Italian Lessons


Being in the Mood with Stato d'Animo

Italian uses two similar words to talk about the soul or the spirit: animo (soul) and anima (soul, spirit). They basically mean the same thing, but if you look at the dictionary entries, each word has further translations that are more specific. 

They may be interchangeable in certain cases, but there are expressions that always use one or the other, such as stato d'animo. (We'll look at expressions with anima in another lesson.)
...e attraversando i pensieri, gli stati d'animo.
...and going over one's thoughts, one's states of mind.
Captions 19-20, Federica Reale: Io e la mia Pupezza  


Stato d'animo does mean "state of mind" but it also means "mood" — where you're at psychologically or emotionally — or "frame of mind." We're talking about the non-physical aspects of how one is feeling.Non ho lo stato d'animo per iniziare un progetto nuovo.

Non sono nello stato d'animo per iniziare un progetto nuovo.
I'm not in the right frame of mind to start a new project.
I'm not in the mood to start on a new project.


Being in the mood is important to be able to communicate, so stato d'animo is a good phrasal noun to have in your vocabulary.


Anima and animo are so similar that we might not notice the difference. That's why this lesson happened. Now you know!

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Branching off with Innesto and Diramazione

At the very beginning of a recent video about an abandoned villa, we see a road sign. It's actually a trail marker. It says innesto. If you look up innesto in the dictionary, it gives "graft." "Graft" doesn't seem to have much to do with hiking. But that's the beauty of it. You can't really make a connection in the dictionary, but if we think about plants, where we traditionally use the word "graft," we have a main stem or trunk to which we attach a new plant. To find the "graft" point of trail number "01," percorri (you travel) 0.7 kilometers.

Note that Italians use a virgola (comma) instead of a decimal point and they sayvirgola rather than "point." Zero virgola sette (zero point seven).


Innesto is used when a bypass or secondary road has been connected to a main road. It signals the beginning of that road, the point at which it has been grafted. We might also use the word "junction."

[Innesto zero uno, Km zero virgola sette; Villa Bosniaski Km uno virgola quattro]
[Junction [of trail] zero one, zero point seven kilometers; Villa Bosniaski: one point four kilometers]
Captions 1, In giro per l'Italia - Asciano - S. Giuliano Terme: Villa Bosniascki - Part 1 of 2 


If you plan a road trip in Italy, another indication you will see on your percorso (route) is diramazione. In fact, between Pisa and Lucca, there is a very old road called Strada statale12 (state road 12) or SS 12, but there is also a new road. It's called SS12 dir. or SS12 racc.Let's look at these abbreviations.


Dir. is an abbreviation for diramazione. If we look at plants again, we have ramo, the word for "branch." So a diramazione is a branching off from the main road. It's similar to innesto, but innesto refers to the point of attachment. Diramazione refers to the new road in general. 

If you don't read the signs carefully, you can easily end up on la strada sbagliata (the wrong road).


Finally, if you travel to Rome by car, you'll see signs for the G.R.A., which stands for Grande Raccordo Anulare (big ring linking road). As you can see on the map below, it's a big ring road or beltway around the city of Rome, that connects all the roads running towards and away from Rome.

Racc. is the abbreviation for raccordo, which means "link" or "junction." 

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Regolare: Aggettivo e Verbo

Regolare, which sounds very much like "regular" is both a verb (to regulate, to adjust) and an adjective (normal, standard, regular, legitimate).

In questo corridoio io ho anche il condizionatore dell'aria calda e fredda, che mi aiuta un po' a regolare la temperatura.
In this corridor, I also have a hot and cold air conditioner, which helps me to regulate the temperature a bit.
Captions 28-29, Marika spiega: Il corridoio

As an adjective, regolare comes up a lot when talking about verbs and conjugations.

Come vedete, il verbo è regolare nella formazione della desinenza.
As you can see, the verb is regular in the formation of its ending.
Caption 14, Corso di italiano con Daniela: L'imperfetto - Part 2 of 4 


Note that we also have the noun la regola (the rule), and often the adjective regolare refers to following the rules or the law, such as in the following example. Note also that the opposite of regolare is irregolare, just as "irregular" is the opposite of "regular." 

Ma per eliminare l'immigrazione irregolare e clandestina bisogna favorire quella regolare.
But to eliminate illegal and clandestine immigration, we need to favor the legitimate kind.
Caption 23, Dottor Pitrè: e le sue storie - Part 14   


As a verb, it can also be used reflexively: regolarsi, and that's how it's used in this week's episode of Commissario Manara.  Manara is asking his team to adapt to the theme of the party: the eighties. He might also have meant, "Figure it out," or "Control yourselves." 

Il tema della festa è anni ottanta, quindi regolatevi.
The theme of the party is the eighties, so act accordingly.
Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara: S2Ep4 - Miss Maremma - Part 11 of 14  


This reflexive form is used a lot when discussing how to behave, how to react to a particular situation.

Mi regolo (I adjust my schedule, my opinion, or my actions [according to something]).


When used in the negative, it usually means I can't or won't control myself. I'm not careful, not disciplined. 

Quando mangio al ristorante, non mi regolo (when I go out to eat, I don't watch what I eat).


This isn't all there is to the common verb/adjective regolare. We will try to address additional subtleties as they come up in future videos. Meanwhile, if you have questions about how to translate "regular" or any other English words you're having trouble finding the Italian equivalent of, please let us know, and ci regoleremo (we'll figure out how to help you).

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Correre (to Run): Finding the Flow

Sometimes learning just one verb can open up a world of related words we can figure out without having to look for the exact word in English. The verb correre (to run, to rush, to flow, to race, to cycle on a racing bike) is one such word. It comes from the Latin "currere." Looking at the conjugation chart, on the left-hand side, you will see other words that contain the root verb correre. They conjugate the same way.


If we visualize movement in a direction, we can see the connection with so many words. Here are a few.

