Italian Lessons


Making the Most of Yabla Italian

In case you haven’t been able to take the time to explore all its features, here’s a guide to what you can do to make the most of what Yabla has to offer, which is plenty!



Yabla videos have subtitles in Italian, which can be shown or hidden, and immediately below, subtitles in the translation language, which can also be shown or hidden. This allows you to learn at your own pace, in your own style. Some people like to look at the translation language right away, while others like to take the leap and see how much they understand with no subtitles at all. Some like to follow the Italian subtitles first. And if it’s too fast, just click “Slow” and the speech will slow down. You can repeat the same line as many times as you want to by clicking “Back.”

As often as possible, the English subtitles will be parallel to the Italian, and easy to follow. That’s our aim. But because languages work differently, in some cases the meaning or grammar of a phrase would be compromised if the translation were forced to be parallel. In these cases, the translators have to depart from parallel word order, use more than one English word to one Italian word, use one English word to several Italian ones, or even use a secondary meaning of an English word that might not seem to make sense. When this happens, it can stump you. It can take the wind out of your sails... but don’t despair! There’s help.



Clicking on a word opens a dictionary to the right of the video. This dictionary is amazing, by the way. Not only can you click on a word in Italian and get its translation (plus its conjugations if it’s a verb), but you can also click on a word in English and get its Italian translation. Cross-referencing can sometimes solve the problem. Don’t forget that while the dictionary is ample, Googling the word or going to a site like WordReference may give you additional meanings and uses.


If you do a search of the word in question in the Yabla lessons tab, you’ll be able to see if the problem word or phrase you’re dealing with has been addressed in the lessons. The lessons often contain links to more in-depth external resources as well. The lessons are free whether you subscribe to Yabla videos or not. Subscription to the Yabla newsletter, on which the lessons are based, and which announces new videos, is also free.


A word search in the videos tab will bring up all the uses of that word in Yabla videos, so by scrolling through the highlighted quotes from each video, you can get a sense of how it’s used, and if you wish, you can click on the video to see the word in context. Remember to do a search for conjugated verbs as well as verbs in the infinitive, and where nouns are concerned, in both their singular and plural forms.


The “comments” section of a video is a great place to express your questions or opinions. It allows you to engage with other users, and if you ask for help resolving a puzzle, you’ll find helpful responses from your fellow Yabla subscribers or from Yabla staff. This is also the place to make suggestions for lesson and video topics. We appreciate your feedback. Chances are, you’ll be helping out fellow learners as well as inspiring the translators and newsletter writers to find new solutions, which ultimately will make your learning experience richer. Remember, you can comment in your own language, or you can try out your new Italian skills, however advanced or elementary they may be. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! What did you like? What gave you trouble? What did you find boring? What would you like more of? How was the level? What would you like new Yabla videos to be about? You can also send any questions, suggestions, or feedback to


The vocabulary review (green button below the thumbnail of the video) will frequently give a second translation for a word, so check that out too, if you get stumped. The translation used in the video itself may be a secondary translation, so the vocabulary review will generally provide the more classic definition as well. This is a place to review a limited number of pre-selected words, in three different, interspersed modes: 1) The Italian word will be written and pronounced, and you choose the correct translation from among 6 words. 2) The English word will be written and you are to choose the correct Italian word from among 6. 3) The English translation is written and you are to write the correct Italian word. Diacritical marks are supplied for use on any keyboard. In the “Settings” tab, you can decide how many words to include in the review, up to 10.


A note about the words chosen for the vocabulary review: Most of the nouns include their articles, either definite or indefinite, so you can learn their gender, but some nouns are more often used without an article in either Italian or English, and so sometimes the article will get left out for this reason. Some words in a video don’t make an appearance at all in the vocabulary review. This is because for one reason or another, they could be cause for confusion. They might be “positive or neutral adjectives” in a feminine or plural form, thus not distinguishable from the masculine singular forms in English. This can lead to “wrong” answers. On the other hand, you will find some phrasal expressions in the vocabulary review that you won’t find in a dictionary.



Even though the vocabulary review contains only a limited number of words, you can make your own flashcards with words of your choosing. While watching a video, click on a word. The dictionary will open up, but at the same time, your word will be saved to your set of flashcards. Later, you can go to the flashcards section, and by simply clicking on a word the dictionary will open up. When you click on “review these words,” a window will open up where each word is pronounced (it will repeat each time you click on it), and you get a chance to decide whether you think you know it or not. Whichever way you decide, the word will show up in its video context, with the dictionary open to the word at the same time, so you have a great overview of the word in question. You can also click on the video to watch it again. Note that for this to be automatic, make sure “autoplay” is on once you are inside the review. You can remove the words from the flashcard list at any time.


