Italian Lessons


Ci Gets Around - Part 1

Ci Gets Around - Part 2

Most of us know what arrivederci means: “goodbye,” or literally, “until we see each other again.” Ci in this case means “us” or “to us” or “each other.” Take a look at how ci works in this evocative hymn to one of our most precious resources, water:

Ci ricorda qualcosa che abbiamo dimenticato.

It reminds us of something that we have forgotten.

Caption 20, Inno all'acqua: Un bene prezioso da difendere

When we like something, it gets "turned around" in Italian:

Ci piace molto questo posto! 

We like this place a lot! [Literally: This place pleases us a lot!]

Sometimes ci gets attached to a verb, like here, where Commissioner Manara has just arrived at the crime scene and is dispatching his team to question a cyclist:

Perché non vai a sentire cos'ha da dirci? [Another way to say this would be: Perché non vai a sentire cosa ci ha da dire?]

Why don't you go and listen to what he has to say to us?

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 2 of 17

Ci is often used in reflexive constructions, which are more common in Italian than in English.

Noi ci troviamo in Campania...

We are [we find ourselves] in Campania... 

Caption 13, Giovanna spiega: La passata di pomodori

In all the above examples, ci is the plural of mi (me, to me, myself). But the word ci can also mean “there,” expressing place, presence, or existence. It’s frequently hidden in a contraction, thus not alway easy to recognize. On his first day of work, Commissioner Manara checks into a pensione (small, family-run hotel) and asks the receptionist:

Il televisore c'è in camera? -Eh, certo che c'è. 

Is there a TV in the room? -Eh, of course there is

Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 6 of 14

He walks in on his colleagues who are gossiping about him:

Che c'è, assemblea c'è?

What is going on here, is there an assembly?

Caption 38, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 8 of 14

In the above examples, c’è stands for ci è (there is), just like ci sono means “there are.” But, as we can see, it also means “is there?”—it’s the inflection (or punctuation if it’s written) that tells you whether it’s a question or a statement. (Learn more here and here.)

If I care whether you understand something or not, I will ask:

Ci sei?

Do you get it? Are you with me? [Literally: Are you there?]

If I don’t care so much, I might say:

Chi c’è c’è, chi non c’è non c’è.

If you're with me you're with me; if you're not, you’re not. [Literally, “whoever is there is there; whoever isn’t there, isn’t there.”]

There! Ci is pretty easy when you get the hang of it! (Tip: Do a search for ci in the Yabla videos to instantly see lots of different examples in context.) Stay tuned for Part 2 of this lesson, where we’ll find out how ci worms its way into all sorts of other situations!  

Learning tip:

Make a shopping list, even just mentally, and as you do, ask yourself if you have those items in the fridge or in the cupboard. For singular things, or collective nouns, you will use c’è and for countable items in the plural, you will use ci sono. To get started:

C’è del formaggio? No, non c’è. (Is there any cheese? No, there isn’t.)

Ci sono delle uova? Si, ci sono. (Are there any eggs? Yes, there are.)

Ci sei? 


Ci Gets Around - Part 2

Ci Gets Around - Part 1

We saw in the previous lesson that the short word ci fits into (c’entra in) many situations.

But not only can ci mean “there,” ci can represent an object pronoun like “it,” “this,” or “that” plus a preposition (to, into, of, from, about, etc.) all in one, as we see below.

On the job, Manara finds himself in the wine cellar of an important estate and has questioned Count Lapo’s housekeeper about some rifle shots. She answers evasively:

Colpi di fucile qui se ne sentono spesso, è zona di caccia. Sinceramente non c'ho badato.

We often hear gun shots here, it's a hunting area. Honestly I didn't pay attention to that.

Captions 13-14, Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 5 of 17

And things get more mysterious when Manara discovers Count Lapo’s cryptic parting words about his estate:

Ma ci penserà qualcun altro...

Well, someone else will take care of it...

Caption 34, Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 5 of 17

Ci can even get into the kitchen! Two kids are putting the finishing touches on a recipe they have demonstrated:

La nostra pasta è pronta. Ci aggiungiamo un cucchiaino di parmigiano.

Our pasta is ready. To it we’ll add a teaspoon of Parmesan.

Caption 21, Ricette bimbi: Gli spaghetti con zucchine e uova

But what happens when there are two object pronouns in the same sentence (indirect and direct)? Non c’è problema! Ci transforms itself into ce. The most important question when it’s time to buttare la pasta (throw the pasta in) is:

Ci hai messo il sale? (Did you put the salt in?)

Sì, ce l’ho già messo. (Yes, I already put it in.)

Even when it means “us” (see previous lesson), ci is transformed into ce when a direct object pronoun is also present, like “it” or “that.”

Morto come? -Eh, non ce l'hanno detto.

How did he die? -Uh, they didn’t tell us that.

Captions 33-34, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 1 of 17

Ci (often in the form of ce) can easily sneak into a sentence where there is technically no need for it, just to give it some weight.

Io son contadino mica grullo, ce l'avete il mandato?

I'm a farmer, not an idiot, do you have a warrant?

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 8 of 17

While it’s nice to know what all these little words mean, it can be frustrating trying to account for all of them or to string them together in a logical order, so learning some common frasi fatte (idiomatic expressions) can get you off to a great start.

Lara’s aunt is being pulled by her little dog:

Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

I can’t make it [I can't keep up], you'll make me fall.

Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 1 of 14

And the Commissario has no clue why Lara is mad at him:

Lara! Io non l'ho capito perché ce l'hai con me.

Lara! I don't get why you have something against me.

Caption 49, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 5 of 14

A good way to get a realistic sense of ci and ce in context is to watch Yabla series like Commissionario Manara, Un Medico in Famiglia, or even Pippo e Palla. Listen for these words, and when you hear them, press pause and repeat the sentence out loud. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll discover these little words all over the place, sprouting like wildflowers.

Learning suggestion:

You will get a good helping of phrases using ci here. Get to know the ones that resonate with you. Enjoy a comprehensive and entertaining introduction to the word ci here.


Ci: There's Always More to Say About It!

