Italienisch Lektionen

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Solutions to Exercises from "Servire a Tricky Verb to Use"

 

Here are the solutions to the exercise in the lesson. The task was to change sentences with bisogno to ones with servire or the contrary, adding personal pronouns where necessary or desirable. In some cases, you can even use the verb bisognare (adding a verb). If you have an answer that you think is right, but isn't present here, write to us at newsletter@yabla.com. We'll get back to you.

 

Meanwhile, here's another example of when to use the verb servire. Here, it's in the conditional.

Allora... che ti metti per uscire? -Stasera? Possiamo andare a fare shopping! OK, a me... servirebbe un paio di scarpe, un paio di ballerine.

So... what are you wearing to go out? -Tonight? We can go and do some shopping. OK, I... could use a pair of shoes, a pair of ballerinas.

Captions 41-43, Serena vita da universitari

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Per questa ricetta, ho bisogno di tre uova (for this recipe, I need three eggs).

Per questa ricetta, servono tre uova.

Per questa ricetta, mi servono tre uova.

 

Di che cosa hai bisogno (what do you need)?

Che cosa ti serve?

Ti serve qualcosa?

 

Non c'è bisogno di prendere l'autobus, il posto è a due passi a piedi (no need to take the bus. The place is well within walking distance).

Non serve prendere l'autobus. Il posto è a due passi a piedi.

 

Che bisogno c'era di essere così cattivo (Why did you need to be so mean)?

A che cosa serviva essere così cattivo?

 

Servirà un ombrello, visto il cielo (judging from the sky, an umbrella will be necessary).

Avremo bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.

Avrai bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.

Ci sarà bisogno di un ombrello, visto il cielo.

Bisogna prendere l'ombrello, visto il cielo.

 

Serve un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico (we need another place at the table, because a friend of mine is coming).

Abbiamo bisogno di un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico.

C'è bisogno di un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico.

Bisogna aggiungere un posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico. 

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Servire a surprisingly tricky verb to use

 

A recent user comment prompted this lesson about servire when it's used to express need. The Italian approach to expressing need bears some explaining. In fact, we have already addressed this before. 

 

One way to express need is with the noun il bisogno (the need) and the odd verb bisognare only ever used in the third person singular impersonal. See this previous lesson. We can also use the verb servire (to be necessary, to be useful, to be used). In fact, we have already had a look at this interesting verb in this lesson. Take a look at these two lessons to get up to speed. In the present lesson, we will talk some more about how to use servire. It can be tricky!

 

There has been some discussion about a caption in a recent Yabla video. It's the story of Adriano Olivetti —Yes, that Olivetti: the typewriter guy. This is a fictionalized RAI production, starring Luca Zingaretti, famous as Commissario Montalbano in the well-known Italian TV series of the same name.

 

Here's the Italian sentence:

Serviranno dei fondi.

Here's our original translation:

We'll need funds.

 

 

A learner wrote in to say the translation should be "They will need funds."

 

Indeed, serviranno appears in its third person plural form. So, of course, you would think it should be "they."

 

This comment reminds us that the verb servire doesn't really have a counterpart in English, not one that works the same way, at any rate.

Yabla translators have since modified the translation to be less conversational, but easier to grasp. As a matter of fact, the verb servire is often best translated with the passive voice. As freshly modified, it is easier to see that the third person plural (future tense) serviranno comes from "the funds."

 

 

Serviranno dei fondi.

Funds will be needed.

Caption 63, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 15

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Indeed, Adriano could have said, ci serviranno dei fondi, making it personal, but he didn't (although we can infer it) and that's why it was particularly confusing.

 

In the following example, the indirect object ci (for us, to us) is present, so it's a bit easier to understand. Serviranno, the third person plural of servire, refers to the utensili (the utensils) listed: lemon squeezer, knife, etc.

 

Per quanto riguarda gli utensili, ci serviranno, dunque, uno spremiagrumi per i limoni, un coltello per tagliare i limoni

In regard to utensils, we will need, accordingly, a lemon squeezer for the lemons, a knife to cut the lemons,

Captions 40-44, L'Italia a tavola Involtini di alici - Part 1

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In English, especially in speech, we often use "to need" in an active way, as a transitive verb. "I need something." You may have discovered that there is no Italian verb we can use the same way. When we use servire, the thing we need is the subject and we use an indirect object with it. In the following example, Martino is asking himself what he needs to camp out in an old farmhouse. "What is necessary for me to take with me?" 

 

Che mi può servire?

What do I need?

Caption 30, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 9

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To make things more complicated, servire also means "to be used."  In this case, servire is used with the preposition a (to, for). We may ask the question:

 

A che cosa serve (what is it used for, what is it for)?

Serve a [insert verb in the infinitive or a noun] (it's used for, it's for [insert a gerund or a noun]).

 

Ecco a cosa serve il brodo vegetale.

That's what the vegetable broth is for.

Caption 95, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 2

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The following example shows how needing, being useful, or being used are so close that Italians use the same word.

 

Una fabbrica che funziona, in una società che non funziona, non serve a niente.

A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is useless.

Caption 26, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 8

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We can translate non serve a niente in a couple of additional ways:

 

Who needs a factory that works, if the society it's part of doesn't work?

A factory that works in a society that doesn't work is of no use to anyone.

A factory that works in a society that doesn't work serves no purpose. 

 

Note: Servire can also mean "to serve" as in serving someone at the table, or at the counter in a post office, supermarket or any other place. But that's much less complicated and not what this lesson was about.

 

PRACTICE

We hope we have been successful in clarifying the verb servire, at least in part. We'll leave you with a few exercises that may further clarify the verb as you do them.

Change these sentences with bisogno or bisogna to one with servire or the contrary. Add personal pronouns where necessary or desirable.

Per questa ricetta, ho bisogno di tre uova (for this recipe, I need three eggs).

Di che cosa hai bisogno (what do you need)?

Non c'è bisogno di prendere l'autobus, il posto è a due passi a piedi (no need to take the bus. The place is well within walking distance).

Che bisogno c'era di essere così cattivo (Why did you need to be so mean)?

Servirà un ombrello, visto il cielo (judging from the sky, an umbrella will be necessary).

Serve un altro posto a tavola, perché viene un mio amico (we need another place at the table, because a friend of mine is coming).

Have fun. You'll find some possible solutions here. If you think your solution is correct, but isn't present among the possible solutions, let us know at newsletter@yabla.com.

 

 

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Ways to say "free" in Italian

The adjective "free" in English means several things, so when you're wondering how to translate it, you may have to stop and think. So let's have a look at some of the different ways to say "free" in Italian.

 

The first way we translate the adjective "free" is with libero. Think of the word "liberty" as meaning "freedom," and you'll be all set.

Nel tempo libero mi piace uscire con i miei amici.

In my free time, I like to go out with my friends.

Caption 38, Erica si presenta

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One occasion in which you'll need this word is when looking for a seat on a train. You can simply ask, while using a gesture:

È libero (is it free)?

È libero questo posto/quel posto (is this/that seat free)?

 

Tip: Learn to use questo and quello in this week's lesson with Daniela!

