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Managing with farcela

There's a common Italian pronominal verb you'll be glad to have in your toolbox. It's used a lot in conversation, as an expression, but understanding how it works can be a little tricky. But first...

What's a pronominal verb?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles). Particelle or particles are those tiny, usually, 2-letter pronouns we find in Italian, such as ci, ne, ne, la.

 

The pronominal verb of the day: farcela (to manage to do something)

 

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Let's unpack this pronominal verb. In the infinitive, it's farcela. 

The verb contained in this pronominal verb is fare = to make, to do.

Alessia può farcela da sola.

Alessia can manage on her own.

Caption 57, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 5

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Usually in a pronominal verb, one of the pronouns is an indirect pronoun, In this case, it's ce. Ce means the same thing as ci, (to it/him/her," "at it/him/her," "about it.") but when there is a direct object with it, ci changes to ce! As we have mentioned in previous lessons, the particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne,  but in that case, it becomes ce. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.
 

To make things even more complicated, ci, and consequently, ce, can mean any number of things. The basic thing to remember is that ci or ce usually represents a preposition + complement. Learn more about ci
 
 

The second pronoun in the expression farcela is la. This is a direct object pronoun meaning "it." It's always used in the feminine — we could say la stands for la cosa, a feminine noun.

 

In the previous example, farcela stands on its own to mean "to manage." It's also possible to add another verb, so as to mean, "to manage to do something."

 

Ehm, pensa di farcela a recuperare le chiavi della mia auto?

Uh, do you think you can manage to retrieve the keys of my car?

Caption 35, Psicovip Il tombino - Ep 2

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In both of our previous examples, the conjugated verb (potere = to be able to, pensare = to think) precedes the pronominal verb, resulting in the pronominal verb being in the infinitive. 

Posso farcela (I can manage it).

Penso di farcela (I think I can manage it).

 

Learning the infinitive is a good starting point, as it's fairly straightforward. Use the common verbs in their conjugated forms to "push" the pronominal verb over into the infinitive. 

 

Conjugating farcela

Farcela is the infinitive of the pronominal verb, and as we have seen above, sometimes it can stay that way. More often than not, however, it is conjugated, so it's a good idea to have a few expressions memorized and ready to use. As you can see from the following example, it can be used when you're falling behind.

 

Piano, piano, piano. Piano, cagnozzo! Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Slow down, dear little dog! I can't keep up, you'll make me fall.

Captions 1-2, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 1

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Eh, basta, croce. Non ce la faccio più.

Uh, that's it, forget it. I can't go on.

Caption 17, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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Some other common conjugations:

Ce la fai? (Can you manage it?)
Non ce la fa. (He/she can't manage it, He/she can't make it).
Ce la faremo? (Are we going to make it?)
Ce l'ho fatta! (I did it, I made it).

 

If we want to add another verb, we use the preposition a (to) before the (second) verb, which will be in the infinitive (arrivare, mangiare, finire). Here are a few examples:

 

Ce la faremo ad arrivare in tempo? (Are we going to manage to arrive in time?/Are we going to make it in time?)
Ce la fai a mangiare tutto? (Can you manage to eat it all?)
Ce l'ha fatta a finire il progetto? (Did he/she manage to finish the project?)

 

As you can see, this kind of sentence usually starts with ce la, unless it's in the negative, in which we start with non followed by ce la + the conjugated verb fare.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

1) Fare is a verb that takes avere (not essere) in perfect tenses. In perfect tenses, the particle la will become l'  because it will be attached to the conjugated form of avere, which will have a vowel sound at the beginning (even though written with an h: ho, hai, ha, abbiamo, avete, hanno). So when you just hear it, you might not perceive it. Lookking at Italian captions or doing Scribe can help with this.

 

2) One more tricky thing to remember when using perfect tenses:

 

You might be tempted to say ce l'ho fatto. But that would be wrong. Why? It's about verb-object agreement. 

 

The rule is that when the object pronoun comes before the verb (in this case, la before ho), then the past participle of the verb will agree with the object (la), not the subject (in this case io [I]). 

 

So it has to be Ce l'ho fatta.

 

It is complicated, so be patient with yourself. Even those of us who have been living in Italy for years still have doubts sometimes, when conjugating these pesky pronominal verbs. Over time, the grammar will start making a little more sense to you and you will say, "Ah ha!" Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta a capire! (I finally managed to understand). Or, simply, Finalmente, ce l'ho fatta!

 

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Does discutere mean "discuss?"

The word "discuss" or "discussion" elicits the image of business meetings or family dinners — people talking normally together in order to reach a conclusion, people exchanging their opinions or knowledge.

 

The verb discutere in Italian sounds pretty similar, especially in its past participle discusso, leading us to think it means the same thing. And, well, it can and often does.

 

Qui, Federico Secondo ha discusso con i suoi consiglieri le questioni di Stato o dei rapporti con i Papi e promulgato le costituzioni, codice unico di leggi per l'intero regno di Sicilia.

Here, Frederick the Second discussed with his advisors questions of state or relations with the Popes, and promulgated charters, a unique legal code for the entire Reign of Sicily.

Captions 30-31, Itinerari Della Bellezza Basilicata - Part 2

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An everyday sfumatura

But more often than not, in everyday conversation, it has another sfumatura (nuance) that you'll want to know about. Gaging someone's level of emotion is not always easy in a foreign language. How many times have you thought two Italians were arguing heatedly, but they were just talking about il calcio (soccer)?

 

In a current video on Yabla, a woman is describing the evening of her husband's murder.

Quella sera abbiamo discusso.

That evening, we argued.

Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 21

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If you don't know about this nuance, you might think, "OK, so what? They discussed their schedules." So we have to watch for the context, the mood, to determine what kind of "discussion" they had. They might well be talking about an argument.

 

Another way to tell that discutere means "to argue" is that there is no direct or indirect object of the verb, although there might very well be the preposition con (with), indicating the other person in the argument. In the following example, the indirect object comes in the form of a question "with whom."

Nemici? Che nemici avrebbe dovuto avere? Qualcuno con cui aveva discusso ultimamente, magari anche sul lavoro.

Enemies? What enemies should he have had? Someone he had recently argued with, maybe even at work.

Captions 19-21, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 3

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Just talking about something 

Let's note that in English, the verb "to discuss" is transitive.

What did you discuss? -We discussed our schedules.

 

But in Italian, discutere can be either transitive or intransitive. When it means "to argue," discutere is intransitive. When it means, "talking about something," then the preposition di (about) will be used.

Che sei venuta a discutere di cucina esotica? -No.

What, did you come to talk about exotic cuisine? -No.

Caption 14, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 22

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Another sfumatura

When we are having an argument (una discussione), the noun discussione can come out in a different way. 

È fuori discussione, Manara!

That's out of the question, Manara!

Caption 29, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 4

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The previous example uses the Italian noun discussione and the English noun question. In the following example, however, there is a verbal phrase in the Italian — mettere in discussione — to equal the verb "to question" in English. This can be part  of a normal discussion, not an argument, but it's good to know!

però penso non possa essere messa in discussione la sua onestà professionale.

but I don't think his professional honesty can be questioned.

Caption 32, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 4

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Putting it in a simpler, indicative mood:

Non lo metto in discussione (I'm not questioning that).

 

As you watch movies and shows on Yabla, or anywhere else you see Italian content, be on the lookout for the verb discutere in all its forms and nuances. 

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Catching up with Un medico in famiglia

Here is a riassunto (synopsis) of what happened in the story of Un medico in famiglia from when we left off after episode 2 of season 1, to the time in which we are able to pick up the story with season 3. But to round things out, let’s start at the very beginning and fill you in.

