We often need to get things fixed, even if we happen to be on vacation. Things break: shoes, luggage, computers, etc. Let's look at some of the different words Italians use to fix things.
Sistemare is a great verb because it can be used in so many situations where you might not know a more technical or specific verb to use. It can mean "to make things right," as in sistemare una situazione (to resolve a situation), or "to take care of":
Certo, ma prima però ha il dovere di sistemare suo cugino Pino.
Of course, but first you have the duty of setting up your cousin Pino.
E poi c'è il massaro. -Chi?
And then there is the farmer. -Who?
Un vedovo che vive con il figlio nella dependance della fattoria.
A widower who lives with his son in an outbuilding of the farm.
Andrebbe sistemato anche lui.
He should get taken care of as well.
Andrebbe o va? -Va. Va.
He should be or he has to be? -He has to be. He has to be.
Captions 51-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film Part 4Play Caption
Sistemare can mean "to arrange," as in neatening up a room, or putting flowers in a vase:
Chiaramente dopo che avrai sistemato i tuoi fiori.
Clearly, after you have taken care of your flowers.Play Caption
Here we have an example using the reflexive form of the verb. It can mean "to settle in" as in the example. It often means "to find a good job" or even "to find a husband/wife." It can also mean "to freshen up."
Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?
Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?
Caption 16, Sposami - EP 1 - Part 8Play Caption
Sistemare can also be used for large-scale jobs like renovations:
Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno,
When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one,
ci si è accorti che il palombaro,
they noticed that the "palombaro",
cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.
that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.
Captions 12-13, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 15Play Caption
Here the passive voice was used perhaps because we don't really know who renovated the piazza. They could have said:
Quando hanno sistemato la piazza... (when they renovated the piazza...)
I might have a lawnmower that no longer works. I take it to be repaired. La porto a far sistemare. You ask the repairman,
Mi puoi sistemare questo tosaerba (can you fix this lawnmower)?
You go to the hairdresser:
Mi potresti dare una sistemata ai capelli (can you give my hair a trim)?
In this case, you are not asking for a major change. You just want your hair to look nice. And we've turned the verb into a noun, something Italians do all the time!
You bring some broken shoes to the calzolaio.
Mi potrebbe sistemare questo paio di scarpe (could you fix this pair of shoes)?
There might be more specific words to use in any of these situations, but sistemare is a go-to verb to have in your vocabulary toolbox.
In future lessons we will look at some other verbs we can use when we want to fix something. Stay tuned for:
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