Italian Lessons


Si, Si, and Ci - L'impersonale - Part 3

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Where's the Subject? - Part 2


There's still a lot more to talk about regarding the impersonale. Review previous lessons here.  

Sometimes the verbs we use in the impersonal form, happen to be reflexive verbs as well. Before tackling reflexive verbs in the impersonal, it's a good idea to be familiar with how reflexive verbs work. But we're in luck because this week, Daniela happens to be talking about just that in her video lesson!  

As also mentioned in previous lessons, reflexive verbs have si attached to them in the infinitive, for example, lavarsi (to wash oneself). When conjugated, the verbs are commonly separated into si + verb root: 

Mario si lava ogni mattina.
Mario washes [himself] every morning.

Daniela explains that if you know how to conjugate the verb root, then you know how to conjugate the reflexive verb.

In the above example, Mario is the subject, and Mario is also the object (si), which is what reflexive verbs are all about. 

So we've seen that the reflexive form uses si, (as part of the infinitive, and in the third person singular conjugation) but it's not the same as the si in the impersonal, so this is where things get a bit tricky. To avoid using si twice in a row, we use ci for the impersonal.

Marika gives us the rule:

La forma impersonale dei verbi riflessivi si forma con
"ci "più il verbo alla terza persona singolare.
Per esempio: in Italia ci si sposa sempre più tardi,
quindi il verbo sposarsi più "ci", più "si".

The impersonal form of reflexive verbs is made with
"ci" plus the verb in the third person singular.
For example: In Italy one gets married later and later,
so, the verb "to get married," plus "ci," plus "si."
Captions 31-34, Marika spiega: Forma impersonale

So where you might think: si (impersonal) si (reflexive) sposa (verb in the third person), you need to use ci in place of the impersonal si. Here's a practical example:

Con loro non ci si annoia mai.
With them you are never bored.
Caption 31, Acqua in bocca: Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

Attenzione! Ci also has a long list of uses, which you can check out in these lessons.

The good news is that you can get by most of the time without using the impersonal plus reflexive. Don't let it prevent you from trying to express yourself in Italian. One workaround is to avoid using too many pronouns at once. Common expressions using both can be learned one by one, con calma (without rushing it).


You could say for example, remembering that "people" is singular in Italian (the si is reflexive):

La gente si sposa sempre più tardi.
People get married later and later.

For more about what’s been discussed in these lessons, see these very helpful blog entries:

Si impersonale part 1
Si impersonale part 2

We're still not entirely finished with the impersonal, but there's already plenty to digest.
We'll be back!

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Nothing Personal! - L'impersonale - Part 1

L'impersonale - Where's the Subject? - Part 2

L'impersonale - Si, Si, and Ci - Part 3


In a recent video lesson Marika gave us some important information about using the "impersonal" form of verbs. The form is called impersonale because, in effect, there is no mention of any person, nor is there a real subject.


The primary ingredients for cooking up the impersonale are:

si + the third person singular conjugation of a verb.


This si does not represent a person or subject, as Marika explains, but does, for the most part, behave like one, grammatically, and uses the third person.


Since English doesn’t have a true equivalent for this form, it can be tricky to grasp, because there are different ways to interpret or translate it. 


The most immediate approach might be with “one,” a gender-neutral pronoun. It can be handy because like si, it operates in the third person singular. “One does this, one does that.” In our first example, Francesca just got ripped off, buying some cheap earrings at the beach, and she’s warning everyone, including herself.

Non si deve fare shopping sulla spiaggia a fine stagione.

One shouldn't shop on the beach at the end of the season.

Caption 31, Francesca sulla spiaggia - Part 2

 Play Caption


This could have been translated using the second person singular:

You should not shop on the beach at the end of the season.


As a matter of fact, the second person singular is another way to think of the impersonale, especially in an informal context. Note that in this case "you" is generic.

Ma è tutto buio! Non si vede nulla!

But, it's all dark! You can't see anything!

Captions 37-38, Acqua in bocca Che caldo che fa! - Ep 10

 Play Caption


In some situations the impersonale corresponds to the third person plural (they) used generically, to mean “people” or “everyone”: 

Si dice sempre che il cane è il migliore amico dell'uomo ed è veramente così.

They always say that a dog is man's best friend, and that's really the way it is.

Caption 34, Animali domestici Oscar

 Play Caption



The passive voice corresponds well to the impersonale in many cases, especially in a formal context, in that it's already impersonal:

It is said that a dog is man's best friend, and that's really the way it is.


Here's another case where the passive voice helps make sense of the impersonale:

Si parla inglese in tanti paesi.
English is spoken in many countries.


Lastly, sometimes the impersonale corresponds best to the imperative, or command form, where the pronoun is absent:

Si prega di non fumare.
Please refrain from smoking.


This is not the whole story! We'll be back with more about verbs in the impersonal + plural objects, and verbs in the impersonal + reflexive verbs.



Complete these sentences using the impersonal form of the verbs provided. Then try your hand at finding the English translation that sounds best to you (there may be more than one). 

cominciare (to begin) ___________ alle undici.
guidare (to drive) A Londra ____________ a sinistra.
fumare (to smoke) Non ______________ a scuola.
scrivere (to write) Come ______________ il tuo nome?
andare (to go) Non ____________ a scuola la domenica.
fare (to do, to make) Come ____________ il risotto?
(to speak) In Francia _____________ il francese.
dovere (to have to, should) Non ____________ sprecare l'acqua.
finire (to finish) Non ___________ mai di imparare.

Here's an example to get you started:

cantare (to sing) In un coro  ___________ .
In un coro si canta. (In a choir you sing/In a choir one sings).


Answers will be provided in next week's lesson. (There will be a link when next lesson is online.) 

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Where's the Subject? - L'impersonale Part 2

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

L'impersonale - Si, Si, and Ci - Part 3


We're continuing on about the impersonale. Review last week's lesson here. So far we've been dealing with intransitive verbs (verbs having no object):

Si guida a sinistra (you drive on the left).

and verbs taking singular objects:

Si mangia la pasta a pranzo (people eat pasta at lunch).

