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Lecciones de Italiano

Temas

Living Together: la convivenza

Some languages use one word to say something, another might need 2 or more to say the same thing. In the case of "living together," Italian has a word that sums it up nicely: la convivenza as a noun, or convivere as a verb. In modern English, we call it "living together," but a more official but perhaps outdated noun would be "cohabitation."  The question comes up in the TV movie Sposami, where a young couple is having trouble planning their marriage in a way that will satisfy both sets of parents.

La convivenza as opposed to marriage

 

Perché non pensi a una bella convivenza, eh? Dai!

Why not think about just living together, huh? Come on!

Caption 58, Sposami EP 1 - Part 18

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Taking apart this verb and noun makes it easy to understand:

vivere (to live) + con (with) = convivere (to live with, to live together)

 

Convivere is not always about people living together

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The verb convivere is used to mean "to coexist." So not necessarily "together," but at the same time, in the same space.

Ora, i resti dell'antico tempio e della primitiva cattedrale sono incastonati all'interno e all'esterno: elementi pagani e cristiani che si fondono, convivono...

Now, the remains of the ancient temple and the early cathedral are built-in on the inside and the outside: pagan and Christian elements that fuse together, that coexist...

Captions 9-10, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 4

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We also use convivere when we have to bear, endure, tolerate, accept, or live with a situation or condition. Right now people are "living with" the presence of the coronavirus.

Si convive (one lives with it).

Dovremo convivere con il coronavirus per parecchio tempo ancora (we will have to live with the coronavirus for some time yet).

 

Convivente: what kind of word is it? (for grammar nerds)

People who are living together may be called conviventi. It describes the state

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi siamo già conviventi.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we're already living together.

Captions 6-7, La Tempesta film - Part 16

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Conviventi is actually the present participle of convivere. We don't think about the present participle in English much, but it does exist. It is part of the present continuous or progressive tense and ends in "-ing." It looks just like a gerund but works differently.

 

We could put the previous example in the present continuous, but we would need a different verb (stare instead of essere, both translating to "to be").

La parete divisoria è abusiva, quindi per lo Stato noi stiamo già convivendo.

The dividing wall is illegal, so for the State, we are already living together.

 

Here's the difference:

A gerund is a form of a verb used as a noun, whereas a participle is a form of verb used as an adjective or as a verb in conjunction with an auxiliary verb. In English, the present participle has the same form as the gerund, and the difference is in how they are used.

 

Why is this important to know? In English it doesn't matter much--we know how to use these words and we don't much care what they are called. But it can help us understand the Italian present participle, which, unlike English, does have a different form, and often causes confusion for learners.

If you look at a conjugation chart, at the top you will see something like this:

 

convivere
It is conjugated like: vivere
infinite: convivere
gerundio: convivendo
participio presents: convivente
participio passato: convissuto
forma pronominale: (n/a)
 
We recommend reading this online article, just have a good clear idea about what a present participle is in English and how it is used. As Italian learners, we found it helpful for making some connections between the languages.

For those of you following Daniela's lessons, there is one about participles

 

Il participio anche ha due tempi, il presente e il passato. Al presente, il participio è "andante" e al passato sarebbe "andato".

The participle has two different tenses, the present and the past. In the present, the participle is "going" and in the past it would be "gone."

Captions 7-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Modi Indefiniti - Part 2

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That's it for this lesson. We hope you have learned something useful, and we encourage you to write to us with questions, doubts or ideas. newsletter@yabla.com.

 

 

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How to fix things in Italian part 2

 

In the last lesson, we talked about the generic verb sistemare. Now, let's talk about a verb that is more specific when it comes to repairing things, but which has some surprising additional meanings.

Riparare

This true cognate is an easy word to remember since it is so close to the English verb "to repair." 

Io non ci metto le mani. La mandi a riparare in fabbrica.

I'm not going to touch it. You can send it to the factory to be repaired.

Caption 7, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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Ripara le ruote e le gomme delle automobili, delle biciclette e delle motociclette.

He fixes wheels and tires of cars, bicycles and motorcycles.

Caption 48, Marika spiega Il nome dei negozi - Part 2

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Riparo 

Riparo can be the first person singular of the verb riparare.

Venga, la riprenda. Mi spiace, ma io questa non la riparo.

Come, take it back. I'm sorry, but I'm not repairing this one.

Captions 4-5, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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But il riparo is also a noun. The following example gives us an idea of what it means.

Perché questo luogo è sempre stato in lotta con la sete dei conquistatori: Saraceni, Longobardi, Normanni. Ma è anche un luogo che ha offerto riparo,

Because this place has always been fought over due to the thirst of conquerors: Saracens, Longobards, Normans. But it's also a place that has offered shelter.

Captions 12-14, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 1

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So riparo means "shelter," but what's interesting is that we can also use the verb riparare to mean "to shelter," "to protect." We can also use it reflexively ripararsi to mean "to take refuge." In this case, it's intransitive. This meaning is closely related to that of a similar verb, parare (to protect, to shield, to fend off). 

Uè, però tirate piano, altrimenti non riesco a parare niente.

Hey, kick lightly though, otherwise I can't block anything.

Caption 41, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 8

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As a matter of fact, just as other Italian verbs with the prefix ri often have the same or similar meanings to the verb without the prefix (for example tornareritornare [to return]), sometimes, riparare and parare can mean the same thing. Parare is straightforwardly transitive. 

 

Para as part of a compound noun

 

Para, the third person singular of parare, is often used as part of the kind of compound noun that tells you what something does. 

On a car, we have il parabrezza (the windshield). It fends off the wind.

We have parafanghi (fenders) on bicycles (fango = mud). It fends off the mud.

Un parasole (an awning, a parasol) helps to block the sunlight.