Related nouns:

il corriere (the courier, the shipping company)
la corriera (the bus).

Related adjectives (from the present participle):

corrente as in acqua corrente (running/flowing water)
corrente as in mese corrente (current month)
corrente as in essere al corrente (to be well-informed, to know about)

A noun related to corrente the adjective:

la corrente (the electricity, the electrical current)

A noun from corso, the past participle of correre:

corso (course)

With the noun corso, we have a true cognate: a course of study, a golf course. But if you connect the noun corso with its root verb correre, and again think of movement in a direction, either concretely or figuratively, then some words and expressions suddenly become easier to grasp and assimilate.

Lavori in corso (work in progress) 
Nel corso del discorso (during the speech)


Getting back to the verb correre itself, check out this lesson to find out when you use essereor avere as an auxiliary verb with it. 

Correre is an intransitive verb. This means it can't have a direct object.

Ah! Mi è venuta in mente quella volta che correvamo in bici e siamo caduti insieme! 
Ah, I just remembered [it came to my mind] that time we were cycling and we fell down together.
Captions 44 - 45, Marika spiega:Il verbo venire - Part 2 of 2 

Ho corso due ore. Sono stanca morta.
I ran for two hours. I'm exhausted.

But when we need a transitive verb, that is, a verb with a direct object, then we turn to percorrere (to follow, to go down, to travel along). 

Sembra un paese addormentato nella pianura, è difficile incontrarlo. Devi percorrere strade e acque silenziose e solitarie.
It seems like a sleeping village on the plains, it's difficult to come upon it. You have to followsilent and solitary roads and waterways.
Captions 44 - 45, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 3  

This verb has a noun form, too: il percorso (the path, the route, the itinerary, the journey).

Ma tutto il mio percorso creativo parte fondamentalmente da una scultura.
But my entire creative journey essentially started out from one sculpture.
Captions 8-9 Claudio Capotondi: Scultore - Part 2 of 6


We'll look more closely percorrere and percorso next month, as well as other related words. Hopefully, you will be able to build your vocabulary using your intuition as well as your flashcards.

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When Less is More with Un Po'

In the expression un po’,  po’ is short for poco (small quantity). Poco is a very common word that can be an adjective, adverb, noun, or pronoun, and, depending on the context, can correspond to different degrees of quantity.

This week on Yabla, we take a first look at the city of Florence. Arianna has a map to help her figure out how to get around. As she thinks out loud, she uses a common phrase:

Vediamo un pocome possiamo raggiungere il centro della città.
Let's have a look at how we can reach the center of the city.
Caption 7, In giro per l'Italia: Firenze Part 1 

Another way to translate vediamo un po’ is simply “let’s see.” It is extremely common for Italians to add un po’ to a verb, just to round off the expression:

Sentite un poil congiuntivo imperfetto e trapassato:
Have a listen to the simple past and past perfect subjunctive:
Caption 27, Anna e Marika: Il verbo essere - Part 4 of 4 



Allora ci dice un po' quali sono frutta e verdura tipiche romane?
So could you tell us a moment, which fruits and vegetables are typically Roman?
Caption 37, Anna e Marika: Fruttivendolo

In the example above, the addition of un po doesn’t really add any meaning to the phrase, but it rounds it out. We might also translate it as:

So could you just tell us what fruits and vegetables are typically Roman?

Sometimes un po’ can mean “pretty much” or “just about.” It loses its actual diminutive significance.

Al nord abbiamo precipitazioni e burrasche, un po' dappertutto.
In the north we have rain and storms, just about everywhere.
Caption 59, Anna e Marika: in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 9 of 10 

It can be used to give a vague kind of answer:

Sì. Un poun po'.
Yes, in a way, yesin a way, no [a little bit and a little bit].
Caption 15, Amiche: Filosofie

Ironically, we can also use un po’ to mean a lot, when we insert the adjective bello (nice, beautiful): un bel po’ (a good amount, a good number, plenty).

Non deve essere troppo salata, non... insomma ci sono un bel po' di cose da sapere legate alla mozzarella.
It shouldn't be too salty, not... in other words, there are plenty of things to know in connection with mozzarella.
Captions 30-31, Anna e Marika: La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1 of 3

Un po’ has come to mean so many different amounts, and can also  simply mean “some.”

Mi dai un po’ di pane?
Could you give me some bread?


So, if someone asks you if you speak Italian, you can answer un po’ but if you really want to say you don’t speak much at all, you might use the diminutive of an already “diminutive” word: un pochino. Or you might even diminish the amount further by saying pochissimo.

Practice - verbs in context:

Returning to this week’s video about Florence, here are the infinitive forms of the verbs Arianna uses in the first person plural (with noi/we). Can you recognize their conjugated forms in the video? Attenzione, some of them are used as auxiliaries/helping verbs attached to other verbs. You can use your ears to listen for the verbs while watching the video, or use your eyes with the transcript (you’ll find the pop-up link following the description of the video). Don’t forget, you can choose to see only Italian or Italian and English. A couple of these verbs are irregular, but super common. Why not take the opportunity to review the other conjugations of these verbs? Links are provided to a conjugation chart for each verb.

Essere (to be)

Vedere (to see)

Andare (to go)

Stare (to be/to continue to be)

Potere (to be able to/can)

Attraversare (to cross)

Chiamare (to call)

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Being Miffed in Italian

In this week's segment of La Ladra, Eva is pretty miffed at her son. He lied to her and probably did worse. So when he promises to do something right, she doesn't say thank you, because she expects nothing less. She uses an expression that is very handy and easy to use because it's always in the third person and can stand alone.

Ti prometto che vado a scuola in bici. OK?
I promise I'll go to school by bike. OK?
You had better.
Captions 54 - 55, La Ladra :Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 4 of 13


To use this expression, we use the future tense. As we have already discussed in a previous lesson, the future doesn't always actually mean the future. In this particular case, it may be hard to pin down the correct tense, but the tone is clear. You better get in line. If you don't do as you've promised, you're going to be in big trouble.


