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A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

 

After telling us about the different relative pronouns, which in some cases are interchangeable, Daniela finishes up by telling us that in certain cases, when we are talking about a place or situation, we can use dove (where) instead of in cui (in which)To back up a moment, we're talking about object relative pronouns, indeed, indirect object pronouns, because in the case of cui (which), we often need a preposition right before it. Here's how she summarizes cui. If you can watch the lesson it might be helpful!

 

Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", che è invariabile, sempre preceduto da una preposizione semplice, quindi da "di", da "da", o da "a".

Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," which is invariable, always preceded by a simple preposition, so by "of," by "from," or by "to."

Captions 43-46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 3

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The good news here is that we don't have to consider gender when we use cui.  Getting stuck mid-sentence looking for the right article can hamper the telling of a good story. So cui is a good relative pronoun to be familiar with. But many of us might not feel so comfortable using cui. Indeed, you don't need to think about gender, but you do have to think about which preposition to use: There is an alternative that you might like.

 

Using dove (where) can simplify life, actually. Certainly, Italians use dove (where) as a relative pronoun, even when we're not strictly talking about places and situations. And we do this in English, too, so it won’t seem too odd!

 

Following are some examples from Yabla videos. Let's remember that dove (where) is not always a relative pronoun, and it is not always a relative pronoun taking the place of in cui, but the following examples have been selected because they do fit into this category.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla dove si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

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Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, dove potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

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Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo dove si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

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Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, dove si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, dove ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

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Poi c'è un giorno a settimana dove i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

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Un altro caso dove uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

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Now that you have looked at all these examples, why not try transforming them into sentences with in cui? If that is too easy, try the same thing with nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, or nelle quale. For this, you will need to consider gender and number! Here’s the link to suggested solutions. Non barare (don't cheat) — unless you have to! 

 

Let us know if you like this system of exercises and their solutions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

 

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Gli Scrupoli (Scruples): more than a cognate!

 

Uno scrupolo (a scruple) is a noun in Italian that has a cognate in English, as we see. So there is a connection, but in Italian, this word is more than just its cognate.

 

What do we mean by this? Let’s look at the English first.

 

Someone has scruples when he or she tries to do the right thing, morally. A scrupulous person is conscientious, cautious, careful, circumspect; exacting or rigorous.

 

These definitions apply in Italian as well.

 

Lei, invece, è un truffatore senza scrupoli che cerca di approfittare di lui.

You, on the other hand, are a conman without scruples who is looking to take advantage of him.

Caption 39, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema - Part 11

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Gli dici che non ruberai mai un taxi in vita tua, ma per le altre macchine non ti fai troppi scrupoli.

Tell him that you will never steal a taxi your whole life long, but for other kinds of cars you won't have too many scruples.

Captions 28-29, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 8

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Marika uses the adjective form scrupoloso (scrupulous) in describing the characteristics of someone born under the sun sign Vergine (Virgo).

 

Cerchi sempre il pelo nell'uovo e sei perfino capace di trovarlo, attenta e scrupolosa come sei.

You always look for the hair in the egg (you split hairs), and you're even capable of finding it, careful and conscientious as you are.

Captions 29-31, Marika spiega - I segni dello Zodiaco - Part 2

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However, the noun scrupolo can also be used when someone has a concern about something, a doubt, a qualm. In Italian, it is very common. It comes down to being conscientious and careful.

 

 

Senta, magari è inutile. È uno scrupolo...

Listen, maybe it's not useful. It's a qualm...

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 5

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Eva, fidati, assaggia. Solo per scrupolo.

Eva, trust me, taste. Just to make sure.

Captions 22-23, La Ladra - Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3

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So, when you have proofread a letter a thousand times, you might read it one last time, per scrupolo.

Before putting a dish on the table, you taste it for the salt, solo per scrupolo.

Did you turn off headlights on the car? I’ll check, per scrupolo.

 

Per scrupolo is a nice way of saying you want to double check something: just to make sure.

 

 

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Finding no Fault with Grinza and Piega

 

Learning expressions by hearing them, repeating them, and figuring out, little by little, the right context to use them in is a great way to learn. But sometimes it’s fun to see where these expressions come from and a visual image can help us remember them. Let's talk about wrinkles.

 

Somebody has a plan, or an explanation for something. How do we say that it “holds water,” it’s “faultless,” it “makes perfect sense,” "there's no argument?"

 

But let's start off with the premise that Italians are very concerned with clothes, and figura (impression  — how they are viewed by the outside world) and most people know that Italy is an important fashion center. Many Italian kids learn early on that getting their t-shirts dirty will make mamma unhappy, so they try to keep their clothes clean. Not only puliti (clean) but stirati (ironed). So it makes a certain amount of sense that some expressions use ironing metaphors!

 

In an episode of La Ladra, Eva has an elaborate plan all worked out, which she describes to her girlfriends.

Here’s Gina’s response.

 

Non fa una grinza.

It's flawless.

Captions 45-47, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 5

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Gina’s comment non fa una grinza literally means, “it doesn’t make a wrinkle.” She could have said non fa una piega, which is also very common, if not more common, and means the same thing. So the expression means, “it’s clean, it has no blemishes, it’s smooth — no bumps, no wrinkles. It’s perfect.”