 

Riparare (when it means protection or shielding) is often used in the context of protecting things from the elements — things such as plants, animals, objects, people, houses, camping spots, etc. The preposition of choice is da (from).

L'ombrellone ti ripara dal sole. The beach umbrella protects you from the sun.

 

The following example has to do with an animated elephant who needed to do something in private. The past participle of riparare easily becomes an adjective!

C'era da trovare alla svelta un angolino riparato.

A sheltered corner needed to be found quickly.

Caption 13, Dixieland La magia di Tribo

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Riparare can also mean "to remedy," "to make up for," "to put right." In English, we can use "to repair" in this case, too, but there are other, easier Italian verbs for these nuances.

What we have tried to provide here are the words you will most commonly hear in everyday speech, and the ones you will want to know if you need to choose a spot for a picnic in Tuscany, get your shoes fixed, or find some shelter when out hiking and it starts raining.

 

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Fixing things in Italian part 1

We often need to get things fixed, even if we happen to be on vacation. Things break: shoes, luggage, computers, etc. Let's look at some of the different words Italians use to fix things. 

 

A generic verb: sistemare

 

Sistemare is a great verb because it can be used in so many situations where you might not know a more technical or specific verb to use. It can mean "to make things right," as in sistemare una situazione (to resolve a situation), or "to take care of":

Certo, ma prima però ha il dovere di sistemare suo cugino Pino. E poi c'è il massaro. -Chi? Un vedovo che vive con il figlio nella dependance della fattoria. Andrebbe sistemato anche lui. Andrebbe o va? -Va. Va.

Of course, but first you have the duty of setting up your cousin Pino. And then there is the farmer. -Who? A widower who lives with his son in an outbuilding of the farm. He should get taken care of as well. He should be or he has to be? -He has to be. He has to be.

Captions 51-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

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 Sistemare can mean "to arrange," as in neatening up a room, or putting flowers in a vase:

 

Chiaramente dopo che avrai sistemato i tuoi fiori.

Clearly, after you have taken care of your flowers.

Caption 53, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 4

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Here we have an example using the reflexive form of the verb. It can mean "to settle in" as in the example. It often means "to find a good job" or even "to find a husband/wife." It can also mean "to freshen up."

Ti sei sistemata? Sei in clinica?

Did you settle in? Are you at the clinic?

Caption 16, Sposami EP 1 - Part 8

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Sistemare can also be used for large-scale jobs like renovations:

 

 

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.

Captions 12-13, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 15

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Here the passive voice was used perhaps because we don't really know who renovated the piazza. They could have said:

Quando hanno sistemato la piazza... (when they renovated the piazza...)

 

I might have a lawnmower that no longer works. I take it to be repaired. La porto a far sistemare. You ask the repairman,

Mi puoi sistemare questo tosaerba (can you fix this lawnmower)?

 

You go to the hairdresser:

Mi potresti dare una sistemata ai capelli (can you give my hair a trim)?

In this case, you are not asking for a major change. You just want your hair to look nice. And we've turned the verb into a noun, something Italians do all the time!

 

You bring some broken shoes to the calzolaio.

Mi potrebbe sistemare questo paio di scarpe (could you fix this pair of shoes)?

 

There might be more specific words to use in any of these situations, but sistemare is a go-to verb to have in your vocabulary toolbox.

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In future lessons we will look at some other verbs we can use when we want to fix something. Stay tuned for:

accomodare

aggiustare

riparare

mettere a posto

rammendare

ricostruire

 

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Spesso e Volentieri: 2 adverbs that go hand in hand

Let's talk about how we use adverbs in Italian.

 

Adverbs are easy because they don't change according to gender or number, as adjectives do. Knowing a few basic adverbs can help you ask and answer questions in general conversation with strangers or new friends. Adverbs in Italian (gli avverbi) are used to modify, clarify, qualify, or quantify the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

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Kinds of Adverbs - quick overview

Adverbs can be categorized according to what they describe, or what questions they answer: Read more about Italian adverbs. 

 

avverbi di modo (how?)

avverbi di quantità (how much or many?)

avverbi di luogo (where?)

avverbi di tempo (when, how often?)

A few common adverbs to have at the ready

Here's a list of some of the common adverbs you need to know:

 

  • di solito (usually)
  • spesso (often)
  • mai (never)
  • qualche volta (sometimes)
  • dopo (later, afterwards)
  • dentro (inside)
  • fuori (outside)
  • volentieri (willingly)
  • qui (here)
  • bene (well, fine)

 

Let's concentrate on two adverbs that often go hand in hand, but for now, we'll look at them separately:

Spesso

Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere, faceva le figure centrali quasi fossero delle piramidi

Leonardo, very often in his works, made the central figures almost as if they were pyramids

Captions 10-12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 3 - Part 12

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Spesso is a great adverb to know. Just tack it on to a verb and you're all set.

 

Vengo spesso in questo posto (I often come to this place).

Non viaggio spesso in treno (I don't often travel by train).

Volentieri

Volentieri is also a wonderful adverb to have in your toolbox. When someone invites you to do something, you can answer with one word: Volentieri! (I'd be happy to, I'd love to). It may be helpful to consider that this adverb comes from the verb volere (to want). We can also translate volentieri as "willingly." For more about volentieri, read this lesson

Spesso e Volentieri

This is an expression you will hear now and then, and it's an Italian favorite. Although we have looked at the two adverbs making up this expression, we might still be perplexed about what it might mean, exactly. "Often and willingly"??? It's not something we say, or not often anyway.

 

Although it can mean "often and willingly," it usually means "more often than not!" So when you are thinking about how to say "more often than not" in Italian, you might be tempted to translate each word: più spesso che non... but you might want to try to resist that temptation. Italians prefer to say spesso e volentieri. So we have two adverbs: one is an adverb of time: spesso = often. The other is an adverb of manner: volentieri = willingly. 