 

Do you know the opposite of libero in this case?

Questo posto è occupato (this seat is occupied).

No, è occupato (it's occupied).

 

We also use libero to talk about ourselves. In this case the person in question is a girl or a woman.

Sei libera venderdì sera (are you free Friday night)?

Si, sono libera (yes, I'm free).

Mi dispiace, sono occupata (sorry, I'm busy).

 

An adjective that's close to "free" in this sense is "available." It translates as disponibile. If you look at the context in the following example, both libero and free would also work. Disponibile is a handy, very useful word to know, as it is extremely common in everyday conversation.

 

L'unico tavolo sotto la cassa sei riuscito a trovarlo tu! -Per favore, per favore! Ho prenotato, l'unico disponibile era questo. Che vuoi da me?

You succeeded in getting the only table right under the loudspeaker! Please, please! I reserved, the only one available was this one. What do you want from me?

Captions 12-14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 13

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A completely different meaning of "free" is that of not costing anything. There are two closely related ways to say this in Italian:

 

Gratis and gratuito. They are interchangeable. Gratis comes directly from the Latin, meaning "grace," "favor." 

 

Ma se fosse per me, lo sport dovrebbe essere gratis per tutti. Ma la palestra costa.

But if it were up to me, sports should be free for everyone. But the gym costs money.

Captions 41-42, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 3

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Gratuito is Italian, and is a common choice when it comes after to the noun it modifies, as in the following example. 

 

Ma oggi c'è il Wi-Fi gratuito dappertutto, per cui è un posto che si può assolutamente vivere quotidianamente anche nel ventesimo secolo, anzi ventunesimo.

But today there's free wi-fi everywhere, so it's a place one can absolutely experience on a daily basis, even in the twentieth, or rather twenty-first century.

Captions 22-24, Anna e Marika Villa Torlonia - Casino Nobile

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Fun fact: gratuito can be pronounced correctly with the accent on either the u or the i. You'll probably find more people who place the accent on the u, but it's not wrong the other way.

 

Another important translation of "free," when it means something you don't pay for, is omaggio.

 

The cognate of omaggio, as a noun, is "homage," and in fact omaggio is also used to mean "homage." But it is also used to mean a free sample, or free gift. The shopkeeper is paying you homage by giving you a gift!

Dimenticavo che mi hanno portato quattro biglietti omaggio per dei massaggi, interessa?

I almost forgot: Someone brought me four free coupons for some massages. Interested?

Caption 36, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 1

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Omaggio can be used as an adjective (that doesn't change with gender and number) as in the previous example. 

Otherwise, omaggio is a noun that means "complimentary gift."

When you get a free gift at the checkout counter, a shopkeeper or cashier might simply say un omaggio.

 

Lastly, "free" can be translated as senza (without), as in "gluten-free" or "sugar-free."

Questi biscotti sono senza zucchero,  senza glutine e senza grassi.

This cookies are sugar-free,  gluten-free, and fat-free.

 

See you in the next lesson! Alla prossima!

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How to Catch a Cold in Italian

Italians have a reputation for being concerned with drafts, chills, sudden changes of temperature, etc. This translates to parents often being very protective of their kids when it comes to wearing the appropriate clothing for a given situation.

There's a little song featured on Yabla all about this struggle between parents and their children on this subject.

 

Che senza canottiera

Poi mi prendo il raffreddore

That with no undershirt

I will catch a cold later

Captions 17-18, Zecchino d'Oro Metti la canottiera

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Note the verb used to catch or get a cold is prendere (to take). It's often used reflexively, prendersi Another verb that is often used for getting sick, is beccare as in the following example. 

 

Ah, buongiorno. Scusate se starnutisco, ma, purtroppo, mi sono beccata l'influenza. L'influenza è un bruttissimo raffreddore, anzi, un po' più di un raffreddore perché ti prende tutto il corpo e senti i brividi e ti senti debole, ti senti stanca.

Ah, good morning. Sorry if I'm sneezing, but, unfortunately, I've caught the flu. The flu is a really awful cold, rather, a bit more than a cold because it affects your whole body, and you feel shivers, and you feel weak, you feel tired.

Captions 1-5, Marika spiega Il raffreddore

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Marika could have said: Mi sono presa un brutto raffreddore (I caught a bad cold).

When a cold is really bad (as described above by Marika) and you have to stay home from work or school, it's often called l'influenza, even though it might or might not technically be the flu as we understand it. 

 

Note also that l'influenza also means "the influence" and has a verb form influenzare (to influence).

Non credo che la Francia abbia influenzato in modo determinante la mia cucina.

I don't believe that France influenced my cooking in a decisive way.

Caption 13, L'arte della cucina I Luoghi del Mondo - Part 11

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We use the verb beccare to talk about insect bites, too. In this case it isn't reflexive. The mosquito is doing the biting.

M'ha beccato una zanzara.

A mosquito bit me.

 

When we don't have a full-blown cold, but suspect we're about to because we got a chill, we might say:

Ho preso freddo

(I got a chill).

 

The verb is still prendere (to take, to get).

 

Prendere freddo is often the reason given for catching a cold. Things Italians watch out for to avoid this are uno spiffero or corrente (a draft), climatizzatori (air conditioners), ventilatori (fans), and especially not covering up or taking a shower after working up a sweat. 

 

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Let's look at the Italian adjective precario

 

In the movie Chi m'ha visto being currently offered on Yabla, a curious adjective has cropped up in a newspaper headline: musicista precario. It's used to describe Martino, the guitarist, and it happens that he was quite upset when he read it. 

 

Musicista precario a me?

An occasional musician? Me?

Caption 35, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 12

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Chitarrista. Precario.

Guitarist. A temp.

Caption 2, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 13

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Let's delve into this adjective for a moment. The English cognate for precario is "precarious," but it has a specific meaning to Italians in the modern-day world.

 

Primarily, precario is used to describe someone who doesn't have tenure, doesn't have a permanent job. For instance, many public school teachers in Italy find themselves in the position of being precario, and the word is also often used as a noun: un precario. Someone in this position can also be described as un supplente, a substitute teacher, even though they have been teaching in the same school for years. At the end of the school year, un supplente is let go, and has no guarantee of being re-hired for another year. These "substitute" teachers don't get paid during the summer months, but they have to be ready to start work (or not) from one day to the next, come September — definitely a precarious work situation!

 

Precario may also be used to describe a temporary worker or temporary job. 

 

Poi però... con questa crisi ho perso l'ultimo lavoro precario

Then, however... with this crisis, I lost my last temporary job

Caption 25, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 8

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In Martino's case, the headline implies that he doesn't have a steady band he plays with on a regular basis. He has no guaranteed work and plays concerts only occasionally. In fact, he is just about unemployed. 

Precario can also mean the same as "precarious" in other situations, such as walking a tightrope.

While we are on the subject of precariousness, there is another curious word that means much the same thing (but not in the context of job security): in bilicoEssere in bilico is "to teeter," "to be in a precarious equilibrium." It's also used to mean "undecided."

