Lecciones de Italiano

Temas

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

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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.

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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

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*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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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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).

 

 

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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

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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

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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

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sullo = su + lo

 

Sullo sfondo potete vedere il Vesuvio

In the background, you can see Vesuvius

Caption 4, Escursioni Campane Castello Normanno - Part 1

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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

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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

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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

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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

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An expression with su

 

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

Sul serio?

Seriously?

Caption 4, Marika spiega La formazione degli aggettivi

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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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

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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?

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More about mancare : when something is lacking

We've had some feedback about the tricky verb mancare. And there are likely plenty of learners out there struggling to be able to use it and translate it correctly. It twists the brain a bit.

 

To grasp it better, it may be helpful to separate the contexts. So in this lesson, let's focus on things, not people. Let's think about something being absent, missing, something we are lacking.

Infatti manca la targa, sia davanti che dietro.

In fact, the license plate is missing, both in front and in back.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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In the next example, we're talking about time. The verb mancare is often used to indicate how much time is left.

Ormai manca poco.

It won't be long now. (Literally, this is: At this point, little time is left)

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 9

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If we're talking about minutes, days, or weeks, we conjugate mancare in the third person plural.

E mancano solo due giorni, eh, alla fine del mese.

And there are only two days left, huh, before the end of the month.

Caption 45, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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This next example is a typical comment for adult children to make about their parents or parents about how they treat their children. The children are well-provided for. They have everything they needed. Nothing is denied them. So the verb is: fare mancare qualcosa a qualcuno (to cause someone to do without something).

Non ci ha mai fatto mancare nulla.

We never wanted for anything.

We never went without.

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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If you do a search on Yabla, you'll find plenty of examples of this expression. It's a bit convoluted to use, so perhaps by repeating the phrases that come up in the search, or by reading them out loud, you'll get it. Again, it's more important to understand what this means, especially when someone is telling you their life story, than using it yourself.

 

If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Italian ways to think about things

The Italian verb for "think" is pensare. But there are so many ways, in every language, to talk about thinking. Let's look at a few of them  in Italian.

Pensare (to think)

A quick review of the verb pensare reminds us that it's an  -are verb, and this is good to know for conjugating it, but it's also a verb of uncertainty and some of us already know that that means we often need the subjunctive, especially when it's followed by che, as in the following example. We don't worry about that in English.

Io penso che Vito sia arrabbiato per una cosa molto stupida.

I think that Vito is angry over something very stupid.

Captions 5-6, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il congiuntivo - Part 7

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For more about the verb pensare, here are some lessons and videos to check out:

 

Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 6 This is part of a 17-part series on the subjunctive.

Anna e Marika - Il verbo pensare Marika and Anna use the various conjugations of pensare in conversation.

I Have This Feeling... - Sapere Part 1 This is a lesson about yet another way to say "I think..." And it doesn't need the subjunctive!

 

Riflettere

When someone asks you a question and you need to think about it, one common verb to use in Italian is riflettere (to reflect). We do use this verb in English, but it's much more common in Italian. 

Ci devo riflettere (I need to think about it).

Sto riflettendo... (I'm thinking...)

C'ho riflettuto e... (I've thought about it and...)

Fammi riflettere (let me think).

 

Idea

A word that is closely connected with pensare is idea. It's the same in English as in Italian, except for the pronunciation.

Ho un'idea (I have an idea)

 

Another relevant word is la mente (the mind) where thinking happens and ideas come from.  So when you are thinking about something, often when you are planning something, you have something in mind. Here, the Italian is parallel to English: in mente. As you can see, the response uses the verb pensare

Che cosa ha in mente? -Sto pensando di impiantare una fabbrica lì.

What do you have in mind? -I'm thinking of setting up a factory there.

Captions 24-25, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 8

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The question is being asked by someone who is using the polite form of avere (to have). [Otherwise, it would be: Che cosa  _____ in mente?]*

 

So sometimes when we think of something, it comes to mind. Italians say something similar but they personalize it.

T'è venuto in mente qualcosa? -No!

Did something come to mind? -No!

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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So we use in mente (to mind) with a personal pronoun plus the preposition a (to).

A (negative) response could be:

A me non viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

or, more likely

Non mi viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

La testa

La mente (the mind) is another word for il cervello (the brain), which is in la testa (the head), so some expressions about thinking use la testa just as they do in English (use your head!) But sometimes the verb is different.

 

In this week's episode of Provaci ancora, Prof! a husband is talking about his wife wanting to divorce him. He says:

Adesso si è messa in testa che vuole anche il divorzio.

Now she has gotten it into her head that she also wants a divorce.

Caption 14, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 27

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In English, we personalize this with a possessive pronoun (her head) and we use the catch-all verb "to get," but in Italian, we use the verb mettere (to put) in its reflexive form (mettersi). This often implies a certain stubbornness.

Sembrare

Let's add the verb sembrare (to seem) because lots of times we use it in Italian, when we just use "to think" in English.

Invece a me sembra proprio una buona idea.

