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Ways to talk about death in Italian

 

Many of those who subscribe to Yabla Italian have enjoyed the TV series Commissario Manara. In the first season, Luca Manara had a romantic relationship with Lara, a fellow police investigator. It just so happened that she had an aunt who was very kind and sociable, and would often contribute in her special way to solving a case, along with her dog, Brigadiere. The character was Zia Caterina.

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Valeria Valeri, the actress who played Zia Caterina, passed away just a week ago, at the ripe old age of 97, and so we remember her here.

 

As a matter of fact, Commissario Manara was one of her last TV performances.

 

Zia Caterina was a character along the lines of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Caterina was always wearing outlandish earrings, funny straw hats and always had a smile on her face. She had a dog that was a good investigator too.

 

Speaking of Murder She Wrote, did you know the Italian version of Murder She Wrote was called La Signora in Giallo? Read about the special meaning of giallo in Italian.

 

In Italian, there’s a tradition of calling someone Zia (aunt) or Zio (uncle) without their name attached.

Solo tu potevi salvarci zia...

Only you could have saved us, Aunt...

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 14

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Note that Italians don't capitalize affectionate names like zia, zio, signora.

 

Let's now take the opportunity of Valeri's passing to talk about how Italians talk about death. It's never easy, and it's not a happy subject, but sometimes knowing how to talk about death can save you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here is what the headlines have been saying about Valeria Valeri's death.

Purtroppo è venuta a mancare Valeria Valeri.
Sadly, Valeria Valeri has come to be missing.

 

It’s an elegant and indirect way to say someone has died, and the verb mancare is often used in this sense.

 

We also use mancare to miss someone, but this verb works in a completely different way from the English verb "to miss." More about that here.

 

A 97 anni, dopo una vita spesa in palcoscenico, si è spenta ieri a Roma Valeria Valeri, una grande attrice e una grande voce del teatro italiano ...
At ninety-seven years, after a life on the stage, Valeria Valeri died in Rome. She was a great actress and one of the great voices of Italian theater.

Si è spenta.
Spegnere means "to turn off."
Her light went out.
She stopped living.

È morta Valeria Valeri.
Valeria Valeri died.
Valeria Valeri is dead.

 

Morire is the classical, literal word for “to die.”

 

Let’s not forget that morto/morta can be either the past participle, as in "she has died," or it can be an adjective, as in "she is dead." More about that here.

 

One more way to say someone died is to say they are gone, or they have gone. They have taken their leave.

Valeria Valeri se ne andata.
Valeria Valeri has left. Valeria Valeri is gone.

Ci mancherà.
We will miss her

 

Most will agree that Zia Caterina was a great addition to the cast of Manara, and that knowing she is gone for good is a little sad, although she lived to be almost a hundred!

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Thanks for reading!

Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

 

A presto!

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How to Get Mad in Italian

Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.

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Review pronominal verbs here.

 

Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.

You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

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There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.

 

The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.

 

When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:

Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)

 

Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself. 

Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.

 

There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentirebut as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!

 

Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).

 

If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss. 

 

Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.

Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14

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Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.

 

But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly." 

Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).

 

Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.

Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).

 

One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).

 

E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,

And this made him extremely angry.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 12

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Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.

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A Curious but Iconic Italian Vehicle

 

When we see the word “ape,” it makes us think of a rather large, ferocious animal. But in Italian, its meaning is almost the opposite. Ape is the word for "bee." The Ape, as we shall see, was built for people who work, for someone who is busy as a bee.

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At the end of World War II, many, if not most Italians were having money problems, and certainly only a privileged few had the financial means to buy a car, much less pay for its fuel and maintenance. 

 

The Ape came to the rescue. In 1947, the inventor of the Vespa, (a popular motor scooter whose name means “wasp”) came up with the idea of a light, three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's economical reconstruction. Piaggio, who had built the Vespa became interested and took on the project. The very first Ape models were glorified Vespas with two wheels in the rear, and a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle— a sort of tricycle with a motor.

 

Little by little, the model developed to include a cab to protect the driver. Designed as a one-seater, a passenger is often seen squeezed in, as well, but it's definitely a tight fit. There are now doors on either side to facilitate parking right up next to a wall. Although no longer made principally in Italy, the Ape is still in production today!

