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Exams: How do we talk about exams in Italian?

There is an Italian cognate for the noun exam: It's esame, but there are a few basic things to know about using the word.

 

First of all, if you are in college (which is always called università in Italy), you take exams, right? Well in Italy, first of all, exams are generally oral exams, where you have to speak and answer questions at length, and often in public, before your peers. The final exam of high school is called l'esame di maturità, or just la maturità

Cioè, come ho potuto io, che alla maturità ho preso sessanta?

That is, how could I have, when I got sixty in the finals?

Caption 16, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 8

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Second of all, instead of taking an exam, you give it: dare un esame. At least this is how it is in colloquial speech.

Che importa se non ha dato nessun esame.

What does it matter if he didn't take any exams?

Caption 16, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 5

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That's one way to say it. We can also use the more "correct" verb sostenere. Sostenere means plenty of things as you can see in the link (including a close cognate — "to sustain"), but in the case of exams, it means "to undergo."

Per avere l'elenco degli esami che ha sostenuto tuo nipote, ci vuole il [sic: la] password, no, eh. -Ah, sì, sì, ho capito. -Ecco.

To have the list of the exams your nephew took, you need the password, right? -Ah, yes, yes, I get it. -Here.

Captions 44-45, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP2 - Un nuovo medico in famiglia - Part 8

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And sometimes Italians use the all-purpose verb fare (to make, to do).

Ma mi avevi detto che era una freccia, era... faceva gli esami, uno dopo l'altro.

But you told me that he was as fast as an arrow, he was... he took the exams one after another.

Captions 54-55, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP2 - Un nuovo medico in famiglia - Part 5

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When you pass an exam, the right word is superare l'esame but people use the verb passare, too.

 

Non ho mai visto Alberto dispiaciuto di aver passato un esame.

I've never seen Alberto unhappy to have passed an exam.

Caption 46, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP2 - Un nuovo medico in famiglia - Part 6

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Che se non superi quegli esami non puoi fare gli altri esami che poi ti permettono di passare al secondo, al terzo, al quarto e poi al quinto anno e prendere la laurea.

That if you don't pass those exams you can't do the other exams that then allow you to go on to the second, third, fourth, and then to the fifth year and get your degree.

Captions 36-38, Serena sistema universitario italiano

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If you flunk an exam, sei bocciato  or  bocciata.

Invece, all'università, se prendi un voto inferiore al diciotto sei bocciato e non passi l'esame.

Instead, at the university, if you get a grade below eighteen, you fail, and you don't pass the exam.

Captions 49-50, Serena sistema universitario italiano

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Check out the video where Serena and Martina talk about how the university system works in Italy. And here they talk about high school.

 

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There are also the exams you do for your health (and sometimes when you are already dead). 

Non ti consegno il rapporto perché ho richiesto un esame necroscopico.

I won't give you the report because I requested a post-mortem exam.

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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In the U.S. we make an appointment to see a doctor. In Italy, prediamo un appuntamento (we take an appointment) and a visit to the doctor is called una visita, but when the doctor examines you, he or she "visits" you: visitare.

 

Dopo che sei stato accolto o accolta dagli infermieri e visitato o visitata dal dottore del Pronto Soccorso, ti diranno cosa è meglio per la tua salute.

After you have been asked to come in (m) or come in (f) by the nurses and examined (m) or examined (f) by the emergency room doctor, they will tell you what's best for your health.

Captions 55-57, Marika spiega Il pronto soccorso

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...tanto che una volta andai da un medico a farmi visitare...

...so much so that once I went to a doctor to get a checkup...

Caption 3, L'arte della cucina I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 3

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Vocabulary

Fare i conti (Taking Things into Account) Part 2

In a previous lesson, we talked about the noun conto as part of the phasal verb rendersi conto (to realize). A learner has written in asking if this can be synonymous with accorgersene (to notice, to realize). The answer is yes, sometimes, depending on the context. There is a lesson on the pronominal, reflexive verb accorgersene, so check it out.

 

Fare i conti (coming to terms, reckoning)

In this lesson, we will continue to look at the noun il conto and how it fits into various expressions, with meanings that might seem to depart from the cognate "account." But let's keep in mind that in many cases, although English speakers prefer different turns of phrase, we can connect these with "account," if we look hard enough. After all, in English, we use the word "account" in lots of different ways, too.

