Leçons Italien


There are no available Italien lessons written in Français

S prefix: overview

We've talked about words that change when an "S" prefix is added, but let's take a closer look at this particular way of altering words. The resulting words are called parole alterate in Italian because the word also exists in its unaltered state, or at least it once did. 


While the addition of an S at the beginning of the word often negates it, or gives it an opposite meaning, it's not always the case. Sometimes it adds strength or some other quality, and sometimes it doesn't really change anything but is just a variant. We'll try to cover the common ways the S prefix changes words in this and subsequent lessons, but let's go back to the prefix itself: S.


You might be wondering where this S prefix comes from? An early source is "ex-" in Latin. Another is the Italian prefix dis-. 


Sometimes dis- and s- are both used interchangeably. For instance, some people use the verb disfare and some people say sfare. They both mean "to undo." Fare means "to make" or "to do." This is a case where the S confers a contrasting or negative meaning to the word. 

Era quella che faceva la coperta di giorno e la disfaceva la notte.

She [Penelope] was the one who made the cover during the day and took it apart during the night.

Captions 49-50, Sposami EP 4 - Part 22

 Play Caption


Another word like this is dispiacere. Some people say mi dispiace, but some say mi spiace. See the long list of examples of spiace here.  And here is the list of instances of dispiace in Yabla videos. They mean the same thing. And they are both alterations of the verb piacere (to please).

Mi spiace, sono in ritardo. -Va bene...

I'm sorry, I am late. -All right...

Caption 59, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 22

 Play Caption


Ti dispiace se parliamo dopo? -No, no, no.

Do you mind if we talk later? -No, no, no.

Caption 34, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 4

 Play Caption


The verb dispiacere has different nuances of meanings, which we have discussed in other lessons: How to say you're sorry in Italian and To mind or not to mind with dispiacere.


As a negation or the opposite of the root word, there are countless examples. Here is just one:

Certo che Luca è un ragazzo fortunato ad avere un'amica come te!

Luca sure is a lucky guy to have a friend like you!

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 8

 Play Caption


Poverino, proprio sfortunato.

Poor thing, really unlucky.

Caption 11, La Ladra EP. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 8

 Play Caption


The S prefix is used with verbs, adjectives, and nouns. But let's keep in mind that lots of words start with S naturally, at their root. 


 In the next lesson, we will trace a verb with an S prefix back to its origins to see how it evolved. 

Continuer la lecture

Sconvolgere: another "S" prefix!

In a recent segment of Imma Tataranni, the verb sconvolgere came up, and was included in the vocabulary review as well.

Però poi, quello che ha scoperto l'ha sconvolta.

But then, what she discovered devastated her.

Caption 28, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP 4 Maltempo - Part 25

 Play Caption


Sconvolgere and its past participle sconvolto are very common words and for anyone speaking Italian on a daily basis, the sense is clear (and can change somewhat depending on the context). But translating the verb into English is a different story, and so one wonders if there isn't some cognate that would make it clearer. The fact is that many of the translations we use for sconvolto (the past participle of sconvolgere, often used as an adjective) have other cognates in Italian. We'll list a few of them here:


"shocked,"  — scioccato 

"devastated" — devastato

"disturbed" — disturbato or turbato


"To upset" might be the closest in meaning, but the idea of "upset" in English isn't always close enough to the strong emotion associated with lo sconvolgimento. We can often be upset, but not necessarily sconvolto. The adjective sconvolgente is used a lot to mean "upsetting" or "disturbing."

Ma senti, Amina che cosa ti ha detto di così sconvolgente?

But listen, what did Amina tell you that was so upsetting?

Caption 4, La Ladra EP. 11 - Un esame importante - Part 5

 Play Caption


For the noun lo sconvolgimento, there are other English words such as "turmoil" and "upheaval." 


So we thought it might be interesting to find out where sconvolgere comes from.


Our eyes and ears are drawn to the telltale S prefix which often indicates a relation with the word without its S and very often signals an opposing or negative meaning, or else it can add emphasis or strength to the word. Usually, the S signals a change with respect to the root word (if there is one). But what is the root word in this case?


A little research gives us the verb convolgere. Does it even exist? It doesn't appear in WordReference. But luckily, it appears in Wiktionary with source material from Treccani. Not surprisingly, convolgere comes from the Latin "convolvere." It's a literary term meaning avvolgere, ripiegare (qualcosa) su sé stesso, molte volte (to wrap, to fold something around itself, many times). 

And within convolgere is the prefix con (from the Latin "cum," meaning "with).


Aside: Let's not confuse it with coinvolgere, which has the prefix co and the prefix in-. This verb means "to involve."


So, digging a bit more, we get to the true root: volgere. And what a verb it is. Lots of nuances! But let's try to find the one that will then lead us to sconvolgere. Let's go with the Collins dictionary, which gives the synonym piegare verso (to bend towards). 


Let's try to visualize this verb: something folds or bends in a direction. If we add con, it wraps around itself many times and we get convolgere. Then, if we add an S, this whole wrapped-up thing turns topsy-turvy. In other words, an upheaval. The verb to upheave does exist, but we don't use it very often. 


This lesson has concerned itself with the meaning of sconvolgere. But there is another very common S-word related to volgere: svolgere, a very common verb meaning different things depending on whether it's used normally or reflexively. See this lesson about svolgere

Continuer la lecture

L'erbaccia: Che cos'è?

On Yabla there is an animated series featuring two maialini (piglets) who are brothers. In each short episode, the younger one, Piggeldy, always has a new question for his older brother, Federico.


Although Yabla has recorded new Italian narration, the original version of this animation was in German, and this is evident in a recent episode in particular. The primary hint is that one of the crops in the fields the brothers walk past or through is segale (rye). Italians, except in the northern parts of Italy where German is spoken, don't commonly eat a lot of rye bread, although it does exist and has become more popular in recent years. In countries such as Germany, Poland, Russia, and Austria, it's much more common, and rye is also cultivated there. But more importantly, the topic of the episode is erbaccia, a good word to know. 


In this episode, Piggeldy wants to know what erbaccia is.

"Federico, che cos'è l'erbaccia?"

"Federico, what is a weed?"

Caption 3, Piggeldy e Federico L'erbaccia

 Play Caption


Let's look at this word. We can detect the noun erba, which means "grass," but not only. As a collective noun erba does mean "grass," but as a countable noun, it means herb. We think of herbs and spices, but in Italian, erbe (in the plural, usually) refers to wild greens, either edible or medicinal. 


Some of us have already learned that the suffix -accio or -accia is pejorative, indicating a lower quality of something. So we could easily equate erbaccia with "crabgrass." Although crabgrass does have a botanical name and is technically a specific kind of grass, we do use "crabgrass" generically to describe a kind of creeping, invasive grass that's hard to get rid of. We could also call it "a weed" or "weeds," although weeds are not necessarily a kind of grass. 

E se no ci sarebbe stata tutta erbaccia, perché prima passava un pecoraro [pecoraio], Belardo se [si] chiamava, no? Nel settanta, co e passava co ste [queste] pecore, mangiava... era tutto pulito era na [una] bellezza.

