Italian Lessons


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.


Remembering and Forgetting with Ricordare and Dimenticare

In Italian, “to remember” and “to forget” go well together: Ricordare/dimenticare


Ricordare may be easy to remember if we think of making a mental record of something.​
Dimenticare, if you take it apart, is kind of a fun word. Di, just like “dis” in English, often undoes something. Mente is the Italian word for mind. You undo something from your mind!

Duemilaseidici è stato un anno da ricordare o da dimenticare?
Was two thousand sixteen a year to remember, or a year to forget?


Think of things you want to remember or forget from last year:

Vorrei ricordare un bellissimo viaggio in Italia.
I would like to remember a great trip to Italy.
Vorrei dimenticare quanti soldi ho dovuto spendere
I would like to forget how much money I had to spend.


In the above examples, we have treated ricordare and dimenticare as ordinary transitive verbs. They are followed by a noun. This is the most basic way to use these verbs. But ricordare and dimenticare are, more often than not, used reflexively.

Ricordati (remember)!! When a verb is reflexive, the subject and object of the verb are one and the same:

Mi sono tagliato (I cut myself).


For more about reflexive verbs see this lesson and this video.


In the following example, ricordare is used reflexively, and is followed by a noun, not a verb.

Daniela, tu per caso ti ricordi i nomi degli altri colli di Roma?
Daniela, do you, by chance, remember the names of the other hills of Rome?
Caption 6, Marika e Daniela: Il Foro Romano 


Ricordiamoci (let’s remember) that when a verb, not a noun, follows a verb in this category, we need the preposition di in between, as in the following example. You may notice that the verb decidere (to decide) behaves the same way!

Il tuo amico ha deciso di portarti in giro con il suo scooter, ma non ha dimenticato di prestarti un casco.
Your friend has decided to take you around on his scooter, but hasn't forgotten to lend you a helmet.
Caption 8, Marika spiega: I veicoli 


The above example could be modified a few ways to say the same thing. We could use the reflexive:

Il tuo amico si è deciso di portarti in giro con il suo scooter, ma non si è dimenticato di prestarti un casco.
Your friend has decided to take you around on his scooter, but hasn't forgotten to lend you a helmet.


You will notice that as soon as we use the reflexive form, we need the auxiliary verb essere (to be) rather than avere (to have) in the compound tenses. This can be tricky indeed!


We could also use the verb ricordare:

Il tuo amico si è deciso di portarti in giro con il suo scooter, e si è ricordato di prestarti un casco.
Your friend has decided to take you around on his scooter, and has remembered to lend you a helmet.


However we decide to use ricordare and dimenticare (and decidere, for that matter), we need di before the verb in the infinitive.

Ah, mi sono dimenticato di dirti che...
Oh, I forgot to tell you that...
Caption 20, Francesca: alla guida - Part 1 of 4 


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The Verb Ricordare (to Remember) in Context

Daniela has talked about the fact that ricordare (to remember) takes the preposition di. In a recent episode of Stai lontana da me, there is a scene where the verb ricordare appears a number of times. Let’s take a closer look.

In the following example, Simona is using ricordare reflexively: ricordarsi (to remember), but very generally, in that there is no direct object at all. She’s just saying, “You don’t remember, do you?”

È incredibile, sono passati trent'anni e sei identico. -Identico a chi? -Sono Simona, non ti ricordi, eh?
It's incredible, thirty years have passed and you are the same. -The same as who? -I'm Simona, you don't remember, do you?
Captions 14-15, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 15 of 17 

But then, as they keep talking, we start hearing some direct object pronouns as well.

Ma figurati, ma io manco me la ricordo 'sta maledizione.
But are you kidding? But I don't even remember it, this curse.
Caption 25, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 15 of 17

Of course in English, we don’t normally include the direct object pronoun together with the direct object noun.


'Sta maledizione (this curse) is the actual direct object of the above example and the one below.

Ma come non te la ricordi? -Ma non me la ricordo, era alle elementari, Jacopo. -Eh!
But what do you mean you don’t remember it? -But don't remember it, it was at elementary school, Jacopo. -Yeah.
Captions 26, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 15 of 17


In the following example, just the indirect object pronoun (mi in this case) is used because what was remembered (the fact of being sweethearts) is then explained in a separate clause.

