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Rispondere: to answer or to respond?

Rispondere, with its English cognate "to respond" seems like it would be a very easy verb to use, and sometimes it is, indeed, easy. The verb rispondere translates as both "to respond" (its cognate) and "to answer" (a verb English inherited from the Old Norse "andsvar").

 

As with many verbs, by using a modal verb, we can keep the main verb in the infinitive, thereby avoiding the need to remember how to conjugate it. 

Senti... Posso parlare con Luca? No, Luca non può rispondere, ha avuto un problema.

Listen... Can I speak with Luca? No, Luca can't answer, he had a problem.

Captions 49-50, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9

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If we don't include an object in the sentence, there are no complications. In the following example, we could also have translated rispondere with "to respond."

Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima di rispondere chiamo il mio avvocato.

All right, then I will also follow normal procedure and before I answer, I'll call my lawyer.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 6

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1) What if the speaker used the conjunction che (after prima) as an alternate way to say the same thing?

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An important detail

Once we start involving an object in our sentence (such as "the question"), we have to keep in mind that rispondere is an intransitive verb (meaning it doesn't take a direct object), so if I want to say, "I answer the question" in Italian, I have to use a preposition after the verb followed by an indirect object (in this case, la domanda (the question). Think: "I respond to the question."

 

Rispondo alla domanda (I answer the question/I respond to the question).

 

Se la sente di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.

Do you feel you can answer a few questions? -Yes.

Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 2

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2) Can you ask this same question to someone you are on familiar terms with?

Non ha risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuole?

You haven't answered my question. What do you want?

Caption 40, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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3) Can you say the same thing informally?

 

2 Ways in English, 1 way in Italian

In English, "to respond" is intransitive and "to answer" is transitive, so we use them two different ways and we rarely have to think about it. We might think of using "to respond" in more formal situations.

I can respond to your letter or I can answer your letter. 

 

But when we are translating from English to Italian, we have to remember that we need a preposition after rispondere.

 

Rispondere with an indirect object personal pronoun

We can also use rispondere where the indirect object is a person, perhaps expressed with a personal pronoun, as in the following example. In this case, we use "to answer" in our translation. "To respond" wouldn't work.

 

Toscani, per favore rispondimi. È importante, dai.

Toscani, please answer me. It's important. Come on.

Caption 56, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 9

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Memorizing rispondimi is a good idea. You never know when someone is going to faint and it's also handy to have when arguing with someone. Above all, remember that mi stands for a me (to me) so we do have a preposition (in this case a (to).

 

4) How would you say the same thing to a person you don't know very well? And for the record, you wouldn't say dai. Can you think of an alternative?

 

Cases of Incongruence between Italian and English

In the following clip, we have an indirect object pronoun in the Italian, but none in the English. These days, we might say "I didn't pick up,"  "I didn't answer the phone," I didn't answer your call," "I didn't return your call." But we probably wouldn't say "I didn't answer you" unless it were an email or a letter. In this context, we think of answering the phone, not the person.

Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ti ho risposto perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.

Yes, I know, you called me a hundred times, but I didn't answer because I had a bunch of things to do, Teresa.

Captions 23-24, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 1

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5) The above clip is very informal, between brother and sister, but he could have said he hadn't answered the phone. How could he have phrased it?

 

There are plenty of instances in which Italians insert an indirect object pronoun, where in English, none is called for. It's just something to be aware of.

 

We hope this lesson has provided some clarity about using the verb rispondere. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Risposte Answers

1) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda, chiamo il mio avvocato.

1b) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda io, chiamo il mio avvocato.​

2) Te la senti di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.

3) Non hai risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuoi?

4) Agente Toscani, mi risponda, per favore. È importante, la prego.

5) Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ho risposto al telefono/alla tua chiamata perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.