 

Because of its small scooter-sized engine, the Ape doesn’t go fast (maximum around 60 kilometres an hour), and as a result, you don’t need to have an automobile driver’s license to drive one. The motor is strong enough to carry a sizeable load, and to get up the steep hills found in many parts of the country.

 

We see in the movie Chi m’ha visto, that Peppino’s vehicle is indeed an Ape. Given the size of the streets in so many Italian towns, cities, and country roads as well, the Ape is just right for negotiating them. Peppino races around like a maniac anyway, honking at pedestrians to get out of his way.

 

If you have ever been traveling in Italy, you might have heard an Ape before seeing one. The noise is terrifying especially as it climbs steep, narrow, cobblestone streets in the middle of an old town, where the close stone walls amplify the sound even more. Getting caught behind one on a narrow road can add hours and frustration to your trip. Fortunately, the Ape is so narrow, the driver can hug the side of the road so that cars can pass. Menomale!

 

Still a familiar sight all over Italy, the Ape is amazingly useful for the handyman, gardener, farm worker, delivery man, etc.

 

In an episode of Commissario Manara, Manara himself actually drives an Ape to figure out how a crime had been committed. He's putting himself in the killer's place.

Al piazzale davanti allo studio ci potrei andare a piedi, invece ci vado con l' Ape. Perché? Perché devo trasportare qualcosa, qualcosa di pesante. E che cos'è?

To the courtyard in front of the studio I could go by foot, but instead I go with the "Ape." Why? Because I have to transport something, something heavy. And what is it?

Captions 44-47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 9

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Even though the Ape is pretty small already, many Italians use a diminutive suffix and call it l'Apino. It also distinguishes it from ape the insect, and it renders the idea of "small."

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When Repeating a Word can Change its Meaning

There's a movie on Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.

His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.

 

Here's what the agent says:

Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...

Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this..

Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 2

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A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.

 

We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!

 

So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts. 
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora

 

Let’s give the word a quick review here.

 

In the following example, ancora means "even." 

Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.

That way, you can understand me even better.

Caption 27, Italian Intro Serena

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And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.

ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.

And still today we're very close friends.

Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amicizia - Part 1

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È ancora vivo. He’s still alive.

 

If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."

Non è ancora morto. He's not dead yet.

 

In the example that follows, ancora means “more.” 

Ne vuoi ancora? -Eh?

Do you want some more of it? -Huh?

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8

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And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti, perché mi hai fatto fare un tuffo nel passato!

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets, because it made me take a dive into the past!

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,

Caption 67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”

 

But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.

 

So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying  “it’s passable.”  Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t." 

 

There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:

Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.

 

Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.

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Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:

Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.

 

If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,

Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.

 

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Working Things Out with Sistemare

In this week’s segment of Meraviglie, Alberto Angela uses a verb that looks familiar: sistemare. It must have something to do with "system," right?

The noun il sistema certainly exists, and is a true cognate of "the system" in English.

 

E allora con un ingegnoso sistema di raccolta delle acque, riuscì a riempire ben sette cisterne che sono sparsi [sparse] per tutto il territorio.

And so with an ingenious system for collecting water, he managed to fill a good seven cisterns that are scattered around the whole area.

Captions 36-37, In giro per l'Italia - Asciano - S. Giuliano Terme: Villa Bosniascki - Part 1

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A detail to remember is that although it has a typically feminine ending, sistema is a masculine noun. In English, too, “system” has any number of connotations.

 

So the noun sistema is fairly straightforward, but English doesn't really have a corresponding verb to go with sistemare. Sistemare might even fall into the category of untranslatable Italian verbs, although it's an easy-to-figure-out untranslatable verb. Sistemare is a general, catch-all type of verb that can mean any number of things, depending on the context. 

 

When Alberto Angela tells us the fascinating story of a huge underground cistern in the city of Matera, what does he mean by sistemare? Good question.

 

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno…

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen twenty-one…

Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 15

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We see from the translation that the piazza was renovated, and we get this from the context of the documentary itself. But sistemare could also have referred to it being  "neatened up," "cleaned up," "put in order," "put to rights."