 

If you have been following Commissario Manara, you might have noticed the following exchange between Manara and his chief’s wife, who was on the Miss Maremma jury. There’s a contradiction between how she voted and who she really thought should win. Here is the conversation.

 

È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri.

It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won.

-Allora perché non ha votato per lei?

-So why didn't you vote for her?

Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio.

Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine.

-Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.

-That makes perfect sense, but it doesn't convince me.

E va bene. Quella Fabiola è di una strafottenza mai vista. Ma chi si crede di essere?

And all right. That Fabiola is unbelievably arrogant. But who does she think she is?

Captions 34-40, Il Commissario Manara S2 - EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4

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So in this expression, regardless of whether grinza or piega is used, the verb is fare (to do/to make). It generally  refers to a statement, a reason, an explanation, or a motive, so, di conseguenza (consequently), it’s usually in the third person singular.

 

It’s a handy expression when all the evidence points to one answer or reasoning you can’t find fault with (even though you wish you could).

Una grinza (a crease, a wrinkle) is the noun form, and its verb form is raggrinzare (to wrinkle) or raggrinzire (to wrinkle).

Piegare means “to fold,” “to bend,” so the noun una piega is “a fold” or “a crease.”

In the negative sense una piega is something that shouldn’t be there, like a crease caused by careless ironing.

The noun form piega is used in another common expression. It is almost always negative, it goes together with brutto (bad/ugly), and usually refers to some kind of situation. In this case, the meaning of piega is closer to “bend,” than to “fold” or “crease.”

 

Smettiamo prima che questa conversazione prenda una brutta piega.

Let’s stop before this conversation takes a turn for the worse.

Let’s stop before this conversation gets ugly/goes bad.

Check out WordReference for more meanings of la piega.

 

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Lo Shopping: Useful vocabulary for shopping in Italy

 

One English word has been largely adopted all over Italy: Shopping.

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

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Italians pronounce it with their kind of O and they give the double P some importance, but it’s recognizable.


They also use the article lo (the) since the S is phonetically “impure” (esse impuro) meaning that it’s followed by another consonant, in this case, H. For more on articles, see Daniela’s lessons.


But let’s be clear. Lo shopping is not grocery shopping. To do the grocery shopping is fare la spesa (literally, to do the spending).


Whatever you do — lo shopping to buy some new shoes, or fare la spesa to buy groceries for a dinner you are planning, it’s handy to have some words to communicate with the shopkeepers.


More and more Italians are able to communicate with tourist-shoppers in English. But to be on the safe side, let’s look at some essential vocabulary.

Prices are often indicated, but if not, you need to ask:

Quanto costa il giubbino? -Trentacinque.

How much does the jacket cost? -Thirty-five.

Caption 19, Serena - in un negozio di abbigliamento - Part 2

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You won’t get arrested if you leave a store without a receipt, but it’s advisable to have it. In some places, the salesperson might try to get out of giving you a receipt, but it is your right to obtain it. Since tourists don’t necessarily know that, it’s easy to overlook it. If you need to return an item or exchange it, you will need the receipt. Sometimes you have to ask for it.

 

Mi dà lo scontrino per favore (can you give me a receipt, please)?

 

When it's offered, it's a good sign.

Grazie. -Aspetta che ti devo fare lo scontrino.

Thanks. -Wait, because I have to give you your receipt.

Caption 36, Serena - un pacchetto regalo

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Most shops accept electronic payment, but at the outdoor markets, cash is more common.

Pago icontanti.

I'll pay in cash.

Caption 40, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con Anna

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If you do pay in cash, you might not have any change, especially if you got some nice crisp banconote (bills) from the Bancomat (ATM machine).

Mi dispiacenon ho spiccioli.

I'm sorry, I don't have any change.

Caption 21, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con Anna

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So spiccioli  (with the accent on the first syllable) means "small change," but when we're talking about someone giving you change, it's a different story. Il resto does mean "the rest" but here, it means "[the rest of] what I owe you."

Ah, vabbé, non si preoccupi, ora Le do il resto. Prego.

Oh, OK, don't worry about it, now I'll give you your change. Here you are.

Caption 22, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con Anna

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Italians use the English word “cash” to mean “cash,” but sometimes they say "the cash" to mean la cassa, which is the cashier or check-out counter.

Dove si paga (where does one pay)?
Alla cassa (at the cash register/check-out counter).

 

Have you had any negative experiences in buying things on vacation in Italy? Do you have questions about shopping vocabulary or customs?

Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

 

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Pappa as opposed to Papa and Papà

We have seen various Yabla videos that use the noun pappa. But first of all, let's remember that there are two P's in the middle of pappa, and they both get pronounced. And the accent is on the first syllable. So don't even think of using it to address or talk about somebody's father. 

 

For "dad," or "daddy," we have papà, used more in the north (babbo is used inTuscany and other areas), with the accent on the second syllable, not to be confused with il papa, the pope, where the accent is on the first syllable.

 

Facevo, diciamo, un po' da figlio di papà, no?

I was, shall we say, sort of Daddy's boy, right?

Caption 44, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 10

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Make sure to use a single P in papà. Listen carefully to Yabla videos. Follow along with the Italian captions to pay attention to how Italians handle the single or double P. Try imitating the sounds.

 

Hear papa (pope) pronounced.

 

With pappa, we are usually talking about food that's soft. Little babies don't have teeth yet, so they need purees and the like. 