 

Ero in bilico tra l'essere vittima, essere giudice

I was teetering between being a victim and being a judge

Caption 50, Måneskin Torna a casa

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Ma sotto questa tua corazza lo so C'è una ragazza che sta lì in bilico

But underneath this armor of yours I know There's a girl who is there on the verge of falling

Captions 24-25, Max Gazzè Ti Sembra Normale

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What are virgolette? How to use punctuation terms in speech

How do we refer to punctuation or use punctuation terms when speaking Italian?

When we start a new paragraph, we say punto e a capo (period, new paragraph). This can happen if we are dictating.

Punto is how we say "full stop" or "period" in Italian.

Capo means "head," and so we are at the head of a new paragraph.

But we also use punto e a capo and similar terms metaphorically in everyday speech. Here's a lesson about that!

 

A comma, on the other hand, is una virgola. While a comma works somewhat similarly between English and Italian, there is an important peculiarity to note, as we see in the following example. Instead of a decimal point, Italian employs the virgola (comma). If we look at it numerically, it's like this: English: 5.2 km, Italian: 5,2 km. 

 

Con i suoi cinque virgola due chilometri quadrati, Alicudi è una delle più piccole isole delle Eolie,

With its five point two square kilometers, Alicudi is one of the smallest islands of the Aeolians,

Captions 9-10, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 18

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By the same token, Italian employs the comma in currency: $5.50, but €5,50.

In English we use a comma in writing "one thousand": $1,000.00, but in Italian, a point or period is used. €1.000,00.

It can also be omitted. 1000,00.

 

Virgolette, on the other hand are little commas, and when we turn them upside down, they become quotation marks, or inverted commas.

So, in conversation, we might make air quotes if people can see us talking, but in Italian it's common to say tra virgolette (in quotes, or literally, "between quotation marks"). We can translate this with "quote unquote," or we can sometimes say "so-called" (cosìdetto).

 

...cioè delle costruzioni, tra virgolette temporanee

in other words, quote unquote temporary buildings —

Caption 38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12

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e perché poi erano facili da smontare, tra virgolette,

uh, because they were in any case easy to quote unquote dismantle,

Caption 45, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP.2 - Part 12

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Versace è nata da un ritorno alla tradizione, tra virgolette,

Versace was created as a, quote unquote, return to tradition,

Caption 13, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 1

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One more important thing about virgolette: In American English, most punctuation marks go inside quotation marks, but in Italian, they go on the outside. If you pay attention to the captions in Yabla videos, you will see this regularly.

 

Thanks for reading and a presto!

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How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 2

 
As we mentioned in part one, the first thing we need to consider about adjectives is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?
 
We said that there are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular, masculine form of the adjective.
 
This lesson will discuss the second type of adjective: the aggettivo neutro (neutral adjective). Neutral adjectives only change according to number (singular or plural). They do not change according to gender. To refresh your memory about positive adjectives, those ending in "o," see the first part of this lesson
 
Adjectives that end in "e" are trickier in one sense, but easier in another. Indeed, with adjectives that end in "e" we don't have to concern ourselves with gender, just number. We have only two types of endings: one for the singular (e), and one for the plural (i).
 
Masculine/feminine + singular = e.
 
Il mare è grande (the sea is big).
La casa è grande (the house is big).

Il talento è un dono enorme. Il talento è... è un dovere morale coltivarlo.

Talent is an enormous gift. Talent is... it's a moral duty to cultivate it.

Captions 75-76, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12

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Piazza del Popolo è una piazza molto importante di Roma,

Piazza del Popolo is a very important square of Rome,

Caption 1, Anna presenta Piazza del Popolo

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Masculine/feminine + plural = i.
 
I ragazzi sono tristi. (the boys are sad).
Le ragazze sono tristi. (the girls are sad).
 

...e che invece adesso è una delle parti più eleganti, più signorili della capitale, dove ci sono le case più belle

...and which now though, is one of the most elegant, most exclusive parts of the capital, where there are the most beautiful houses

Captions 4-5, Anna presenta il ghetto ebraico e piazza mattei

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What are some other common Italian adjectives ending in "e?"
 
forte (strong, loud)
verde (green)
giovane (young)
triste (sad)
intelligente (intelligent)
gentile (nice)
semplice (easy, simple)
facile (easy)
felice (happy)
importante (important)
interessante (interesting)
dolce (sweet)
normale (normal)
pesante (heavy)
naturale (natural)
elegante (elegant)
 
Some learners and non-native speakers have trouble using the common Italian adjectives in this second group, especially when using the plural. These need a bit more practice and consideration. The good news is that some of these common adjectives are similar to their English counterparts and therefore easy to guess the meaning of, for instance,  interessanteelegante, normale, and intelligente.
 
Practically speaking:
 
You can now take the common adjectives in the list and apply them to any nouns you can think of. The following examples will get you started. Remember to use both singular and plural nouns, and make sure to say your examples ad alta voce (out loud).
 
Il bambino è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, forte, etc.
La bambina è felice, triste, dolce, intelligente, etc.
I bambini sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Le bambine sono tristi, dolci, intelligenti, etc.
Il libro (the book) è interessante, facile, elegante, triste, etc.
I libri sono interessanti, facili, eleganti, tristi, etc.
La serata (the evening out) è stata elegante, pesante, interessante, etc.
Le serate sono state eleganti, pesanti, interessanti, etc.
La lezione (the lesson) era interessante, pesante, importante, etc.
Le lezioni erano interessanti, pesanti, importanti, etc.
 
Exceptions: We also come across plenty of exceptions regarding endings and gender. For example, il pane (the bread) is masculine but ends in "e." Feminine nouns, on the other hand, often end in but not always. La mente (the mind) is feminine but ends in e. These kinds of nouns should probably get memorized, but the good news is that there are a great many nouns that are predictable and as a result, their adjectives are predictable, too.
 
Nouns and adjectives go together like salt and pepper, so this might be a great time to review nouns and their genders. Being sure of the gender of a noun will help you make the right decision regarding the adjective ending. Marika gives us some categories that makes gender learning a bit easier.
 
 
Take advantage of Yabla's features:
 
Interactive Subtitles:
By switching the dual subtitles on and off while viewing, you can really make them work for you. In other words, sometimes you need to understand what's happening, so you want to see captions in your own language. However, there will be times when you want to test your limits, to have fun trying to understand the Italian, with no safety net. Still other times, you will want to work on your spelling or adjective endings, and in this case, following along with the original language subtitles will be an invaluable tool.
 
Exercises:
With each video, there are exercises to help reinforce the material in the video itself. In short, by doing the vocabulary reviews and other listening exercises, including the patented dictation exercise called Scribe, you will really nail it.
 
Search:
In the videos tab, you can do a search of a word and see where it appears in the various videos in context, resulting in an immediate idea of how the word is used in everyday speech. As applied to this article about common Italian adjectives, it can be extremely helpful to see those adjectives in context! Subscribers have access to all of the videos as well as the transcripts and all the associated exercises.
 
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Emozionato or Nervoso? What's the Difference? 

Let's talk about emotions.

 

Le emozioni are "the emotions." That's a true cognate, but the Italian adjective emozionato doesn't have a true cognate.

