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How to Fix Things in Italian Part 2


In the last lesson, we talked about the generic verb sistemare. Now, let's talk about a verb that is more specific when it comes to repairing things, but which has some surprising additional meanings.


This true cognate is an easy word to remember since it is so close to the English verb "to repair."


Io non ci metto le mani.

I'm not going to touch it.

La mandi a riparare in fabbrica.

You can send it to the factory to be repaired.

Caption 7, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Ripara le ruote e le gomme delle automobili,

He fixes wheels and tires of cars,

delle biciclette e delle motociclette.

bicycles and motorcycles.

Caption 48, Marika spiega - Il nome dei negozi

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Riparo can be the first person singular of the verb riparare.


Venga, la riprenda.

Come, take it back.

Mi spiace, ma io questa non la riparo.

I'm sorry, but I'm not repairing this one.

Captions 4-5, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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But il riparo is also a noun. The following example gives us an idea of what it means.


Perché questo luogo è sempre stato in lotta

Because this place has always been fought over

con la sete dei conquistatori:

due to the thirst of conquerors:

Saraceni, Longobardi, Normanni.

Saracens, Longobards, Normans.

Ma è anche un luogo che ha offerto riparo,

But it's also a place that has offered shelter.

Captions 12-14, Itinerari Della Bellezza - Basilicata

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So riparo means "shelter," but what's interesting is that we can also use the verb riparare to mean "to shelter," "to protect." We can also use it reflexively ripararsi to mean "to take refuge." In this case, it's intransitive. This meaning is closely related to that of a similar verb, parare (to protect, to shield, to fend off).


Uè, però tirate piano, altrimenti non riesco a parare niente.

Hey, kick lightly though, otherwise I can't block anything.

Caption 41, L'oro di Scampia - film

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As a matter of fact, just as other Italian verbs with the prefix ri often have the same or similar meanings to the verb without the prefix (for example tornareritornare [to return]), sometimes, riparare and parare can mean the same thing. Parare is straightforwardly transitive. 


Para as part of a compound noun


Para, the third person singular of parare, is often used as part of the kind of compound noun that tells you what something does. 

On a car, we have il parabrezza (the windshield). It fends off the wind.

We have parafanghi (fenders) on bicycles (fango = mud). It fends off the mud.

Un parasole (an awning, a parasol) helps to block the sunlight.


Riparare (when it means protection or shielding) is often used in the context of protecting things from the elements — things such as plants, animals, objects, people, houses, camping spots, etc. The preposition of choice is da (from).

L'ombrellone ti ripara dal sole. The beach umbrella protects you from the sun.


The following example has to do with an animated elephant who needed to do something in private. The past participle of riparare easily becomes an adjective!


C'era da trovare alla svelta un angolino riparato.

A sheltered corner needed to be found quickly.

Caption 13, Dixiland - La magia di Tribo

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Riparare can also mean "to remedy," "to make up for," "to put right." In English, we can use "to repair" in this case, too, but there are other, easier Italian verbs for these nuances.

What we have tried to provide here are the words you will most commonly hear in everyday speech, and the ones you will want to know if you need to choose a spot for a picnic in Tuscany, get your shoes fixed, or find some shelter when out hiking and it starts raining.



A Tricky but Useful Pronominal Verb Volerci

It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.


As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!


This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.



Volerci = volere + ci

With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.


Ci vuole molta pazienza

You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].

It takes a lot of patience.

A lot of patience is required.

Caption 25, Professioni e mestieri - Belle Arti -Tecniche di decorazione

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One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural.


Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?

How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?

How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?

Caption 17, Marika spiega - La particella NE

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We can use it in the negative:


Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.

You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.

The article is not necessary in the singular.

Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi

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The Passive Voice can Help 

If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.


I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali

The pine nuts, which are really special,

ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.

and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.

Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola - Il pesto genovese

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Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or "you need."


Common Expressions with Volerci

Volerci is very popular in the expression:


Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).

That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.


Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."


A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla

At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing

e un numero di magica magia

and a number with magical magic

era proprio quel che ci voleva

was exactly what was needed

per chiudere in bellezza la festa.

to conclude the party nicely.

Captions 30-33, Dixieland - La magia di Tribo

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Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say,  "How hard can it be?"

Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?


Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè?

The cows are mooing. -So what?

Vanno munte.

They have to be milked.

Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa.

Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

-Sei sicura?

Are you sure?

-E sì, che ci vuole?

-Yeah, how hard could it be?

L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.

I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.

Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

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We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one). 


If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva!  (that's exactly what I needed!).



We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!


In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.

Verbi pronominali - Pronominal Verbs


We use the term verbo pronominale (pronominal verb) to describe long verbs like prendersela, in which pronoun particles are added on to the original verb (prendere in this case). But let’s take a closer look at what verbi pronominali (pronominal verbs) are all about.



What does pronominale (pronominal) mean?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles).


Grammatically speaking, a particle is simply a small word of functional or relational use, such as an article, preposition, or conjunction.


So we have a normal verb, which, when used together with certain particles, has a distinct meaning that is often, but not necessarily, related to the meaning of the original verb.