Eh, mi ricordo che eravamo fidanzatini, poi, non so, è successo qualcosa e...
Uh, I remember that we were sweethearts and then something happened and...
Captions 27, Rai Cinema: Stai lontana da me - Part 15 of 17

So when we don’t need to be specific, mi ricordo or non mi ricordo (I remember/I don’t remember) will do.

When there is no direct pronoun, just an indirect pronoun, we can ask the question:

Ti ricordi?
Do you remember?

But when we specify what is being remembered, we either insert a direct object noun:

Ti ricordi quel viaggio...?
Do you remember that trip...?

Or a verbal phrase:

Ti ricordi di aver fatto quel viaggio nel settantanove?
Do you remember having made that trip in seventy-nine?

Attenzione! This is when we need di, as Daniela has explained in a recent video lessonRicordare is a verb that takes the preposition di when followed by a verb in the infinitive, whether or not it is reflexive.


We can also insert a direct object pronoun. Attenzione! This causes a shift. In this case, the indirect pronoun changes from an i ending to an e ending. The direct pronoun will be lo (it), la (it), li (them), or le (them): In this particular case the object is viaggio (trip), a masculine noun.

Te lo ricordi?
Do you remember it?
Me lo ricordo
I remember it.
Se lo ricordano.
They remember it.

You can practice forming sentences with only an indirect pronoun. Then add a direct object pronoun corresponding to a noun you are thinking of, and make the shift, as above.


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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.

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




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

 Play Caption


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)!




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).




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."




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

 Play Caption


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].




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!




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!


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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"Pure" - not pure and simple!

One of our Yabla subscribers has asked about the word pure. It does get translated differently in different contexts, so it can be a bit confusing. This one short word has a few different but related connotations. On the simple end of the scale it’s an adverb—another way of saying anche (also, too, as well).


In the following example, both anch’io and io pure mean pretty much the same thing. There’s no particular emotion attached to the word. It’s matter-of-fact.

Anch'io. -Anch'io. -Io pure.
So do I. -So do I. -Me too.
Caption 52, Un medico in famiglia: Episode 2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 10  


In the example below, however, the meaning of pure is technically the same (meaning “also,” “too,” “as well”) but there’s some sort of emotion involved, as if one were saying, “not only is she pretty, but she’s smart too!” (as if that weren't to be expected...):

Bellina e pure brava questa Rubino.
Pretty, and also smart, this Rubino.
Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 8  


In the example below, pure is still an adverb, but this time gets translated as “even.” Let’s remember that anche can also mean “even” in certain situations. Some Italians will tell you that pure quite simply means anche. In fact, one could even swap purewith anche, and it would mean much the same thing.

È incredibile, fai pure finta di non ricordare.
It's incredible, you even pretend not to remember.
Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara 1: Un delitto perfetto - Ep. 1 - Part 5   


Below is another example where the sense of pure is “even.” We could use “as well” or “too,” but it would be a bit of a stretch. In fact pure is a way to raise your eyebrows without actually doing so. It adds an emotional element.

Eh, questo, fa resuscitare pure i morti! 
Yes, this, it will revive even the dead!
Caption 42, Un medico in famiglia: Episode 2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 9  


The following example is one in which pure requires more than a one-word translation. It’s used in contexts where we would use “go ahead” in English.

Senti, se ti va di metterti nei guai fallo pure,
Listen, if you want to get yourself in trouble, go ahead and do so.
Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara 1: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep. 2 - Part 9  


Fallo pure! can be translated as “go right ahead!” [literally: “do it nevertheless”].       

Pure as “go ahead” is also used a lot in offices and such places, where someone will either ask you to have a seat, or to go in. It can also be interpreted as “it’s OK if you…” since when you say “go ahead,” you’re giving permission. Here are some formal and informal examples:

Si sieda pure.
Go ahead and have a seat.

Siediti pure.
Go ahead and sit down.

Si accomodi pure.
Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. [Have a seat.]

Accomodati pure.
Go ahead and make yourself at home. [Also, as a sarcastic retort: "Be my guest!"]

Vada pure avanti.
Go ahead and lead. [After you.]