On the contrary, to me it seems like a really good idea.

On the contrary, I think it's a really good idea.

Caption 45, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio A corto di idee - Part 1

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Ti sembra giusto (do you think it's fair)?

 

Just for fun, here's a dialog:

Mi è venuto in mente di costruire un tavolo (I was thinking of building a table).

-Come pensi di farlo (how are you thinking of doing it)?

-Ci devo riflettere (I have to think about it).

-Che tipo di tavolo hai in mente (what kind of table do you have in mind)?

-Mi sono messo in testa di farlo grande ma mi sa che dovrò chiedere aiuto a mio zio (I got it into my head to make a big one, but I think I will have to ask my uncle to help me).

-Hai avuto qualche idea in più (have you come up with any more ideas)?

-Ho riflettuto, e penso che sarà troppo difficile costruire un tavolo grande, quindi sarà un tavolo piccolo e semplice (I've thought about it and I think it will be too difficult to build a big table, so it's going to be a small, simple table).

Mi sembra saggio (I think that's wise).

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*Answer: Che cosa  _hai_ in mente?

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Combining the preposition di with a definite article

The preposition di (of) is one of the most common simple prepositions. It's used to show possession, but also means, origin, manner, quantity. Take a look at the WordReference entry to get an idea.

 

The simple preposition di can be combined with an article to form what is called una preposizione articolata. In doing this, it is transformed a bit, so this is just something we need to learn. Marika has a video series about the prepositions, and begins with the common preposition di. In this lesson we will set out to put things in a visual context with a list of how di can combine with definite articles, and we'll give you some examples from Yabla videos, so you can hear them in context.

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Here is how we combine the preposition di with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"): The main thing to notice is that the i in di is transformed in e.

di + il = del

di + lo = dello

di + l’ = dell’

di + la = della

di + i = dei

di + gli = degli

di + le = delle

 

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Let's look at each combination in context:

Del is the combination of the preposition di and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.

In tutte le città del mondo ci sono ristoranti italiani.

In all the cities of the world, there are Italian restaurants.

Caption 8, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is an adjective, famoso (famous) which also agrees with the masculine noun. 

Pinocchio è il protagonista del famoso romanzo dell'autore Collodi:

Pinocchio is the main character of the famous novel by the author Collodi:

Caption 29, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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Dello is the combination of the preposition di and the masculine singular definite article lo. Note that there are two L's!

Note that there is another example of dello in the title of the episode. Translated it would be: The shark's gold.

Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the door of the locker room?

Caption 30, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 13

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In the following example, even though we say il colore, not lo colore,  we do use di plus the definite article lo and it becomes dello. This is because before the noun, we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson, we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.

E una bella borsa dello stesso colore.

And a nice handbag of the same color.

Caption 37, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 3

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Dell' is the combination of the preposition di and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Le pulizie della casa, dell'appartamento si chiamano anche "faccende domestiche" oppure "pulizie casalinghe".

The cleaning of the house, of the apartment, is also called "housework" or "household cleaning."

Captions 32-33, Marika spiega Le pulizie di primavera - Part 1

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  It's a truncated version of della, which we'll look at next.This can be a headache for learners:

Io mi occupo della contabilità dell'azienda.

I take care of the accounts of the business.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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Della is the combination of the preposition di and the feminine singular definite article la. Just like dello, we double the L.

La grande tragedia della guerra lascia memorie che non si cancellano.

The great tragedy of the war leaves memories that don't get erased.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 5

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Now let's move on to di plus a plural definite article.

Dei is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article i.

Da quando in qua un uomo si deve occupare dei neonati?

Since when should a man have to take care of [the] newborns?

Caption 16, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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Note that Italian uses the definite article, where in English, none is necessary. This is common and takes some effort in getting used to it.

 

In the next example, we have the combined preposition followed by the possessive pronoun miei (the plural masculine form of mio).  Here too, the article is there (attached to di = dei ).

È una ricetta dei miei nonni che coltivavano le arance di Sicilia.

It's a recipe from my grandparents, who cultivated Sicilian oranges.

Caption 12, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Degli is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Degli is hard to pronounce for lots of folks. Here, too, the definite article is included, while English leaves it out.

Pensate che il novanta percento degli italiani beve caffè quotidianamente.

Just think that ninety percent of Italians drink coffee on a daily basis.

Caption 7, Adriano Il caffè

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Delle is the combination of the preposition di and the plural feminine definite article le.

Sarà la forma delle note a stabilire qual è la durata dei suoni,

It's the shape of the notes that determines the duration of the sounds,

Caption 37, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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Practice:

If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  

 

For other preposizioni articolate, check out:

Using the preposition a with a definite article

Using the preposition in with a definite article

 

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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Managing with farcela

There's a common Italian pronominal verb you'll be glad to have in your toolbox. It's used a lot in conversation, as an expression, but understanding how it works can be a little tricky. But first...

What's a pronominal verb?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles). Particelle or particles are those tiny, usually, 2-letter pronouns we find in Italian, such as ci, ne, ne, la.