And otherwise there would have been weeds all over, because before now a shepherd would pass by, Belardo was his name, right? In [nineteen] seventy, with, and he'd passed by with these sheep, they would eat... it was all tidy, it was beautiful.

Captions 53-56, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 3

 Play Caption


The -accio or -accia ending implies that the plant with this suffix is unwanted. Of course, one person's weed is another person's wildflower, or spontaneous plant.


The plant that Piggeldy sees, the cornflower, il fiordaliso in Italian, is a beautiful blue wildflower, considered by farmers to be a weed when we're talking about crops. It used to be a common sight in fields of wheat and corn. Its botanical name is Centaurea cyanus L.

Cornflowers in a wheatfield

In the real world, cornflowers got their name because they used to be a common weed in cultivated fields [of corn or wheat]. They're native to Europe, but while they can now be found distributed quite widely across the world, they're actually endangered in their native habitat by the mass use of weedkillers on European farms. In some parts of Austria, the fiordaliso is still visible as a beautiful contrast to the golden wheat.


As a little aside, if we then look at a recent episode of the series JAMS, there is a scene where a student is being questioned about the story of Achilles. It's interesting to note that the plant that healed his heel from the poisoned arrow is the cornflower!


So-called "weeds" are an important part of Italian rural culture. There are plenty of edible greens for the taking, and Italians are famous for making the most of them. Old folks remember well the times (such as during World War II) in which any cultivated green vegetable was hard to find, so foraging was the way to go. Even now, in Italy, if you see an abandoned field or a roadside, chances are you will see someone taking advantage of the free food there. There is always something edible coming up. 

Poi, conoscevo le erbe selvatiche no, e andavo per queste fiumare bellissime dove c'erano piantagioni di erbe spontanee, guarda, una cosa meravigliosa.

Besides, I knew about wild greens, right? And I would go to these beautiful streams, where there were patches of wild herbs, look, a marvelous thing.

Captions 40-42, In giro per l'Italia Pentidattilo - Part 2

 Play Caption


So the upshot is that erba does mean "grass," but erbaccia indicates weeds and erbe can mean "herbs" (for seasoning, often specified as erbe aromatiche — aromatic herbs) or "wild greens" (for eating).  Buon appetito!


Continuer la lecture

Adverbs of time with multiple meanings

Let's talk about some adverbs of time and how Italians use them. Some adverbs of time have multiple meanings and need context to be understood and used precisely.



We can detect the noun notte (night) as part of the time adverb stanotte. The beginning, on the other hand, is sta, a short form of questa (this). 


Non ti dispiace se rimango qui stanotte, vero?

You don't mind if I stay here tonight, do you?

Caption 4, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 9

 Play Caption




But sometimes, the same adverb stanotte refers to "last night."

E mio marito non è rientrato stanotte e non ha nemmeno avvertito...

And my husband didn't come home last night and he didn't even let me know...

Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2

 Play Caption




We can use the same form to talk about the evening: stasera. Normally, we'd say that stasera means "this evening" but in English, we often use "tonight" when referring to the dinner hour, so sometimes "tonight" is the best translation.

La lista della spesa per la cena di stasera.

The shopping list for tonight's dinner.

Caption 2, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 1

 Play Caption


While we say things like "I'm going out tonight," Italians will choose stasera over stanotte, unless we are talking about something happening in the middle of the night. But let's remember that sera generally means "evening." 


Ma', stasera esco. -Dove vai?

Mom, tonight I'm going out. -Where are you going?

Caption 53, Acqua in bocca Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

 Play Caption


Also, let's take the opportunity to remind ourselves that buonasera is a greeting upon arrival, whereas buonanotte is when you're leaving (and perhaps headed for bed).



You may already be familiar with the word for "yesterday." It's ieri. Just in case stanotte might not be clear enough, we have the choice of using ieri notte to mean "last night." If you are just getting up in the morning, you'll probably use stanotte to talk about the night before, but if it is later in the day, ieri notte makes sense. 

Ieri notte tre ladri hanno pensato bene di svaligiare un atelier di abiti da sposa.

Last night, three thieves had the bright idea of cleaning out a wedding gown studio.

Caption 40, La Ladra EP. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 13

 Play Caption


If we say ieri sera, we can translate it with either "last night" or "yesterday evening," depending on how we think of it. But sera is generally used until late, let's say, until bedtime, whenever that is. 

E voi due ieri sera eravate in casa? Sì, stavamo guardando la televisione.

And you two last night were at home? Yes, we were watching television.

Captions 47-48, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 2

 Play Caption


The day before yesterday

We have said that ieri means "yesterday," but what about the day before yesterday? 


One way to say this is l'altro ieri (the other yesterday). 

Quando l'hai vista l'ultima volta? -L'altro ieri.

When did you last see her? -The day before yesterday.

Captions 5-6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 5

 Play Caption


Some people invert the words and say ieri l'altro.


Of course, we can also say due giorni fa (2 days ago). 

E quando l'hai vista l'ultima volta? -Due giorni fa.

And when did you see her last? -Two days ago.

Captions 50-51, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP4 Gelo - Part 4

 Play Caption


If we don't need to be precise, we can say "the other day."

No, scusa l'altro giorno non t'ho potuto richiamare, ma dovevi dirmi qualcosa di lavoro?

No, sorry, the other day I couldn't call you back, but did you have something about work to tell me?

Captions 29-30, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1 EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 16

 Play Caption

When we're referring to the past with these adverbs of time, we'll want to use the passato prossimo (which works like the present perfect) tense. The exception is when we use the verb essere (to be). In this case, we might also use the imperfetto


Note that we don't say il giorno prima di ieri to correspond to "the day before yesterday!" But if that's all you can think of, people will understand. They'll probably say, "Oh, sì, l'altro ieri."


Continuer la lecture

Expression: Essere su di giri

This expression refers to when you're hyper, psyched, nervous, excited, revved up, buzzing, or in high gear... You can choose how to visualize it, according to the situation. 

E va be', mi è successo di tutto. -No, perché sembri un po' su di giri, ecco.

Well OK, a lot happened to me. -No, because you seem a little revved up, that's it.

Captions 19-20, La Ladra EP. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 8

 Play Caption


In the previous example, we can see from the context (if we watch the video), that the person who is revved up is revved up in a good way. Eva (the one su di giri) had just had a romantic encounter with Dante and she was on cloud nine, but also very excited. 



But in this next example, Nicola is talking about what he has to do in his job as a cop. He often has to visit homes where couples or family members are fighting. The expression is the same, but its nature is different.

Certo, entrare il quel momento dentro casa di queste persone, voi capie'... voi capite che, eh... gli umori sono abbastanza a terra, la rabbia è su di giri

Of course, entering at that moment into the home of these people, you understand... you understand that moods are way low, anger is wound up,

Captions 36-38, Nicola Agliastro Poliziotto

 Play Caption


In this next example, Manrico wants to seduce a woman, and thinks of "getting her going" with a drink.

Cocktailino [sic] per mandarla su di giri, eh? Cenetta, vino rosso...

Little cocktail to get her revved up, huh? Little dinner, red wine...

