When you worry about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. With this in mind, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that the Italian word for worrying sounds a lot like the verb “to preoccupy.” The infinitive is preoccupare (to worry), usually used reflexively—preoccuparsi (to worry about)—the adjective/participle is preoccupato (worried), and the noun is preoccupazione (cause for worry) with its plural, preoccupazioni (worries, troubles). We all do our share of worrying, so it’s a good word to be familiar with!
In the story of La Bohème, Rodolfo is worried about Mimì because she has tuberculosis.
l'ho sentito che si confidava con Marcello, il suo amico pittore, e gli diceva che era preoccupato per via della mia malattia.
I heard him confiding to his friend Marcello, his painter friend, and he told him that he was worried because of my illness.
Captions 30-31, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1Play Caption
Andiamo a casa, va'! Se no zia si preoccupa.
Let's go home, come on! Otherwise Auntie will worry.
Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 9Play Caption
Sometimes people worry for no reason, so we want to reassure them. In other words, we’re giving the negative command, “Don’t worry.” Negative commands in Italian are easy when you’re talking to friends and family: non + the infinitive of a verb.
So, if a friend or familiar person is preoccupato and they shouldn’t be, take after Adriano, who’s reassuring his grandmother. She’s family, so he speaks informally to her. As he sings her praises, she notices something off-camera and points to it. He doesn’t want her to worry about it, or even to pay attention to it:
Non ti preoccupare, nonna.
Don't worry Grandma.
Caption 26, Adriano NonnaPlay Caption
Remember that preoccupare is generally used reflexively (preoccuparsi), so just like with other reflexive verbs, the personal pronoun can go in two different positions (both are equally grammatical): before the verb, as Adriano says it, or attached to the end of the verb as below. See this previous lesson, and this one, too, for more on reflexive verbs.
Scusa, eh, per le foto così brutte, ma le ha fatte mio marito, quindi... No, ma non preoccuparti.
Sorry, uh, for such bad photos, but my husband took them, so... No, but don't worry about it.
Captions 34-35, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7Play Caption
If, on the other hand, you need to tell someone you don’t know very well not to worry, use the polite form of the imperative (more on doing so here): Non si preoccupi. Without delving into a lot of grammar, just memorizing the phrase (with a nice accent on the “o”) will be helpful when you’re addressing someone like a salesperson, someone’s parent, a teacher, or a doctor, as in the following example.
Dottore non si preoccupi, ci occuperemo noi di lui.
Doctor don't worry, we'll take care of him.Play Caption
Gualtiero Marchesi forgets his troubles by going back to his childhood haunts. Pensieri (thoughts, worries) go hand in hand with preoccupazioni (worries, troubles):
Sono sempre tornato nei luoghi della mia infanzia, a volte, all'improvviso, lasciandomi alle spalle pensieri e preoccupazioni.
I've always returned to the places of my childhood, sometimes, suddenly, leaving my thoughts and worries behind.
Captions 16-17, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 12Play Caption
As an aside, the antidote to worrying is frequently to take care of something, and the verb for that is occuparsi (to take care of, to deal with), not to be confused with preoccuparsi.
When you meet people or pass them on the street, consider whether you would speak to them informally or formally, and tell them, in your mind, not to worry. Would you say non ti preoccupare or non si preoccupi?
Francesca is showing Daniela how to play one of the most popular Italian card games, Briscola. Two little words stand out, and merit some attention. They’re both in the category of “but,” yet they are more specific and allow for a more elegant turn of phrase. The first is the conjunction bensì (but rather).
La briscola, eh, come molti non sanno, non è un gioco nato in Italia, bensì in Olanda, nei Paesi Bassi.
Briscola, uh, as a lot of people don't know, is not a game originating in Italy, but rather in Holland, in the Netherlands.
Captions 5-6, Briscola: Regole del gioco - Part 1 of 2
The other one, ovvero (or rather), is used by Francesca who’s trying make things crystal clear, so she’s using language that’s a little more formal than usual. Ovvero is somewhat archaic, and is often a fancy way of saying o (“or,” “that is,” or “otherwise”).
Nella briscola ci sono delle carte che sono più importanti delle altre, ovvero, te le vado subito a mostrare.
In Briscola there are some cards that are more important than others, or rather, I'm going to show you right now.
Captions 24-25, Briscola: Regole del gioco - Part 1 of 2
In more informal speech, you’ll hear words like ma (but), invece (but, instead, rather), nel senso (I mean, in the sense), to express similar sentiments.