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Here are some examples from Yabla videos of how people use conto or conti in authentic speech.

 

Dopotutto bisogna fare i conti con i propri limiti ogni tanto, o no?

After all, one has to come to terms with one's own limits, every now and then, right?

Caption 2, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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The previous example is from the biopic about Adriano Olivetti, which has been proven to be quite popular with subscribers. At the Olivetti typewriter factory, they're talking about selling it!

 

In the example below, the subject is Covid-19, and the fact that we have to come to terms with it, to reckon with it. Different translations but a similar concept. 

 

Come ormai tutti sapete, non solo l'Italia,

As everyone knows by now, not only Italy

ma tutto il mondo sta cominciando a fare i conti

but the whole world is starting to have to reckon

con questa [sic: questo] assassino invisibile.

with this invisible killer.

Captions 7-9, COVID-19 - Andrà tutto bene

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So we're talking about dealing with something, facing something, taking something into consideration, taking something into account, or even taking stock.

 

Practically speaking

Here's a practical situation in which one might use fare i conti. This time it does have to do with money.

 

Let's say I have someone do a job for me, say, getting a swimming pool up and running after the winter, and afterwards, I want to know how much I have to pay for it. Instead of just saying quanto ti devo? (how much do I owe you?), I can be a bit more roundabout. I can leave the door open for a conversation and allow for a justification of the fee I will be paying, compared to the initial preventivo (estimate), or for talking about a discount. I am letting the person I hired know that I am ready to settle up or at least to determine how much it will come to.

Dobbiamo fare i conti (we have to tally up, or "Let's figure out how much I owe you").

 

Making it casual

We can make the act of tallying up more casual, perhaps less about money, by using un po'  (a little, a few) or due (two), which doesn't really mean the number 2, but is a generic low-grade plural to mean "some." In the following example, the number due (two) could replace un po'

 

Che poi se facciamo un po' di conti,

Which, after all, if we do the math here,

sono sempre io a perdonare per prima.

I'm always the first one to forgive.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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Uno si fa due conti e inizia a pensare

You add things up and start thinking

che se tutti si vogliono innamorare, un motivo ci sarà.

that if everyone wants to fall in love, there must be a reason.

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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All things considered

Another expression with conti comes from math and accounts, but has to do with summing up. It's a way of saying, "All in all," "in the end," "all things considered," "after all is said and done..."

 

Be', in fin dei conti, si tratta solo di ratificare uno stato di fatto.

Well, in the end, it's just a matter of ratifying a state of affairs.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 5

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Something's fishy

An expression that is used both in talking about money and about pretty much anything, is the the equivalent of "things don't add up."

 

E hai scoperto qualcosa?

And did you discover anything?

-Non ancora, ma i conti non tornano.

-Not yet, but things don't add up.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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There is still plenty to say about the noun conto, but we'll save it for next time!  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Finding Yourself with Trovarsi

When we look at a video about a place, the speaker often uses the verb trovare in its reflexive form trovarsi. Using trovarsi in this fashion might be hard to wrap our minds around, so let’s back up to the normal verb for a moment. Trovare means “to find” and is transitive, meaning it can take a direct object.

Per suo marito ha trovato una cintura marrone.

For her husband she found a brown belt.

Caption 39, Corso di italiano con Daniela - I colori - Part 3

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We can use the verb with ourself as an object much as we do in English:

Io non sono affatto sicuro di me, e non mi sono mai trovato in una situazione come questa, va bene?

I'm not sure of myself at all, and I've never found myself in a situation like this, all right?

Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 4

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If Luca Manara spoke English, he’d probably say “I’ve never been in a situation like this before, OK?” He would have simply used the verb “to be.” But Italians often use trovarsi, so it’s a good verb to understand. Of course, if you do use the verb essere, people will understand you anyway menomale (luckily)!

 

But then it gets a bit more peculiar. Here is Arianna telling us where she is: where she finds herself. She wasn’t lost; she’s just giving us her location.

Eccomi. Qui mi trovo vicino alla stazione Santa Maria Novella, in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Here I am. Here I am near the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Captions 25-26, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 3

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Instead of just saying: sono vicino alla stazione (I am near the station), she is referring to her geographical or physical position in that moment with trovarsi. It’s a little more specific than simply using the verb essere (to be).