But when the "impersonal" verb refers to an object in the plural, such as pietanze (dishes) in the example below, the verb must agree not with its subject, because there isn't one, but with its object. Therefore it, too, must be in the (third person) plural: Pietanze is plural, so mangiano is plural. There are a few different ways to translate this in English:

Alla vigilia di Natale si mangiano pietanze a base di pesce.
On Christmas Eve, one eats seafood dishes.
Caption 5, Marika spiega: La Vigilia di Natale 

More possible options:

On Christmas Eve, seafood dishes are eaten.
On Christmas Eve, people eat seafood dishes.

If we were to change the object into a singular one like pesce (fish), our impersonal verb would change as well:

A Natale si mangia il pesce.
At Christmas fish is eaten.

This little word si can cause all sorts of chaos for learners, but little by little, you'll get it sorted out. 

This week, Daniela starts talking about reflexive verbs. Part 2 will follow next week. Pay close attention so that when we combine the impersonal with the reflexive, it will make more sense!

The following are some answers and possible translations for the exercise in last week's lesson.

cominciare (to begin) Si comincia alle undici.
It starts at eleven o'clock. 
We're starting at eleven.

guidare (to drive) A Londra si guida a sinistra.
In London, you drive on the left.
In London, one drives on the left.
In London, people drive on the left.

fumare (to smoke) Non si fuma a scuola.
You don't smoke at school.
People aren't allowed to smoke in school.
One doesn't smoke at school.
Don't smoke at school.

scrivere (to write) Come si scrive il tuo nome?
How do do you write your name?
How is your name written?

andare (to go) Non si va a scuola la domenica.
You don't go to school on Sundays.
We don't go to school on Sundays.
Kids don't go to school on Sundays.

fare (to do, to make) Come si fa il risotto?
How do you make risotto?
How does one make risotto?
How is risotto made?

parlare (to speak) In Francia si parla il francese.
In France, French is spoken.
In France, they speak French.
In France, you speak French.
In France, speak French!

dovere (to have to, should) Non si deve sprecare l'acqua.
dovere (to have to, should) Non si dovrebbe sprecare l'acqua.
One shouldn't waste water.
You shouldn't waste water.
People shouldn't waste water.
Water shouldn't get wasted.

finire (to finish) Non si finisce mai di imparare.
You never stop learning.
One never stops learning.
We never stop learning.


Little by little you'll become familiar with the different contexts for using the impersonal verbs with si. Tune in next week for the last part, when we combine the reflexive and the impersonal.

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Contradicting and Reconsidering with Anzi

A Yabla subscriber has asked to know more about the popular short word anzi (rather, on the contrary, in fact, indeed). In fact, it's hard to pin down a one-word meaning for anzi that works all of the time. Aside from its various uses and connotations as a single conjunction, anzi is also part of important compound words such as anziché (rather than), innanzitutto (first and foremost, first of all) among others, and has some archaic definitions and grammatical categories we can safely overlook for now.

The important thing is to be able to understand and use anzi when appropriate. So let’s look at some of the ways anzi fits into sentences.


One handy way to use anzi is when you say something, and you correct yourself right away. In English you’d say “or rather,” or “I mean.” In our first example, Andromeda corrects herself on the fly. Regalare (to give as a gift) wasn’t quite the word she was looking for. Then she found it: affidare (to entrust).

Abbiamo dovuto regalare, anzi, affidare Dorian alla nonna dei miei figli.
We had to give away, or rather, entrust Dorian to the grandmother of my children.
Caption 15, Andromeda: I gatti 2 - Part 1 of 2  

In the next example, anzi contradicts a negative statement with something positive. In this situation, it’s not even necessary to finish the sentence after anzi; we already know, because of its presence, that we’re contradicting whatever negativity came before.

Non è per niente male vivere in Italia, anzi!
It's not at all bad living in Italy, on the contrary!
Caption 49, Francesca: sulla spiaggia - Part 3 of 3 

If Francesca were to complete her sentence, she’d say something like:

Non è per niente male vivere in Italia, anzi, è fantastico!
It's not at all bad living in Italy, on the contrary, it’s great!

Anzi, said with a certain inflection, raise of an eyebrow, or nod of a head, lets you avoid having to search for the right word!

In this next example, Lara’s aunt is telling her that what she believes about Luca is actually the opposite of how things really stand. So once again, anzi is used to contradict.

Penserà che sono una stupida. -Ma no, no, ma quando mai! Anzi, dice sempre che sei speciale!
He'll think I'm an idiot. -But no, no, out of the question! On the contrary, he's always saying that you're special!
Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 13 of 17    

In the following example, as he dreams of his vacation in Sicily, Manara first mentions two brioches, then thinks better of it and changes the quantity to four. He didn't make a mistake, and he's not exactly contradicting himself, but he is reconsidering. This is a classic example of how people use anzi.

Mi mangio due granite caffè con panna e due brioche, anzi, quattro.
I'll eat my two coffee Italian ices with whipped cream and two brioches, no, four.
Caption 24, Il Commissario Manara 1: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 1 of 14  

Even in this classic case, there isn’t just one way to translate anziOther expressions can do the job:

Come to think of it, I’ll have four.
I’ll have two. No, make that four.
Actually, I’ll have four.
Then again, I’ll have four.
Better yet, I’ll have four.


Hopefully you’ve gotten the gist of some of the ways anzi works, and how useful it can be. So far, anzi has helped to change one’s mind, or someone else’s. We’ll soon be back with still more ways to use anzi. We’ll discuss how anzi can reinforce an adjective or idea, and how it can introduce a new idea related to what’s come before. And then we'll put them all together just for fun!

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Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 2

See also: Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 1

In a previous lesson, and in Daniela's video lesson, we talked about aggettivi positivi, meaning those adjectives that end in o and change their endings according to gender and number. An example of this kind of adjective is grosso (big).

Mio padre è un uomo grosso (my father is a big man).
La casa di mia zia è grossa (my aunt's house is big).
Questi due alberi sono grossi (these two trees are big).
Quelle melanzane sono grosse (those eggplants are big).


If you've gotten the hang of positive adjectives, you might instinctively put an e ending on the adjective when you're talking about a feminine noun in the plural. 

Quelle donne sono belle (those women are beautiful).

The other kind of adjective, called an aggettivo neutro, ends in e. In the singular, it stays the same, ending in e regardless of whether the noun it modifies is masculine or feminine.

E... mi ha reso una donna forte, una donna indipendente, autonoma

And... she made me a strong woman, an independent woman, free,

Caption 69, Essere... madre

 Play Caption


If we put this sentence in the masculine the adjective stays the same: 

Mi ha reso un uomo forte...
She made me a strong man...