Speaking of informal speech, it’s definitely the norm in Lele’s family. One of the words that creeps into casual speech is mica (“not,” or “at all”). Think of when you say, “Not bad! Not bad at all!” That’s one time you’ll want to say, mica male! It’s a form of negation equivalent to non. Therefore, non male is just about equivalent to mica male, but think, “exclamation point” at the end. The fun thing about this word is that you can use it by itself, like Ciccio does, in justifying the shoes he bought with money taken from Grandpa’s pocket:
Ma guarda, Giacinto, che eran per le scarpe, mica per un gioco!
But look, Giacinto, it was for shoes, not for a game!
But you can also use it together with a negative (it’s no crime to use a double negative in Italian) like Ciccio's Grandpa (before finding out who took his money) to emphasize the “no”:
Io sono un pensionato, Cetinka, non sono mica un bancomat!
I'm a retiree, Cetinka, I'm no ATM machine!
The character of Alessio in Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui is older than Ciccio, but just out of high school. His speech is certainly very rich in modi di dire (if you do a Yabla search with mica, you’ll find Alessio and many others!), but in one episode there’s an expression whose translation is not very intuitive—con comodo (in a leisurely way). If you remember that comodo means “comfortable” it will make more sense. Depending on the tone (like in English), it can express patience or impatience!
Vabbè, fate con comodo.
OK, take your time [literally, “do with leisure”].
Watch the video to see which it is in this case!
Learning suggestion: Enrich your vocabulary by using the Yabla search as well as WordReference to get more examples of bensì, ovvero, and mica. There’s no hurry: fate con comodo!
In a previous lesson, we joined Anna and Marika at the famous Trattoria al Tevere Biondo in Rome, where they were having lunch... Later on, after their meal, they start chatting with the owner Giuseppina, who has plenty of stories to tell. She uses an expression that’s kind of fun:
Ma chi me lo fa fà [fare], io m'alzo due ore prima la mattina e la faccio espressa. Ho fatto sempre stò [questo] lavoro. -Così si cura la qualità.
But who makes me do it? I get up two hours earlier in the morning and I do it to order. I've always done it this way. -That way you make sure of the quality.
Captions 24-26, Anna e Marika Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 3Play Caption
“Who makes me do it?” is the literal translation, but the gist is, “why should I go to all that trouble?” And with her Roman speech, she shortens the infinitive fare (to make, to do) to fà. As a matter of fact, as she tells her stories Giuseppina chops off the end of just about every verb in the infinitive. This way of speaking is popular all over Italy, so get some practice with Giuseppina!
Giuseppina may chop off her verbs, but the characters in Commissario Manara chop off the end of the adverb bene (well), turning it into bè. To agree to something, va bene (literally, "he/she/it goes well") is the expression to use. But when the conversation gets going, and it's a back and forth of "OK, but..." or "All right, all right!" or "OK, let's do this," like between Luca Manara and his team, va bene often becomes vabbè. This simple expression, depending on what tone of voice is used, can say a lot. A Yabla search with vabbè will bring up many examples in Manara videos, and plenty of other videos as well.
In one episode, two detectives on Manara’s team think they’ve made a discovery, but of course the Commissario has already figured things out, and they’re disappointed.
Vabbè, però così non c'è gusto... scusa. -Vabbè, te l'avevo detto io, 'o [lo] sapevo.
OK, but that way there's no satisfaction... sorry. -OK, I told you so, I knew it.
Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 13Play Caption
Vabbè is an expression that gets used about as often as “OK.” Sometimes, though, we really do need to know if things are all right. In this case we use the full form, va bene? (is it all right?):
Eh, guardi, pago con la carta. Va bene? -OK.
Uh, look, I'll pay by credit card. All right? -OK.
Captions 38-39, Marika spiega L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
In her reply, the salesperson uses the international, “OK” but she could just as easily have said, va bene (that’s fine).
It’s important to understand abbreviated words when you hear them, but in most situations, when speaking, use the full form—you can’t go wrong.
The bellissimo music video Il regalo più grande (the greatest gift) is a reminder that some of the best gifts can’t be bought with money. If you check out the previous lesson, Gifts and Giving, you’ll be all set to understand what Tiziano Ferro is singing about.