 

In the previous example, trovarsi refers to a person, but trovarsi can also refer to an object, a place. English gets specific in a similar way by using “to be located,” “to be situated.”

 

When Marika plays the professoressa (teacher), she uses trovarsi to interrogate poor Anna. She just wants to know where Sardinia is.

Dove si trova questa regione?

Where is this region situated?

Caption 21, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Sardegna

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Il porto di Maratea è un porto turistico. Si trova vicino alle isole Eolie, alla Sicilia, a Capri, all'i... a Sorrento.

The port of Maratea is a tourist seaport. It's situated near the Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Capri, the... Sorrento.

Captions 23-24, Antonio - Maratea, il porto

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It’s also very common to use trovarsi to describe feelings or conditions. This is a bit tricky.

Abito in campagna, e senza macchina, mi trovo in difficoltà.
I live in the country, and without a car, it's hard. I have trouble. 

 

Non mi trovo bene con questo telefonino.
I don’t like this phone. I don’t feel comfortable with this phone.

 

Ma per ora mi trovo bene qua, vediamo.

Well, for now, I'm happy here, we'll see.

Caption 97, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 2

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Ah, a proposito, come ti trovi da Ada?

Ah, by the way, how do you like it over at Ada's?

Caption 90, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 4

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Trovarsi can also be used reciprocally.

Ci troviamo da Letizia alle otto.
Let’s meet up [with each other] at Letizia’s place at eight.

 

For more on reflexive and reciprocal verbs, see Marika's lesson about reflexive and reciprocal verbs, and the written lesson Understanding the Reciprocal Reflexive Form.

 

The more you watch and listen to Italian, either on Yabla or in real life, the more you will notice trovarsi in all of its shadings. It’s a very popular verb!

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Word Order Options with Modal Verbs and Object Pronouns

Object pronouns can be very tricky to use because there isn’t just one way to construct a phrase. Especially when dealing with modal verbs, which go hand in hand with infinitives, the object pronoun can go either before the conjugated verb or after the infinitive. The trick is that, as we shall see, the pronoun actually gets attached to the infinitive, which loses its final e

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Let's look at an example.

 

Here, the object pronoun comes just before the conjugated verb volere, which is modal.

 

Possiamo dire: ho comprato un'auto nuova. La vuoi vedere?

We can say, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"

Captions 58-60, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti

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Here, on the other hand, the object pronoun not only follows the infinitive, it's attached to it. In order to attach it, the final e of the infinitive vedere is omitted.

 

Oppure: ho comprato un'auto nuova. Vuoi vederla?

Or else, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"

Captions 61-62, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti

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Practice:

There are several pieces of dialogue in a recent episode of Commisario Manara that lend themselves to having their word order changed as explained above. Why not give it a try, and consult the solutions at the bottom of the page to check your answers. If this is new to you, then go right to the solutions, and see how they differ from the examples.

 

First, find the elements: the conjugated verb (likely modal), the infinitive verb, and the object pronoun. The next step is to rephrase the sentence, changing the position of the pronoun.

 

1)

Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?

Uh, you could have told me that at the office tomorrow, couldn't you?

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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2)

Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.

You said some very beautiful things. Don't forget them. They work.

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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3)

Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.

However, I don't want, I don't want to lose you.

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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4/5)

Lasciami lavorare.

Let me work on it.

Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.

As soon as I have the results, I'll come to report them to you.

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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6)

Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh.

All right, good night, and sorry for before.

-Non devi scusarti.

-You don't have to apologize.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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7/8)

E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?

And what did you want to talk to me about?

Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.

I wanted to talk to you about a financial situation.

Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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Here are the examples and their solutions, for a quick comparison. 

1)
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Eh, potevi dirmelo anche domani in ufficio, no?

2)
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non le scordare. Funzionano.

3)
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
Però non voglio, io non ti voglio perdere.

4)
Lasciami lavorare.
Mi lasci lavorare?

5)
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, vengo a riferirteli.

6)
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non ti devi scusare.

7)
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
E di che cosa volevi parlarmi?

8)
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
Volevo parlarti di una situazione finanziaria.

 

Don't forget to read the examples out loud to see how they feel!

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As you follow this and other videos, and as you start speaking in Italian, hopefully, you'll start to feel comfortable with these different word order options.You’ll start noticing these constructions in most videos you look at. 

Grammar

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