Captions 64-65, Sposami EP 5 - Part 16

 Play Caption


Now that we have seen a few practical examples of this little expression, let's unpack it. 


We're including the verb essere (to be) in the expression, but often it's not included, or another verb is used, such as mandare (to send) as in one of the examples above. 


Then we have su which is a preposition meaning "on" but it's also an adverb meaning "upwards" or "up" and that is how it is used here, and often refers to one's mood or state.


Di is a preposition meaning, primarily, "of."


Then we get to the important word: giri. It's the plural of giro, which is a rotation, or, in a mechanical sense, a revolution. That's where "revved up" comes from. More revolutions in less time!


On a car, the tachometer is called il contagiri (the tachometer or rev counter). To keep with the meaning of giri, we have used "revved up" as the translation. But there are so many other ways to interpret the expression, and this "motor" reference might not be appropriate in many situations!


Sometimes, su di giri describes one's heart beating fast (for whatever reason). Sometimes it's about not being able to stop talking, pacing, or tapping one's foot or pencil. It can be about not being able to calm down. 


It might be a reason too skip that second cup of coffee.

No, grazie, sono un po' su di giri (no thanks, I'm already a bit wound up).



Are you old enough to remember hit singles? In other words, 45 rpms. This means 45 revolutions per minute on a turntable or record player, as we used to call it. In Italian, it's 45 giri

Il quarantacinque giri più venduto di Italia è "In ginocchio da te" di Gianni Morandi.

The forty-five that sold the most copies in Italy is "On my Knees Before You" by Gianni Morandi.

Caption 57, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 2 - Part 8

 Play Caption


The noun giro is a favorite of Italians and can mean so many things. See this lesson for some examples. If you do a search of the noun giro and its plural giri, and diminutives such as un giretto, you will get a sense of the variety of nuances connected to this word. And let's not forget the phrasal adverb in giro which has its own collection of nuances. 


We'll also mention the verb girare (to turn, to go around). The verb, too, has a great many meanings and nuances, so check it out.



Continuer la lecture

An additional meaning for capace

Usually, we understand the adjective capace to mean "capable." 

Guarda che se non sei capace a dirgli di no, ti fai male!

Look, if you're not capable of telling him no, you'll hurt yourself!

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 1

 Play Caption


E... ma sai fare un po' di pasta fresca tu? Sei capace?

And... but do you know how to make a little fresh pasta? Are you capable?

Caption 11, Anna e Marika La pasta fresca

 Play Caption


But there is another, more colloquial way to use capace for predicting something, where it means something more akin to "possible." It's colloquial and used in central and southern Italy. Not everyone uses it with the subjunctive, but theoretically, the subjunctive should be used, since it has to do with uncertainty and is followed by che


From the horse's mouth: Tuscans, when asked, say you don't need the subjunctive, and you don't even need the verb (è). They say, Capace che piove, (it might very well rain) or even Capace piove, without the che!


È capace che Iside l'ammazza [sic: l'ammazzi].

It could be that Iside kills her.

Caption 2, Sposami EP 6 - Part 20

 Play Caption


Certainly, if you hang out in Tuscany, you will hear this usage of the word capace.  


Continuer la lecture

The expression Che ne so?

Let's talk about a little expression that is useful in various situations. It's made up of just three words but it is easily expanded, since sometimes you just want a phrase to stand out in some way by adding words. The expression is Che ne so.



Let's unpack it.


Che can mean "that" or "what." In this case, it's "what," as when it is part of a question. 


Ne is a particle that can stand for several things, such as "about it," "of it," "from it" and more. If ne is unfamiliar to you, or you don't know how to use it comfortably, check out Marika's lessons about this particella.


So is the first person singular of the verb sapere (to know).


As you have likely discovered, Italians, rather than just saying the equivalent of "I know," usually say "I know it:" Lo so, or when it's negative, non lo so (I don't know it). But in today's expression, lo (just plain "it") is replaced by ne (about it).


Since the expression is short, the personal pronoun io (I) is often added for emphasis. It doesn't add anything grammatically, but it makes it more personal. In addition, it is often preceded by e (and). Even though e means "and," it's often the equivalent of "so." Sometimes it doesn't really mean anything. 


Che ne so io? or Io, che ne so? The pronoun io can go either at the beginning or the end of the expression. This is the equivalent of "How should I know?" "What do I know?" "How would I know?" The following example is one of the most common versions of this expression. Italians don't always think of this expression as being a true question so they don't necessarily use a question mark. 

Addò [dove] sta Saverio? -E che ne so.

Where's Saverio? -How do I know?

Captions 14-15, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 10

 Play Caption


Pasquale, chi è tutta questa gente? -E che ne so, dotto' [dottore]? Qua pare tutti i poveri di Napoli,

Pasquale, who are all these people? -And how should I know, Doc? Here it seems like all the poor people of Naples

Captions 6-7, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP 2 - Part 12

 Play Caption


Lojacono is looking for one of the residents of an apartment building and asks the local busybody:

Sa mica se Giacomo Scognamiglio è in casa? -E che ne so, Commissa'?

You don't happen to know if Giacomo Scognamiglio is home? -And how should I know, Chief?

Captions 67-68, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP 3 Vicini - Part 7

 Play Caption


In the following example, Marcello, who is not a very smart guy, but is trying his best, suggests taking a selfie together with the policemen who come to check on Michele (the father of his girlfriend) who is under house arrest. 

Oh, ma che so o famo [romanesco: ce lo facciamo] un selfie insieme?

Oh, I don't know, shall we take a selfie together?

Caption 20, Liberi tutti EP3 Quanto è libero un fringuello? - Part 6

 Play Caption


Instead of adding a word, he removes one: ne. It's colloquial and likely Romanesco, and lots of people say it this way. Che so? 


Even though we have explained each word, the expression is often merely a way of saying "I don't know," especially when you are making a suggestion, as Marcello is doing. Some people might use the word magari in the same kind of situation. It's just an intercalare (a filler word or expression). Here's an example. 

Perché, diciamo... -comunque devono sostenere il peso. -Devono sostenere il peso, più che altro devono fare, che ne so, la stessa cosa per un'ora.

Because, let's say... -anyway they have to support the weight. -They have to support the weight, more than that, they have to, I don't know, do the same thing for an hour.

Captions 50-51, Francesca Cavalli - Part 2

 Play Caption


Here, Che ne so is paired with magari for making a suggestion. 

Che ne so, magari stasera a cena? -Può darsi.

I don't know, maybe tonight for dinner? -Maybe.

Caption 93, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 2

 Play Caption


Although the expression is commonly used in the first person, it can also be a valid question to someone else, and is more literal in this case. 

Eh, quando un uomo si innamora, si dimentica di tutto. -Tu che ne sai? -Così dicono tutti.

Uh, when a man falls in love, he forgets everything. -What do you know? -That's what everyone says.

Captions 38-39, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 11

 Play Caption


When you are thinking of what to cook for dinner, what to watch on TV, where to go on a Sunday afternoon, or what to give a friend as a birthday present, try suggesting it in Italian, and throw in a little "che ne so" as you would "I don't know." Have fun with it!

