Leçons Italien

Thèmes

Venire doesn't just mean "to come"

Venire is one of those verbs, like "get" in English, that is used in lots of ways, besides its general meaning of "to come." Let's look at some of the ways.

To cost

When you are shopping at the outdoor market, for example, and want to know the price, you might think of saying:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

It's a fine cognate, easy to remember. But if you want to sound more like a local, you might say:

Quanto viene (how much does it come to)?

or if they are pomodori (tomatoes), for example,

Quanto vengono (how much do they come to)?

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

To turn out, to come out

When you succeeded (or not) in doing something, such as jumping over a hurdle, making a drawing, making a special dish, you can use venire. You can say, for instance:

Questo dolce mi è venuto bene (I did a good job on this dessert. It came out well).

We can say it in a neutral way, leaving out the indirect personal pronoun:

È venuto bene (it came out nicely)

Or we can say it in a more personal way:

Ti è venuto bene (you had success), mi è venuto bene (I had success).

 

Instead of saying sono stata brava (I did a good job), where the accent is on me, I turn the phrase around a bit, and say mi è venuto bene (it came out well for me). There is a little less ego involved, if we want to look at it that way. We're not taking all the credit. It might have been chance.

A fun expression

In a recent segment of the movie Dafne, the father is thinking of planting a vegetable garden. He's probably never done it before. He says:

Potrei fare l'orto, come viene viene (I could plant a vegetable garden, however it turns out).

 

Literally, it's "It turns out the way it turns out."

 

Venire in place of essere (to be)

We have mentioned this in another lesson. The verb venire, as well as the verb andare, is used to make a kind of passive form. Since that lesson is long and involved, we'll just cite the part about venire here:

Venire (to come) and andare (to go) 

There is a verb pair that Italians use to form the passive voice, more often than you might think: venire (to come) and andare (to go). These have a particular feeling and purpose. We could look at these verbs as more of an active-type passive tense (although perhaps that's an oxymoron). If you think of times when we use "get" instead of "to be" in passive sentences, it might make more sense. We often use venire when we're talking about how things are done, or things that are done on a continuing basis, and we use andare when we're talking about things that have to get done. 

If I am telling you the rules of how candidates are chosen, for example, or how they get chosen, I might use venire (to come). 

 

Active: Il presidente sceglie il vicepresidente. The president chooses the vice-president.

Passive: Il vicepresidente viene scelto dal presidente. The vice-president gets chosen by the president.

 

In Italia il caffè viene servito in tazzine di queste dimensioni.

In Italy, coffee is served in demitasses that are this size.

Caption 15, Adriano Il caffè

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Venire used as "to remember," "to come to mind"

Non mi viene. -Va bene.

It doesn't come to mind. -All right.

Caption 68, Sposami EP 3 - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

We can also say this as we do in English:

Non mi viene in mente (it doesn't come to mind)

 

But we often leave out the "in mente" part, especially if there is a direct object, like for example il nome "the name."

Non mi viene il nome (I can't remember the name, I can't think of the name). 

 

We hope this lesson has given you some more tools to improve your Italian.  Keep on learning!

Continuer la lecture

Getting fed up with stufare

The verb stufare means "to stew," so it's a cooking verb. You cook something for a long time. In English we use "to stew" figuratively — "to fret" — but Italians use it a bit differently, to mean "to get fed up." What inspired this lesson was the first line in this week's segment of L'Oriana

Sono stufa di intervistare attori e registi, non ne posso più.

I'm tired of interviewing actors and directors, I can't take it anymore.

Caption 1, L'Oriana film - Part 3

 Play Caption
 

The adjective stufo

Here we have the adjective form, stufo. It means "fed up," "tired," or "sick and tired."  Here are a couple more examples so you can see the kind of contexts stufo is used in.

Ma se fosse stato... -Se, se, Manara, sono stufo delle sue giustificazioni!

But if that had happened... -If, if, Manara. I'm sick of your justifications!

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

Fabrizio, basta. Basta. Sono stufa delle tue promesse.

Fabrizio, that's enough. Enough. I'm sick of your promises.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

You will often see the expression Basta! (enough) close by stufo, as in the previous example— they go hand in hand. The adjective stufo is used when you have already had it, you are fed up, you are already tired of something. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

 

Stufo is an adjective that comes up a lot in arguments. Can you think of some verbs to use with it? 

Sono stufa di lavare i piatti tutte le sere (I'm sick of doing the dishes every night).
Sono stufo di...[pick a verb].

 

Sono stufo di camminare. Prendiamo un taxi (I'm tired of walking. Let's take a taxi).
Sono stufo di discutere con te. Parliamo di altro (I'm tired of arguing with you. Let's talk about something else).
Sei stufo, o vuoi fare un altro giro (are you tired of this, or do you want to do another round)?
 
 
Let's keep in mind that stufo is the kind of adjective that will change its ending according to gender and number. But since it's a very personal way to feel, it's most important to remember it in the first and second person singular. Sono stufo, sono stufa — sei stufo? sei stufa?
 

The verb stufare

The adjective stufo is one way to use the word. The other common way is to use the verb stufare reflexively: stufarsi (to get fed up, to be fed up, to get bored).  
 
It's very common to use stufarsi in the passato prossimo tense: mi sono stufato (I'm fed up). Using the verb form implies something that was already happening, already in the works. It's more about the process. Note that when we use a reflexive verb in a tense with a participle, such as the passato prossimo (that's formed like the present perfect), the auxiliary verb is essere (to be) not avere (to have).
 

Sì. -Ma io mi sono stufato.

Yes. -But I've had enough.

Caption 18, Sposami EP 2 - Part 21

 Play Caption

 

As you can see, it's common for the verb form, used reflexively, to stand alone, but we can also use it as we did the adjective form, with a verb. 

Mi sono stufata di camminare (I'm tired of walking).

Let's keep in mind that we have to pay attention to who is speaking. The ending of the participle will change according to gender and number.

Two girls are hiking but are offered a ride:

Menomale. Ci eravamo stufate di camminare (Good thing, We had gotten tired of walking).

 

But stufarsi can also be used in the present tense. For example, a guy with bad knees loves to run but can't, so he has to walk. He might say:

Meglio camminare, ma mi stufo subito (It's better to walk but I get bored right away). Preferisco correre (I like running better).

 

And finally, we can use the verb non-reflexively when someone is making someone else tire of something or someone. 

A me m'hai stufato con sta storia, hai capito? Eh.

You've tired me out/bored me with this story, you understand? Huh.

Caption 35, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Let's also remember that la stufa is a heater. In earlier times and even now in some places, it was also the stove or oven, used both for heating and cooking food and for heating the living space. The double meaning is essential to understanding the lame joke someone makes in Medico in Famiglia.

In una casa dove vive l'anziano non servono i riscaldamenti perché l'anziano stufa!

In a house where an elderly person lives there's no need for heating because the elderly person makes others tired of him.

Captions 91-92, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Practice: We don't want to promote feeling negative about things, but as you go about your day, you can pretend to be tired of something, and practice saying Sono stufo/a di... or quite simply, Basta, mi sono stufata/a. For "extra credit," try following it up with what you would like to do as an alternative.