 

The main character, or rather the most famous actor in the series, is Lino Banfi who is now 84 years old. He is il nonno (the grandpa). His son is Gabriele Martini, known as Lele (we will add this to the nickname list). He's a doctor, hence the title Un medico in famiglia (a doctor in the family). At the beginning of the show, we discover that Lele’s wife had died, leaving him 3 children: Maria who is 13, Ciccio (nickname for Francesco), 10, and a not quite 3-year old, Annuccia (affectionate name for Anna).

 

Before Lele’s wife Elena died, they had already closed on a new house in a residential town called Poggio Fiorito, near Rome.

Questa è la nostra casa vecchia. Adesso stiamo per andare in una casa nuova.

This is our old house. Now we are about to move to a new house.

Captions 30-31, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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Season 1

 

The story begins as the Martini Family packs up and moves to their new home. The kids are definitely not thrilled to leave their friends and old school behind. Il nonno, who has recently retired from his job with the ferrovia (railroad) moves in with them to help out.

 

Lele is gone all day and Nonno Libero can’t manage by himself, and it soon becomes clear that the family needs someone to help out at home, specifically, una colfColf is is an acronym for collaboratrice famigliare (family collaborator or housekeeper). 

 

Enter a “Polish” woman named Cettina. She is quite eccentric, but also a hard worker and manages to keep the household going, gradually becoming part of the family. She has a boyfriend, Giacinto, who is not very good at what he does, but he is a good guy. At the end of episode 2, the family, and we viewers discover that in fact, Cettina is not Polish at all, but Neapolitan. Once she has come out about this, things change for the better. She is still eccentric, but feels she can be herself. 

 

In the first and second seasons, Elena’s sister Alice is a constant presence in the household. She’s played by Claudia Pandolfi, well-known to Italian TV and film audiences. She is la zia (the aunt) to the young kids.

 

Also present are Elena’s parents, Enrica and Nicola. The kids clearly feel more at home with Nonno Libero.

 

Lele’s sister Nilde, played by popular Italian TV and movie actress, Anita Zagaria, is in a difficult marriage and her son Alberto, who is 16, goes to stay with the Martini family to benefit from their supposedly more harmonious home environment.

 

There’s drama at home, but there is also the daily drama at work, where Lele is head of the ASL, the local health center. ASL stands for Azienda Sanitaria Locale.

 

There are various characters within the walls of Lele’s workplace, notably his colleague Laura, hopelessly in love with him. Little by little, Lele realizes that the person who means the most to him, on a sentimental level, is Alice, his late wife’s sister. She, however, already has a boyfriend. His name is Sergio and he has been away for a while. When he comes back, Sergio and Alice get engaged. But at the bachelor party before the wedding, Sergio gets drunk and beats her. She calls off the wedding and leaves him. In the season finale, Lele declares his love for her.

 

Season 2

 

The second season opens with Lele waiting anxiously for Alice's return a trip she took to Africa. The two have to figure out if they want to commit, and they decide to share the news of their relationship with the family. Though Alice is jealous of Lele’s old flame, Clara, a photographer, their relationship grows. Of course, Alice is also hesitant about taking the place of her sister, Elena.

 

In the end, Lele and Alice decide to get married. About to leave on their honeymoon, Alice has a miscarriage and is told by the doctors that she will no longer be able to have children. Nilde, Lele’s sister, also gets pregnant, and while in Sanremo, gives birth to a mulatto child, a little boy, whose father is unknown to the Martini family. She names the child Lele Junior after her brother.

 

There is no lack of trouble at the Martini household: Alice is persecuted by a maniac admirer; Alberto falls into depression after a dramatic road accident where his dearest friend (Adriano) remains paralyzed; Cettina and Giacinto don’t get along like before.

 

Alberto comes out of his depression when he meets Gemma and the two become an item.

 

By the end of season 2, Alice, despite the earlier diagnosis, has become pregnant with Lele’s child. At the “wrong” moment, she finds herself stuck in an elevator, ready to give birth. Cettina and Maria have to help her give birth — to twins! This momentous experience brings Maria to an important decision she had been agonizing over: to study medicine and specialize in obstetrics.

 

This brings us to Season 3, available on Yabla. 3 years have passed since Season 2 and Maria is starting medical school, Lele has just left for a sabbatical in Australia to research a rare infantile disease, and has taken the twins with him. Alice will join him from Brazil. Nonno has his hands full with Nilde’s little boy, Lele Junior, and the other kids who all have their own problems. Let’s see what happens!

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Il gusto — the sense of taste

This lesson will explore some of the vocabulary we use to talk about the sense of taste. We use nouns, verbs and adjectives, so once again, we'll divide the lesson up into these three different parts of speech.

Nouns

When we talk about the noun "taste," one noun we use in Italian is il gusto (the taste). It can be used literally to talk about food. In the following example, we are talking about the particular taste of good olive oil:

perché avendo un pane più saporito si perderebbe il gusto dell'olio.

because having a more flavorful bread, you'd lose the taste of the oil.

Caption 13, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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We can also use the noun il gusto as we do in English, to talk about someone's good or bad taste in music, clothing, furniture, etc. In this next example, it's all about a tie someone wears to a wedding.

Eh, va be'. -Vedi, è questione di buon gusto, no?

Well, OK. -See? It's a question of good taste, right?

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 1

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So with the noun form, il gusto functions much as "the taste" does in English.

 

Another noun we use to talk about how something tastes is il sapore (the taste). But in contrast to il gusto, il sapore is mostly about how something tastes.

L'olio esalta anche il sapore delle pietanze.

Oil also brings out the taste of dishes.

Caption 17, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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Il sapore can be used metaphorically as well, as in sapore di mare (the feeling of the seaside), but it is about the item we are tasting.

It tastes good (ha un buon sapore) or it tastes bad (ha un cattivo sapore)

 

But il buon gusto/il cattivo gusto can also be about the person who has good or bad taste in things.

Ha buon gusto-ha cattivo gusto (he/she has good taste-he/she has bad taste).

Verbs

When we are talking about tasting something, for example, to see if the water has been salted properly for cooking the pasta, the noun we go to is assaggiare (to taste). This is a transitive verb.

 

Non vedo l'ora di assaggiare la pappa al pomodoro!

I can't wait to taste the tomato and bread soup!

Caption 69, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Toscani ha assaggiato il vino e ha detto che era aceto.

Toscani tasted the wine and said it tasted like vinegar.

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 15

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Let's keep in mind that there is a noun form connected to assaggiare — un assaggio  — that is useful to know. It implies a mini-portion of something and is sometimes offered on menus in restaurants. 

 

One way restaurants offer these assaggi is by calling them by the number of mini-portions included: un tris (three mini-portions) or un bis (two mini-portions). See this lesson about that! Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits).

 

The verb assaggiare implies tasting something to see how it is. Maybe you are testing it for the salt, or you are trying something for the first time.

 

The verb gustare on the other hand is connected with savoring something, enjoying the taste, or making the most of it.

 

Per gustare bene un tartufo bisogna partire dal presupposto che i piatti devono essere molto semplici

To properly taste a truffle you have to start with the assumption that the dishes have to be very simple

Captions 51-52, Tartufo bianco d'Alba Come sceglierlo e come gustarlo

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This might be a good time to mention the noun il disgusto along with the verb disgustare. You can easily guess what they mean. And there's also disgustoso. These are strong words so use them only when you really mean them.

Adjectives

Whereas we use the verb assaggiare and the noun assaggio, there is no relative adjective. But in the case of il gusto and gustare, we do have a relative adjective, gustoso (tasty, flavorful).

Più gli ingredienti sono di qualità, più il panzerotto risulterà gustoso.