But what about the plural? The adjective forte (strong) already ends in e, so what do we do? The answer is that in the plural, regardless of whether it's masculine or feminine, the e changes to an i.

This is easy in a way—only two different endings to think about instead of four—but it's not always so easy to remember, and may come less naturally. In the following example, maniera (way, manner) is a feminine noun. The plural article le helps us discover that. We form the plural of the noun by changing the a to e, and since the singular adjective ends in e, we change it to i in the plural. So far so good.

Però, oh, con voi ci vogliono le maniere forti, sennò non capite.

But, oh, with you strong measures are needed, otherwise you don't get it.

Caption 15, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 13

 Play Caption

Attenzione però (and here's where the adjectives misbehave), because a feminine noun may also end in e. In this case, the plural of the noun ends in i, and a neutral adjective will also end in i. If you don't happen to know the gender of corrente (current) in the following example, the plural noun and plural adjective may lead you to believe that it's masculine. 

L'incontro tra i due mari produce infatti forti correnti.

The meeting of the two seas produces, in fact, strong currents.

Caption 31, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 2

 Play Caption


Fortunately, in the next example, the speaker uses the article!


In questo tratto di mare numerosi infatti erano gli affondamenti nel passato, a causa delle forti correnti che si scontrano con violenza.

In this stretch of sea, there were numerous shipwrecks in the past, because of the strong currents that collide violently.

Captions 35-36, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 5

 Play Caption


Here, we've learned from the feminine plural ending of delle (of the), that corrente is a feminine noun, but who knew?


One more reason to learn the article along with the noun!


See these Yabla videos for more about nouns: their genders and their plurals.


Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articoli maschili plurale 
Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articolo femminile plurale
Corso di italiano con Daniela: Articoli ed eccezioni

Marika spiega: Genere maschile
Marika spiega: Genere femminile
Marika spiega: Il plurale

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When Is an Adjective Not an Adjective?

In Italian, as in English, there are past participles that are also adjectives.


Let's take the example of verbs rompere (to break) and vendere (to sell), which are both transitive verbs (verbs that take a direct object), and take avere as an auxiliary verb.

In the first example, we have the masculine noun il vaso (the vase). The adjective and the past participle are identical: rotto.

Hai rotto il vaso (you broke the vase or, you've broken the vase). 
L'hai rotto (you broke it, or you've broken it).
Ora è rotto (now it's broken).

In the next example, la casa (the house) is feminine, so the ending of venduto/vendutawill change when we use a pronoun in place of la casa, and when we use it as an adjective, which has to agree with the noun casa (feminine in this case).

Hai venduto la casa (you sold your house). 
L'hai venduta (you sold it, or you've sold it).
È venduta (it's sold).

The verbs in the above examples take avere (to have) as a helping verb. When we have a verb that takes essere (to be) as a helping verb, like morire (to die), it can cause confusion, because the participle and the adjective look totally identical, including the verb essere (to be), but their function, and consequently their translation, are in fact slightly different.

In this week's episode of Commissario Manara, someone, as usual, has died, and is therefore dead. In English there are two distinct words, but in Italian the word is the same. 

In the first example below, morto (dead) is an adjective:

È morto da almeno tre giorni.
He's been dead at least three days.
Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara 1: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 11 of 17

But morto is also the participio passato (past participle) of the (irregular) verb morire.

Allora come è morto
So how did he die
Caption 2,  Il Commissario Manara 1: Sogni di Vetro - Ep 7 - Part 2 of 18

The context will help you determine which translation to use, but it can be a bit ambiguous.


To add a bit of confusion, morto can also be used as a noun: il morto (the dead man, the dead person). In this case, there will be an article.

Le posso spiegare tutto, però non subito perché c'è un morto che ci aspetta.
I can explain everything to you, but not right now because there's a dead man waiting for us.
Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 11 of 17

In the case of morto as a noun, it tends to be masculine, but if we know the dead person is a woman, it's correct to say una morta, or if there are multiple dead people, i morti


La morte (death) is not a pleasant subject, but it's important to know how to talk about it. Unfortunately, it's a word that's used too often oggigiorno (these days).


Further practice:
Do a Yabla search of morto, and try to determine whether it's an adjective, a participle, or a noun.  Let the context help you.

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Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 1

See also: Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 2

In Italian, gender and number affect not only a noun and its article, but also the adjective describing the noun. We looked at some special cases in a previous lesson, which Daniela also discusses in her lesson series. But let's get back to general adjective behavior.


Adjectives fall into two categories: positivi (positive) and neutri (neutral). In simplistic terms, it's a way of dividing them according to their endings: o or e


In this video lesson, Daniela starts out with the most common kind of adjective. She calls it an aggettivo positivo (positive adjective). It’s the kind of adjective that in its basic form (masculine singular), ends in o. Many of us are already familiar with this type: bello (beautiful, nice), piccolo (small), grasso (fat), magro (thin), alto (high, tall), buono (good), and so on. This kind of adjective matches up with its nouns in all four kinds of endings: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, and feminine plural. 


Allora, quando parlo di aggettivo positivo vuol dire che un aggettivo positivo è quello che ha tutte e quattro le finali.

So, when I talk about positive adjectives, it means that a positive adjective is one that has all four endings.

Captions 41-42, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 1

 Play Caption


These adjectives are easy to deal with because they are entirely predictable: the masculine singular ends in o. The masculine plural ends in i, the feminine singular ends in a, and the feminine plural ends in e, just like many of the nouns they describe:

Masculine singular:
Il vestito è bello (the dress is beautiful).
Masculine plural:
I vestiti sono belli (the dresses are beautiful).
Feminine singular:
La gonna è bella (the skirt is nice).
Feminine plural:
Le gonne sono belle (the skirts are nice).


It’s important to know the gender of the nouns you are describing. The good news is that much of the time the gender is easily determined by looking at the ending of a noun, as Daniela explains in this video lesson.


Even if the noun is absent but implied, as when you tell someone they look nice, the rule still applies!

If you’re talking to a man:
Sei bello (you're handsome).
If you’re talking to a woman:
Sei bella (you're beautiful).
If you're talking to two men:
Siete belli (you're [both] handsome).
If you're talking to two women:
Siete belle (you're [both] beautiful).
If you're talking to a man and a woman:*
Siete belli (you're [both] beautiful).

