Lecciones de Italiano

Temas

"Get Lost" in Italian

A new movie featured on Yabla employs a verb we don't see very often except in particular military or work situations. The use of this verb has inspired us to talk about what we say in Italian when we leave a place, or want someone else to.

 

Congedare (formal, uncommon in normal, everday conversation)

Congedare is "to invite somebody to leave": The reflexive form congedarsi is "to ask for and obtain permission to leave."  In the following example, a waiter is hanging around a bit too long at the table he is serving. One of the two women having drinks is basically asking him to beat it. 

Congedati. -E certo... Con permesso.

Take your leave. -Of course... Please excuse me.

Captions 77-78, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 12

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In the following example from a movie about Adriano Olivetti (of typewriter fame), Karen had been in the military, so it was natural for her to use the verb congedarsi.

E come mai è in Italia? -Mi sono congedata. Volevo dedicarmi un po' alla mia vera passione, fotografando l'Italia.

And how come you're in Italy? -I asked to be discharged. I wanted to devote myself a bit to my true passion, photographing Italy.

Captions 51-54, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 16

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Licenziare, licenziarsi

If she had resigned from a normal job, she might have said the following, using the reflexive, and therefore the auxiliary essere (to be).

Mi sono licenziata (I quit my job).

 

If she had been fired, it would have been transitive, not reflexive: Note the use of the auxiliary verb avere (to have).

Mi hanno licenziato (they fired me -- I was fired).

Mi hanno licenziata (they fired me -- I was fired [and I am a woman]).

 

Noun form of congedare: il congedo

The noun form congedo is a bit more common than the verb form, especially in reference to a leave of absence or, as in the following example, maternity leave.

 

E voglio che le donne in maternità abbiano un anno intero di congedo.

And I want for women who are pregnant to have a whole year of maternity leave.

Captions 27-28, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 10

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Another word for congedo is aspettativa. 

La preside mi ha detto che hai inoltrato la domanda di aspettativa al dipartimento.

The principal told me that you had forwarded the request for a leave of absence to the department.

Caption 49, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 12

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Sending someone away with no regard or need for being polite is also common. You can say it with good intentions in the appropriate context, as in the following example:

Sono due giorni che ti porti dietro 'sta [questa] febbre. -Con questa bella esperienza del camion-frigorifero sicuramente ti è salita, quindi vattene a casa, ci penso io.

It's been two days that you've been carrying around this fever. -With the lovely experience of the refrigerator truck, it's surely risen, so get yourself home, I'll take care of it.

Captions 38-40, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 11

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Vattene is also a way to get rid of someone in a more aggressive, emotional way.

No, sei un bugiardo! Vattene! Se mi dai il tempo di... -Non ti voglio più vedere.

No, you're a liar! Get out of here! If you give me the time to... -I don't want to see you again.

Captions 102-103, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 16

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Often vattene is expanded to become even stronger: Vattene via! (Go away! Get lost!)

Taking vattene apart

Let's take vattene apart. (Va-[t]te-ne): vai is the informal imperative of the verb andare, but it is often shortened to va'. We could say vai via, but vattene adds 2 more elements. It personalizes it with a sort of reflexive te (you, yourself). In addition, it implies that you should leave the place you are in.  That's where the particle ne comes in, to mean "from here." The double T allows you to practically spit the words out and can really get the message across.

The infinitive form: andarsene

This compound verb in the infinitive would be andarsene: With it's connected object pronoun and particle, it's also called a verbo pronominale (pronominal verb — having to do with pronouns). Read about pronominal verbs here.

Andarsene vuol dire andare via da qualche luogo. Che maleducato il tuo amico, se n'è andato senza neanche salutarmi. Andarsene ha anche il significato di morire.

"To leave" means "to go away from some venue." "How rude your friend is, he went off without even saying goodbye." "To leave" also has the meaning of dying.

Captions 30-33, Marika spiega Il verbo andare

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And if I am the one leaving, I'll conjugate andarsene in the first person singular:

Me ne vado (I'm leaving [this place], I'll leave).

 

These are only some of the ways we leave or tell someone to leave. But please don't leave, cari amici di Yabla. Stay tuned for the next lesson!

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Minimalist Italian — with che

One of the hardest things to do in a new language is to construct a sentence. Understanding is one thing, but putting words together can be such a challenge.

 

The good news is that sometimes you don't have to say much to get your idea across. Let's look at some ways to comment on things without actually constructing a sentence. Using che, we can either complain about something: che caldo (how hot it is), or we can be making a compliment: che buono (this is so good).

 

The magic word

The magic word is che (that, what, which). We then add the appropriate adjective.

Che bello! Ciao! -Che bello!

How nice! Bye! -How nice!

Captions 75-76, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 4

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Ehm, guardate che carino.

Uh, look how pretty.

Caption 23, Professioni e mestieri Belle Arti -Tecniche di decorazione - Part 1

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Oddio che freddo!

Oh my God it's freezing!

Caption 59, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 9

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We could use the same formula to talk about the heat or the humidity. Actually some of these words can be used as nouns or adjectives.

Che caldo! (how hot it is)!

Che umido (how humid it is)

 

Nouns can work too, sometimes

Sometimes we can add a noun instead of an adjective:

Che facciamo? Il telefono... Anche il mio. -Che sfiga!

What can we do? The telephone... Mine too. -What a bummer!

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 9

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E che cavolo!

Hey what the hell?

Caption 22, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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A few more examples of che + a noun

Che sole (what [bright] sun)!

Che tramonto (what a sunset)!

Che cena (what a [great] dinner)

Che umidità (what humidity)!

Che afa (how muggy it is)!

Che giornata (what a day)!

 

Sometimes we don't even need che

In some cases, we don't even need to use che.  

Strano, perché Eva mi ha detto che è laureata.

Strange, because Eva told me she had a degree.

Caption 50, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 1

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This sentence could have been.:

Che strano. Eva mi ha detto che è laureato.

How strange. Eva told me she had a degree. 

 

Something extra to know:

 

When we are at the extremes of the adjective spectrum, in other words, when using adjectives in their comparative or superlative form we don't use che, because we are already, in effect, making something superlative, with che. If we want to use the superlative, it's better to go for the adjective all by itself.

We wouldn't say che bellissimo. We would just say bellissimo (very beautiful)!

Che bello says pretty much the same thing.

 

To conclude

There are lots of way to talk about things, but it's nice to have an easy, minimalist way, especially if we are beginners, or just having trouble finding the words.  Che is a word that is also used with the subjunctive, and therefore might instill a bit of anxiety in learners, but it can also be our friend. 

 

 

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Solo: What does it really mean?

Most folks know that when someone plays a solo, he or she is the main player, also called the soloist. Sometimes a musician plays alone (this is a hint).

 

Solo is an Italian word

You may or may not have realized that solo is an Italian word, 100%.  Let's take a look at how it's used in Italian. Because when someone plays a solo in the middle of a song, strangely enough, it's called something else entirely: un assolo (a solo).

Sì. -In un... -Io sono, sono un tenore leggero. E fai anche dei duetti... -Sì, a volte duetti buffi, a volte, invece, dei, degli assoli. -Ecco! Ah, no. Posso sentire prima un assolo e poi, magari, vedo, facciamo un duetto

Yes. -In a... -I'm a, I'm a light tenor. And you also do duets... -Yes, sometimes comic opera duets, sometimes, on the other hand, some, some solos. -There! Ah, no. Can I first hear a solo, and then, maybe let's see, we'll do a duet

Captions 101-104, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 4

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Solo has to do with being alone. It can mean "on one's own."

Ulisse era un cane anziano, un cane solo.

Ulisse was an old dog, a lone dog.

Caption 12, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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Solo is often preceded by the preposition da (by), making it function sort of like an adverb, answering the question "how," or "in what way,"  in which case we can translate it with "by oneself," "on one's own," "by itself," or "alone."

Guarda che al cinema ci posso pure andare da sola.

Look, I can perfectly well go to the movies by myself.

Caption 49, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 19

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Guardi, sta arrivando Olivetti. Pensava di venire qui con tanti dei suoi e invece è da solo.