Continuer la lecture

Putting things behind us with croce (cross) and pietra (stone)

When you hear the common Italian expression metterci una croce sopra (to put a cross on it) you might very likely think of a cross in a cemetery, and that would make sense. You are closing the door on something, burying it, so it's dead to you, you're putting it behind you. But a little research tells us that the origin of the expression is something else entirely. 

But first, let's mention a couple of variants of the expression. Many or most expressions change over time or according to region, and this one is no exception. In the following example, the verb fare (to make) is used in place of mettere (to put), but the substance doesn't change.

Per quanto riguarda Parigi, meglio... meglio farci una croce sopra.

Regarding Paris, it's better... it's better to make a cross on it [to cross it off].

Captions 21-22, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 29

 Play Caption


And here, too, it can be fare una croce sopra or farci una croce sopra. The ci stands for "on it" and reinforces the preposition sopra (on / on top of). And in English, we can cross something off a list, or we can cross something out, by putting an X on it, for example. In other words, we use the verb "to cross out" or "to cross off," or we can mark something with an X. But we don't use the noun "cross" for this. 


We visited this Italian language website for more information and learned that, although many people do think of a cross in a cemetery when hearing the above-mentioned expression, it actually comes from the field of ragioneria or accounting. In earlier times, before spreadsheets, when it seemed very unlikely that a client would pay up, the accountant would put an X in the margin to call attention to the fact that this money would never be recovered. So when you put an X next to something, you know it is futile, so you just put it behind you.


The cemetery image is not irrelevant however because, interestingly, there is another, very similar expression in Italian, which does have to do with gravestones and cemeteries. The meaning is almost identical, at least nowadays. Una pietra is "a stone," and here it refers to a tombstone or gravestone. 

Quindi, perché non ci mettiamo una bella pietra sopra e ripartiamo da zero, eh?

So, why don't we put it behind us and start over from scratch, huh?

Caption 75, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 2

 Play Caption


Vabbè, su quella ormai ci ho messo una pietra sopra.

OK, I've already turned the page on that by now.

Caption 50, Sposami EP 3 - Part 7

 Play Caption


Some graves have crosses, some graves have stones, and some have both. As we see in the translations, there are various ways to say the same thing, depending on the context.


When talking about the old year that just ended, some of us might want to put a cross or tombstone on it. Others might have had a great year! Whatever kind of year you had in 2023, we hope 2024 brings happiness and all things good!

Continuer la lecture

What do Renaissance Italian coins have to do with us?

Sometimes, while translating a video for Yabla, a word crops up that leaves us perplexed. It doesn't appear to be in a dictionary, and even if it is, it doesn't make enough sense to be able to translate it correctly. So we start researching it on our preferred search engine. We might find the answer and that's that, but sometimes we go down some interesting rabbit holes. So this week, we'd like to share what we learned, because it relates to some good-to-know euphemisms people use when talking about money. 



We're talking about the documentary series called L'Italia che piace (the Italy people like), which has recently focused on Novara, a city in northern Italy, not far from Milan. You will hear about its history in the video, but one thing gets mentioned only briefly, so we set out to learn more. 

Viene costruita dalla cittadinanza, con i soldi che vengono raccolti proprio con la tassa del sesino, la tassa sull'acquisto della carne.

It's built by the citizenry, with the money that is collected, actually, by way of the "sesino" tax, the tax on buying meat.

Captions 5-8, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 9

 Play Caption


The documentary mentions the building of the dome on top of the basilica in the middle of the city. It ended up being paid for in a particular way. Citizens contributed voluntarily to the project, but there was also a special tax called l’arbitrio del sesino or l'imposta del sesino. We wondered, "What's a sesino?"


A little research revealed that un sesino is a particular coin. Why is it called sesino? We might be able to guess it has something to do with the number 6 — sei. And we would be right! With a little more searching, we found, on a numismatic website:


The name of the coin un sesino indicates that the coin is equal to 6 denari.


Along with the sesino, there were: la trillina (3 denari) and il quattrino (4 denari). These coins were used from the 14th to the 18th century in various cities.


It all starts to make sense, because whoever has lived in Italy has heard people use quattrino or quattrini to mean "money."

Se proprio vogliamo chiamarla debolezza... era un poco tirato nei quattrini, ecco.

If we really want to call it a weakness... he was a bit tight-fisted with money, that's it.

Captions 73-74, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

 Play Caption



In fact, in Renaissance times, un quattrino was a quarter of a fiorino in Florence. We often translate it as "a farthing." But unless you studied Italian history, you might not make that connection.


Still today, il denaro is another word for "money." Sometimes it's called il danaro. And in playing cards, denari is a suit in a Neapolitan deck of cards. 

Neapolitan deck of cards, photo courtesy Rex Pitts


We learn in the video that this particular sesino tax was on meat. On a website about Novara, we further learn that it was un'imposta per ogni libbra di carne non bovina acquistata in città (a tax on each pound of non-bovine meat purchased in the city).


So, in short, it would seem that people had to pay one sesino for every pound of meat that wasn't beef. This was to pay for the dome of the basilica. We do wonder why the tax was just meat that wasn't beef. That will remain for another day of research.


Note there are two spellings for libra: with one b or two. Did you ever wonder why the abbreviation for pound is "lb"? The English word "pound" comes from pondo meaning "body." A unit of measure in Roman times was "libra pondo," which meant "a pound by weight." The abbreviation "lb" is derived from the libra part of the expression.


There you have it. A little extra information, which, si spera (hopefully), will whet your appetite to watch the video!



Continuer la lecture

Getting over things, with superare, uscire, and reagire

When we are thinking in English, it's hard sometimes to find the right word in Italian because we likely use phrasal verbs and expressions in English, and turning those into the right word in Italian often results in being at a loss for words. That's why it's so important to listen and repeat, and when possible, have conversations with people in Italian, even if your Italian doesn't feel "good enough." The sooner you can start thinking in Italian, even simple Italian, the sooner you will come up with the right words in a given situation.



When people talk about their problems, especially problems such as depression, an illness, or a relationship that has ended, there are certain words they use all the time, but which we might not come up with. Let's have a look. 



The verb superare is a very common verb for getting over something, getting through something, getting past something.

Quando si perde qualcuno, c'è il pericolo di chiudersi in se stessi e di non superare la situazione con il supporto degli altri.

When one loses someone, there's the danger of closing oneself in and not getting over the situation with the support of others.

Captions 40-42, Marika spiega Il verbo chiudere

 Play Caption


This same verb is used when passing a test  — superare un esame — or passing another car — superare una macchina — on the road. 



Another way people talk about getting over something, is with uscire (to come out of it). Here is a guy with cancer talking to his wife.

Che sto reagendo bene. -Che stai reagendo bene? -Sì. Dici che ce la faccio a uscire da questa situazione?

That I am reacting well. -That you are reacting well? -Yes. Do you think I will manage to get/come out of this situation?

Captions 25-26, La linea verticale EP3 - Part 5

 Play Caption


Another way of saying that in English would be "Do you think I will manage to survive this situation, to overcome this situation, to get past this situation?" Let's also remember that uscire means "to exit," just as l'uscita means "the exit."