 

When you want to fix something up, make improvements, put things right, make minor repairs, put things in a certain place, make preparations, or even get your pet ready for the night, sistemare is a good verb.

 

In the following examples from Yabla videos, sistemare is used to mean "to work out," "to set up," and "to fix up."

 

Note that in the first example, the reflexive form sistemarsi is used. 

Mi dispiace molto, Marika, e spero che tutto si sistemerà al più presto.

I'm really sorry, Marika. And I hope everything will work out as soon as possible.

Caption 41, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 1

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Valter arrivava sempre prima per sistemare l'attrezzatura per gli allievi.

Valter always came early to set up the equipment for the students.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 1

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Adesso hai quest'impressione perché lo vedi così tutto in disordine, quando sarà sistemato vedrai...

Now you have that impression because you're seeing it all messy, when it's fixed up, you'll see...

Captions 35-36, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 3

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One general way of thinking about the verb sistemare is with "to take care of". 

You took care of an unpaid bill? L'hai sistemato. You took care of it.
Your plumber fixed that leaky faucet? L'ha sistemato. He took care of it. He fixed it.
You wrote a draft of an article? Lo devi ancora sistemare. You still have to fine-tune it.

We can also turn sistemare into a noun: una sistemata. In English, we might use a gerund for this, as in the first example below. 
 

You don't really want to give your kitchen a thorough cleaning at the moment, but you want it to look nice. Ci dai una sistemata (you give it a neatening up).
You ask your hairdresser, Mi dai una sistemata ai capelli (Will you give me a little trim)?

 

With the noun sistemata, we often use the verb dare (to give), which can also be used reflexively.

Dopo il viaggio, mi sono data una sistemata prima di presentarmi agli suoceri (after the trip I freshened up before meeting my inlaws/I gave myself a freshening up).

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Practice:

As you go through your day, as you take care of one problem after another, try using sistemare when you have succeeded, or when you haven't yet. Maybe you will even have fun taking care of these problems!

L'ho sistemato! Menomale. (I took care of that. Whew!)

Questo lo devo sistemare (I have to take care of this).

 

Ask someone else to help you take care of something — something that needs fixing, or a situation that needs resolving.

Me lo puoi sistemare (can you take care of this for me)?

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5 different ways to use the word accordo (agreement)

 

Accordo is such a handy Italian word but the meaning can change considerably depending on the verb used with it. Let's look at 5 different ways we use accordo (agreement) in everyday life.

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1) If we take the noun un accordo by itself, it means "an agreement."

Abbiamo firmato un accordo (we signed an agreement).

 

Io so che Lei aveva un accordo per utilizzare il latte della sua azienda, è così?

I know that you had an agreement for using the milk from her company, is that right?

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 3

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2) If we put the preposition di (of) before it, it means “in agreement”. If we are "in agreement" — or as we usually say in English, “we agree” — we need 3 words to make one. We use the verb essere (to be) + the preposition di (of) + the noun accordo (agreement) to obtain the verb "to agree": essere in accordo. We need to conjugate the verb essere (to be).

 

Non metto in dubbio le tue idee, ma non sono d'accordo.

I don’t doubt your ideas are good, but I don’t agree.

Caption 35, Marika spiega - Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1

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Non sei d'accordo?

Don't you agree? (Don't you think so?)

Caption 30, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19

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Allora se la dottoressa è d'accordo, io consiglierei un sopralluogo al museo.

So if the doctor agrees, I'd advise an inspection of the museum.

Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 1

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Essere d'accordo can also mean "to be in cahoots." The context will reveal this nuance.

 

Quindi secondo te erano d'accordo per cercare di incastrarlo e poi ricattarlo?

So, in your opinion they were in cahoots to try to frame him and then blackmail him?

Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 12

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3) We also use accordo to say “to get along”: andare d’accordo. Here, we use the verb andare plus the preposition di + the noun accordo.

 

Non va d'accordo con suo fratello (She doesn't get along with her brother).

Senti un po', ma io e te una volta andavamo d'accordo, giusto?

Listen up, but you and I got along at one time, right?

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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Il signor Spada e la moglie danese pare che non andassero per niente d'accordo.