Look, here comes Olivetti. He thought he'd come here with many of his own, and instead, he's by himself.

Captions 59-60, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 21

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Vuoi un antidolorifico? Ce l'ho. -No, no, no. Preferisco che mi passi da solo. -Come vuoi.

Do you want a painkiller? I have some. -No, no, no. I prefer for it to go away on its own. -As you like.

Captions 38-40, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 5

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Io, la mia strada, me la sono fatta da solo.

I, I've paved my own way [I did it all on my own].

Caption 43, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 9

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"Solo" da solo

But solo is not always preceded by da

Io... lo... lo conoscevo poco, però, nonostante tutte le donne che si vantava di avere, a me sembrava un uomo molto solo.

I... I... I didn't know him very well but despite all the women he bragged about having, he seemed like a very lonely man to me.

Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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In this case, it means "lonely." It's not always clear if someone is lonely or alone. But if we ad da — da solo, then it is clear it means "alone," not "lonely." We can also say "to feel alone" or "to feel lonely." Sentirsi solo.

 

Solo also means "only"

Solo can be an adjective meaning "only" — which rhymes with "lonely," and in Italian it's the same word.

Non è il solo motivo per cui mi oppongo.

It's not the only reason I object.

Caption 41, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 1

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Vedi, Alessio, quando mio padre venne qui e fondò questa fabbrica, qui intorno c'erano solo campi di grano.

You see, Alessio, when my father came here and founded this plant, there were only wheat fields around here.

Captions 17-18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 13

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Cioè, penso solo al fatto che tu non ci sia più, Martino,

I mean, I can only think about the fact that you're no longer here, Martino.

Caption 3, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 21

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In English, we often say "just" to mean the same thing. 

Magari! Ma quanto mi costa? Adesso spara la cifra. -Io non voglio parlare di danaro, io voglio solo aiutarla.

If only! But how much will it cost me? Now he'll name the price. -I don't want to talk about money. I just want to help you.

Captions 37-38, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 4

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Typical expressions with solo

It's typical for someone to say, è solo che... (it's just that...) to minimize something, or to say "but."

Eh, è solo che ho bisogno di un prestito.

Huh, it's just that I need a loan.

Caption 10, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 4

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Another context in which we hear solo is when we want to say, "And that's not all!"

E non solo. Nella salina Moranella, un momento magico, veramente, è la raccolta del fior di sale.

And not only that [and that's not all]. In the Moranella salt pan, a magical moment, really, is the harvesting of "fleur de sel."

Captions 52-53, La rotta delle spezie di Franco Calafatti Il sale - Part 1

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When you need to keep someone waiting for a moment, or you are passing the phone to someone else, you can say:

Un momento solo (just a moment).

Un instante solo (just a moment). 

 

We hope this lesson has given you some insight into the very common and important word solo. Don't forget that you can do a search of this word (and any other one) and see all the contexts right there on the video page. Look at where solo falls in the sentence and read the sentence to yourself. Get a feel for this word.

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3 Need to Know Italian Expressions for Arguing in Italian

This week's segment of Sposami happens to have several idiomatic expressions that are worth looking at. 

Rompere

In the following example, the verb rompere (to break) is used, together with the direct object scatole (boxes). This is a euphemism, a polite way to say palle (balls). Although it is very easy for Italians to have the more vulgar expression on the tip of the tongue, they will avoid it in polite company, and will use scatole instead of palle.

Bruna ha il marito in cassa integrazione e fa di tutto anche lei per farsi licenziare rompendo le scatole in continuazione con rivendicazioni sindacali.

Bruna's husband has been laid off and she's trying her best to get fired, as well by pestering us [breaking our balls] constantly with union demands.

Captions 13-15, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4

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If you don't know it's a euphemism, the expression makes little sense, but it's also handy to know that you can just use the verb rompere and the message will get across, all the same, guaranteed, cento percento (100%).

 

Oh, ma hai finito di rompere?

Oh, but have you finished bugging me?

Caption 30, Ma che ci faccio qui! Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 7

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You can just say when someone is pestering you,

Non rompere! (Don't bother me!) 

 

The noun form is used a lot, too, to describe someone who keeps pestering you.

È un vero rompiscatole (he/she is a real pain).

 

Ai ferri corti

This next idiom has interesting origins. Of course, you don't need to know its origins to use the expression. You do need to know that when a relationship becomes strained, and is on the verge of a rupture, you may well be ai ferri corti. If you are thinking in Italian, you can imagine the scene of two people no longer speaking to each other, or if they do speak, whatever they say is misconstrued, and sparks fly. You're dangerously close to the breaking point. If you watch the movie Sposami on Yabla, you'll get the picture!

 

Lo so che siete ai ferri corti, non me ne importa niente.

I know that you are at loggerheads. That doesn't matter to me.

Caption 27, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4

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When we have to translate ai ferri corti, it's a bit trickier. We have to go to a word we no longer use much: Loggerheads. To be at loggerheads. A log is a thick piece of wood, and indeed "loggerhead" once meant "blockhead," as in Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," act IV, scene IV [i.e. 3]: "Ah you whoreson loggerhead you were born to do me shame."

And later, "loggerhead" meant an iron instrument with a long handle and a ball or bulb at the end (thus the name), used, when heated in the fire, for melting pitch and for heating liquids. This makes sense with the Italian ferri, as we are talking about iron tools or possibly weapons. Think of a blacksmith's tools. We can imagine that this tool used to melt pitch, if short, will be very, very hot. Or we can think of the sword and the dagger, also made of ferro (iron). When our swords are broken or gone, and we're using daggers, we are dangerously close. In any case, the conflict has gotten dangerously heated. 

 

La frittata

Perché lo conosco, lui ha una capacità nel rivoltare le frittate che non ci puoi credere.

Because I know him. He's very capable of flipping omelets [turning the tables] like you wouldn't believe.

Captions 36-37, Sposami EP 1 - Part 4

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A popular quick meal for Italians is the frittata. The word has gained popularity even in English, but for those unfamiliar with it, it's the Italian version of an omelet, but usually flatter and less fluffy than the French kind, and often containing finely chopped vegetables and grated Parmesan cheese. 

You have to flip the frittata over to get it cooked on both sides. 

When you twist the argument, you're flipping it. You were to blame, but you twist things in such a way that it looks like the other person is at fault. Literally, it is flipping a situation around to be in one's favor despite not being in the right. We can also translate it with "to turn the tables."

There are a few other variations of this expression:

rovesciare la frittata (turn the frittata over)

rigirare la frittata (flip the omelet over again)

girare la frittata (flip the omelet)

 

But they all mean basically the same thing.

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Asking what something means in Italian

One of the most basic things we need to know as we venture into the world of speaking Italian is how to ask about a word we don't understand.

 

There are a couple of ways to do this.

 

Significare

 

One way is to use a verb we can easily understand, even though we don't use its English equivalent the same way, or very often in conversation. The Italian is significare. It kind of looks like "signify." Of course, in English, we would sooner use the adjective "significant" or the adverb "significantly."

 

Cosa significa (what does it mean)?

"Pilazza" in italiano significa "vasca di pietra" o "lavatoio"; è il posto in cui, anticamente, venivano i cittadini di Mazara del Vallo a fare il bucato.

"Pilazza," in Italian, means "stone tub" or "washhouse." It's the place where, in earlier times, the citizens of Mazara del Vallo would come to do the laundry.

Captions 15-17, In giro per l'Italia Mazara Del Vallo - Sicilia - Part 4

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And if we want the noun form, it's il significato (the meaning, the significance).

Questo è un ottimo esercizio per ripassare alcune parole del video e il loro significato.

This is a good exercise for reviewing some words from the video and their meaning.

Caption 49, Italian Intro Serena

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We can ask: Qual è il significato (what's the meaning)?

 

The other more common way with volere

The more common way to ask what something means is a bit more complex at first: We need 2 verbs to say it, but it's easy to say, and once you master it you will be all set.

 

The first verb is volere (to want). This is a very useful but tricky verb, as it is actually two verbs in one: It's a stand-alone transitive verb, as in: 

 

Voglio una macchina nuova (I want a new car).