The higher the quality of the ingredients, the more flavorful the “panzerotto” will turn out.

Caption 5, L'Italia a tavola Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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The adjective connected to il sapore is saporito. It can mean "very tasty," but it often implies something is on the salty side, as in the following example.

Ma poi il pecorino è molto saporito, quindi dobbiamo stare attente con il sale. -Esatto.

And then, sheep cheese is very flavorful so we have to be careful with the salt. -Exactly.

Captions 20-21, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 2

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To give more flavor to something, we can use the verb insaporire (to make something more flavorful).

Userò l'aglio, sia per, eh, insaporire, quindi l'olio,

I'll use the garlic, both for flavoring, that is, the oil,

Caption 37, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One last thing. Sapere is a verb meaning to have the taste (or smell) of (in addition to meaning "to know"). This would be a perfect time to read our lesson about that!

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Let us know if you have questions or suggestions at newsletter@yabla.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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L'olfatto — the sense of smell

This lesson explores the sense of smell and how to talk about smelling things and how things smell, since it works a bit differently than it does in English. We'll divide the lesson into three parts of speech having to do with the sense of smell.

Nouns having to do with smell


When we use the noun "smell" to mean "odor," as in, "There's a funny smell in here," or, "What's that smell?", just remember that if it is a neutral smell, the cognate odore works just fine. Cos'è quel odore (what is that smell)? If it isn't neutral, then we use other words or we qualify odore (odor).

If it's a particularly unpleasant smell, it's una puzza (a stink or a stench). There are other words to use, too, but for now, let's keep it simple. Che puzza! (something stinks!)

We can also talk about un cattivo odore (a bad smell) or un buon odore (a good smell). We might need the verb avere (to have) to complete the sentence.

I get a new car and I like the way it smells inside:
 

Questa macchina ha un buon odore (this car smells good).

 

You sniff the milk container:
 

Questo latte ha un cattivo odore, sarà andato a male (this milk smells bad, it must have gone sour).

 

If it is a good smell, either the flower kind or the food kind, we can use the cognate profumo.

 

I walk into someone's kitchen and say che buon profumo! I mean "It smells great in here!"

 

The English cognate "perfume" is usually reserved for flower essences used in beauty products, but in Italian, it can represent "a good smell." So let's keep in mind that in Italian we use a noun and in English, we use the intransitive verb "to smell" for this (much of the time). 

 

Another good and easy cognate to know is aroma because it means pretty much the same thing as "aroma" in English. We usually use it for food, herbs, and spices. 

Le cipolle hanno un sapore e un aroma molto forte,

Onions have a strong smell and taste,

Caption 56, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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Verbs having to do with smell


The most common Italian verb corresponding to the transitive verb "to smell" in English is sentire which we can equate with "to sense," with your nose, your ears, or your tongue.

Senti che buon profumo.
Senti che bella canzone.
Senti questo sugo. C'è abbastanza sale?

 

But if want to talk about using my nose to sniff something, I can use annusare (to sniff). 

 

Annusa questi fiori, senti che profumo! (smell these flowers, how good they smell).

 

Let's say I have some flowers, but they have no smell. Non odorano (they don't have a scent). The verb is odorare (to have a scent). Odorare can also be transitive, like annusare, but it's not one of those everyday verbs you need to know.

 

Finally, there is fiutare, which means the same thing, "to sniff." But again, you might come across the word, but you don't need it in everyday conversation.

 

Please see the lesson Taste and Smell - Sapere Part 2 for more on this, plus some examples.

 

Adjectives having to do with smell

Italians like to have clean, ironed clothes, and they use ammorbidente (fabric softener) that also serves to give a nice scent to the laundered items.

When the laundry comes off the clothesline, it smells lovely: il bucato è profumato.

 

Some people like scented candles: candele profumate.

 

We also have the adjective odoroso (having an odor, usually strong). It's not used a lot in normal day-to-day conversation, so don't worry about this adjective...

 

In cooking, Italians like certain aromatic herbs — erbe aromatiche, such as basilico (basil), rosmarino (rosemary), and salvia (sage).

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4 ways to translate "way" into Italian

Sometimes the challenge is understanding what someone tells you in Italian, but sometimes it's about coming up with the right Italian word for what we are trying to say (when we happen to be thinking English). So let's start with an English word this time. Let's start out with the English noun "way." We can translate it into Italian in a few different ways.

the way - la via 

the way - il modo

the way - la maniera

 

La via

What's the best way to solve this problem or get out of the situation? We're pretty much talking about a direction here, either literal or figurative. Which way? What route or path do we take? 

Sembra che non ci sia più via d'uscita.

It looks like there won't be any way out.

Caption 31, Anna e Marika in La Gazza Ladra - Part 2

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We can often use the word "pathway" for viaVia, being more about "by what means," and also meaning "road," stands out from the other words we will be talking about, which are more about "how": the way to do something.

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Il modo

 

If we are talking about the way someone does something, then we will likely use il modo (the way, the manner).

Ma questo modo di conservare gli alimenti, paradossalmente, è un po' più rispettoso della natura...

But this way of conserving food, paradoxically, is a bit more respectful of nature...

Captions 28-29, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 4

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Le stagioni hanno specifici colori, clima, temperatura, e influenzano il nostro modo di vivere.

The seasons have specific colors, weather, temperatures, and influence the way we live.

Captions 5-6, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

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A question to ask with modo is: in che modo (in what way, how)? It often goes hand in hand with the question come (how)?

 

We can use modo when we ask for or give instructions, such as in cooking. How should we slice the onion?

La nostra cipolla va affettata in modo molto sottile.

Our onion is to be sliced very thinly.

Caption 6, L'Italia a tavola Penne alla Toma Piemontese - Part 2

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Keep in mind that in many cases in which we might likely use an adverb in English (in this case "thinly"), an adjective after modo seems to work better in Italian (in modo sottile).

 

Here are a few more examples of this:

 

a roughly chopped onion  - una cipolla tagliata in modo grossolano

uniformly - in modo uniforme

strangely - in modo strano

unusually - in modo insolito

messily - in modo disordinato

 

When you don't like someone's manner, you don't like the way they go about doing things, you can use modo.

Non mi piace il suo modo di fare (I don't like the way he does things).

 

La maniera

 

The cognate for maniera is "manner," which often means "way." So that's easy.

 

In questa maniera, usando la pasta all'uovo la stessa ricetta, lasagna se ne vende a profusione qui da noi.

This way, the same recipe using egg pasta, lasagna sells profusely here at our place.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika Hostaria Antica Roma - Part 2

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Modo and maniera are very similar, and are pretty interchangeable, but keep in mind that modo is masculine and maniera is feminine.

 

Ha una maniera strana di parlare (he has a strange way of talking).

Parla in modo strano (he has a strange way of talking). 

 

Il senso

We have one more translation for "way," and that is senso

 

Strangely enough, in the dictionary, we don't immediately see il senso as an Italian translation of "the way." Yet, when we look up il senso, "the way" turns up as the fourth choice as a translation.

 

Senso is a great word, and one Italians use all the time. Let's talk about 2 popular ways it is used to mean "way." When used in a statement, it's common to find the adjective certo (certain) before it. We have translated it, but you could also leave it out: "In a way..."

e in un certo senso, l'abbiamo anche conquistata

in a certain way, we even conquered it

Caption 22, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 3

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The other way Italians use senso is when they want a more complete explanation of something they didn't quite understand.

 

They'll ask, In che senso? 

Perché? -Perché così nessuno avrebbe saputo che erano false. False? -False? -False in che senso, scusi? -Falsissime.