 

So, a dish made of dried bread that has been softened in liquid can very well be called a pappa. You can eat it with a spoon. (We also have the word “pap” in English—referring to bland, mushy food for babies and to mindless entertainment.)
Tuscan bread can definitely handle this kind of treatment and still have texture!

 

La Pappa has come to mean a meal for a baby or child, even if it contains chewable items.

 

Quando fanno la pappa, quindi quando mangiano, possono mettere dei bavaglini per proteggersi.

When they have their porridge, meaning, when they eat, they can wear bibs to protect themselves.

Captions 26-27, Marika spiega - L'abbigliamento - Part 2

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But pappa is also a way to referring to food, affectionately, and as we know by now, Italians love their food. The term is used by adults, too.

 

Bono [buono]! Il profumo è buono, eh! Eh, le tradizioni sono tradizioni! Eh! -C'è poco da fare! -Pappa!

Good! It smells good, huh! Yes, traditions are traditions! Yeah! -There's little to do about it! -Food!

Captions 44-46, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 8

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Viva la pappa!

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How Do Relative Pronouns Work in Italian

Relative pronouns allow us to combine two shorter sentences that are related to each other into a longer one made up of two clauses. Similarly to English, we distinguish between main or independent clauses and subordinate dependent clauses. And when there is a relative pronoun present, it is part of what's called "a relative clause."

 

The first relative pronoun that Daniela describes is che (that/which).

In questo esempio, quindi, il pronome relativo fa vece di pronome perché sostituisce la parola "casa" ma fa anche vece di congiunzione perché unisce le due frasi [sic: proposizioni].

In this example, therefore, the relative pronoun stands in for the pronoun because it replaces the word "house," but it also

takes on the role of a conjunction, because it joins two clauses.

Captions 44-48, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 1

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After watching the video, let's look at some further examples of what Daniela is talking about.

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani.

We're on the beach at Mondello, which is the beach used by Palermo's inhabitants.

Caption 3, Adriano - a Mondello

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Let's take this sentence apart and put it back together again.

 

The first sentence could be:

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello.
We're here on the beach at Mondello.

 

The second sentence could be:

La spiaggia di Mondello è la spiaggia dei palermitani.
The Mondello beach is the beach of the inhabitants of Palermo.

 

In order to combine these two short sentences, we use a relative pronoun to connect the clauses. We replace la spiaggia di Mondello with che (which), so it's both a pronoun that replaces a noun, and a conjunction that connects two parts of the [new] sentence.

Ci troviamo sulla spiaggia di Mondello, che è la spiaggia dei palermitani. 

 

Let's look at an example in which che translates nicely with "that," but can work fine with "which," too. In English, "that" and "which" are often interchangeable, but we need to keep in mind that "which" needs a comma before it, and "that" doesn't (most of the time). 

C'è un ballo tradizionale che si chiama il "salterello" [saltarello].

There's a traditional dance that is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].
There's a traditional dance, which is called the "saltarello" [literally, little jump].

Caption 38, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulle Marche

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Gli alpeggi sono le attività agricole zoologiche che si svolgono in estate in montagna.

Alpine grazing is an agricultural, zoological activity that take place in summer in the mountains.

Caption 27, L'Italia a tavola - Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 1

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In Italian, the relative pronoun che can refer to things or people. So in the following example, we can translate che as "who."

C'è sempre tantissima gente che aspetta di salire su.

There are always plenty of people who are waiting to go up.

Caption 17, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze - Part 5

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Dare: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Dare is an extremely common verb. It basically means "to give." But it also gets used as a sort of catch-all.

We've seen it many times in its informal, imperative form, all by itself:

Dai, dai, dai, dai che ti ho preparato una cosa buonissima che ti piace moltissimo.

Come on, come on, come on, come on, because I made you something very good, that you like a lot.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 3

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As we see, it doesn't mean "to give" in this case. It means something like "come on." As "come on," it has plenty of nuances.

 

Dai is often used as a filler, as part of an innocuous and fairly positive comment, and can mean something as generic as "OK." Let's keep in mind that va be' also means "OK!" Va be' is short for vabene (all right).

Mi dispiace, Massimo, ma dobbiamo rimandare il pranzo. Va beh, dai, se devi andare... facciamo un'altra volta.

I'm sorry, Massimo, but we have to postpone our lunch. OK, then, if you have to go... we'll do it some other time.

Captions 65-66, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2

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Dai is also used to express surprise and/or skepticism. In this case, it is often preceded by ma (but). We see this in last week's segment of Commissario Manara, when Luca figures out that Marta might be the target of a shooting. She feigns skepticism. 

E se per caso il bersaglio non fosse stata la Martini, ma fossi stata tu? Io? Ma dai!

And if by chance the target hadn't been Martini, but had been you? Me? Yeah, right!

Captions 5-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 13

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In English we use the verb  "to have" when giving commands: "Have a seat," "Have a drink," "Have a look." In Italian, though, the verb avere (to have) is rarely used in these situations. And there isn't just one Italian verb that is used, so it may be practical to learn some of these expressions one by one. 

 

We use the verb dare when asking someone to do something like check (dare una controllata), or have a look (dare un'occhiata).

Dai un'occhiatadai un'occhiata...

Have a look around, have a look around...

Caption 43, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 1

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Let's not forget the literal meaning of dare, which can easily end up in the informal imperative.