 

We can also translate it as "to desire."

 

Volere is also a modal verb, basically meaning "to want to." The main thing to know about a modal verb is that it's followed by a verb in the infinitive, or rather it goes together with a verb in the infinitive, and can't stand alone. Just like some verbs in English, such as "to get," volere has meanings that go beyond "to want to." And just like "to get" in English, volere can pair up with other verbs to take on a new meaning. 

 

In the case of asking what something means, we add a second verb, in the infinitive: dire (to say). 

 

You know how in English we always say, "I mean..."? Well, Italians do this too, but they say, Voglio dire... (I mean to say, I mean).

Bene, forse è ancora in tempo. Prima che distrugga anche la sua famiglia, voglio dire.

Good, maybe there's still time for you. Before he destroys your family as well, I mean.

Captions 10-11, La Ladra Ep. 2 - Viva le spose - Part 6

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The difference between "I mean to say" and "I mean" is minimal, right? If we take this one step further and put it into the third person singular, it's vuole dire, which commonly gets shortened to vuol dire. And there we have it. It means "it means."

 

Of course, it could also mean "he means" or "she means," but more often than not it means "it means." 

Uso il termometro e misuro la mia temperatura. Se è superiore a trentasette e mezzo, vuol dire che ho la febbre.

I use the thermometer and I measure my temperature. And if it's above thirty-seven and a half (centigrade), it means that I have a fever.

Captions 25-27, Marika spiega Il raffreddore

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Marika could also have said, Significa che ho la febbre (it means I have a fever).

 

Asking about the meaning of a word

 

Here's one way to ask what a word means:

Nell'ottocentocinquanta, i Saraceni gli diedero il nome di Rabat. Cioè, sai pure l'arabo ora? E che vuol dire Rabat? -Borgo.

In eight hundred fifty, the Saracens gave it the name of Rabat. So, do you even know Arabic now? And what does Rabat mean? -Village.

Captions 8-10, Basilicata Turistica Non me ne voglio andare - Part 2

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The answer is: Rabat vuol dire "borgo". "Rabat" means "village."

 

So when asking what a word means, we can either use cosa (what) or just che (what), which is a bit more colloquial.

Cosa vuol dire (what does it mean)?

Che vuol dire (what does it mean)?

 

If you are absolutely desperate, just say: Vuol dire... (that means...)? You'll get the message across.

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Some learners like to know why we say what we say. It helps them remember. Others do better just memorizing how to say something and not worrying about the "why." Whatever works is the right way for you. We all learn in different ways, for sure. And if you need to know more, just ask. We at Yabla are pretty passionate about language and are happy to share the passion. This lesson, as a matter of fact, came about because a learner had trouble grasping why we use the verb "to want" when talking about the meaning of something. We hope that this has helped discover the underlying connection.

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Musical notes become words

In this week's episode of La Ladra, Eva uses a word that is hard to guess the meaning of, at least at first glance, or first hearing.

 

Allora. -No ragazze, non ricominciamo con la solfa succo d'acero sì, succo d'acero no. Per favore.

So. -No girls. Let's not get started again with the same old tune about maple syrup yes, maple syrup no. Please.

Captions 50-52, La Ladra EP. 9 L'amico sconosciuto - Part 2

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We go way back in History

A look at the dictionary reveals some interesting information. Solfa is the ancient word for sofleggio (solfége). Solfa comes from the names of two notes: sol (G) and fa (F). Solfeggio was and is a way to facilitate reading music using syllables representing the notes. Some languages, such French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, adopted the syllables as note names, do/ut re mi fa sol la si, while Germanic languages and English adopted the letters of the alphabet to name the notes, a system that actually came before the use of syllables. We can imagine how much confusion this might cause today when musicians from different countries are trying to rehearse together.

 

Here are the equivalents:

  • do/ut [in French] = C
  • re = D
  • mi = E
  • fa = F
  • sol = G
  • la = A
  • si = B/H [in German]

 

We go less far back in History

Many of us might have seen the 1965 movie, The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. In it, the 7 von Trapp children learn to sing using these syllables. Before becoming a movie, The Sound of Music was a hugely successful Broadway musical, which opened in 1959. The song about singing became so famous that, in America in the early '60s, kids would play the tune on their "Symphonettes" or "Flutophones" (cheap, plastic, recorder-like wind instruments for kids) in elementary-school music lessons.

The song uses homophones (commonly called "homonyms") to make it easier to remember the names of the syllables. Listen and watch a clip from the movie here.

Doe (do) a deer a female dear

Ray (re) a drop of golden sun

and so on.

 

For musicians learning Italian, the names of the notes are important, in fact, essential. Watch Alessio as he tells the story about these syllables.

In Italia, anche in Francia, in paesi latini... si sono basati, per i nomi delle note, su il famoso "do", "re", "mi", "fa", "sol", "la", "si", le sette note.

In Italy, also in France, in Latin countries... they based them on, for the names of the notes, on the famous "do," "re," "mi," " fa," "sol," "la," "si," the seven notes.

Captions 20-22, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 1

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We go a couple of decades back in History

Getting back to La Ladra, Eva, in the same sentence, also makes a connection with a song that became famous at San Remo in the '90s, called "La Terra dei Cachi " (the land of persimmons) written and performed by Elio e le Storie Tese. The refrain is "Italian sì, Italia no." The song was subsequently adopted as the theme song for an Italian talk show "Italia sì Italia no."

If you can't watch the video, you can find the lyrics here in Italian and English:

Italiano sì? Italiano no? Italiano sì!

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Getting Undressed in Italian

In many places in the world, it's winter. There are no leaves on the trees. They're barren. Seeing the bare branches has brought to mind some thoughts about one Italian adjective for this: spoglio

Di inverno le foglie appassiscono e gli alberi sono spogli.

In the winter, the leaves dry up and the trees are bare.

One word leads to another! It even leads to getting undressed.

 

Latin provides some insight.

Italian words that end in "io" often come from Latin, where the word might end in ium. In fact there is a Latin noun "spolium ": the skin or hide of an animal stripped off; Over time, this came to refer to the arms or armor stripped from a defeated enemy:

booty, prey, spoil.

 

We can make a connection with a tree that has been stripped of its leaves.

 

We can also see a connection between "the spoils" in English and "spolium" or the derivative "spoglia"in Latin. 

 

Another related Latin word is "spoliarium" referring to the basement of the Roman Colosseum where the fallen and dying gladiators were dumped and devoided of their worldly possessions. 

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Nowadays, the feminine plural le spoglie is used to indicate the remains of animals or humans when they have died.

Ma che senso ha mettere le spoglie di due persone nella stessa bara?

But what sense is there in putting the remains of two people in the same coffin?

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8

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An important noun to know: spogliatoio

Although talking about dead bodies is pretty gruesome, it gives us insight into some very common words you will hear if you go to the doctor, to the gym, or anywhere where you might take off your clothes. Some places have an appropriate room where you can change and take a shower, which in English, we might call the locker room or shower room. Lo spogliatoio (and often indicated as such on the door) will typically be in a gym, at a pool, a hospital or doctor's office, or, as in the example below, a workplace. 

Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the changing room door?

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

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Now that you are in the spogliatoio, you can get undressed.

When you change clothes, first you have to get undressed. In Italian, the verb is reflexive: spogliarsi. We've come a long way from the Roman Colosseum.

 

Andiamo a casa tua. A casa? Non ti vorrai spogliare in mezzo alla strada?

Let's go to your house. My house? You don't want to undress in the middle of the road, do you?

Captions 52-54, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 6

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⇒Flash quiz on the reflexive.

Can you come up with another way to say the same thing? [answer at the bottom of the page]

 

In the following example, there is no spogliatoio at this doctor's office. The couple is not an actual couple and they are pretty embarrassed. La Tempesta is a wonderful movie on Yabla, by the way, set in a ceramics factory in Treviso in the Veneto region of Italy.

 

Certo. -Adesso, siccome siamo un po' in ritardo, vi inviterei a spogliarvi. Vi visito insieme, d'accordo? Ci sono problemi? No, no, no. -No.