If we go back to the previous example, we see Luigi and his wife use the verb reagire. It basically means "to react." This is a very common verb for when you have to deal with something, an illness, a loss, a break-up, a disappointment. In this case, they might be talking about the fact that the therapy is working. We can translate it with "to react," but reagire is also used for not being apathetic, for example.


In the example below, the woman speaking to Michele believes he had been assaulted in prison before being sentenced to living in the commune called Il Nido (the nest). She assumes he has been feeling traumatized.

Michele, ma è una cosa bellissima che tu voglia reagire.

Michele, but it's such a wonderful thing that you want to react [to spring back].

Caption 3, Liberi tutti EP3 Quanto è libero un fringuello? - Part 1

 Play Caption


Reagire, in this sense, is the opposite of letting oneself go, getting depressed, or closing oneself off. 


You might say to a friend who is having trouble overcoming something:

Devi reagire (you have to do something) (you have to snap out of it), (you have to get out of your funk)!


These are just a few words we can use when talking about getting well, or getting over something. Have you found words you have heard but don't quite understand? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com or write a comment on the videos page


Continuer la lecture

Una rosa, due rose

The Italian expression featured in this mini-lesson is something people say when two people get together as a couple, when someone finds a new job, or when a business starts up... things like that. They say:

Se son rose, fioriranno (if they are roses, they'll bloom).


It's a poetic way of saying "Time will tell," or, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Se son rose fioriranno presto.

If they're roses, they'll bloom soon.

Caption 34, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 8

 Play Caption


la rosa

Let's remember that while "rose" is singular in English, rose, in Italian, is the plural of rosa

Quando questa rosa sarà appassita, io sparirò.

When this rose wilts, I will disappear.

Captions 36-37, La Ladra EP. 11 - Un esame importante - Part 11

 Play Caption


colore rosa

Let's note that rosa is also a color, corresponding to "pink." It's one of those colors that doesn't change in number and gender when used as an adjective, as opposed to nero (black), bianco (white), grigio (grey), and verde (green), among others, which do have to agree with the noun they modify. When rosa the color is used as a noun, it's a masculine noun because the noun colore (color) is masculine. Il colore, un colore.

I pantaloni rosa, il foulard beige, le scarpe blu... sempre lo stesso. OK?

The pink pants, the beige scarf, the blue shoes... always the same, OK?

Captions 33-34, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 1

 Play Caption


If this is new to you, check out Daniela's lessons about colors. 


Rosa is also a name. 


Continuer la lecture

What's accoglienza?

If you live in a place and hear a certain word enough times, you just know what it means. But that doesn't mean that you can translate the word... The word that has perplexed us translators several times is l'accoglienzaThat's because in recent times, it conjures up the image of boat people and migrants needing shelter and help as they come into the country. It is so much more than "welcoming" or "reception."




Pochi anni fa, nel corso del problema dei profughi che arrivavano a Lampedusa dall'Africa, la Caritas spezzina, ci hanno [sic: ci ha] chiesto di fare accoglienza.

A few years ago, during the problem with the refugees, who arrived in Lampedusa from Africa, the Caritas of La Spezia asked us to receive some of them.

Captions 1-3, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 6

 Play Caption


Accoglienza is a word Italians associate with everything people and organizations do to help refugees once they reach the shores of Italy. When refugees land on the island of Lampedusa, for example, in Sicily, it's necessary to find accommodations, temporary housing, job possibilities, health care, food, and more. All of this is accoglienza. We've seen accoglienza used this way before in Yabla videos. 

In Sposami, a young Polish man wants to get married in an immigrant shelter.

Dentro il centro di accoglienza c'è una piccola cappella.

Inside the immigrant shelter, there is a small chapel.

Caption 34, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

 Play Caption


So it can mean "shelter," either for the homeless, migrants, or refugees, and can also be a rehabilitation center for addicts, or where people have AA meetings. It's for anyone who needs shelter or help and is often called un centro di accoglienza (sheltering center). In the same episode of Sposami, it's called a "community center" in English. In fact, we can't know for sure what kind of shelter it is. 

Ma... come mai avete scelto di sposarvi in un centro di accoglienza?

But... why did you choose to get married in a community center?

Caption 42, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

 Play Caption


You will find various translations for centro di accoglienza and accoglienza itself, but we hope you have gotten the idea by now. 

e infatti riuscì a scappare dal centro di accoglienza prima di essere rimpatriata.

and, in fact, she managed to escape from the refugee center before she could be repatriated.

Caption 23, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 12

 Play Caption



The noun accoglienza comes from the verb accogliere

Signorina, non è certo questo il modo di accogliere delle potenziali clienti, no?

Miss, this certainly isn't any way to welcome potential clients is it?

Caption 55, La Ladra EP. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3

 Play Caption


Sometimes accogliere can mean "to receive."

Perché hanno proprio... sembrano quasi dei letti pronti per accogliere la salma...

Because they have actual... they almost look like beds ready to receive the corpses...

Captions 13-14, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 4

 Play Caption


And, although the English word  "la reception" is used in places like hotels, accoglienza can mean "the hospitality." 


In a future lesson, we will look at related verbs, such as cogliere and raccogliere

Continuer la lecture

Le Cinque Terre

One place tourists from all over the world want to visit, especially if they like to hike, is a place called Le Cinque Terre. This means "the five villages" and if you look at a map, you can see they are positioned in a similar way: overlooking the sea.




In fact, there is a footpath leading from one to the other. The villages are more difficult to reach by car, as they are surrounded by mountains. One of the most convenient ways to visit these villages is by train. Each town has a train station at a walkable distance from the center of town.



train station Vernazza


If you do have a car, you can leave it in La Spezia and take the local train. The road through the mountains is winding and narrow. When you take the train there are lots and lots of gallerie (tunnels), but when you come out of the tunnel, you have a lovely, quick view of the sea.


In Marika's series about the regions of Italy, Anna describes Liguria, the region where le Cinque Terre are located. Anna's "prof" is asking what there is to see in Liguria.


Tantissime cose, in particolare le Cinque Terre sono un angolo di paradiso a picco sul mare, eh, che attira visitatori e turisti da tutto il mondo.

A great many things, especially the Cinque Terre are a corner of paradise, high up above the sea, uh, which lure visitors and tourists from the world over.

Captions 77-78, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

 Play Caption


This shot was taken on the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza in the month of February.


Each town has hotels or rooms to rent, and plenty of restaurants. 


When talking about this area, in English, we often skip the article, and talk about "Cinque Terre," as if it were one place, a spot to visit. But now that you know some Italian, you know that it's Le Cinque Terre, because the number cinque (five) calls for the plural. 


Why the name?

The name “Cinque Terre” appeared for the first time in the 15th century when this area was under the control of the Maritime Republic of Genoa. A clerk united the five villages under a single place name because they had many characteristics in common. The name “Cinque Terre”  stuck. The name can be misleading, as terra means various things, but in this case, terra stands for “little medieval village.” The villages, in order from south to north are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. 