We had mentioned in a recent lesson that we would come back to ci. Well, it just so happens that Marika talks about ci in a recent video lesson.

To start off, she explains how ci is used to express place so that you don’t have to keep repeating the place in subsequent sentences if it has already been mentioned once. It’s a pronoun in this sense, and includes the preposition and the object of the preposition. So we’re talking about an indirect pronoun.

She uses some examples that give a fairly clear idea of how to use ci in this sense. What can be tricky is that in English, we can leave more elements out of the sentence than in Italian.

There is one example she gives:

Vieni a fare la spesa con me?
Are you coming food shopping with me?
Sì, ci vengo. Grazie.
Yes, I'm coming. Thanks.
Captions 29-30, Marika spiega: La particella “ci” - Part 1 of 3 

In this case, it’s hard to find any kind of indirect object that represents “to do the shopping with me.” In English, we just say, “Yes, I’m coming.” We could say, “Yes, I’m coming with you,” but that leaves out the shopping.


So when we are thinking about how to say something in Italian, and we are translating from English, it’s tricky to remember this little particle ci. It gets used so often, and it gets used in situations in which we as English speakers would not bother. Fortunately much of the time we can be understood in Italian even if we don’t use these words. It can take years to make ci a natural part of speech for a non-native speaker.

Here are a few more examples:

Dovevo andare al lavoro oggi, ma non ci vado.
I was supposed to go to work today, but I’m not going there.

In English we would just say, “but I’m not going.” And that is what takes getting used to in Italian!


Mia madre sta bene in questa casa, ma io ci sto male.
My mother is happy in this house, but I am not happy here.


Ho chiesto un aumento,ma non ci conto.
I asked for a raise, but I’m not counting on it.


As Marika tells us more about ci, we'll have more examples for you. So stay tuned!


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The Little Words: Particles ne and ci in context

Even though Marika has talked about the particles ne and ci in her recent video lessons, using them takes some practice. Let’s have a quick look at a few examples in this week’s episode of Commissario Manara.


We often don’t even hear these particles, because we aren’t looking for them. In English, equivalents for them are often superfluous.


This one little word ne represents a preposition plus an indirect object. In the following example, Lara could have said much the same thing leaving out the ne, but using it is more precise. It’s the difference between “I’m sure” and “I’m sure of it.” But in Italian, the particle goes before the verb, as if it were “of it I’m sure.”

Comunque ne sono sicura, non si è uccisa.
Anyway, I'm sure of it. She didn't kill herself.
Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13 


In the following example, we have ci in the first part, which represents “onto the furniture” and then, ce neCe represents “there (on the furniture)” and ne represents “of them” (the prints). Remember that when we have a direct object together with the indirect object ci, theci changes to ce!

Se lei ci fosse salita sopra, sarebbero rimaste le impronte, e invece non ce ne sono.
If she had climbed up on it, the prints would have remained, but there aren't any [of them].
Caption 8-9, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13 


In the following example, ci represents noi (to us).

Senti, prima ho trovato il diario di Iolanda, forse può esserci utile.
Listen, earlier I found Iolanda's diary. Maybe it could be useful to us.
Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le verità nascoste - Ep. 12 - Part 2 of 13  


Ci is complicated. It means different things in different contexts. So we will keep on talking about ci.


See more lessons about ci.



The new Yabla feature, Scribe, is not just a game, even though you'll find it in the "Games" tab (blue button) in the lower right-hand corner of the Player video window. Playing Scribe can be a big help in getting accustomed to particles like ne and ci/ce, because in Scribe we have to try to write down what we hear. And once we start hearing these particles, it will be easier to start using them and putting them in the right place. Stay on the lookout for further information about how to make the most of Scribe to boost your Italian comprehension and spelling skills. Meanwhile, perché non farci un giro (why not give it a whirl)? 


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

L'impersonale - Nothing Personal! - Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marika gives us the rule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si impersonale part 1
Si impersonale part 2

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


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The Ci in C'è

A common contraction we hear every day in Italian is c’è (there is). If we open it up, we find two words:

Ci (there) and è (third person singular of essere [to be]).


When referring to objects in a place, c'è is fairly straightforward, and its English translation “there is” corresponds quite well:

Nel corpo di Giada non c'è traccia di quel sonnifero.
In Giada's body there is no trace of that sleeping medicine.
Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un morto di troppo Ep. 10 - Part 9 of 12  


But things aren't always so straightforward. Let’s look at the following example where, to our ears, it might seem like there’s an extraneous “there.” In fact, the literal translation of the Italian would be “there’s the mama.” Let’s not forget that Italian uses ci to mean “there” and “here” interchangeably for the most part.

Vai, vai tranquillo, c'è la mamma! -Sì, mamma.
Go ahead, don’t worry, Mama is here! -Yes, Mama.
Caption 15, Il Commissario Manara 1: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 10 of 17


In the following example, and the previous one, we see that the word order changes between English and Italian. In Italian the ci (there) comes before the conjugated verb “to be,” making the contraction easy, but in English we need to put “there” afterwards:

Sì, ma non c'è nessuno. È tutto serrato.
Yes, but nobody is there. It's all locked up.
Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 1 of 14 

Or, we can put in an extra “there.”

There’s nobody there.
There’s nobody here.


Attenzione! If we want to distinguish between “here” and “there,” then we can use qui and .

Il libro non è qui, è lì (the book isn't here; it's there).


Italian uses “there is” to mean “it exists”:

È il minerale più resistente che c'è in natura. Rilassati Gina.
It's the most resistant mineral that exists in nature. Relax, Gina.
Caption 11,  La ladra: Le cose cambiano - Part 16 of 17


But there are also colloquial turns of phrase that use “there is” that don't quite correspond to English. The following example is in the imperfetto or simple past.

C'era Lei di turno tre notti fa? -Sì.
Were you in service three nights ago? -Yes.
Caption 2, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un morto di troppo Ep. 10 - Part 10 of 12 


When asking for someone on the phone, Italians use c’è. Remember that unlike English, questions and statements in Italian have the same word order, but the inflection changes.

Pronto. -Salve, c’è Susanna?
Hello. -Hello, is Susanna there?