Of course. -Now, since we're a bit late, I invite you to get undressed. I'll examine you together, all right? Are there any problems? No, no, no. -No.

Captions 7-10, La Tempesta film - Part 19

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⇒Flash quiz on the reflexive

The doctor is being very polite, but if he ordered them to get undressed, what would he say? [answer at bottom of page]

 

Now here's a little scene in a refrigerator truck.

A questa temperatura, con i vestiti inzuppati, in nove minuti il sangue diventa ghiaccio. Ah, adesso che lo so mi sento meglio! Senti, spogliati. Eh? -Spogliati! Ah, bel modo di morire, sì... -Piantala! L'unico modo per combattere l'ipotermia è togliersi i vestiti e sommare il calore corporeo di entrambi.

At this temperature, with sopping wet clothes, in nine minutes blood turns to ice. Ah, now that I know it, I feel better! Listen, strip down. Huh? -Strip down! Ah, nice way to die, yes... -Quit it! The only way to fight hypothermia is to take off our clothes and sum up the body heat of both of us.

Captions 48-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 9

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You can also undress another person. In this case, it's not reflexive.

Dai Carlo vai, vai, spogliala, vasala [sic], spogliala!

Come on Carlo, go on, go on, undress her, kiss her [sic], undress her!

Caption 11, Trailer Paparazzi

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And speaking of stripping...

La gente della notte fa lavori strani Certi nascono oggi e finiscono domani Baristi, spacciatori, puttane e giornalai Poliziotti, travestiti, gente in cerca di guai Padroni di locali, spogliarelliste, camionisti Metronotte, ladri e giornalisti

The people of the night do weird jobs Some start up today and end tomorrow Baristas, drug dealers, hookers, and newsdealers Cops, transvestites, people looking for trouble Bar owners, strippers, truckers, Night watchmen, thieves, and journalists

Captions 23-28, Radio Deejay Lorenzo Jovanotti - Gente della notte

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

⇒Answers:

Andiamo a casa tua. A casa? Non vorrai  spogliarti in mezzo alla strada?

Certo. -Adesso, siccome siamo un po' in ritardo, spogliatevi. Vi visito insieme, d'accordo? Ci sono problemi? No, no, no. -No.

 

Tip

To get more information about a topic talked about in a lesson, for example, the reflexive touche on here, go to the lessons tab and do a search, such as: reflexive. The lessons where the reflexive is mentioned will be there, one after the other.

 
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How to Turn a Noun into a Verb (and back) in Italian

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The verb or the noun? Does it matter? No, it doesn't really matter in speaking Italian, but knowing the verb a noun comes from, or the noun a verb comes from can sometimes help us figure out a word we don't know. Or, it can help us remember a new word. In the case of the words discussed in this lesson, we start with a noun.

 

The noun il poggio:

Il poggio the noun is likely less well-known than the verbs that stem from it. A little research on the etymology tells us that poggio comes from the Latin noun "podium" — a raised platform. Hey! We know the word "podium" in English! Poggio is synonymous with colle or collina (hill), but often refers to a rather small, rounded hill — perhaps a podium-shaped hill, like a bluff...

Sorge isolata su di un poggio la chiesa di Santa Maria a Mevale, costruita nell'undicesimo secolo in stile romanico, in cui spicca un portale rinascimentale e il portico a cinque arcate.

Emerging on a bluff is the remote church of Santa Maria in Mevale built in the eleventh century in the Romanesque style, in which a Renaissance portal and a five-arch portico stand out.

Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza Umbria - Part 6

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Fun Expression:

An expression Tuscans like to use is: poggio e buca fan pari (hill and hole come out even).

Fan is short for fanno (they make).

poggio=salita (hill = climb)

buca=discesa (hole = descent) 

salita + discesa = pianura (uphill + downhill = flatland)

 

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Places:

There are places that take their name from the noun poggio. They are usually on a hill.

A very famous town (with a famous villa) near Florence is called Poggio a Caiano and one of our Yabla videos takes place in a town called Poggiofiorito (flowering hills):

Scusami, ma c'ho avuto il trasloco da Poggiofiorito e ho fatto male i calcoli.

I'm sorry, but I've moved to Poggiofiorito and didn't gauge it well.

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 5

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You can go a long time in Italy without hearing the noun poggio, but the verbs that come from this noun are much more common. Sometimes verbs are made from nouns by simply adding a verb ending such as  -are, -ire, or -ere

 

Poggiare:

Poggiare certainly exists as a verb. It means "to place." 

Marika uses this verb when describing how she stays safe as she looks out from her balcony.

 

Per affacciarmi al balcone, io poggio le mani sulla ringhiera.

To look out from the balcony, I place my hands on the railing.

Caption 13, Marika spiega Il balcone

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Appoggiare:

But appoggiare also exists. In this case the prefix a has been added, with the conventional doubling of the first consonant in the original noun. Appoggiare is a more complex verb and has several literal and figurative meanings. Appoggiare is more about support, about leaning, propping. Think of a ladder you prop against a wall. In the following example, Manara uses it reflexively.

E le impronte sul furgone come le spieghi? Mi ci sono appoggiato così, per caso. È reato?

And the fingerprints on the truck, how can you explain them? I leaned on it, just like that, by chance. Is that a crime?

Captions 57-59, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 14

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And here, Anna, who is talking about her new baby, uses the verb appoggiare three times in the same sentence! 

Un altro regalo molto utile che ho avuto dal papà è questo. È il cuscino da allattamento, ed è utile perché lo utilizzi sia quando allatti, te lo appoggi qui e non fai fatica con le braccia mentre allatti, che per appoggiare il bambino, che si appoggia qui come un principino e sta molto comodo.

Another very useful gift that I had from dad [the baby's dad], is this. It's a nursing cushion. And it's useful because you use it both when you nurse, you rest it here, and your arms don't get tired while you nurse, and for laying the baby on, who leans back here like a little prince and is very comfortable.

Captions 42-47, Anna presenta La gravidanza - Part 1

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Rather than using the more general mettere (to put) appoggiare is used to mean "to put down" or "to set down." We could also say "lay something down," implying a certain gentleness.

 

Posso entrare? Sì, ecco, ecco. Uè, Ada... grazie. Appoggialo pure là, va. -Luca!

May I come in? Yes, here we go, here we go. Hey Ada... thanks. Go ahead and set it down over there, go ahead. -Luca!

Captions 4-6, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 1

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L'appoggiatura:

If you play music, you might have heard of the term "appoggiatura": a note of embellishment preceding another note and taking a portion of its time. Now you know where it comes from!

 

L'appoggio:

And now we come back to a noun that comes from the verb that comes from the noun. Just like in English, "support" is both a noun and a verb.

In the following example, it's used in a physical way.

Mezzo passo avanti, sbilanci l'avversario e via la gamba d'appoggio.

A half a step forward, get the opponent off balance, and away with the supporting leg.

Captions 24-25, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 9

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But it can also be figurative. 

Proprio perché uomini di sinistra, noi stiamo facendo una battaglia in Parlamento, abbiamo anche avuto l'appoggio del ministro Brambilla,

Precisely because men of the left, we're waging battle in Parliament, we've even had the support of minister Brambilla,

Captions 48-49, Animalisti Italiani Walter Caporale - Part 2

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We've gone from the Latin noun "podium" to the ups and downs of Tuscan hills, to propping up a baby, setting down a tray, to playing music, to judo, and to politics. Whew!

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What does presto really mean?

 

If you play or listen to classical music, you will have seen the indication presto on a playlist, tracklist, concert program, or score. It usually means the music should go fast. The fastest tempo you might see is prestissimo (very fast).

But there are two other, more mundane, meanings of presto, and they're both pretty important in everyday conversation. 

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Presto means "early"

Presto is not the only way to say "early," and it depends on the context, but it's a very important way.  One way we use presto almost every day is in talking about our daily schedule. When do we get up? Presto (early)? Non troppo presto (not too early)? Molto presto (very early)? Prestissimo (super early)?