E che fai, non me lo dai un bacetto, Bubbù?

And what do you do, won't you give me a little kiss, Bubbù?

Caption 41, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 1

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And to echo last week's lesson, and give another example of a verbo pronominale  (a phrasal verb using particelle or short pronoun-related particles) — this time with dare — we have darsela. We have the root verb dare (to give) plus se (to oneself, to themselves, to each other) and la (it). It's hard to come up with a generic translation, as it depends on the other words in the expression, but here are two different ones from Yabla videos. Maybe you can come up with other examples, and we will be glad to dare un'occhiata. The phrasal verb here is darsela a gambe (to beat it, or run away on one's legs).

È che è molto difficile trovare la donna giusta. Secondo me, se la trovi, te la dai a gambe.

It's that it's very difficult to find the right woman. In my opinion, if you find her, you'll high-tail it out of there.

Captions 29-30, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9

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Here's an example from this week's episode of La Ladra:

Aldo Piacentini e la, la, la Barbara Ricci, insomma, i presunti amanti,
che se le davano di santa ragione.

Aldo Piacentini and, uh, uh, uh Barbara Ricci, anyway, the presumed lovers,
who were really beating the crap out of each other.

Captions 45-46, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 14

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The meaning of se le davano isn't very obvious, so let's try taking it apart. Se is a reciprocal indirect pronoun, "to each other"; le is the plural generic direct object pronoun, "them"; and dare, in this case, can stand for "to deliver". In English it might not mean much, but for Italians the meaning is quite clear.

 

We could say they are giving each other black eyes, if we want to use the original meaning of dare.

 

Di santa ragione adds emphasis or strength, and might be translated as "the holy crap," "the hell," or "really."

 

In case you didn't get a chance last week, check out this lesson about verbi pronominali. 

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The Dottore is In

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

 

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

Io e la mia famiglia dobbiamo tutto al Dottor Dalmasso.

My family and I owe everything to Doctor Dalmasso.

Caption 61, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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

 

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

Dottore! -Gina! -Dottore! Dottor Giacomo. Che succede? -Signora, Giacomo non risponde. -Giacomo!

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

Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 1

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

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

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

Caption 24, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 14

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

Sì, avvocato De Santis.

Yes, Attorney De Santis.

Caption 50, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3

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

 

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

Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.

Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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

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

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Making Sense of Comparatives and Superlatives

This week, Daniela concludes her lessons on the comparative and the superlative. Let's take a moment and review the series because, coming from English, we might want to put the lessons together in a different way.

 

As we have seen, the comparative and superlative work a bit differently than in English. In English we have two ways of the comparative and superlative of an adjective: by changing the adjective itself (as in "big," "bigger," "biggest") or by adding "more" or "less" before the adjective, as with the adjective "beautiful." But in Italian, comparatives and superlatives are formed using più (more) or meno (less) plus the adjective. Attenzione! The adjective buono is an exception to this. Learn more here.

 

In the first lesson, Daniela explains the comparativo di maggioranza (majority), which corresponds to “more” plus the adjective in English. If it's meno (less), we call it comparativo di minoranza (minority).

 

Even though we don't use these terms in English, they are fairly self-explanatory. In English, after the comparative adjective, we use the conjunction "than" before the second part of the comparison: This book is bigger than that one.

 

But in Italian, there are two different conjunctions we use when comparing things: di (than, of) or che (than). This is a big deal and somewhat tricky. Daniela starts explaining it in the first video and continues explaining here and here.

 

Daniela then explains all about comparing things that are equalcomparativo di uguaglianza. We discuss this further here. This is tricky in any language, and Italian is no exception. Daniela begins talking about it here and continues herehere and here.

 

Daniela dedicates three segments to the absolute superlative. There is no comparison with anything; it's absolute. We discuss this further here.

 

So if you are interested in getting the scoop on how to say "the best of all," then go straight to this week's lesson, where Daniela shows us how this — the regular old superlative — works in Italian. It called the superlativo relativo, since this superlative is relative to a group of elements. As she explains...

"È l'amico più generoso di tutti". Sto paragonando la qualità dell'essere generoso del mio amico all'essere generoso di tutti.
"He is the most generous friend of all." I am comparing the quality of being generous of my friend, to the generosity of all.
Caption 24, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Superlativo relativo

 

 

The superlativo relativo corresponds, roughly, to the superlative in English, in respect to the comparative, as when we add "-est" to an adjective: nice, nicer, nicest.

 

In Italian, we still use the modifiers più (more) and meno (less) but with the addition of the definite article before it, it becomes "the most" or "the least."

 

Let's take the adjective bello whose English equivalent "beautiful" needs "more" or "less" to make it comparative.

Margherita è bella (Margaret is beautiful). [positivo]
Margherita è più bella di Barbara (she is more beautiful than Barbara). [comparativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è la piu bella di tutte le quattro sorelle. She is the most beautiful of all four sisters. [superlativo relativo di maggioranza]

Margherita è intelligente (Margherita is intelligent). [positivo]
Margherita è meno intelligente di Barbara (Margherita is less intelligent than Barbara). [comparativo di minoranza]
Elisabetta è la meno intelligente di tutte le sorelle (Elisabetta is the least intelligent of all the sisters). [superlativo comparativo di minoranza]

 

We hope this helps you make sense of the comparative and superlative in Italian. 