When asking what’s wrong, it’s easy to say:

Che c'è? -Niente. 
What is the matter? -Nothing.
Caption 7. Il Commissario Manara 1: Il Raggio Verde - Ep 5 - Part 5 of 14 

In this case, translating literally (what is there?) does not work at all!


Lastly, let’s not forget the popular song by Nek, Laura non c'è. Note again the fact that ci (here, there) is inserted before the verb “to be.”

Laura non c'è, è andata via
Laura is not here; she's gone away
Caption 1, Nek: Laura non c'è 


We’ll often come back to the word ci in lessons, since it really does get around, and can be tricky. For more about ci, see these lessons.


Ci Siamo (we're there)!

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


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

Ecco qua, ci siamo quasi.
Here we go, we're almost there.
Caption 73, Anna e Marika: Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 3 of 5


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

No, no, non ci siamo.
No, no, this is no good.
Caption 91, Anna e Marika - L’Italiana a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Sardegna


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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When Pensare Doesn't Mean "to Think"

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


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

Ma certo! Come ho fatto a non pensarci prima?
But of course! Why didn't I think of it before!
Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 10


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

È un anno che organizziamo questo viaggio. -Potevi pensarci prima.
We've been organizing this trip for a year. -You could have thought of that before.
Caption 32, Ma che ci faccio qui!: Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 2


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

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

Noi non potremmo mai mandare avanti la fabbrica da soli, lo sai bene.
We could never run the factory on our own. You know that well.

Adriano, pensaci.
Adriano, think about it.
Captions 37-38, Adriano Olivetti: La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8


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

Barbagallo, pensaci tu.
Barbagallo, you take care of it.
Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 16

Toscani, io c'ho un appuntamento, pensaci tu.
Toscani, I have an appointment, you take care of it.
Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara: S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 7

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

Ci penso io!
I'll take care of it!


Ci pensa lei!
She'll take care of it.


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

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

Putting In Time with "Metterci"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Io e il mio maestro Lupo ci abbiamo messo una vita a metterlo su.
It took my teacher Lupo and me ages to set it up.
Caption 5, Rai Fiction: L'oro di Scampia - Part 2 of 25 

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

Enzo, c'ho messo vent'anni per insegnarti 'ste cose e mo pretendi che Toni le faccia subito?
Enzo, it took me twenty years to teach you these things, and now you expect Toni to do them right away?
Caption 28, Rai Fiction: L'oro di Scampia - Part 2 of 25

Papà ma quanto tempo c'hai messo? Avevi detto due minuti.
Dad, but how long did it take you [why did it take you so long]? You'd said "Two minutes."
Caption 45, Rai Fiction: L'oro di Scampia - Part 2 of 25

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


Further practice:

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

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

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

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Getting What We Want from "Volere"

The Italian word for “to want” is volere. See Daniela’s lesson about volere and other modal verbs.

Ma insomma, adesso, tu che cosa vuoi veramente?
Well, all things considered, now, you, what do you really want?
Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Reazione a Catena - Ep 6 - Part 9 of 14

But it’s not always as easy as just conjugating the verb, like in the above example. English speakers actively want things, or want to do things, but Italians, more often than not, use the noun form voglia (desire) with avere (to have) as the action. We often translate aver voglia as “to have the desire,” or  “to feel like”).

Se non ho più voglia mi fermo.
If I don’t feel like it anymore, I stop.
Caption 17, Gianni si racconta: L’olivo e i rovi

When we want to be polite, we use the conditional of volere, just like the English “I would like” rather than “I want.”

Vorrei parlare con il commissario.
I’d like to speak with the commissioner.

But when we’re done with being polite, and want to be more insistent, we forget about the conditional and go with the indicative. Imagine someone raising their voice a bit.

Voglio parlare col commissario. -Il commissario è di servizio. -Voglio parlare con il commissario!
I want to talk to the commissioner. -The commissioner is busy. -I want to speak to the commissioner!
Caption 34-35, Il Commissario Manara 1: Sogni di Vetro - Ep 7 - Part 14 of 18

We can also use the conditional with the noun form voglia, but the conditional is applied to the active verb, in this case, avere (to have). This is not a polite form like in the example with vorrei above. It’s true conditional. In the following example, I know very well no one is going to let me sleep for twelve hours, but it sure would be nice! Translating it with “love” instead of “like” gets the idea across.

Avrei voglia di dormire dodici ore.
I’d love to sleep for twelve hours.

Another common way volere is used in Italian is as the equivalent of “to take” or “to need” in English. Note that in this case ci means “for it,” not “us,” as you might be led to believe!

Allora, per le bruschette ci vuole il pane.
So, for the "bruschettas" we need bread.
Caption 7,  Anna e Marika: La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1 of 3

In a previous lesson we used  metterci to talk about how long something takes. We can use volere in a  similar way. While with metterci, we can be personal:

Io ci metto cinque minuti.
It takes me five minutes.

With volere, it’s impersonal and refers to anyone.

Ci vuole tanto tempo per attraversare Milano in macchina.
It takes a lot of time to get across Milan by car.

This kind of sentence also works in the conditional:

Ci vorrebbero tre ore per attraversare Milano in macchina!
It would take three hours to get across Milan by car!

Sometimes problems add up and finally you might say, “That’s all we need” or “that’s all we needed.” That’s when it’s time for non ci voleva (that's not what was needed).

Un tubo in bagno che perde proprio non ci voleva.
A leaky pipe in the bathroom, that’s really not what was needed [the last thing I needed].
Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara 1: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 1 of 17

And just for fun:

Il turno di notte ancora! Non ci voleva. I have to go to work, ma non ci ho voglia! Avrei voglia di andare in città a fare quello che voglio. Se vuoi, puoi venire con me. C’è un bel film che vorrei vedere, peccato che ci vuole troppo tempo per arrivarci  in tempo. Ci vorrebbe un ora buona!


The night shift again! That’s the last thing I needed. I have to go to work but I don’t feel like it. I’d love to go to the city and do what I want. If you want, you can come with me. There’s a great film that I would like to see; too bad it takes too long to get there in time. It would take a good hour!