Continuer la lecture

Being non-specific with da + infinitive

I can ask you if you have a pen or a pencil, or I can ask you if you have something to write with. I don't always need to be specific. I can offer you a glass of water, a glass of wine, or I can just offer you something to drink. I might not want to be specific. Let's look at one way to say this in Italian.

 

We can use the preposition da (from, to, at) and the infinitive of a verb. Let's look at some examples. 

 

Hai da scrivere (do you have something to write with)?

 

Faccio da mangiare (I'm going to make something to eat). 

 

Devo dare da mangiare a mia figlia.

I have to feed my daughter.

Caption 15, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

Dai da bere a 'sti [questi] quattro lavoratori qua.

Give these four workers something to drink.

Caption 26, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Quando viaggio in treno porto sempre da leggere (when I travel by train I always bring something to read).

 

I can also say:

Porto sempre qualcosa da leggere (I always bring something to read).

 

Ci vorrebbe da dormire e da mangiare. -Bene.

We need lodging and food. -Fine.

Caption 20, Dafne Film - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

Ho da fare (I have stuff to do).

 

Let us know if you have questions at newsletter@yabla.com. 

Continuer la lecture

Making do with arrangiarsi

Here's another expression you will want in your toolbox: arrangiarsi (to make do). 

 

Oriana Fallaci uses this expression to express her exasperation at how things get done in Italy. 

Vorrà dire che si farà l'unica cosa che si può fare qui in Italia, la cosa che più detesto, quella che m'ha fatto fuggire da questo paese: arrangiarsi.

That means that we'll do the only thing that one can do here in Italy, the thing that I hate most, the thing that made me flee this country: make do.

Captions 42-43, L'Oriana film - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Art form?

Italians joke about "making do" as almost an art form: L'arte di arrangiarsi (the art of making do). In fact, that's the title of a 1955 film with Alberto Sordi. L'arte di arrangiarsi (Getting Along) — possibily available on YouTube in your zone.

 

T'ho già detto che nun [romanesco : non] è un problema mio. Arangiate [romanesco: arrangiati].

I already said that that's not my problem. Figure it out.

Captions 55-56, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

False friend alert!

We just have to be a bit careful because the verb arrangiare looks so much like the English verb "to arrange." They are close cousins, but not perfect cognates, except in some specific circumstances like arranging a piece of music. There, we use the noun arrangiamento (arrangement) most of the time.

 

In the example above, someone is telling someone to "figure it out." So that's a great expression to know. Of course, it's used when you know someone very well.

 

But arrangiarsi is perhaps most commonly used in the first person singular or plural to accept less than ideal conditions: You don't have the right equipment or tool for doing something, but you're going to try to make do with what you have. You can stay the night, but all we have is a sofabed... There are hundreds of situations that present themselves every day where one has to make do, so this expression is a great one to know and practice in the conjugations you might need. 

Mi arrangio [or m'arrangio] (I'll make do).

Ci arrangiamo (we'll make do).

Mi arrangerò (I'll figure it out somehow).

Mi devo arrangiare (I have to make do).

 

Marika and Anna didn't find the kind of bread they needed for the recipe, but they made do with something similar. 

Noi, purtroppo, non lo abbiamo trovato e quindi ci arrangiamo, si fa per dire, con questo pane che comunque è molto gustoso.

We, unfortunately, couldn't find that, and so we are making do, so to speak, with this bread, which is very tasty in any case.

Captions 27-29, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Real life situations for using this expression

When you are cooking, how many times have you had to make do with a different ingredient from the one the recipe called for? Ti devi arrangiare (you have to make do).

 

If you are the host you might have to ask your guest to accept less than ideal accomodations...

Vi arrangiate (can you make do)?

Se vi arrangiate (if you can make do)...

 

We can talk about someone else:

Si arrangia con qualche furto, qualche partita di coca, ma non credo che c'entri qualcosa con questa storia.

He gets by on the odd theft, a batch of coke now and then, but I don't think he is involved in this thing.

Captions 71-72, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

Here, arrangiarsi is translated with "to get by." It can also mean "to make ends meet." 

 

A related word

A related reflexive verb is accontentarsi, which we have talked about in another lesson. It can also be translated with "to make do," but "to settle" and "to be content" work well, too.

"gli uomini, fino a che saranno sulla terra, dovranno accontentarsi del riso giallo di zafferano, poi, quando saranno in paradiso, mangeranno riso con l'oro".

"Men, for as long as they're on the earth, will have to settle for saffron yellow rice; later, when they're in paradise, they'll eat rice with gold."

Captions 7-10, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

Arrangiarsi is more about doing something, where as accontentarsi is more about how you feel about something. (we can detect the word contento (happy, content) within the word. 

 

Which preposition to use

One last thing to remember is that with arrangiarsi, we use the preposition con (with). With accontentarsi we use the preposition di.

 

Continuer la lecture

Ci mancherebbe!

We have written about the verb mancare that's used in so many diverse contexts and nuances, but mancare is part of an expression we hear all the time that deserves some attention: Ci mancherebbe.

 

At its most basic level, ci mancherebbe is a way of reinforcing the word certo. Certo is so short, it might get lost. But if we say, Certo, ci mancherebbe, we're saying, "sure," "absolutely,"  "absolutely no problem," "Don't mention it," "by all means," or something to that effect. It's just a very natural thing for Italians to add to certo.

banner PLACEHOLDER

 

It can also be a response to someone saying they're sorry, and you want say, "No problem," "Don't worry." "No apology necessary." It can also mean, "It's the least I [or someone else] could do." Literally, ci mancherebbe means "it would be lacking from it," which makes no sense at all. Let's keep in mind, for the record, that mancherebbe is the third person conditional of the verb mancare.

 

Variation: A variation on this expression is ci mancherebbe altro! There is no way I wouldn't have done that favor for you willingly. It was not a burden. In other words, "No problem." This variant is also used for a different meaning, as we illustrate below. 

 

Close relations: This expression is similar to the expression figurarsi which you will conujugate in the first person plural figuriamoci, the second person singular informal figurati, or to be polite, si figuri. It's used in similar circumstances. It often has to do with doing a favor that was really no big deal. It's also used when someone apologizes, and you want to be gracious and say there was no need to apologize.

 

Sound bites (with video): Let's listen to and look at some examples from Yabla, since we can!

 

In this first example, as you can see, the translation is "Don't mention it."

Scusate per il tempo che vi ho fatto perdere. -Mi scusi anche Lei, signor Notaio. -Ci mancherebbe.

Sorry for the time I had you waste. -I'm sorry, to you, too, Mister Notary. -Don't mention it.

Captions 63-65, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

 In the following example, we have the longer form of this expression, which is even stronger, as if to say, "It goes without saying."

io ho approfittato della lezione di sanscrito di Giacomo per poterci vedere stasera in tutta tranquillità e discrezione, spero. -Ci mancherebbe altro.

I took advantage of Giacomo's Sanskrit lesson to get together tonight calmly and discretely, I hope. -That goes without saying.

Captions 5-8, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

In the previous examples, we could have replaced ci mancherebbe with figuriamoci or si figuri but not in the following one, where the conditional is really conditional and refers to something we hope isn't the case.