*Masculine reigns, even though it seems unfair. 


It's easy to know the gender when referring to people. But don't forget that not only people have gender, but every kind of noun.

Il tavolo è alto (the table is high).
I materassi sono duri (the mattresses are hard).
La sedia è comoda (the chair is comfortable).
Le finestre sono aperte (the windows are open).


You can see why, when learning a new noun, it’s a good idea to learn the article along with it. "Positive" adjectives are the easiest ones to use, so they're a good place to start for understanding noun-adjective agreement. 


Further practice:
After viewing a Yabla video, check out the Vocabulary Review. You’ll recognize the nouns, because most of them will have articles attached to them, whether singular or plural. Check out the adjectives, too. Can you pick out the positive ones? Hint: they'll end in o, because they're given in the masculine singular. While you're at it, why not go through the other endings (masculine plural, feminine singular, and plural) for each positive adjective you find? 


Stay on the lookout for a lesson on aggettivi neutri, coming soon on Yabla. They're the adjectives that end in e, and they aren't quite as well-behaved as the aggettivi positivi.


Just in case you're getting discouraged:
Learning to speak correctly is important, but remember, communication is the real key. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble getting it all straight. For people coming from languages where gender is nonexistent, it’s a huge challenge to get genders right all the time, not to mention grasping how adjectives work. Don’t let your doubts stop you from using your new language skills.

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Wild: Selvatico/Selvaggio

There are two basic words for "wild" in Italian, and they're sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. They're also rather similar in that the root is the same: selva (woods, forest).

One of the adjectives for "wild" is selvatico (wild, uncultivated, growing spontaneously, feral).

Sto cercando di renderla un po' meno selvatica e un pochettino più civile.
I'm trying to make it a little less wild, and a tiny bit more civilized.
Caption 26, Gianni si racconta: L'olivo e i rovi

When there are two varieties of a plant like finocchio (fennel), the wild one gets qualified with an adjective: finocchio selvatico.

Il Monte Pellegrino ospita centinaia di specie diverse di piante, dal cipresso al pino, agli alberi di fico d'india, ai gelsomini, al finocchio selvatico, che da una sensazione di freschezza all'ambiente.
Monte Pellegrino hosts hundreds of different plant species, from cypress to pine, to prickly pear, to jasmine, to wild fennel, which gives a sense of freshness to the place.
Captions 23-26, Adriano: Monte Pellegrino


Sometimes wild fennel is called finocchietto (becoming an altered noun, by means of the diminuitive suffix -etto) because the plant has a smaller bulb, and is of "minor" importance. Other times, though redundant, the wild kind of fennel is called finocchietto selvatico. This pianta spontanea (spontaneous, or wild plant) is an ingredient in many central and southern Italian preparations, from salame to minestre (soups), to castagne lesse (boiled chestnuts). It blooms in late summer, and if you wonder what part people use, well, they might tell you, "whatever part is on hand when you want to make your dish." The seeds are tasty right off the plant, but they can also be dried and boiled to make a refreshing and aromatic hot tea that aids digestion. It's one of those plants that's worked itself into a great many recipes, both humble and otherwise, because, in addition to being aromatico (aromatic) and gustoso (tasty), it grows just about everywhere, and is free for the picking! The bulb (the white part) of cultivated fennel is eaten raw in salads, in pinzimonio, or cooked in a variety of ways.


The other word  for "wild" is the adjective selvaggio, especially referring to unrestrained people or savage animals, or places that have no law, or terrains that are particularly difficult to navigate.

Selvaggio can also be used as a noun, as in the following example.

....rapiti dal fascino dell'eterno selvaggio, narrando delle culture con cui venivano a contatto.
...captivated by the appeal of the eternal wild, telling of cultures with whom they came into contact.
Caption 3, Linea Blu: Le Eolie - Part 2 of 19

When referring to meat from hunted animals, for example cinghiale (wild boar), we use the term selvaggina (game), also called cacciagione (hunted meat).

Tavole imbandite senza posate, com'era uso, e con i cibi dei ricchi e dei nobili. Anatre all'arancia, maialini farciti con spezie e molta selvaggina.
Tables decked without silverware, as was the custom, and with the food of the rich and the noble. Duck with orange sauce, suckling pigs stuffed with spices, and lots of wild game.
Captions 13-14,16-17, Linea Blu: Sicilia - Part 16 of 19


In a nutshell:

When you think about wild beasts, or when the words "savage"and "primitive" come to mind, then use selvaggio. When you think of spontaneous and wild plants, you'll want selvatico.



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Those Pesky Possessive Adjectives

Becoming comfortable using possessive adjectives and personal pronouns in Italian can be a challenge because they work a bit differently then they do in other languages. To learn about them with Daniela, check out her series of lessons about possessive adjectives:

Corso di italiano con Daniela: Aggettivi Possessivi 


An important thing to remember regarding possessive adjectives is that Italian uses both an article and an adjective (think: the my book), which certainly takes some getting used to. So, "my book" would be: il mio libro. But there's an important exception. Daniela explains that family members get special treatment in terms of possessive adjectives:

Regola generale: l'aggettivo possessivo in italiano vuole sempre l'articolo,
tranne in un caso, quando parlo della famiglia, della mia famiglia,
dei miei parenti stretti in singolare. In questo caso non voglio l'articolo.
Non dico: il mio padre, la mia madre. Dico: mio padre, mia madre.

General rule: the possessive adjective in Italian always needs the article.
except in one case, when I talk about the family, about my family,
about my close relatives in the singular. In this case I don't want the article. 
I don't say: the my father, the my mother. I say: my father, my mother.
Captions 24-26, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6 of 7

There is also another special case: an exception to the exception. When the nouns denoting family members become altered nouns (see this lesson about altered nouns), as in sorellina (little sister) instead of sorella (sister), or mamma (mom) rather than madre (mother), we put back the article!

Ho fatto una passeggiata con la mia sorellinaMio fratello ci ha accompagnato.
I went for a walk with my little sisterMy brother came with us.

See this article about mamma (not a totally clear cut case) and other family terms of endearment. 

See this chart about possessive adjectives, summing up in English what Daniela has been talking about in Italian.

Here are some exercises to test your comprehension:

Try this online exercise.
See this short online exercise.
Do a short quiz.
Take another short quiz.