Using prepositions a and in with cities and countries

We have talked about the prepositions in and a separately in previous lessons. Let's finally talk about when to use the preposition in and when to use a when referring to places like cities, countries, continents, regions, etc. This is tricky for lots of us, and it's easy to make mistakes. 

 

If you are subscribed to Yabla, you will want to check out these two lessons on this topic:

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 1 of 2

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2 of 2

 

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We generally use the preposition a (to, at) with names of cities and minor islands.

Bologna is a city, so we use a.

 

Perché è partito da Roma ed è arrivato qui a Bologna.

Because it left from Rome and it arrived here in Bologna.

Caption 17, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 2

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Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

For example: "When are you going to Bologna?"

Caption 26, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 1

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We use in with the names of continents, states, nations, regions, and larger islands.

 

The regions of Italy

In Toscana, come in altre regioni d'Italia, molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.

In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy, many families have olive trees of their own.

Captions 1-2, L'olio extravergine di oliva Il frantoio

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Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'aperitivo

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Continents, nations

Africa is a continent, so we use in.

Vorrei tanto andare in Africa.

I would very much like to go to Africa.

Caption 6, Marika spiega Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2

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Canada is a country, so we use in.

Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare, poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada,

Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting, then we went two more times to Canada,

Captions 31-32, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 4

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Sometimes a city and a state or country will have the same name, so it can get confusing.

La città di New York è nello stato di New York (New York City is in New York State).

 

So If I am planning to go on vacation to visit New York City, I might say: 

Vado a New York per le vacanze di Natale (I'm going to New York for the Christmas vacation).

 

In Italian it's clear that I mean the city because I am using a as a preposition, but in English, we have to guess, or specify. New York, in this case, is a city. But New York is also a state. Since it's easy to get confused, Americans will usually specify if they're not talking about the city, and will say New York State. If we translate that into Italian, it will be lo Stato di New York

Buffalo è in New York (Buffalo is in New York State).

L'empire state building è a New York [City] (the Empire State Building is in New York [City]).

 

Someone who has family on Long Island will still say New York as if it were the city. The airport is certainly in the city, at least officially. And incidentally, Long Island is a relatively small island, so we would say:

Ho vissuto a Long Island per sedici anni (I lived on Long Island for sixteen years).

 

Here are some quick, mixed examples:

 

Sei mai stato a Parigi (have you ever been to Paris)?

Sei mai stata in Francia (have you ever been to France)?

Vivo a Vienna (I live in Vienna).

Un mio cugino è appena andato in Giappone (a cousin of mine just went to Japanma non andrà a Tokyo (but he isn't going to Tokyo). 

Quasi quasi mi trasferisco in Nuova Zelanda (I might just move to New Zealand).

Da dieci anni vivo a Como, in Lombardia.​ (I've been living in Como, in Lombardy, for ten years).

Arianna ha studiato in Inghilterra per qualche anno. Arianna studied in London for a couple of years.

 

The U.S.A.

Since the United States is a coveted destination for Italian tourists, at least in normal times, it's important to know how to refer to that country in Italian, and what prepositions to use.

 

When we say the name of this country, we include the article "the." The United States of America. So when we use the proper Italian preposition (in since we are talking about a nation), we have to modify it to include the definite article: 

Vado negli Stati Uniti [d'America]. (I'm going to the United States [of America].

 

The d'America part is usually left out in both Italian and English, and to make it even easier, Italians also often just say America to mean the United States.

Vado in America per le vacanze (I'm going to America for the vacation).

 

Some Italians use USA as a word and pronounce it as they see it. For example, here is a headline from Google. It may or may not be correct, but you will hear it said plenty of times:

Come trovare un lavoro negli USA (how to find work in the USA)?

 

Remember that in contrast to English where "in," "to," and "at" are entirely different, Italian uses the same preposition (be it a or in) to mean any or all of these.

 

Please let us know what cities, countries or other places you are confused about when using Italian prepositions, and we will answer as soon as we can.

 

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