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A Few Words About “Some” (Qualche and Alcuni)

Let's talk about two different ways to say "some" in Italian. While they can mean the same thing, they are used in different ways, so let's dig in.

 

Qualche

Master chef Gualtiero Marchesi is talking about one of the most famous northern Italian recipes, risotto alla milanese, and the symbolic meaning of the saffron that gives it a special color and taste:

Il giallo dello zafferano era, in qualche modo, il giallo dell'oro.

The yellow of saffron was, in some way, the yellow of gold.

Caption 21, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 9

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In qualche modo (in some way) could also have been translated as “in a way” or “in some ways.” Qualche is purposely ambiguous and implies a small, unspecified quantity that could even be just one.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Despite its often plural meaning, qualche must always be followed by a noun in the singular. Let’s see this word in context as we put the finishing touches on a fancy dish. Goccia (drop) is singular but the meaning is plural, by just a little bit.

Condiremo con un pochino di sale fino, del pepe nero, qualche goccia di succo di limone, dell'olio di oliva extravergine delicato.

We'll season with a little fine salt, some black pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, some delicate extra virgin olive oil.

Captions 12-15, Battuta di Fassone in Insalata Chef

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Qualche is very user friendly.

You don’t need to know the plural or even the gender of the word you are modifying. You just need to remember to use a singular noun following it!

 

Alcuni/Alcune

Now let’s look at another way to say “some” or “a few”: alcuni and alcune. Unlike qualche, which is quite close to a singular quantity, alcuni and alcune, although not specific, are clearly plural. In fact, the nouns they modify appear in the plural, and, like articles and other adjectives, these modifiers change their endings according to the gender. Alcuni modifies masculine nouns and alcune modifies feminine nouns. 

 

Alessio Berti has a few dishes to show us: 

Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione eh de'... della nostra carta.

Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make, um from... from our menu.

Captions 3-4, Ricette dolci Crème brûlée alla banana

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And where can we find the milk for this delicious crème brûlée? 

Spesso, in alcune fattorie, puoi trovare dei prodotti caseari.

Often, on some farms, you can find dairy products.

Caption 18, Marika spiega Gli animali della fattoria

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Note that while qualche is always followed by the word it modifies, alcuni/alcune can stand alone as a kind of pronoun, much like its English counterparts (some, a few). To determine which ending to employ, we refer to the gender of the modified noun, even if it's absent. We see this in the following example, where sculptor Claudio Capotondi is talking about his studio full of marble, drawings, models, and whatnot.

Ci sono vari bozzetti, progetti, che sono sedimentati nel tempo, alcuni realizzati, altri...

There are many small-scale models, projects, that have been accumulated over time, some completed, others...

Captions 9-11, Claudio Capotondi Scultore - Part 4

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Qualche and alcuni/alcune can only be used with countable nouns in Italian. We’ll work with uncountable nouns in a future lesson. For now, follow these rules: To be vague, use qualche, which always goes with a singular noun even when its meaning is plural. To be more clearly plural, use alcuni or alcune alone or with a plural noun whose gender tells us which to use. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Learning suggestion:

To practice using these modifiers, try swapping qualche and alcuni/alcune wherever they occur. There are situations where one is more common than the other, and you’ll gradually get a feel for it. Visit wordreference.com to get some input on phrases with qualche, and don’t forget to have a look at the long list of forum threads about this word. See this blog about alcuni and qualche.

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Sous-titre 15, 14, 13, 12
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