Understanding the Reciprocal Reflexive Form

To understand the reciprocal reflexive, it’s good to have a grasp of the reflexive itself. To review, see this Yabla lesson.


A reflexive verb is used when an action is performed upon the same person who’s performing it. We recognize these verbs because they will be in the presence of an indirect object pronoun, or pronominal particle like mi, ti, ci, vi, si to indicate where the action is reflected.


In her video lesson Marika talks about the close relationship between the reflexive and the reciprocal.

La forma di questi verbi è uguale a quella dei verbi riflessivi.
The form of these verbs is the same as that of the reflexive verbs.
Quasi tutti i verbi italiani possono avere una forma riflessiva o reciproca.
Almost all Italian verbs can have a reflexive or reciprocal form.
Caption 26 and 32, Marika spiega: I verbi riflessivi e reciproci


The reciprocal involves two or more people or things, so we’ll need one of the plural pronominal particles: ci (to us, ourselves, each other), vi (to you, yourselves, each other), or si (to them, themselves, each other). As you can see, these particles have more than one function. To learn more, see these lessons about ci.


In two recent Yabla videos, the non reflexive transitive verb capire (to understand) is used a number of times, and there’s one instance where it’s used with ci, so it’s a good opportunity to look at how the reciprocal reflexive works. The reciprocal form is in the category of what’s called a forma riflessiva impropria (improper reflexive form). What makes it “improper” is that, though it works just like a reflexive verb, isn’t truly reflexive because it doesn’t fill the requirements mentioned above.


In English we use one form for the reflexive (myself, yourself, himself, herself, yourselves, themselves, oneself) and another for the reciprocal (each other, one another), but Italian makes use of the same pronominal particles used in the true reflexive, which can cause some confusion.


Let’s use the verb capire (to understand) to illustrate how it works. We’ll stick with the first and second persons to keep it simple.

Capisco (I understand).
Capisci (you understand).
Ti capisco (I understand you).
Mi capisci (you understand me).
Ci capiamo (we understand each other). Note that this is reciprocal, not reflexive.
Vi capite (you understand each other). This is also reciprocal, not reflexive.


Now, let’s put the above sentences into the passato prossimo (which uses a past participle like the present perfect in English, but translates in different ways). Keep in mind that Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo with capire, when in English, we would more likely use the present tense.

Ho capito (“I have understood,” “I understood,” or more commonly, “I get it”).
Hai capito (“you have understood,” “you understood,” or more commonly, “you get it”).
Ti ho capito or t’ho capito (I understood you).
Mi hai capito or m’hai capito (you understood me).


Thus far, it’s pretty straightforward. But now, as we get into compound tenses, the ones that need auxiliaries or helping verbs, it gets a little more complicated, because as Marika mentioned above, in Italian, “reciprocals” look just like reflexives. Capirci (to understand each another) is “improperly reflexive” but works like a true reflexive and so the rule for reflexive reigns, meaning that we need to use the auxiliary essere (to be) rather than avere (to have). Marika explains this rule in Marika spiega: I verbi riflessivi e reciproci.

Ci siamo capiti (“we have understood each other,” or, “we’re clear”).
Ci siamo capite (“we [two women] have understood each other,” or, “we [two women] are clear”).
Vi siete capiti (you have understood each other).
Vi siete capite (you [two women] have understood each other).


Let’s look at some practical examples from recent videos.


Ho capito. -Vuoi la mia casa a Milano?
I get it. -Do you want my house in Milan?
Caption 10, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Morte di un buttero Ep 8 - Part 16 of 16  


Non ti capisco.
I don't understand you.
Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara 1 - Morte di un buttero Ep 8 - Part 16 of 16


Ce simm capit [ci siamo capiti]?
Do we understand each other?
Caption 47, Rai Fiction: L'oro di Scampia - Part 14 of 25  


In the following example, just the past participle is used, and the person is implied. We often omit the person in English, too.


Capit [capito]? Ma poi torno.
Get it? But I'll be back later.
Caption 52, Rai Fiction: L'oro di Scampia - Part 14 of 25   


Further practice:
Se hai capito tutto (if you’ve understood everything), try using the above model with other verbs like  vedere (to see), sentire (to hear, to feel), baciare (to kiss), abbracciare(to hug, to embrace), incontrare (to meet). Se ce la fai (if you are able), use the other persons as well (he, she, they).


Here’s the verb aiutare (to help) to help you get started.

Aiuto (I help).
Aiuti (you help).
Ti aiuto (I help you).
Mi aiuti (you help me).
Ci aiutiamo (we help each other).
Ho aiutato (I helped).
Tu hai aiutato (you helped).
T’ho aiutato (I helped you).
Mi hai aiutato (you helped me).
Ci siamo aiutati (we helped each other).


You may notice below that there are some tricky cases of verb-complement agreement that haven't yet been covered. We will get to these prickly matters in a future lesson.

Aiuta (he/she/it helps).
Aiutano (they help).
L’aiuta (he/she/it helps him/her/it).
Si aiutano (they help each other).
Ha aiutato (he/she/it helped).
Li ha aiutati (he/she/it helped them). 
Hanno aiutato (they helped).
L’hanno aiutato (they helped him). 
L’hanno aiutata (they helped her)
Li hanno aiutati
 (they helped them). 
Le hanno aiutate (they helped them [fem]). 
Si sono aiutati (they helped each other).
Si sono aiutate (they helped each other [fem]).


Ricordare: Remembering and Reminding

Recently one of Italy’s most beloved singer-songwriters ci ha lasciato (passed away): Pino Daniele. Italian uses the verb ricordare to express remembrance on such occasions.

Lo ricorderemo con affetto.

We’ll remember him with affection.

In Quando (When), one of his most famous songs, Pino sings about, among other things, ricordi (memories).

Fra i ricordi e questa strana pazzia
E il paradiso che forse esiste
Among memories and this strange madness
And a paradise that might exist
Captions 29-30, Pino Daniele: Quando

Ricordare has another, closely related meaning—“to remind,” as in the following example.

Ah, un'altra cosa che volevo ricordare ai nostri amici di Yabla...

Ah, another thing that I wanted to remind our Yabla friends of...