 

In the following example, Marika and Anna are making a wonderful frittata out of leftover spaghetti! Non si butta via niente (nothing gets thrown away)!

 

Tutto si ricicla e, spesso e volentieri, è più saporito, no, il piatto riciclato che quello originale.

Everything gets recycled and, more often than not, the recycled dish — you know? — is tastier than the original one.

Captions 8-10, L'Italia a tavola Frittata di spaghetti - Part 2

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One thing to keep in mind is that in this case, volentieri doesn't necessarily refer to anyone being willing or glad to do something, although it might. It's that something happens easily, without extra effort: often and easily. In the following example, Daniela is talking about the special past tense, il passato remoto, which has gone out of fashion in many parts of Italy, but is still used, a lot of the time, in the south of Italy.

Se vi piace l'Italia del Sud, quindi Napoli... la Sicilia, la Sardegna, la Puglia, la Calabria, dovete conoscere il passato remoto perché nel sud Italia si parla molto spesso e volentieri al passato remoto.

If you like the south of Italy, in other words: Naples... Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, and Calabria, you should know the remote past because in the south of Italy people speak using, more often than not, the remote past tense.

Captions 21-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il passato remoto - Part 1

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Using spesso e volentieri to express a preference

In the following example, it is a matter of preference and willingness. 

Lavo i panni spesso e volentieri a mano (I often prefer to wash my laundry by hand).

Spesso e volentieri, mia mamma fa la spesa nelle botteghe (my mom often prefers to shop in the small grocery stores).

 

We hope you enjoy using this new expression, and that we have given you some insight into it. Let us know if you have any questions! Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Torto o Ragione (Wrong or Right)

We looked at the noun torto in a previous lesson. We can say hai torto (you're wrong). But what about when you're right? Being right uses the noun ragione, but let's first take a closer look at this versatile noun and related forms.

 

The reason, the motive

In Italian, la ragione is a partial true cognate. When used to mean "the reason," it makes sense to us because it's a true cognate:

E c'è una ragione molto precisa.

And there is a very precise reason.

Caption 21, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 2

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The verb form:

We also have a verb form: ragionare (to reason, to think, to reflect):

 

Cerchiamo di ragionare con calma.

Let's try to think about this calmly.

Caption 28, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 8

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The adjective form:

We have an adjective, too: ragionevole (reasonable):

Siccome mi sembra anche una persona piuttosto ragionevole, io spero non ci saranno problemi, ecco.

Since you also seem like a rather reasonable person, I hope there won't be any problems, that's it.

Captions 55-56, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 7

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Being right:

But we also use the noun ragione (without the article) together with the verb avere (to have) to mean "to be right."

avere ragione (to be right) -- literally, it would be "to have right."

 

In Italian, aver ragione has come to mean "to be right." And people use this expression countless times every day, so it's great to have it in your toolbox. The verb you need to conjugate is avere (to have), which is probably one of the first verbs to learn in Italian. Here's the conjugation chart for avere. But you don't need an article for ragione in this case, so it couldn't get much easier than that.  Abbiamo ragione (are we right)?

 

Avevi ragione tu. Gabriele s'era messo nei guai. Gare di cross illegali.

You were right. Gabriele got into trouble. Illegal dirt bike racing.

Captions 18-19, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

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Il cliente ha sempre ragione?

The customer is always right?

Caption 70, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 2

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Sono stufa delle tue promesse. Sono anni che aspetto che lasci tua moglie... -Hai ragione. -e io non... Hai ragione, hai ragione. Va bene.

I'm sick of your promises. I've been waiting for you to leave your wife for years... -You're right. -and I won't... You're right, you're right. All right.

Captions 68-71, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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"To prove someone right" can be dare ragione

 

Non ti interessa il parere di nessuno. -Ma poi i risultati mi danno ragione.

You're not interested in anyone's opinion. -But afterwards, the results prove me right.

Captions 21-22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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But we can also use dare ragione when we admit or agree that someone else is right. It's just an additional nuance to saying "you're right."

Su questo, ti dò ragione.

About that, I agree you're right

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Tip:

Do a search of ragione on the videos page and you will get plenty of examples in various conjugations and contexts, where ragione might mean "right" and where it might mean "reason." It's a great way to get lots of different examples all at once. Try repeating some of them out loud.

And remember: The trickiest thing to remember is that the verb to use is avere (to have), not essere (to be).

 

We will close with a little expression that's also the title of this lesson:

a torto o a ragione (wrong or right), rimango della mia idea (I'm not changing my mind). 

 

In English, we would start with "right," but you get the idea! 

 

That's it for this lesson, and we hope that when someone else is right, you will be able to tell them so in Italian! If you have questions about this, just write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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How to offer condolences in Italian

One of our Yabla learners has asked about what to say when someone has died, or what to write in a condolence note. There have been so many deaths from the coronvirus that expressing condolences is an important thing to be able to do. 

 

The most important word is condoglianze, from con [with] and doglianza (lament). In other words, you are mourning with the person to whom you express your condolences. You feel their sorrow. The English cognate is a true one, which makes it easy to remember.

 

In Person or on the Phone

In the following example, the condolences are expressed as part of a conversation, and the person talking is not a close friend -- he's a sort of lawyer (and note that in Italian, a person's professional title is often used by itself to address him or her), so the condolences are very basic and quick, but perfectly acceptable and polite. The adjective to know is sentito. This comes from the verb sentire (to feel, to hear, to sense). Sentito can mean "sincere," "heartfelt," or "deep."

 

Buongiorno notaio, piacere. -Condoglianze sentitissime. -Grazie tante, tante grazie.