Technically, reflexive verbs can also be considered pronominal verbs because in effect, the verb is used together with a particle like the si (oneself) in alzarsi (to get up). But these verbs are a special case and not usually called “pronominal,” since they are already called “reflexive.” Learn more about reflexive verbs here.


Verbs can combine with one or two particles. The particles used to make up a pronominal verb are:

la (it)
le (them)
ne (of it, of them, from it, from them)
ci (of it, about it)

Note that La and le are direct object pronouns while ci and ne are indirect object pronouns and therefore include a preposition and an object in the one particle.


As mentioned in a previous lesson, a pronominal verb in its infinitive form has all the particles attached to it, but when used in a sentence, the pieces may be partially or totally detached, and hence a bit more difficult to locate.

Pronominal verbs with 1 pronoun

Pronominal verbs may be made up of one verb plus one pronoun particle:

smetterla (to quit doing something): smettere (to quit) + la (it)
darle (to give them, to give a spanking [idiom]): dare (to give) + le (them)
farne (to do something with something): fare (to do, to make) + ne (of it, of them)
capirci (to understand [about] something): capire (to understand) + ci (of it)


Sì, ma lo sai che è la prima volta

Yes, but you know it's the first time

che in un delitto non ci capisco niente neanche io? -Hm.

that in a murder I don't understand anything about it either? -Hm.

Captions 45-46, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Pronominal verbs with 2 pronouns

Pronominal verbs may also be made up of one verb plus two pronoun particles (which combine with each other).


The particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne, but, as we have mentioned beforeci becomes ce when combined with another pronoun particle. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.

avercela [con qualcuno] (to have it in [for somebody], to feel resentful [towards somone]) avere + ci + la
farcela (to make it, to succeed) fare + ci + la


Ce la faccio, ce la faccio, ce la faccio.

"I can do it, I can do it, I can do it."

Caption 60, Dixieland - La magia di Tribo

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Since the feminine is so often used in pronominal verbs, especially in idiomatic expressions, we can think of la (it) as standing for una cosa (something, that thing), la vita (life), la faccenda (the matter), or la situazione (the situation).


Exactly why a feminine pronoun is used in so many expressions with pronominal verbs is not cut-and-dried, and there is no quick answer. If you’re insatiably curious, check out this passage from an online book about the question (in Italian).

Reflexive pronominal verbs 

Pronominal verbs may be made up of one reflexive verb (which uses the particle si in the infinitive) plus a second pronoun particle such as those mentioned above:  la, le, ne, or ci.

Prendersela (to get angry, to get offended, to get upset)
Fregarsene (to not care at all about something [colloquial])
Mettercisi (to put [time] into something)


In the following example, we have the pronominal verb accorgersene (to notice something, to realize something, to become aware of something). The basic (reflexive) verb is accorgersi (to notice), but the object pronoun particle ne is added as an indirect object pronoun.

Ma non è tutto lì.

But that's not all of it.

Forse la differenza ha radici più profonde.

Perhaps the difference has deeper roots.

E te ne accorgi solo quando accade.

And you only notice it when it happens.

Captions 32-34, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 11

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Expressing Urgency with Scappare

Scappare (to escape) is a word Italians seem to love. Its primary meaning is “to escape.”


Per fortuna però, c'era il mio amico commilitone Ernesto

Luckily, however, there was my friend and fellow soldier Ernesto,

che mi ha aiutato a scappare.

who helped me to escape.

Captions 22-23, Anna e Marika - in La Gazza Ladra

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Escaping is not necessarily a daily occurrence for most of us, but nonetheless, Italians often fit this verb into the conversation. More often than not, there’s a sense of urgency.


Certainly Dixi’s situation in this video is commonplace, especially if you are touring around some Italian city and drinking plenty of water.

A very informal way to express this bisognino (little need) among friends or family is, as Dixi says:


Mi scappa la pipì! Che dire? Succede a tutti.

"I urgently need to go!" What can you say, it happens to everyone.

Captions 6-7, Dixieland - La magia di Tribo

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But Italians also use the verb scappare when they’re in a rush, or have to leave.


Devo scappare.
I’ve got to go.


It doesn’t mean they’re trying to escape from a bad situation, but rather that they have to be somewhere. In the following example, Lara is simply telling her aunt that she’s leaving (for work). It’s part of saying goodbye.


Scappo zia!

Aunt, I'm off!

-Eh? Sì va beh, ciao, ciao.

-Huh? Yes, OK, bye, bye.

Captions 52-53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde

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Sometimes you say or do something you didn’t intend to. It slips out. This is another use of scappare, which in this case is a synonym for sfuggire (to escape, to run away).


Non volevo dirlo, ma mi è scappato.
I didn’t want to say it, but it slipped out.


La scappata is the noun form, and is used to mean "a quick trip," "a dash to somewhere," or "a run for it."


Faccio una scappata, tempo di un caffè, e torno subito.
I’ll dash out, time enough to have coffee, and I’ll be right back.


Non scappare (don’t go away)! We’ll be back with more Italian lessons!