 

Let's say you have to talk in front of the class, you have to play a solo in the next student concert, or you're receiving an award. What's the feeling you have?

 

In English, we would probably use the adjective "nervous." But the adjective we naturally think of in Italian, nervoso, is more about being irritable, in a bad mood. When you are nervous about doing something new, difficult, exciting, the Italian adjective we're looking for is emozionato.

 

So emozionato can have a somewhat negative connotation in the sense that you try not to let your emotions get the better of you, yet your voice trembles, you get butterflies in your stomach...

 

"Nervous" is the closest we can get in this sense. It's when your emotions get the better of you in a negative way.

Ho messo il mio vestito migliore per l'occasione e sono in anticipo di un paio di minuti, tanto per essere sicura. Sono molto emozionata.

I put on my best outfit for the occasion and I'm a couple of minutes early, just to be sure. I'm very nervous.

Captions 2-5, Italiano commerciale - Colloquio di lavoro - Part 2

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The funny thing is that emozionato also means "excited," in other words, a positive emotion. It's not always crystal clear what someone means when they use emozionato, as in the previous example, where Arianna might have been more excited than nervous. We can only guess from the context. In the following example, Adriano may be both nervous and excited, since the baptism of his baby boy is about to take place in a very special chapel in Palermo.

Con tutti i nostri parenti, festeggeremo questo giorno importante nella Cappella Palatina di Palermo. Io sono molto emozionato.

With all our relatives, we'll celebrate this important day in the Palatine Chapel of Palermo. I'm very excited.

Captions 21-23, Adriano - Battesimo di Philip - Part 1

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Nervoso, on the other hand, often has to do with "stress," an English word that has become ubiquitous in Italian, too.

Stressato. Nervoso.

Stressed. Irritable.

Caption 17, Marika spiega - Le emozioni

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When someone is nervoso, you tiptoe around so they don't snap at you. You don't want to get on their nerves. In fact, Italians use il nervoso as a noun to mean "nerves," as in:

Mi fa venire il nervoso.
He gets on my nerves.
He irritates me.

 

For more about emotions, see this video.

That's it for today's lesson. Thanks for reading and we'll see you next time. Don't forget to send your comments and questions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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How Adjectives Work in Italian Part 1

 
How do adjectives work in Italian?
 
First off, let's review what an adjective is and what it does. An adjective describes or modifies a noun, as opposed to an adverb, which describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.
 
 
The distinction is important because in Italian, adjectives need to agree with the nouns they describe, whereas adverbs don't. This means that the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender and number of the noun it describes. In English, we don't have this problem, so it can be tough to learn in a language where it does matter.
 
 
The first thing we need to consider is: Which type of adjective is it? Positive or neutral?
 
There are two basic types: aggettivi positivi (positive adjectives) that end in o in their masculine singular form, and aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives) that end in e in their masculine (and feminine) singular form. When you look up an adjective in the dictionary you will see the singular masculine form of the adjective. 
 
If you would like to learn about adjectives in Italian, see Daniela's lessons: Don't forget: you can turn English and Italian captions on and off!
 

In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi: noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.

In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives. We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.

Captions 23-24, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 1

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An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).

An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).

 
The second thing we have to consider is: What's the gender of the noun we are describing? Masculine or feminine?
 
The noun that the adjective describes may be masculine or feminine. Often, a masculine noun will end in o when in the singular, but not always.
 
Il forno (the oven, the bakery) ends in "o" but il pane (the bread) ends in "e." Both are masculine, singular nouns.
 
Tip: It's always a good idea to learn the article that goes with a noun when you learn the noun. It will make using adjectives easier.
 
The third thing we have to consider is: Is the noun we are describing singular or plural?
 
This factor, together with the gender and the type of adjective (o or e/positive or neutral) will determine the ending of the adjective. That's a lot to think about, so let's look at each of the four possible endings one by one in the "positive" adjective category.
 
Adjectives that end in "o":
This is the more common of the two kinds of adjectives, so let's see how these adjective endings work.
There can be 4 different endings for this kind of adjective if the noun it describes has both a masculine and a feminine form (like il ragazzo (boy) / la ragazza (the girl) / i ragazzi (the boys/ le ragazze (the girls).
 
 
Masculine + singular = o.

È un tipico teatro diciamo shakespeariano, con il palco rotondo al centro

It's a typical, let's say, Shakespearean theatre, with a round stage in the center

Caption 18, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 2

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Feminine + singular = a.

La spiaggia è molto pulita.

The beach is very clean,

Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3

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Masculine + plural = i

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

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Feminine + plural = e.

Si aggiustano le scarpe rotte, se ne creano nuove su misura.

They repair broken shoes; they custom make new ones.

Caption 5, Marika spiega Il nome dei negozi - Part 1

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Bambino means "child" or "baby. Piccolo means "small.  Bambino is the type of noun that can change according to gender, so as a consequence, it's quite easy to see the different endings of the adjective piccolo.
 
Il bambino è piccolo (the little boy is small).
La bambina è piccola (the little girl is small).
I bambini sono piccoli (the little boys are small).
Le bambine sono piccole (the little girls are small).
 
This noun - adjective combination is straightforward. In other words, you see a certain letter at the end of the noun, and the adjective ends the same way. But don't be fooled into thinking all nouns and adjectives are like this. They often are, so it may be a good guess, but not all the time.
 
What are some other common positive Italian adjectives (ending in "o")?
 
bello (beautiful or handsome)
brutto (ugly or bad)
buono (good)
cattivo (bad)
duro (hard, difficult)
caro (dear, expensive)
crudo (raw, uncooked)
cotto (cooked)
creativo (creative)
pulito (clean)
sporco (dirty)
rosso (red)
grosso (big)
pieno (full)
vuoto (empty)
bianco (white)
bravo (good)
 
To sum up about adjectives that end in "o," if the noun is masculine and singular, like, for example, il cielo (the sky) which also happens to end in "o," the adjective will end in "o," as well: un cielo nuvoloso, cielo scuro (cloudy sky, dark sky), not because the noun ends in "o" but because it's masculine and singular. Even if the noun ends in "e," such as il pane (the bread), or in "a" such as il sistema (the system), the positive adjective will still end in "o."
 
Il pane duro (the hard bread)
Il pane vecchio (the old bread)
il pesce fresco (the fresh fish)
il vecchio sistema (the old system)
il ponte nuovo (the new bridge)
 
By the same token, if you have a singular feminine noun such as la giornata (the day), the positive adjective will end in "a." La giornata nuvolosa (the cloudy day). Una giornata scura (a dark day), la strada vecchia (the old road), una fine inaspettata (an unexpected ending), la mano ferma (the steady hand).
 
Practically speaking:
You can now take the positive adjectives in the list above and apply them to any appropriate noun. Remember, both gender and number count, but, as you will see, not all nouns are like bambino/bambina. Not all nouns have both masculine and feminine versions.
 
Here's a short list of nouns and adjectives to get you started.
 