Why? -Because that way no one would have known they were fakes. Fakes? -Fakes? -Fakes in what way, sorry? -Very fake.

Captions 54-55, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 16

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They are asking, "In what way?"  but they might also be asking, "What do you mean by "fake"?" or "How do you mean?"

 

We might want to keep in mind that another meaning of il senso is "meaning."

il senso della vita (the meaning of life)

 

Check out these lessons that explore the noun, il senso.

Making Sense of Senso

A common expression: nel senso...

 

 

Here's how we generally put these different ways of saying "way" into context:

 

in un certo senso (in a way)

in che senso (how do you mean, what do you mean by that)?

in qualche modo (in some way, somehow)

in qualche maniera (in some way, somehow)

ad ogni modo (anyway, anyhow)

per quale via (by what means)?

 

Now when you watch Yabla videos, maybe you will be a bit more tuned in to how people use via, modo, maniera and senso. They all mean "way."

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Using the noun la volta (the time)

La volta buona literally means “the good time.” But volta means several things, as does buono. “Time” also has several connotations. So let's take a closer look.

 

Here are some examples of how volta is commonly used:

Sarà la volta buona (this time you’ll make it)!

Ancora una volta (one more time, or “once again).

Un'altra volta ("some other time").

 

After many failures, la volta buona is the successful attempt at something.

Nel senso, magari è la volta buona che ti fai una bicicletta pure tu.

I mean, maybe this will be the time that even you get yourself a bike.

Captions 4-5, La Tempesta film - Part 2

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When we want to or have to postpone something we talk about un'altra volta (another time). Not this time, but another time.

Va bene, delle disavventure tropicali di mio fratello ne parliamo un'altra volta.

All right, about the tropical misadventures of my brother we'll talk about them another time.

Captions 31-32, La Tempesta - film - Part 2

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But the same thing can mean "again."

E' sparito un'altra volta! -Ma stai scherzando,

He disappeared again! -But you're kidding,

Caption 24, Il Commissario Manara S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi - Part 9

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With the preposition a (at) in front of the plural of volta—volte, we get a volte meaning "sometimes" or "at times."

A volte tengono la loro "a". OK?

Sometimes they retain their "a," OK?

Caption 46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il futuro - Part 4

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A volte is another way of saying qualche volta. They both mean “sometimes.”  A volte can be also translated as “at times.”

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We can use una volta in thinking about the future:

Una volta mi piacerebbe andare a Londra. 
Sometime I’d like to go to London.

 

But it can also mean “one time."

Io ci sono stata una volta.
I went there once.

 

And we can use it to refer to the past:

C'era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) is a famous film from 1968 by Sergio Leone.

 

We can translate it as "once" or "at one time."

Una volta servivamo il papa e il re, ∫ eravamo anche colti e magnanimi

Once, we served the pope and the king. At one time, we were even cultured and magnanimous,

Captions 44-45, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 23

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Noioso: boring or annoying?

A Yabla subscriber has asked us to shed some light on the difference between noioso and annoiato. They are both adjectives and can be used to describe a person.  There are some intricacies involved with these words, which we'll get to, but let's start out with the noun: la noia

Che noia!

What a bore!

Caption 9, Acqua in bocca Un amico per Pippo - Ep 1

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What is tricky about this noun (and its related adjectives) is that it can indeed imply boredom," but it can also mean "the bother" or "the nuisance." In fact, in the previous example, we don't know the context, but the meaning could also have been "what a nuisance," or "what a pain." The noun noia rarely refers to a person him- or herself, as "bore" would in English.

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Noia

The following example is from Tuscany where noia is used a great deal to mean "bother." And it's often used with the verb dare (to give) — dare noia (to be a bother, to be annoying, to be in the way).

Erano alberi che davano noia e basta,

They were trees that were a bother and nothing more,

Caption 30, Gianni si racconta L'olivo e i rovi

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So che noia can mean "what boredom" or "what a pain!" And dare noia can be interpreted as bothering, or being a bother, or being in the way.

 

Annoiare

We also have the verb annoiare that does remind one of the verb "to annoy." Indeed, that is one of the meanings and comes from the Latin "inodiare" — avere in odio (to have hateful feelings for).

Mi disturba, mi annoia,

You're bothering me, you're annoying me,

Caption 11, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sul Piemonte

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But it is much more common for this verb to be used in its reflexive form annoiarsi. In this case it's always about being bored or possibly fed up.

Io non mi annoio mai quando sto con lui, mai.

I never get bored when I am with him, ever.

Caption 34, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 13

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Noioso

We've seen that noia isn't just about boredom, so likewise, noioso can mean boring, but not necessarily. Let's look at some examples of the different nuances.

Noioso can describe a person who is not very interesting, a dull person:

Abbiamo solamente avuto un piccolo flirt. Genere depresso e noioso, capisci?

We just had a little fling. Depressed and boring type, you understand?

Captions 9-10, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale - Part 19

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It can also describe a movie, for example: 

Il film era noioso, purtroppo (the movie was boring, unfortunately).

 

Here's a perfect example of something that is not boring. It's annoying. And in fact, the N and O sounds can hint at that.

Eh, povero Dixi, il singhiozzo è noioso

Oh, poor Dixi, the hiccups are bothersome

Caption 15, Dixiland Il singhiozzo

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Annoiato

Annoiato can be used as the past participle of annoiare, or more often, as we mentioned above, the past participle of the reflexive verb annoiarsi. In this case, it means "to get or to be bored."

Oppure: "No, non andrò alla festa di Marcello. Ci sono già stato l'anno scorso e mi sono annoiato".

Or: "No, I won't go to Marcello's party. I already went to it last year and I got bored."

Captions 48-49, Corso di italiano con Daniela Particella Ci e Ne - Part 2

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But as often occurs, past participles are also used as adjectives.  With annoiato, this can describe one's state of being.

Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare?

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f) and you want to have a good time and relax?

Captions 3-4, Marika spiega Il cinema

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Just for fun:

Let's try using all these forms in a silly, made-up dialogue.

Lei: Sembri annoiato, è così? (you seem bored. Are you?)

 

Lui: No, ho solo sonno (no, I'm just sleepy). E inoltre, come posso annoiarmi ad ascoltare i tuoi racconti per l'ennesima volta? (And besides, how can I get bored listening to you tell your stories for the umteenth time?

 

Lei: Beh, so che posso essere un po' noiosa a volte, scusami (Well, I know I can be a bit boring at times, sorry). Allora smetto di darti noia, e me ne vado (I'll stop bothering you, then, and I'll leave).

 

Lui: No, aspetta, se vai via mi annoierò davvero (If you leave, I will get bored for real). E tra l'altro, ho dei lavori noiosissimi da fare e non ne ho nessuna voglia (and besides, I have some really tedious jobs to do and I have no desire to do them).

 

Lei: OK, so che sono noiosa, ma non sarebbe meglio fare quei lavori dato che siano anche urgenti (OK, I know I am being a pain, but wouldn't it be better to do those jobs, given that they're urgent)?

 

Lui: OK, ora sei noiosa davvero. Mi sono ampiamente annoiato con questa storia (Ok, now you are really being boring/irritating. I'm pretty sick of this thing), quindi forse è meglio se te ne vai... (so maybe it's better if you do leave).

 

OK, ciao. Non ti voglio annoiare con un'altra delle mie storie noiose. (OK, bye. I don't want to bore you with another of my boring stories).

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When volendo implies the opposite of "wanting to."

The verb volere (to want, to desire) is a very common verb, one we learn early on, so that we can ask for things we need. It has a host of uses and different nuances of meanings you can read about if you look it up on WordReference

 

In this lesson, we will look at a particular use of this verb that uses the gerund form volendo. We have to be careful, because there is an often-used literal meaning and also a slightly skewed meaning, in which you have to know that there is negative implication included.