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Dotato o Negato? (Gifted or Talentless?)

Either you've got it or you don't. In English you have talent or you don't have it. But in Italian, there is a special word for each end of the scale. Dotato or negato.

Il maestro dice che non ha mai visto nessuno più negato di me.

The teacher says he has never seen anyone less gifted than me.

Caption 41, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema - Part 9

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So the speaker had to use the Italian comparative adverb più (more) before the adjective negato (not at all gifted). Whew! Talk about something not translating smoothly into English!

 

Negato is really a great word, though. It offers a great excuse when you want to get out of doing something you don't like to do. 

Sono negato! Fallo tu.
I'm no good at this! You do it.

 

That isn't to say that we can't also talk about having or not having talent, as, for example, in a recent segment of Adriano Olivetti's story:

Adriano, tu hai così tanti talenti.

Adriano, you have so many talents.

Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 7

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Another way we can translate negato is "hopeless," because negato implies that one is never going to get better at something. He or she is lacking in the wherewithal to improve. Instead of a higher being bestowing a gift (the gift of talent) on someone, it has been denied him or her.

Ma, dottore non mi dice niente? -Le dico che Lei è negato.

But Doctor don't you have anything to say? -I'll tell you that you're hopeless.

Captions 43-44, Psicovip Il ballo - Ep 25

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And in fact, the verb negare means "to deny."

Senta, Lei è un bel tipo, io non lo posso negare,

Listen, you're a cute type, I can't deny it,

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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"Let Me Know" in Italian

 

In an episode of Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno, at the very end, there is an expression that's used just about every day, especially at the end of a conversation, email, a phone call, or text message, so let's have a look.

In this particular case, one person is talking to a few people, so he uses the imperative plural, which happens to be the same as the indicative in the second person plural. 

Fatemi sapere.

Let me know.

Caption 62, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8

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Let's take the phrase apart. The verb fare (to make) has been combined with the object pronoun mi which stands for a me (to me). To that is added the verb sapere (to know), in the infinitive.

 

So, first of all, we might have been tempted to use the verb lasciare (to let, to leave). It would be a good guess, but instead, we use the ubiquitous verb fare"to make me know." Sounds strange in English, right? But in Italian, it sounds just right. You'll get used to it the more you say and hear it. 

 

Let's look at this expression in the singular, which is how you will use it most often.

 

The most generic version is this: fammi sapere (let me know).

Va be', quando scopri qualcosa fammi sapere.

OK, when you discover something, let me know.

Caption 34, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 3

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This use of "to make" plus a verb in the infinitive is also used a lot with verbs besides sapere (to know).

Do a Yabla search of fammi and you will see for yourself. There are lots of examples with all kinds of verbs.

Chi c'è alle mie spalle? Fammi vedere. -Francesca.

Who's behind me? Let me see. -Francesca.

Caption 13, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 1

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Sometimes we need to add a direct object to our sentence: "Let me see it."

In this case, all those little words get combined into one word. Fammelo vedere (literally "let me it see" or Let me see it).

Using fare means we conjugate fare, but not the other verb, which can make life easier!

 

Fare is a verb that is used on so many occasions. Read more lessons about fare

 

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When Pensare Doesn't Mean "to Think"

 

One of our readers has expressed interest in knowing more about a certain kind of verb: the kind that has a special idiomatic meaning when it has particelle (particles) attached to it. In Italian these are called verbi pronominali. See this lesson about verbi pronominali. The particular verb he mentioned is pensarci, so that's where we are going to start.

 

The root verb is pensare, so we assume it has to do with "thinking." The particle is ciCi is one of those particles that mean a lot of things, so check out these lessons about ci. In the following example, pensare is literal: "to think," and ci stands for "of it."

Ma certo! Come ho fatto a non pensarci prima?

But of course! Why didn't I think of it before!

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 10

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Sometimes, when used as a kind of accusation, it's basically the same but it has a different feeling.

È un anno che organizziamo questo viaggio. -Potevi pensarci prima.

We've been organizing this trip for a year. -You could have thought of that before.

Caption 32, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 2

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In the two previous examples, pensarci stays in the infinitive, because we have another helping or modal verb in the sentence. But we can conjugate it, too. In the following example, it is conjugated in the second person singular informal imperative.

Pensarci can mean "to think of it," but it can also mean "to think about it."

Noi non potremmo mai mandare avanti la fabbrica da soli, lo sai bene. Adriano, pensaci.

We could never run the factory on our own. You know that well. Adriano, think about it.

Captions 37-38, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8

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But sometimes, pensare doesn't exactly mean to think. It means something more along the lines of "to take care," "to handle," and here, pensare is really tied to the little particle ci as far as meaning goes. Ci still means "of it" or "for it." But we're talking about responsibility. Ci pensi tu (will you take responsibility for getting this done)? For this meaning, it's important to repeat the pronoun, in this case, tu. It helps make the meaning crystal clear, and is part of the idiom. What a huge difference adding the pronoun makes!

Barbagallo, pensaci tu.

Barbagallo, you take care of it.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 16

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Toscani, io c'ho un appuntamento, pensaci tu.

Toscani, I have an appointment, you take care of it.

Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 7

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Even though in meaning, ci is connected to pensare, we can still separate the two words.

