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3 faces of realtà

Let's look at 3 ways the cognate realtà is used in Italian. Two of these are relatively easy to grasp.

 

La realtà

The most common way to use the noun la realtà is when it means "[the] reality." 

 

E poi, con il blocco totale in casa, lì è stata [sic: stato] il vero confronto con la realtà, della serie "noi dobbiamo organizzarci qui, in questo spazio che abbiamo".

And then, with the total lockdown at home, in that case, it was about really facing reality, like, "We have to get organized here, in this space we have."

Captions 45-48, Fuori era primavera Viaggio nell'Italia del lockdown - Part 5

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Giada aveva completamente perso il senso della realtà, non erano solo i barbiturici il problema.

Giada had completely lost her sense of reality, the barbiturates were not the only problem.

Captions 68-69, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 3

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In English, we often leave out the article, but in Italian, we leave it in. With or without the article, the meaning is clear.

 

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In realtà

The other very common way to use realtà is when we say in realtà, which we can translate literally as "in reality" but in English, we'd more likely say, "actually."

Massimo, senti, io in realtà sono venuta per un altro motivo.

Massimo, listen, I actually  came for another reason.

Caption 54, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 8

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Here too, we can easily understand what in realtà  means.

 

Una realtà

But there is another way Italians use realtà, and it is to indicate something that exists. It's a bit trickier to translate because it is a very wide-ranging word and doesn't have a single English equivalent. We've listed some possible translations, but there may be more. The important thing is to understand the sense of it when you hear or see it being used. 

 

In a recent episode of La linea verticale, a patient is thinking about the hierarchy of the hospital personnel, as he is being wheeled through the halls to the operating room.

Come in quasi tutte le realtà professionali di questo Paese, anche in un ospedale la rabbia viene scaricata sempre verticalmente...

As in almost all the professional organizations of this country, in a hospital, too, anger is always unloaded vertically...

Captions 1-3, La linea verticale EP 2 - Part 3

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We could also use other nouns, such as "the entities," "the institutions," "the situations,"  or even "environments." This use might be difficult to wrap our heads around, but we can recognize it because of the context and also what words it is or isn't surrounded by. We won't find the preposition in before it, and we might likely see an indefinite article or a plural article or adjective as in our example above, and in the following ones. 

Si andava dall'Alemagna o dal Motta, due realtà che oggi non esistono più.

One would go to Alemagna or to Motta, two enterprises which today no longer exist.

Captions 10-11, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

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La cucina contadina, eh, è una realtà culturale molto forte, nella tradizione del nostro Paese.

Country cooking, uh, is a very strong cultural presence in the tradition of our country.

Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 13

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We hope that, even though it's hard to grasp, you have been able to learn a new meaning for the noun realtà

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Are Accents Important?

Some of you may already have begun experimenting with the new Scribe game. Although Italian is relatively easy to pronounce and spell, there are a few typical stumbling blocks. Let's talk about one in particular.

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Let's say you are playing Scribe. You feel like you've have written all the words correctly but the game doesn't let you go on to the next caption. It can be quite frustrating.

 

This often happens because you have neglected to insert an accent.

 

In English, we are not used to writing accents, but in Italian, it’s something we have to pay attention to whether we're playing Scribe or not. Be patient with yourselves. It's just something you have to learn little by little.

 

So where do we usually find these accents? If we know a bit more about them, we can be prepared for them in the Scribe game and elsewhere, so let's have a look.

 

Perhaps the most frequent error is the accent on the i of  (yes). It certainly sounds about the same with or without the accent, and it’s not always easy to see. But if we omit the accent when writing, we can mean any number of other things, from the note si (B), to the personal pronoun si (himself/herself/itself). In the following example, the si with no accent is part of the reflexive verb allontanarsi (to leave).

 

, non era la prima volta che

Yes, it wasn't the first time that

Giada si allontanava di casa senza avvertirmi.

Giada left home without letting me know.

Caption 49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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In two-syllable words, the accent usually falls on the first syllable, so when that is not the case, there will generally be an accent on the second syllable to let us know.

 

Let’s take the word però (however, but). The accent is there to signal that the accent falls on the second syllable, a departure from the basic rule about accenting the first syllable. The accented version of the word però is the one you’ll usually see because it’s such a common word.

 

Sembra banale, però mi aiuta.

It seems banal, but it helps me.

Caption 35, Amiche - Filosofie

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Però is one word you’ll use often in casual conversation. And with that long ò at the end, you can buy yourself some time while thinking of what to say next.

 

Without the accent, we’re talking about un pero (a pear tree)! Note that names of fruit trees frequently end in o (with no accent) whereas the fruit itself ends in a, like la pera (the pear), la mela (the apple), la ciliegia' (the cherry). proposito (speaking of which), Marika explains this here and here.

 

We also have to pay attention to which way an accent is facing, but fortunately, this applies primarily to accents on “e.” On “o,” “ a,” “i,” and “u,”  the accent is almost always “grave,” meaning down-facing from left to right. One of the most basic accents to remember is the grave accent on è, the third person conjugation of the basic verb essere (to be). This particular conjugation is extremely commonbut for foreign ears, can easily be confused with e with no accent. Hearing and pronouncing the difference between e (and) and è (to be) is one thing, but writing it is another, so Scribe is a great chance to assimilate this aspect of Italian spelling.

 

Another important word that has an accent is perché (because, why). This is an acute or upward facing accent from left to right, which indicates a closed e. However you pronounce the é in perché, people will usually understand you, but if you’re writing, you need to get it right. Think of perché in its question form: why. The accent goes up (to the right), just like the inflection of a question.

 

The other place accents crop up is in the future tense. There will usually be an accent on the last vowel of the word in the first and third person singular. Let’s look at the irregular but very common verb venire (to come).

lui/lei verrà (he/she/it will come)
io verrò (I will come)

the verb andare (to go):

io andrò  (I will go)
lui/lei andrà (he/she/it will go)

And essere (to be):

io sarò (I will be)
lui/lei sarà (he/she/it will be)

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Be on the lookout for these accents when playing Scribe and when watching videos in general. You'll start to recognize them and become more comfortable with them sooner than you think. 

See part 2 of this lesson here.

 

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