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Let's start off with the basic, innocent, literal use of the gerund form of volere. We can translate it as "wanting"  or "wanting to." Note we don't usually translate it with the gerund in this context.

Però, volendo, possiamo usare anche un semplice coltello.

However, if we want to, we can also use a simple knife.

Caption 83, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One handy thing about volendo, is that you don't necessarily have to talk about who wants something. It can stay nice and impersonal as in the following example. The key word in understanding volendo (as an expression), in terms of an English translation, is the conjunction if. We don't see it in the Italian, but we need it in the English translation.

Comunque il bagno è bello grande, ah. Visto che bella vasca? Volendo, ci stanno anche due spazzolini. Nel senso che, se dovesse capitare, puoi lasciare qua il tuo da me. Capito?

In any case, the bathroom is nice and big, huh. Did you see what a nice tub? If desired, there's even room for two toothbrushes. Meaning, that if it ever happened, you can leave yours here at my place. Understood?

Captions 79-83, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 6

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Actually, using volendo avoids having to construct a sentence in the subjunctive and conditional moods, although in English, that is just what we would do.

E poi anche volendo, come faccio a trovarlo se non so dov'è?

And besides, even if I wanted to, how could I find him if I don't know where he is?

Caption 95, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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But often, volendo is used to imply that something isn't a great idea, nor a likely one. So in translating it, we would add, "really." If one really wanted to do something. That's the nuance in this example from Provaci ancora Prof!.

 

Renzo bought an artist's multiple copy of a sculpture at a flea market. He's trying to explain what a multiple is to his daughter. 

Però un ricco collezionista potrebbe anche comprarseli tutti i multipli, se vuole. Potrebbe, sì. Volendo, potrebbe.

But a rich collector could also buy all the multiples if he wanted to. He could, yes. If he really wanted to, he could.

Captions 45-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 14

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It can also be in response to something someone asks you to do, but in fact, you do not want to do, but you don't want to flat out say no, either. It can mean, "If I wanted to, I could, but I don't really want to." "If you absolutely need me to do it, I will, but I don't really want to." So hidden in the verb "wanting to" is "not wanting to."

 

We don't have examples of this last nuance from Yabla videos (yet) ... but here is an example of a possible dialogue.

Puoi andare alla riunione al posto mio (Can you go to the meeting in my place)?
Beh sì, volendo si può anche fare... [ma non credo sia una buona idea] (I could... [but I don't think it's a good idea]).

 

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In gita, in giro: What's the difference?

There are different ways to travel. It can be for pleasure or work, it can be for multiple days, weeks, or months, or it can be a day trip or an overnight, an excursion.

 

So, let's look at an interesting alternative to the true cognate, escursione (that works just fine, too):

la gita, una gita, andare in gita.

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So the noun is la gita. But where does it come from? It originally comes from the verb ire (to go). People don't use this verb much at all, in fact we could say they never use it in converstion, as it is literary (we mostly use andare), but those of you who know Latin, Spanish, or other Romance languages, will most likely recognize it. 

 

A dialectical version of ire has a g sound in front of it, turning it into gire. We can trace it to the feminine past participle: andataitagita. You don't need to know this, but some of us enjoy knowing where words come from.

 

La gita in practical terms

 

In practical terms, una gita implies traveling somewhere, not necessarily sleeping over, but maybe. 

For example, kids in school might go on una gita scolastica (a class trip).

E perché? -Partono, per la gita scolastica! Fuori di casa due giorni da soli. -Mamma, siamo in trentadue! E quattro insegnanti.

And, why? -They're leaving on a school trip! Away from home for two days, all alone. -Mom, there are thirty-two of us! And four teachers.

Captions 5-8, Acqua in bocca Allarme gita - Ep 9

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Erica works at the tourist office of Palaia in Tuscany. She's talking about her job.

E quindi è un po' il punto di arrivo, eh, di tutte quelle persone che vengono qua in vacanza, o anche semplicemente per fare u', una gita o una, una breve sosta qui, in questo territorio, che è la Valdera.

And so it's kind of the point of arrival uh, for all those people who come here on vacation, or even just to make a, a day trip, or a quick stop here, in this area, which is the Valdera.

Captions 14-17, Professioni e mestieri Erica - archeologa - Part 2

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Check out this Yabla mini-series about a girl who goes on an outing — Una gita al lago (a day trip to the lake).

Girare

The verb gire sounds kind of like the verb girare, which means "to go around." Girare and gire don't have the same root, but they are related through one definition of girare:

andare qua e là, andare in giro, vagare, con o senza uno scopo determinato
(to go here and there, to go about, with or without a specific purpose).

 

Firenze è una città piccola, si può girare benissimo a piedi.

Florence is a small city, you can go around very easily on foot.

Caption 9, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 1

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The noun form is il giro. Un giro can be a bike ride, a walk, a ride in a car... anything really, even a swing, or one of the machines at a gym. 

Continuando il mio giro in bicicletta sulle mura di Lucca, mi sono fermata davanti a questo bellissimo palazzo.

Continuing my bike ride around the Lucca walls, I stopped in front of this very beautiful villa.

Captions 1-2, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 4

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Fare un giro can mean "to take a turn."

Let's say I am on the treadmill at the gym, and there is someone waiting. I can ask, ci vuoi fare un giro (do you want to take a turn on it, do you want to have a go)?

 

Italians love diminutives, so we also have un giretto, or un girettino (or some say una girata or girattina) more like a brief stroll, synonymous with passeggiata, or passeggiatina

 

E nonna, ho fatto un bel giretto nel bosco.

Well Grandma, I had a nice walk around the woods.

Caption 5, Anna e Marika in Cappuccetto Rosso e la nonnina

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Gramatically speaking...

Note that we use the verb fare (to make, to do) with the noun una gita, —fare una gita or the noun un giro —fare un giro. Or we use the verb andare (to go) and the preposition in (on a) before gita or giro. Andare in gita, andare in giro. Tuscans often say andare a giro. It means the same thing.

Sono sicura che passeremo una bellissima giornata in giro per la città.

I'm sure we'll have a great day going around the city.

Caption 6, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 1

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There is plenty more to say about in giro, but that will be for another lesson. Meanwhile, let's try to assimilate the meanings we have talked about here by looking at some questions and some possible answers. Feel free to write to us with your attempts. Mistakes are welcome. That's how we learn.

 

Practice and examples

E tu? Che fai oggi? Vai in gita? Fai un giro? Fai una passeggiata? Vai in giro?
And you? What are you doing today? Are you going on an excursion? Are you going to go out and about? Are you going to take a walk? Are you going to cruise around the area?

 

Here are some possible answers:

Facciamo una gita turistica. Viviamo a Pisa, e andremo a visitare Siena. 
We're going on a day trip. We live in Pisa and we're going to go and see Siena.

 

Andiamo in gita, che bello!
We're going on an outing, how great!

 

Facciamo il giro dell'isolotto.
We're going to walk around the block.

 

Facciamo un giro.
Let's go and have a look around.

 

Facciamo un giro in bici.
We're going on a bike ride.

 

Ho fatto una passeggiata vicino a casa.
I took a walk close to home.

 

Siamo andati in giro per la toscana.
We went for a ride around Tuscany.

 

Feel free to send us some of your own examples. If they work, we'll add them to this list. write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

  

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Making do with accontentarsi

A single verb that expresses the idea of "making do" is accontentarsi (to be content with something/to make oneself be content). The adjective it stems from is contento (happy, content). The non-reflexive verb accontentare can be translated as "to satisfy." 