Eh, giusto. -Noi, per esempio, cuciniamo tutti insieme, mangiamo tutti insieme, la sera dormiamo tutti nello stesso letto, poi andiamo a ballare, facciamo baldoria, e la mattina ci svegliamo presto per andare all'università.

Uh, right. -We, for example, we all cook together, we eat all together, at night we all sleep in the same bed, then we go dancing, we have a blast, and in the morning we wake up early to go to the university.

Captions 34-37, Serena vita da universitari

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We can qualify presto with molto (very) or troppo (too):

Dovrei consegnare questi documenti al Dottor Del Serio. Ma è troppo presto, sta dormendo.

I should deliver these documents to Doctor Del Serio. But it's too early. He's sleeping.

Captions 27-28, La Tempesta film - Part 19

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Everyone has their own idea of what "early" is and there are some sfumature (nuances), too. In the following example, we have presto, prestissimo and prestino

Senti, non è che domattina presto potresti accompagnarmi dai genitori di una mia allieva? Sì, sì. Presto quanto? Eh, be', be', non prestissimo, però un po' prestino.

Listen, tomorrow morning early, you wouldn't take me, would you, to the parents' house of one of my students? Yes, yes. How early? Oh well, well, not real early, but earlyish.

Captions 26-29, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 23

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Presto means "soon"

If you have been reading the Yabla Italian newsletters, you will have seen the sign-off at the end:

a presto, literally, "until soon," but commonly translated as "[I'll] see you soon".

 

Allora a presto, caro, eh?! -A presto. Ciao. -Arrivederci, signora. -Ciao, Giovanni, ciao. Ciao.

So, see you soon dear, OK? -See you soon. Bye. -Goodbye ma'am. -Bye Giovanni, bye. Bye.

Captions 28-30, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 4

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Here's a little telephone conversation about starting a new job. The way we form the comparative and superlative of adjectives is with più (more). The presence of the definite article indicates it's in the superlative. 

 

Ti andrebbe bene cominciare già domani? -Sì, certo, non c'è problema. Voglio mettermi al lavoro il più presto possibile. Domani è perfetto. -Molto bene.

Would it be all right with you to start tomorrow? -Yes, of course. That's no problem. I want to get to work as soon as possible. Tomorrow is perfect. -Very good.

Captions 17-21, Italiano commerciale Cominciare un nuovo lavoro - Part 1

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Note that we have two similar but different ways to say "as soon as possible." One way is in the previous example, il più presto possibile. The other common way is in the following example, where we have the preposition a (at, too, until): al più presto. In this case, we don't add possibile.

 

Sei riuscita a vedere che c'è nella valigetta? Un mucchio di soldi. Dobbiamo agire al più presto, OK?

Did you manage to see what's in the briefcase? A bunch of money. We have to act as soon as possible, OK?

Captions 40-41, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Presto means "fast"

It can be just the single word, said with urgency:

Mi sa che è della polizia! Professoressa, andiamo. Andiamo, che è gente pericolosa! Sbrigatevi! Presto! Forza, prof! Forza!

I think she's from the police! Prof, let's go, let's go because they're dangerous people! Hurry up! Quickly! Come on, Prof! Come on!

Captions 23-27, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 13

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Presto means fast, even though, in the following example, that's not how it's translated. This is because it's part of an idiomatic expression: si fa presto a dire, which, taken literally, means "Saying it is done quickly," or "We can be quick to say..."

 

Si fa presto a dire Europa. Il termine è una costruzione dello spirito, derivata da una realtà geografica mal definita.

It's easy to say "Europe." The term is a construction of the spirit, derived from a poorly-defined geographical entity.

Captions 1-3, Umberto Eco Proust e l'identità europea

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Sometimes it's hard to decide if presto means "fast," "soon," or "early." It may be a combination, like in the following example, where a fire has started in a film lab.

 

Chiama i pompieri e per sicurezza pure un'ambulanza, non si sa mai. -Sì, alla Cine Service. Fate presto.

Call the firemen and to be on the safe side, an ambulance, too. You never know. -Yes, at the Cine Service. Come quickly.

Captions 27-29, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 8

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Generally speaking, fare presto means "to be quick," or "to do something quickly."

 

Facciamo presto, che tra poco torna il [sic: la] signora Franca.

Let's be quick, because in a little while, Missus Franca is set to return.

Caption 2, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 3

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We hope you have gained some insight into how "fast," "early," and "soon" can be intertwined in the Italian adverb presto.

 

A presto!

 

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Noticing things (or not) in Italian with accorgersi

 

Some words are easy in Italian and some others are a little complicated. Here's a verb we use a lot but that is kind of tricky to use: accorgersi (to notice, to realize).

 

Accorgersi: Let's take it apart.

Let's take it apart to make some sense of it. Hint: It is reflexive, and while some verbs can be both normal and reflexive, this one is always reflexive.

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In a recent episode of La Ladra, a guy wants his car taroccata (rigged) (we talked about the verb taroccare in this lesson). The mechanic tells the guy that he won't even notice he's going 300 kilometers per hour. Usually, we notice something, so very often, since accorgersi is reflexive, we have both a direct and an indirect object pronoun in the sentence. When that occurs, we have to deal with those pesky particles that can attach themselves to the verb in different ways. For more on this, have a look at these lessons.

 

In the following example, we can see that the verb is conjugated in the second person singular (the mechanic is talking to his customer).

 

Co' [romanesco: con] questa c'arivi [ci arrivi] a trecento che manco te n'accorgi.

With this one, you don't even notice it when you get to three hundred.

Caption 35, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 13

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The infinitive form has the impersonal si connected to the verb — accorgersi, but when conjugated, the reflexive verb accorgersi gets separated into two parts — the root of the verb (accorgere) and the person onto whom it reflects, in this case, te (to you). Then there is an n which is a contraction of ne (of it, to it). In order to understand better how accorgersi works, we might translate it as "to become aware of." Here, there is the preposition "of." 

By the time to get to three hundred [kilometers an hour], you will not even be aware of it.

 

"Of it" is represented by ne (in this case contracted into n').

 

Accorgersi in the past tense with the particle ne

In the following example, however, we have the past tense. In Italian, it's the passato prossimno formed with the auxiliary verb essere (to be) and the past participle, accorto. When you conjugate reflexive verbs in the past tense, you must use essere as your auxiliary verb.

 

Gira e gira, ai vertici dell'Olivetti, non c'è spazio che per uno di famiglia. Lo so, me ne sono accorto. -Ecco.

At the end of the day, in the upper echelons of Olivetti, there's no room for anyone but a family member. I know, I noticed that. -That's it.

Captions 44-46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 8

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Me is the indirect pronoun (to me)

Ne is another indirect pronoun (of it, about it)

Accorto is the past participle of accorgere

 

Accorgersi in the past tense without the particle ne

Let's look at an example without this particle ne. Here, it's not necessary because we have nulla (nothing) as an indirect object preceded by the preposition di. We have the auxiliary verb essere. The reflexive particle si is contracted and refers to the third person singular reflexive pronoun.

Guardi, non s'era accorto di nulla.

Look, he hadn't noticed a thing.

Caption 73, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 5

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You made it this far, good for you! If the verb accorgersi is too difficult for you at this stage of the game, you can also use the verb notare, a nice, simple, transitive verb. 

 

Durante il viaggio avete notato qualcosa di strano? Pensateci bene, ah.

During the trip, did you notice anything strange? Think about it carefully, huh.

Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 6

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To say the same thing with accorgersi, it would take a few more words:

 

Vi siete accorti di qualcosa di strano? 

Qualcuno si è accorto di qualcosa di strano? 

Did you notice anything strange? 

Did anyone notice anything strange?

 

Further learning

For even more about reflexive verbs, with charts. Here's a great resource.

 

If you do a search on Yabla with accorgere, you won't find much, nor will you find much with accorgersi. But if you search the past participle accorto (masculine), accorta (feminine), or accorti (plural), you will find numerous examples. Now that we have taken the verb and its particles apart, you can start getting a feel for this useful, but complex verb. Hopefully, picking out the verb and its accessories and then repeating them will be helpful to you.