Hello, Notary, pleased to meet you. -My deepest condolences. -Thanks very much, many thanks.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 4

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Le mie condoglianze, dottor Del Serio. -Grazie.

My condolences, Doctor Del Serio. -Thank you.

Caption 26, La Tempesta film - Part 13

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So really, just two words were used, and it could have been just one: condoglianze. It's enough, especially when you don't really know the person who passed away.

 

If we're talking to a friend who has just lost a family member, for example, we can use the informal verb fare (to make, to do). You might not know the person who died, but you know that your friend is grieving: 

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze per la perdita di tuo padre/nonno/tua madre/nonna.

I'm sorry for the loss of your father/grandfather/mother/grandmother.

 

You can also keep this short and just say:

 

Ti faccio le condoglianze.

I'm sorry for your loss.

 

More Formally and in Writing

 

But if we want to say more, here's a common way to do it. It employs the verb porgere, to extend, to offer.

This first example is if you are speaking or writing formally to one person you aren't on a first-name basis with.

Le porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I extend my deepest condolences to you.

 

If you are talking or writing to more than one person, say, parents, or a couple, or an entire family, then it's:

Vi porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I offer you my deepest condolences. 

 

You can also leave out mentioning the person:

In questa triste circostanza porgiamo sentite condoglianze.

On this sad occasion, we offer heartfelt condolences.

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Alternative terms

Another word people use when sending a condolence note is cordoglio (grief, sorrow, mourning, condolences).

Esprimiamo con grande dolore il nostro cordoglio.

We would like to express, with great sorrow, our condolences.

 

Another important word to know is il lutto (the mourning, the bereavement, the grief). This example describes an ancient Roman sarcophagus of a child.

 

E i due genitori sono affranti, di lato c'è la mamma che sembra ormai avvolta in un dolore profondo, irrecuperabile. E poi c'è il padre. Entrambi hanno il capo coperto con un velo in segno di lutto, non guardano più neanche il bambino.

And the two parents are overcome. At the side there's the mother who by now seems to be shrouded in deep, hopeless sorrow. And then there is the father. Both have their heads covered with a veil as a sign of mourning. They no longer even look at the child.

Captions 37-40, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 6

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You can use lutto in a condolence note:

 

Partecipiamo commossi al vostro lutto.

We take part, emotionally moved, in your grief [we feel/join in your grief].

 

A shop or restaurant, where a family member or employee has died, might have a sign that says:

Chiuso per lutto

Closed for bereavement

 

One more word you might see, for example, on the signs we see around in Italian towns, announcing the death of a citizen, is addolorato (aggrieved, distressed). It comes from the verb addolorare (to sadden) or addolorarsi (to be saddened).

 

Sei confusa, addolorata, ma lo sai che lui ti merita.

You're confused, aggrieved, but you know that he deserves you.

Captions 85-86, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 11

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You can use addolorato in a condolence note:

Sono addolorato per la tua perdita.

I am saddened by your loss.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope you won't need these words, but if you do, they're here. Feel free to send us questions or requests for further information. 

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3 Ways to Get It Wrong in Italian

When you're wrong you're wrong. There are various Italian words connected with being wrong or making a mistake. Let's look at the various ways to be wrong and the nuances that set them apart.

 

The cognate errore (error)

Fare un errore. This works fine when you need a noun. If you have trouble with rolling your r's, this word can be a challenge.

Fai errore dopo errore.

You make mistake after mistake.

Caption 53, Stai lontana da me Rai Cinema - Part 3

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Sbagliare (to make a mistake) is more flexible

The verb sbagliare (to make a mistake) plus reflexive form sbagliarsi (to be mistaken), and its noun form lo sbaglio (the mistake, the error) are very common. 

Io c'entro, c'entro eccome, perché lei è una mia allieva. E se lei sbaglia, vuol dire che anche io ho sbagliato qualcosa con lei.

I'm involved, I'm absolutely involved because she's my student. And if she makes a mistake, it means that I also made a mistake with her.

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 9

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There's a fine line between the normal verb and its reflexive form. One reason for this is that sbagliare as a normal verb can either be transitive or intransitive.

Ho sbagliato strada (I took the wrong route, I went the wrong way).

Ho sbagliato (I made a mistake, I made a wrong move, I did something wrong).

Sbagliare è umano (making mistakes is human).

Tutti sbagliano (everyone makes mistakes).

Piove, o sbaglio (It's raining, or am I mistaken)?

The reflexive form sbagliarsi, tends to be more about being wrong than making a mistake — a bit less active, we could say — and the sentence structure changes as well. The reflexive form is intransitive, so we need a preposition between the verb and the indirect object. As a result, it's a bit more complicated to use. 

Mi sono sbagliato (I was wrong, I was mistaken)

Mi sbaglio o sta piovendo (am I mistaken or is it raining)? 

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In the following example, the preposition is a (to) and rather than "being wrong," it's "going wrong." 

Mi creda, a puntare sul pesce non si sbaglia mai.

Believe me. With fish you can never go wrong.

Caption 2, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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This is a great expression to have in your collection: 

Non si sbaglia mai (one can't go wrong).

Non ti puoi sbagliare (you can't go wrong).

 

As you watch Yabla videos, you will see countless instances of sbagliare, sbagliarsi and lo sbaglio. See if you can sense when people use one or the other. In many cases, there are multiple possibilities. 

Il torto (the wrongdoing, the injustice)

Some of us may recognize the cognate: "tort." When you study law, one course you take is "torts." In English a tort is simply a civil wrong.

 

How to use the Italian noun torto, however, is a different story. 

 

In a recent episode of Sposami, a divorcing couple is forced to get along and work together, even though they can't stand each other. But each of them wants to keep the dog, and therefore they each have to be on their best behavior. They go crying to their divorce lawyer each time the other does something wrong. And in one such conversation, the word torto comes up.