Me lo avete chiesto voi, eh, quindi io vi accontento.

You asked me for it, huh, so I will satisfy you.

Caption 6, Marika spiega I verbi cavare e togliere

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You are giving someone what they want. You are making them happy.

 

Making do

The reflexive verb accontentarsi implies that something may not be up to our highest expectations or greatest desires, but it will do, because we decide to accept it. We settle for it. 

 

Quando ho molto tempo, preferisco mangiare frutta, latte e cereali; quando ho poco tempo, mi accontento del classico caffè e del cornetto o brioche.

When I have lots of time, I prefer to eat fruit, milk and cereal; when I have little time, I make do with a classic espresso and croissant or brioche.

Captions 20-23, Adriano Giornata

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Adding some color

The verb accontentarsi has a lot of information in it, but Italians have an expression that enhances it even further. Italy, being a Roman Catholic country historically, is not lacking in monasteries and convents. While in English, "convent" tends to be understood as a convent of nuns, in Italian, un convento implies a religious community and may be either di suore (of nuns  = convent) or di frati (of monks = monastery). Many conventi around Italy offer hospitality to travelers, but the food that is served is the humble and simple fare the monks or nuns are served. And of course, they don't complain about it. 

 

So let's say someone asks you to stay for dinner on the spur of the moment and doesn't have anything special to offer. 

Se ti accontenti di quel che passa il convento, sei il benvenuto (if you make do with what the convent is serving [what we have on hand], you are welcome to stay for dinner).

 

But the expression is used outside of the realm of food, too. In this clip, we're talking about what kind of work one can get.

Guardi che Gigi c'ha pure due lauree. -E fa il deejay? -E questo passa il convento.

Look, Gigi even has two degrees. -And he is deejaying? -Well, that's what the convent offers [beggars can't be choosers].

Captions 13-15, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 7

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In an episode of Volare, the expression is used rather vulgarly, referring to a woman. But now, when you watch the video, you'll understand what's behind this expression.

Me so' [romanesco: mi sono] accontentato di quel che passava il convento.

I made do with what the convent was serving.

Caption 40, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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A couple of additional examples:

 

-I'm talking to my husband about lunch:

Vuoi anche un secondo o ti accontenti di un piatto di pasta e un'insalata? (do you want a second course or are you happy with pasta and salad)?

 

-My boss asks me:

Mi puoi fare una bozza per domani (can you give me a rough draft by tomorrow)?

I answer:

Non so se ce la faccio, ma farò del mio meglio per accontentarti (I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'll do my best to satisfy you).

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Movie Talk in Italian

Many of us like to watch movies. Let's have a quick look at some of the terms that Italians use when they talk about the movies.

 

A movie is usually called un film. That's an easy one, because in English we can say "film," as well. 

Il Cinema

But when we talk about "the movies" in general, it's il cinema. That's another word we understand, but we have to think of using. Forget about the word "movie!"

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And then, when we want to go to the movies, andiamo al cinema (we go to the movies/let's go to the movies).

Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare? Bene, puoi andare al cinema.

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f) and you want to have a good time and relax? Good. You can go to the movies.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega Il cinema

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Siamo andati al cinema e abbiamo visto un bel film. Adoro il cinema 

(We went to the movies and we saw a great movie. I love the movies)!

 

Actors and acting

When we talk about the star of the movie, if it's a guy, it's il protagonista and if it is a female, it's la protagonista. It always ends in a and is basically a feminine noun! It's also used to mean "the main character."

Perché Marcello, il protagonista di questo film, è uno come noi.

Because Marcello, the main character of this film, is someone like us.

Caption 21, Fellini Racconta Un Autoritratto Ritrovato - Part 6

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Just like in English, we have l'attore e l'attrice (the actor and the actress).

When they are acting, however, we use the verb recitare. They recite their lines.

È come recitare una parte in fondo, no?

It's like acting a part, deep down, right?

Caption 16, Sposami EP 2 - Part 9

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E... come attore insisti, hai recitato benissimo. -Grazie.

And... and you have to keep at it as an actorYou acted very well. -Thank you.

Captions 5-6, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 13

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When we talk about movie stars, Italians often use the English word, la star (the star).  Otherwise, it's la stella (the star).

Grazie. -Alla nuova stella del musical.

Thanks. -To the new star of musicals.

Caption 22, La Ladra Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 14

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Il teatro or il cinema?

Nowadays, there are often various screening rooms in a multi-plex movie theater. Each of these is called una sala. We can also call a movie theater una sala cinematografica, when we are referring to a room within a building, or a building devoted to screening moviesSo when you buy your ticket they will tell you sala 4 or sala 8. Sala is akin to "hall" or "large room." Il teatro (the theater) refers to theaters (for plays) and opera houses. It also refers to the activity or study of acting or drama. Un corso di teatro is a drama course. If you have studied acting, you can say:

 

Ho studiato teatro 

Ho studiato recitazione teatrale

Watch

Yabla Italian has various movies you can watch in Italian with or without subtitles (try only Italian, only English, none, or both!). Take advantage of moments when going to the movies might not be a great option. It might just the right time to broaden your horizons with a nice movie in Italian. Here are some suggestions:

Il Tempesta This movie takes place in il Veneto, the region Venice is in. But the story takes place in the nearby city of Treviso. It involves a photographer, an adopted Belarus orphan, and a girl who works at the Tognana porcelain factory.  

Sei mai stata sulla luna? (have you ever been to the moon?  The film is the story of Guia, a 30-year-old woman who works for a prestigious international fashion magazine, travels around by private jet and lives between Milan and Paris. She has everything, or at least she thinks she does until she finds herself in a remote village in Puglia where she inherited a large family farm.

L'oro di Scampia (The Gold of Scampia) is based on a true story, adapted from Gianni Maddaloni's book, La mia vita sportiva (My Life in Sports). Scampia is a suburb made up of massive public housing blocks north of Naples. Camorra criminals rule the area and make life very difficult for Enzo Capuano, a hospital worker, who runs a Judo school in his spare time. 

Keep in mind that each segment of a movie comes with a vocabulary review, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises, and the patented dictation exercise, Scribe, so you can learn while enjoying the movie. But you can also just soak it in, and watch the entire movie, which is useful in itself. Getting used to hearing how real people (and good actors) speak — paying attention to the rhythm, flow, and lilt of the language gives you what learning individual words and constructed sentences cannot. Sometimes it's all about how Italian connect the words to each other fluidly.

 

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Of course, there are also plenty of movies on the various streaming platforms available for the watching. They are often available in lingua originale con sottotitoli. Maybe you can watch a movie in Italian that you have already seen dubbed into English or some other language. Fun!

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Forza, per forza, and a forza di

In this lesson, we look at 3 expressions with the noun la forza, which basically means "force" (easy cognate) or "strength." The meaning might help us grasp the expressions somewhat, but let's take the opportunity to shine a light on each one. They are all very common, and good to have in your repertoire of idioms.

1) Forza!

 

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We have seen this a million times in Yabla videos. It usually has an exclamation point following it. We can best translate it with "come on." It's funny because there are several Italian expressions that are translated the same way, such as Dai! Su! Vai! Coraggio! 

Dove stiamo andando? -Forza! A lavoro, forza!

Where are we going? -Come on! To work, come on!

Captions 35-36, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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But it can also just be another way to say "come on" or "go on."  Another way to say dai, as Italians often do at the end of a sentence. It's a bit stronger, but the inflection matters a lot, too.

Vabbè entra. Chiudi la porta, forza.

All right, come in. Shut the door, go on.

