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More about Mancare : When Something Is Lacking

We've had some feedback about the tricky verb mancare. And there are likely plenty of learners out there struggling to be able to use it and translate it correctly. It twists the brain a bit.


To grasp it better, it may be helpful to separate the contexts. So in this lesson, let's focus on things, not people. Let's think about something being absent, missing, something we are lacking.


Infatti manca la targa, sia davanti che dietro.

In fact, the license plate is missing, both in front and in back.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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In the next example, we're talking about time. The verb mancare is often used to indicate how much time is left.


Ormai manca poco.

It won't be long now. (Literally, this is: At this point, little time is left)

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 9

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If we're talking about minutes, days, or weeks, we conjugate mancare in the third person plural.


E mancano solo due giorni, eh, alla fine del mese.

And there are only two days left, huh, before the end of the month.

Caption 45, La Ladra - Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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This next example is a typical comment for adult children to make about their parents or parents about how they treat their children. The children are well-provided for. They have everything they needed. Nothing is denied them. So the verb is: fare mancare qualcosa a qualcuno (to cause someone to do without something).


Non ci ha mai fatto mancare nulla.

We never wanted for anything.

We never went without.

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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If you do a search on Yabla, you'll find plenty of examples of this expression. It's a bit convoluted to use, so perhaps by repeating the phrases that come up in the search, or by reading them out loud, you'll get it. Again, it's more important to understand what this means, especially when someone is telling you their life story, than using it yourself.


If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write to us

The Dottore Is In

You might have noticed, from watching TV shows and movies on Yabla, or elsewhere, that in Italy, the term dottore (doctor) is used loosely, or rather, differently than in other countries. In fact, addressing someone with a particular role often means using their title (or guessing at it). Sometimes signor (Mr.) and signora (Mrs.) just don't seem respectful enough.


One example of this usanza (use, custom) occurs in a recent episode about Adriano Olivetti.


Io e la mia famiglia dobbiamo tutto al Dottor Dalmasso.

My family and I owe everything to Doctor Dalmasso.

Caption 61, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Dalmasso is just an executive in a company, not necessarily a doctor (even in terms we go on to describe below), but he is one of the most important people there. People treat him with respect by using dottore instead of his name or they shorten it to dottor when it's followed directly by the person's name: Dottor Dalmasso, in this case.


In some cases dottor is used, but with a person's first name. Many people follow the reasoning that it's better to be too respectful than not respectful enough. In the following example, Giacomo could be a physician or someone's boss. We would need context to determine this.


Dottore! -Gina! -Dottore! Dottor Giacomo.

Doctor! -Gina! - DoctorDoctor Giacomo.

Che succede? -Signora, Giacomo non risponde. -Giacomo!

What's going on? -Ma'am, Giacomo isn't responding. -Giacomo!

Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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If the person is a woman, then it's dottoressa by itself, or followed by the name (first name or last name depending on the relationship). In the following example, the dottoressa in question works at city hall. Her position of importance gives her the title, more than any degree she might (or might not) have.


Dottoressa, scusate, ma perché ci volete fare questo regalo?

Doctor, excuse me, but why do you want to give us this gift?

Caption 24, L'oro di Scampia - film

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Lawyers also fall into the "important person" category and are often addressed by their professional status. We might liken this to the use of "Esquire," or "Esq." for short, used primarily in written correspondence with attorneys. 


Sì, avvocato De Santis.

Yes, Attorney De Santis.

Caption 50, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

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The other way dottore is used is for someone with a college or university degree. Graduates earning the title dottore have often completed a Laurea triennale (three-year bachelor's degree equivalent) plus a Laurea Magistrale (two-year master's degree equivalent). It has nothing to do with being a medical doctor. Learn more here about higher learning in Italy.


As well as being an industrialist, Adriano Olivetti designed machinery, so it makes sense for him to have the title of ingegnere (engineer.) And so in the film about Olivetti, that's how many people address him. It so happens that he did, indeed, have a degree in engineering.


Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.

Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Other titles commonly used in Italian before a name, or in place of a name, are Architetto (architect), Commissario, (commissioner, chief) Notaio (notary). 


We hope this little article has shed some light on this curious usanza (custom). Finding a suitable translation for these titles can be tough. Sometimes there's no good alternative, so we use a word we feel can fill the bill, even if it isn't a word-for-word translation. 

Understanding the Reciprocal Reflexive Form

To understand the reciprocal reflexive, it’s good to have a grasp of the reflexive itself. To review, see this Yabla lesson.


A reflexive verb is used when an action is performed upon the same person who’s performing it. We recognize these verbs because they will be in the presence of an indirect object pronoun, or pronominal particle like mi, ti, ci, vi, si to indicate where the action is reflected.


In her video lesson Marika talks about the close relationship between the reflexive and the reciprocal.