 

In this case, the translation of ci mancherebbe or ci mancherebbe altro! can be something stronger, like "heaven forbid," or "God forbid that should happen" where you are really hoping against hope that something won't occur. This can be confusing. In the following example, instead of something going without saying, we are hoping something doesn't happen. In other words, "That would be terrible."

È incredibile. -Avvocato, ho paura che sia come i Piccinin. -I Piccinin? Ma no, ma si figuri, no. Ma ci mancherebbe altro, no.

It's incredible. -Counsel, I'm worried it'll be like the Piccinins. -The Piccinins? But no, no way, no. But God forbid, no.

Captions 11-13, Sposami EP 2 - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

If you do a search on the videos page, you will find a list of examples of ci mancherebbe. Each one might have a slightly different nuance. The best way to grasp the expression is to hear it in dialog, in as many examples as you can find. Getting comfortable with this expression and knowing when it is appropriate will take time. So when you are watching a movie in Italian (on Yabla or elsewhere), listen for it in conversation. When you are shopping or asking directions as you travel in Italy, you'll likely hear it quite often when you say thank you.

Marika explains the expression in a video about the verb mancare:

 

Extra study: We did a little research online and found a couple of interesting articles about the expression. You can read it in English or Italian, or you can listen to the podcast (where Ilaria essentially reads the article). All bases are covered!

Here's a short article in Italian about ci mancherebbe and ci mancherebbe altro.

Here's an article (not simple) in Italian, which is actually a transcript of a video, also available. So you can listen and read along. The speaker says this expression numerous times, with different inflections.

 

We hope that with our lesson, video examples, and outside resources, you will have a good grasp of this common but confusing Italian expression. You'll be one step closer to becoming fluent. And that's what Yabla is all about...

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture

Crossword answers: Italian nouns that end in o or a

You are probably here because you did the crossword puzzle about Italian nouns that end in a or o.

Here are the answers. Hopefully doing this little puzzle will help you recognize and remember these words.

 

Across
4 porto dove le navi possono sostare - il porto
7 filo lo uso per cucire - il filo
8 pianto lo fai quando sei triste - un pianto
10 foglio  lo uso per scrivere o disegnare quando è di carta - un foglio
11 pianta  cresce nella terra o nel vaso - una pianta
12 legno si usa per costruire - il legno
13 legna si brucia nel caminetto - la legna
14 mela  una al giorno toglie il medico di torno - una mela
15 casa dove si abita - la casa

 

Down
1 posta una lettera o un pacchetto - la posta
2 posto luogo - un posto 
3 caso può finire in tribunale - un caso
5 melo un albero di frutta - il melo
6 palo  è quello della luce - un palo
7 fila in genere si forma alla cassa - la fila
8 porta la chiudi prima di uscire di casa - la porta
9 pala la usi per scavare una buca -la pala
10 foglia cade dall’albero in autunno - una foglia



Was the puzzle too easy? Too difficult? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com









 

 

Continuer la lecture

When endings count: Italian nouns that end in a or o

It can be hard to remember whether an Italian noun ends in o or a. Sometimes it doesn't really matter, and people from different regions will express the noun one way or the other. An example of this is il puzzo/la puzza. They both mean "a bad smell" "a stench."

Beh, è bello sentire gli odori, ma noi sentiamo gli odori, ma sentiamo anche le puzze. Ecco infatti, senti questa puzza?

Well, it's nice to smell odors, but we smell scents, but we also smell bad odors. There you go, in fact, do you smell this stench?

Captions 12-14, Daniela e Francesca Il verbo sentire

 Play Caption

 

They're both associated with the verb puzzare (to stink).

 

But often, the ending does make a difference in meaning: It might be a small difference, where you'll likely be understood even if you get it wrong:

Se vuoi fare contento un bambino, dagli un foglio bianco e una matita colorata.

If you want to make a child happy, give him a white sheet of paper and a colored pencil.

Captions 7-8, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

una spolverata de [di] parmigiano e 'na [una] foglia di basilico a crudo sopra.

a sprinkling of Parmesan and a raw basil leaf on top.

Caption 9, Anna e Marika Un Ristorante a Trastevere

 Play Caption

 

Both sheets of paper are flat and thin, and in English a leaf can be a sheet of paper. We might use this term when talking specifically about books, but normally a leaf is a leaf and a sheet of paper is a sheet of paper.

Of course it's better to get it right! 

 

But what about palo and pala? Actually, if we think about it, they both have similar shapes, but their function is completely different.

Il problema era, era un palo, un palo che stava proprio lì. Un palo di ferro

The problem was, was a post, a post that was right there. An iron post

Captions 83-85, Provaci Ancora Prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

La preparazione del terreno per la semina, il contadino la fa con una vanga, che è una specie di pala ma fatta apposta per il terreno,

The preparing of the ground for sowing, the farmer does with a spade, which is a kind of shovel but made especially for the ground,

Captions 19-20, La campagna toscana Il contadino - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

So just for fun, and perhaps to help remember, we have a little crossword puzzle for you, all in Italian. All the words have one version that ends in a and one that ends in o. You might have to use a dictionary.

Click on the link and follow the instructions.

When endings count: Italian nouns ending in a or o

Here are the solutions:

 

 

 

 

Continuer la lecture

Getting personal with the reflexive

This is the continuation of the lesson about the basics of reflexive verbs.

With a true reflexive verb, you need the reflexive to make yourself understood properly, but when it's not a direct reflexive, you can also leave it out (usually) and still get your meaning across. Check out the rules for this in the above-mentioned lesson.

Let's say I want to watch a movie on TV tonight. It would be common to say:

Mi guarderò un bel film stasera (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight). It's not directly reflexive, because we have "the film" as a direct object (it's not even a body part!) but the sentence is constructed the same way as a reflexive one, and has that personal feel to it (it's all about me!).

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

If it were truly reflexive, I would be looking at myself in the mirror instead of the movie: guardarsi  (to look at oneself)

Mi guardo allo specchio (I look at myself in the mirror). 

 

I could also just as well say (and it would be correct):

Guarderò un bel film stasera. (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight).

 

Without the added pronoun, the sentence is more neutral, less personal, and there's less emphasis on it being about me. But it's perfectly fine. And whether a verb is directly or indirectly reflexive is not going to change our lives a whole lot. It's just something you might wonder about. The important thing is to know how to use reflexive verbs and to get used to hearing (and understanding) them.

 

Here are a few more everyday examples that we think of as being reflexive, but which also contain a direct object. What's important to note is that in English, we use a possessive pronoun (I wash my hands) after a transitive verb. Italian uses a reflexive pronoun to indicate the person, but it goes together with the verb, not the noun.  The following examples are typical, and so it would be wise to practice them in different conjugations.

Vado a lavarmi i denti  (I'm going to brush my teeth).

 

Here we have the conjugated verb andare before lavare (with the preposition a [to]), so lavare is in the infinitive with the appropriate reflexive pronoun (mi [to me]) attached to it.

 

Ci laviamo le mani prima di mangiare (We wash our hands before eating).

 

Here we used ci as the reflexive pronoun. Let's not forget that ci has a lot of uses, which you can read about in other lessons

 

Mi metto una maglia, fa freschino (I'll put a sweater on. It's chilly).

 

Mettere is an interesting verb (with an interesting reflexive version). Check out what Marika has to say about it. 