Caption 3, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 5

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2) Per forza

This is a kind of adverbial phrase. We can get the sense of what it means: literally "through force." We use it to mean "necessarily," "inevitably," "begrudgingly" — in other words, "there's no choice." "That's the way it has to be." It might even mean "obviously," "clearly," in certain cases.

Let's look at some examples in context.

Allora, noi le tasse di successione, quelle dobbiamo pagarle per forza.

So, the inheritance taxes, those we are obliged to pay.

Caption 25, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 2

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C'è che tua madre vuole per forza trasformare il nostro matrimonio in un evento.

It's that your mother wants, at all costs, to transform our wedding into an event.

Caption 31, Sposami EP 1 - Part 19

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Ho preso un tassì e sono scappata dal Pronto Soccorso. -Ma ti sei fatta visitare? -Per forza!

I took a taxi and ran off from the emergency room. -Did you get examined? -I had no choice!

Captions 1-3, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 15

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Tu non mi hai visto a me! Io so' [sono] sparito. Tu mi vedi? No, per forza, so' [sono] sparito.

You haven't seen me! I've disappeared. Do you see me? No, of course not. I've disappeared.

Captions 36-37, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 10

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Two further idiomatic sayings come to mind using this adverbial phrase:

Per amore o per forza (one way or another, one way or the other)

O per volere o per forza (by hook or by crook)

 

3) A forza di...

The image we can glean from this expression is of a hammer that keeps hammering. Or a lie someone keeps repeating so many times that in the end you believe it. 

In the first example below, the police are looking for a DVD that could be really anywhere... a needle in a haystack. But they keep looking for it. They're saying they'll go into retirement before they find the DVD, it's taking so long.

Mi sa che ci [sic: ce ne] andiamo in pensione a forza di cercare 'sto [questo] DVD. E speriamo che ci andiamo in pensione, prima che ci sbranano i topi.

I think that we'll go into retirement from all the looking for this DVD. And let's hope that we retire at all, before the mice chew us up.

Captions 33-35, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 14

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In this example, we have another modo di dire: mettersi la mano sulla coscienza (to examine one's conscience).  

Non lo so, mettiti una mano sulla coscienza. -Senti, a forza di mettermi la mano sulla coscienza, quella è morta soffocata.

I don't know. Put a hand on your conscience [examine your conscience]. -Listen, by putting my hand on my conscience so much, it died from suffocation.

Captions 49-51, Sposami EP 2 - Part 25

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Although both of these examples are humorously expressed comments, a forza di is also used in serious matters. 

Mi fanno male le gambe a forza di stare seduto (by sitting so much, my legs hurt).

 

Structurally, we note that after a forza di comes a verb in the infinitive. In the English translation, we often find a gerund.

 

Just for fun:

Forza! Andiamo via. Dobbiamo per forza arrivare al supermercato prima della chiusura perché è finito il caffè. -Per forza è finito il caffè. Tu ne bevi a litri. A forza di bere tutti questi caffè non dormirai mai più.

Come on, let's leave. We have to absolutely get to the supermarket before closing time because we're out of coffee. Of course we're out of coffee. You drink gallons of it. By drinking so much you will never sleep again.

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A forza di studiare l'italiano e guardare dei video su Yabla (e facendo gli esercizi, bene inteso), imparerai la lingua!

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Meritare (to deserve, to merit)

Let's look at a word used in a recent episode of Volare that has both a verb and a noun form. It's an easy cognate, but you might not think of it, since "to deserve" is the verb we would use in English, and alas, it has no cognate in Italian.

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So meritare is a good verb to know. The noun form is il merito. In English, we would usually say "Thanks to [someone or something]."  Or we might say, "The credit is all yours/his/hers/theirs." So, you'll probably understand these words when you see them, especially when they are in a clear context, but you might not add them to your vocabulary if you are thinking in English. They are worth adopting, though. "Being worth it" is another way to translate meritare!

È merito della signora se sono qui, eh. -No, Lei è qui perché se lo merita, non deve ringraziare nessuno.

It's thanks to the lady if I am here, huh. -No. You are here because you deserve to be. You don't have to thank anyone.

Captions 22-24, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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You might have noticed that the speaker uses the reflexive form of meritare, meritarsi. Both ways are OK, but when it's reflexive it feels a bit more personal (and it's a bit more complicated to use).

Il successo l'hai meritato.

Il succeso te lo sei meritato.

 

Let's look at some examples from Yabla videos:

Se hai una pessima idea di me, me lo merito.

If you have a bad impression of me, I deserve it.

Caption 72, Il Commissario Manara S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 2

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Se questa operazione è riuscita, il merito è tuo. Brava, Sardi.

If this operation succeeded, it's thanks to you. Very good, Sardi.

Caption 26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP4 - Miss Maremma - Part 12

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Eh, va be', però bisogna avvertirlo, perché il critico ha dato tutto il merito a te.

Well, all right, but you should let him know because the critic gave you all the credit.

Caption 24, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 1

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Pensavo di meritare di più dalla vita.

I thought I deserved more from life.

Caption 19, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 13

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Poi sicuramente Pisa merita una visita con la sua torre pendente che non casca mai.

Then, of course, Pisa is worth a visit with its leaning tower that never falls.

Captions 75-76, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Toscana

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As you can see in the final example, to deserve something and be worth something are very close. Sometimes they are interchangeable. They are in Italian too, so check out our lesson about valere (to be worth). 

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Verb-object agreement in the passato prossimo

In most languages, there are situations in which two different sets of rules can apply. Sometimes it's because there are simply two valid ways of saying something. For instance, in English we can say:

There is none

There isn't any.

They both mean the same thing and they are both correct. How to choose?

 

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Modal verb + infinitive + object pronoun (s)

 

In Italian, a case in point is when we have a modal verb, a verb in the infinitive, and a pronoun. I can attach the pronoun to the verb or I can separate it and change the word order. It's a matter of personal choice.

Vado a cercarlo.

Lo vado a cercare.

Non posso farlo.

No lo posso fare.

 

Evolution in speech over time

Some rules change over time because the rule gets broken so many times that it becomes acceptable to break it. One example of this in English is using "who" instead of "whom" when it's an object. In some cases we still use it, and it is absolutely correct, but in general conversation, people might look at you strangely or think you are a snob. We still use it when we have a preposition before it, as in business letters, for instance: "To whom it may concern."

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora Prof, there's another use that has become less common in everyday speech, but is nevertheless correct. This brand of agreement is what we call facoltativo (optional). The conversation between Renzo and Camilla seems like the perfect opportunity to shine a light on it. 

Lo sai? -Lo so, ti ho vista. -Mi hai vista? -Sì, ti ho vista. Ero venuto lì per cercarti e ti ho vista.

You know? -I know. I saw you. -You saw me? -Yes, I saw you. I went there to look for you, and I saw you.

Captions 5-7, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 10

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We're talking about the transitive verb vedere, which takes the auxiliary verb avere. The sentences are in the passato prossimo, thus we use the past participle of vedere. If we look at a conjugation chart, we will see that visto is the past participle, not vista! Vista is nowhere to be seen.

If you click on "play caption," you will hear that Renzo (the husband) is talking to his wife Camilla and then she answers. So what's the story with vista?

There's a rule that if the verb is in the passato prossimo, the past participle can agree in gender and number with the direct object pronoun. Read more about this (in Italian). 

So Renzo says Ti ho vista. Camilla is the direct object of vedere. If the roles were reversed, Camilla would say: T'ho visto because the pronoun would correspond to a male, her husband. This doesn't apply only to people. The pronoun might refer to a thing, but all nouns have gender in Italian.

