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Spesso e Volentieri: 2 adverbs that go hand in hand

Let's talk about how we use adverbs in Italian.

 

Adverbs are easy because they don't change according to gender or number, as adjectives do. Knowing a few basic adverbs can help you ask and answer questions in general conversation with strangers or new friends. Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to modify, clarify, qualify, or quantify the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

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Kinds of Adverbs - quick overview

Adverbs can be categorized according to what they describe, or what questions they answer: Read more about Italian adverbs. 

 

avverbi di modo (how?)

avverbi di quantità (how much or many?)

avverbi di luogo (where?)

avverbi di tempo (when, how often?)

A few common adverbs to have at the ready

Here's a list of some of the common adverbs you need to know:

 

  • di solito (usually)
  • spesso (often)
  • mai (never)
  • qualche volta (sometimes)
  • dopo (later, afterwards)
  • dentro (inside)
  • fuori (outside)
  • volentieri (willingly)
  • qui (here)
  • bene (well, fine)

 

Let's concentrate on two adverbs that often go hand in hand, but for now, we'll look at them separately:

Spesso

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids

Captions 10-12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

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Spesso is a great adverb to know. Just tack it on to a verb and you're all set.

 

Vengo spesso in questo posto (I often come to this place).

Non viaggio spesso in treno (I don't often travel by train).

Volentieri

Volentieri is also a wonderful adverb to have in your toolbox. When someone invites you to do something, you can answer with one word: Volentieri! (I'd be happy to, I'd love to). It may be helpful to consider that this adverb comes from the verb volere (to want). We can also translate volentieri as "willingly." For more about volentieri, read this lesson

Spesso e Volentieri

This is an expression you will hear now and then, and it's an Italian favorite. Although we have looked at the two adverbs making up this expression, we might still be perplexed about what it might mean, exactly. "Often and willingly"??? It's not something we say, or not often anyway.

 

Although it can mean "often and willingly," it usually means "more often than not!" So when you are thinking about how to say "more often than not" in Italian, you might be tempted to translate each word: più spesso che non... but you might want to try to resist that temptation. Italians prefer to say spesso e volentieri. So we have two adverbs: one is an adverb of time: spesso = often. The other is an adverb of manner: volentieri = willingly. 

 

In the following example, Marika and Anna are making a wonderful frittata out of leftover spaghetti! Non si butta via niente (nothing gets thrown away)!

 

Tutto si ricicla e, spesso e volentieri, è più saporito, no, il piatto riciclato che quello originale.

Everything gets recycled and, more often than not, the recycled dish — you know? — is tastier than the original one.

Captions 8-10, L'Italia a tavola Frittata di spaghetti - Part 2

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One thing to keep in mind is that in this case, volentieri doesn't necessarily refer to anyone being willing or glad to do something, although it might. It's that something happens easily, without extra effort: often and easily. In the following example, Daniela is talking about the special past tense, il passato remoto, which has gone out of fashion in many parts of Italy, but is still used, a lot of the time, in the south of Italy.

Se vi piace l'Italia del Sud, quindi Napoli... la Sicilia, la Sardegna, la Puglia, la Calabria, dovete conoscere il passato remoto perché nel sud Italia si parla molto spesso e volentieri al passato remoto.

If you like the south of Italy, in other words: Naples... Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, and Calabria, you should know the remote past because in the south of Italy people speak using, more often than not, the remote past tense.

Captions 21-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il passato remoto - Part 1

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Using spesso e volentieri to express a preference

In the following example, it is a matter of preference and willingness. 

Lavo i panni spesso e volentieri a mano (I often prefer to wash my laundry by hand).

Spesso e volentieri, mia mamma fa la spesa nelle botteghe (my mom often prefers to shop in the small grocery stores).

 

We hope you enjoy using this new expression, and that we have given you some insight into it. Let us know if you have any questions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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