Captions 31-32, Anna e Marika: Un Ristorante a Trastevere

When using ricordare as “to remind,” it becomes ricordare a and gets used with an indirect object, as in the above example. The preposition a (to)—sometimes connected to an article, as above—goes between ricordare and the person getting reminded. In the above example, the direct object is cosa.


But when the indirect object is a personal pronoun, the spelling shifts, as in the following example, where ti stands for a te (to you). See an explanation and chart of Italian indirect object pronouns here.

E tra l'altro, ti volevo ricordare che questa era una palude.

And besides, I wanted to remind you that this was a swamp.

Caption 15, Marika e Daniela: Il Foro Romano

In the following example, the personal pronoun as indirect object is attached to the verb itself. See more about this in previous lessons Ci gets around, part one and part two.  

Hm. Rosmini. -Hm. -Ricordami il nome? -Ginevra.

Hmm. Rosmini. -Uh huh. -Remind me of your [first] name? -Ginevra.

Caption 58, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 2 of 14

In English we have two distinct but related words, “to remember” and “to remind,” while in Italian the difference is considered so minimal that the same word is used, but there are some subtle differences.


More often than not, when we’re remembering, ricordare is used reflexively: ricordarsi, as in mi ricordo (I remember). (See the lesson: Reflections on the Reflexive.) When using the past tense, as in the following example, essere (to be) is the auxiliary verb.

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 13, Anna presenta: La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2 of 2

If you think of ricordare as meaning “to call to mind,” it may be easier to see how one word can fill two bills. While ricordarsi (to remember) is reflexive, and involves the person who’s remembering, ricordare a (to remind) involves two or more people.


Things get a little tricky when personal pronouns are used (which is a lot of the time)! Notice the object pronouns and conjugated verb. When ricordare means “to remember” the conjugation of ricordare matches the object pronoun, such as in ti ricordi? (do you remember?), si ricorda (he/she/it/one remembers), vi ricordate (you remember), ci ricordiamo (we remember). But in ricordare as reminding, there are usually at least two different people involved: ti ricordo (I remind you), ci ha ricordato (he/she/it reminded us), mi poteva ricordare (he could have reminded me).


In a nutshell:

Ricordare and its reflexive form ricordarsi (to remember): takes essere (to be) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci siamo ricordati), can be reflexive (same person)

Ricordare a (to remind): takes avere (to have) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci ha ricordato), is two-way (different people)


Here are a few more examples to help you remember...

Ti ricorderai di comprare il pane, o te lo devo ricordare?

Will you remember to buy bread, or do I have to remind you of it?

Ricordamelo pure, ma forse non mi ricorderò!

Go ahead and remind me of it, but maybe I won’t remember!

Come faccio a ricordarmi di ricordarti?

How can I remember to remind you?

Ti ho già ricordato due volte.

I’ve already reminded you twice.

When we’re una squadra di uno (a team of one), then we need stesso (self) to remind ourselves of something:

Alla fine, sarà più semplice ricordare a me stesso/stessa di comprare il pane, che di ricordarmi di ricordare a qualcun altro.

In the end, it’ll be easier to remind myself to buy bread, than to remember to remind someone else.


Verbi pronominali - Pronominal Verbs

We use the term verbo pronominale (pronominal verb) to describe long verbs like prendersela, in which pronoun particles are added on to the original verb (prendere in this case). But let’s take a closer look at what verbi pronominali (pronominal verbs) are all about.

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles).


Grammatically speaking, a particle is simply a small word of functional or relational use, such as an article, preposition, or conjunction.


So we have a normal verb, which, when used together with certain particles, has a distinct meaning that is often, but not necessarily, related to the meaning of the original verb.

Technically, reflexive verbs can also be considered pronominal verbs because in effect, the verb is used together with a particle like the si (oneself) in alzarsi (to get up). But these verbs are a special case and not usually called “pronominal,” since they are already called “reflexive.” Learn more about reflexive verbs here.


Verbs can combine with one or two particles. The particles used to make up a pronominal verb are:

la (it)
le (them)
ne (of it, of them, from it, from them)
ci (of it, about it)

Note that La and le are direct object pronouns while ci and ne are indirect object pronouns and therefore include a preposition and an object in the one particle.


As mentioned in a previous lesson, a pronominal verb in its infinitive form has all the particles attached to it, but when used in a sentence, the pieces may be partially or totally detached, and hence a bit more difficult to locate.


1) Pronominal verbs may be made up of one verb plus one pronoun particle:

smetterla (to quit doing something): smettere (to quit) + la (it)
darle (to give them, to give a spanking [idiom]): dare (to give) + le (them)
farne (to do something with something): fare (to do, to make) + ne (of it, of them)
capirci (to understand [about] something): capire (to understand) + ci (of it)

Lo sai che è la prima volta che in un delitto non ci capisco niente neanche io?
Do you know it's the first time in a murder that don't understand anything about it either?
Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara 1: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 12


2) Pronominal verbs may also be made up of one verb plus two pronoun particles (which combine with each other).


The particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne, but, as we have mentioned beforeci becomes ce when combined with another pronoun particle. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.

avercela (to have it in for [somebody]) avere + ci + la
farcela (to make it, to succeed) fare + ci + la


Ce la faccio, ce la faccio, ce la faccio.
I can do it, I can do it, I can do it
Caption 59, Dixieland: La magia di Tribo


Since the feminine is so often used in pronominal verbs, especially in idiomatic expressions, we can think of la (it) as standing for una cosa (something, that thing), la vita (life), la faccenda (the matter), or la situazione (the situation).


Exactly why a feminine pronoun is used in so many expressions with pronominal verbs is not cut-and-dried, and there is no quick answer. If you’re insatiably curious, check out this passage from an online book about the question (in Italian).


3) Pronominal verbs may be made up of one reflexive verb (which uses the particle siin the infinitive) plus a second pronoun particle like those mentioned above:  la, le, ne, or ci.