Sarà is the third person singular of the verb essere (to be). For more about this verb and this tense, see these video lessons from Daniela.


As a stand-alone expression, sarà meglio (one/you had better) works in many situations, especially if you raise your eyebrows. But it can also be part of a more complicated sentence including the subjunctive.

È da solo? -No, in compagnia del mio telefonino.
Are you alone? -No, in the company of my cell phone.
Allora sarà meglio che Le parli prima che squilli.
So I had better talk to you before it rings.
It would be better for me to talk to you before it rings.
Captions 42 - 44, La Ladra: Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 9 of 17


An even shorter expression uses the verb essere (to be) in the third person singular future on its own, to mean, "that might very well be." You don't have to be miffed to use this expression, but you're probably somewhat skeptical.

Hai visto che non è come sembra, ma molto meglio?
You see that he's not like he seems, but much better?
Sarà, ma quella bionda che abbracciava nella Spider non sembrava un fornitore di tartufi.
That might very well be, but that blonde he was hugging in the Spider didn't look like a truffle dealer.
He might very well be, but that blonde he was hugging in the Spider didn't look like a truffle dealer.
Captions 41 -43, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 3 of 13


As you go about your day, try experimenting with sarà meglio (you are the boss and you're not taking any flak) and sarà (you're listening but you are skeptical).

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How to Tell a Story in Italian, Part 2

In this week’s lesson with Daniela, we learn another way to set the scene of a story. We talked about using the presente (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) in a previous lesson. Now we’ll talk about using the imperfetto (imperfect tense) to set the scene in the past without specifying the duration or pinpointing the moment in time of an action. We use theimperfetto to describe the characteristics of something in the past.

Allora, l'imperfetto viene usato per fare descrizioni di paesaggi, del tempo, delle qualità di una persona o di una cosa, al passato.
So, the imperfect tense is used to describe landscapes, weather, features of a person or a thing in the past.
Captions 30-32, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'imperfetto - Part 2 of 4


In the following example, Lara, from the popular Commissario Manara TV series, is talking to an old classmate whom she met up with by chance. They are telling each other about their past feelings.


This is how she felt when she was younger:

Mi sentivo un brutto anatroccolo.
I felt like an ugly duckling.
Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 14 of 14

And this is how her friend Massimo felt about her!

Io ero innamorato pazzo di te!
I was crazy in love with you!
Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 14 of 14 

The following example describes an ongoing condition in the past.

A scuola avevo sempre problemi con la matematica.
At school, I always had problems with math.
Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 3 of 3

The following example is interesting, because we see the passato prossimo (siamo visti/we saw other) used when pinpointing the moment (l’ultima volta/the last time), but the imperfetto(eravamo/were) sets the scene.

Ma lo sa l'ultima volta che ci siamo visti dove eravamo?
But you know where we were the last time we saw each other?
Eravamo al porto di Istanbul.
We were at the port of Istanbul.
Captions 23-24, La Ladra - Ep. 2: Viva le spose - Part 6 of 13


For how to form the imperfetto, please see Daniela’s previous lesson.


Practice: Try setting the scene in the past using the verbs Daniela talks about in the lesson,and other verbs you know. If you’re not sure how to form the imperfetto of the verb you wish to use, look it up in an online dictionary such as WordReference. Think about the place, how old the person was, what the person looked like, what the person was wearing. How did the person feel?


Here’s something to get you started.

Quando ero giovane e andavo a scuola, suonavo il flauto nell’orchestra della scuola. Mi piaceva molto. Andavo a scuola in autobus tutte le mattine. Ci mettevo circa venticinque minuti per arrivare a scuola. Non era un’epoca molto felice per me. Non studiavoabbastanza, e quindi mi sentivo sempre a disagio in classe e avevo sempre paura delle interrogazioni. Preferivo stare nella sala di musica a studiare flauto. Cantavo anche nel coro. La maestra del coro era bravissima e tutti l’amavano.


When I was young and was going to school, I played flute in the school orchestra. I liked it a lot. I went to school by bus every morning. It took me about twenty-five minutes to get to school. It wasn’t a very happy time for me. I didn’t study enough so I was always afraid of being called on to answer the teacher’s questions. I much preferred hanging out in the music room to study flute. I also sang in the choir. The director was excellent and everyone loved her.


Of course, when we tell a story, we like to mix the tenses up to create interest and tension, but for now, let’s try to get to where we feel comfortable using the imperfetto and know more or less when and how to use it.

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Tregua: A Wartime Noun in Peacetime

The original meaning of the noun tregua has to do with a “truce,” a “cease-fire” in battle. It can certainly be used with this same meaning to take a break in an argument, but in casual conversation, it is often used to mean a “let-up,” a “temporary break,” to reduce the pressure, and in this sense, it’s generally used without an article and often with the verb dare (to give): dare tregua (to let up, to give someone or something a break). 

Ma no, niente, c'è qui un bastardo arrapato che non mi sta dando tregua.
But no, no big deal, there's a horny bastard here who's not letting up.
Caption 84, Stai lontana da me: Rai Cinema - Part 8 


When someone is “on your case” or “on your back” about something, then you might say,

Dammi un po’ di tregua!
Give me a break, will you?


We can use it in talking about the weather.

Piove senza tregua.
It’s been raining relentlessly.

C'è maltempo senza tregua.
There's no let-up in the bad weather.


Someone's headache finally goes away (and may or may not come back) and they get a bit of relief.

Gli ha dato un po’ di tregua.
It left him in peace for a bit.


Episode 3 of La Ladra begins with a war-like situation. We can only hope that Eva will be able to help the couple that has gotten involved with some very bad people who are not about to go away.

They know the loan shark they are involved with will not let up, will not cut them any slack, will not give them any sort of break. 