Mister Spada and his Danish wife, it seems, weren't getting along at all.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 5

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4) Another way to say “I agree”in English is “OK” or “all right.” We can certainly use “OK” or va bene to say this in Italian, but another common way is d’accordo. It’s a little more serious than just OK, which can also be filler, just something we say. So there is no verb here. We simply use the preposition di + the noun accordo. People who know French will recognise this way of saying "OK." "D’accord."

Ci vediamo domattina in ufficio, d’accordo?  (I’ll see you at the office tomorrow morning, OK?)
D’accordo (OK).

 

5) In an informal situation, primarily, in which we need or want to put off actually agreeing to something, there's another useful phrase with accordo. Let's say we need to decide on a time and place to meet, or make a friendly transaction. We can use the verb mettere (to put) in its reciprocal form mettersi (the reciprocal form works much the same as the reflexive form). For more on this read this lesson and watch this video

E poi ci mettiamo d'accordo. La, la chiamo io.

We'll set it up later. I'll call you.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 9

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This expression mettersi d'accordo is useful among friends who want to get together, but can't (or don't want to) set a date right then and there. To say something like "We'll get together at some point," we could say, Poi, ci mettiamo d'accordo (we'll decide [together] later). It's a friendly expression to say that you want to see this person, but can't decide on anything right then and there.

So we have:

un accordo: an agreement
essere d’accordo: to agree or to be in cahoots
andare d’accordo: to get along
d'accordo: OK! All right
mettersi d’accordo: to come to an agreement—to decide on something together

 

We think this might have been helpful. Sei d'accordo?

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Everyday Negatives

 

Let’s look at turning positive sentences into negative ones in Italian. We might have to switch gears a bit because the word order for negatives is different from what we have in English. We have to think negative. The negative word, in this case non (not), generally comes before the verb, and that means it is frequently the first word in a sentence.

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Let’s consider some simple negative expressions we use every day.

 

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Problems: We all have problemi (problems), but sometimes we have to say "no problem." We certainly use it to mean "You're welcome" after someone says "Thank you." In English, it's so easy! But in Italian we say, "there's no problem." It's part of the expression. Non c'è problema is an important phrase to have ready for any situation. 

 

Sì, non c'è problema. -Grazie. -Prego.

Yes, no problem. -Thanks. -You're welcome.

Caption 24, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2

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Actually, there is another way to say this, more similar to English.

 

Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).

 

Or we can put both expressions together and say, with the wonderful double negative we can use in Italian:

 

Non c'è nessun problema (there's really no problem).

 

or even:

 

Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!

 

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Time: Nobody has any time anymore! So negative sentences about time can come in handy.


Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).
Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).
Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).
Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).
Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).


and a possible comment to that:

Non stanno male, però (your hair looks pretty good, though/it doesn't look bad,though).

 

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Knowing stuff: There are plenty of things we know and understand but plenty we don’t know or understand! Let’s remember that whereas in English we just say "I don’t know," Italians usually add the object pronoun lo (it), so they are literally saying "I don't know it."


Non lo so (I don’t know).
Non so a che ora devo venire (I don’t know what time I should come).
Non ho capito! Puoi ripetere (I didn't get it. Can you repeat)?

Remember, Italians often put this phrase in the past tense even though they are saying "I don’t get it."

 

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Forgetting stuff, or rather, not remembering things: The verb ricordare is often but not always in its reflexive form ricordarsi when it means "to remember" and in its regular form when it means "to remind." See these lessons.

 

Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.

Right now, I can't remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.

Caption 24, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 4

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And if you need an object pronoun instead of a noun, don't forget to change mi (to me) to me (me):

 

Adesso non me lo ricordo.
Right now, I can't remember [it].

 

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Doing stuff, or rather, not doing stuff: We procrastinate.

 

Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l'ho fatto (I was supposed to write an article but I didn't do it).
Non l’ho ancora fatto (I haven't done it yet).

 

Here we have the object pronoun lo (it) but it is partially buried in the contraction. So you have to listen carefully!

 

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Speaking of listening, a great way to hone your listening skills is to use Scribe (in the games menu in the Yabla player). It will definitely help you start recognizing and hearing these short words and little but important details. And although some Italian you hear is rapid-fire (like Luca Manara, to name one example), most of the time, all the syllables are pronounced. You can slow down the speech to be able to hear better. Have you tried Scribe? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let us know!