La forma di questi verbi è uguale a quella dei verbi riflessivi.

The form of these verbs is the same as that of the reflexive verbs.

Caption 26, Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

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Quasi tutti i verbi italiani possono avere una forma riflessiva o reciproga.

Almost all Italian verbs can have a reflexive or reciprocal form.

Caption 32, Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

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The reciprocal involves two or more people or things, so we’ll need one of the plural pronominal particles: ci (to us, ourselves, each other), vi (to you, yourselves, each other), or si (to them, themselves, each other). As you can see, these particles have more than one function. To learn more, see these lessons about ci.


In two recent Yabla videos, the non reflexive transitive verb capire (to understand) is used a number of times, and there’s one instance where it’s used with ci, so it’s a good opportunity to look at how the reciprocal reflexive works. The reciprocal form is in the category of what’s called a forma riflessiva impropria (improper reflexive form). What makes it “improper” is that, though it works just like a reflexive verb, it isn’t truly reflexive because it doesn’t fill the requirements mentioned above.


In English we use one form for the reflexive (myself, yourself, himself, herself, yourselves, themselves, oneself) and another for the reciprocal (each other, one another), but Italian makes use of the same pronominal particles used in the true reflexive, which can cause some confusion.


Let’s use the verb capire (to understand) to illustrate how it works. We’ll stick with the first and second persons to keep it simple.

Capisco (I understand).
Capisci (you understand).
Ti capisco (I understand you).
Mi capisci (you understand me).
Ci capiamo (we understand each other). Note that this is reciprocal, not reflexive.
Vi capite (you understand each other). This is also reciprocal, not reflexive.


Now, let’s put the above sentences into the passato prossimo (which uses a past participle like the present perfect in English, but translates in different ways). Keep in mind that Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo with capire, when in English, we would more likely use the present tense.

Ho capito (“I have understood,” “I understood,” or more commonly, “I get it”).
Hai capito (“you have understood,” “you understood,” or more commonly, “you get it”).
Ti ho capito or t’ho capito (I understood you).
Mi hai capito or m’hai capito (you understood me).


Thus far, it’s pretty straightforward. But now, as we get into compound tenses, the ones that need auxiliaries or helping verbs, it gets a little more complicated, because as Marika mentioned above, in Italian, “reciprocals” look just like reflexives. Capirci (to understand each another) is “improperly reflexive” but works like a true reflexive and so the rule for reflexive reigns, meaning that we need to use the auxiliary essere (to be) rather than avere (to have). Marika explains this rule in Marika spiega - I verbi riflessivi e reciproci.

Ci siamo capiti (“we have understood each other,” or, “we’re clear”).
Ci siamo capite (“we [two women] have understood each other,” or, “we [two women] are clear”).
Vi siete capiti (you have understood each other).
Vi siete capite (you [two women] have understood each other).


Let’s look at some practical examples from recent videos.


Ho capito. -Vuoi la mia casa a Milano?

I get it. -Do you want my house in Milan?

Captions 11-12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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Non ti capisco.

I don't understand you.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero

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Ce simm capit' [Ci siamo capiti]?

Do we understand each other?

Caption 53, L'oro di Scampia - film

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In the following example, just the past participle is used, and the person is implied. We often omit the person in English, too.


Capit' [capito]? Ma poi torno.

Got it? But I'll be back later.

Captions 60-61, L'oro di Scampia - film

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Further practice:
Se hai capito tutto (if you’ve understood everything), try using the above model with other verbs like vedere (to see), sentire (to hear, to feel), baciare (to kiss), abbracciare (to hug, to embrace), incontrare (to meet). Se ce la fai (if you are able), use the other persons as well (he, she, they).


Here’s the verb aiutare (to help) to help you get started.

Aiuto (I help).
Aiuti (you help).
Ti aiuto (I help you).
Mi aiuti (you help me).
Ci aiutiamo (we help each other).
Ho aiutato (I helped).
Tu hai aiutato (you helped).
T’ho aiutato (I helped you).
Mi hai aiutato (you helped me).
Ci siamo aiutati (we helped each other).


You may notice below that there are some tricky cases of verb-complement agreement that haven't yet been covered. We will get to these prickly matters in a future lesson.

Aiuta (he/she/it helps).
Aiutano (they help).
L’aiuta (he/she/it helps him/her/it).
Si aiutano (they help each other).
Ha aiutato (he/she/it helped).
Li ha aiutati (he/she/it helped them). 
Hanno aiutato (they helped).
L’hanno aiutato (they helped him). 
L’hanno aiutata (they helped her)
Li hanno aiutati
 (they helped them). 
Le hanno aiutate (they helped them [fem]). 
Si sono aiutati (they helped each other).
Si sono aiutate (they helped each other [fem]).