Possessive adjectives are just plain tricky. Not only do you need to know the rules, but you need to get plenty of practice before they become second nature, so be patient with yourselves and you will slowly but surely start getting these pesky possessive adjectives right, more often than wrong! 

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Fagioli e Legumi: Beans and Legumes

An important staple of the Italian diet is il fagiolo (the bean). There's a vast variety of beans in many shapes, colors, and sizes, with local names, but the principal ones areborlotti (pinto beans) and cannellini (small white beans). Other popular legumi(legumes) include ceci (garbanzo beans or chickpeas), lenticchie (lentils, of which there are many varieties), and fave (fava beans).


When in season (late spring), cannellini and borlotti are sold fresh in their pods, da sgranare (to shuck), but in addition to being canned, they're found on the shelves of supermarkets and alimentari (small grocery stores or delis) in dried form. They get soaked for many hours, and then cooked for a relatively long time, in terra cotta pots (traditionally). They contain a fair amount of protein, so they're a great source of protein for vegetarians, as well as for people who can't afford to buy much meat. 

Even the cooking water from the beans doesn't go to waste, but gets pureed with a portion of the beans themselves, making a great vegetarian brodo (broth) for the kind of soups that are particularly popular in Tuscany.

There's talk, in this week's video about famous Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, about the type of lunch that would be served in his parents' trattoria (small family run restaurant), which catered to workers, and consisted of humble ingredients and dishes.

...un ristorante frequentato, fondamentalmente, da operatori di questo tipo, quindi, un ristorante dove si facevano panini, dove si faceva la trippa, e dove si facevano, non so, i fagioli.
...a restaurant frequented, basically, by workers of this type, therefore, a restaurant where they made sandwiches, where they made tripe, and where they made, I don't know, beans.
Captions 3-4, L'arte della cucina: La Prima Identità - Part 6 of 17

Trippa (tripe), from the first stomach of the cow, is (or was) one of the more inexpensive animal proteins, which is why Gualtiero talks about it being a popular dish at his parents' trattoria. See this article about la trippa!


Fagioli may seem like an unassuming, inexpensive, simple contorno (side dish), but when conditi (seasoned) with high quality olio extravergine di oliva (virgin olive oil), they become a delicious classic dish appreciated by diners all over Italy.

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Two Words in One, with a Catch: Perché

When someone asks you perché? (why?), you can recycle the same word in your response because perché also means “because”! Yes, two in one! Let’s look at the following example, where Daniela is asking her students to justify using one article over another. Make sure to look at the context and listen to the inflection!

L'articolo è “uno”. Uno scontrino, perché?
The article is “uno.” “Uno scontrino” (a receipt). Why?
Perché la parola inizia per s più consonante.
Because the word starts with “s” plus a consonant.
Captions 37-38, Corso di italiano con Daniela: l'articolo indeterminativo Part 2


So perché actually has two grammatical forms. One is as an adverb meaning “for what reason.” It’s used in forming a question:

Perché l’hai interrogato?
Why did you interrogate him?

The other grammatical form of perché is a “causal conjunction” meaning “because.” It’s used to introduce the cause when it follows the effect (which might be simply implied as in our first example above). If we use a full sentence to respond to the above question, it might go something like this:

L’ho interrogato perché non l’hai fatto tu!
I interrogated him because you didn’t do it!

In the above example, “I interrogated him” is the effect and “you didn’t do it” is the cause, so perché (because) goes in the middle: effect-perché-cause. 

But here’s the catch. If you want to put the cause first, such as when you’re explaining yourself without being asked, or elaborating on your reasons, then things change in Italian. In English you could technically start your full sentence answer with the cause, using “because.”

Because you didn’t interrogate him, I did.

However, in Italian you cannot use perché in this case. The word to go to is siccome (because, as, given that, whereas, or since), used exclusively to introduce the cause when it precedes the effect: siccome-cause-effect. Siccome and perché have similar meanings but are not interchangeable within the structure of the sentence. This may seem complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it will become natural. Here’s an example in context, where Lara is explaining her actions to Luca Manara.

Deve essere interrogata, e siccome non lo fai tu, lo faccio io, tutto qui.
She has to be interrogated, and because you're not doing it, I'm doing it, that's all.
Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 10 of 17

In the above example you could replace “because” with “given that,” "as," “whereas,” or “since.” But you can’t replace siccome with perché!

As your Italian becomes more fluent, you’ll find siccome to be extremely handy when you’re telling stories and explaining things. There are other similar words to call on as well, but we’ll save them for another time.


Learning suggestion:
To get a feel for perché in both of its two contrasting but related meanings, “why” and “because,” check out their occurrences in Yabla videos (and figure out which is which). Do a search with siccome to get acquainted with it, and hear it in context. Then, to really grasp the mechanism, ask yourself some questions, and answer them. Get used to using perché as both the question “why” and the answer “because.” Then, elaborate on your answers using siccome and perché according to how you structure your sentence. Don’t forget the accent on perché!


Here’s a head start:

Perché sei così nervoso?
-Perché... è una storia lunga. Siccome avevo dimenticato di caricare la sveglia ieri sera, stamattina mi sono alzata tardi. E siccome avevo un appuntamento alle nove, non avevo tempo per fare colazione. Farò colazione al bar, perché ora ho fame. Dopo mi sentirò meglio, perché avrò la pancia piena. Siccome la pancia sarà piena, mi sentirò molto meglio.

Why are you so tense?
-Because... it’s a long story. Since I had forgotten to set the alarm last night, this morning I got up late. And because I had an appointment at nine, I didn’t have time for breakfast. I’ll have breakfast at the coffee shop because now I’m hungry. Afterwards I’ll feel better, because my stomach will be full. Since my stomach will be full, I’ll feel better.


To enhance your skills, make sure you practice ad alta voce (out loud), too. 

Perché? Perché sì!

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This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land: Paese and Terra

The Krikka Reggae, a cosìddetto (so-called) Italian reggae group, sing about their home region, way down in the heel of the boot of Italy, called Basilicata, also known as Lucania. They sing about their paese (country) and their terra (land), and even about the terra madre (native land). Let's have a look at some of the different connotations of these nouns.