 

The pronominal verb of the day: farcela (to manage to do something)

 

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Let's unpack this pronominal verb. In the infinitive, it's farcela. 

The verb contained in this pronominal verb is fare = to make, to do.

Alessia può farcela da sola.

Alessia can manage on her own.

Caption 57, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 5

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Usually in a pronominal verb, one of the pronouns is an indirect pronoun, In this case, it's ce. Ce means the same thing as ci, (to it/him/her," "at it/him/her," "about it.") but when there is a direct object with it, ci changes to ce! As we have mentioned in previous lessons, the particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne,  but in that case, it becomes ce. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.
 

To make things even more complicated, ci, and consequently, ce, can mean any number of things. The basic thing to remember is that ci or ce usually represents a preposition + complement. Learn more about ci
 
 

The second pronoun in the expression farcela is la. This is a direct object pronoun meaning "it." It's always used in the feminine — we could say la stands for la cosa, a feminine noun.

 

In the previous example, farcela stands on its own to mean "to manage." It's also possible to add another verb, so as to mean, "to manage to do something."

 

Ehm, pensa di farcela a recuperare le chiavi della mia auto?

Uh, do you think you can manage to retrieve the keys of my car?

Caption 35, Psicovip Il tombino - Ep 2

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In both of our previous examples, the conjugated verb (potere = to be able to, pensare = to think) precedes the pronominal verb, resulting in the pronominal verb being in the infinitive. 

Posso farcela (I can manage it).

Penso di farcela (I think I can manage it).

 

Learning the infinitive is a good starting point, as it's fairly straightforward. Use the common verbs in their conjugated forms to "push" the pronominal verb over into the infinitive. 

 

Conjugating farcela

Farcela is the infinitive of the pronominal verb, and as we have seen above, sometimes it can stay that way. More often than not, however, it is conjugated, so it's a good idea to have a few expressions memorized and ready to use. As you can see from the following example, it can be used when you're falling behind.

 

Piano, piano, piano. Piano, cagnozzo! Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Slow down, dear little dog! I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

Captions 1-2, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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Eh, basta, croce. Non ce la faccio più.

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't go on.

Caption 17, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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Some other common conjugations:

Ce la fai? (Can you manage it?)
Non ce la fa. (He/she can't manage it, He/she can't make it).
Ce la faremo? (Are we going to make it?)
Ce l'ho fatta! (I did it, I made it).

 

If we want to add another verb, we use the preposition a (to) before the (second) verb, which will be in the infinitive (arrivare, mangiare, finire). Here are a few examples:

 

Ce la faremo ad arrivare in tempo? (Are we going to manage to arrive in time?/Are we going to make it in time?)
Ce la fai a mangiare tutto? (Can you manage to eat it all?)
Ce l'ha fatta a finire il progetto? (Did he/she manage to finish the project?)

 

As you can see, this kind of sentence usually starts with ce la, unless it's in the negative, in which we start with non followed by ce la + the conjugated verb fare.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

1) Fare is a verb that takes avere (not essere) in perfect tenses. In perfect tenses, the particle la will become l'  because it will be attached to the conjugated form of avere, which will have a vowel sound at the beginning (even though written with an h: ho, hai, ha, abbiamo, avete, hanno). So when you just hear it, you might not perceive it. Lookking at Italian captions or doing Scribe can help with this.

 

2) One more tricky thing to remember when using perfect tenses:

 

You might be tempted to say ce l'ho fatto. But that would be wrong. Why? It's about verb-object agreement. 

 

The rule is that when the object pronoun comes before the verb (in this case, la before ho), then the past participle of the verb will agree with the object (la), not the subject (in this case io [I]). 

 

So it has to be Ce l'ho fatta.

 

It is complicated, so be patient with yourself. Even those of us who have been living in Italy for years still have doubts sometimes, when conjugating these pesky pronominal verbs. Over time, the grammar will start making a little more sense to you and you will say, "Ah ha!" Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta a capire! (I finally managed to understand). Or, simply, Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta!

 

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Does discutere mean "discuss?"

The word "discuss" or "discussion" elicits the image of business meetings or family dinners — people talking normally together in order to reach a conclusion, people exchanging their opinions or knowledge.

 

The verb discutere in Italian sounds pretty similar, especially in its past participle discusso, leading us to think it means the same thing. And, well, it can and often does.

 

Qui, Federico Secondo ha discusso con i suoi consiglieri le questioni di Stato o dei rapporti con i Papi e promulgato le costituzioni, codice unico di leggi per l'intero regno di Sicilia.

Here, Frederick the Second discussed with his advisors questions of state or relations with the Popes, and promulgated charters, a unique legal code for the entire Reign of Sicily.

Captions 30-31, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 2

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An everyday sfumatura

But more often than not, in everyday conversation, it has another sfumatura (nuance) that you'll want to know about. Gaging someone's level of emotion is not always easy in a foreign language. How many times have you thought two Italians were arguing heatedly, but they were just talking about il calcio (soccer)?