Ci penso io!
I'll take care of it!

 

Ci pensa lei!
She'll take care of it.

 

Pensarci is a very widely used verb in all of its meanings. When you want someone else to do something, it's a very common way of asking. Here are some examples to think about.


Ci pensi tu a lavare i piatti (will you take care of washing the dishes)?
Ci pensi tu a mettere benzina (will you take care of getting gas)?
Ci pensi tu al bucato (will you take care of the laundry)?
Ci pensi tu a preparare la cena (will you take care of getting dinner ready)?
Ci pensate voi a mettere a posto dopo cena? Io vado a dormire (will you [plural] clean up after dinner? I'm going to bed)!
Vuoi veramente comprare una macchina nuovaPensaci bene (do you really want to buy a new car? Think twice about it).
È il momento per andare in vacanzaPensiamoci bene (is it the right time to go on vacation? Let's think about it a moment).

 

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Absolutely Superlative!

 

We've talked recently about comparatives of equality, and so it makes sense to talk about yet another kind of comparative. We're not really comparing two or more items, but rather giving one item a very high vote.

 

In English we use words or prefixes such as "super," "very," "extra," "maximum," "mega."

 

There is a super easy way to make adjectives into absolute superlatives in Italian.

 

Daniela explains how this works:

Ripeto due volte la parola "bravo" e dico: "Lui è bravo bravo".

I repeat the word “brilliant” twice and I say, “He is brilliant brilliant.”

Captions 5-6, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Superlativo assoluto - Part 2

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There are certain adjectives we use quite frequently in this form to express an absolute superlative.

 

One is bello (beautiful, nice):

Là, a quelle, in mezzo a quelle canne ci sono due belle fagiani [fagiane] con un maschione bello bello.

There, in those, in the middle of those canes, there are two nice pheasants with a really nice big male.

Captions 70-71, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 3

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Another is piccolo (small):

e aveva soltanto un balcone... per prendere un po' d'aria e un appartamento piccolo piccolo.

and he only had a balcony... for getting a bit of air, and a tiny, tiny apartment.

Captions 22-24, Andromeda - e i gatti 2 - Part 1

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Still another is nuovo (new):

Se si vince, si prende il primo premio. Me lo dici che premio è? Un carro armato vero, nuovo nuovo.

If we win, we'll get the first prize. Will you tell me what the prize is? A real tank, brand new.

Captions 19-21, Trailer - La vita è bella - Roberto Benigni

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There are lots of others, and you will, little by little, start noticing them as you listen to spoken Italian, where they occur most frequently.

 

Practice: 
Think of things in your everyday life, and try forming sentences with this form of the superlativo assoluto. It's fun and easy.

Here's a head start.

Il frigo è vuoto vuoto (the fridge is completely empty).
Questo pavimento è sporco sporco (this floor is very dirty).
Il disco rigido è pieno pieno (the hard drive is totally full).
Questo video era facile facile da capire (this video was super easy to understand).
Tieni il volume basso basso (keep the volume really low).

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Comparatives of Equality

We have seen that comparatives work a bit differently in Italian as compared to English. Read more here. For most adjectives and adverbs in Italian, there is no specific comparative form. We use the adverbs più (more) or meno  (less) to form the comparative. Notable exceptions are buono (good) and bene (well), which have their own comparative forms. We have discussed them here

 

But things get tricky when we compare things that are equal. For the most part, in English, we use the same adverb or conjunction "as" in both parts of the comparison. 

 

You are as tall as I am. We are both the same height.

 

In Italian, there are basically two pairs of words that are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. Tanto (lots, as much) pairs with quanto (how much), and così (like, so) pairs with come (how, as).

Il comparativo di uguaglianza si forma facendo precedere l'aggettivo dall'avverbio "tanto", o "così", seguito dall'aggettivo, più "come" o "quanto".

The comparative of equality is formed by placing the adverb "tanto" [as much] or "cosi" [like, as], followed by the adjective, plus "as" or "as much."

Captions 23-28, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Comparativo - Part 3

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And sometimes we can omit one of the two words in a pair. Tutto sommato (all in all), it can be a bit confusing.

 

Here are some examples of complete sentences from Yabla that feature comparatives of equality, so you can become more familiar with them. 

Insomma, i ponti sono tanto frequentati quanto sconosciuti ai romani di oggi.

In other words, the bridges are as traveled as they are unknown to the Romans of today.

Caption 44, I Love Roma - guida della città - Part 8

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Ed è stata tanto colpa nostra quanto colpa sua.

And it was as much our fault as his fault.

Caption 55, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 3

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The following example uses che, another ingredient of comparatives, as described by Daniela, but here, it's used incorrectly. This just goes to show that comparatives of equality can be tricky for Italians, too.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto della vita che della cucina.

Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, as much in life as in cuisine.

Caption 18, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 10

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Here is what the speaker should have said.

Disarmonie e contrasti sono ingredienti indispensabili tanto nella vita quanto nella cucina.
Disharmonies and contrasts are indispensable ingredients, in life as well as in the kitchen.

 

This next example compares two comparatives on equal terms (more=more). Can you wrap your head around it

Quanto più l'impasto è durotanto meglio viene la pasta.

The stiffer the dough, the better the pasta will be.

Caption 45, Marino - La maccaronara

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In the following example, Adriano is using così come to compare the adjective intenso (intense) on an equal basis between one day and other days.  