  • The Yabla listening game is aimed at listening comprehension and writing, and is a great way to learn how to write in Italian. It’s designed to be played right after you’ve viewed the video. The words are chosen randomly from the video captions, and the more you play the game in a given video, the more words you’ll recognize and learn to spell. It will help you get a sense of how spelling works in Italian, and it will get easier and easier!


As you can see, there’s lots you can do with Yabla, beyond watching a video with subtitles. Make the most of it!


Continue Reading

Putting in Time with Metterci

In a recent episode of Scampia D’Oro, there’s some talk of time. There’s talk about how long something takes: how long it took Lupo and Enzo to set up the gym, how long it took Enzo to get home. Let’s take a look at the differences between how English and Italian express this kind of time.


In English, we use an impersonal "it" when talking about time: "It takes me three hours." The person appears as an object (me). Italian gets personal right away, and the subject is the person who "puts in a certain amount of time" to do something: metterci del tempo (to put in some time). If you think of it this way, the Italian makes more sense, since mettere means “to put”! 

Here's an example, with a literal translation, to show how the ci fits in: indirect object (with included preposition). 

Io ci metto tre ore (I put three hours into it).

In plain English, we'd usually say, "It takes me three hours."

In the example below, note that the plain verb mettere (to put) has been used as well, with its direct object pronoun lo attached to it.


Ma in realtà è nu [un] garage con un tatami dentro.

But actually it's a garage with a tatami inside.

Io e il mio maestro Lupo ci abbiamo messo una vita a metterla su.

It took my teacher Lupo and me ages to set it up.

Captions 5-6, L'oro di Scampia - film

 Play Caption


In the following examples, note that ci is part of a contraction, and so the is silent, but still determines the "soft" pronunciation of the c.  


Enzo, c'ho messo vent'anni per insegnarti 'ste cose

Enzo, it took me twenty years to teach you these things,

e mo vuoi pretendere che Toni le faccia subito?

and now you expect Toni to do them right away?

Captions 38-39, L'oro di Scampia - film

 Play Caption


Here's another example, this time in the second person singular (informal). 


Papà ma quanto tempo c'hai messo? Avevi detto due minuti.

Dad, but how long did it take you? You'd said "Two minutes."

-E vabbuò [va bene], so' stati cinque, ià.

-OK OK, it was five, hey.

Captions 62-63, L'oro di Scampia - film

 Play Caption


If you’ve followed previous lessons, you know that the little word ci really does get around, and has different meanings depending on how it’s placed. That said, metterci del tempo is good to learn as a formula, and to practice. Once it becomes a solid part of your Italian repertory, it will be worth comparing it to other ways ci is used. 



Further practice:

Think about how long it takes you to do something and how long it might take someone else. Say it in Italian! No one's listening. Here's something to get you started.

Ci metto cinque minuti per fare il caffè. Mio fratello ci mette venti minuti per farsi la doccia. Ci mettiamo sempre tanto tempo per decidere quale film vedere, ma questa volta c'abbiamo messo due secondi. Ma quanto tempo ci mettete per salire in macchina! Non è possibile metterci così tanto!

It takes me five minutes to make coffee. It takes my brother twenty minutes to take a shower. It always takes us so long to decide what movie to see, but this time it took us two seconds. How long does it take you to get in the car? It's not possible to take so long!

Continue Reading

More Examples of the Impersonale

We have talked about the impersonal form of verbs in previous lessons. There's a great example in Marika's video about the entrance to her apartment. Note that she uses the plural form of the verb because the objects, giacchegiubbotticappotti (jackets, windbreakers, coats) are plural. 


E quindi si usano giacche, giubbotti, cappotti. Ma dove si mettono, una volta che si tolgono?

And so we use jackets, windbreakers, coats. But where do we put them once we take them off?

Captions 49-50, Marika spiega - L'ingresso di casa

 Play Caption



Review the impersonale here.


Another instance of the impersonale can be found in a video interview with Monica Bellucci. She's talking about the huge blow-ups of some of her photos.


Ah, questa era, l'ho fatta in America, ero giovanissima, si vede.

Ah, this one was, I did it in America, I was very young, you can tell.

Caption 35, Che tempo che fa - Monica Bellucci

 Play Caption



Continue Reading

Modal Verbs in Italian

To get the basics about why and how we use modal verbs in Italian, and how they are conjugated, see Daniela's video lesson about modal verbs. The modal verbs are: dovere (to have to, must), potere (to be able to, can), and volere (to want to, would).

Italian modal verbs have some similarities with English modal verbs, because they are used together with verbs in the infinitive, but there are differences, too. In English, for example, we can use "to be able to," which does get conjugated, or "can," which doesn't get conjugated. Italian modal verbs are conjugated and are irregular, so as Daniela says, you just have to learn them. These verbs are used so often that you're bound to learn the principle conjugations just by listening. Here's a quick conjugation chart for the present tense, plus a few tips.