 

In a current video on Yabla, a woman is describing the evening of her husband's murder.

Quella sera abbiamo discusso.

That evening, we argued.

Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 21

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If you don't know about this nuance, you might think, "OK, so what? They discussed their schedules." So we have to watch for the context, the mood, to determine what kind of "discussion" they had. They might well be talking about an argument.

 

Another way to tell that discutere means "to argue" is that there is no direct or indirect object of the verb, although there might very well be the preposition con (with), indicating the other person in the argument. In the following example, the indirect object comes in the form of a question "with whom."

Nemici? Che nemici avrebbe dovuto avere? Qualcuno con cui aveva discusso ultimamente, magari anche sul lavoro.

Enemies? What enemies should he have had? Someone he had recently argued with, maybe even at work.

Captions 19-21, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 3

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Just talking about something 

Let's note that in English, the verb "to discuss" is transitive.

What did you discuss? -We discussed our schedules.

 

But in Italian, discutere can be either transitive or intransitive. When it means "to argue," discutere is intransitive. When it means, "talking about something," then the preposition di (about) will be used.

Che sei venuta a discutere di cucina esotica? -No.

What, did you come to talk about exotic cuisine? -No.

Caption 14, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 22

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Another sfumatura

When we are having an argument (una discussione), the noun discussione can come out in a different way. 

È fuori discussione, Manara!

That's out of the question, Manara!

Caption 29, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 4

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The previous example uses the Italian noun discussione and the English noun question. In the following example, however, there is a verbal phrase in the Italian — mettere in discussione — to equal the verb "to question" in English. This can be part  of a normal discussion, not an argument, but it's good to know!

però penso non possa essere messa in discussione la sua onestà professionale.

but I don't think his professional honesty can be questioned.

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 4

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Putting it in a simpler, indicative mood:

Non lo metto in discussione (I'm not questioning that).

 

As you watch movies and shows on Yabla, or anywhere else you see Italian content, be on the lookout for the verb discutere in all its forms and nuances. 

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Catching up with Un medico in famiglia

Here is a riassunto (synopsis) of what happened in the story of Un medico in famiglia from when we left off after episode 2 of season 1, to the time in which we are able to pick up the story with season 3. But to round things out, let’s start at the very beginning and fill you in.

 

The main character, or rather the most famous actor in the series, is Lino Banfi who is now 84 years old. He is il nonno (the grandpa). His son is Gabriele Martini, known as Lele (we will add this to the nickname list). He's a doctor, hence the title Un medico in famiglia (a doctor in the family). At the beginning of the show, we discover that Lele’s wife had died, leaving him 3 children: Maria who is 13, Ciccio (nickname for Francesco), 10, and a not quite 3-year old, Annuccia (affectionate name for Anna).

 

Before Lele’s wife Elena died, they had already closed on a new house in a residential town called Poggio Fiorito, near Rome.

Questa è la nostra casa vecchia. Adesso stiamo per andare in una casa nuova.

This is our old house. Now we are about to move to a new house.

Captions 30-31, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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Season 1

 

The story begins as the Martini Family packs up and moves to their new home. The kids are definitely not thrilled to leave their friends and old school behind. Il nonno, who has recently retired from his job with the ferrovia (railroad) moves in with them to help out.

 

Lele is gone all day and Nonno Libero can’t manage by himself, and it soon becomes clear that the family needs someone to help out at home, specifically, una colfColf is is an acronym for collaboratrice famigliare (family collaborator or housekeeper). 

 

Enter a “Polish” woman named Cettina. She is quite eccentric, but also a hard worker and manages to keep the household going, gradually becoming part of the family. She has a boyfriend, Giacinto, who is not very good at what he does, but he is a good guy. At the end of episode 2, the family, and we viewers discover that in fact, Cettina is not Polish at all, but Neapolitan. Once she has come out about this, things change for the better. She is still eccentric, but feels she can be herself. 

 

In the first and second seasons, Elena’s sister Alice is a constant presence in the household. She’s played by Claudia Pandolfi, well-known to Italian TV and film audiences. She is la zia (the aunt) to the young kids.

 

Also present are Elena’s parents, Enrica and Nicola. The kids clearly feel more at home with Nonno Libero.

 

Lele’s sister Nilde, played by popular Italian TV and movie actress, Anita Zagaria, is in a difficult marriage and her son Alberto, who is 16, goes to stay with the Martini family to benefit from their supposedly more harmonious home environment.

 

There’s drama at home, but there is also the daily drama at work, where Lele is head of the ASL, the local health center. ASL stands for Azienda Sanitaria Locale.

 

There are various characters within the walls of Lele’s workplace, notably his colleague Laura, hopelessly in love with him. Little by little, Lele realizes that the person who means the most to him, on a sentimental level, is Alice, his late wife’s sister. She, however, already has a boyfriend. His name is Sergio and he has been away for a while. When he comes back, Sergio and Alice get engaged. But at the bachelor party before the wedding, Sergio gets drunk and beats her. She calls off the wedding and leaves him. In the season finale, Lele declares his love for her.