Mettere vuol dire collocare, posizionare un oggetto in un posto specifico.

"To put" means "to situate," "to position" an object in a specific place.

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Here is a partial list of some other useful, everyday reflexive verbs: 

addormentarsi (to fall asleep)

innamorarsi (to fall in love)

ammalarsi (to fall ill)

muoversi (to move)

spostarsi (to shift, to move)

 

These verbs are intransitive in English, they don't have anything to do with specific body parts, and they aren't used in a reflexive way in English. So they may be tricky to immediately grasp.

 

See if this process can help you:

Let's take the example of spostarsi.

Does the verb have a non-reflexive form? Let's see: spostare. I look it up. spostare.

Hint: A dictionary will usually give you the reflexive form of the verb, too, if it exists. Just keep looking down the list of definitions or translations. 

OK, so spostare exists in a non-reflexive (transitive) form. 

La sposto subito.

I'll move it right away.

Caption 46, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

The reflexive form means, "I move myself." In English we just say "I move." We just need to remember that we need the reflexive in Italian to say that. But if I visualize it, I can see myself moving myself over a bit, so someone can fit into a space, for instance. 

 

Aside: The person ready to move his car in the previous example could have used the reflexive, especially if he had been in the car at the time. He could have said, Mi sposto subito (I'll move (out of the way) right away).

I can also look up the verb spostarsi on the Yabla videos page:

Basta semplicemente spostarsi di qualche metro.

All one has to do is simply move a few meters.

Caption 57, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

The cool thing about the search window is that you can use whatever conjugation you want. You may or may not get a hit, but a pop-down menu will give you suggestions as to what's available. Sometimes it's handy to begin with the infinitive, then some conjugations. Most of these hits are real-life usages that help give you an idea of how a verb is used.  

 

So my next move is to conjugate the reflexive verb. Creating a sentence that makes sense might be more fun than a simple conjugation. Go ahead and consult the conjugation chart supplied with verbs in WordReference: spostarsi

Mi sposto (I'll move over).

Ti puoi spostare (Could you move over)?

Lui non si sposta (he won't move over)!

 

Looking up sposto also reveals the "remote" past tense of spostarespostò (the third person singular passato remoto):

Eh, tant'è vero che poi, pensa Marika, che il centro politico della città si spostò dai Fori Romani ai Fori Imperiali.

Yeah, so much so, that then, just think, Marika, the political center of the city moved from the Roman Forums to the Imperial Forums.

Captions 38-39, Marika e Daniela Il Foro Romano

 Play Caption

Learning suggestion:

Try to put your daily routine into words, using the dictionary (and the afore-mentioned online resources) if necessary. Maybe your routine goes something like this:

 

Ti svegli alle 6 di mattina ma ti addormenti di nuovo e quindi ti alzi alle sei e mezza. Ti fai un buon caffè e poi ti fai la docciati lavi i denti, e ti vesti. Se fa freddo ti metti una giacca prima di uscire.* Nascondi la chiave sotto lo zerbino. 

You wake up at 6 in the morning, but you fall asleep again so you get up at 6:30. You make yourself a nice cup of coffee and then you take a showeryou brush your teeth and you get dressed. If it’s cold, you put on a jacket before going out. You hide the key under the doormat. 

 

Try using different conjugations to practice them.

*More about what to wear in Marika spiega: L'abbigliamento - Part 1 of 2.

In this lesson, we used simple tenses. When we use the passato prossimo (constructed like the present perfect), we need more information, such as the fact that we need to use essere rather than avere! But we'll save this for another lesson. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture

The basics of reflexive verbs

You've probably heard about a special kind of verb found in Italian: the reflexive verb — il verbo riflessivo. It's a kind of verb that in its direct or indirect form pervades the Italian language. It's hard to get a sentence out without using one! The basic premise is that with a reflexive verb, the subject and the direct object are the same. See these video lessons about the reflexive.  Since English works differently, the Italian reflexive verb can be tricky to understand, translate, and use. Let's look at the components.

From transitive verb to reflexive

Often, a reflexive verb starts out as a transitive verb, such as lavare (to wash). 

On my list of things to do, one item might be:

Lavare la macchina (wash the car).

banner PLACEHOLDER

 

The action is "to wash" and the direct object is la macchina (the car). The car can't wash itself. We need a subject. Who washes the car in the family?

Io lavo la macchina (I wash the car).

Pietro lava la macchina (Pietro washes the car).

 

But in a reflexive verb, the subject and the object are the same. They coincide. In English we might say something like, I'll go and get washed up. We use "get." In Italian, we use the reflexive form of a verb. In the infinitive, we join the reflexive pronoun si to verb, leaving out the final e , and we use a detached reflexive pronoun when we conjugate the verb. 

From the transitive verb lavare, we obtain lavarsi (to wash [oneself]).

 

Recognizing a reflexive verb

One way we can recognize a reflexive verb is by the tell-tale si at the end of the infinitive form,* in this case, lavarsi. The second way to detect a direct reflexive verb, is in being able to replace the reflexive pronoun with sé stesso (oneself). 

Let's make a checklist for the reflexive verb lavarsi.

1) It has the reflexive pronoun si at the end in the infinitive. √

2) I can say lavo me stesso/a (I wash myself). √

 

Here are some other common direct reflexive verbs. Do they pass the test?

lavarsi (to wash [oneself])

alzarsi (to get up)

vestirsi (to get dressed)

preocuparsi (to worry)

chiedersi (to wonder)

spogliarsi (to get undressed)

sedersi (to sit down)

chiamarsi (to be named)

 

See this lesson about reflexive verbs. It takes you through the conjugations and discusses transitive vs reflexive verbs in terms of meaning. Once you have grasped the basic reflexive verb and how to use it, let's move on to a slightly murkier version.  

 

Indirect reflexives (they work in a similar way to direct reflexives)

 

Something as basic as washing your face needs some understanding of the reflexive in Italian. We looked at lavarsi. That's a whole-body experience. But if we start looking at body parts, we still use the reflexive, even though it's indirect.

 

Instead of saying, "I wash my face," using a possessive pronoun as we do in English, Italians use the logic, "Hey, of course, it's my face on my body — I don't need to say whose face it is." So they use the reflexive to refer to the person, but add on "the face." 

Mi lavo la faccia (I wash my face).

 

So there is a direct object in the sentence that doesn't coincide exactly with the subject (you are not your face), but it's still part of you and so we can say it's somewhat reflexive. It's indirectly reflexive. In grammatical terms, it's also pronominal, because we use the (reflexive) pronoun with the verb.

 

*Caveat: The pronoun si can and does have additional functions, but if the verb is reflexive, this si will be there in the infinitive, and we can look up the reflexive verb in the dictionary. 

Practically Speaking

Try using the above-mentioned reflexive formula (with lavare) for other body parts. Start with yourself, and then go on to other people like your brother, or to keep it simpler, use someone's name. 

i capelli (the hair)

i denti (the teeth)

i piedi (the feet)

le mani (the hands)

 

Examples:

Giulia si lava i capelli una volta alla settimana (Giulia washes her hair once a week).

Io mi lavo i capelli tutti giorni (I wash my hair every day).

Vado a lavarmi le mani (I'm going to wash my hands).

 

Fare (to make, to do) gets involved.

