Italian Lessons


Scaffolding in Italian

One word leads to another. Since some of Yabla's videos have included scenes of construction, the topic of scaffolding has come up from time to time, even though it's certainly not a topic you run into every day.  But there is a false cognate we may run into whenever we go to a supermercato (supermarket) or grande magazzino  (department store), so a closer look might be merited.


Ponteggio / Ponteggi


One word for "scaffolding" is il ponteggio or, more often, i ponteggi. We can detect the noun il ponte (the bridge) in the word, and can easily imagine the wooden planks as "bridges" from one set of poles to the next. 


Ha ceduto un ponteggio.

Some scaffolding collapsed.

Caption 35, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 3

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Impalcatura is often used in the singular, as a generic term, but can also be used in the plural. Here, we might detect the noun il palco, which can mean "the stage" (as in a theater) or "the platform." L'impalcatura is a series of platforms on top of each other.

È caduto da un'impalcatura del cantiere.

He fell from a scaffold at the construction site.

Caption 9, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 3

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No, Spartacus, non credo che gli faccia piacere avere un ricevimento in mezzo a impalcature e betoniere.

No, Spartacus, I don't think he is happy to have a reception in the middle of scaffolding and cement mixers.

Captions 66-67, Sposami EP 4 - Part 24

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"Platform" has a cognate, too: la piattaforma (the platform, the board).

La parte centrale del Colosseo, dove accadeva tutto, era una piattaforma lignea che veniva, eh, riempita di sabbia,

The central part of the Colosseum, where everything took place, was a wooden platform that was, uh, filled with sand,

Captions 25-27, Marika e Daniela Colosseo, interno - Part 1

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But, when we find the word scaffale in Italian, it doesn't mean "scaffolding." It is, instead, the kind of shelving you find in a store, supermarket, or department store. 

Se andate a fare la spesa in un supermercato italiano, vi troverete davanti allo scaffale del riso indecisi sul tipo di riso da comprare,

If you go grocery shopping in an Italian supermarket, you'll find yourselves facing the rice shelf, uncertain about the type of rice to buy,

Captions 1-3, L'Italia a tavola Risotto alla milanese - Part 2

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It's used a lot in the plural as a general term: gli scaffali.  

Se voi mangiaste meno, il supermercato sarebbe sicuramente più pieno e io non troverei gli scaffali vuoti. -Esagerata, eh!

If you ate less, the supermarket would surely be fuller and I wouldn't find the shelves empty. -Over the top, huh!

Captions 44-45, Daniela e Francesca Il verbo mangiare

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We can also use the noun lo scaffale in a house. If the shelves are for books, we'll usually say, una libreria.


False friend alert:  Una libreria is also a bookshop!  A library, on the other hand, is una biblioteca.  If you have a dedicated room or lots of shelves for books, you can talk about una biblioteca in your house, too.


When we are speaking generically, we can use scaffale. Marika talks about lo scaffale, because, as she mentions, it contains all kinds of things.

A fianco alla televisione, ho un mobile. Questo mobile si chiama scaffale. Io lo uso per conservare tantissimi oggetti.

Alongside the television, I have a piece of furniture. This piece of furniture is called a shelving unit. I use it to store many objects.

Captions 26-28, Marika spiega Il salone

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If this web of words has brought you more confusion than anything else, just stick with learning gli scaffali. That's where you will find food and products at the supermarket, and eating is essential. 


How to Fix Things in Italian Part 3

We've talked about two words to use when we need something fixed: sistemare and riparare. Here's another: accomodare. This verb looks a lot like the English verb to accommodate and while they both come from the same Latin word "accomodare" they are not true cognates.



Questa bici è vecchia ma l'ho fatta accomodare da un amico esperto e sembra nuova.

This bike is old, but I had it fixed up by a friend who's an expert, and it's just like new.



It could be that the verb accomodare is used less frequently than some others to mean "to repair" but it's good to know it exists, as you might hear it and get confused if you hadn't read this lesson!


When getting something repaired, it's common to use the verb fare (to make, to do) and the infinitive form of the verb accomodare as in our example above: fare accomodare (to get repaired). Let's keep in mind that used this way, accomodare is a transitive verb, in other words, it takes a direct object.


As with sistemare, accomodare can be used to mean to tidy up, to arrange, as in getting a bedroom ready for someone. 

Ho accommodato la stanza dove dormirai.

I got the room where you'll be sleeping ready for you.



As with many verbs, there is a reflexive form of accomodare, and in this case, it has come to mean something completely different from the normal verb. Here, we can also see a connection with the adjective comodo (comfortable, at ease). 


This verb is very important when someone invites you into their house. Of course, when you enter, it is always polite to say permesso. You're asking permission to come in.


Con permesso? Permesso?

May I come in? May I come in?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto

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One answer you might get is this, especially if you know the person well:


Posso? -Vieni. Accomodati.

May I? -Come in. Have a seat.

Ti ho portato i prospetti che mi avevi chiesto.

I brought the forecasts you had asked me for.

Captions 19-20, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

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In the example above, the reflexive accomodarsi is used in the second person singular imperative. It can mean "Have a seat" but can also mean, "Make yourself comfortable," "Get yourself settled." 


If you are staying with someone, perhaps they will show you to your room. They might say:

Ti faccio accomodare qui.

You can get settled in here. 


 The same goes for when you have dinner.


Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena,

If I have guests for lunch or for dinner,

li faccio accomodare qui,

have them sit here,

su [sic: a] questo tavolo.

on [sic, at] this table.

Captions 34-36, Marika spiega - Il salone

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Accomodarsi is used in the polite form as well, especially in offices, and is one way of inviting you in, but can also mean "please have a seat." In the following example, it's combined with venga  — the polite singular imperative form of venire (to come).


Commissario, c'è la signora Fello.

Chief, Missus Fello is here.

Signora Fello, venga.

Missus Fello, come in.

-Permesso? -Venga, si accomodi.

 -May I? -Come in, have a seat.

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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If you read our lessons regularly, you might have come across a lesson about the adjective comodo, which has a couple of different meanings. The lesson also discusses accomodarsi briefly, so check it out here.


Using accomodarsi in sentences can be challenging, but it's important to have the verb comfortably in your vocabulary toolbox. So if you have questions such as "How do I say __________ in Italian," we are here to help! Write to us at

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.


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.



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