 

Season 2

 

The second season opens with Lele waiting anxiously for Alice's return a trip she took to Africa. The two have to figure out if they want to commit, and they decide to share the news of their relationship with the family. Though Alice is jealous of Lele’s old flame, Clara, a photographer, their relationship grows. Of course, Alice is also hesitant about taking the place of her sister, Elena.

 

In the end, Lele and Alice decide to get married. About to leave on their honeymoon, Alice has a miscarriage and is told by the doctors that she will no longer be able to have children. Nilde, Lele’s sister, also gets pregnant, and while in Sanremo, gives birth to a mulatto child, a little boy, whose father is unknown to the Martini family. She names the child Lele Junior after her brother.

 

There is no lack of trouble at the Martini household: Alice is persecuted by a maniac admirer; Alberto falls into depression after a dramatic road accident where his dearest friend (Adriano) remains paralyzed; Cettina and Giacinto don’t get along like before.

 

Alberto comes out of his depression when he meets Gemma and the two become an item.

 

By the end of season 2, Alice, despite the earlier diagnosis, has become pregnant with Lele’s child. At the “wrong” moment, she finds herself stuck in an elevator, ready to give birth. Cettina and Maria have to help her give birth — to twins! This momentous experience brings Maria to an important decision she had been agonizing over: to study medicine and specialize in obstetrics.

 

This brings us to Season 3, available on Yabla. 3 years have passed since Season 2 and Maria is starting medical school, Lele has just left for a sabbatical in Australia to research a rare infantile disease, and has taken the twins with him. Alice will join him from Brazil. Nonno has his hands full with Nilde’s little boy, Lele Junior, and the other kids who all have their own problems. Let’s see what happens!

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Il gusto — the sense of taste

This lesson will explore some of the vocabulary we use to talk about the sense of taste. We use nouns, verbs and adjectives, so once again, we'll divide the lesson up into these three different parts of speech.

Nouns

When we talk about the noun "taste," one noun we use in Italian is il gusto (the taste). It can be used literally to talk about food. In the following example, we are talking about the particular taste of good olive oil:

perché avendo un pane più saporito si perderebbe il gusto dell'olio.

because having a more flavorful bread, you'd lose the taste of the oil.

Caption 13, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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We can also use the noun il gusto as we do in English, to talk about someone's good or bad taste in music, clothing, furniture, etc. In this next example, it's all about a tie someone wears to a wedding.

Eh, va be'. -Vedi, è questione di buon gusto, no?

Well, OK. -See? It's a question of good taste, right?

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 1

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So with the noun form, il gusto functions much as "the taste" does in English.

 

Another noun we use to talk about how something tastes is il sapore (the taste). But in contrast to il gusto, il sapore is mostly about how something tastes.

L'olio esalta anche il sapore delle pietanze.

Oil also brings out the taste of dishes.

Caption 17, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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Il sapore can be used metaphorically as well, as in sapore di mare (the feeling of the seaside), but it is about the item we are tasting.

It tastes good (ha un buon sapore) or it tastes bad (ha un cattivo sapore)

 

But il buon gusto/il cattivo gusto can also be about the person who has good or bad taste in things.

Ha buon gusto-ha cattivo gusto (he/she has good taste-he/she has bad taste).

Verbs

When we are talking about tasting something, for example, to see if the water has been salted properly for cooking the pasta, the noun we go to is assaggiare (to taste). This is a transitive verb.

 

Non vedo l'ora di assaggiare la pappa al pomodoro!

I can't wait to taste the tomato and bread soup!

Caption 69, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Toscani ha assaggiato il vino e ha detto che era aceto.

Toscani tasted the wine and said it tasted like vinegar.

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 15

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Let's keep in mind that there is a noun form connected to assaggiare — un assaggio  — that is useful to know. It implies a mini-portion of something and is sometimes offered on menus in restaurants. 

 

One way restaurants offer these assaggi is by calling them by the number of mini-portions included: un tris (three mini-portions) or un bis (two mini-portions). See this lesson about that! Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits).

 

The verb assaggiare implies tasting something to see how it is. Maybe you are testing it for the salt, or you are trying something for the first time.

 

The verb gustare on the other hand is connected with savoring something, enjoying the taste, or making the most of it.

 

Per gustare bene un tartufo bisogna partire dal presupposto che i piatti devono essere molto semplici

To properly taste a truffle you have to start with the assumption that the dishes have to be very simple

Captions 51-52, Tartufo bianco d'Alba Come sceglierlo e come gustarlo

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This might be a good time to mention the noun il disgusto along with the verb disgustare. You can easily guess what they mean. And there's also disgustoso. These are strong words so use them only when you really mean them.

Adjectives

Whereas we use the verb assaggiare and the noun assaggio, there is no relative adjective. But in the case of il gusto and gustare, we do have a relative adjective, gustoso (tasty, flavorful).