There are other verbs like sapere (when it means "to be able to") that are also considered to be modal.

Non lo so spiegare.
can't explain it [I don't know how to explain it].

When in the regular present tense, using modal verbs is mostly trouble free, as long as you've learned the irregular conjugation. The easy part (handy for when you're not sure of the conjugation of another verb) is that the other verb is going to be in the infinitive!

Note that both volere (to want) and dovere (to owe) have uses that aren't modal. All three modal verbs are also nouns, so, occhio al contesto (keep an eye on the context)! 


Let's look at some practical examples. Look for an infinitive verb in the vicinity of the modal verb, to put the modal picture together. 


Zia, che cosa devo fare?

Aunt, what should I do?

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

 Play Caption

Alex vuole imparare il tedesco.

Alex wants to learn German.

Caption 22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Domande

 Play Caption

Alle mie spalle, potete vedere la statua del Cristo di Maratea.

Behind me you can see the statue of Christ of Maratea.

Caption 1, Antonio - Maratea, Il Cristo Redentore

 Play Caption


Let's remember that the verb in the infinitive might actually be missing from the sentence itself, but it can easily be imagined, just like in English.

Non posso!

One very common way modal verbs are used is with the impersonal. See these lessons about the impersonal, which uses the third person, as in the example below.


Si può aggiungere il caffè, si possono aggiungere tanti ingredienti.

One can add coffee, one can add many ingredients.

Caption 10, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato - Part 2

 Play Caption



So far we've been looking at the present tense. A bit further along the line, we'll get into modal verbs with compound tenses, which is a bit more complex. Hope to see you then!

Continue Reading

Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits)

In a previous episode of the series on food, Gianni Mura talked about trends in restaurant dining. He talked about what quickly caught on as a popular way of getting a little taste of everything. Instead of a primo (first course), secondo (main dish), contorno (side dish), and dolce (dessert), a restaurant would offer a tris di assaggi (three "tastes," or miniature servings) of primi piatti (first courses). This became, and still is, a great way for tourists, or anyone else, to find out what they like. Depending on what's offered, and on the kind of restaurant, the three servings may arrive all on the same plate at the same time, or on separate plates, one after the other. 



At the end of concerts, audiences ask for an encore. In Italian, this is called a bis. It comes from the Latin for "twice." It has come to mean "again" or "more" in a concert setting, where people want to hear a piece played a second time, or something extra once the programmed performance is over. If you're dining with friends at home, and would like another helping, you can use bis:

Posso fare il bis?
Can I have a second helping?

In rare cases you can ask for a bis in a restaurant, but usually in a restaurant setting, bis will indicate two small servings of two different dishes, rather than one normal one. Likewise, a tris (coming from the Latin for "three times") denotes three small servings of a dish rather than one normal serving.

Now that you know what tris means, here's a tris of tidbits about Italian.

1) Past meaning present


In some cases Italian uses il passato prossimo (constructed like the English present perfect) to express an idea that in English would use the present tense. Here's an example. Luca is telling the doctor that Lara will promise to take care of him. She hesitates but then agrees. She uses the past participle of promettere (to promise) rather than the present tense, as we would in English.


Dottore, che... che devo fare? -Senta, se lo dimetto, mi promette di non lasciarlo solo neanche un attimo? Promette, promette... -Eh... sì! Promesso.

Doctor, what... what should I do? -Listen! If I release him, do you promise not to leave him alone, not even for an instant? She promises, she promises... -Uh... yes! I promise.

Captions 47-49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

 Play Caption


Capire (to understand) is another word that often gets used in its passato prossimo tense to mean what we think of as being in the present.


Ho capito, ma adesso, qua in mezzo alla campagna... con le mucche, che facciamo?

I get it, but now, here in the middle of the countryside... with the cows, what are we going to do?

Captions 10-11, Francesca - alla guida - Part 3

 Play Caption


As a question tag, the person and auxiliary verb are often left out:


Tiziana, calmati. Ho già fatto richiesta per farti scarcerare, però mi devi dare una mano. Mi devi aiutare, capito?

Tiziana, calm down. I've already put in a request for you to be released, but you have to give me a hand. You have to help me, do you understand?

Captions 21-22, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

 Play Caption


Ho capito (I understand [literally "I've understood"]) is what you commonly say to let someone know you're listening, much like "I see," "I get it," or even "uh huh." 


2) A common modo di dire


E poi eravamo in giro tutte le notti, perché a quei tempi gli artisti andavano ad alcool e quindi...

And then, we were out and about all night because in those times, artists were fueled by alcohol, and so...

