Rispondere, with its English cognate "to respond" seems like it would be a very easy verb to use, and sometimes it is, indeed, easy. The verb rispondere translates as both "to respond" (its cognate) and "to answer" (a verb English inherited from the Old Norse "andsvar").
As with many verbs, by using a modal verb, we can keep the main verb in the infinitive, thereby avoiding the need to remember how to conjugate it.
Senti... Posso parlare con Luca?
Listen... Can I speak with Luca?
No, Luca non può rispondere, ha avuto un problema.
No, Luca can't answer, he had a problem.
Captions 49-50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di VetroPlay Caption
If we don't include an object in the sentence, there are no complications. In the following example, we could also have translated rispondere with "to respond."
Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura
All right, then I will also follow normal procedure
e prima di rispondere chiamo il mio avvocato.
and before I answer, I'll call my lawyer.
Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizioPlay Caption
1) What if the speaker used the conjunction che (after prima) as an alternate way to say the same thing?
Once we start involving an object in our sentence (such as "the question"), we have to keep in mind that rispondere is an intransitive verb (meaning it doesn't take a direct object), so if I want to say, "I answer the question" in Italian, I have to use a preposition after the verb followed by an indirect object (in this case, la domanda (the question). Think: "I respond to the question."
Rispondo alla domanda (I answer the question/I respond to the question).
Se la sente di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.
Do you feel you can answer a few questions? -Yes.Play Caption
2) Can you ask this same question to someone you are on familiar terms with?
Non ha risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuole?
You haven't answered my question. What do you want?
Caption 40, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1Play Caption
3) Can you say the same thing informally?
In English, "to respond" is intransitive and "to answer" is transitive, so we use them two different ways and we rarely have to think about it. We might think of using "to respond" in more formal situations.
I can respond to your letter or I can answer your letter.
But when we are translating from English to Italian, we have to remember that we need a preposition after rispondere.
We can also use rispondere where the indirect object is a person, perhaps expressed with a personal pronoun, as in the following example. In this case, we use "to answer" in our translation. "To respond" wouldn't work.
Toscani, per favore rispondimi. È importante, dai.
Toscani, please answer me. It's important. Come on.Play Caption
Memorizing rispondimi is a good idea. You never know when someone is going to faint and it's also handy to have when arguing with someone. Above all, remember that mi stands for a me (to me) so we do have a preposition (in this case a [to]).
4) How would you say the same thing to a person you don't know very well? And for the record, you wouldn't say dai. Can you think of an alternative?
In the following clip, we have an indirect object pronoun in the Italian, but none in the English. These days, we might say "I didn't pick up," "I didn't answer the phone," I didn't answer your call," "I didn't return your call." But we probably wouldn't say "I didn't answer you" unless it were an email or a letter. In this context, we think of answering the phone, not the person.
Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ti ho risposto
Yes, I know, you called me a hundred times, but I didn't answer
perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.
because I had a bunch of things to do, Teresa.
Captions 23-24, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppoPlay Caption
5) The above clip is very informal, between brother and sister, but he could have said he hadn't answered the phone. How could he have phrased it?
There are plenty of instances in which Italians insert an indirect object pronoun, where in English, none is called for. It's just something to be aware of.
We hope this lesson has provided some clarity about using the verb rispondere. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda, chiamo il mio avvocato.
1b) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda io, chiamo il mio avvocato.
2) Te la senti di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.
3) Non hai risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuoi?
4) Agente Toscani, mi risponda, per favore. È importante, la prego.
5) Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ho risposto al telefono/alla tua chiamata perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.