One important characteristic of Le Cinque Terre, and the Ligurian coast in general, is the terracing. This was conceived in order to create spaces for cultivation, primarily for vineyards.



Retaining walls were built with the stone available, primarily sandstone. The soil was very sandy and scarce, but it was sifted to make a material to put between the stones for the wall. No mortar was used, which is why this kind of wall is called un muro a secco (a dry-stone wall). 

E facendo questi famosi muri a secco per trovare uno spazio per piantare la vite.

And making these famous dry-stone walls in order to find space for planting the grapevines.

Captions 10-11, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 5

 Play Caption


Here you can see a narrow sentiero (footpath) and muro a secco (dry-stone wall).

We decided on a lesson about Le Cinque Terre because there is a new documentary on Yabla about places to see in Italy and this week's segment focuses on, yes you guessed it, Le Cinque Terre!


All photos by Sigrid Lee except for the map, which is courtesy of Google Maps.


Continuer la lecture

Addressing people in Italian

As we have seen and heard in Yabla videos, addressing people in Italian isn't always easy to figure out. Let's try to make some sense out of it.


In I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, for example, Lojacono always introduces himself as ispettore (detective) Lojacono, not commissario (inspector), but some people call him commissario, just in case. The following exchange highlights the tendency of many people (often of an older generation) to address someone with a higher rank than the person actually has. That way, they feel they can avoid offending the person.  

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, commissario bello. -No, ispettore, sempre ispettore sono.

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, kind Inspector. -No. Detective. I am still a detective.

Captions 41-42, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP 3 Vicini - Part 3

 Play Caption


This often means addressing someone as dottore (doctor) or dottoressa (female doctor). The idea is that you can't go wrong that way.


While ispettore or commissario are often used by themselves, we find that questore (commissioner) will likely have signor before it. That's just the way it works. 

Buonasera, signor questore.

Good evening, Commissioner, sir.

Caption 10, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 28

 Play Caption


As Marika tells us in her video about different professions:

Ciao. Il termine "dottore" viene da "dotto", che vuole dire sapiente. Puoi diventare dottore se hai studiato tanto e hai ottenuto una laurea.

Hi. The term "doctor" comes from "dotto," which means "learned." You can become a doctor if you have studied a great deal and you have attained a degree.

Captions 3-6, Marika spiega Medico o dottore?

 Play Caption


In a workplace where people are formal, the boss is often addressed as dottore or dottoressa, whether or not he or she has a degree. It's a sign of respect. In the following example, the speaker is a secretary or an assistant and she is speaking to her boss, who is a notary. 

Ci dica, dottore.

What is it, sir?

Caption 36, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 19

 Play Caption


Again, in I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, we have a female DA. People address her as dottoressa, because they assume that she has a degree and because she has a position that warrants respect. In Italy, once you have your university degree, called un dottorato, you can be called dottore or dottoressa

Cosa prende, dottoressa? -Un caffè.

What will you have, Ma'am? -A coffee.

Caption 6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 8

 Play Caption


It's always tricky to translate these forms of address because they are so different from English usage. In the previous example, we opted for "Ma'am." But we could imagine Lojacono saying, "What will you have, DA Piras?" 


If you are dealing with a professional, it is customary (in many cases) to use their professional title in addressing them. Daniela talks about this in her video lessons about writing formal letters and emails. The same can hold true when addressing someone in person. 


Allora, se il destinatario possiede un titolo riconosciuto, e quindi è importante scriverlo, possiamo sostituire "signor" e "signora" con il titolo.

So, if the recipient has a recognized qualification, and therefore it is important to write it, we can replace "Mister" and "Missus" with the title.

Captions 1-4, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera formale - Part 3

 Play Caption


If the person is an architect, for example, you can say architetto instead of signore

Architetto, Lei abita qua?

Architect, do you live here?

Caption 12, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 13

 Play Caption


Of course, if you don't know he is an architetto, then signore will do fine, or signor and his last name. 


But this also exhibits the Italian tendency to avoid using names when addressing someone. Sometimes you don't know someone's name, so you use signore, signora, or signorina according to gender and presumed age group. 


When the person being addressed is a young man, we can use giovanotto in a semi-formal way. It's perhaps used more by older folks. Younger folks might just say, ragazzo or ragazzino.

Giovanotto, ma che stiamo facendo? Il cinema?

Young man, what are we doing? Making a movie?

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

 Play Caption


For a young woman or girl, signorina is the way to go. When in doubt, signorina is more flattering than signora.

Lei, signorina, ha un grande talento.

You, Miss, have great talent.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 16

 Play Caption


Let's remember that language is in constant evolution. It also changes according to the region. If you are traveling in Italy, you need to keep your eyes and ears open to see how people handle addressing you and others.


If you have watched La linea verticale, you will have noticed that patients and their family members often call the surgeon, the specialist, or any lead doctor, professore,  while in English, we address all doctors as "Doctor."  Professore is higher up in the hierarchy than dottore. And to get into the nitty-gritty, there are occasions when we will capitalize someone's title, to give them even more importance. In Italian, this is called maiuscola di rispetto o reverenziale  (capitalization out of respect or reverence). So sometimes professore will merit a capital letter and become Professore

Buongiorno, Professore. -Come stai? -Bene, Professore, però non sento le gambe.

Hello, Doctor. -How are you? -Fine, Doctor, but I don't feel my legs.

Captions 42-44, La linea verticale EP4 - Part 5

 Play Caption


In certain situations, there is a mix of familiar and formal. In a business, you might call your boss dottore, but pair it with his first name. Dottor Nino, for example, or dottoressa Cecilia. The same goes for signor and signora. Lots of times, you don't know someone's last name, so you can still address them formally, by using their first name: signor Giorgio, signora Letizia, or signorina Giulia.

We have addressed the question of forms of address in past lessons, so check out these lessons:


How to address your teacher in Italian

Getting someone's attention in Italian: ascoltare and sentire 

The dottore is in


In a future lesson, we'll get into specifics about addressing people with certain jobs. 


Continuer la lecture

Travel vocabulary 2 - Arriving

When traveling to Italy, we might arrive by plane. So let's go over some vocabulary you might need when you arrive and when you go back to the airport.



You might want to send a message to your host to say you have landed. 

Questa, questa è una matta scatenata. Guardi, guardi questo telex: è appena atterrata a Saigon, senza autorizzazione, senza addebito su banca locale,

This gal, this gal is an unleashed madwoman. Look, look at this telex: She just landed in Saigon, without authorization, without access to funds at area banks,

Captions 18-20, L'Oriana film - Part 4

 Play Caption


Your text could just use one word and say, "Atterrati!" 

If you say atterrati, you're including yourself and the other passengers on the flight (using the first person plural). You can also choose to say this in the singular: atterrata (if you are female) or atterrato (if you are a male). The verb is atterrare.  We can detect the word terra in atterrareLa terra means "the earth," or "the land."


You might want to let someone know your flight is delayed. 

Il volo è in ritardo (the flight is late/delayed).

Siamo in ritardo (we're late).

Il volo ha subito un ritardo (the flight underwent a delay).


Trovi? -Eh, e sei arrivata pure in ritardo.