Quello non ci darà tregua.
That guy is not going to cut us any slack.
Caption 75, La Ladra - Ep. 3: L'oro dello squalo - Part 1 of 13


You don't need dramatic situations such as the ones in La Ladra to use tregua, so have fun weaving dare tregua into your Italian practice conversations. It’s handy in both positive and negative terms.

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The "Otherness" of Altrui

We have recently come to the end of the disturbing but fascinating documentary about Italian Fascism and the Italian language. We hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two about Italian history.


One important concept put forth in this final segment is that language is an equalizer, allowing us to express ourselves and understand others.

Uguale è chi sa esprimersi e intendere l'espressione altrui.
An equal is one who is able to express himself and understand how others express themselves.
Caption 9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana:  Part 15 of 15


There’s a curious little word in that caption: altrui. It’s an odd word, not following the usual rules for adjectives. In earlier times, the three famous fourteenth-century Florentine "authors" of the Italian language (Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio) also used it as a pronoun to mean “others.” It was used with various prepositions: di (of), a (to), or con (with).


More commonly, altrui is used as a possessive adjective to mean “of others” or “belonging to others/someone else.” So we might say the preposition is built-in. And once you're in the know, it's also easy to use because it doesn’t change according to number or gender. To translate altrui into English, we would most likely use the possessive form with an apostrophe.


In the first episode of Commissario Manara, Toscani is looking at his new boss with a bit of envy. His wife calls him on it.

Toscani, non essere invidioso del posto altrui.
Toscani, don't be jealous of someone else’s job.
Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara 1:  Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8 of 14  


The meaning of altrui is also fairly easy to guess. In Italian, you can think of the noun or adjective altro-altra-altri (other/others) or think of “altruism” or “altruistic” and you’ll get it! Just remember you don’t need a preposition.


Further learning:
Check out these examples of sentences with altrui.

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Finché (as long as) and Finché non (until)

In a recent video, we have a perfect example of how people talk in casual conversation as opposed to speaking with correct grammar, but let’s back up.


In a recent lesson we talked about the conjunction affinché (in order that) and how it prompts the subjunctive.


We also mentioned how it can easily be confused with finché (as long as) or finché non (until) because it sounds very similar. We looked briefly at these two conjunctions in a previous lesson. In Italian, they differ only in the addition of the negation non. This is a bit tricky since in English we use two different terms: “as long as” and “until.”


In Italian, just as in English, people abbreviate when speaking informally. They make contractions or leave words out to say what they need to say more quickly.


So sometimes, even when Italians mean to say “until,” they will leave out the non after finché. This is partly because they don’t need to be any clearer than that in a given situation, or because it’s quicker and easier, and for Italians, in some situations, it just doesn’t matter.


Let’s take the very recent video featuring Marika and Anna who are busy in the kitchen making panzerotti, a kind of deep fried dumpling, filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce.



It’s a casual situation, they’re very busy, and wouldn't you know it, they use finché incorrectly. But what they mean to say is very clear, so they don’t pay much attention.

Ok, quindi possiamo andare avanti ad oltranza, finché [sic: finché non] finisce il nostro impasto.
OK, so we can keep going indefinitely, until our dough is gone.
Caption 34, Anna e Marika - L'Italia a Tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2 of 2 


Sì, finché [sic: finché non] abbiamo, appunto, terminato l'impasto e [abbiamo] un certo numero di panzerotti da friggere.
Yes, until we have, exactly, used up all the dough and we have a certain number of panzerotti to fry.
Caption 35-36, Anna e Marika: L'Italia a Tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2 of 2 


The meaning is clear because they use finisce (is gone, is finished, is used up), so they understand each other: They’ll keep making panzerotti until all the dough has been used up.


Of course, there are plenty of instances where Anna and Marika do use finché properly, so it’s not a question of not knowing.

La cosa importante, con i bambini piccoli, è cambiare spesso posizione della schiena finché, naturalmente, non sono in grado di stare in piedi da soli.
The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, until, naturally, they are able to stand up by themselves.
Captions 9-11, Anna presenta: Attrezzature per un neonato


We could also say, to better follow the Italian:

The important thing with little babies is to often change the position of their backs, as long asthey are unable to stand up by themselves.


We could think of it this way: Non is a negation, and in a way, so is “until,” when used as a conjunction. “Un” is also a prefix meaning “not.”


Here is another example, where we can take finché non apart, to better understand it.

E poi, si lavorava finché il padrone non diceva "basta",
And then we worked until the boss said, “that’s enough.”
Caption 27, Gianni si racconta: Chi sono 

Another way to say this in English would be:

We kept working as long as the boss had not said, “that’s enough.”


It’s a bit awkward in English, which is why we use the word “until.”


Here is another very informal example:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché non ho finito.
I have to tell you something. Don’t interrupt me until I have finished.

It could also be:

Ti devo dire una cosa, non mi interrompere finché sto parlando.
I have to tel you something. Don’t interrupt me as long as I am still speaking.


Further learning: 
Do a Yabla search of finché and look at all the examples. Some will be correct without non, to mean “as long as,” some will use non, to mean “until,” and some will be wrong. Hint: Federico Fellini uses this conjunction the wrong way.

Can you understand the difference between finché and finché non? Feel free to let us know, or to make a comment in the comment section of the video in question.

We’ve mentioned that in different parts of Italy, or based on personal styles, the subjunctive gets skipped, the remote past is rarely used, and finché non might be abbreviated, too. But for those who are learning Italian, it’s good to be able to use finchéfinché non, and affinché correctly.

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Manco: an Informal Way to Say Neanche

In a recent episode of La Ladra, three great, informal adverbs stand out in three consecutive lines.