Captions 3-4, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá

 Play Caption


In giro is a very general way to say "out" or "around," when you ask or say where someone is, or where someone has gone. There are many ways to use this expression, so check it out here.


3) Hidden vowels and silent consonants


In an online video lesson, Marika talks some more about object pronouns, this time with the participio passato (past participle). One important thing that can be difficult to grasp is that when the pronoun is used, the object (in the form of a pronoun) comes first. Let's look at this example.


Hai guardato il film? Sì, l'ho guardato.

Did you watch the movie? Yes, I watched it.

Captions 15-16, Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti con participio passato

 Play Caption


We also need to remember that the "h" in ho is silent. L'ho sounds like "lo," but the apostrophe is there to tell us that it's really lo (it) ho (I have). We have "l" + silent  "o" + silent "h" + "o."


One extra tidbit concerning the passato prossimo: While constructed like the present perfect, it often translates with the English simple past tense, just as in the above example. 


That's it for the tris!

Continue Reading

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 invece si forma con:

The impersonal form of reflexive verbs on the other hand is made with:

"ci "più il verbo alla terza persona singolare.

"ci" plus the verb in the third person singular.

Per esempio: in Italia ci si sposa sempre più tardi,

For example: In Italy one gets married later and later,

quindi il verbo sposarsi più "ci", più "si".

so the verb to get married plus "ci" plus "si."

Captions 45-48, Marika spiega - La forma impersonale

 Play Caption


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 41, Acqua in bocca - Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

 Play Caption


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!

Continue Reading

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.”

Da questo semplice esempio, si capisce intuitivamente come procedere nella lettura delle note.

From this simple example, one understands, intuitively, how to proceed with reading the notes.

Captions 1-2, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

 Play Caption


This could have been translated using the second person singular:

From this simple example, you understand, intuitively, how to proceed with reading the notes.


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.) 

Continue Reading

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:


Io la Vigilia di Natale la passo in famiglia ... verso le sette, ci si mette a cena, e si mangiano pietanze a base di pesce.

I spend Christmas Eve with my family ... around seven, we sit down to dinner, and one eats dishes with fish as their basis.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega - La Vigilia di Natale

 Play Caption


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.

Continue Reading

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 19, Andromeda - e i gatti 2 - Part 1

 Play Caption


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 54, Francesca sulla spiaggia - Part 3

 Play Caption


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!

Captions 8-10, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

 Play Caption


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 30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 1

 Play Caption


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!

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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/venduta will 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 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption


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


E allora come è morto?

So how did he die?

Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

 Play Caption


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 - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption


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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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 27, Gianni si racconta - L'olivo e i rovi

 Play Caption


When there are two varieties of a plant such as 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, ci sono numerose pinete, 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, there are a number of pinewoods, to prickly pear, to jasmines, to wild fennel, which gives a sense of freshness to the place.

Captions 25-28, Adriano - Monte Pellegrino

 Play Caption



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.

Captions 4-5, Linea Blu - Le Eolie - Part 2

 Play Caption


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. Paste reali fatte di pasta di mandorle, 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. Royal pastries made with almond paste, ducks with orange sauce, suckling pigs stuffed with spices and lots of wild game.

Captions 13-18, Linea Blu - Sicilia - Part 16

 Play Caption



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.



Continue Reading

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 44-50, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6

 Play Caption


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.
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! 

Continue Reading

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, fundamentally 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 3-8, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 6

 Play Caption


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 preparing 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.

Continue Reading

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 54-56, Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo

 Play Caption



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.


Ginevra deve essere iscritta nella lista degli indagati e deve essere interrogata,

Ginevra must be recorded on the list of suspects and has to be interrogated,

e siccome non lo fai tu lo faccio io, tutto qui.

and because you're not doing it, I'm doing it, that's all.

Captions 17-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

 Play Caption


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!

Continue Reading

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 2014 della classifica delle città più vivibili del paese.

Ravenna is the city in which one lives best in Italy. ... Saying this is the two thousand fourteen issue of the classification of the most liveable cities in the country.

Captions 20-22, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

 Play Caption


Paese can be specifically a town:


Eh, 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

 Play Caption


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


Poi scopriamo che la Liguria è il paese del basilico, è anche speciale.

Then we discover that Liguria is the country of basil, it's special, too.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 12

 Play Caption


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 31, Krikka Reggae - Lukania (Lucania)

 Play Caption


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 44, Gianni si racconta - Chi sono

 Play Caption


Terra can indicate the planet Earth.


Pare che l'unico poliziotto sulla faccia della terra che lo può risolvere sono io!

It seems that the only policeman on the face of the earth who can resolve it is me!

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

 Play Caption


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.

Captions 7-8, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

 Play Caption


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. 

Continue Reading

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, from vezzo (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, from tesoro (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

 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!

Continue Reading