You think so? -Yeah, you even came late.

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 8

 Play Caption


You might want to meet your host outside in front of "Arrivals." Gli arrivi.

Ah, il mio volo arriva un'ora dopo il tuo. Aspettami agli arrivi, eh.

Ah, my flight arrives one hour later than yours. Wait for me at "arrivals," huh.

Captions 60-61, Sei mai stata sulla Luna? film - Part 2

 Play Caption


If you have to take a taxi, you will see that the word is the same as in English, even though the official Italian word is tassìO con il taxi e qui c'è la stazione dei taxi.

Or by taxi, and here there's the taxi stand.

Caption 40, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

 Play Caption


You might hear tassì, but it's easily understandable. 

Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso.

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room.

Caption 1, La Ladra EP. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 15

 Play Caption


When present, la metropolitana is a fast and convenient way to get around big cities, such as Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin. 

Poi, ho preso la metropolitana e sono scesa a Rho Fiera Milano;

Then I took the subway and got off at "Rho Fiera Milano,"

Caption 26, Marika spiega Expo 2015 - Part 2

 Play Caption


After your stay, you might go back to the airport. 

Per arrivare all'aeroporto di Firenze c'è un bus, un autobus che parte dalla stazione degli autobus, che è laggiù.

To get to the Florence airport, there's a bus, a bus that leaves from the bus station, which is down there.

Captions 38-39, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

 Play Caption


L'uscita (the gate) is where you show your carta d'imbarco boarding pass and passaporto (passport) and then board the plane. L'uscita comes from the verb uscire (to exit). L'imbarco comes from the verb imbarcare (to board). In turn, it comes from the noun la barca (the boat). Obviously, the term came into being before airplanes!

Attenzione, prego. Stiamo per imbarcare il volo Enitalia settantadue settanta diretto a Kingston. Tutti i passeggeri sono pregati di recarsi all'uscita B ventuno, uscita B ventuno.

Attention please. We're about to board Enitalia flight seventy-two seventy to Kingston. All passengers are requested to make their way to gate B twenty-one. Gate B twenty-one.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 7

 Play Caption


When you hear your volo (flight) announced, you might also hear a destinazione di ..... and then the city you are flying to. Or you might hear diretto a (in the direction of) as in the previous example.

No pare, ha acquistato un biglietto aereo. Stesso volo, stessa destinazione della moglie della vittima.

It doesn't seem, he did buy a plane ticket. Same flight, same destination as the victim's wife.

Captions 53-54, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 10

 Play Caption


Words we have discussed in this lesson:

imbarcare (to board)

la carte d'imbarco (the boarding pass)

il passaporto (the passport)

l'aeroporto (the airport)

l'uscita (the gate)

il tassì / il taxi (the taxi)

la metropolitana / la metro (the underground, the subway)

gli arrivi (arrivals)

atterrare (to land)

a destinazione di  (traveling to)

diretto a (in the direction of)

il volo (the flight)

in ritardo (late, delayed)

il ritardo (the delay)

il passaggero (the passenger)



More travel vocabulary in a future lesson. See part 1 here. And let us know if there are travel topics you would like to know more about. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

Continuer la lecture

Travel vocabulary - 1: Trains and buses

When traveling, it's good to have a handle on the words we might need when getting around a new place. But depending on where we are and who we are talking with, we might hear different names for the same thing. 



Taking the train

The word for "train" is easy. It's il treno

Where do we catch or meet a train? Alla stazione. That's a good cognate, too. So already these two words, il treno and la stazione are essential to have in your toolkit.


One important question you might want to ask is: Dov'è la stazione (where is the train station)? Or you can keep it even simpler:

Allora, dico: "scusi, per la stazione?" Semplicissimo.

So, I say, "Excuse me, for the station?" Very simple.

Caption 18, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

 Play Caption


We don't always need to speak in full sentences, and when we do try, we can easily stumble. You can even just say: La stazione?


The railroad

When we're talking about the railroad in general, however, we usually say la ferrovia. The rails are made of iron, and ferro means "iron." Via is "way" or "road," so it makes sense. 

Il ponte della ferrovia,

The railroad bridge,

Caption 45, Rosalba al parco della donna gatto - Part 1

 Play Caption 


Ferrovia isn't too hard to pronounce, but when we turn it into an adjective, it's a bit trickier. 

...e la ricevuta di un biglietto ferroviario di sola andata Bologna-Roma.

...and the receipt for a train ticket, one way, Bologna to Rome.

Captions 16-17, Provaci ancora prof! S2E5 Vita da cani - Part 6

 Play Caption


Taking the bus

There are 3 different terms people use when they refer to a bus. The easiest one is autobus, as it contains the word "bus" we recognize. 


L'autobus often refers to local transportation within a city, but it's also used generally, especially by young people. 

Da qui partono gli autobus, tra l'altro, per gli aeroporti di Pisa e di Firenze...

From here, the buses leave for the Pisa and Florence airports, among other places...

Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

 Play Caption



La corriera is a term that's a bit outdated (and it was used for stagecoaches in earlier times), but if you are talking to someone of a certain age, or if you are in a remote village, corriera is a term they might use.

Mi scusi, la corriera per Milano?

Excuse me, the bus for Milan?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 9

 Play Caption


Attenzione! Let's also mention that both la corriera (the bus) and il corriere (the courier) have the same origins. In earlier times, a stagecoach would carry passengers but also letters and packages. Nowadays, la corriera carries passengers and il corriere carries packages. We can detect the verb correre in the term, which hints at speed.


Usually, with la stazione, it is pretty clear you are talking about the train station, but if you are asking for the bus station, you will want to specify that. Il pullman, is a word you'll likely recognize from English. 

È arrivata zia, è alla stazione dei pullman.

My aunt has arrived. She's at the bus station.

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 11

 Play Caption


Note that la corriera is feminine and il pullman is masculine. Often, these two terms indicate buses that go long distances, from city to city (like Greyhound in the U.S). 


When there is a proper bus station, you can buy your biglietto (ticket) at la biglietteria, but more and more, there are self-service machines where you can pay in cash or by credit card. In some places, however, you have to buy your ticket at the bar or dal tabaccaio (at the tobacconist's). 


Taking the tram

Some cities have had trams since the 19th century. In some cities, they were once in vogue, then went out of vogue, but are coming back. Whoever is interested in an overview of the tramways in Italy can consult this Wikipedia article. It's called il tram in Italian (so that's easy!). It runs on rails and is (now) electric. 

Bene, una volta arrivati a Napoli, prendete il tram che vi porta al porto.

Good, once you've arrived in Naples, you'll get a tram that will take you to the harbor.

Caption 28, Marika spiega I veicoli

 Play Caption


Other cities have a kind of bus that's powered electrically, from above. It's called il filobus (the trolley bus). Il filo is the word for "the wire".