Prendersela (to get angry, to get offended, to get upset)
Fregarsene (to not care at all about something [colloquial])
Mettercisi (to put [time] into something)


In the following example we have the pronominal verb accorgersene (to notice something, to realize something, to become aware of something). The basic (reflexive) verb is accorgersi (to notice), but the object pronoun particle ne is added as an indirect object pronoun.

te ne accorgi solo quando accade.
And you only become aware of it when it happens.
Caption 27: Rai Fiction - L'oro di Scampia: Part 11 of 25   

Those pesky particelle (particles)

In English we might imagine a dialogue such as this in a group of housemates:

Who will go to the store to buy milk? -I’ll go.

We have a very brief answer.  It includes the person who will carry out the task, and the verb “to go.” Anything else is easily inferred.


But in Italian, it’s common to include the place as well, or some other information, as a pronoun. So, the initial question is the same.

Chi va al supermercato per comprare il latte (who will go to the store to buy milk?)


But the answer will probably be:

Ci vado io (I’ll go there). We would not likely say “I’ll go there” in English, but it’s implied.


So, there’s this extra element in Italian, with respect to English: the place. Ci corresponds to “there,” “to that place,” “to the store.”


Here’s an example from Marika’s video about all these particles.

Cominciamo con "ci" più "mi". "Devo tornare a casa, mi ci porti?"
Let's begin with “ci” plus “mi.” "I need to go back home. Will you bring me there?”
Captions 17-19, Marika spiega: I pronomi combinati - Part 3 of 3 


Another example, not about a place but about a situation.

Who will take care of this problem? -I will.
Chi si occuperà di questo problema? -Ci penso io.


Ci corresponds to “of this problem,” or “about this problem.”

Italian has these little pronoun particles that say a lot, and they can often be construed to stand for something in English. But more often than not, they stand for some element of a sentence that generally gets left out in English. This makes learning the little words difficult. They don’t seem to correspond to anything.


If you leave them out, and say, for example, vado io, instead of ci vado io, people will understand you anyway, most likely, but little by little, as you use your Italian in real life, you will get the hang of these particles, and include them more and more often in your speech, and your Italian will become more fluent, more "Italian."


There are two parallel paths to becoming more fluent. The first is to listen and repeat, even if you are merely repeating in your mind as someone is speaking. Speaking, even though you know you will make mistakes, is also important. You can’t very well start out speaking perfectly, and communication certainly comes first. Having someone understand you despite all your mistakes is already a win.


The other path is to study and read. Studying can give you those “ah ha” moments when you figure something out, and it can give you some ground rules so you're not completely lost. But studying won’t help you too much in conversation if you don’t follow the listening path. Once you have a rudimentary knowledge of Italian and can communicate, then studying can help you refine your knowledge and skill.


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2 Words about Trying:Provare and Provarci

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


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

Ora ci provo. Vediamo se ci riesco.
I'm going to try it now.  Let's see if I succeed in it.
Caption 50-51, Francesca: neve - Part 3 of 3


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

Ma questo non significa che io... 

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

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

Me? But are you nuts?
Captions 18-21, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4 of 14


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


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

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Being Polite With "Dare del Lei"

As we saw in a previous lesson, Italians are very conscious of formal and informal greetings, and will say hello in different ways depending on the situation. But there’s more. When speaking or writing to someone they must, or want, to treat with respect, they’ll use the polite form of “you”—Lei. This happens to be identical to the word for “she,” lei. For a fascinating explanation, see this article and its continuation here. To show respect, Lei gets capitalized, together with its possessive pronouns Sua, Sue, Suoi (your, yours) and its object pronouns La and Le (you). Although the capitalization of these pronouns is going out of style, it can be helpful for figuring out who is being talked about. Using the formal “you” is called dare del Lei (giving the formal “you”). The opposite is called dare del tu (giving the informal “you”).  

In Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui (But What Am I Doing Here?), Alessio finds himself in an embarrassing situation. (Yes, he’s about to fare brutta figura!) Things have gotten decidedly intimo, but Alessio da ancora del Lei (is still giving the formal “you”) to this woman, and she calls him out on it.

Ma che fai, mi dai ancora del Lei?

What are you doing, you still address me formally?

Caption 22, Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui: Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 13 of 23

In an episode of Commissario Manara, Lara is trying to get some information from a woman in shock over the death of her employer. Lara uses Lei since she is addressing someone older than her, and whom she doesn’t know. Lara sees the woman is touchy on the subject at hand so she immediately apologizes, even though she’s done nothing wrong.

When the personal pronoun is an object, either direct or indirect, it can become part of the verb, as we’ve talked about in a previous lesson. In the example below, the polite “you” is a direct object of the verb offendere (to offend), and becomes part of it (with a respectful capital letter in this case).

Mi scusi, non volevo offenderLa.

I'm sorry, I didn't want to offend you.

Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara: Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Ep 4 - Part 2 of 17

In another episode, Luca Manara is being polite to his boss, but only on the surface. In this case, the indirect object pronoun is part of the compound verb, riferire a (to report to).

Ma, come purtroppo Lei mi ricorda, io devo riferirLe tutto, no?

But, as you unfortunately remind me, I have to report everything to you, don't I?

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara:  Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 17 of 17    

In the concluding segment of “Vendemmia tardiva,” la zia, as usual, uses her powers of conversazione and intuizione femminile to help solve the crime:

Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui. E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?

I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him. And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?

Captions 4-5, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 17 of 17

Dare del tu (to address informally) or dare del Lei (to address formally) is an important aspect to settle in a new relationship. A common question to ask is: ci possiamo dare del tu? (can we give each other the informal "you?") or, ci diamo del tu? (shall we give each other the informal “you?”). The answer is almost always: sì, certo!


Colloquial Speech

This lesson looks at some colloquial expressions from the last segment of Stai lontana da me, a comedy. 


When asking for confirmation of what you have said, here’s one way:

Dico bene?
Am I saying it well [am I right/am I telling like it is]?
Caption 27, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17 


The prefix ri is similar to “re” in English: it's used to repeat something:

Hai ridetto Monica.
You re-said “Monica” [you said “Monica” again].
Caption 42, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17


Niente di niente is colloquial but used quite a bit in everyday speech. In fact, there are two instances in this segment. We can translate it colloquially: “no nothing,” or, in correct English: “nothing at all.”