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As we learn to speak Italian with disinvoltura (nonchalance), it’s easy to forget to add these little words. Don’t worry, you will most likely be understood anyway! Foreigners spend years speaking Italian leaving out the little words, and they get by just fine. (It takes one to know one.)

 

If you get your word order wrong, people will understand anyway, but now you have a chance to get it right!

 

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Quadro: so many meanings — what's their connection?

There are so many situations in which we might hear the noun quadro. Let's look at some of the most common ones. 

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The first meaning of quadro has to do with shape. Un quadro (a square) has quattro lati uguali (four equal sides) so we can see the relation between quadro and quattro.

 

We use the adjective quadrato to mean "square."  Sometimes quadro and quadrato can be interchangeable both as nouns and as adjectives. When we talk about measurements, it's common to see either metri quadri or metri quadrati, which both mean "square meters." A common abbreviation is mq. With kilometers it's more common to see chilometri quadrati (square kilometers).

Si sviluppava il castello su una superficie di undici mila metri quadri.

The castle was built over an area of eleven thousand square meters.

Caption 33, Escursioni Campane - Castello Normanno - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

L'isola di Vulcano, con i suoi ventuno chilometri quadrati di superficie, 
è la terza fra le sette sorelle delle isole Eolie.

The island of Vulcano, with its twenty-one square kilometers of surface area, is the third among the seven sisters of the Aeolian Islands.

Captions 1-2, Linea Blu - Le Eolie - Part 16

 Play Caption

 

One reason we might use quadrato as a noun to mean "a square," rather than quadro, is because it's unambiguous. Un quadrato is a square, no doubt about it. 

Disegniamo un quadrato nel centro del foglio (Let's draw a square in the middle of the page).

 

Un quadro, on the other hand, can mean "a painting," so when talking about art, it's wise to distinguish. Paintings are usually on a canvas, and the canvas is usually four-sided (admittedly, not always square).

 

I quadri — paintings can be of different types: un ritratto (a portrait) or a scene. And sometimes quadro stands for "scene," as in the theater for example.

Turandot, atto terzo, quadro primo.

Turandot, third act, scene one.

Caption 15, La Ladra - Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Another very different meaning for quadro is "control panel." This can be in a vehicle, as in the following example, or quadro can describe the fuse box, or eletrical switchboard.

Ci sono ancora le chiavi attaccate al quadro. -Sì.

The keys are still in the ignition. -Yes.

E qualcuno è andato in giro con questa macchina fino all'una.

And someone went around with this car until one o'clock.

Captions 32-33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

There are other meanings and sfumature  (nuances) for the word quadro, and Marika talks about one of them here.

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Check out WordReference for more about quadro. And for more Yabla context, do a search of quadro, quadri, quadrato, and quadrati.

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Solutions to Exercises from "A Relative Pronoun Shortcut"

Here are the solutions to the exercises in the lesson: A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

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Here are some ways to say the same thing using in cui or nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, nelle quale (in which).

 

This is a grammar exercise, so not necessarily will a new solution be a good-sounding solution. The point is to see how different relative pronouns can be placed inside a sentence. When you use "quale" with its preposition and article, you need to determine the gender and number. The reference noun and article are in boldface.

 

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

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla nella quale 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

 Play Caption

 

 

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

Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, nel quale 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

 Play Caption

 

 

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

Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo nel quale 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

 Play Caption

 

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

​Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, nei quali 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

 Play Caption

 

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

​Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, nei quali 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

 Play Caption

 

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

Poi c'è un giorno a settimana nel quale 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

 Play Caption

 

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

Un altro caso nel quale 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

 Play Caption

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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!

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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! 

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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.

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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.

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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.

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Non si deve fare shopping sulla spiaggia a fine stagione.

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

Caption 31, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 2

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

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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. 

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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.

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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

 Play Caption

 

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."

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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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

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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

 Play Caption

 

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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.

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Dai!

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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An all-purpose verb: dare

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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Literally:

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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Darsela a gambe

And to echo a recent 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 a colorful 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 haven't gotten the chance, 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.

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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). 

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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.

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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]

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

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