Here are the words we discussed in this lesson. In a future lesson, we'll dive deeper into travel vocabulary, as this list is only partial.


l'autobus (the city bus)

la corriera (the bus, the coach)

il corriere (the courier)

il pullman (the bus, the long-distance bus)

il treno (the train)

la ferrovia (the railroad)

il biglietto (the ticket)

la stazione (the station)

il filobus (the trolley bus)



Continuer la lecture

Expressions this week

First of all, last week, the lesson was about the participio presente (present participle). Guarda caso (it just so happens) that this week, there is a perfect example of the present participle in the segment of Liberi tutti. It's not quite an expression, but for the purposes of this lesson, we think it can pass.




The breakfast conversation is partially about a guy who calls himself a prince. Riccardo uses the adjective sedicente. We bring it up because it is a perfect example of the present participle used as an adjective. Remember the rule? We can replace it with che and the conjugated verb. In this case, the caption is:

C'è questo sedicente Ciro, Principe di Filicudi, che rivendica tutto il Nido.

There is this self-styled Ciro, Prince of Filicudi, who is laying claim to the entire Nest.

Captions 58-59, Liberi tutti EP2 Ci vivresti on un posto così? - Part 1

 Play Caption



We can translate it with "self-styled" or "so-called," depending on the context.


We just thought it was kind of fun to see this example after having talked about it so recently. We will be adding it to last week's lesson as an update.



There's another expression from the same video. This one is rather vulgar, but it's used often enough that it's good to understand what it means, even if you choose not to use it (a good choice, especially in polite company). 

Di solito a quest'ora vi girano le palle almeno fino alle nove e oggi, stamattina, Fedez. E proprio perché ci girano le palle, parlavamo di Fedez.

Usually at this time your balls are spinning [you're pissed off] until at least nine o'clock and today, this morning, Fedez. And precisely because our balls are spinning, we were talking about Fedez.

Captions 39-41, Liberi tutti EP2 Ci vivresti on un posto così? - Part 1

 Play Caption


Girare means to turn or to spin. This expression is typically used when you are generally in a bad mood because of something that has happened. 


It can get more personal with the verb rompere (to break). When someone made you mad and you can't stand it any longer, you can talk about the balls breaking. It can also be translated with "to bother."

Invece di fermare gli spacciatori, vengono a rompere le palle a noi.

Instead of arresting the drug dealers, they come and break our balls.

Caption 4, Provaci ancora prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 14

 Play Caption


A ball-breaker is un rompipalle. The more polite version is rompiscatole (box-breaker). It can refer to someone who keeps at you, and doesn't let you alone. 


As you may have noticed in other videos, Italians use images of male private parts in a whole range of expressions. 


For more about using palle, especially in arguments, see this lesson


Here, we are talking about balls. Usually, there are two, but when talking about something being boring or annoying, sometimes just one is used.

Era una palla (it was a real bore). 



In this week's episode of Sposami, Melody describes Manrico as un provolone. It's kind of a cute double-entendre. You might have heard of the cheese provola or provolone

Certe volte è tenero, è delicato. Poi, all'improvviso, si trasforma in un, in un provolone che pensa a una cosa sola.

Certain times he is tender, he is gentle. Then, all of a sudden, he is transformed into a, into a playboy who thinks of one thing only.

Captions 54-56, Sposami EP 6 - Part 7

 Play Caption


But nested in the word provola or provolone is the verb provare. It means "to try," but it also means, especially as part of the compound verb provarci, to hit on someone, to flirt heavily. Check out our lesson about provarci.  Un provolone hits on any and all women (typically). 

Continuer la lecture

3 verbs that end in -are

Three interesting verbs found in this week's videos are:






All three have very literal translations, but they have nuances, too, that are important to know for anyone looking to get comfortable speaking Italian.



Gonfiare (to inflate)


The adjective gonfio comes from the verb gonfiare (to inflate). So we can talk about pumping up our tires, or blowing up a balloon.

"Andare a gonfie vele" significa che tutto procede al meglio.

"Going with full sails" [full steam ahead] means that everything is proceeding well.

Caption 27, Marika spiega Espressioni legate al mare e al mondo nautico - Part 2

 Play Caption



We can imagine a full sail puffing out and looking swollen.


There is a reflexive form as well, so when we get a bruise, sometimes it swells — Si gonfia.

Poi l'universo ha cominciato a gonfiarsi, a gonfiarsi come un palloncino.

Then the universe began to inflate, to inflate like a balloon.

Captions 3-4, Illuminate Margherita Hack - Part 10

 Play Caption


We can use the past participle as an adjective with pallone to mean "hot air balloon," figuratively speaking.

Ma che infame, mentitore, pallone gonfiato, pieno di sé.

You are wicked, a liar, a hot-air balloon, full of yourself.

Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

 Play Caption


Cioè, tu hai permesso a quel pallone gonfiato di usare la mia cucina per fare la sua torta?

That is, you allowed that hot-air balloon to use my kitchen to make his cake?

Caption 18, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3

 Play Caption


Translating is not an exact science, so we're not talking about the kind of serene mongolfiera (hot air balloon) we see floating over the countryside, but rather someone who is full of him/herself and hot air (instead of substance). Un pallone is "a big ball" (also a soccer ball), so it can also refer to someone's head if we're thinking about the shape, but un palloncino is "a balloon," so un pallone could also be a big balloon, like one of those hot air balloons. We can talk about someone spouting hot air, so although a direct translation doesn't exactly do the trick, now you get the idea! You undoubtedly know someone who is un pallone gonfiato.


Rosicare (to gnaw)


This verb can be used in reference to animals, such as a dog gnawing at a bone, but it's used with people, too, when they are envious. Here's a little scene from JAMS where someone tends to be a sore loser. Once again, it is a bit tough to translate precisely. That's why we wrote a lesson about it. 

No! -E mamma mia, non rosicare sempre! Abbiamo perso, no "non rosicare"! -E va be', abbiamo perso correttamente, però. -Non va bene.

No! -For heaven's sake, don't always let it gnaw at you! We lost, not "Don't let it gnaw!" -OK, so what? We lost fair and square, though. -It's not OK.

Captions 11-13, JAMS S1 EP 3 - Part 5

 Play Caption




Ignorare is a very interesting verb, together with the adjective, ignorante, that comes from it. It is a partially true cognate, but not totally, and that is why we are mentioning it here. 


One meaning of ignorare is "to ignore," in other words, to neglect to take into consideration. But its other meaning is "not to know." There's a big difference between the two! So in the following passage, it's not totally clear which it is. 

Farà male? -Vuoi la verità? Sì. -Anna. E così mi ignori la primissima regola di questo mestiere.

Will it hurt? -Do you want the truth? Yes. -Anna. And so you ignore the very first rule of this profession on me.

Captions 3-5, La linea verticale EP8 - Part 2

 Play Caption


In this next example, the meaning clearly has to do with not being schooled, with not knowing how to read and write, for example.

Sarò anche una povera vecchia contadina ignorante,

I might even be an old, ignorant farm woman,

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 7

 Play Caption


But ignorante is widely used to mean something similar to maleducato — being a boor or a lout. We can see how it is combined with other similar insults here.

Prepotente, zotico, ignorante!

Arrogant, boorish, rude!

Caption 3, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

 Play Caption


Can you use these words to describe someone you know or someone you've seen in televisione or al cinema


Continuer la lecture