Ma quelli non mollano l'osso manco morti.
But those guys never let go of the bone, not even dead.
Magari l'osso di Cicci sono io.
Maybe I am Cicci's bone.
Ma mica solamente l'osso.
But not only the bone, of course.
Captions 33-35, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 10 of 13 


We have already discussed magari (maybe, if ever) and mica (at all), and here is a new adverb. We’ve seen it, here and there, in videos, but now it’s time to do a bit of explaining.


Manco: Originally, it meant meno (less), and was used in expressions such as niente di meno(nothing less) in the variants niente di manconiente manconon di manconon manco(nothing less) and is rarely used today. Its second, more recent meaning, and somewhat related to the first, is used quite a bit. It’s equivalent to neanche (not even) as an abbreviated form of nemmanco (not even).


Manco, meaning neanche, has generally been considered to be bad writing form* and continues, even today, to be used exclusively in informal speech, and in writing that reproduces speech. It’s used more in the south than in the north, and is equivalent to nemmenoneanche, and neppure (not even).


It’s important to remember that manco is an abbreviation for a word with ne (not, nor) as a sort of prefix, and therefore like mica has a negative meaning, even though it doesn’t exhibit the typical characteristics of a negation.


In the previous episode of La Ladra, the first word is manco!

Manco di Augusto mi posso più fidare.
I can’t even trust Augusto.
Caption 1, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13 


See how easily it slips into conversation. It’s certainly quicker than saying neanche.

E lo sai che manco a farlo apposta, proprio qui vicino, c'è un negozio, aperto da poco, che vende mozzarella di bufala.
And you know, not even to do it on purpose [by sheer coincidence], right near here, there's a shop, recently opened, that sells buffalo mozzarella.
Captions 38-39, Anna e Marika: La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1 


Have fun with manco. It’s a word you’ll likely hear more than say, since neanche andnemmeno are more straightforward. Like mica, it’s a strong word, and is used emphatically. When someone uses manco, they mean it. Just imagine someone’s eyebrows going up and their eyes opening wide, as they say, manco morto! as if to say, “you gotta be kidding me!” 


*See the Accademia della Cruscaa centuries-old linguistic institution in Italy, now also an online service for questions about the Italian language (articles are in Italian).

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How to Tell a Story in Italian, Part 1

Using tenses correctly in a new language is usually somewhat of a challenge. Let's talk about two tenses — presente indicativo (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) — that we can use to set the scene in a story, or to establish a timeframe, and the signpost words that can help us figure out which tense to use. 


Here's what causes some confusion. Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo (present perfect), that is, the tense using the auxialiary verb "to have" plus the past participle, to refer to things that happened at a particular moment in the past, for which in English we use the simple past tense. This is hard to assimilate, because English uses the present perfect for events that are still going on, or still true. In addition to that, in cases where English does use the present perfect, Italian often uses the present simple. It's easy to get mixed up, but it should become clearer as we go along. 


In a new video this week, Erica and Martina speak very simply about their friendship and how it developed. This is an excellent opportunity to zoom in on the passato prossimo, since they use it a lot, and to get a feel for how it’s employed in everyday storytelling. Maybe you can tell a story of your own, using the same outline.  


But let's zoom out for a moment. Before telling a story, we often need to set the scene and establish a timeframe. Erica first uses the present simple, and adds da (from, since). This formula takes some getting used to, so it's a good idea to practice. Notice that the translation employs the present perfect. 

Siamo amiche da sei anni.
We've been friends for six years.
Caption 3, Erica e Martina: La nostra amicizia 


Here's another example of how the present tense is used to establish a timeframe that includes the past.

Questa statua è qui da almeno cinquanta anni.
This statue has been here for at least fifty years.
Caption 19, Antonio: Maratea, Madonna del Porto Salvo 


We can use this setup with verbs like conoscere (to be acquainted with), frequentare (to hang out with, to frequent), essere colleghi (to be co-workers), lavorare insieme (to work together),essere sposato (to be married), vivere in un posto (to live in a place).

Ci conosciamo da tre anni (we've known each other for three years).
Sono sposati da sei mesi (they've been married for six months).


Practice: Set the scene for a story. Establish the timeframe including the past up to the present with the simple present tense plus da (from, since), using the above-mentioned verbs, or other verbs you think of. You'll be answering the question: da quanto tempo (for how long)?


Another way to set the scene is to find the starting point in the past. We use the passatoprossimo for that, plus the short adverb fa (ago) that signals the past.

So in the featured video, Erica continues setting the scene, telling us when the two friends met. Here she uses the passato prossimo. In English, we’d use the past simple, of course. Erica is essentially saying the same thing she said in caption 3, but she’s pinpointing the moment, not a period of time. Note: Since the friends are female in this case, the ending of the past participle conosciuto is feminine and plural. If it were two guys, or a guy and a girl, what do you think the ending would be?

Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa.
We met, in fact, six years ago.
Caption 4, Erica e Martina: La nostra amicizia 

When you meet someone for the first time, it’s unique: one instant. So you use the passato prossimo.

Learn more about the verb conoscere (to be acquainted with, to make the acquaintance of) in this lesson.

Il figlio, diciassettenne, ha pubblicato il suo primo articolo su un quotidiano americano pochi giorni fa.
His son, seventeen years old, published his first article in an American newspaper a few daysago.
Captions 15 - 16, Tiziano Terzani: Cartabianca - Part 1 of 3


Practice: Experiment establishing a timeframe using the presente plus da (from, since) as you did in the first exercise, and then saying much the same thing in a different way, pinpointing a moment in time with the passato prossimo and fa (ago). You'll be answering the question: quando (when)? or quanto tempo fa (how long ago)?.

Here’s a quick example to get started:

Vivo in Italia da più di venticinque anni (I’ve been living in Italy for over twenty-five years).
Sono venuta in Italia per la prima volta più di trent’anni fa (I came to Italy for the first time, over thirty years ago).
Lavoro in questo posto da otto anni (I’ve been working in this place for eight years).
cominciato otto anni fa a lavorare qui (I started working here eight years ago).