Paese can be specific, meaning nation or country: 

È Ravenna la città in cui si vive meglio in Italia, A dirlo è l'edizione duemilaquattordici della classifica delle città più vivibili del paese.
Ravenna is the city in which one lives best in Italy. Saying this is the twenty fourteen issue of the classification of the most liveable cities in the country.
Captions 18 and 20, Anna e Marika: in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10 

Paese can be specifically a town:

Adesso ci troviamo ad Avella, un paese in provincia di Avellino.
Uh, right now we're in Avella, a town in the province of Avellino.
Caption 3, Escursioni Campane: Castello Normanno - Part 1

Paese can be more general, as in country, region, or area:

Poi scopriamo che la Liguria è il paese del basilico.
Then we discover that Liguria is basil country.
Caption 42, L'arte della cucina: Terre d'Acqua - Part 12 of 15

Terra is often more general than paese, and gives the idea of homeland or home country, rather than hometown:

Per la tua terra lotti, per la terra combatti
For your homeland you fight, for the homeland you struggle
Caption 35, Krikka Reggae: Lukania (Lucania)

Terra can give you a more visual image of a place than paese: 

Io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso.
I come from a land where water is a precious resource.
Caption 45, Gianni si racconta: Chi sono

Terra can indicate the planet Earth.

Pare che l'unico poliziotto sulla faccia della terra che lo può risolvere sono io!
It appears that the only policeman on the face of the earth who can resolve it is me.
Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6.1 - Part 2

Terra can indicate ground or soil:

Forse è la terra. Questa specie di rose ha bisogno di molto nutrimento!
Maybe it's the soil. This kind of rose needs lots of nourishment.
Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6.1 - Part 4 

The lack of clear cut definitions of terra and paese may make more sense if we remember that Italy became one nation, divided into regions, as late as the second half of the 19th century. 


Keep on the lookout for paese and terra, and remember that they have slightly different meanings depending on the context. A Yabla search of a word is always a great way to get a quick overview of how it's used. 

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Parole Alterate - Modifying Words to Create New Ones

This week Marika talks about parole alterate (modified words). Modifying existing words by adding suffixes or prefixes is a very Italian way of creating new words.


Marika describes the different categories of altered nouns and what suffixes and prefixes go with them, and she gives you some tips on how they work. Instead of using a modifier in the form of an adjective, the noun itself gets changed. Here are some examples.

Pane (bread) in the form of a roll, with the addition of -ino, turns into un panino (a little bread). Panino has also become the word for sandwich, commonly made with a roll. 

Un piatto (a plate), when full to the brim with pasta, with the addition of the suffix -one, turns into un bel piattone di pasta (a nice big plate of pasta).

Una giornata normale (a normal day) turns into una giornataccia (a bad day), by using the pejorative suffix: -accio/-accia:

Ieri ho avuto davvero una giornataccia.

Yesterday I had a really terrible day.

Caption 45, Marika spiega Le parole alterate

 Play Caption


There are also altered nouns or adjectives called vezzeggiativi, fromvezzo (caress), which are used as terms of endearment. The most common suffixes are: -uccio and -otto. Adding this suffix bestows something special, tender, and possibly intimate to a word. A teddy-bear, for example, is called un orsacchiotto, from orso(bear). A term of endearment for a person you care about might be tesoruccio, fromtesoro (treasure).

In this week's segment of the popular Commissioner Manara series, Lara is back from the hospital after risking her life to save a dog from a burning building. Luca is so concerned that he lets his guard down.

When Lara comes into the office, Luca looks at her and sees that she's pale. But he doesn't just use pallida (pale) to describe her, he adds a suffix of endearment. It's quite subtle, but it's clear he cares.

Però sei un po' palliduccia, ah.

However, you're a bit on the pale side, huh.

Caption 35, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 10

 Play Caption


Speaking of suffixes and prefixes, let's have a quick look at a word used in another of this week's new videos. Massimo Montanari is talking about the art of cooking. He takes the verb padellare (to fry up something after it's already been cooked), from the noun padella (frying pan), then uses the prefix s to turn it into spadellare. It's a colloquial way of saying someone is managing the pots and pans on the stove.

La cucina, intesa non semplicemente come l'atto di spadellare, ma come... il percorso complessivo che trasforma una ri' [sic]... una risorsa naturale

Cooking, understood not simply as an act of working at the stove, but as... an overall process that transforms a re'... a natural resource

Captions 36-37, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 5

 Play Caption


Learn more about suffixes and prefixes in these Yabla videos:

Marika spiega: La formazione dei nomi - Part 1 
Marika spiega: La formazione dei nomi - Part 2 

Keep an eye out for the suffixes and prefixes in Yabla videos. Once you know the root word, you can expand your vocabulary in many cases, without having to learn new words, but by merely altering them!

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Bear Up with "Sopportare" and "Reggere"

In a previous lesson we discussed not being able to stand someone, using the verbvedere (to see):

Non lo posso vedere!
I can’t stand him!

In an episode of "Commissario Manara," we hear another verb employed to express a similar sentiment: sopportare (to bear, to put up with, to tolerate). Lara is talking about her situation with Luca. She may be saying she can’t stand him, or that she can’t stand it (the situation).

Non lo sopporto!
I can’t bear it/I can’t stand him!
Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 9 of 14  


Another way to say this would be:

E’ insopportabile!
It’s unbearable/He's unbearable!

Another verb that is useful in this context is reggere (to hold, to hold up, to bear). Reggere, too, may be used when you can’t stand or bear someone or something.

Non lo reggo!
I can’t bear him!
I can’t bear it!

You may recall reading about retto as a noun in a completely different context in another lesson, but in the following example, retto is the participle of reggere.

Rodolfo non ha retto il peso della mia malattia.
Rodolfo couldn't bear the burden of my illness.
Caption 3, Anna presenta: La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2 of 2

It can mean physically holding something, as in:

Mi reggi questa borsa un attimo?
Could you hold this bag for me a moment?

Or holding onto, as in:

L'alcol, l'alcol, non lo regge... -Eh. -Che, tu lo reggi?
The alcohol, alcohol, he can't hold his... -Yeah. -What, you can hold yours?
Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 15 of 17

Reggere is often used when talking about how sturdy something is.

Questa scala è un po’ marcia. Reggerà?
This ladder is a bit rotten. Will it hold up?

Sopportare and reggere are useful words in all kinds of contexts. Have a look at the online dictionary of your choice to get an even better grasp of them. 