Più gli ingredienti sono di qualità, più il panzerotto risulterà gustoso.

The higher the quality of the ingredients, the more flavorful the “panzerotto” will turn out.

Caption 5, L'Italia a tavola Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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The adjective connected to il sapore is saporito. It can mean "very tasty," but it often implies something is on the salty side, as in the following example.

Ma poi il pecorino è molto saporito, quindi dobbiamo stare attente con il sale. -Esatto.

And then, sheep cheese is very flavorful so we have to be careful with the salt. -Exactly.

Captions 20-21, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 2

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To give more flavor to something, we can use the verb insaporire (to make something more flavorful).

Userò l'aglio, sia per, eh, insaporire, quindi l'olio,

I'll use the garlic, both for flavoring, that is, the oil,

Caption 37, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One last thing. Sapere is a verb meaning to have the taste (or smell) of (in addition to meaning "to know"). This would be a perfect time to read our lesson about that!

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Let us know if you have questions or suggestions at newsletter@yabla.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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L'olfatto — the sense of smell

This lesson explores the sense of smell and how to talk about smelling things and how things smell, since it works a bit differently than it does in English. We'll divide the lesson into three parts of speech having to do with the sense of smell.

Nouns having to do with smell


When we use the noun "smell" to mean "odor," as in, "There's a funny smell in here," or, "What's that smell?", just remember that if it is a neutral smell, the cognate odore works just fine. Cos'è quel odore (what is that smell)? If it isn't neutral, then we use other words or we qualify odore (odor).

If it's a particularly unpleasant smell, it's una puzza (a stink or a stench). There are other words to use, too, but for now, let's keep it simple. Che puzza! (something stinks!)

We can also talk about un cattivo odore (a bad smell) or un buon odore (a good smell). We might need the verb avere (to have) to complete the sentence.

 

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I get a new car and I like the way it smells inside:
 

Questa macchina ha un buon odore (this car smells good).

 

You sniff the milk container:
 

Questo latte ha un cattivo odore, sarà andato a male (this milk smells bad, it must have gone sour).

 

If it is a good smell, either the flower kind or the food kind, we can use the cognate profumo.

 

I walk into someone's kitchen and say che buon profumo! I mean "It smells great in here!"

 

The English cognate "perfume" is usually reserved for flower essences used in beauty products, but in Italian, it can represent "a good smell." So let's keep in mind that in Italian we use a noun and in English, we use the intransitive verb "to smell" for this (much of the time). 

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Another good and easy cognate to know is aroma because it means pretty much the same thing as "aroma" in English. We usually use it for food, herbs, and spices. 

Le cipolle hanno un sapore e un aroma molto forte,

Onions have a strong smell and taste,

Caption 56, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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Verbs having to do with smell


The most common Italian verb corresponding to the transitive verb "to smell" in English is sentire which we can equate with "to sense," with your nose, your ears, or your tongue.

Senti che buon profumo.
Senti che bella canzone.
Senti questo sugo. C'è abbastanza sale?

 

But if want to talk about using my nose to sniff something, I can use annusare (to sniff). 

 

Annusa questi fiori, senti che profumo! (smell these flowers, how good they smell).

 

Let's say I have some flowers, but they have no smell. Non odorano (they don't have a scent). The verb is odorare (to have a scent). Odorare can also be transitive, like annusare, but it's not one of those everyday verbs you need to know.

 

Finally, there is fiutare, which means the same thing, "to sniff." But again, you might come across the word, but you don't need it in everyday conversation.

 

Please see the lesson Taste and Smell - Sapere Part 2 for more on this, plus some examples.

 

Adjectives having to do with smell

Italians like to have clean, ironed clothes, and they use ammorbidente (fabric softener) that also serves to give a nice scent to the laundered items.

When the laundry comes off the clothesline, it smells lovely: il bucato è profumato.

 

Some people like scented candles: candele profumate.

 

We also have the adjective odoroso (having an odor, usually strong). It's not used a lot in normal day-to-day conversation, so don't worry about this adjective...

 

In cooking, Italians like certain aromatic herbs — erbe aromatiche, such as basilico (basil), rosmarino (rosemary), and salvia (sage).

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4 ways to translate "way" into Italian

Sometimes the challenge is understanding what someone tells you in Italian, but sometimes it's about coming up with the right Italian word for what we are trying to say (when we happen to be thinking English). So let's start with an English word this time. Let's start out with the English noun "way." We can translate it into Italian in a few different ways.

the way - la via 

the way - il modo

the way - la maniera

 

La via

What's the best way to solve this problem or get out of the situation? We're pretty much talking about a direction here, either literal or figurative. Which way? What route or path do we take? 

Sembra che non ci sia più via d'uscita.

It looks like there won't be any way out.

Caption 31, Anna e Marika in La Gazza Ladra - Part 2

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We can often use the word "pathway" for viaVia, being more about "by what means," and also meaning "road," stands out from the other words we will be talking about, which are more about "how": the way to do something.

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Il modo

 

If we are talking about the way someone does something, then we will likely use il modo (the way, the manner).