Vai pure avanti.
Go right ahead.
Go ahead and take the lead.
It’s all right if you go in front of me.

We often hear a more literary form of purepur, which basically means the same thing, although it’s considered a conjunction. It’s used to mean “though,” “although,” “yet,” and tends to occur before a gerundio (gerund) form of a verb, as in the following example.

Pur essendo partito in una situazione di un ristorante di fronte all'ortofrutta [fruttivendolo]...
Though getting its start as a restaurant situated across from the vegetable market...
Captions 1-2, L'arte della cucina: La Prima Identitá - Part 6 


It’s also frequent to find eppure (and yet, yet, still, but, nevertheless, all the same), which has the same root. In this case it’s a stand-alone conjunction and will likely be followed by a comma.

Eppure, il rischio vulcanico non ha mai allontanato i suoi abitanti.
And yet, the volcanic risk has never sent its inhabitants away.
Caption 22, Linea Blu: Sicilia - Part 9

In the same vein, we have neppure, which like neanche means “not even.”

E per di più non è neppure la stessa persona
And what's more, it's not even the same person
Caption 1,  Il Commissario Manara 1: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 13  


Tying it all together in context, just for fun:

Dialogo fra 2 maratonisti:

Francesca: Pur essendo anziano, vai forte! 
Massimo: Sì, ma vai pure avanti, ti raggiungo dopo la corsa. Mi sono allenato come un pazzo, eppure, sto facendo fatica. 
Francesca: Pure io sto facendo fatica. Fermati pure due minuti per riprendere fiato!
Massimo: Se tu ti vuoi fermare, fallo pure. Io non ci penso neanche! Neppure per sogno!
Francesca: Io pure non voglio fermarmi. A dopo!

Al traguardo...

Francesca: Ma... Sei arrivato prima tu! Eppure, eri stanchissimo.
Massimo: È vero, mi hai pure superato ad un certo punto, t’ho visto. Ma poi... puressendo stanco morto, ce l’ho fatta!


Dialogue between two marathon runners:

Francesca: Even though you’re old, you’re fast!
Massimo: Yes, but go ahead and go, I’ll catch up to you after the race. I trained like crazy, but nevertheless, I’m having a tough time.
Francesca: I’m having a tough time as wellGo ahead and stop two minutes to catch your breath!
Massimo: If you want to stop, go right ahead. I won’t even think of it! [No way!] I wouldn’t even dream of it!
Francesca: I don’t want to stop, either. See you later!

At the finish line...

Francesca: But... You finished before me! And yet, you were very tired.
Massimo: It’s true. You even passed me at a certain point, I saw you. But then... even though I was dead tired, I made it!


Understanding "Adosso"

When you’re feeling things in such a way that they seem to be “on top of you,” they’re addosso, like in Jovanotti’s song.

L'estate addosso
Summer [is] upon us
Un anno è già passato
A year has already gone by
Captions 1-2, Lorenzo Jovanotti: L'estate addosso

He’s talking about the summer season, but also the weight (and heat) of summer. We might even say he feels it on his shoulders or back. Addosso can mean on top, right nearby, but definitely close (in time or space), close enough to be breathing down your neck. It can even be so close as to be inside you.

This somewhat peculiar word has a little history. Dosso is a rather archaic way of saying dorso (back, spine). Remembering this will help in assimilating addosso and di dosso (off of). As a noun, dosso by itself is used when talking about geological formations (bumps or hills), or in la segnaletica stradale (road signs) to indicate a bump or a rise.

Dosso usually gets together with a preposition to be transformed into a compound preposition/adverb: addosso. If there’s an indirect object in the form of a noun, as in the following example, we need the preposition a (to).

Il ramo è caduto addosso ad un bambino.
The branch fell onto a child.

If we use an object pronoun, we have:

Il ramo è caduto addosso a lui.
The branch fell onto him.

To make the sentence flow better, we can turn it around, employing the famous combination: indirect object pronoun + preposition (if this is unfamiliar to you, see Ci Gets Around: Part 1 and Ricordare: Remembering and Reminding). A lui (to him) becomes gli (to him):

Gli [a lui] è caduto il ramo addosso.
The branch fell on top of him.

In this case, we generally find addosso at the end of the sentence or clause, and the object pronoun will be elsewhere.