Just for fun:

Questo tetto non reggerà per molto. L’ho detto a mio marito, ma lui non sopporta l’idea di dover spendere soldi. Il suo atteggiamento lo trovo insopportabile, e non lo reggo proprio quando si comporta così. Vedremo per quanto ancora reggerà il tetto, e per quanto tempo ancora io potrò sopportare mio marito! Quasi quasi, se mi reggi questa scala, andrò io a dare un'occhiata al tetto!

This roof won’t hold up for long. I told my husband this, but he can’t stand the idea of having to spend money. His attitude I find to be intolerable, and I can’t stand him when he behaves that way. We’ll see how much longer the roof will hold, and for how long I’ll be able to stand my husband! On second thought, if you hold this ladder for me, I'll go and have a look at the roof myself.

Think about things you (and people you know) can or cannot put up with, and use sopportare and reggere to talk about it!


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"Di che cosa si tratta?" (What's it about?)

Avere a che fare con, which we discussed in a recent lesson, is rather similar in meaning to another turn of phrase: trattarsi di (to be about, to be a matter of, to be a case of), which is used in the impersonal third person singular. Being impersonal, it’s also a little bit more formal.

Let’s back up and look at other forms of this verb.


In its normal form, trattare (to treat) is transitive (meaning it takes an object).

Mi tratta male.
He treats me badly.

Followed by the preposition di (about, with, of, from), trattare di (to be about, to deal with, to talk about) is intransitive.

Il libro tratta di come costruire una casa.
The book deals with how to build a house.

If you substitute the verb parlare (to talk, to speak), it’s easier to grasp:

Il libro parla di come costruire una casa.
The book talks about how to build a house.

But, as mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, there’s also a way of using the verb with no grammatical subject, that is, the impersonal form: trattarsi di (it concerns, it’s a matter of, it’s about). It’s important to remember that with the impersonal, the actual subject is absent, although it gets translated with “it.” (Think of when we say "It's raining.")

Commissioner Manara is questioning a suspect for the first time.

Senta, signor Manuli, qui non si tratta soltanto di inquinamento. Si tratta di omicidio!
Listen, Mister Manuli, it's not just a matter of pollution here. It's a matter of murder.
Captions 19-20, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 5 of 14  

Trattarsi di is commonly used to answer the question, “What’s it about?” or sometimes, “What is it?” In fact trattarsi di is often used in the question itself:

Di che cosa si tratta?
What does it concern? 
What does it deal with? (note the similarity with avere a che fare)
What’s it about?
What is it?

Si tratta di una conferenza sul razzismo.
What it is, is a conference about racism.
It consists in a conference about racism.

When the subject is a generic “it,” we can use trattarsi di.

A good translation is tough to come up with, however, because in English we’d just say:

It’s a conference on racism.

It’s handy to be able to use trattarsi di in a question. When you get a phone call from someone you don’t know, or when strangers come to your house, your first question might be:

Di che cosa si tratta?
What’s this about?


Further learning:
This link takes you to a Yabla search of tratta. There’s one instance in which non si tratta della forma impersonale (it’s not about the impersonal form). Can you find it?

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Having to Do with “Having to Do with”: avere a che fare con

In this week’s episode of Commissario Manara, there are two instances of a turn of phrase that’s easy to miss when listening to Italian speech: avere a che fare con (to have to do with, to refer to, to be in relation to, to deal with). Lots of little words all in a row, and when the third person singular present tense is used, mamma mia! It can be difficult to hear ha a in ha a che fare con... But if you know what to listen for, it gets easier. It’s actually not so difficult, because the verb is always avere (to have), which is conjugated according to the subject and time element, and the rest of the expression doesn’t change. Remember that fare means both “to make” and “to do.” 


Manara is questioning a suspect:

Lei ci ha detto di non aver mai conosciuto Sianelli e di non avere mai avuto a che fare con la giustizia, giusto?
You told us that you'd never met Sianelli and that you had never had anything to do [been in trouble] with the law, right?
Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 7 of 14 

Later he reports his findings to Lara.

E quindi siamo sicuri che ha già avuto a che fare con la vittima in passato.
And so we're certain that he'd already had dealings with the murder victim in the past.
Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara: Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 7 of 14  

Avere a che fare is rather informal and personal. The subject is accounted for. There's another more impersonal way to say pretty much the same thing: si tratta di (it's about, it has to do with, it means), which we'll cover in another lesson.

Quando vado in città, ho a che fare con tutti tipi di persone.
When I go to the city, I deal with all kinds of people.

The subject can be an idea or fact rather than a person:

La conferenza ha a che fare con il razzismo.
The conference has to do with racism.

This turn of phrase is especially effective in the negative: Remember that double negatives are quite acceptable in Italian.

Non voglio aver niente a che fare con quel tizio.
I don’t want to have anything to do with that guy.

Questo pesto non ha niente a che fare con quello genovese.
This pesto has nothing in common with the Genovese kind.

Just for Fun:

Questa lezione ha avuto a che fare con un’espressione comune e informale. Una futura lezione avrà a che fare con altre espressioni che vogliono dire più o meno la stessa cosa. Quando ho a che fare con una nuova espressione, cerco di ripeterla tante volte durante la mia giornata, così diventa parte di me. Non ho a che fare con un cervello giovanissimo! Non vorrei aver niente a che fare con persone che non vogliono imparare.

This lesson was about a common and informal expression. A future lesson will deal with other expressions that mean more or less the same thing. When I’m dealing witha new expression, I try repeating it lots of times during the day. I’m not dealing with a super young brain! I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with people who don’t want to learn.


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Cops: Carabinieri, Vigili, or Poliziotti?

This week Yabla features an interview with a poliziotto (policeman). Nicola gives us some insight into what it really means to be a policeman. 

Sono un agente di Polizia da ventitré anni.
I've been a police officer for twenty-three years.
Caption 1, Nicola Agliastro: Poliziotto


But what brand of policeman is he? In Italy there are different categories of police, with different roles, rules, and uniforms.


Judging from the sign at the Commissariato (police headquarters) at the beginning of the video, Nicola appears to be part of the Polizia di Stato (state [national] police), which is the main, national police force. They are responsible for patrolling the autostrade (highways), ferrovie (railways), aeroporti (airports), and la dogana (customs). Their vehicles are blue and white (see thumbnail of video).


If you subscribe to Yabla, you’re quite familiar by now with La Polizia di Stato, since the popular series Commissario Manara takes place in that environment (in fact, there's a new segment this week!). 