Ma questo modo di conservare gli alimenti, paradossalmente, è un po' più rispettoso della natura...

But this way of conserving food, paradoxically, is a bit more respectful of nature...

Captions 28-29, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 4

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Le stagioni hanno specifici colori, clima, temperatura, e influenzano il nostro modo di vivere.

The seasons have specific colors, weather, temperatures, and influence the way we live.

Captions 5-6, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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A question to ask with modo is: in che modo (in what way, how)? It often goes hand in hand with the question come (how)?

 

We can use modo when we ask for or give instructions, such as in cooking. How should we slice the onion?

La nostra cipolla va affettata in modo molto sottile.

Our onion is to be sliced very thinly.

Caption 6, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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Keep in mind that in many cases in which we might likely use an adverb in English (in this case "thinly"), an adjective after modo seems to work better in Italian (in modo sottile).

 

Here are a few more examples of this:

 

a roughly chopped onion  - una cipolla tagliata in modo grossolano

uniformly - in modo uniforme

strangely - in modo strano

unusually - in modo insolito

messily - in modo disordinato

 

When you don't like someone's manner, you don't like the way they go about doing things, you can use modo.

Non mi piace il suo modo di fare (I don't like the way he does things).

 

La maniera

 

The cognate for maniera is "manner," which often means "way." So that's easy.

 

In questa maniera, usando la pasta all'uovo la stessa ricetta, lasagna se ne vende a profusione qui da noi.

This way, the same recipe using egg pasta, lasagna sells profusely here at our place.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 2

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Modo and maniera are very similar, and are pretty interchangeable, but keep in mind that modo is masculine and maniera is feminine.

 

Ha una maniera strana di parlare (he has a strange way of talking).

Parla in modo strano (he has a strange way of talking). 

 

Il senso

We have one more translation for "way," and that is senso

 

Strangely enough, in the dictionary, we don't immediately see il senso as an Italian translation of "the way." Yet, when we look up il senso, "the way" turns up as the fourth choice as a translation.

 

Senso is a great word, and one Italians use all the time. Let's talk about 2 popular ways it is used to mean "way." When used in a statement, it's common to find the adjective certo (certain) before it. We have translated it, but you could also leave it out: "In a way..."

e in un certo senso, l'abbiamo anche conquistata

in a certain way, we even conquered it

Caption 22, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 3

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The other way Italians use senso is when they want a more complete explanation of something they didn't quite understand.

 

They'll ask, In che senso? 

Perché? -Perché così nessuno avrebbe saputo che erano false. False? -False? -False in che senso, scusi? -Falsissime.

Why? -Because that way no one would have known they were fakes. Fakes? -Fakes? -Fakes in what way, sorry? -Very fake.

Captions 54-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 16

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They are asking, "In what way?"  but they might also be asking, "What do you mean by "fake"?" or "How do you mean?"

 

We might want to keep in mind that another meaning of il senso is "meaning."

il senso della vita (the meaning of life)

 

Check out these lessons that explore the noun, il senso.

Making Sense of Senso

A common expression: nel senso...

 

 

Here's how we generally put these different ways of saying "way" into context:

 

in un certo senso (in a way)

in che senso (how do you mean, what do you mean by that)?

in qualche modo (in some way, somehow)

in qualche maniera (in some way, somehow)

ad ogni modo (anyway, anyhow)

per quale via (by what means)?

 

Now when you watch Yabla videos, maybe you will be a bit more tuned in to how people use via, modo, maniera and senso. They all mean "way."

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Using the noun la volta (the time)

La volta buona literally means “the good time.” But volta means several things, as does buono. “Time” also has several connotations. So let's take a closer look.

 

Here are some examples of how volta is commonly used:

Sarà la volta buona (this time you’ll make it)!

Ancora una volta (one more time, or “once again).

Un'altra volta ("some other time").

 

After many failures, la volta buona is the successful attempt at something.

Nel senso, magari è la volta buona che ti fai una bicicletta pure tu.

I mean, maybe this will be the time that even you get yourself a bike.

Captions 4-5, La Tempesta film - Part 2

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When we want to or have to postpone something we talk about un'altra volta (another time). Not this time, but another time.

Va bene, delle disavventure tropicali di mio fratello ne parliamo un'altra volta.

All right, about the tropical misadventures of my brother we'll talk about them another time.

Captions 31-32, La Tempesta - film - Part 2

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But the same thing can mean "again."

E' sparito un'altra volta! -Ma stai scherzando,

He disappeared again! -But you're kidding,

Caption 24, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 9

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With the preposition a (at) in front of the plural of volta—volte, we get a volte meaning "sometimes" or "at times."

A volte tengono la loro "a". OK?

Sometimes they retain their "a," OK?

Caption 46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il futuro - Part 4

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A volte is another way of saying qualche volta. They both mean “sometimes.”  A volte can be also translated as “at times.”

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We can use una volta in thinking about the future:

Una volta mi piacerebbe andare a Londra. 
Sometime I’d like to go to London.