As Erica and Martina continue their story, they use the passato prossimo to describe events in the past. You can do this too!


Hint: Why not use the transcript of this video? Just click on "transcript" underneath the video thumbnail (or in the pop-up menu "more" in the new layout). You can view it in just Italian, just English, or both. You can copy and paste it into a blank document. You can make it printer friendly. In somma (in short), it's pretty handy!

There are other ways to set the scene, and other tenses to use, but we’ll get to those in another lesson.

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Little Easter: Forming Diminutives

Pasqua (Easter) is a spring holiday. Although things are changing, traditionally, Italy is still a Roman Catholic country, so Pasqua is a big deal in all parts of the country. Local priests travel around the town and countryside to bless homes in the weeks preceding Easter. On la domenica delle palme (Palm Sunday), churches are filled, and olive branches are distributed. There are plenty of palm trees in Italy, but olive branches have become the tradition.


Some towns and cities stage elaborate processions on venerdì santo (Good Friday). There are famous ones in cities such as Gubbio and Assisi in Umbria, as well as in the Colosseum in Rome.


Let’s have a reminder of what Marika shared with us when talking about Christmas:

Ma prima voglio dirti che [sic] "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi".
But first I want to tell you that [sic] "Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want".
Caption 4, Marika spiega: La vera storia di Babbo Natale - Part 1 of 2 


This is a very famous rhymed saying in Italy. Christmas is dedicated to family, and you are really expected to spend it with your family, but Easter is less strict. In addition, just as December 26th is a holiday in Italy (Santo Stefano), to invite the relatives you didn’t invite for la vigilia (Christmas Eve) or Natale (Christmas Day), Easter Monday or Pasquetta (little Easter), also called Lunedì dell’ angelo (Monday of the angel), is still a holiday, and still a part of Pasqua. It gives everyone a second opportunity to get together with the people they didn’t see on Easter Sunday. It’s been a national holiday since after World War II, intended to give people more time off from work and school. Many Italians use this day to spend in the country, with a picnic or walk. 


We alter Pasqua to become Pasquetta by adding a suffix. The suffix changes the quality but not the basic substance of the noun it's attached to. So, let's talk about this -etta suffix. We see that it indicates “small,” or “less important.” What are some other words that can have the diminutive suffix added?


Ora (hour) - un'oretta (a short hour, about an hour, a little under an hour, an hour or so).

Se avete tempo, potete farli [farle] lievitare da soli [sole] un'altra oretta, altrimenti procedete.
If you have time, you can have each one rise on its own for another hour or so, otherwise go ahead.
Captions 13-14, Anna e Marika: L'Italia a Tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2 of 2 


La cena (the dinner) - una cenetta (a light supper, an intimate dinner)

E per farmi perdonare, che ne dici stasera di una cenetta solo per noi due?
And to get you to forgive me, what do you say to a little dinner for just the two of us?
Caption 41, Acqua in bocca: Tra moglie e marito... -  Ep 11 


So far, we have used feminine nouns as examples. Masculine words work the same way, but we use -etto.


Un divano (a couch, a sofa) - un divanetto (a loveseat)

Seguitemi, questo è un tipico divanetto siciliano.
Follow me, this is a typical Sicilian little loveseat.
Caption 23, Adriano: Negozio di Antichità Sgroi  


Only a few words with -etta and -etto as suffixes have been mentioned here. There are many more. And note that -etto and -etta are not the only suffixes used as diminutives. There are -ino and -ina, too, but we’ll talk about these another time.

Learn more about suffixes that alter words.

Enjoy your Pasquetta, whether you are a casa (at home), al lavoro (at work), scuola (at school), in viaggio (traveling), con amici (with friends) or in vacanza (on vacation).

To learn what countries do consider Easter Monday a holiday, and in what way, see this Wikipedia article

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Mica, an Insignificant but Potent Adverb

In this week’s episode of La Ladra, one word comes up in three different instances, that is used constantly in conversation, but rarely in “proper” writing.


In modern Italian, it is most often used as an adverb synonymous with affatto (at all) or perniente (at all).

Non sarà mica facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.
It won't be at all easy, uh, for dilettantes like us.
Caption 10, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13  


In the previous example, mica could be replaced by affatto or per niente. But mica is much more informal.

Non sarà affatto facile, eh, per delle dilettanti come noi.


It comes from “mica,” the Latin noun for “crumb,” so it has to do with something tiny, and of little importance.


The people from  una parola al giorno (a word a day) explain mica nicely:

Parola che come avverbio scivola continuamente nei nostri discorsi a rafforzare le nostrenegazioni (a word that slips, repeatedly, into our conversations and reinforces our negations):

non è mica male  (it’s not bad at all)
non mi scoccia mica (it doesn’t put me out at all, it’s no hassle at all)
non è mica uno scherzo (it’s no laughing matter)


To read what else they have to say, see: It’s a great site for learning new words.


As we have seen above, mica is generally used with a negation, but this is often merely implied, as in the following examples. At the same time, it can have the connotation of “by any chance” and/or have the same role as question tags in English.

Mica hai una penna da prestarmi (you wouldn’t happen to have a pen to lend me, would you)?


Ma... mica vorrai aprirlo con questa? -Ci proviamo.
But... you're not thinking of opening it with this, are you? -We'll try it.
Caption 9, La Ladra: Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 9 of 13  


Mica ce l'hai con me?
You don't happen to be mad at me, do you?
You’re not mad at me, are you?
Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Ep. 2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 13 of 17 


Mica l’ho fatto apposta!
didn’t do it on purpose!
It's not as if I did it on purpose!


Mica is a rather fun word to use. It’s a way of expressing a negation without coming right out and saying it, or reinforcing a negative you are indeed saying. And the more you use it, the more it will slip into your conversation, and the more genuine your Italian will sound.


Yabla... mica male!