Luca and Lara are usually in borghese (plainclothes), and wear their uniforms only on special occasions. At first glance Luca Manara doesn't quite look the part, and Ginevra, the medico legale (coroner), who doesn't look the part any more so, comments:

Tu devi essere il nuovo commissario, però non ne hai l'aspetto.
You must be the new Commissioner, but you don't look like one.
Caption 43, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 2


La polizia municipale (local police force) on the other hand, works at a local level and is responsible primarily for traffic control, but also for enforcing national, regional, and local laws regarding commerce, legal residence, pets, and other administrative duties. The officers of the municipal police aren’t automatically authorized to carry weapons, since public safety is generally relegated to the Polizia di Stato. The municipal forces may be called polizia comunale (community police), polizia urbana (town police), or polizia locale (local police). They’re commonly called vigili urbani (town guards), but the correct nomenclature is agenti di polizia locale. Their vehicles depend on local tastes and traditions, and differ from town to town, and from region to region.


If you’re in Italy and you lose your wallet, or something gets stolen, you go to the Carabinieri to report the theft or the loss. They file a report, and make it official. When you’re driving, the Carabinieri may have you pull over for a routine checking of license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you have reason to believe there is a crime being committed, call the Carabinieri.


The police emergency number is 113, equivalent to 911 in the United States.


Here’s hoping you never need it!


Another important police force is la Guardia di Finanza (financial guard). The Guardia di Finanza deals primarily with financial crime and smuggling, and is the primary agency for suppressing illicit drug trade. They work on land, sea, and in the air. These are the agents who might ask you to produce a scontrino (receipt) upon exiting a shop, restaurant, or bar. The customer, since 2003, no longer incurs a fine, but it’s still good practice to hang on to your receipt until well away from the place of business.


These agents wear grayish green uniforms with the insignia of a yellow flame on the shoulder. Because of this, they are sometimes called le fiamme gialle (the yellow flames).


Whichever kind of policemen you see around, be they carabinierivigiliagenti di polizia localepoliziotti, or fiamme gialle, remember they're there primarily to help, not to give you trouble.

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Staying on the Straight and Narrow with Retto and Retta

The word “right” has several different meanings, and some interesting history. See this entry about its etymology. It stands to reason that if we look at some of the words that mean “right” in Italian, like retto/rettadestro/destradiritto/dirittaritto/ritta, it will be just as interesting. As a matter of fact, both the English “right” and the Italian rettocome from the Latin recto/rectum


Let’s start where “right” and retto meet most clearly: in geometry. Quite simply, un angolo retto is a right angle, made of two perpendicular straight lines (so the fact that retto in Italian, and recto in Latin mean “straight” makes sense). In fact, “rectangle” in older English meant “right angle.” In modern usage, a rectangle is made of 4 right angles. Rettangolo when used as an adjective refers to a right-angled triangle, but when it’s a noun—un rettangolo—it’s a rectangle!


And, since retto is an adjective, the ending changes to agree with the noun it’s modifying (angolo is masculine). Retto is commonly found with its feminine ending, as in la linea retta (the straight line). 

Puoi viaggiare in tondo oppure andare in linea retta

You can travel in a circle or go in a straight line

Caption 45, Radici nel Cemento La Bicicletta

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It can even be used by itself as a noun: una retta (a straight line).


Rettilineo is another way of saying “straight,” or “rectilinear,” and can be used (in racing, or referring to maps) as a noun—il rettilineo meaning “the straight road” (as in “homestretch”).


When referring to “left” and “right,” we use sinistra and destra, and here too there’s a connection because, in Renaissance Italy, destro (right) also meant retto (straight).


When we’re referring to the opposite of sbagliato (wrong), we use giusto to mean “right” or “correct,” but a less common way to say giusto is retto.


One way of doing things right is seguire la retta via (to follow the straight and narrow).


The real reason for all this etymology is to make sense of the expression dare retta (to pay attention, to listen to, to obey, to heed). If you think about asking someone to agree you’re “right” about something, (and then to do as you say), it makes sense. There’s no one right way to translate dare retta, but hopefully these examples will give you the idea.

Se vuoi essere felice come un tempo dammi retta

If you want to live happily like in the past, do as I say!

Caption 43, Radici nel Cemento La Bicicletta

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E va be', però non bisogna dar sempre retta alle chiacchiere.

And OK, but you shouldn't always believe the gossip.

Caption 68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 5

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If your child, dog, or horse doesn’t do as you ask, you might say:

Non mi dà retta.
He doesn’t listen to me (he doesn’t obey me).


Please see WordReference or some other dictionary for other (unrelated) meanings of nouns retto and retta. And note that retto is also the participle of reggere (to withstand, to hold up)!


As you saw at the beginning of this lesson, retto and retta are only two of the words connected with “right.” Retto isn’t far from ritto (erect, vertically straight) or diritto (straight, direct). But we’ll save that for another lesson.


In a nutshell:
Retto is used as an adjective (changing its ending according to what’s being modified):

retto (straight)
un angolo retto (a right angle)
la retta via (the straight and narrow)
rettilineo (straight)


As a noun:

la retta (the straight line)
dare retta (to heed, to pay attention to, to obey)
il rettilineo (the straight line, the straight road)


Just for fun:

Per stare sulla retta via, cerco sempre di dare retta alla mamma. Porto a passeggio il mio cane, ma non mi  quasi mai retta. Lo porto sempre in una strada rettilinea, ma lui vorrebbe andare in tondo. Quando torno a casa, devo fare i compiti. Geometria! Devo ricordarmi che un triangolo rettangolo è fatto di un angolo retto, più una retta, ma che un rettangolo è fatto da quattro angoli retti. Faccio qualche disegno per aiutarmi, ma senza righello, non sono bravo a tracciare una retta. Tu riesci a disegnare una linea retta senza righello? Se do retta al mio istinto, dico che non sono portato per la geometria.

To stay on the straight and narrow, I always try to obey my mom. I take the dog for a walk, but he hardly ever does as I say. I always take him on a straight road, but he would like to go in a circle. When I get back home, I have to do my homework. Geometry! I have to remember that a right-angled triangle is made of a right angle plus a straight line, but that a rectangle is made of four right angles. I make a few drawings to help me, but without a ruler I’m not good at drawing a straight line. Can you draw a straight line without a ruler? If I listen to my own instincts, I’ll say I’m not cut out for geometry.

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