 

But it can also mean “one time."

Io ci sono stata una volta.
I went there once.

 

And we can use it to refer to the past:

C'era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) is a famous film from 1968 by Sergio Leone.

 

We can translate it as "once" or "at one time."

Una volta servivamo il papa e il re, ∫ eravamo anche colti e magnanimi

Once, we served the pope and the king. At one time, we were even cultured and magnanimous,

Captions 44-45, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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Noioso: boring or annoying?

A Yabla subscriber has asked us to shed some light on the difference between noioso and annoiato. They are both adjectives and can be used to describe a person.  There are some intricacies involved with these words, which we'll get to, but let's start out with the noun: la noia

Che noia!

What a bore!

Caption 9, Acqua in bocca Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

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What is tricky about this noun (and its related adjectives) is that it can indeed imply boredom," but it can also mean "the bother" or "the nuisance." In fact, in the previous example, we don't know the context, but the meaning could also have been "what a nuisance," or "what a pain." The noun noia rarely refers to a person him- or herself, as "bore" would in English.

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Noia

The following example is from Tuscany where noia is used a great deal to mean "bother." And it's often used with the verb dare (to give) — dare noia (to be a bother, to be annoying, to be in the way).

Erano alberi che davano noia e basta,

They were trees that were a bother and nothing more,

Caption 30, Gianni si racconta L'olivo e i rovi

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So che noia can mean "what boredom" or "what a pain!" And dare noia can be interpreted as bothering, or being a bother, or being in the way.

 

Annoiare

We also have the verb annoiare that does remind one of the verb "to annoy." Indeed, that is one of the meanings and comes from the Latin "inodiare" — avere in odio (to have hateful feelings for).

Mi disturba, mi annoia,

You're bothering me, you're annoying me,

Caption 11, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sul Piemonte

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But it is much more common for this verb to be used in its reflexive form annoiarsi. In this case it's always about being bored or possibly fed up.

Io non mi annoio mai quando sto con lui, mai.

I never get bored when I am with him, ever.

Caption 34, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 13

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Noioso

We've seen that noia isn't just about boredom, so likewise, noioso can mean boring, but not necessarily. Let's look at some examples of the different nuances.

Noioso can describe a person who is not very interesting, a dull person:

Abbiamo solamente avuto un piccolo flirt. Genere depresso e noioso, capisci?

We just had a little fling. Depressed and boring type, you understand?

Captions 9-10, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19

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It can also describe a movie, for example: 

Il film era noioso, purtroppo (the movie was boring, unfortunately).

 

Here's a perfect example of something that is not boring. It's annoying. And in fact, the N and O sounds can hint at that.

Eh, povero Dixi, il singhiozzo è noioso

Oh, poor Dixi, the hiccups are bothersome

Caption 15, Dixiland Il singhiozzo

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Annoiato

Annoiato can be used as the past participle of annoiare, or more often, as we mentioned above, the past participle of the reflexive verb annoiarsi. In this case, it means "to get or to be bored."

Oppure: "No, non andrò alla festa di Marcello. Ci sono già stato l'anno scorso e mi sono annoiato".

Or: "No, I won't go to Marcello's party. I already went to it last year and I got bored."

Captions 48-49, Corso di italiano con Daniela Particella Ci e Ne - Part 2

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But as often occurs, past participles are also used as adjectives.  With annoiato, this can describe one's state of being.

Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare?

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f) and you want to have a good time and relax?

Captions 3-4, Marika spiega Il cinema

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Just for fun:

Let's try using all these forms in a silly, made-up dialogue.

Lei: Sembri annoiato, è così? (you seem bored. Are you?)

 

Lui: No, ho solo sonno (no, I'm just sleepy). E inoltre, come posso annoiarmi ad ascoltare i tuoi racconti per l'ennesima volta? (And besides, how can I get bored listening to you tell your stories for the umteenth time?

 

Lei: Beh, so che posso essere un po' noiosa a volte, scusami (Well, I know I can be a bit boring at times, sorry). Allora smetto di darti noia, e me ne vado (I'll stop bothering you, then, and I'll leave).

 

Lui: No, aspetta, se vai via mi annoierò davvero (If you leave, I will get bored for real). E tra l'altro, ho dei lavori noiosissimi da fare e non ne ho nessuna voglia (and besides, I have some really tedious jobs to do and I have no desire to do them).

 

Lei: OK, so che sono noiosa, ma non sarebbe meglio fare quei lavori dato che siano anche urgenti (OK, I know I am being a pain, but wouldn't it be better to do those jobs, given that they're urgent)?

 

Lui: OK, ora sei noiosa davvero. Mi sono ampiamente annoiato con questa storia (Ok, now you are really being boring/irritating. I'm pretty sick of this thing), quindi forse è meglio se te ne vai... (so maybe it's better if you do leave).

 

OK, ciao. Non ti voglio annoiare con un'altra delle mie storie noiose. (OK, bye. I don't want to bore you with another of my boring stories).

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