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Expressing Need with Servire

In a recent lesson, Daniela talks about using the noun il bisogno (the need) to express need.

Ho bisogno di fare ginnastica.
I need to do some gym (literally, “I have need of doing some gym”).
Caption 31,  Corso di italiano con Daniela: Concetto di "bisogno" - Part 1 of 2


Per cominciare, abbiamo bisogno di due melanzane lunghe.
To start with, we need two long eggplants.
Caption 10, Anna e Marika: L'Italia a tavola - Pasta alla Norma - Part 1 of 2 


Hai bisogno di qualcosa?
Do you need something?


Of course, bisogno looks like the first person singular of the verb bisognare, but it’s not. It’s a noun.


But, since we have already discussed bisogno in another online lesson, let's look at a different way to express need, this time with a verb.


We might agree that there’s sometimes a fine line between something that's necessary and something that is useful. Italian has an interesting verb that covers both bases much of the time. In Italian, we can express need with the verb servire (to serve). It’s used with an indirect object, as if it were “it serves to me.” Remember that ci in the following example means noi (to us).

Allora, mamma, quali sono gli ingredienti che ci servono per preparare una granita al limone?
So, Mom, what are the ingredients we need to make the lemon ice?
Caption 13,  Adriano: La granita al limone 


The verb servire is conjugated according to what is needed, what is necessary, or what is useful. In the above example, the noun that determines the conjugation is ingredienti (ingredients) so we use the third person plural of servireservono.


Servire works similarly to the verb piacere. Remember mi piace (I like it)? Here’s a lesson on it to refresh your memory.


If you are helping someone in the kitchen you might ask:

Cosa ti serve (what do you need/what is necessary for you)?


You could also ask, as Daniela explains in this week's lesson:

Di che cosa hai bisogno (what do you need/what do you have need of)?


However, when followed by the preposition (to), servire can also mean “is used.”

C'è una corda che è almeno il doppio di questa qui, che serve a far muovere il cavallo prima di montarci sopra.
There's a rope that's at least twice as long as this one, that is used to warm up the horse before mounting him.
Captions 25-26, Francesca: Cavalli - Part 2 


So a dialogue in the kitchen could go something like this:

Cosa ti serve (what do you need)?
Mi serve un mestolo (I need a ladle).
che cosa serve un mestolo (what is a ladle used for)?
Serve a servire il brodo (it’s used to serve the soup).


And now you have seen that servire also means “to serve.” It’s a true cognate in this case.
There’s also a reflexive version of this verb, but we’ll talk about that in another lesson.


Conoscere il verbo servire serve (knowing the verb servire is useful)!

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Chiaro and Chiaramente

A user wrote in with a question about these two words. Is there a difference? Yes, there is:chiaro is an adjective, and chiaramente is an adverb. But that’s the simple answer.


Language is in constant flux, and chiaro has various meanings, just as “clear” in English does. And this adjective has come to take on the job of an adverb in certain contexts, as Marika mentions in her lesson on adverbs.

Non fare troppi giri di parole, parla chiaro.
Don't beat around the bush. Speak plainly.
Caption 29, Marika spiega: Gli avverbi di modo


As a matter of fact, dictionaries list chiaro as both an adjective and adverb, but as an adverb, it's used only in certain circumstances, with certain verbs.

What’s the difference between parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente?

Well, sometimes there isn’t much difference.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaro.
Moreover, the report from my colleague in Milano is clear.
Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3 of 14 

In the example above, the speaker could have used the adverbial form to mean the same thing.

Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaramente.


Parlare chiaro has become an idiomatic expression — un modo di dire. It gets the message across very clearly.  It implies not using flowery language, wasting words, or trying to be too polite. But parlare chiaramente can have more to do with enunciation, articulation, ormaking oneself understood. So, sometimes parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente can coincide, but not necessarily.


Apart from this modo di dire, the adjective and adverb forms are used a bit differently in grammatical terms.


Since chiaro is an adjective, it normally describes or modifies a noun. To be correct, then, we often use è (it is).

È chiaro che non lo deve sapere nessuno perché il marito è gelosissimo.
It's clear that no one should know, because her husband is very jealous.
Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12 of 14 


Chiaro may be used by itself with a question mark to ask, “Is that clear?”

E non sono tenuto a spiegarti niente, chiaro?
And I'm not obliged to explain anything to you, is that clear?
Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 


The adverb chiaramente, on the other hand, can stand alone before or after another clause or can be inserted just about anywhere in a sentence.

Natoli ha chiaramente bisogno di glutine, eh.
Natoli clearly needs gluten, huh.
Caption 33, La Tempesta: film - Part 5 of 26 


Using chiaro, Paolo could have said:

È chiaro che Natoli ha bisogno di glutine.
It’s clear that Natoli needs gluten.


But chiaro has a special in-between meaning when it’s used in place of an adverb with verbs such as parlare (to speak) and vedere (to see).

Finché non ci ho visto chiaro la tengo io.
Until I've seen things clearly I'm keeping it.
Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17 


Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:

Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.

Look for sentences with either chiaro or chiaramente and try switching them, making the necessary changes. Doing a search on the video tab will give you plenty of examples.

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Doppiare, Sdoppiare: It's All About Dubbing

A recent segment about Italian Fascism and language focuses on dubbing.


What's doppiaggio (dubbing)? After receiving a translation of a script, an actor, in a special recording booth with a monitor, has to watch a movie, adapting what he or she reads to whatthe actor on the screen is saying. The meaning and intention have to be there, and at the same time, there must be the same number of syllables, more or less, so that it can look convincing. It’s a huge, creative, and painstaking job. Historically, Italians have been champions at this. Dubbing provides a way for people to enjoy foreign movies. When dubbing started out in Italy, lots of people all over the country had never learned to read. They were analfabeti (illiterate).

