, bingo halls are closed)

Chiuso (closed) is pretty clear —from the verb chiudere (to close).

 

Chiuse scuole e università (schools and universities are closed)

These same rules have been applied to museums, gyms, spas, ski resorts, and many other centers.

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The list goes on, but we have covered some of the important rules here and the vocabulary associated with them.

 

Further vocabulary to know regarding the virus:

  • contagioso (contagious) This adjective (a true cognate) comes from the verb contagiare (to infect).
  • diffondere (to spread). This verb is both transitive. Diffondiamo questa informazione (let's spread the word) but it is also reflexive.  Il virus si diffonde facilmente (the virus spreads easily). 
  • il disinfettante (the disinfectant, the sanitizer). Disinfettante can also be an adjective (disinfectant). We need to have il disinfettante per le mani (hand sanitizer) handy these days.
  • un metro (a meter) Do you know how much a meter is? A little more than a yard — 39.37 inches. That's what is considered a safe distance to keep from other people when in public places.
  • sano (healthy)
  • misurare la febbre (to take one's temperature). 98.6° F is equal to 37° C. Lots of folks say 37,5° C is when you can say it's a fever.

 

Things are tough for Italians (and many others!) right now. Besides the virus itself, everyday life has become complicated for lots of folks. Those of us who work remotely feel fortunati (lucky) to be able to do our jobs in a normal way, but we might have kids underfoot who would ordinarily be in school! If everyone cooperates, taking the right precautions, hopefully, we can beat this thing.

 

La speranza è l'ultima a morire (hope is the last to die — hope springs eternal).

If you have heard or read things in Italian about the virus that you aren't able to understand, let us know and we'll try to help. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

Addirittura: A Handy One-Word Expression

There's a wonderful word that is a bit tricky to say, because there is a double "d," then a single "r", then a double "t" and then a single "r". Whew! But it's worth the trouble (and worth practicing). Addirittura. It means several things and is simply a great word to have handy, for instance, when expressing astonishment:

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Addirittura?

Really?

Caption 34, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 22

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The man saying this, if speaking English, might have said, "Seriously?"

 

It can mean, "as a matter of fact":

 

E mi sembrava addirittura che i toscani lavorassero troppo poco.

And as a matter of fact, it seemed to me that Tuscans worked too little.

Caption 42, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

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We can often translate addirittura with a simple "even."

 

E questa sera mi ha addirittura raggiunta in studio la mamma del povero Martino.

And this evening, poor Martino's mom even came to the studio to join me.

Caption 43, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 18

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A less word-for-word translation might have been:

Poor Martino's mom came all the way to the studio to join me.

 

But it's a strong word and "even" doesn't always do it justice. 

It can mean "as far afield as," "as much as,"  "as little as," "to the point that," "downright," and more.

 

Sembri la Befana. Eh! Addirittura!

You look like a witch. Hey! That bad?

Captions 8-9, La Ladra - Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro

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Ce ne sono due grandi internazionali

There are two large international ones

eh... a Pisa e Firenze, ma addirittura altri sette piccoli aeroporti.

uh... in Pisa and Florence, but in fact there are seven other small airports.

Captions 69-70, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Toscana

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As you might have figured out, addirittura can have to do with extreme measures or something exceptional. It can be useful when complaining or when justifying something you did: 

L'ho controllato addirittura tre volte (I went so far as to check it three times).

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Tip: Go to the videos page and do a search of addirittura. You will get dozens of examples where addirittura is a stand-alone expression and others that will be part of a sentence. To get even more context plus the English translation, go to "Transcripts" and do the same kind of search with command-F. The word will be highlighted. Reading the sentence out loud will give you plenty of practice. 

 

Finché (as long as) and Finché non (until)

In a recent lesson we talked about the conjunction affinché (in order that) and how it prompts the subjunctive.

 

We also mentioned how it can easily be confused with finché (as long as) or finché non (until) because it sounds very similar. We looked briefly at these two conjunctions in a previous lesson. In Italian, they differ only in the addition of the negation non. This is a bit tricky since in English we use two different terms: “as long as” and “until.”