Let's take the indirect reflexive one step further. Sometimes instead of using a verb form like "to shower," we'll use the noun. Sometimes there isn't an adequate, specific verb to use. In English, we take a shower. Italian uses fare to mean "to make," "to do," and "to take." And since taking a shower is usually a very personal activity, having to do with one's body, we use the reflexive form of fare plus the noun la doccia (the shower) to say this. We could even leave out the reflexive (since there is a direct object - doccia:

Faccio una doccia (I take a shower, I'm going to take a shower).

 

It is more common, however, to personalize it, to emphasize the person involved. Italians would normally say:

Mi faccio la doccia (I'm going to take a shower).

Mi faccio una doccia (I'm going to take a shower).

Vai a farti la doccia (Go take a shower).

 

And just as easily, I can ask you if you are going to take a shower.

Ti fai la doccia (are you going to take a shower)?

 

And if we speak in the third person with a modal verb, we'll see that the infinitive of fare, in this case, has all the trappings of a reflexive verb, that tell-tale si at the end of the infinitive:

Pietro vuole farsi la doccia (Pietro wants to take a shower).

 

Mi faccio la doccia alle sette e mezza.

I take a shower at half past seven [seven and a half].

Caption 7, Marika spiega - L'orologio

 Play Caption

 

There is another verb we use when talking about our bodies. We have vestirsi (to get dressed) but Italians also use an indirect reflexive to mean "to wear," or, to use the basic translation of mettere — "to put on." The verb is mettersi [qualcosa] (to wear something). This verb is discussed in the lesson about wearing clothes in Italian

Cosa mi metto stasera per andare alla festa (what am I going to wear tonight to go to the party)?

 

In the next lesson, we'll look at ways we use the indirect reflexive to be more expressive. 

Continuer la lecture

Talking about the weather in Italian

When traveling in Italy, like it or not, weather conditions can be a concern. We like to imagine Italy being sunny and beautiful all the time, but purtroppo (unfortunately), especially these days, the weather can be capriccioso (mischievous) and imprevidibile (unpredictable). As a result, knowing how to talk about the weather like an Italian can be not only useful for obtaining information, but provides a great topic for small talk.

Che tempo fa?

In Italian, the verb of choice when talking about the weather is fare (to make). Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? Keep in mind that tempo means both “time” and “weather” so be prepared to get confused sometimes. If you want to talk about today’s weather, then just add oggi (today):

Che tempo fa oggi? (What’s the weather like today?)

banner PLACEHOLDER

An answer might be:

Oggi c'è un bel tempo, un bel sole.

Today there's nice weather, nice sun.

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

And when talking about tomorrow, we use the future tense of the verb fare:


Che tempo farà domani? (What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?)

 

So our basic question is Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? That's good to know, and an important question to be able to ask, but when we're making conversation, we might start with a statement, to share the joy, or to commiserate.

Condividere (sharing)

We can start out generally, talking about the quality of the day itself.

Che bella giornata (what a beautiful day). 

Che brutta giornata (what a horrible day).

 

Specifics

After that, we can get into specifics.

Tip: In English, we use adjectives such as: sunny, rainy, muggy, and foggy, but in Italian, in many cases, it’s common to use noun forms, rather than adjectives, as you will see.

Fa freddo (it’s cold)! Note that we (mostly) use the verb fare (to make) here, not essere (to be)
Fa caldo (it’s hot)!
Piove (it’s raining). Italians also use the present progressive tense as we do in English, (sta piovendo) but not necessarily!
Nevica (it’s snowing).
C’è il sole (it’s sunny).
È coperto (it’s cloudy, the skies are grey).
È nuvoloso (it’s cloudy).
C’è la nebbia (it’s foggy).
C’è l’afa (it’s muggy).

 

Piove. T'accompagno a casa?

It's raining. Shall I take you home?

Caption 3, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

Il clima, eh... essendo la Lombardia quasi tutta pianura, abbiamo estati molto afose e inverni molto rigidi. Ma la caratteristica principale è la presenza costante della nebbia.

The climate, uh... as Lombardy is almost all flatlands, we have very muggy summers and very severe winters. But the main characteristic is the constant presence of fog.

Captions 70-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Lombardia

 Play Caption

 

Who knew?

We have the adjective chiaro that means "clear" and so when we want to clear something up we can use the verb chiarire (to clear up). We are speaking figuratively in this case. 

 

Incominciamo col chiarire una cosa: è per te, o è per tua madre?

Let's start by clearing up one thing. Is it for you, or is it for your mother?

Caption 8, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

But chiaro also means "light in color."

Ci sono di tutti i tipi: maschi, femmine, occhi chiari, occhi scuri.

There are all kinds: males, females, blue [pale] eyed, dark eyed.

Caption 63, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 17

 Play Caption

 

When the sky is clearing up, we don't use the verb chiarire. We use the prefix s and chiarire becomes schiarire (to make lighter or brighter [with more light] in color). It can refer not only to color but also sound. It's often expressed in its reflexive form.

Il cielo si sta schiarendo (the sky is clearing up).

 

Al centro invece, abbiamo nebbia anche qui dappertutto, con qualche schiarita, ma nebbia a tutte le ore.

Towards the center on the other hand, we have fog all over, here as well, with some clearing, but fog at all hours.

Captions 58-59, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

There's more to say about the weather and how to talk about it in Italian, but that will be for another lesson.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture

Breathing in Italian : let us count the ways Part 3: breathless

 

We've looked at breath and breathing in Italian from different angles. Now let's talk about the absence of breathing. Here, too, we can look at it from a couple of different angles.

 

Apnea

We recognize this word because it's used in English, too, often referring to sleep apnea. It refers to a temporary suspension of breathing. This can be intentional (as in diving with no oxygen tank): 

 

Questa è la costa dei suoi grandi record di apnea, a meno quarantacinque metri nel sessanta,

This is the coast of his great free diving records, to minus forty-five meters in nineteen sixty,

Captions 10-11, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 19

 Play Caption

 

Or it can be unintentional (as in sleep apnea or shortness of breath). 

Il respiro corto, la difficoltà a respirare, a parlare, tipo apnea, era presente nel diciotto virgola sei per cento dei casi.

Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and speaking, as in apnea, are present in eighteen point six percent of the cases.

Captions 37-38, COVID-19 Domande frequenti - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Affanno


The noun affanno (breathlessness) is a great word with its double f and double n, especially if you know what it feels like to be out of breath. But it can also be used figuratively to describe that state of anxiety one has, also called "stress," like when you have to run around doing 10 things at once, and you're on a time crunch.

Stavo sempre a cercare lavoro, sempre di corsa, sempre in affanno

I was always hunting for work, always in a rush, always out of breath,

Captions 39-40, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

We have the adjective version, too: affannato 

Let's just keep in mind that the word "stress" has become part of Italian colloquial vocabulary.  lo stress, stressare, stressato.