Spero che anche voi possiate avere delle giornate così intense come questa.

I hope that you too can have days that are as intense as this one.

Caption 56, Adriano - Giornata

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We often find così and come together in a sentence and it can often be translated as "just as" or "just like."

Al verso è docile e al contro è duro, così come la vita.

Along the grain it's soft and against the grain it's hard, just like life.

Captions 11-12, Claudio Capotondi - Scultore - Part 1

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Here are examples of the two types of pairings, along with versions where the first adverb is omitted, as described by Daniela.

Non conosco nessuno così bravo come te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo come te.
I don't know anyone smart like you.
Non conosco nessuno tanto bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.
Non conosco nessuno bravo quanto te.
I don't know anyone as smart as you.

 

Practice: 
Try looking around your home and comparing things. 

Questa stanza è più grande di quella (this room is bigger than that one).
Quella stanza è meno grande di questa (That room is smaller than this one).
Questo tavolo è tanto grande quanto quel tavolo lì (this table is as big as that one there).
Questo tavolo è grande quanto quello lì (this table is as big as that one there).
La mia poltrona è tanto comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).
La mia poltrona è comoda quanto la tua (my armchair is as comfortable as yours).

 

Start simple and get comfortable. Hint: In comparisons of equality, it's more common to omit the first adverb than to include it, at least in everyday speech. Whew! 

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3 Ways of being a cavallo (on horseback)

There's a great expression in Italian to describe being between two things: cavallo, or rather, essere a cavallo di or tra/fra (to straddle) meaning con un piede da una parte euno dall'altra (with one foot on one side and the other on the other side).

Di solito, questo stato influenzale, quindi il raffreddore o l'influenza, si prende nel periodo che è a cavallo di due stagioni in particolare.

Usually, this flu-like state, that is, a cold or the flu is caught in the period that straddles two seasons in particular:

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega - Il raffreddore

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The expression is often used figuratively when referring to historical dates: cavallo di due secoli —negli anni finali di un secolo e iniziali del successivo (straddling two centuries: in the last years of one century and the first years of the following one).

 

We also use cavallo to mean touching on two or three places. 

Maratea si trova al sud d'Italia, eh... a cavallo di tre regioni:

Maratea is located in the south of Italy, uh... straddling three regions:

Caption 35, Antonio - Maratea, la carne e il pesce

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But without the proposition di (of) or fra/tra (between), cavallo means something else entirely.

 

Essere a cavallo can mean "to be golden, in good shape." In other words, we're riding horses rather than having to walk, and that's a good achievement.

Ora lo facciamo analizzare e se corrisponde a quello trovato sul mio cuscino, siamo a cavallo.

Now we'll have it analyzed and if it corresponds to the one found on my pillow, we'll be in the saddle [all set].

Captions 11-13, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 10

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Firmi, ed è fatta. Ah, allora siamo a cavallo, vedi?

Sign, and it's done. Ah, so we're on horseback [we're on our way, we're in good shape], you see?

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 12

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Of course, there is the literal meaning as well: andare a cavallo (to go horseback riding).

E a cavallo ci si arriva?

And can you get there on horseback?

Caption 63, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Puglia

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Ci Siamo (we're there)!

Let's look at a few idiomatic expressions people tend to use when holidays are approaching. They're useful at other times of the year, too.

 

The title of this lesson is ci siamo (we are there). It literally means "we are there," or "we are here," but often means "this is the moment we've all been waiting for" or "we have succeeded." It can also mean "this is the moment we were dreading!"

Ecco qua, ci siamo quasi.

Here we go, we're almost there.

Caption 73, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 3

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And when we use it in the negative, non ci siamo, it can mean, "this is not a good thing." It's a synonym for non va bene (this is not OK).

No, no, non ci siamo.

No, no, we're not getting anywhere.

Caption 91, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Sardegna

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Natale è alle porte [Christmas is at the doors] (Christmas is just around the corner).

 

Siamo sotto Natale. Sotto usually means "under/underneath/below," but in this case, it means during, or we could construe it to mean under the influence of the holidays. 

 

Sotto le festei negozi fanno orari straordinari (around/during the holidays, shops keep extended hours).

 

In Italy, le feste non finiscono più (the holidays never end). 

 

Christmas starts on the 24th of December with la vigilia (Christmas Eve) and lasts until la Befana (Epiphany). Only after that do kids go back to school and things get back to normal.

 

The 26th of December is Santo Stefano, (Saint Stephen's Day), a perfect time for visiting relatives you didn't see on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Traditionally, shops are closed, but oggi giorno (these days), anything goes.

 

And if there is a weekend in the middle of the festivities, there's il ponte (a four or five-day weekend, literally, "the bridge").

 

Quando una festa viene il giovedì, spesso si fa il ponte (when there's a holiday on Thursday, we often take Friday off for a long weekend).

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Comodo: Comfortable or Handy?

The adjective comodo (comfortable) is easy to find in the dictionary, and is easy to understand, too, in a normal context.

Questo divano è molto comodo (this sofa is very comfortable).

 

Tu disfa le valigie, mettiti comodo.

You unpack your bags. Get comfortable.

Caption 114, Casa Vianello - Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1

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In this context, we also have the verb accomodare, which means to get comfortable, but it is used in a wide range of expressions about placing someone or something somewhere or even repairing something. 