 

Attenzione: There will also be some constructions we haven't covered here, such as in the following example. Suffice it to say that it involves the third person impersonal pronoun si with a reflexive verb in the passato prossimo (present perfect) tense. It's pretty advanced and a lot to absorb, and so we'll confront this in a future lesson.

 

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno, ci si è accorti che il palombaro, cioè questa grande cisterna, era colmo fino all'orlo.

 

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen ninety-one, they noticed that the "palombaro", that is, this large cistern, was full to the brim.

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Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 3

We've been looking at conjugated verbs followed by verbs in the infinitive. Some can be connected directly as we saw in Part 1, some are connected with the preposition a, as we saw in Part 2, and others are connected with the preposition di, which we will look at in this lesson. 

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Verbs that take di before a verb in the infinitive:

Let's start with an example. 

 

Ti ho portato il millefoglie. Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi e poi usciamo, eh?

I brought you a millefeuille. While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready and then we'll leave, huh?

Captions 18-20, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 13

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Finisco is the conjugated verb (finire) and preparare is in the infinitive. We have the formula: conjugated verb + di + verb in the infinitive. Attenzione: The verb preparare is attached to the personal pronoun mi (myself) because in this case, the verb prepararsi is reflexive and means "to get [oneself] ready." 

 

One important verb we use with the preposition di is decidere (to decide).

Anita, per migliorare il suo livello di italiano, ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia, dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.

Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy, where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing with my friends, my family, my relatives, and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.

Captions 36-41, Adriano Adriano e Anita

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There are plenty of important and useful verbs that take the preposition di before the infinitive, and you can find a list here, but here are a few more examples from Yabla videos:

 

Oppure: chiudo l'ombrello, perché ha smesso di piovere.

Or else, “I close the umbrella because it has stopped raining.”

Caption 7, Marika spiega Il verbo chiudere

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Let's remember that although cercare basically means "to look for," "to seek," it also means "to try" or, we could say, "to seek to." We use the preposition di in this case.

 

Quando vai in paese, cerca di scoprire qualcosa di interessante.

When you go into town try to find out something interesting.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 4

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Another great verb is credere, which basically means "to believe," but when it's used in conjunction with a verb in the infinitive, we often translate it with "to think," as in:

 

Ferma! Sta ferma! Dove credi di andare?

Stop! Stand still! Where do you think you're going?

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 15

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In fact, you could say the exact same thing with the verb pensare, which also takes the preposition di before an infinitive. 

Dove pensi di andare?

 

Sperare is another great verb that works the same way, and to close, we'll say:

Speriamo di vedervi presto su Yabla (we hope to see you soon on Yabla)!

 

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Il Mutuo and La Mutua

A current episode of Provaci ancora prof brings to mind a noun that is easily mixed up with a similar one, by non-native speakers of Italian.

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Il mutuo and la mutua

These are nouns Italians use a lot in day-to-day conversation. One is about money and one is about health (and money too, in a roundabout way), both very common topics of conversation. They're also hard to guess the meaning of. 

 

Il mutuo


This is a word you need if you want to buy a house, or just take out a loan from the bank. If you're buying a house, then people will understand you're talking about a mortgage. For any other use, it's the equivalent of a loan. We also notice that when mutuo means mortgage, we often use a definite article (il) and when we mean "loan," we'll likely use an indefinite article (un). To mean "loan," you can also use un prestito or un finanziamento.

 

 

Roberta mi ha aiutato quando ho fatto il mutuo sulla casa e sa... insomma, dovrà, dovrà riavere.

Roberta helped me when I took out a mortgage on the house and she knows... basically, she should, she should get it back.

Captions 36-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 14

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Io ho ancora da parte millecinquecento euro, però dovrei pagare il mutuo alla banca.

I still have fifteen hundred euros put aside, but I should pay the mortgage to the bank.

Captions 54-55, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 3

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Il parrucchiere, quello più caro, quello in fondo al paese. Una messa in piega ci vuole un mutuo, eh. E poi non solo...

The hairdresser, the most expensive one, the one at the edge of town. To get one's hair done, you need to take out a loan, huh. And not only that...

Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4

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la mutua

If you hang out in Italy long enough, like many ex-pats, you will get to know another important noun, la mutua. This is the national health service. You can benefit from this service if you are a legal resident. You don't need to be an Italian citizen.

 

Here's a scenario. 

Devo fare un intervento al femore (I have to get my hip operated on).

-Costerà caro, no? (that will be expensive won't it?)

No. Per fortuna, paga la mutua (No, fortunately national health insurance will pay for it).

 

Here's another scenario.

Non vado al lavoro oggi. Sono alla mutua.

I'm not going to work today. I'm on sick leave.

 

This is an informal noun, and may not be used all over Italy, but it the common name Italians give to this service. There are rules for different kinds of jobs (state or private) whereby your sick leave is paid for if you are an employee, but you need a certificate signed by your doctor (il medico della mutua, or il medico curante) and you have to make sure to be home during certain hours of the day, such as from 10 AM to 12 PM, and 5 PM to 7 PM. That way, the health authorities can check to see if you are really sick.

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Getting sick and making mortgage or loan payments are never divertenti (fun), but at least you know the words to describe these things now! 

P.S. mutuo is also an adjective corresponding to "mutual."

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Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 2

When we talk about verbs, we distinguish between conjugated verbs and verbs in the infinitive. In Italian, verbs in the infinitive are easily recognizable most of the time because they end in either -are, -ire, or -ere. Exceptions occur when verbs in the infinitive are combined with particelle (particles), when they are reflexive, or when they are truncated. Then, admittedly, they may be harder to recognize.

In this lesson, we are talking about the specific case of when we want to use a conjugated verb followed by a verb in the infinitive. How do we connect them?

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In some cases, we connect them directly

In part 1, we talked about combining a conjugated verb with an infinitive where no preposition is necessary. This typically occurs with the modal verbs potere (to be able to), volere (to want to) e sapere (to know how to, to be able to). Here's an example that can be useful if you are traveling in Italy.

Posso andare in bagno?

May I use (go to) the bathroom?

 

But there are also other, non-modal verbs where we don't need a preposition. See Daniela's series for examples.

Lascia fare a me!

Let me do it!

 

 

In other cases, we need a preposition between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive

If we want to say the same thing we did above with a different verb, we might need a preposition, as in this example:

Permettimi di aiutarti.

Let me help you (allow me to help you).

 

There are two main prepositions we will use to connect a conjugated verb to a verb in the infinitive: di and a. Roughly, di corresponds to "of" or "from," while a corresponds to "to" or "at." These translations are not much help, though. One general rule (with many exceptions) is that verbs of movement use a to connect with a verb in the infinitive. The bottom line is, however, that you basically just have to learn these combinations little by little, by reading, by listening, and (sigh) by being corrected. 

In some cases, the same verb will change its meaning slightly by the use of one preposition or the other.

 

Non penserai mica di andare via senza salutare!

You're not thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, are you?

 

Ci penso io a comprare i biglietti.

I'll take care of buying the tickets.

 

Verbs that take the preposition a before an infinitive

In this lesson, we'll look at some important verbs that need the preposition a.

Here's the formula:

verbo coniugato + preposizione "a" + verbo all’ infinito (conjugated verb + the preposition [to, at] + verb in the infinitive)

 

aiutare (to help)

Per esempio, io ho un amico e lo aiuto a fare qualcosa dove lui ha difficoltà, lo aiuto a riparare la bicicletta, lo accompagno in aeroporto...

For example, I have a friend and I help him in doing something he has difficulty with, I help him repair his bicycle, I take him to the airport...

Captions 28-30, Corso di italiano con Daniela Approfondimento Verbi Modali - Part 2

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cominciare (to begin)

Comincia a fare il nido il povero cucù

The poor cuckoo starts making his nest

Caption 8, Filastrocca Il canto del cucù

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continuare (to continue, to keep on) 

E si continua a pestare.

And you keep on crushing.

Caption 53, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 2

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riuscire (to manage, to succeed, to be able)

Così riesco a seguire meglio la faccia eh... e le labbra di chi sta parlando.

That way, I manage to follow the face better, uh... and the lips of whoever is speaking.