Ugo, cerca di essere collaborativo, se no, tu capisci, mi passi dalla parte del torto.

Ugo, try to be collaborative, otherwise, you understand, you'll end up being in the wrong.

Captions 68-69, Sposami EP 1 - Part 13

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So this is a lawyer talking, but we also use torto or its plural torti in everyday conversation. A son is complaining to his mother, and her boyfriend chimes in:

 

A ma' [mamma], ti prego. Ce tratti come du [romanesco: ci tratti come due] ragazzini! -Va be', non ha tutti i torti. Io alla loro età, nemmeno lo chiedevo più il permesso.

Oh Mom, please. You treat us like a couple of little kids! -Well, he's not totally wrong. At their age, I no longer even asked for permission.

Captions 69-72, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 2

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Here are some other expressions with torti. Remember that we use the verb avere (to have) in this expression. 

Avere torto (to be wrong).

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With all these word choices for making mistakes and being wrong, non ti puoi sbagliare!

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Getting by with cavarsela

You may know that we can ask someone how things are going with come va (how's it going)? It's the simplest and least personal way to ask that. More personal is come stai (how are you)?

"Ciao, come va?" Si può anche dire "come stai?" Come stai.

"Hi, how's it going?" You can also say, "how are you?" How are you?

Captions 5-7, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere "Come va?"

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Here's yet another way to talk about how things are going for someone. We use it in both questions and answers when the situation or outcome is uncertain, like, for example, the one we are experiencing at the moment all over the world. 

And the verb is..... cavarsela. It's a pronominal verb — a verb that has pronouns attached to it — so let's take it apart.

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The main verb inside this pronominal verb is cavare (to remove, to extract). If you think of a cavity, something has been removed to create it. 

 

As a matter of fact, Marika has done a video about 2 similar verbs: cavare and togliere, which can both mean to remove. 

Cavare vuol dire estrarre, tirare fuori qualcosa da qualche parte.

"Cavare" means to extract, to pull something out from somewhere.

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega I verbi cavare e togliere

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As with many pronominal verbs, cavare can also be reflexive, becoming cavarsi. There are two ways to look at this. One is as a typical reflexive verb like levarsi, togliersi, when talking about taking one's shoes off, for example. 

 

Mi tolgo le scarpe... indosso una vestaglia, mi distendo sul divano, guardo un po' di televisione,

I take off my shoes... I put on a robe, I stretch out on the couch, I watch a little TV,

Captions 40-42, Adriano Giornata

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If you are familiar with the verbs togliere and levare, you don't need to remember cavarsi in this context, as it is not the most common word people use.

 

There is, however another context, where we commonly do use the reflexive cavarsi, when it means to get out of a dicey situation, but we add la which in this case means "it." "It" in turn, represents a situation, often a difficult one.

 

As we mentioned above, the pronominal verb is cavarsela:

cavare + si + la.

 

When putting the verb into its infinitive form, we remove the "e" ending of the original verb in its infinitive, so cavare becomes cavar. Then, since we are going to have a direct object pronoun in there, too, si (usually an indirect object pronoun meaning "to oneself") becomes se. And then we add, at the end, la, which is a direct object pronoun (meaning a generic "it") — cavarsela.

 

Cavarsela can mean "getting [oneself] out of a situation," like an exam you hadn't studied for, but you got through anyway.

Me la sono cavata, menomale (I got through it, thank goodness).

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But it often means "managing," "getting by." 

Insomma, neanche in sogno riesco a cavarmela da solo.

Anyway, not even in a dream can I get by on my own.

Caption 58, Psicovip I Minivips - Ep 13

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Practically speaking

OK, but how do we use cavarsela when we're talking, and when we need to conjugate the verb rather than using it in the infinitive? Great question! Ottima domanda!

 

Questions

 

Let's start with how we use cavarsela in a question. A woman who has horses is thinking of hiring some help. She asks: 

Come te la cavi con i cavalli?

How do you manage with horses?

How good are you with horses?

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 16

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An answer to this question might be:

Me la cavo (I do all right).

 

In a different context, you might ask someone how they are getting on in a certain situation, say, during lockdown.

 

The present tense can work:

Come te la cavi (how are you getting on)?

 

or you can use the present continuous:

Come te la stai cavando (how are you getting on, how are you managing)?

 

When lockdown is over, you might ask:

Come te la sei cavato/a (how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?

 

If you are talking to two or more people:

Come ve la siete cavati(how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?

 

Answering the question

 

Ce la caviamo bene (we'll manage), we're managing).

Ce la stiamo cavando (we're managing).

Me la sono cavata/o bene (I did fine).

and in the plural:

Ce la siamo cavati così così (We did just OK).

 

E tu? Come te la stai cavando con l'italiano?

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2 Expressions with the verb credere

Credere is a very common verb. It basically means "to believe," but not 100% of the time. There are some sfumature (nuances) to this verb, and it so happens that in a recent episode of Sei mai stata sulla luna, it's used in 2 ways that deviate from the norm.

Non ti credere

In one scene of the segment of Sei mai stata sulla luna, we see a single father (Renzo) having a conversation with his son. His son wishes he had a mother, and Renzo is downplaying it.

It plays out like this:

No, per starci insieme. -Ma perché non stiamo bene insieme io te? -Sì, ma magari staremmo meglio. -Non ti credere, eh. Una fidanzata ti manderebbe tutte le sere a dormire presto.

No, to be together. -But aren't we fine together, you and me? -Yes, but maybe we'd be even better. -Don't be so sure, huh. A girlfriend would send you to bed early every night.

Captions 38-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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Come crede/come credi

At the beginning of the segment, the townsmen are hanging out in the piazza and Guia is there, too. Someone says to her, being polite:

Comunque, signora, Lei faccia come crede.