 

Mozzafiato 

We already talked about this adjective, but let's have a closer look.

e la vista mozzafiato della città

and the breathtaking view of the city

Caption 20, Villa Medici L'arca della bellezza - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

If we take apart this wonderful adjective, we get mozzare (to cut off) and fiato (breath). So if your breath is cut off, it's taken away. And let's not forget about another use of mozzare. It's part of one of our favorite Italian dairy products, la mozzarella

 

There's a Yabla video in which Marika and Anna go to a place in Rome where they actually make mozzarella, to find out how it's made. Check it out!

la pasta filata viene appunto mozzata, o a mano o a macchina,

The spun paste is, just that, cut off, by hand or by machine,

Caption 6, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Have we missed any words having to do with breath and breathing? Let us know at newsletter@yabla.com.

Continuer la lecture

How does Italian work?

When you learn a new language, there's lots to learn. It can be overwhelming, so let's talk for a moment about how Italian works. What can you expect from this language?

Nouns

Nouns in Italian have gender. In German, we have masculine, feminine, and neuter, but in Italian, we just have masculine and feminine. So every noun has an article that will be different according to gender and number. 

 

Daniela talks about that in her series of video lessons here.

 

Marika gives some tips on figuring out the gender of a noun here, beginning with masculine nouns.

Di solito, tendono ad essere di genere maschile tutti quei nomi che terminano in "o" oppure in "e". Per esempio: orso, cavallo, armadio,

Usually, all the nouns ending in "o" or "e" tend to be of the masculine gender. For example: bear, horse, cupboard,

Captions 3-4, Marika spiega Il genere maschile

 Play Caption

 

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns need to be learned little by little. We need them to determine who's talking or acting or whom we're talking about.  

 

When we learn how to conjugate a verb, we learn the personal pronouns associated with each person:

 

For example, when we conjugate the basic and irregular verb essere (to be) we use the personal pronouns:

io sono (I am)

tu sei (you are)

lui è (he/it is)

lei è (she/it is)

noi siamo (we are)

voi siete (you are)

loro sono (they are)

 

A tricky thing about pronouns and verbs

One of the trickiest things about Italian is that more often than not, the personal pronoun is left out entirely. You might be desperately trying to understand who are we talking about, but can't find the personal pronoun.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Italian comes from Latin, so the way a verb is conjugated includes information on the "hidden" or  "implied" personal pronoun. Sometimes it's ambiguous, as you can see in this lesson. But let's have a quick look at what is tricky.

 

Let's take a simple sentence in English we might want to translate into Italian.

I see the horse. 

Your natural inclination is to take the Italian for I = io.

 

Then you want the verb "to see." It's the verb vedere. I need to put it into the first person. I look it up on a conjugation chart: vedere

Io vedo  (I see).

Then I want the object: horse. In this case, it is a direct object because the verb vedere (to see) is transitive in both Italian and English (but this isn't always the case!)

the horse = il cavallo.

We come up with:

Io vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).

 

But, except in certain cases where we want to emphasize who sees the horse, we can just leave out the personal pronoun. The sentence becomes:

Vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).

 

It's perfectly clear without the personal pronoun. I know it is there, implied. This is totally normal in Italian and takes some getting used to. Here's an example you can listen to:

Quindi, quando vedo una persona, prima la saluto: "ciao".

So, when I see a person, first I greet him: "Hi."

Caption 10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Primi incontri - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

*tip: When you learn a noun in Italian, try to always include the definite article. We don't worry about this in English, but in Italian, it's super important. It's impossible to get it right all the time, but getting off to a good start will pay off later.

Something to know about verbs

Regular Italian verbs generally fall into 3 categories and end in -are, -ere, or -ire.

Parlare (to speak)

Vedere (to see)

Venire (to come)

 

Each of these groups has a specific way of getting conjugated, so little by little it's good to get a sense of how these work. It will help you conjugate verbs without having to look them up all the time.

 

Daniela has a series of video lessons in Italian about Italian, so check out the series here. She delves into the three types of verb conjugations, represented by three types of infinitive verb endings.

-are 

-ere

-ire

 

Don't feel you have to start memorizing verbs, unless you want to, but do be aware that there are basically three ways to end a verb and you will discover them as you learn. This will also help you identify verbs as you listen and read.

Irregular verbs

There are some irregular verbs that need to be learned early in the game because, just as in English, they are also helping verbs. We're talking about essere (to be) and avere (to have).

 

We use these verbs tons of times every day, so the sooner you get used to their conjugations, the easier it will be further on. 

Modal verbs

Just as in English, Italian has modal verbs. Just as in English, the modal verb gets conjugated and then you tack on the verb in the infinitive. So one trick when learning Italian is to learn the modal verb potere (to be able to  [which we conjugate with "can."]).

Posso venire (Can I come)?

 

Daniela teaches us about modal verbs. The main ones are potere (to be able to), volere (to want to), and dovere (to have to). They are irregular, so it's a good idea to learn them early on, especially the first person, so you can express your needs!

Adjectives

Lots can be said about adjectives, but for now, let's remember that adjectives go with nouns, and in Italian, they have a very close relationship. The ending of an adjective has to agree with the noun it is modifying. What matters is the gender and the number.

 

See this lesson in English about adjectives.

 

Daniela goes through everything you need to know about adjectives here.

 

Two adjectives you will need when you begin speaking Italian are bello (beautiful, great) and buono (good). Daniela talks about these 2 adjectives here.

Word order

Sometimes Italian word order is like English but often it isn't. 

 

Let's take the example we looked at earlier.

Vedo il cavallo (I see the horse).

 

In the example above, I know the pronoun io is implied because of the conjugation of the verb vedere. Vedo is the first person singular, so the hidden pronoun will be io.

 

When I replace cavallo with a pronoun, the word order changes!

Lo vedo (I see it).

 

The pronoun lo stands for il cavallo, but it comes before the verb. This is just one example of how word order changes and is different than what we might expect.

So in terms of word order, you need to expect the unexpected, and little by little you will listen and repeat, listen and repeat, and you'll get it.

To sum up

This was intended to give you an overview of what to expect from the Italian language. We've tried to give you some links to Yabla videos and lessons that delve into each aspect of the language. But Yabla is primarily a library of videos you can use to hear the language spoken by native speakers. Don't be afraid to watch videos using the English subtitles, Italian subtitles, or both. Or... just let it soak in, depending on your mood and time availability. Vocabulary reviews and other exercises we've provided at the end of each video will help you learn new words, check your progress, and help you with listening comprehension and dictation. It's up to you to take advantage of them.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture

What's the problem?

In English, it's common to say, "No problem." Some of us even use it in place of "You're welcome." But when we want to say this in Italian, it's slightly more complex.

Non c'è problema

Stai tranquilla, non c'è problema.

Take it easy, no problem.

Caption 80, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

Non c'è problema (the Italian equivalent of "no problem") might be easy to memorize, but some might want to know what each word means, and why it is there, so let's take a quick look.

Actually, the only problematic word in non c'è problema is c'è. This contraction is made up of the particle ci (a particle meaning too many things to list here*), which in this case means "in that place" or "there,"  and è (the third person singular of the irregular verb essere — to be).

Otherwise, we understand non c'è problema pretty well, and it's fairly easy to repeat.

Non c'è problema is a negative sentence, and we cover this particular aspect of it in a lesson about everyday negatives. (Let's remember that double negatives are, in many cases, totally OK in Italian!).

But there's another way to say the same thing, and pose it as a question.

Che problema c'è?

Eh, che problema c'è? Dai.

Huh, what's the problem? Come on.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Che problema c'è? — "What's the problem?" or, literally, "What problem is there?"

