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Cercare, Tentare and Provare: to Try

Cercaretentareprovare: All three of  these verbs have multiple meanings, but they are also all synonyms meaning “to try.” There are nuances in their meanings that lead us to choose one over the other in a given situation, but that will get easier over time.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

This week Daniela explains about using the verb cercare with infinitives when it means “to try.” Cercare takes the preposition di (to) before a verb in the infinitive.

Cerco di aprire la bottiglia.

I try to open the bottle.

Caption 62, Corso di italiano con Daniela Verbo + Verbo all'infinito + preposizione DI

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We could use the verb tentare to mean much the same thing. It also takes the preposition di when used with a second verb in the infinitive.

Ho tentato di aprire la bottiglia, ma ...
I tried to open the bottle, but...

 

A helpful cognate for this verb is “to attempt.”

attempted to open the bottle...

 

We can say something similar with the verb provareAttenzione! Provare takes the preposition a. Daniela will soon be talking about this preposition. When she does, you’ll be ready!

Ho provato ad aprire la bottiglia.
I tried to open the bottle.

 

All three of these verbs have additional meanings.
Daniela told us about cercare. You use it when you’re searching for something.

Ho cercato il libro, ma non l’ho trovato.
I looked for the book but I didn’t find it.

 

Tentare has an additional meaning, “to tempt.“

Non mi tentare con quel dolce. Sono a dieta.
Don’t tempt me with that dessert. I’m on a diet.

 

There’s a noun form, too: una tentazione (a temptation).

 

Provare has an English cognate “to prove,” which is a synonym for dimostrare (to demonstrate).

Non ha rubato le scarpe, ma non lo può provare.
He didn't steal the shoes, but he can't prove it.

 

The noun form is la prova (the proof, the evidence).

e quindi tutte le prove sono a carico di Ninetta.

and so all the proof is against Ninetta.

Caption 63, Anna e Marika - in La Gazza Ladra - Part 1

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But provare also has to do with feelings, and in this case is a synonym for sentire (to feel). In the following example the impersonal si is used.

Ce la fai a dirci che cosa si prova in questo momento?

Can you let us know what you're feeling right now?

È un'emozione grandissima, sono emozionatissima.

It's a very great emotion, I'm very excited.

Captions 8-9, Gioia Marconi - Vado avanti

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It should be mentioned that we use la prova, or le prove, for when we practice music, theater, or dance with others, when we rehearse. This meaning has more to do with provare when it means “to try.”

Dove devi andare?

Where do you have to go?

A fare le prove per il concerto.

To practice for the concert.

Captions 28-29, Milena e Mattia - L'incontro

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Practice:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Try switching verbs among cercaretentare, and provare. Remember to use the correct preposition! In this exercise we are only dealing with cercaretentare and provare when they mean "to try."

 

Tutti i giorni, cerco di arrivare puntuale a scuola (every day, I try to get to school on time).

 

A volte provo ad andarci in bici, ma arrivo troppo stanco (sometimes I try to go by bike but I arrive tuckered out).

 

Ho tentato di chiedere un passaggio alla zia, ma lei parte troppo tardi (I tried asking my aunt for a ride, but she leaves too late).

 

Hai provato a chiamare il dottore (did you try to call the doctor)?

 

Tenterò di dire qualche parola in inglese (I will try to say a few words in English).

 

Cerca di parlare un po’ più piano, altrimenti non ti capiscano (try speaking more slowly, otherwise they don’t understand).

 

Cercherò di darti una  risposta entro questa settimana (I will try to give you an answer within the week).

 

L’ultima volta che ho cercato di cucinare il pesce, è stato un fallimento (the last time I tried cooking fish, it was a failure).

 

Vocabulary

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