Captions 41-42, Professioni e mestieri il doppiaggio - Part 1

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insegnare (to teach) 

Oggi, ti insegno a cucinare la parmigiana di melanzane.

Today, I'm going to teach you to cook eggplant Parmesan,

Caption 2, Marika spiega La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 1

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andare (to go)

Sì, lo diciamo a tutti e dopo andiamo a ballare. Andiamo anche a ballare.

Yes, we'll tell everyone, and afterwards we'll go dancing. We'll go dancing, too.

Captions 11-12, Serena vita da universitari

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Practice

We've talked about several verbs that take the preposition a before a verb in the infinitive. Why not try forming sentences, either by improvising ad alta voce (out loud) or by writing them down? Take one of these verbs (in any conjugations you can think of) and then find a verb in the infinitive that makes sense.

Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

Mi insegneresti a ballare il tango (would you teach me to dance the tango)?

Non riesco a chiudere questa cerniera (I can't close this zipper).

 

To find charts about verbs and prepositions, here is an excellent reference.

Go to Part 3 where we talk about verbs that take the preposition di.

 

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How to hurry up in Italian

We may think of Italians as being relaxed, but they have to rush around just like the rest of us. And since they do so much rushing around, there is some variety in how they talk about it. There are verbs, nouns, and adverbs to choose from. Let's take a look.

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The verb sbrigarsi (to hurry, to hurry up)

It's common to use the familiar form with a family member or friend. The following example is in the second person singular, so don't forget to stress the first syllable, not the second! The three consonants in a row make it fun to say. The "s" always has a "z" sound when it comes before "b."

Dai, sbrigati che ci perdiamo l'inizio del film.

Come on, hurry up, otherwise we'll miss the beginning of the movie.

Caption 47, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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By the way, dai (come on) is just an interjection that is generally used in the second person singular regardless of whom you are talking to (although you wouldn't say it at all to someone you need to be formal with. 

 

If I want to tell two or more friends or family members to hurry up, then I need to say sbrigatevi. Here, the stress is on the second syllable (the "a")!

 

Io vado avanti, vi aspetto là, eh, sbrigatevi. Ah, ricordatevi le cinture di sicurezza!

I'm going ahead, I'll wait for you there, eh, hurry. Oh, remember your seat belts!

Captions 40-41, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 2

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If we need to say the same thing using the polite form, it's si sbrighi in the singular. This might be used by a police officer who is asking to you move your car out of the way. The plural would be si sbrighino.

So this verb isn't super easy to use, but if you memorize the second person singular familiar, it will come in very useful.

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One more thing: sbrigare in its non-reflexive form means to "to deal with." 

 

Va be', noi andiamo che abbiamo un sacco di lavoro da sbrigare.

All right, we're going, because we have a lot of work to get done.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 10

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La fretta

Another way to tell someone to hurry is fai in fretta. Note that here the verb is fare which means both "to make" and "to do."

Fai in fretta, ti prego.

Be quick, please.

Caption 57, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12

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La furia

Often fretta goes hand in hand with furia. In fretta e furia (in a big hurry)

Se tu trovi un cadavere in una stanza d'albergo e scopri che l'occupante della stanza ha pagato per altri due giorni in anticipo, però se ne va prima in fretta e furia, ti insospettisci, no? -Eh!

If you find a dead body in a hotel room and you discover that the occupant of the room had paid in advance for two more days, but he leaves beforehand in a big hurry, you become suspicious, don't you? -Yeah.

Captions 11-14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 5

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If you see someone rushing out of the house, you might say:

Dove vai così in fretta e furia (where you are off to all of a sudden)?

 

In some parts of Italy, in Tuscany, for instance, people just say ho furia to mean ho fretta, sono di corsa. I'm in a hurry.

Non è neanche passato a salutarlo? No. Dovevo andare via, c'avevo furia [toscano: fretta].

You didn't even stop by to say goodbye? No. I had to leave. I was in a hurry.

Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 7

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You might get asked if you are in a particular rush, for example, when someone wants to talk to you or spend some time with you. If you're in Tuscany they might say:

Hai furia o possiamo fermarci per prendere un caffè (are you in a rush or can we stop for a coffee)?

Anywhere else in Italy, they would probably say:

Hai fretta o possiamo fermarci per prendere un caffè (are you in a rush or can we stop for a coffee)?

Di corsaa compound adverb

"Scusa, ma vado di corsa". "Parliamo più tardi".

"Sorry, but I'm in a rush." "We'll talk later."

Captions 55-56, Marika spiega Gli avverbi di modo

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We shouldn't think that these are the only ways to talk about being in a hurry, or telling someone to hurry up. But they will give you a good start. In substance, they have similar meanings, but they are used differently, and that's where it can get a bit tricky. Vado di fretta or ho fretta both work. Vado di corsa works, but not ho corsa. So keep your antennae up, and you will gradually absorb these words into your vocabulary. You'll have your favorites, too. 

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2 Ways to Cheat in Italian

Whether you're cheating or being cheated, you'll want to know the words Italians use to talk about cheating. In this lesson we will discuss two words that have come up in Yabla videos.

Take your pick! Truccare or Taroccare

Whichever verb you choose, it's about cheating.

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There are two fun words in Italian that mean essentially the same thing. They seem to come from different roots, but Italians use them pretty much interchangeably as we will see. But let's look at these two words separately.

 

Truccare

The noun form trucco is better known to us with its English cognate "trick." Its usual meaning in Italian is "expedient," as in the following example.

Un buon trucco è quello di lavare i piatti usando l'acqua di cottura della pasta, che ha un alto potere sgrassante e detergente.

A good trick is to wash the dishes using the water from cooking pasta, which is a powerful de-greaser and detergent.

Captions 23-25, Non beviamoci su Risparmio dell'acqua - Part 2

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We also use il trucco to mean "makeup." We are, in a way, falsifying how we really look when we use makeup. We try to enhance our physical appearance. It's used as a collective noun, as is "makeup."

Bene. Allora vatti a provare il vestito e le scarpe. Ma non ho finito con il trucco.

Good. Then go and try on the dress and the shoes. But I haven't finished with the makeup.

Captions 53-54, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 4

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In fact, falsifying is what truccare is all about. Putting makeup on is a socially acceptable way of falsifying one's facial aspect, of course, but there are other more sinister ways to falsify things. In a recent episode of La Ladra, there is a corrupt mechanic who soups up cars for illegal races. The car has been enhanced. 

Eh, che dice? Dice che c'ha un giro de [romanesco: di] auto truccate e de [romanesco: di] corse clandestine. Lo sospettavo.

Hey, what does he say? He says he has an operation involving souped-up cars and illegal races. I suspected that.

Captions 71-73, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7

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In shady businesses, the books will likely be falsified. There are colorful words we can use in English, such as "to doctor," "to cook," "to fix," "to load the dice." One choice in Italian is truccare.

Allora Natoli, Salmastri ha truccato i bilanci e questo è chiaro. Però non capisco perché.

So, Natoli, Salmastri has doctored the financial statements and this is clear. But I don't understand why.

Captions 1-2, La Tempesta film - Part 23

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Taroccare

The verb taroccare , on the other hand, comes from the plural noun tarocchi, which means none other than "tarot cards." It's important to realize that tarot cards started out as cards to play card games with. It was only later that they were used specifically for divination. Tarot cards or tarocchi are still used throughout much of Europe to play conventional card games without divinatory associations. Learn more about this here

Cheating at cards and games has most likely always existed and this concept might contribute to the use of taroccare to mean "to falsify." As we can see in the following example and the one mentioned above, Paolo in La Tempesta uses both truccare and taroccare when talking about falsifying the books. They sound pretty similar, too. 

 

Paolo, che succede, eh? Sei una serpe, sei una viscida serpe! Hai taroccato i bilanci dell'azienda per spaventare gli azionisti.

Paolo, what's going on, huh? You're a snake, a slimy snake. You falsified the financial statements of the company to scare the stockholders.

Captions 12-14, La Tempesta film - Part 23

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You can't go wrong, but...