This is a very common thing to say, but it is nuanced. Sometimes it just states the obvious in question form and is a rhetorical question. It's clear there is no problem at all. But sometimes, it has a touch of irony and implies there's more to it.

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora Prof, the segment ends with this question: Che problema c'è? All the members of the family keep repeating it so we can guess there's more to it.

 

E certo! Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Duecento euro di multa, ecco che problema c'è.

Of course! What's the problem? -What's the problem? -What's the problem? -A two hundred euro ticket, that's what the problem is.

Captions 97-100, Provaci Ancora Prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

The last response to the question, Che problema c'è? is that there's going to be an expensive parking ticket to pay. That's the problem. There might be other problems down the line, too. 

 

Che problema c'è, uttered with the right inflection, can also be a mild version of "What could possibly go wrong?".  

 

Variations on a theme

It's also common to use the plural of problema. Let's just remind ourselves that problema ends in a but is a masculine noun and gets a masculine plural with i.

Non ci sono problemi (there are no problems).

or, as a question:

Ci sono problemi (are there problems)?

 

When we want to zero in on what the problem is, specifically, we can ask (although it can also be intended as general):

 

Qual è il problema (what's the problem)?

C'è qualche problema (is there some problem)?

 

Have you heard  other ways to say, "What's the problem?" in Italian? Let us know!

 

* There are several lessons about this particle, so if, once in the "lessons" tab, you do a search of ci, you'll find plenty of information about it, with examples from Yabla videos.

Continuer la lecture

Making choices in Italian part 2

We talked about making either/or choices in a previous lesson, but in this lesson, we'll talk about when we want to be inclusive. When we use "both" in English, we are talking about 2 things, not more. There are various ways to express this in Italian and we've discussed one of these ways, using tutti (all). Read the lesson here. Here are two more ways, which are perhaps easier to use.

Entrambi

Entrambi is both an adjective and a pronoun, depending on how you use it. 

Avevamo entrambi la febbre e i bambini da accudire.

We both had fevers and kids to take care of.

Captions 20-21, COVID-19 2) I sintomi

 Play Caption

 

When the nouns are feminine, we use the feminine ending: entrambe.

Per fortuna, avevo entrambe le cose nella mia cassetta degli attrezzi.

Luckily, I had both things in my toolbox.

Caption 13, Marika spiega Gli attrezzi

 Play Caption

 

Ambedue

This way of saying "both" is considered literary, but people do use it. Think of ambidextrous and you'll get it!

Hanno ambedue smesso, quindi devo superare questo record ed è... sono in caccia del mio sesto mondiale.

They've both quit, so I have to break this record and it's... well, I am chasing my sixth World Cup.

Captions 49-50, Valentina Vezzali Video Intervista

 Play Caption

 

Just like entrambi, ambedue can be used as both an adjective and a pronoun. The advantage of this word is that it doesn't change. It's invariable. The only thing you have to remember is that when you use it as an adjective, you need a definite article after it and before the (plural) noun, as in the example below.

Ecco, questa, questa arma, ehm... rimane e fa ambedue, ambedue le funzioni, sia... è riconosciuta a livello di Esercito Italiano,

So, this, this force, uh... is still in force and carries out both, both [the] functions, whether... it's recognized on the level of the Italian Army

Captions 35-37, Nicola Agliastro Le Forze dell'Ordine in Italia

 Play Caption

 

There's more to say about choices, but we'll save it for another lesson. Meanwhile, as you go about your day, try thinking of ways to practice using entrambi and ambedue to mean "both." There are so many choices!

Continuer la lecture

Making choices in Italian, Part 1

In English, the words that come to mind when talking about choices are: either, or, both, either one, whichever one (among others). Let's explore our options in Italian.

Or

This is an easy one. Just take the r off "or." It's o.

Birra o vino? Ultimissima.

Beer or wine? The very latest.

Caption 41, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

But there's another word that means "or" and can imply "or else," or "otherwise." It's oppure. When we are thinking of alternatives, we might use oppure.... (or...). We also use it when we would say, "Or not," as in the following example.

 

Ci ha portato anche i due bicchieri per il vino, ma non so se io e Marika a pranzo berremo oppure no.

He also brought us two glasses for wine, but I don't know if Marika and I will drink at lunch or not.

Captions 22-23, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Note: It doesn't have to be oppure. It can also just be o, but it's an option!

 

Either/or

In English, we have "either" and "or" that go together when we talk about choices.

 

In Italian, the same word — o —goes in both spots in the sentence where were would insert "either" and "or." Consider the example below.

 

O ci prende almeno una canzone o gli diciamo basta, finito, chiuso.

Either he takes at least one song from us, or we say to him enough, over, done with.

Caption 48, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 2 - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Similarly, when neither choice is a positive one, Italian uses (neither/nor) for both "neither" and "nor."

Ho capito dai suoi occhi che Lei non ha marito figli.

I understood from your eyes that you have neither husband nor children.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 24

 Play Caption

 

Non voglio  questo quello (I don't want this one or that one / I  want neither this one nor that one).

 

Either one

Sometimes we don't have a preference. When it's 2 items, either one will do. If it's a masculine noun like il colore (the color), we can say:

Uno o l'altro, non importa (one or the other, it doesn't matter).

 

If it's a feminine noun such as la tovaglia (the tablecloth), we can say:

Una o l'altra andrebbe bene (one or the other would be fine).

 

We have to imagine the noun we're talking about and determine if it's masculine or feminine...

 

Anyone, whichever, whatever

When we choose among more than 2 items, we use "any,"  "whichever," or "whatever" in English. In Italian, it's qualsiasi or qualunque (as well as some others).

Qualsiasi cosa tu decida di fare.

Whatever you decide to do.

Caption 63, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 18

 Play Caption

 

Diciamo che potete fare qualsiasi pasta al pesto, anche, ad esempio, gli gnocchi, però il piatto tradizionale è trenette o linguine al pesto.

Let's say that you can use whatever kind of pasta for pesto, for example, even gnocchi, however, the traditional dish is trenette or linguine al pesto.

Captions 76-77, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Eh, qualunque cosa tu mi abbia detto non, non l'hai detta a Raimondi, vero?

Uh, whatever you told me, you didn't, you didn't tell Raimondi, right?

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP12 - La donna senza volto - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

If you do a search of qualsiasi and qualunque on the Yabla videos page, you'll notice that they are used interchangeably in many cases. Experience will help you figure out when they aren't exactly the same thing.

 

In Part 2, we'll talk about how to say "both" in Italian. There is more than one way. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture

Another way to be happy

In a  previous lesson, we talked about the verb stare and how, although it does mean "to be," it's more about the state of things than just "being."

 

One way Italians use the verb stare is when they talk about how they feel. They use the adverb bene (well, fine) or male (bad) after it. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Physical well-being

This can be specific to a physical state of being. I can say:

sto male (I feel sick) because I just ate something that disagreed with me in a serious way.

 

Often, in order to be clear, we express it using a negative, so I might say:

 non sto bene (I don't feel good / I don't feel well).

 

Alternatively, I can say:

sto poco bene (I don't feel very good).

 

Mental-emotional states of being

But we also use stare bene or stare male when talking about situations, places, relationships, and more.