La casa (the house) pulita, sporca, vecchia, nuova, rossa, grossa, etc.
Le case (the houses) pulite, sporche, vecchie, nuove, rosse, grosse, etc.
Il lavandino (the sink) pieno, vuoto, sporco, pulito, bianco, etc.
I lavandini (the sinks) pieni, vuoti, sporchi, puliti, bianchi, etc.
Gli spaghetti crudi, buoni, cotti, duri, cattivi, etc.
La pasta cruda, buona, cotta, dura, cattiva, etc.
Il prosciutto crudo, cotto, buono, cattivo, etc.
 
Get the idea? Can you find positive adjectives to go with these nouns?
 
La verdura (the vegetables) (this noun can be used in the plural, but is generally used as a singular collective noun).
Una stanza (a room)
Le mele (the apples)
Gli alberi (the trees)
Un letto (a bed)
Un fiore (a flower)
Una pianta (a plant)

Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.

Write to us if you have questions!

Stay tuned for the next part of this lesson about adjectives, when will discuss aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives), or those adjectives that end in "e" and do not change according to gender: they only change according to singular and plural. Thus, they have only 2 possible endings.

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Adverbs formed from Adjectives. Some easy tricks

Let’s talk about adverbs. While adjectives describe nouns, adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Many adverbs are closely connected to adjectives, especially those that answer the question, come (how). In fact, there are a good number of adverbs that can be easily formed if we are familiar with the adjectives. And just remember, while adjectives can have different endings according to number and gender, adverbs stay the same!

 

Let's look at how to use adjectives to form Italian adverbs with the suffix -mente. Using -mente is similar to using "-ly" in English, in cases such as "nice — nicely," "loud —loudly," and forceful — forcefully."

 

Of course, there are many exceptions, but here are some common and useful Italian adverbs that will be easy to remember since they are formed by adding -mente to the root form of the adjective.

 

In order to build Italian adverbs with -mente, you just have to follow this very simple formula:

 

Feminine form of the adjective + mente

 

For example, if we want to form an adverb with the adjective ultimo (last), we just need to take the feminine form of that adjective (ultima) and add the suffix -mente, like this:

ultima (last) + mente = ultimamente (lastly, lately).
chiaro (clear) + mente = chiaramente (clearly)

 

L'ho detto chiaramente ai suoi collaboratori, prima di prendere qualsiasi iniziativa,

I told your colleagues very clearly: before taking any initiative at all,

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 14

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Let’s look at some more examples:

Vero (true)  + mente = veramente (truly, really)

Le dimensioni sono veramente compatte. -Sì, sì.

The dimensions are really compact. -Yes, yes.

Caption 29, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 15 

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Onesto (honest): onesta + mente = onestamente (honestly)

 

Giacomo, onestamente non ci aspettavamo questa cosa.

Giacomo, honestly, we didn't expect this thing.

Caption 53, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 10

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More adverbs like these:

Lento (slow) + mente = lentamente (slowly)
Stupido (stupid) + mente = stupidamente (stupidly)
Ironico (ironic) + mente = ironicamente (ironically)
Serio (serious) + mente = seriamente (seriously)
Raro (rare) + mente = raramente (rarely)

 

You might have noticed that all these adjectives ended in o. This means they have both a masculine and feminine ending, and apart from lento, they also happen to be similar to their English equivalents. Some adjectives, however, end in e, and therefore have the same ending in both the masculine and feminine. When this is the case, the adverb will simply add -mente to the adjective without changing it. 

 

Let's take the adjective semplice (simple).

Semplice (simple) + mente = semplicemente (simply)

 

If, on the other hand, the adjective ends in -le or -re, we drop the final vowel e before adding the suffix -mente:

 

Here are some very common and essential adverbs in this category.

Speciale (special) - e: special + mente = specialmente (especially)
Gentile (kind) -e: gentil + mente = gentilmente (kindly)
Normale (normal) -e: normal + mente = normalmente (normally)

 

Practice:
Can you turn these common and useful Italian adjectives into adverbs, keeping in mind the 3 ways we talked about in this lesson?

probabile (probable)
tranquillo (calm)
felice (happy)
fortunato (lucky)
sicuro (sure)
musicale (musical)
forte (strong)
rapido (fast, rapid)
veloce (fast)
cortese (courteous)
coraggioso (courageous)
scientifico (scientific)
possibile (possible)
comodo (comfortable)
maggiore (greater)
ulteriore (additional)

 

You'll find the solutions here.

Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

A presto!

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Adverbs formed from Adjectives : answers

Here are the adverbs easily formed from adjectives. 

 

probabile (probable) probabilmente (probably)

 

La vittima è, molto probabilmente, un barbone.

The victim is, most probably, a homeless man.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 3

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tranquillo (calm, without worries) tranquillamente (calmly, easily)
felice (happy) felicemente (happily)
fortunato (lucky) fortunatamente (luckily, fortunately)
sicuro (sure) sicuramente (surely, of course)
musicale (musical) musicalmente (musically)
forte (strong) fortemente (strongly)
rapido (fast, rapid) rapidamente (rapidly)
veloce (fast) velocemente (rapidly)
cortese (courteous) cortesemente (politely, corteously)
coraggioso (courageous) coraggiosamente (courageously)
scientifico (scientific) scientificamente (scientifically)
possibile (possible) possibilmente (possibly)
comodo (comfortable, convenient) comodamente (comfortably, conveniently)
maggiore (greater) maggiormente (to a greater degree)

 

Queste erano le cose che maggiormente si ricordavano.

These were the things people remembered most.

Caption 48, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 9

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ulteriore (additional) ulteriormente (further)

 

Be', non voglio disturbarLa ulteriormente.

Well, I don't want to disturb you any further.

Caption 9, Trailer ufficiale Benvenuti al sud

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How did you do? If you had trouble, let us know at newsletter@yabla.com

 

A presto!

 

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Ways to talk about death in Italian

 

Many of those who subscribe to Yabla Italian have enjoyed the TV series Commissario Manara. In the first season, Luca Manara had a romantic relationship with Lara, a fellow police investigator. It just so happened that she had an aunt who was very kind and sociable, and would often contribute in her special way to solving a case, along with her dog, Brigadiere. The character was Zia Caterina.

 

Valeria Valeri, the actress who played Zia Caterina, passed away just a week ago, at the ripe old age of 97, and so we remember her here.

 

As a matter of fact, Commissario Manara was one of her last TV performances.

 

Zia Caterina was a character along the lines of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Caterina was always wearing outlandish earrings, funny straw hats and always had a smile on her face. She had a dog that was a good investigator too.

 

Speaking of Murder She Wrote, did you know the Italian version of Murder She Wrote was called La Signora in Giallo? Read about the special meaning of giallo in Italian.

 

In Italian, there’s a tradition of calling someone Zia (aunt) or Zio (uncle) without their name attached.

Solo tu potevi salvarci zia...

Only you could have saved us, Aunt...

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 14

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Note that Italians don't capitalize affectionate names like zia, zio, signora.

 

Let's now take the opportunity of Valeri's passing to talk about how Italians talk about death. It's never easy, and it's not a happy subject, but sometimes knowing how to talk about death can save you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here is what the headlines have been saying about Valeria Valeri's death.