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Sometimes, even when Italians mean to say “until,” they will leave out the non after finché. This is partly because they don’t need to be any clearer than that in a given situation, or because it’s quicker and easier, and for Italians, in some situations, it just doesn’t matter. 

 

Let’s take the very recent video featuring Marika and Anna who are busy in the kitchen making panzerotti, a kind of deep fried dumpling, filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce.

 

It’s a casual situation, they’re very busy, and wouldn't you know it, they use finché without non even though they mean "until." However, what they mean to say is very clear, so they don’t pay much attention, and it's not even considered "wrong."

OK, quindi possiamo andare avanti ad oltranza, finché [sic: finché non] finisce il nostro impasto. -Sì.

OK, we'll go ahead until done, until we've finished up with the dough. -Yes.

Caption 34, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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Sì, finché [sic: finché non] abbiamo, appunto, terminato l'impasto e [abbiamo] un certo numero di panzerotti da friggere.

Yes, up until the point, right, that we've finished the dough and we have a certain number of “panzerotti” to fry.

Captions 35-36, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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The meaning is clear because they use finisce (is gone, is finished, is used up), so they understand each other: They’ll keep making panzerotti until all the dough has been used up.

 

Of course, there are plenty of instances where Anna and Marika do use finché with non, so it’s not a question of not knowing.

La cosa importante, con i bambini piccoli, è cambiare spesso posizione della schiena finché, naturalmente, non sono in grado di stare in piedi da soli.

The important thing with little children is to often change the position of their backs, until, naturally, they are able to stand up by themselves.

Captions 9-11, Anna presenta - Attrezzature per un neonato

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We could also say, to better follow the Italian:

The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, as long as they are unable to stand up by themselves.

 

We could think of it this way: Non is a negation, and in a way, so is “until,” when used as a conjunction. “Un” is also a prefix meaning “not.”

 

Here is another example, where we can take finché non apart, to better understand it.

E poi, finché... si lavorava finché il padrone non diceva "basta",

And then, until... we worked until the boss said, "that's enough,"

Caption 27, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

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Another way to say this in English would be:

We kept working as long as the boss had not yet said, “that’s enough.”

 

It’s a bit awkward in English, which is why we use the word “until.”

 

Here is another very informal example:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché non ho finito.
I have to tell you something. Don’t interrupt me until I have finished.

 

It could also be:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché sto parlando.
I have to tel you something. Don’t interrupt me as long as I am still speaking.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further learning: 
Do a Yabla search of finché and look at all the examples. Some will be correct without non, to mean “as long as,” some will use non, to mean “until,” and some will be "wrong." Hint: Federico Fellini uses this conjunction the "wrong" way.

 

Can you understand the difference between finché and finché non? Feel free to let us know, or to make a comment in the comment section of the video in question.

 

We’ve mentioned that in different parts of Italy, or based on personal styles, the subjunctive gets skipped, the remote past is rarely used, and finché non might be abbreviated, too. But for those who are learning Italian, it’s good to be able to use finchéfinché non, and affinché correctly.

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Using Sotto (Under) and Dietro (Behind)

Marika is offering a video series explaining the different kinds of adverbs used in Italian. In many cases, however, these adverbs can also be used as prepositions, or even as conjunctions in other contexts.

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Besides knowing what adverb or preposition to use in a given instance, it can be tricky knowing whether you need an extra preposition or not. In fact, when Italians speak English, they often add prepositions where it isn’t necessary. Instead of saying “behind me” they’ll say “behind of me.” It makes a certain amount of sense because we say “in front of me.” And it makes sense to them because that’s how they often do it in Italian. What's even trickier in learning Italian, is that in some cases you can add a preposition or not, and it will still be correct.

 

Let’s look at a couple of adverbs/prepositions on Marika’s list that can cause confusion. As you can see in the example below, she uses sotto (under, underneath) and dietro (behind) plus another preposition a (to, at).

"Sotto": conservo il pigiama sempre sotto al cuscino.

"Dietro": la mia [sic. il mio] aspirapolvere non arriva dietro al divano.

"Under." I always keep the pyjamas under the pillow.

"Behind." My vacuum cleaner doesn't reach behind the sofa.