Whichever word you decide to use, Italians will understand just fine. If we want to be more refined, we could say that if you are thinking of putting some fake license plates on a car, you would probably use taroccare, but if you are just beefing up a motor, or adjusting a few numbers in a register, you might go for truccare. If you are enhancing the sound of a recording by adding artificial reverb, or photoshopping a photo, truccare is fine to use without going to jail. Taroccare can be left to illegal or shadier enterprises.

The video example from La Ladra could have used the verb taroccare just as well, since it often refers to cars, motorcycles, etc. It's a matter of personal choice, as well as regional, local, societal tradition.

 

P.S.

If you haven't seen La Tempesta, it's available in its entirety on Yabla, with subtitles in both Italian and English (that you can see or hide as you go), and plenty of exercises to help you retain what you hear in the video. It's a fun movie for learning Italian, and takes place in Treviso, a city in the Veneto region of Italy.

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Legno or Legna ?

It's coming on winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, where Italy is located.

In many places in Italy, people heat their houses using wood. or, In the country and in small villages, lots of people have fireplaces in their kitchens. 

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Wood is Wood, right?

Right and wrong. In English, we think of wood as wood, whatever its use. But in Italian, there are two similar but different words, depending on what we do with the wood.

 

Legno

To construct something we use legno (wood), a masculine noun. This has its root in the Latin noun "lignum." 

 

Interestingly, Italians use two basic prepositions with legno to correspond to "wooden": in and di which can both mean "of."

Questo meraviglioso piano in legno si chiama spianatoia e serve proprio per impastare la nostra pasta fresca.

This marvelous wooden surface is called a pastry board and it's used exactly for making our fresh pasta dough.

Captions 90-92, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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Veniva impastato in casa, proprio su quella superficie di legno e poi messa [sic: messo], questo impasto, su quella specie di tavola, veniva portato al forno, perché in casa non c'erano dei forni.

The dough was worked at home, right on that wooden surface and then this dough was put on that type of wooden board and brought to the oven, because there were no ovens in houses.

Captions 64-68, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie Ep. 1 - Part 12

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Legna

To build a fire for heating or cooking, we use the feminine noun la legna. This comes, again from the Latin, from the plural of "lignum": "ligna." In fact, la legna, just like the collective noun "firewood," usually refers to a collection of pieces of wood to be used for burning. 

 

If we ask what kind of wood is used, then we can use legno. In the following example, someone is asking the pizzaiolo what kind of wood he uses in his forno a legna.

 

Quello è il forno a legna. Che legno usate?

That's the wood oven. What kind of wood do you use?

Captions 39-40, Antonio presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

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To be even more specific, we can expand on legna: legna da ardere (wood for burning/firewood). The following example is from a fascinating video on Yabla about olive trees and making olive oil.

 

Quando avveniva questo distacco delle due parti dell'ulivo, una della due parti veniva sacrificata come legna da ardere.

When this detachment took place of the two parts of the olive tree, one of the two parts was sacrificed as firewood.

Captions 47-48, Olio Extra Vergine Pugliese Introduzione e cenni storici

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What are some contexts for legna?

The fireplace is often called il camino (note the single M) and more often than not, the diminutive is used:  il caminetto. The chimney is the canna fumaria (the smokestack). 

 

In place of la  caldaia (furnace, hot water heater), some people have una stufa a legna (wood stove).

 

And let's not forget that the best pizza is said to be made in a forno a legna (wood-burning oven). In these cases the preposition a is used, referring to the function. What makes it run?

 

Peppe ha infornato la pizza nel forno a legna, che è un forno tradizionale.

Peppe has put the pizza in the wood oven, which is a traditional oven.

Caption 48, Antonio presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

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This goes for bread, too.

Antico a lievitazione naturale, cotto a legna, ci sono altri tipi...

Traditional sourdough, baked in a wood oven, there are other kinds...

Caption 64, Anna e Marika Il pane

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Now you know the difference between legno and legna. They are both right; you just need to know the context. 

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How to address your teacher in Italian

In a foreign country, knowing how to address people can be a challenge.

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Formal or Informal?

First of all, you need to know whether to be formal or informal. Italians may refer to this as dare del lei (to give the formal "you") or dare del tu (to give the informal "you"). Check out this lesson about the ins and outs of this. 

 

Some History: Fascism and Italian language

During the period of Italian Fascism, there were strict rules about how to address other people. It's a fascinating story and Yabla has featured a documentary about Fascism and Italian language. Check out the relative lesson: What's the Story on Voi in the Singular?

 

Signora and Signore

It's interesting that Italians very often use the equivalent of "ma'am" and "sir" instead of using someone's name: signora and signore.

Sì, signora, dica. -E mio marito non è rientrato stanotte e non ha nemmeno avvertito... e... non è mai successo. Sono molto preoccupata. -Venga nel mio ufficio, signora.

Yes, ma'am, what is it? -My husband didn't come home last night and he didn't even let me know... and... it's never happened before. I'm very worried. -Come into my office, ma'am.

Captions 15-19, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 2

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Keep in mind that often, signora and signor are commonly used before a first name. It's midway between formal and informal.

Signora Caterina, non si preoccupi per Brigadiere, perché l'ho portato alla pensione Abbaio Giocoso e starà benissimo.

Miss Caterina, don't worry about Brigadiere, because I took him to the kennel "Playful Barking" and he'll be just fine.

Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 14

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He's no doctor!

We've also talked about the fact that Italians use the term dottore (doctor) when wishing to treat someone with respect, regardless of whether the person is an actual doctor, or whether he has a PhD. The Dottore is In.

 

And, like dottore, they will use a title without the name of the person. For instance, in the story of Adriano Olivetti, he was an engineer, so people — especially people who worked with him — would just call him Ingegnere (engineer), without his name. 

Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.

Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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At school

Lastly, at school, the actual name of the teacher seems to be of relatively minor importance when addressing him or her directly. You simply call your teacher Prof, short for professore (professor, teacher) if you are allowed to by the teacher. When speaking more formally, students will use professore or professoressa, once they leave primary school. If they are still in primary or elementary school, they will use maestra (schoolmistress) to refer to a female teacher. On the subject of the schoolroom, Yabla offers an original content series about the regions of Italy. It's set in a classroom with Anna as the student and Marika playing the (often mean) teacher. How does Anna handle this? It might depend on the mood of the professoressa.  Check out the videos here

Guardi, Lei ha studiato, perché Lei ha studiato, ma mi sta antipatica oggi e quindi Le metto sette. -Ma prof, ma sono venuta volontaria. -E ho capito, però mi gira così.

Look, you've studied, because [and I see] you've studied, but I find you disagreeable today and so I'll put down a seven. But teacher, I volunteered. -Uh, I get it, but that's how it's hitting me today.

Captions 88-91, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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Yabla offers the TV series, Provaci ancora Prof as part of its growing library. The title is a takeoff on Woody Allen's "Play it Again, Sam."

 

A student is speaking to his teacher:

Prof, si unisca a noi.

Teach, join us.

Caption 57, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 1

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Of course in American English, we would use Mr., Mrs., Ms, or Miss and the last name of the teacher. The translation we have given is very informal, and calling a teacher "teach" would likely be frowned upon in most schools. But in Italy, it's the norm in many school situations. Good to know!

 

More about meeting and greeting formally and informally here: I say hello; you say goodbye

 

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The Panzanella Crossword Puzzle

This lesson is simply a crossword puzzle in Italian, especially for you, inspired by the Yabla video: In cucina con Arianna - la panzanella - Part 1. The puzzle will be easier if you have watched the video, but not essential.

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Do the crossword

 

Divertitevi!  Have fun!

 

Buongiorno. Oggi siamo in Toscana. Su questo tavolo potete vedere tanti e coloratissimi ingredienti e voi vi chiederete "per fare cosa?" Per, ehm, preparare una buonissima ricetta della tradizione toscana.

Hello. Today we're in Tuscany. On this table, you can see lots of very colorful ingredients and you must be asking yourself, "to do what?" To, uh, make a really good recipe from the Tuscan tradition.

Captions 1-4, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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Here is a link to the solutions.

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