E in due anni zero litigate, niente di niente. È un vero paradiso.
And in two years, no fights, no nothing. It's true paradise.
Caption 49, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17

E poi a Sara non è successo più un incidente. -No, no, niente di niente.
And then Sara hasn't had any more accidents. -No, no, nothing at all.
Captions 62-63, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17


Stra is a prefix meaning “extra” or “over.” It’s used quite a bit to mean “super” or “mega” in colloquial speech, although there are more mainstream words with this prefix, such as stravecchio (very mature or old), stracotto (as an adjective, “very well-cooked”; as a noun, “meat stewed a long time”), stravedere (to think the world of), straviziare (to overindulge).


Jacopo’s client used very colloquial speech:

...Cioè perché stra-pesante, cioè una noia totale.
...That is, because super heavy duty, that is, a total bore.
Caption 51, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17


His use of cioè (that is) is very close in meaning to "I mean," in English, which some people sprinkle throughout their speech. Ciò is one of those words that in the beginning was two separate ones:  ciò (this that) and è (is).


Quasi quasi literally means “almost almost.”

Quasi quasi non ci lasciavamo. -Ciccì, cicciò due palle dottore, a noi ci piaceva litigare.
We were seriously considering not breaking up. -Yatter, yatter what a downer, Doctor. We liked fighting.
Caption 52,  Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17

Some alternative translations:

We were seriously thinking of not breaking up.
We were of a mind not to break up.


Here’s an expression to justify asking someone a question. Most Italians know this expression or saying, and some use it automatically. In English, we might say, “There’s no harm in asking.”

Poi, domandare è lecito, rispondere è cortesia.
Besides, asking is permissible; answering is good manners.
Caption 57, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 17 of 17


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Caption 27, 42, 49, 62, 63, 51, 52, 57

Getting to Know "Conoscere"

In a previous lesson we discussed addressing people formally or informally, using Lei or tu. Deciding which is appropriate has to do with the degree of conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, familiarity). Conoscenza comes from the verb conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with). (For the other kind of knowing, sapere, see the previous lessons, Sapere: Part 1 and Sapere: Part 2.) Conoscere is worth a closer look, because although it’s used to mean “to know, to be acquainted with,” Italians also use it to mean “to meet, to get acquainted with, to get to know.” In the following example from one of Daniela’s Italian lessons, it’s clear she means “to know.” 

Se io, per esempio, non conosco Alex, Alex è il mio vicino di casa,

o una persona che ho incontrato per la strada, voglio sapere come si chiama, io do del Lei.

If, for example, I don't know Alex, Alex is my next door neighbour,

or a person I've met on the street, I want to know his name, I give the "Lei."

Captions 11-12: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Tu o Lei?

In the same lesson, Daniela is talking about meeting someone for the first time, and she uses the same verb, conoscere. The context tells us what she means.

Dobbiamo sapere, quando conosciamo una persona, se darle del tu o del Lei.

We have to know, when we meet a person, whether to use “tu” or “Lei” with him.

Caption 2-3: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Tu o Lei?

In a previous lesson, Making It Happen, we talked about combining fare (to do, to make) with other verbs to make things happen, or get things done. Fare gets combined with conoscere to make introductions: fare conoscere (to make someone or something known, or to introduce someone or something).

Francesca is going to her first riding lesson at a nearby stable, and she tells us:

Questo ragazzo che mi accoglierà, e che vi farò conoscere, si chiama Alberto.

This fellow who will receive me, and to whom I’ll introduce you, is named Alberto.

Caption 8: Francesca: Cavalli - Part 1 of 9

When you talk about when and where you met someone for the first time, use conoscere:

Ho conosciuto Alberto solo oggi. Conosce molto bene i suoi cavalli.

I met Alberto today [for the first time]. He knows his horses very well.

Now that Francesca has heard all about these horses from Alberto, she’s ready for a closer look. 

E quindi va bene, ne andiamo a conoscere qualcuno. -Andiamo a conoscerne un bel po'. 

And so all right, let's go to meet some of them. -We're going to meet a good many of them

Caption 57: Francesca: Cavalli - Part 1 of 9

In case you’re wondering why ne is attached to the end of conoscere the second time it appears, it’s because it means “of them.” Like ci, as we’ve already seen in Ci Gets Around, ne is a particle that can either be separate, as in the first sentence, or can become part of the verb, as in the second. You’ll find more information on ne here

To sum up, here’s a list of variations of conoscere, including a few new ones:

conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with, to be familiar with)

conoscere (to get acquainted with, to meet for the first time)

fare conoscere (to introduce, to make known)

conosciuto (well known)

conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, awareness, consciousness)

a conoscenza (aware)

delle conoscenze (knowledge, influential people, connections)

fare la conoscenza (to get acquainted)

riconoscere (to recognize)

un conoscente (an acquaintance)

• the reflexive form: conoscersi (to know oneself, to know each other/one another)

riconoscente (appreciative, grateful) 

uno sconosciuto (a stranger)

sconosciuto (unknown, little known)

And putting them all together, just for fun, here’s what we get: 

Se finora non eri a conoscenza del sistema Yabla, probabilmente non conoscevi questo trucco: clicchi su qualsiasi parola sconosciuta, o su una parola che non riconosci, e puoi subito conoscerne il significato nella tua lingua, perché si apre il dizionario. O forse te l’aveva detto un conoscente, e sei stato riconoscente. Tu ti conosci meglio di chiunque altro, e quindi saprai tu se vuoi vedere i sottotitoli o no. Tutti gli utenti Yabla conoscono questo trucco. E a proposito, come hai conosciuto Yabla? C’è qualcuno che te l’ha fatto conoscere, o l’hai conosciuto per caso? A che livello è la tua conoscenza o a che livello sono le tue conoscenze dell’italiano? È vero che noi non ci conosciamo, ma per convenzione, ci diamo del tu.

Before sneaking a peek at the English translation, see how much you understand of the Italian!