 

It can be short-term: We're sitting around a crowded table and my host wonders if I have enough room. I might answer:

Sto bene (I'm fine).

 

It can be long-term, for example, about where I live:

Sto bene (I like living where I'm living / I'm happy living here).

 

If I am happy with someone I am in a relationship with, I might say:

 

 Sto bene insieme a mio marito (I am happy with my husband — we get along).

Nel mio matrimonio, ci so bene (I'm happily married).

Stiamo bene insieme (we're happy together — we get along).

 

But if I am unhappy in a relationship. I might say:

Ci sto male (I am not happy in this situation / with this person).

 

We recently had a question from a learner about a conversation between Domenico Modugno and his girlfriend Franca in the TV movie about Modugno. Franca loves him, but knows what he is like (he might stray or be too impulsive) and that in the long run, she might not be happy being married to him. It might make her unhappy.

 

She says:

Temo che se accettassi di stare con te, sì, forse sarebbe bello, ma mi farebbe anche star male.

I'm afraid that if I accepted being with you, yes, it might be great, but it would make me unhappy.

Captions 12-14, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 25

 Play Caption

 

So stare bene isn't necessarily about true happiness or love, but about well-being, being content, or being in a healthy relationship. 

The noun that goes with stare bene is benessere (well-being or wellness).

 

 

Continuer la lecture

What does su mean?

Let's have a look at the preposition su. Its most common meaning in English is "on." As Marika has been explaining in video lessons such as this one, the simple preposition su can be combined with a definite article — in Italian, there are several forms, based on gender and quantity — to become a preposizione articolata (a preposition combined with a definite article — ("the" in English).

 

So to say, "on the table," instead of saying su il tavolo, we say sul tavolo. The preposition and definite article combine into one word.

Aspettate, lascio il libro sul tavolo

Wait, I'll leave the book on the table

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il futuro - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

This process is similar for all the different forms of definite articles in Italian.

sul = su + il

sull' = su + l'

...nubi invece sull'Umbria e sulle zone interne della Toscana.

...clouds, instead, in Umbria and in the inland areas of Tuscany.

Caption 63, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

sulla =  su + la

Allora, siamo qui con la nostra? -Chiara. Che ci risponderà a un po' di domande sulla mozzarella di bufala.

So, we're here with our... -Chiara. Who will answer a few of our questions about buffalo mozzarella.

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

 Play Caption

 

sullo = su + lo

 

Sullo sfondo potete vedere il Vesuvio

In the background, you can see Vesuvius

Caption 4, Escursioni Campane Castello Normanno - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

sui = su + i

Allora, questa lista la scriviamo tutti insieme, io alla lavagna e voi sui quaderni.

So, this list we'll all write together, I on the blackboard and you in your notebooks.

Captions 10-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il condizionale - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

sugli = su + gli

Multiple meanings of su

 

Just as in English, prepositions often have multiple meanings and su is no exception.

Su can mean "on," but also "in," sometimes:

L'ho letto sul giornale.

I read about it in the newspaper.

Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

Su often means "about."

E vi racconto qualche storia semplice sul gelato, ma molto interessante.

And I'll tell you a few simple stories about ice cream, but very interesting.

Caption 10, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Note that sometimes definite articles are used in Italian but not in English, as in the example above.

 

Su can mean "out of," as in the following example:

Nove volte su dieci lo fa perché ha qualcosa da nascondere.

Nine times out of ten, he does it because he has something to hide.

Caption 25, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

 Play Caption

 

 

An expression with su

 

A good expression to know is sul serio (seriously)?

Sul serio?

Seriously?

Caption 4, Marika spiega La formazione degli aggettivi

 Play Caption

 

It can also be interpreted as "for real."

Però voglio dirti una cosa, questa è importante sul serio.

But I want to tell you something. This is important for real.

Caption 45, Francesca Cavalli - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Being approximate

Another way we use the preposition su is to give an approximate time, weight, or age.

Arriverò sul presto (I'll get there on the early side).

Aveva sui cinquant'anni (he was around fifty years old).

 

Note that in this lesson, we talked about the preposition su, but su is also an adverb meaning up, upwards. We'll talk about that in a future lesson.

Maybe you have seen or heard other uses of su we didn't mention here. Let us know!

Continuer la lecture

Exercises using mancare

Let's try something a bit different this week. In a previous lesson, we went back to the basics on the verb mancare, that tricky verb that means to lack, to miss. Review the lesson if you need to.

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Let's try translating some everyday phrases you might hear or want to say in Italian. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page, but try not to cheat unless you need to. The important thing here is to get the idea, not to necessarily be precise about all the words. Use mancare in your Italian translation, and just get the gist of things when translating from Italian to English.

 

1) There's no salt!

2) It's ten to eight. (time)

3) Mancano ancora delle persone  — the meeting is about to start.

4) Mi manca l'aria.

5) Manco dall'America da quattro anni.

6) I missed my flight [this one might be tricky].

7) Siamo quasi arrivati... we're almost there.

8) Manca solo Paolo. Lo aspettiamo?

 

In the following example, the same structure we talked about in this lesson presents itself in the sentence about style and groove. Manca il tuo stile. So something is lacking — his groove, something is missing. Manca.

 

But if we look further on, where it says: Ci manchi, it's basically the same thing, but it's more personal so we add the indirect personal pronoun ci (or any other one). So actually, the Italian is consistent in this. It's English that doesn't match the Italian. When it gets personal, we translate it with the action verb "to miss." Ci manchi could be translated literally as, "You are missing from our lives."  You're missing and I feel it. Manchi dalla mia vita. Manchi a me. Mi manchi.  I miss you.

 

La musica ti vuole. Manca il tuo groove, manca il tuo stile. Io ti voglio. -Ci manchi, ci manchi tantissimo. Incredibile. Dove, dove, dove sei finito?

Music wants you. Your groove is missing, your style is missing. I want you. -We miss you, we miss you so much. Incredible. Where, where, where have you gone to?

Captions 66-69, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 23

 Play Caption

 

So let's add a couple more items to our list of sentences to look at:

8) I haven't seen my parents in years. I miss them.

9) Ti manco? (I am away from home on a business trip and wonder if my wife feels my absence, so I ask her this question).

*********

Here are some possible answers. Let us know if this helps in understanding how to talk about things that are missing, absent, or lacking, and also about getting personal and missing someone, feeling someone's absence (in which case we use indirect personal pronouns like mi, ci,  ti, etc.  Please see this lesson, too, for more explanations and examples.

 

1) There's no salt! Manca il sale.

2) It's ten to eight. (time) Mancano dieci minuti alle otto.

3) Mancano ancora delle persone. (the meeting is about to start). Some people are still missing.

4) Mi manca l'aria I can't breathe

5) Manco dall'America da quattro anni. I haven't been back to the States for four years.

6) I missed my flight (this one might be tricky).  Ho mancato il volo.

7) Siamo quasi arrivati... we're almost there.  Manca poco.

8) I haven't seen my parents in years. I miss them. Mi mancano.  Mi mancano i miei genitori.

9) Ti manco? (I am away from home on a business trip and wonder if my wife feels my absence, so I ask this question). Do you miss me?

banner PLACEHOLDER

Continuer la lecture
123...2122