Se ho degli ospiti a pranzo o a cena, li faccio accomodare qui, a questo tavolo.

If I have guests for lunch or for dinner, I have them sit here at this table.

Captions 34-36, Marika spiega - Il salone

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This verb is very often used in its reflexive form, accomodarsi, especially in formal situations, such as in an office when someone asks you to come in, sit down, or wait somewhere.

Signora Casadio, prego, si accomodi.

Missus Casadio, please have a seat.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4

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Consider this exchange between two young people. Here the ti (the object pronoun "you") is connected to the verb, but the information is the same as in the previous example. And make sure to put the accent on the first in accomodati.

Scusami, è libero? Sì certo, accomodati. -Posso? -Sì sì... -Grazie.

Pardon me, is this place free? Yes, sure, have a seat. -May I? -Sure... -Thanks.

Captions 2-3, Milena e Mattia - L'incontro

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But there are other contexts in which comodo is used in Italian, and these might be a bit harder to grasp.

 

Comodo can mean "convenient," as in an easy answer, as in over-simplifying.

Ho cambiato idea, me ne ero dimenticato, non gliel'ho detto?

I changed my mind, I had forgotten, didn't I tell you?

Troppo comodo, Manara. Ormai le sue dimissioni saranno già protocollate.

Too convenient, Manara. At this point, your resignation will have been registered.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 4

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In a recent segment of a special Christmas video Casa Vianello, after welcoming their guest and asking him to make himself at home (as in our first example), the Vianellos argue, as they often do. They use a common expression: fare comodo (to be useful, convenient, handy), often paired with the adverb sempre (always) to qualify it. Mrs. Vianello starts in without really thinking through what she is saying:

Comunque, un figlio fa sempre comodo.

Anyway, a child always comes in handy.

Ma come fa sempre comodo? Tu parli di un figlio come se si trattasse di un paio di pantofole di lana.

But what do you mean "One always comes in handy?" You talk about kids as if it were about a pair of woolen house slippers.

Captions 150-152, Casa Vianello - Natale in Casa Vianello - Part 1

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The following example offers a more normal context for fare comodo, this time in the past conditional.

Che caldo!

It's so hot!

Certo, un ombrellone nelle ore centrali del giorno avrebbe fatto veramente comodo.

Of course, an umbrella for the middle of the day would have been really handy.

Captions 1-2, Una gita - al lago - Part 3

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And here's an example closer to home!

Fanno molto comodo i sottotitoli in due lingue, no?
Subtitles in two languages are very handy, aren't they?

 

For a different sort of expression where comodo is featured, see this lesson

Comodofare comodoaccomodare, and accomodarsi are all closely related, but cover a lot of different kinds of situations and contexts. Little by little, you will get better at untangling them from one another as you continue to listen, read, speak, and write.

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2 Words about Trying:Provare and Provarci

Provare is a verb that has so many meanings and nuances that it merits some attention. In this week's episode of La Ladra, it has a special meaning that is important to be aware of, especially for those who are thinking about dating.

 

But first, let's go to the basic meanings of this verb. Provare is one of several synonyms meaning "to try." See this lesson about this meaning of provare.

Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.

I'm going to try now. Let's see if I succeed.

Captions 50-51, Francesca neve - Part 3

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This exact same construction takes on a different meaning when we're talking about people being sentimentally interested in one another.  Every language has different terms that come into general use when talking about relationships, like "going out," "dating," "going steady" in English, and in Italian, stare insieme (to be together, to be a couple, to go steady).

 

But before that happens, there is usually an approach. We used to call this courting. These days it can be in person, by text, by phone or in person. It can start with a flirtation. But one person has to approach the other. He or she has to try to get the other person's attention. Because there isn't a true equivalent in Italian, flirtare (to flirt) has become a verb we find in the dictionary. 

 

But generally, this stage of the game, the approach, especialy when it's not very subtle, is described in Italian with provarci.

 

So if I want to say, "That guy was flirting with me!" I might say: Ci stava provando con me!

 

Literally, it means "to try it" as in our first example, but, ci, as we know from previous lessons, means many things, and it can mean "to or with something or someone."

Ci vengo anch'io. I'll come with you [there].

 

In this week's episode of La Ladra, Barbara, an employee, is interested in her boss and she doesn't want any interference, and so she gives Alessia, her co-worker, a rough time and accuses her of flirting with him. In reality, poor, shy Alessia has no such intentions, and is quite shocked to be accused of anything of the sort. In this specific context, provarci means to try to get the sentimental attentions of someone (often by flirting).

Alessia:
Ma questo non significa che io... 

But that doesn't mean that I...
Barbara:
Ho visto come lo guardi, sai?

I've seen how you look at him, you know.
Ma tu, con Aldo, non ci devi neppure provare.
But you with Aldo, you mustn't even try to get his attention.
Alessia:
Io? Ma sei matta?

Me? But are you nuts?

Captions 20-23, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4

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On a general level, however, provarci just means "to try it," as in our first example. In English we leave out any object: we just say "I tried." In Italian, there is usually ci as a general, even neutral, object. It is often shortened to a "ch" sound in a contraction. C'ho provato (I tried). Provaci is an informal command: "Give it a try!"

 

The Italian title for an old Woody Allen film is Provaci ancora, Sam.

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