If, up until now, you were not aware of the Yabla system, you probably weren’t familiar with this trick: click on any unknown word, or on a word you don’t recognize, and you can immediately find out (get acquainted with) the meaning of it in your language because a dictionary opens up. Or maybe an acquaintance had already told you that and you were grateful. You know yourself better than anyone, so you must know if you want to see the captions or not. All Yabla users know this trick. And by the way, how did you learn about Yabla? Was there someone who introduced you to it, or did you know about it already? What’s your level of knowledge in Italian? It’s true that we don’t know each other, but by convention we use the familiar form of address.

E se non basta (and if that’s not enough), here are two more links for you: sapere and conoscere and How to Use the Italian Verbs Sapere and Conoscere


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Words that Trigger the Subjunctive: qualora and affinché

Some of us have been following Daniela’s lessons about the subjunctive. It can be tricky for English speakers to grasp because we use the subjunctive so rarely.


Italian gives us a rich variety of connecting words — words that connect the main clause in a sentence to a subordinate clause. Some of them are interchangeable and some are very unique. Some are used in formal situations and instructions, for the most part, like qualora (in the event that), and some are used in everyday speech. Sometimes there are ways to get around using these words if they don’t feel comfortable yet. On the other hand, they can be fun to learn, too.


As with other words we’ve looked at, many of these fancy conjunctions and adverbs are the result of two or more words having merged. Let’s take qualora. It’s made up of quale (which) and ora (hour). So it means “in whichever hour,” or “if at any time,” or something to that effect.


Daniela uses this example:

Qualora non ci siano abbastanza partecipanti, il corso non ci sarà.
In the event there aren't enough participants, the class won't take place.
Captions 2 -3, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Il congiuntivo - Part 15 of 17 

Note that siano is the third person plural subjunctive of essere (to be). The indicative would be sono.


But we could also say, in a simpler way, with se (if):

Se non ci sono abbastanza partecipanti, Il corso non ci sarà.
If there aren’t enough participants the course won’t happen.


Here’s another example.

qualora si presentassero cattivi odori, la soluzione migliore è l'aggiunta di foglie, cenere e lo stesso terriccio.
And if at any time a bad smell presents itself, the best solution is adding leaves, ashes, and some soil itself.
Caption 29, Raccolta differenziata: Campagna di sensibilizzazione del Comune di Alliste (LE) 

We’re pretty direct in English, but if we wanted to get fancy, we could say,

“And in the event a bad smell should present itself...” and it would mean pretty much the same thing.




Affinché is a wonderful conjunction. We can take this apart too, and we get a (“to” or “at”) fine (“scope,” “end”), and che (that). So, we’re talking about a result we are looking for. In informal speech, we might say, “in order for,” “so that.” But the Italian word really gives the specific idea of an objective or goal.


In the following example, we can see that Marika’s use of affinché points to the result she would like to have: a life that’s a marvelous dream.

E quindi dipende da te, fare le scelte giuste, impegnarti affinché la vita sia sempre un sogno meraviglioso.
So it depends on you, to make the right choices, to work hard so that your life is always a marvelous dream.
Captions 18-19, Amiche: Filosofie 


Attenzione! It’s easy to mix up affinché (in order that) with finché (as long as) and finché non (until), so check out this lesson, and check this lesson out, too. It discusses fine,  a noun that means a few different things.

Elegant and Not So Elegant Turns of Phrase

Francesca is showing Daniela how to play one of the most popular Italian card games, Briscola. Two little words stand out, and merit some attention. They’re both in the category of “but,” yet they are more specific and allow for a more elegant turn of phrase. The first is the conjunction bensì (but rather).

La briscola, eh, come molti non sanno, non è un gioco nato in Italia, bensì in Olanda, nei Paesi Bassi.

Briscola, uh, as a lot of people don't know, is not a game originating in Italy, but rather in Holland, in the Netherlands.

Captions 5-6, Briscola: Regole del gioco - Part 1 of 2

The other one, ovvero (or rather), is used by Francesca who’s trying make things crystal clear, so she’s using language that’s a little more formal than usual. Ovvero is somewhat archaic, and is often a fancy way of saying o (“or,” “that is,” or “otherwise”).

Nella briscola ci sono delle carte che sono più importanti delle altre, ovvero, te le vado subito a mostrare.

In Briscola there are some cards that are more important than others, or rather, I'm going to show you right now.

Captions 24-25, Briscola: Regole del gioco - Part 1 of 2

In more informal speech, you’ll hear words like ma (but), invece (but, instead, rather), nel senso (I mean, in the sense), to express similar sentiments.

Speaking of informal speech, it’s definitely the norm in Lele’s family. One of the words that creeps into casual speech is mica (“not,” or “at all”). Think of when you say, “Not bad! Not bad at all!” That’s one time you’ll want to say, mica male! It’s a form of negation equivalent to non. Therefore, non male is just about equivalent to mica male, but think, “exclamation point” at the end. The fun thing about this word is that you can use it by itself, like Ciccio does, in justifying the shoes he bought with money taken from Grandpa’s pocket:

Ma guarda, Giacinto, che eran per le scarpe, mica per un gioco!

But look, Giacinto, it was for shoes, not for a game!

Caption 22, Un medico in famiglia - 2: Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 10 of 12

But you can also use it together with a negative (it’s no crime to use a double negative in Italian) like Ciccio's Grandpa (before finding out who took his money) to emphasize the “no”:

Io sono un pensionato, Cetinka, non sono mica un bancomat!

I'm a retiree, Cetinka, I'm no ATM machine!

Caption 65, Un medico in famiglia - 2: Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 7 of 12

The character of Alessio in Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui is older than Ciccio, but just out of high school. His speech is certainly very rich in modi di dire (if you do a Yabla search with mica, you’ll find Alessio and many others!), but in one episode there’s an expression whose translation is not very intuitive—con comodo (in a leisurely way). If you remember that comodo means “comfortable” it will make more sense. Depending on the tone (like in English), it can express patience or impatience!

Vabbè, fate con comodo.

OK, take your time [literally, “do with leisure”].

Caption 30, Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui: Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 10 of 23

Watch the video to see which it is in this case!

Learning suggestion: Enrich your vocabulary by using the Yabla search as well as WordReference to get more examples of bensì, ovvero, and mica. There’s no hurry: fate con comodo!


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