Captions 21-22, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi - Avverbi di luogo

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The example below is about putting a halter on a horse.

Qui ci andrà il muso. Si chiude sotto alla mandibola questo, -OK. -e questo passa dietro alle orecchie.

Here's where the muzzle goes. You fasten this under the lower jaw, - OK. -and this goes behind the ears.

Captions 23-26, Francesca Cavalli - Part 2

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In the previous examples, there is a preposition added to the adverb/preposition. But you will also hear plenty of Italians leaving the second preposition out. Sotto il cuscino is pretty much as common as sotto al cuscino and both are correct. Al combines the preposition a and the article il.

 

The examples above could be expressed just as correctly without the addition of a before the object. In this case, the article would be written out: sotto il cuscinodietro il divanosotto lamandiboladietro le orecchie.

 

Here are some examples where there is no additional preposition.

Ed eravamo un... un mucchio di ragazzini e lavoravamo sotto questi camion senza tanta sicurezza.

And we were a... a bunch of kids and we worked underneath these trucks with very few safety measures.

Captions 22-26, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

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Si nascose dietro uno scoglio per osservare cosa gli stesse accadendo.

She hid behind a rock to see what was happening to him.

Captions 50-51, Ti racconto una fiaba - La sirenetta - Part 1

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There is an important exception connected with these adverb/prepositions. If the object is a personal pronoun, then you do need the (second) preposition.

Dietro di me, c’è una finestra.
Behind me, there’s a window.

 

Vieni dietro a me.
Come on behind me (follow me).

The more you listen, the more often you will catch the short words. They can easily get lost, especially since they are so often combined with the article.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

There is more to say about sotto and dietro, as they are used in lots of different contexts. And there are plenty of adverbs to talk about. But we’ll save them for future lessons. Until then, we look forward, as always, to your comments and questions.

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Caption 26, 25, 24, 23
Intermediate

This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land: Paese and Terra

The Krikka Reggae, a cosìddetto (so-called) Italian reggae group, sing about their home region, way down in the heel of the boot of Italy, called Basilicata, also known as Lucania. They sing about their paese (country) and their terra (land), and even about the terra madre (native land). Let's have a look at some of the different connotations of these nouns.

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Paese can be specific, meaning nation or country: 

 

È Ravenna la città in cui si vive meglio in Italia. ... A dirlo è l'edizione 2014 della classifica delle città più vivibili del paese.

Ravenna is the city in which one lives best in Italy. ... Saying this is the two thousand fourteen issue of the classification of the most liveable cities in the country.

Captions 20-22, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

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Paese can be specifically a town:

 

Eh, adesso ci troviamo ad Avella, un paese in provincia di Avellino.

Uh, right now we're in Avella, a town in the province of Avellino.

Caption 3, Escursioni Campane - Castello Normanno - Part 1

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Paese can be more general, as in country, region, or area:

 

Poi scopriamo che la Liguria è il paese del basilico, è anche speciale.

Then we discover that Liguria is the country of basil, it's special, too.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 12

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Terra is often more general than paese, and gives the idea of homeland or home country, rather than hometown:

 

Per la tua terra lotti, per la terra combatti

For your homeland, you fight, for the homeland you struggle

Caption 31, Krikka Reggae - Lukania (Lucania)

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Terra can give you a more visual image of a place than paese: 

 

Io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso.

I come from a land where water is a precious resource.

Caption 44, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

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Terra can indicate the planet Earth.

 

Pare che l'unico poliziotto sulla faccia della terra che lo può risolvere sono io!

It seems that the only policeman on the face of the earth who can resolve it is me!

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Terra can indicate ground or soil:

 

Forse è la terra. Questa specie di rose ha bisogno di molto nutrimento!

Maybe it's the soil. This kind of rose needs lots of nourishment.

Captions 7-8, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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The lack of clear cut definitions of terra and paese may make more sense if we remember that Italy became one nation, divided into regions, as late as the second half of the 19th century. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Keep on the lookout for paese and terra, and remember that they have slightly different meanings depending on the context. A Yabla search of a word is always a great way to get a quick overview of how it's used. 

Vocabulary

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