Purtroppo è venuta a mancare Valeria Valeri.
Sadly, Valeria Valeri has come to be missing.

 

It’s an elegant and indirect way to say someone has died, and the verb mancare is often used in this sense.

 

We also use mancare to miss someone, but this verb works in a completely different way from the English verb "to miss." More about that here.

 

A 97 anni, dopo una vita spesa in palcoscenico, si è spenta ieri a Roma Valeria Valeri, una grande attrice e una grande voce del teatro italiano ...
At ninety-seven years, after a life on the stage, Valeria Valeri died in Rome. She was a great actress and one of the great voices of Italian theater.

Si è spenta.
Spegnere means "to turn off."
Her light went out.
She stopped living.

È morta Valeria Valeri.
Valeria Valeri died.
Valeria Valeri is dead.

 

Morire is the classical, literal word for “to die.”

 

Let’s not forget that morto/morta can be either the past participle, as in "she has died," or it can be an adjective, as in "she is dead." More about that here.

 

One more way to say someone died is to say they are gone, or they have gone. They have taken their leave.

Valeria Valeri se ne andata.
Valeria Valeri has left. Valeria Valeri is gone.

Ci mancherà.
We will miss her

 

Most will agree that Zia Caterina was a great addition to the cast of Manara, and that knowing she is gone for good is a little sad, although she lived to be almost a hundred!

 

Thanks for reading!

Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

 

A presto!

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How to Get Mad in Italian

Did you watch last Wednesday's episode of Commissario Manara? You might have noticed that there's an excellent example of a pronominal verb.

 

Review pronominal verbs here.

 

Ce l'hai ancora con me. E perché mai dovrei avercela con te, scusa? Sono in vacanza.

You're still mad at me. And why on earth should I be mad at you, pardon me? I'm on vacation.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

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There are plenty of pronominal verbs Italians use constantly, and avercela is one that has a few different nuanced meanings. The verb avere (to have) combines with the direct object la (it) and the indirect object ci which can mean so many things, such as "to it/him/, for it/him/us" and it still doesn't make sense to an English ear, but it can mean to get angry, to feel resentment and more.

 

The meaning can be aggressive, as in "to have it in for someone." Avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for someone) happens to fit fairly well into a grammatically reasonable English translation, but avercela can also have a milder connotation, as in the example above, "to be mad at someone." And in this case, grammar pretty much goes out the window.

 

When you sense that something is not right with a friend, that they are not their usual talkative self, you wonder if you had done or said something wrong. This is the time to ask:

Ce l'hai con me? (Are you mad at me?)

 

Using the pronominal verb avercela, it becomes very personal and often implies resentment or placing blame. The feeling of anger or resentment has to be directed at someone, even oneself. 

Non ce l'ho con te. So che non era colpa tua. Ce l'ho con me stesso.
I'm not blaming you. I'm not holding it against you. I know it wasn't your fault. I have only myself to blame. I'm mad at myself.

 

There's a more official word for feeling resentful, too, risentirebut as you see from the dictionary, this verb has several meanings, so it isn't used all that often in everyday conversation. When you're mad, you want to be clear!

 

Let's look at the classic word for getting or being angry: fare arrabbiare (to make someone angry, to anger), arrabbiarsi (to get angry), arrabbiato (angry, mad), la rabbia (the anger).

 

If a parent, teacher, or boss is angry with a child, student, employee who did something wrong, then the word arrabbiarsi is the more suitable and direct term. It doesn't normally make sense to be actually resentful in these cases. In the following example, a colleague is talking to her co-worker about the boss. 

 

Alleluia! -Guarda che questa volta l'hai fatta grossa. Era veramente arrabbiato.

Halleluja! -Look. This time you really blew it, big time. He was really mad.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 14

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Closely related to avercela con qualcuno is prendersela, another pronominal verb! We've discussed this here, and as you will see, in some cases, both avercela and prendersela are used in similar situations.

 

But prendersela contains the verb prendere (to take). It might be helpful to think of "taking something badly." 

Non te la prendere (don't feel bad, don't take this badly).

 

Unlikle avercela,which is direct towards someone, prendersela is reflexive, with se (oneself), as in prendersi (to take for oneself)— You're more on the receiving end of an emotion, which you then transfer to someone else.

Me la sono presa con Giuseppe (I took it out on Giuseppe, [but I shouldn't have]. I lost it).

 

One last expression bears mentioning. Arrabbiare is the correct word to use for getting angry, but lots of people just say it as in the following example. We are replacing the more vulgar term with the polite version: incavolarsi (to get angry), fare incavolare (to get someone angry).

 

E questo l'ha fatto incazzare tantissimo,

And this made him extremely angry.

Caption 21, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 12

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Now you have various ways to get angry in Italian, but we hope you won't need to resort to them too often.

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A Curious but Iconic Italian Vehicle

 

When we see the word “ape,” it makes us think of a rather large, ferocious animal. But in Italian, its meaning is almost the opposite. Ape is the word for "bee." The Ape, as we shall see, was built for people who work, for someone who is busy as a bee.

 

At the end of World War II, many, if not most Italians were having money problems, and certainly only a privileged few had the financial means to buy a car, much less pay for its fuel and maintenance. 

 

The Ape came to the rescue. In 1947, the inventor of the Vespa, (a popular motor scooter whose name means “wasp”) came up with the idea of a light, three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's economical reconstruction. Piaggio, who had built the Vespa became interested and took on the project. The very first Ape models were glorified Vespas with two wheels in the rear, and a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle— a sort of tricycle with a motor.

 

Little by little, the model developed to include a cab to protect the driver. Designed as a one-seater, a passenger is often seen squeezed in, as well, but it's definitely a tight fit. There are now doors on either side to facilitate parking right up next to a wall. Although no longer made principally in Italy, the Ape is still in production today!

 

Because of its small scooter-sized engine, the Ape doesn’t go fast (maximum around 60 kilometres an hour), and as a result, you don’t need to have an automobile driver’s license to drive one. The motor is strong enough to carry a sizeable load, and to get up the steep hills found in many parts of the country.

 

We see in the movie Chi m’ha visto, that Peppino’s vehicle is indeed an Ape. Given the size of the streets in so many Italian towns, cities, and country roads as well, the Ape is just right for negotiating them. Peppino races around like a maniac anyway, honking at pedestrians to get out of his way.

 

If you have ever been traveling in Italy, you might have heard an Ape before seeing one. The noise is terrifying especially as it climbs steep, narrow, cobblestone streets in the middle of an old town, where the close stone walls amplify the sound even more. Getting caught behind one on a narrow road can add hours and frustration to your trip. Fortunately, the Ape is so narrow, the driver can hug the side of the road so that cars can pass. Menomale!

 

Still a familiar sight all over Italy, the Ape is amazingly useful for the handyman, gardener, farm worker, delivery man, etc.

 

In an episode of Commissario Manara, Manara himself actually drives an Ape to figure out how a crime had been committed. He's putting himself in the killer's place.

Al piazzale davanti allo studio ci potrei andare a piedi, invece ci vado con l' Ape. Perché? Perché devo trasportare qualcosa, qualcosa di pesante. E che cos'è?