In any case, Ma'am, you do as you think best.

Caption 1, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 17

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If it were an informal situation, it would be fai come credi. It can mean "do as you think best" or "do as you wish." It's often said when there is a disagreement about what to do or how something should be done. The person who says it doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. It's a little different from, fai come vuoi (do as you like), where the verb is volere. Credere gives the person a bit more credit for thinking things through. Fai come vuoi  (or in the polite form faccia come vuole) can also come off as judgmental, depending on the tone with which it is said. 

A variation

A common variation on this expression is with the verb parere (to seem, to appear):

Noi ci sposeremo e soprattutto divorzieremo. Tu stasera vai in albergo, da tuo fratello, dove ti pare, lontano da me.

We'll get married and above all we'll get divorced. This evening, you will go to a hotel, to your brother's, wherever you want, far from me.

Captions 32-33, La Tempesta film - Part 21

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Note that parere is one of those verbs, like piacere, where the subject is not the person doing the liking or the wanting. So, thinking literally, the gist would be "go where it seems to you that you should go." 

Dove ti pare is a very common way to say dove vuoi (wherever you like).

Come ti pare is a very common way to say come vuoi (however you like. 

It's interesting that both parere and piacere are also commonly used nouns: il parere and il piacere

Parere (both the noun and the verb) come from the verb apparire (to appear, to emerge).

 

For more about piacere see this lesson:

and see this video:

 

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Asking Questions in Italian part 2

It's true that asking questions in Italian can be as easy as changing your inflection. Part one of this lesson discusses that. Nonetheless, there are times when you need question words (and we'll get to that in a future lesson). But even more basically, how do we talk about asking questions? 

How do you say "question" in Italian?

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Good question!

While the cognate questione exists, it's not the word we are looking for right now. We'll talk about questione further on. In English, we have the noun "the question" and we ask a question. 

In Italian, it's a little different. "The question" is often translated into Italian as la domanda and rather than using a verb that means "to ask," Italians usually "make" a question with fare (to make, to do):

 

Quando io conosco una persona, prima la saluto. Abbiamo imparato: buongiorno, buonasera, poi faccio la seconda domanda importante: come ti chiami?

When I meet a person, first I greet him or her. We learned "good morning" — "good evening." Then I ask the second important question: What's your name?

Captions 9-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela Tu o Lei?

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More often than not, we ask someone a question, so we may need an indirect pronoun: "I ask you/him/her/them/myself a question." In Italian, this indirect pronoun often comes before the verb, as in the following example.

Ma, ci torneresti con tua moglie? -No. Perché mi fai questa domanda?

But would you go back to your wife? -No. Why are you asking me this question?

Captions 33-34, Sposami EP 1 - Part 7

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The previous example was a question, but even in a statement, the indirect pronoun will come before the verb.

Ti faccio una domanda semplice (I'm going to ask you a simple question).

When the question takes some thought

There is another verb we can use in place of fare. It's a little more formal, it has an English cognate, and it often indicates that some thought is needed in the asking and the answering. The verb is porre (to put, to place, to pose).

Daniela talks about this verb in a lesson:

"Porre": io ponevo, si usa spesso con "domanda". "Scusi, posso porre una domanda?" Al posto di "fare" — "posso fare una domanda?" — dico: "Posso porre una domanda?"

“To pose.” I was posing, it's often used with "question." “Sorry, may I pose a question?” Instead of using “to ask” — "may I ask a question?" — I say: “May I pose a question?”

Captions 33-37, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'imperfetto - Part 4

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Asking yourself a question

We use the reflexive for this in Italian: 

Allora, pur con la testa tra le nuvole, cominciò a porsi qualche domanda. Ma, ma il resto di me c'è ancora?...

So, even with his head in the clouds, he began to ask himself a few questions. But, but is the rest of me still here?...

Captions 13-15, Dixieland Testa tra le nuvole

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You can also use the verb fare reflexively for the same purpose — farsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question).

Verbs that mean "to ask"

La domanda has a verb form as well, and we can use it both reflexively and not: domandare (to ask).

Of course, sometimes we don't need to ask a question. We can just ask someone something. Domandare (to ask).

Perché non mi lasci in pace? -Eh, me lo domando anch'io.

Why don't you leave me in peace? -Yeah, I ask myself that, too.

Captions 7-8, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 24

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Just as in English we have the noun and verb "to request," Italian has the cognate richiedere (to request, to require) and la richiesta (the request) but it also has chiedere (to ask, to request), which is used a lot, in many different contexts.

Dal momento che il progetto del tuo muro taglierebbe fuori la mia zona di cucina, avresti dovuto chiedere il mio parere.

Since your wall project would cut off my kitchen area, you should have asked for my opinion.

Captions 22-24, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 9

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 In the following example, we can see the relationship between chiedere and richiesta.

Lorenzo ti ha chiesto di dargli un po' di tempo, no? Fossi in te, rispetterei la sua richiesta.

Lorenzo asked you to give him a little time, right? If I were you, I would comply with his request.

Captions 33-34, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7

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Making sense of the different ways to use richiedere will have to wait for another lesson. It can get kind of complex.

What about the noun la questione?

Let's remember that in English, "question" can also mean "matter." For example in this book title: A Question of Integrity by Susan Howatch. In this case, it's not a question we ask. With that in mind, we can easily transfer the idea to Italian. In fact, we have a movie on Yabla: Questione di Karma

Sono dieci giorni che aspetto, è diventata una questione di vita o di morte.

I've been waiting ten days. It's become a question/matter of life or death.