Nel millenovecentotrentatré viene inventato il doppiaggio, uno dei più complessi e magici trucchi cinematografici.
In nineteen thirty-three dubbing is invented, one of the most complex and magical tricks in cinema.
Captions 11 and 13, Me Ne Frego: Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 9 


Even today, although many Italians read a lot, there are still those who aren't comfortable or just don’t enjoy reading. When given the choice of a dubbed movie or one with subtitles, dubbing wins most of the time. This is certainly a generalization, but the fact that you need to go to a special art movie theater to find a movie in its original language with subtitles bears witness to this.


There are arguments for both dubbing and using subtitles, each having vantaggi (advantages) and svantaggi (disadvantages). Luckily, in this digital age, you can often choose your language when watching at home on DVD, streaming, or even on commercial TV. It comes down to personal preference as well as familiarity with the original language of the movie. Culture, tradition, and economics determine what happens in the movie theater.


There was a time when it was popular to dub Italian films in post-production, rather than record the sound live. At the outset, it may have been for technical reasons, as recording live sound is complicated, but for some directors, like Fellini, it was part of their art. And ofcourse, in many filmmaking situations, there comes a time when dubbing is needed to fix mistakes made by actors or for technical reasons. So the dubbing booth is part of making movies.
Italians, having had a lot of practice over the years, happen to be extremely good at dubbing.


Here at Yabla, of course, we promote watching a video in the original language. It’s hard to learn a foreign language if you never hear it spoken. And being able to turn the subtitles on and off with a click is pretty handy.


Speaking of Yabla, two people on our talent force have worked in the field of dubbing.

Eh, all'inizio sì, lo facevo come [sic], doppiavo grandi artisti e attori.
Yeah, at the beginning, yes; I did that like I dubbed famous artists and actors.
Poi, eh, mi sono concentrata molto sui documentari.
Then, ah, I started concentrating a lot on documentaries.
Captions 14-15, Marika e Daniela: Intervista a Daniela Bruni 


Inoltre, questo... in questo corso si impara a interpretare: interpretare un personaggio, interpretare un testo.
In addition, this... in this course one learns to act: to play a role, to interpret a script.

Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.
This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.
Captions 14-17, Arianna e Marika: Il lavoro di doppiatrice

The verb doppiare comes from the noun doppio. Its cognate is “double” in English. And sometimes it means just that, as in the following example, where it functions as an adjective. Note how the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender of the noun it modifies.

Ecco qua, doppia senape e doppio ketchup. -Bella schifezza.
Here you are, double mustard and double ketchup. -Nice bit of junk food.
Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 12 of 12 


But more often than not, it means “twice,” as in the following example.

E per metterci magari anche il doppio del tempo.
And maybe it takes even twice as much time.
Caption 7, Marika spiega: Proverbi italiani - Part 2 of 2 


Italians use sdoppiare to mean “to duplicate, to copy” when referring to CDs or cassettes. It is the negation of doppiare, and means “to split” but it also means “to make something into two.”

Mi potresti sdoppiare questo CD?
Could you copy this CD for me?


Interestingly enough, the verb “to dub” comes from “double” and came into use in the nineteen twenties. We use the verb “to dub” to refer to replacing speech in a movie, but also to copy from one tape to another (sdoppiare).


As Arianna tells us, you can go to school to get professional training in dubbing. Apart from dubbing actual movies, producers need dubbers for corporate videos, voice-overs for documentaries, and voices for cartoon characters. It’s a career choice that doesn’t immediately come to mind, but one that will never become obsolete.


See this fascinating article in English about the practice of dubbing in Italian cinema.

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Solido and Sodo

This week, Marika talks about adverbs. But she also talks about adjectives used as adverbs in idiomatic expressions. If we think about it, this happens in English, too, as we shall see.


One adjective she uses is sodo. It is very similar to solido, and indeed, they are pretty equivalent and have the same Latin origin: “solidus.”

Solido is a true cognate, and means “solid.”

Il composto è stato a riposare in frigo. Adesso è più solido e così possiamo preparare le palline.
The dough has been resting in the fridge. Now it's stiffer and that way we can prepare the little balls.
Caption 29, Dolcetti vegan: al cocco e cioccolato 


Sodo is just a bit different, and used primarily in different contexts. One of the most common uses for sodo is when talking about how long an egg is cooked. If it’s hard-boiled, it’s sodo. We can well visualize the shell coming off the egg, and its being solid enough to hold in your hand: sodo.


While we’re on the subject of eggs, here are some different ways of cooking eggs in Italian: Let’s remember that the noun uovo has an irregular plural. Un uovo (an egg), due uova (two eggs), delle uova (some eggs).

uova strapazzate (literally, “over-worked eggs,” scrambled eggs)  
uovo affogato (literally, “drowned egg”) or in camicia (literally, “in its jacket,”  poached egg)  
uovo alla coque  (literally, “egg in its shell," soft-boiled egg, often eaten in its shell in an egg cup)
uovo sodo (hard-boiled egg)  
uovo al tegameuovo al tegamino (fried egg)
all'occhio di bue (literally, “like an ox’s eye,” sunny-side up)

There is an Italian film by Paolo Virzì called OvosodoOvo is Tuscan for uovoHere is an English language description of the movie.


We also use sodo when referring to working hard. This is similar to English, where we have the adjective “hard” functioning like an adverb, modifying, or describing the verb lavorare(to work).

Bisogna lavorare sodo per ottenere dei buoni risultati.
You have to work hard to obtain good results.
Caption 31, Marika spiega: Gli avverbi di modo 


Sodo can also be used a bit like nocciolo (the kernel, the point, the heart of the matter). In this case, the adjective sodo is used as a noun, to mean something like  “the serious stuff.” Seethis lesson about nocciolo.

Arriviamo al sodo (let’s get down to brass tacks, let’s get to the point).
Va subito al sodo. Non gira intorno (he gets right to the point. He doesn’t beat around the bush).

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