Infatti, lui ci ha rovesciato tutto il vassoio addosso.
In fact, he even spilled the contents of the tray on top of us.
Caption 31, Anna e Marika: Il verbo essere - Part 1 of 4  

Related words:
Di dosso (from your back, off your back), usually used with a word meaning “to remove” such as togliere or levare:

Me lo sono levato di dosso.
I got it off my back [I got rid of it].

Toglimi le mani di dosso.
Take your hands off me.

Addossare isn’t very common in normal conversation, but means something along the lines of “to lean.” It’s used when talking about blame or responsibility:

addossare la colpa
to lay the blame

addossarsi la responsabilità
to take responsibility

Indossare (to wear, to put on, literally “to put on one’s back”):

Indossava una sciarpa rossa.
She was wearing a red scarf.

In a nutshell:
When referring to “on,” we use addosso
When referring to “off,” we use di dosso

Addosso will need the preposition a (to), which may be hidden in the object pronoun.

Di dosso, on the other hand, already has its (detached) preposition: di (of).

The most common related verb form is indossare (to wear).

A Yabla video search of addosso will give you some good examples of how it’s used.

Just for fun:
Stavo facendo un giro in bicicletta. Indossavo una maglia colorata, e quindi ero ben visibile, ma nonostante ciò, una macchina mi è venuta proprio addosso e sono cascato. Poi la bici stessa mi è cascata addosso. Non sono riuscito subito a togliermela di dosso. L’autista non mi ha aiutato e neanche voleva addossarsi la responsabilità. Ogni tanto, questa cattiva esperienza me la sento ancora addosso.


I was taking a bike ride. I was wearing a bright jersey, and so I was quite visible, but in spite of that, a car bumped right into me and I fell off. Then the bike itself fell onto me. I wasn’t able to get it off me right away. The driver didn’t help me, nor did he want to take responsibility. Every now and then, I still feel this bad experience inside of me.


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Scattare and Staccare

Staccare and scattare, two somewhat look-alike words, appear in this week’s episode of Commissario Manara, and scattare also appears in a music video this week. The meanings of both words are not always immediately clear.

We use the word scattare when taking pictures:

Ti scatterò una foto
I'll take a snapshot of you
Caption 8, Tiziano Ferro: Ti scattero' una foto  

But scattare can mean to “click,” “to release a spring,” or “to spring into action.” It can also mean “to click” figuratively, as in the following example from one of this week’s videos.

Lo ringrazi tantissimo per i fiori e gli dici: "non è scattato quello che doveva scattare."
Thank him profusely for the flowers and you tell him, "What should have clicked didn'tclick.”
Captions 6-7,  Il Commissario Manara 1: Morte di un buttero Ep 8 - Part 8 of 16  


Scattare has to do with setting something in motion at a certain moment.

C'è stata una storia che ha fatto scattare la carriera.
There's been a story that made one's career take off.
Captions 16-17, Tiziano Terzani: Cartabianca - Part 2 of 3 


Staccare on the other hand generally means “to detach” as we can see by the prefix attached to the word attaccare. The prefix s often negates a word, or changes its meaning to the opposite, or to something a bit different. In some cases it can be comparable to the prefix "de," “dis,” “in,” or “im.”

Staccare la spina is “to pull out the plug.” This expression transfers to other situations like someone’s phone being off, or having the electricity go off. The adjective or past participle staccato can also mean “disconnected” or “separate.”


In this week’s episode of Commissario Manara, Lara tries to call Massimo, but his phone is off:

It’s off.
Caption 18, Il Commissario Manara 1: Morte di un buttero Ep 8 - Part 8 of 16


Here are a few common examples to give you an idea of how the prefix s works.

Corretto (correct)/scorretto (incorrect, or improper)
Cotto (cooked)/scotto (overcooked)
Finito (finished)/sfinito (dead tired)
Fame (hunger)/sfamare (to remove hunger, or to feed)
Parlare (to speak)/sparlare (to speak badly of someone)
Congelare (to freeze)/scongelare (to defrost)
Intonato (in tune)/stonato (out of tune)
Ricordare (to remember or remind)/scordare (to forget)

See also Marika’s video about prefixes.
Marika spiega: La formazione dei contrari 




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