Caption 5, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 8

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

What we hope you take away from this lesson is that for normal questions you ask, the noun is la domanda (the question) and that we "make" a question: fare una domanda (to ask a question). Using porre works, too, but it's a little more serious: porre una domanda (to pose a question). Both fare and porre can be used reflexively when we ask ourselves a question: porsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question, to wonder), farsi una domanda (to ask oneself a question). We can talk about asking with the verbs domandare (to ask) and chiedere (to ask).

 

PRACTICE

To get a feel for all these words, we suggest doing a search on the videos page to find examples of these words. Don't forget to use singular, plural, masculine and feminine where applicable, and different conjugations of verbs. Searching and reading all the instances will give you an overview of real people using these words. Repeat the sentences to yourself, and if you get confused, drop us a line — chiedere! — in the comments tab or by sending an email to newsletter@yabla.com. We are happy to help.

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Non ci piove

When you want to say that something is watertight, that you have no doubt about it —in other words, there is no use in discussing it further —there is a great Italian expression at your disposal. Even if you don't understand why people say it, you can start noticing when people say it and imitate them. And you will soon start sounding like a native as you say it.

 

Ragazze, la C sta per Catullo e su questo non ci piove.

Girls, the "C" stands for Catullus, and the rain can't touch it [there is no doubt about it].

Captions 71-72, La Ladra EP. 9 L'amico sconosciuto - Part 3

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It means there is no hole in the argument, but that's not so easy to figure out from the expression, especially since it uses that pesky particle ci that means so many thingsIt's kind of fun to figure out, or at least imagine why Italians use this colorful expression, and where it comes from.

In Italy, roofs are often made of tiles or tegole. If you move a tegola around, the rain might leak into the house. This can happen accidentally, with high winds, or if someone walks on the roof for some reason, like to clean out the gutters or adjust an antenna. If it rains into the house, ci piove (it rains there, it rains in it).

So besides being a great expression, when talking about leaky roofs, it usually means the rain comes in.  It's not easy finding a literal translation that makes sense, which is why we've talked about it here.

When the leak has to do with a pipe or a faucet, we talk about it losing water. We use the verb perdere (to lose, to leak). 

Ma... questo non perde più! -No! Non mi dire che l'idraulico s'è degnato? Eva, stamattina qua è passato un vero uomo, eh? Che oltre ad aggiustà [aggiustare] i rubinetti così, proprio tà tà tà l'ha fatto eh!

Well! This no longer leaks! -No! Don't tell me the plumber deigned? Eva, this morning a real man came here, huh? Who besides fixing the faucet just like that, he did it really fast, huh!

Captions 11-14, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 3

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See this lesson about the verb perdere.

 

Another thing to say when an argument is airtight is: Non fa una piega (there isn't even one wrinkle).

È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri. Allora perché non ha votato per lei? -Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio. -Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.

It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won. So why didn't you vote for her? Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine. That a perfect argument, but it doesn't convince me.

Captions 34-37, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 4

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Practice commenting inside your head with su questo non ci piove or non fa una piega when people are justifying, explaining, arguing, debating.

Note that another way to say non fa una piega is non fa una grinza. They both mean the same thing. There's a lesson about this!

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Talking about the il coronavirus in Italian

The main topic of conversation in lots of places right now is "coronavirus." We hope that it won't last too long, because in addition to making people sick, with some people even dying, it's also wildly disrupting the life of many people around the world. 

 

Italy has been hit particularly hard and is consequently in the spotlight, so let's look at some of the words people and newspapers are using to talk about it.

 

In English, we talk about "lockdown" to describe the measures Italy is taking to try to prevent the spread of the virus. There are a few options for an Italian translation: l'isolamento (the isolation), il blocco (the blocking, the closing off), blindare (to lock down) blindato (locked down). 

 

Let's talk about some of the vocabulary Italians are using to talk about what's going on.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

To begin with, let's look at a headline from Sunday, March 8, when new rules went into effect for the zone rosse (the red zones, or epicenters), including Lombardy, the Veneto, and other regions. 

 

Covid-19, nuove regole: evitare ogni spostamento nelle zone colpite

(Covid -19, new rules: avoid any traveling/moving around in the affected areas). 

 

Let's look at the words in the headline.

Nuove regole (new rules)

This is pretty self-explanatory. The two words are similar to their English counterparts: the adjective nuovo (new) and the noun la regola. In this case, it is a feminine noun in the plural — le regole. The adjective nuovo has to agree with the noun, so its "o" ending changes to "e" the feminine plural ending.

Evitare (to avoid)

Here, evitare  is basically intended as a command although it's not in the imperative. Using the infinitive form of the verb is simple and effective and can apply to everyone. It's the explanation of one of the nuove regole (new rules). Other ways to use this verb in the imperative: evitate (avoid — second person plural), evita (avoid — second person singular imperative [informal]), eviti (avoid — second person singular imperative [formal]).

 

usare i pronomi relativi "quale" e "quali", per evitare possibili ambiguità,

to use the relative pronouns "quale" and "quali," to avoid possible ambiguities,

Captions 7-8, Corso di italiano con Daniela Pronomi relativi - Part 5

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Ogni (each, every, any)

This easy, common, and useful adjective never changes. it's worth looking up in your dictionary of choice because it can be used in such a variety of ways. One common expression is ogni tanto (every now and then).

E ogni tanto, però, parlavamo di cose serie.

And every now and then, though, we talked about serious things.

Caption 32, Silvana e Luciano Il nostro incontro

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In the headline, of course, we are talking about "each and every." In other words, "Avoid unnecessary travel." "Avoid all cases of moving around the area."