 

A few more examples:

Ho visto le ragazze – Le ho viste = I have seen the girls – I have seen them
Ho sentito gli spari – Li ho sentiti = I have heard the shots – I have heard them

 

We should mention that Camilla is a professoressa of Italian and often plays sophisticated word games with her husband, so it makes sense for them to use correct Italian, and in fact, they sometimes get competitive about it. But normal people in everyday life often do not always make this choice and it's optional, so don't worry about it too much, but you might hear it. Still, it's nice to recognize it, right? And when you use it, you will feel proud and in the know.

In the same conversation, Renzo talks about seeing Camilla with Gaetano, the chief of police. 

Non negare, vi ho visti.

Don't deny it, I saw you.

Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 10

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He could have said Vi ho visto, just as he could have said T'ho visto in the previous example.

As you watch Yabla videos, you will undoubtedly come across more examples of this construction. Feel free to point them out in the comments section.  

Meanwhile, check out these examples from a Yabla original video: 
 

Devo dire la verità, che io adoro la panzanella e sono una toscana DOC [di origine controllata], ma non l'ho mai fatta!

I have to tell you the truth. I love panzanella and I'm a DOC [true] Tuscan, but I have never made it.

Captions 12-14, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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And another example, with another verb, from the same cooking video with Arianna:

L'ho sempre mangiata molto volentieri,

I have always really enjoyed eating it [I have always eaten it willingly]...

Caption 15, In cucina con Arianna la panzanella - Part 1

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Is it worth it? : valere

When you're playing a game, you have to follow the rules. When you don't, someone might say:

Non vale (it doesn't count).

 

This comes from the verb valere (to have value, to be worth, to be valid).

Devi chiudere gli occhi però, se no non vale. Vai.

You have to close your eyes, though, otherwise it doesn't count. Go.

Captions 10-11, Sposami EP 2 - Part 20

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So in this case, the verb valere is used to mean something isn't valid, it doesn't count.

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But we also use it when we talk about something being worth it. In English, we can say something is worth the trouble or simply "worth it." In Italian, we need to say the whole phrase:

Vale la pena (it's worth the trouble, it's worth it).

Insomma, la vita è una cosa meravigliosa e vale la pena viverla.

So, life is a marvelous thing and it is well worth living.

Captions 41-42, Amiche Filosofie

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In the previous example, we have a subject: life. "Life is worth living." But we can also just say, "It's worth it." In this case, we use a sort of prop word, the particle ne.

We use ne when we comment on something being worth it or not. We know what we're talking about, but we don't need to repeat it. So we use ne.

 

Here's the negative version:

[Qualcosa] non vale la pena ([something] is not worth it).

Non ne vale la pena (it's not worth it).

 

We can say the same exact thing as a question: Here too, we'll use the particle ne if we don't include the subject (the thing that isn't worth it).

Vale la pena (is [something] worth it/worth the trouble)?

Ne vale la pena (is it worth it)?

 

The third way we use valere is to say something is applicable. 

Questa regola vale soltanto per il singolare, quando io parlo della mia famiglia in singolare.

This rule applies only to the singular, when I talk about my family in the singular.

Captions 14-15, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi Possessivi - Part 5

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Vale la pena studiare l'italiano? Speriamo di sì!

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"Your turn" using the verb toccare

Although we can sometimes use the noun il turno to mean "the turn," as in, "Wait your turn" (aspetta il tuo turno), there's another (colloquial) expression we use in Italian, more often than not. We use the verb toccare (to touch). In the following clip, Dino and Melody are making wishes with blueberries:

Adesso tocca a te.

Now it's your turn.

Caption 9, Sposami EP 2 - Part 20

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Tocca a te (it's your turn).
Tocca a me (it's my turn). 

 

The question you might get in a shop where various people are waiting their turns:

A chi tocca (whose turn is it)?

The answer can be tocca a me, tocca alla signora, tocca a lei, tocca a loro...

 

Twisting this expression a bit turns it into something you have to do.

Mi tocca (I have to do it).
Ti tocca (you have to do it).

 

Ho faticato tanto per averla, e adesso mi tocca venderla.

I worked so hard to get it, and now I have to sell it.

Captions 6-7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 9

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The important thing to remember in using this expression is that the person is the indirect object. The preposition of choice is a (to, at). The subject is a general "it," implied, or absent, actually.

In some places, you take a number and then wait your turn, at the supermarket, for example, at the bread counter, or the counter where you get prosciutto. Otherwise, you can ask, Chi è l'ultimo (who's the last [in line])? 

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Disgrazia: A fickle friend

Let's look at a false friend. Not always false, but frequently. 

Una disgrazia

When something bad happens, like an accident, or a natural disaster, one word Italians commonly use is una disgraziaÈ successa una disgrazia (something bad happened/there's been an accident).

Domani, me [mi] capiterà 'na [una] disgrazia. -Che disgrazia? -Qualcosa de [di] male. Perché oggi sto troppo bene, canterino.

Tomorrow, some calamity will happen to me. What calamity? -Something bad. Because, today, I feel too good, songbird.

Captions 3-6, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 13

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The woman says it: something bad. In the following example, a suspect is describing someone dying as a terrible accident, not a murder.

È caduto e ha battuto la testa, ma non volevo! È stata, è stata 'na [una] disgrazia!

He fell and hit his head but I didn't want that. It was, it was a terrible accident.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 13

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Here, again, a terrible tragedy:

Era sull'autobus dove è successa la disgrazia.

She was on the bus where the tragedy occurred.

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

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The cognate is, of course, "a disgrace," but if we look up disgrace, we see other words that are used more commonly, such as una vergogna

Tu sei la vergogna della nostra famiglia. Vergognati!

You are the disgrace of our family. Shame on you!

Captions 46-47, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 11

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So, disgrazia often refers to a natural disaster or someone dying suddenly. It's just something to keep in mind (tenere a mente or tenere presente).  Because it might happen that when you are traveling in Italy, you'll get some bad news. It's important to know that disgrazia might refer to a tragedy, an accident, a misfortune. Not necessarily will the speaker be talking about a disgrace.

A related term: disgraziato

As we have mentioned in the past, Italian and English don't always correspond regarding parts of speech.

 

Italians love to call each other names (just like lots of folks). One way to say that someone did something you totally do not approve of is to call them a disgraziato (a disgraceful fellow). We have to be a bit careful because it can either mean someone who has fallen on misfortune, but it can also mean someone who ought to be ashamed of himself, so context is key.

Don't take our word for it.  Let's look at some examples:

Disgraziato, ti ho scoperto con le mani dentro al sacco!

You bastard, I've discovered you with your hands in the bag!

Caption 50, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 12

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Io non sono come quei disgraziati che parte [sic: partono] per fame, ma'. Io vado a Roma per fare lu [pugliese: il] cinema, ma', sia chiaro, eh, cinema.

I'm not like those poor guys who leave because they're hungry, Ma. I'm going to Rome to make movies, Ma, to be clear, uh, the movies.

Captions 41-43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 4

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Keep in mind that when you want to call someone a disgraziato, you need to distinguish between masculine and feminine and singular and plural.

Disgraziato can be used as an adjective or as a noun. We could say that as an adjective it is more likely referring to misfortune:

Tu cosa diresti? -Be'... direi... povera disgraziata la signora! -Eh. -Eheh!

What would you say? -Well... I would say... poor unlucky lady! -Uh-huh. -Uh-huh!

Captions 49-50, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

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As a noun (especially if well-articulated) it might very well be talking about a "bad" person:

 

Disgraziato! Delinquente! Assassino!

Scoundrel! Delinquent! Murderer!

Caption 58, Psicovip Super Minivip - Ep 17

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Or it can be a combination.

Speriamo la prossima stazione di questo disgraziato sia qui vicino.

Let's hope the poor bastard's next stop is near here.

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 9

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