To the courtyard in front of the studio I could go by foot, but instead I go with the "Ape." Why? Because I have to transport something, something heavy. And what is it?

Captions 44-47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 9

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Even though the Ape is pretty small already, many Italians use a diminutive suffix and call it l'Apino. It also distinguishes it from ape the insect, and it renders the idea of "small."

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When Repeating a Word can Change its Meaning

 

We’ve begun releasing the first segments of a new movie at Yabla about a musician who wants to make it as a singer, but is not succeeding.

His agent tells him to take a break from performing, and to soften the blow, says that although Martino's music making is all right, he doesn’t have the presence necessary for performing on stage.

Here's what the agent says:

Sì, la musica ancora ancora sta, ma è la faccia, "the face" [inglese: la faccia]. È questa...

Yes, your playing is maybe all right, but it's the face, the face. It's this..

Caption 36, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 2

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A reader has written in asking if the double instance of the adverb ancora was a mistake or not. It’s a good question, and we’ll try to answer it.

 

We have learned from Daniela's lessons about comparatives and superlatives that, in addition to using più or the suffix -issimo to form the superlative of adjectives and some adverbs, we can also simply repeat the word twice. So we have bellissimo or bello bello. They mean the same thing, although the double adjective or adverb is used primarily in spoken Italian. Read this lesson about it!

 

So, we have this word ancora. It’s already the source of a little confusion because it means different things in different contexts. 
We've looked at this before and there's a lesson about the different meanings of ancora

 

Let’s give the word a quick review here.

 

In the following example, ancora means "even." 

Così puoi capirmi ancora meglio.

That way, you can understand me even better.

Caption 27, Italian Intro Serena

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And In this example, ancora means "still". "Still" and "even" can often be interchangeable, as in these two examples.

ancora oggi siamo molto amiche.

And still today we're very close friends.

Caption 39, Erica e Martina - La nostra amicizia - Part 1

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È ancora vivo. He’s still alive.

 

If we put it in the negative, non ancora means "not yet."

Non è ancora morto. He's not dead yet.

 

In the example that follows, ancora means “more.” 

Ne vuoi ancora? -Eh?

Do you want some more of it? -Huh?

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 8

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And ancora can also mean simply, “again.”

Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti, perché mi hai fatto fare un tuffo nel passato!

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets, because it made me take a dive into the past!

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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Va be', comunque io ti ringrazio ancora per i biglietti,

OK, in any case, I thank you again for the tickets,

Caption 67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

So this adverb has different meanings that are somewhat related. They have to do with time or quantity and can mean “still,” “again,” “yet” with non (not), “more,” or “even.”

 

But in this movie, it’s repeated twice, and here, it has a particular, colloquial meaning. It means we are on the borderline of something. Ancora ancora means we're at the limit. We're on the line, even though we haven't stepped over it. Something can pass.

 

So Martino’s agent is saying, “Your playing is good enough,” and might even be implying  “it’s passable.”  Here, it’s followed by ma (but), so it's clear that something else isn't passable. "Your playing is passable, but your face isn’t." 

 

There are other adverbs that lend themselves being doubled for effect:

Poco poco to mean just a tiny bit.
Piano piano to mean really soft, really slow.
Appena appena to mean faintly, barely.

 

Sometimes the doubling takes on a special meaning that has evolved over time, as in the case with ancora ancora.

 

Quasi quasi is another adverb like this. Literally, it means almost almost, but that makes little sense. For more on quasi quasi, see this lesson about it. Here's an example to give you the basic idea. Let's say I've been debating in my mind whether to have another helping, but then decide and say:

Quasi quasi, ne prendo ancora.
I might just have some more.

 

If you're not yet a subscriber but seriously thinking about it, you could say,

Quasi quasi mi iscrivo a Yabla.
I might just sign up for Yabla.

 

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Working Things Out with Sistemare

 

In this week’s segment of Meraviglie, Alberto Angela uses a verb that looks familiar: sistemare. It must have something to do with "system," right?

The noun il sistema certainly exists, and is a true cognate of "the system" in English.

 

E allora con un ingegnoso sistema di raccolta delle acque, riuscì a riempire ben sette cisterne che sono sparsi [sparse] per tutto il territorio.

And so with an ingenious system for collecting water, he managed to fill a good seven cisterns that are scattered around the whole area.

Captions 36-37, In giro per l'Italia - Asciano - S. Giuliano Terme: Villa Bosniascki - Part 1

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A detail to remember is that although it has a typically feminine ending, sistema is a masculine noun. In English, too, “system” has any number of connotations.

 

So the noun sistema is fairly straightforward, but English doesn't really have a corresponding verb to go with sistemare. Sistemare might even fall into the category of untranslatable Italian verbs, although it's an easy-to-figure-out untranslatable verb. Sistemare is a general, catch-all type of verb that can mean any number of things, depending on the context. 

 

When Alberto Angela tells us the fascinating story of a huge underground cistern in the city of Matera, what does he mean by sistemare? Good question.

 

Quando si è sistemata la piazza nel millenovecentonovantuno…

When the piazza was renovated in nineteen twenty-one…

Caption 12, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 15

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We see from the translation that the piazza was renovated, and we get this from the context of the documentary itself. But sistemare could also have referred to it being  "neatened up," "cleaned up," "put in order," "put to rights."

 

When you want to fix something up, make improvements, put things right, make minor repairs, put things in a certain place, make preparations, or even get your pet ready for the night, sistemare is a good verb.

 

In the following examples from Yabla videos, sistemare is used to mean "to work out," "to set up," and "to fix up."

 

Note that in the first example, the reflexive form sistemarsi is used. 

Mi dispiace molto, Marika, e spero che tutto si sistemerà al più presto.

I'm really sorry, Marika. And I hope everything will work out as soon as possible.

Caption 41, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti - Part 1

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Valter arrivava sempre prima per sistemare l'attrezzatura per gli allievi.

Valter always came early to set up the equipment for the students.

Caption 52, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 1

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Adesso hai quest'impressione perché lo vedi così tutto in disordine, quando sarà sistemato vedrai...

Now you have that impression because you're seeing it all messy, when it's fixed up, you'll see...

Captions 35-36, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 3

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One general way of thinking about the verb sistemare is with "to take care of". 

You took care of an unpaid bill? L'hai sistemato. You took care of it.
Your plumber fixed that leaky faucet? L'ha sistemato. He took care of it. He fixed it.
You wrote a draft of an article? Lo devi ancora sistemare. You still have to fine-tune it.

We can also turn sistemare into a noun: una sistemata. In English, we might use a gerund for this, as in the first example below. 
 

You don't really want to give your kitchen a thorough cleaning at the moment, but you want it to look nice. Ci dai una sistemata (you give it a neatening up).
You ask your hairdresser, Mi dai una sistemata ai capelli (Will you give me a little trim)?

 

With the noun sistemata, we often use the verb dare (to give), which can also be used reflexively.

Dopo il viaggio, mi sono data una sistemata prima di presentarmi agli suoceri (after the trip I freshened up before meeting my inlaws/I gave myself a freshening up).