Lo spostamento (the moving around, the re-positioning)

This interesting noun comes from the verb spostare, also an interesting word. It's interesting because there is no specific equivalent in English,  yet once you learn it in Italian, you'll wonder how you could do without it. Did you detect another word inside the verb spostare? Yes, it's posto, the noun, il posto (the place, the position, the location). So spostare, with its telltale "s" prefix, means to take something away from its place. And it can be used reflexively when you are the one moving yourself away from a place. What a wonderful verb! Usually, we use the verb "to move" to translate spostare, but sometimes it's "to shift," "to re-locate," "to transfer," "to move around." In short, if you live in the zona rossa (red zone) you should move around the area as little as possible.

Il verbo "andare" indica uno spostamento verso un luogo ed è seguito da diverse preposizioni a seconda del nome che lo segue:

The verb “andare” indicates a movement towards a place, and is followed by various prepositions, according to the noun that follows it:

Captions 31-33, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 1

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Le zone (the areas)

This is an easy noun with a "friendly" English cognate. Just remember that the original noun is la zona. Zone is plural. La zona is often translated with "the area."

 

Colpite

This past participle comes from the verb colpire (to hit, to affect, to make an impression on). Since it's a headline, all the little words that tell you it's a past participle are missing:

Le zone che sono state colpite (the zones that were hit). Colpire can have literal and figuarative meanings of different kinds. 

Poi un'altra cosa che mi ha colpito molto è che io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso, non ce n'è molta.

Then, another thing that made a strong impression on me was that I come from a land where water is a precious resource, there isn't much of it.

Captions 43-45, Gianni si racconta Chi sono

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In the headline, the connotation of colpire is "to affect."

Let's have just a quick look at some of the other rules:

 

Quarantena: vietato uscire di casa (quarantine: leaving home is prohibited).

Divieto assoluto di uscire dalla propria abitazione per chi è sottoposto alla quarantena o è risultato positivo al virus.

If you have been quarantined or if you have tested positive to the virus, you must not leave your home.

 

The verb vietare (to prohibit, to ban) and the noun il divieto (the ban) are related.

Ma cos'è questo fumo? Hm. -Perché mi guarda così? Perché qui è vietato fumare.

But, what is this smoke? Uhm. -Why are you looking at me like that? Because here smoking is prohibited.

Captions 20-22, Psicovip Il fulmine - Ep 4

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Stop a eventi e competizioni sportive (no sporting events and competitions)

Stop is pretty clear! In the explanation that follows the rule, however, the Italian word sospesi (suspended) is used.

Sono sospesi gli eventi e le competizioni sportive di ogni ordine e disciplina... (sporting events and competitions on every level and of every kind have been suspended...)

Favorire congedo ordinario o ferie (encourage leaves of absence and vacation days).

 

Favorire is another verb that is partly a true cognate, but often means "to encourage," "to foster."

 

Chiusi cinema, teatri, pub, discoteche, sale bingo (movie theaters, theaters, pubs, clubs, bingo halls are closed)

Chiuso (closed) is pretty clear —from the verb chiudere (to close).

 

Chiuse scuole e università (schools and universities are closed)

These same rules have been applied to museums, gyms, spas, ski resorts, and many other centers.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The list goes on, but we have covered some of the important rules here and the vocabulary associated with them.

 

Further vocabulary to know regarding the virus:

  • contagioso (contagious) This adjective (a true cognate) comes from the verb contagiare (to infect).
  • diffondere (to spread). This verb is both transitive. Diffondiamo questa informazione (let's spread the word) but it is also reflexive.  Il virus si diffonde facilmente (the virus spreads easily). 
  • il disinfettante (the disinfectant, the sanitizer). Disinfettante can also be an adjective (disinfectant). We need to have il disinfettante per le mani (hand sanitizer) handy these days.
  • un metro (a meter) Do you know how much a meter is? A little more than a yard — 39.37 inches. That's what is considered a safe distance to keep from other people when in public places.
  • sano (healthy)
  • misurare la febbre (to take one's temperature). 98.6° F is equal to 37° C. Lots of folks say 37,5° C is when you can say it's a fever.

 

Things are tough for Italians (and many others!) right now. Besides the virus itself, everyday life has become complicated for lots of folks. Those of us who work remotely feel fortunati (lucky) to be able to do our jobs in a normal way, but we might have kids underfoot who would ordinarily be in school! If everyone cooperates, taking the right precautions, hopefully, we can beat this thing.

 

La speranza è l'ultima a morire (hope is the last to die — hope springs eternal).

If you have heard or read things in Italian about the virus that you aren't able to understand, let us know and we'll try to help. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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A Tricky but Useful Pronominal Verb Volerci

It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.

 

As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!

 

This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.

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Volerci = volere + ci

With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.

 

Ci vuole molta pazienza

You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].

It takes a lot of patience.

A lot of patience is required.

Caption 25, Professioni e mestieri Belle Arti -Tecniche di decorazione - Part 1

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One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural. 

Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?

How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?

How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?

Caption 17, Marika spiega La particella NE - Part 2

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We can use it in the negative:

Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.

You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.

The article is not necessary in the singular.

Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 6

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The Passive Voice can Help 

If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.

 

I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali e ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.

The pine nuts, which are really special, and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.

Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola Il pesto genovese - Part 1

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Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or you need."

 

Common Expressions with Volerci

Volerci is very popular in the expression:

 

Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).

That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.

 

Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."

A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla e un numero di magica magia era proprio quel che ci voleva per chiudere in bellezza la festa.

At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing and a number with magical magic was exactly what was needed to conclude the party nicely.

Captions 30-33, Dixieland La magia di Tribo

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Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say,  "How hard can it be?"

Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?

Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè? Vanno munte. Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa. -Sei sicura? -E sì, che ci vuole? L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.

The cows are mooing. -So what? They have to be milked. Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Are you sure? -Yeah, how hard could it be? I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.

Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 11

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We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one). 

 

If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva!  (that's exactly what I needed!).

 

TIP

We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!

 

In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.

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"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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The speaker could have just said, che carino!

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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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