Leçons Italien

Thèmes

Ecco: An Ancient and Useful Adverb

Ecco (here it is), from the Latin ecce or eccum, is about presenting a person, thing, or idea and inviting you to perceive it at the very moment it appears.

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Ecco la primavera is a 14th century song by Francesco Landini. It’s a song about the coming of spring. We might translate the title as “Behold, Spring Has Come!” The entire Italian text with a non-literal English translation opposite may be viewed here.

 

So this way of calling our attention to something goes way back. Despite its very ancient origins, it’s a popular word that Italians use constantly. We say ecco to call attention to something or someone arriving, or when we find something we were looking for.

 

We no longer use the word “behold” in English, but we might say, “well, will you look at that,” “there you go!” In the following example, Anna gets her question about long-lasting bread answered before she asks it, so she says ecco, to acknowledge the fact.

 

È un pane che dura tantissimo.

It's a kind of bread that lasts a very long time.

Ah ecco! Perché volevo appunto chiedere,

Ah, there you go! Because I wanted to ask you just that,

qual è il tipo di pane che dura di più.

what type of bread lasts the longest?

Captions 61-62, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Ecco can stand alone (just about anywhere in a sentence) as in the above example, or can precede a noun to present it, as in ecco la primavera. When a pronoun is used, on the other hand, ecco gets attached to it. This goes for all the different direct object pronouns (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, and le).

 

Aha. Sì. Eccolo, eccolo, è arrivato. Sì, sì.

Aha. Yes. Here he is, here he is, he's here. Yes, yes.

Captions 13-14, Francesca - alla guida

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One common way ecco is used is with perché (why, because) to mean “that’s why” or “you see why” or even “here’s why.”

 

Ecco perché io non me ne voglio andare.

That's why I don't want to leave it.

Caption 5, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare

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Another common usage is ecco qua (here you are). It calls your visual attention to what is being presented. In the following example, a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is removing a mouth-watering pizza from his forno a legna (wood oven)!

 

È quasi pronta... Ecco qua!

It's almost ready... Here it is!

Captions 26-27, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

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Ecco is also a filler word much like “OK,” “you know,” or “that's all” that can wrap up what one has said so far:

 

Io vorrei semplicemente che ognuno avesse la sua porzione, ecco.

I would simply like everyone to have his portion, that's all.

Caption 19, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Or it can introduce what one is about to say, much like “look,” “this is how it is,” or “here’s the thing.”

 

Però, ecco, per quanto mi riguarda,

But, there you go, from my point of view,

io vedo lì una cassata siciliana!

I see a Sicilian Cassata there!

Caption 11, Susanna Cutini - Dolci delle tradizioni di Pasqua

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Ecco is often difficult or even impossible to translate accurately. But once you start listening for the word and noticing it, you'll get a feel for it, and it will start creeping into your conversation naturally. Doing a Yabla search will display a very long list of examples from videos, so you can see the different contexts in which it’s used.

 

Ecco! (And there you have it!)

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P.S. If you neglect to pronounce the double "c" in ecco, you'll obtain eco which means "echo." 

Hypothetical Examples: Per Dire

Per dire is a common expression. It has different variations, with different sfumature, but this is perhaps it's most synthetic variant. It's as if the speaker were saying per esempio (for example), or "let's say..." In both cases, it's practically a stand-alone expression that gets inserted in a sentence with a comma or an ellipsis.

 

Per dire, io prendo la pastiera napoletana, all'interno c'è il grano, simbolo di ricchezza.

Let's say I take the Neapolitan Pastiera: inside there's wheat, symbol of wealth.

Captions 33-34, Susanna Cutini - Dolci delle tradizioni di Pasqua

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Literally, per dire means "in order to say." Perhaps the best way to think of it is "for the sake of argument." We might even simply use "say," as in "suppose."

 

Let's take, say, a Neapolitan pastiera...
Suppose I take the Neapolitan pastiera...

 

We're primarily talking about a hypothetical example, which may or may not actually be a true-life example. Susanna's example about her grandfather happened to be true, but she was using it as an example. 

 

Perché a Pasqua lui doveva avere lo zafferano per fare le panine pasquali. Per dire...

Because at Easter, he had to have saffron to make the Easter breads. Just as an example...

Captions 82-83, Susanna Cutini - Dolci delle tradizioni di Pasqua

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Expressions

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