 

Practice:

As you go through your day, as you take care of one problem after another, try using sistemare when you have succeeded, or when you haven't yet. Maybe you will even have fun taking care of these problems!

L'ho sistemato! Menomale. (I took care of that. Whew!)

Questo lo devo sistemare (I have to take care of this).

 

Ask someone else to help you take care of something — something that needs fixing, or a situation that needs resolving.

Me lo puoi sistemare (can you take care of this for me)?

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5 different ways to use the word accordo (agreement)

 

Accordo is such a handy Italian word but the meaning can change considerably depending on the verb used with it. Let's look at 5 different ways we use accordo (agreement) in everyday life.

 

1) If we take the noun un accordo by itself, it means "an agreement."

Abbiamo firmato un accordo (we signed an agreement).

 

Io so che Lei aveva un accordo per utilizzare il latte della sua azienda, è così?

I know that you had an agreement for using the milk from her company, is that right?

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro - Part 3

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2) If we put the preposition di (of) before it, it means “in agreement”. If we are "in agreement" — or as we usually say in English, “we agree” — we need 3 words to make one. We use the verb essere (to be) + the preposition di (of) + the noun accordo (agreement) to obtain the verb "to agree": essere in accordo. We need to conjugate the verb essere (to be).

 

Non metto in dubbio le tue idee, ma non sono d'accordo.

I don’t doubt your ideas are good, but I don’t agree.

Caption 35, Marika spiega - Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1

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Non sei d'accordo?

Don't you agree? (Don't you think so?)

Caption 30, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19

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Allora se la dottoressa è d'accordo, io consiglierei un sopralluogo al museo.

So if the doctor agrees, I'd advise an inspection of the museum.

Caption 55, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 1

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Essere d'accordo can also mean "to be in cahoots." The context will reveal this nuance.

 

Quindi secondo te erano d'accordo per cercare di incastrarlo e poi ricattarlo?

So, in your opinion they were in cahoots to try to frame him and then blackmail him?

Caption 16, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 12

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3) We also use accordo to say “to get along”: andare d’accordo. Here, we use the verb andare plus the preposition di + the noun accordo.

 

Non va d'accordo con suo fratello (She doesn't get along with her brother).

Senti un po', ma io e te una volta andavamo d'accordo, giusto?

Listen up, but you and I got along at one time, right?

Caption 11, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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Il signor Spada e la moglie danese pare che non andassero per niente d'accordo.

Mister Spada and his Danish wife, it seems, weren't getting along at all.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 5

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4) Another way to say “I agree”in English is “OK” or “all right.” We can certainly use “OK” or va bene to say this in Italian, but another common way is d’accordo. It’s a little more serious than just OK, which can also be filler, just something we say. So there is no verb here. We simply use the preposition di + the noun accordo. People who know French will recognise this way of saying "OK." "D’accord."

Ci vediamo domattina in ufficio, d’accordo?  (I’ll see you at the office tomorrow morning, OK?)
D’accordo (OK).

 

5) In an informal situation, primarily, in which we need or want to put off actually agreeing to something, there's another useful phrase with accordo. Let's say we need to decide on a time and place to meet, or make a friendly transaction. We can use the verb mettere (to put) in its reciprocal form mettersi (the reciprocal form works much the same as the reflexive form). For more on this read this lesson and watch this video

E poi ci mettiamo d'accordo. La, la chiamo io.

We'll set it up later. I'll call you.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 9

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This expression mettersi d'accordo is useful among friends who want to get together, but can't (or don't want to) set a date right then and there. To say something like "We'll get together at some point," we could say, Poi, ci mettiamo d'accordo (we'll decide [together] later). It's a friendly expression to say that you want to see this person, but can't decide on anything right then and there.

So we have:

un accordo: an agreement
essere d’accordo: to agree or to be in cahoots
andare d’accordo: to get along
d'accordo: OK! All right
mettersi d’accordo: to come to an agreement—to decide on something together

 

We think this might have been helpful. Sei d'accordo?

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Everyday Negatives

 

Let’s look at turning positive sentences into negative ones in Italian. We might have to switch gears a bit because the word order for negatives is different from what we have in English. We have to think negative. The negative word, in this case non (not), generally comes before the verb, and that means it is frequently the first word in a sentence.

Let’s consider some simple negative expressions we use every day.

 

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Problems: We all have problemi (problems), but sometimes we have to say "no problem." We certainly use it to mean "You're welcome" after someone says "Thank you." In English, it's so easy! But in Italian we say, "there's no problem." It's part of the expression. Non c'è problema is an important phrase to have ready for any situation. 

 

Sì, non c'è problema. -Grazie. -Prego.

Yes, no problem. -Thanks. -You're welcome.

Caption 24, Adriano - Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 2

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Actually, there is another way to say this, more similar to English.

 

Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).

 

Or we can put both expressions together and say, with the wonderful double negative we can use in Italian:

 

Non c'è nessun problema (there's really no problem).

 

or even:

 

Non c'è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!

 

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Time: Nobody has any time anymore! So negative sentences about time can come in handy.


Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).
Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).
Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).
Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).
Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).


and a possible comment to that:

Non stanno male, però (your hair looks pretty good, though/it doesn't look bad,though).

 

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Knowing stuff: There are plenty of things we know and understand but plenty we don’t know or understand! Let’s remember that whereas in English we just say "I don’t know," Italians usually add the object pronoun lo (it), so they are literally saying "I don't know it."


Non lo so (I don’t know).
Non so a che ora devo venire (I don’t know what time I should come).
Non ho capito! Puoi ripetere (I didn't get it. Can you repeat)?

Remember, Italians often put this phrase in the past tense even though they are saying "I don’t get it."

 

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Forgetting stuff, or rather, not remembering things: The verb ricordare is often but not always in its reflexive form ricordarsi when it means "to remember" and in its regular form when it means "to remind." See these lessons.

 

Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.

Right now, I can't remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.

Caption 24, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 4

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And if you need an object pronoun instead of a noun, don't forget to change mi (to me) to me (me):

 

Adesso non me lo ricordo.
Right now, I can't remember [it].

 

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Doing stuff, or rather, not doing stuff: We procrastinate.

 

Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l'ho fatto (I was supposed to write an article but I didn't do it).
Non l’ho ancora fatto (I haven't done it yet).

 

Here we have the object pronoun lo (it) but it is partially buried in the contraction. So you have to listen carefully!

 

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Speaking of listening, a great way to hone your listening skills is to use Scribe (in the games menu in the Yabla player). It will definitely help you start recognizing and hearing these short words and little but important details. And although some Italian you hear is rapid-fire (like Luca Manara, to name one example), most of the time, all the syllables are pronounced. You can slow down the speech to be able to hear better. Have you tried Scribe? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let us know!

 

As we learn to speak Italian with disinvoltura (nonchalance), it’s easy to forget to add these little words. Don’t worry, you will most likely be understood anyway! Foreigners spend years speaking Italian leaving out the little words, and they get by just fine. (It takes one to know one.)

 

If you get your word order wrong, people will understand anyway, but now you have a chance to get it right!

 

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