Per cominciare (to start with), remember that in Italian, gifts (regali) are “made,” not "given," so we use the verb fare (to make):
Voglio farti un regalo
I want to give you a gift
Caption 1, Tiziano Ferro: Il regalo più grande
Vorrei donare il tuo sorriso alla luna
I'd like to give your smile to the moon
Caption 10, Tiziano Ferro: Il regalo più grande
Let’s look at these lyrics from a grammatical punto di vista (point of view). Tiziano sings in the present tense at the beginning of the song: voglio farti un regalo (I want to give you a gift). He goes on to use the conditional vorrei donare (I would like to give). But further on in the song, he would like to receive a gift, and the grammar gets a bit more complex:
Vorrei mi facessi un regalo
I would like you to give me a gift
Un sogno inespresso
An unexpressed dream
To give it to me now
Caption 19-21, Tiziano Ferro: Il regalo più grande
He again uses the first person conditional of volere (to want), "vorrei" (I would like), but turns the phrase around, which calls for the subjunctive of fare (to make) in the second person imperfect, facessi. Translating it a bit more loosely may help it make more sense: “I would like [it if] you gave me a gift.”
And finally, he uses the infinitive donare (minus the final e), the indirect object/personal pronoun me, and the direct object lo all in one single word, donarmelo.
Take a look at the conjugations of fare (to make, to do) and volere (to want). You might even be surprised to see that you know more conditional forms of these verbs than you thought, just from hearing them. Go one step further and take any of those conjugations, for example, faresti (second person conditional of fare), and do a Yabla search to find out how it’s used in the videos.
Appunto is a word Italians use all the time in speech. It officially translates as “indeed,” or “exactly,” but often means, “like I was saying,” “more precisely,” or “as already stated.” The important thing to remember is that its function is to refer back to something that's already been mentioned. We could say it points to a word or an idea in order to call your attention to the fact that we’re already on the subject. It confirms a connection.
For starters, let’s see how appunto is used by itself, to mean something like, “that’s exactly what I’m talking about!”:
Lara’s aunt, in an episode of Commissario Manara, is helping out with the investigation in her own neighborly way. She suspects an acquaintance of hiding something, so she sets a trap for him to tell her more. If, as he says, “these things are difficult to forget,” then he can’t say he doesn’t recall! Appunto! One word says it all!
Se lo ricorda, vero? -Altro che! Sono cose queste che si fa fatica a scordare.
You remember it, right? -Do I ever! These are things that are difficult to forget.
Many Italians use appunto liberally, often making it difficult to find an English equivalent, and appunto (indeed), sometimes there is no equivalent without using many more words.
In the following video, Anna is explaining the Jewish Ghetto of Rome, so her use of appunto is a means of linking the Jewish Ghetto to the Jews being confined there.
Qui siamo a Roma, nel quartiere del Ghetto Ebraico, che è appunto la zona di Roma dove, durante la seconda guerra mondiale, venivano confinate le persone appunto ebree.
Here we're in Rome, in the Jewish Ghetto quarter, which is, to be precise, the area of Rome where, during World War II, the Jewish people, as the name implies, were confined.
Captions 1-2, Anna presenta: il ghetto ebraico e piazza mattei
Although there is no quick translation for the second appunto in this sentence, the important thing to know is that Anna is using it to make sure we get the connection.
Sometimes you have to search out the “missing” link. Gualtiero Marchesi is musing about his career, and starts out talking about developing a passion for his work:
Quando ho incominciato ad appassionarmi veramente a quello che facevo...
When I started becoming really passionate about what I was doing...
A bit later he’s still referring to the passione mentioned a few lines back, so he uses appunto to remind us.
Poi quando, appunto, è subentrata la passione, ero curioso, come sempre...
Then, when, like I was saying, passion entered in, I was curious, as always...
Francesca takes us with her to a ski lodge in the mountains. Since her subject is “going to the mountains,” she uses appunto when telling us where chalets can be found, as if to imply that it’s clearly obvious, but she’ll say it anyway.
Eccoci arrivati alla baita. La baita è un luogo che si trova, appunto, in montagna dove ci si va per rifugiarsi dal freddo.
Here we are at the chalet. The chalet is a place you find, logically, in the mountains, where you go to seek refuge from the cold.
Captions 20-21, Francesca: neve - Part 1 of 3
If you do a search in Yabla, you’ll see just how often and in how many ways appunto is used. You may be baffled in many cases. Pinning down a precise meaning is tricky business, but with time, you’ll see it’s actually quite a useful way to make connections with just one word, when in English, you’d need many. The WordReference forum can give you more examples and explanations.
Attenzione! The adverb, appunto is not to be confused with the noun appunto (note, criticism).
Learning suggestion: Don’t worry too much about actually trying to use appunto, especially if you’re a beginner. For now, just check out how it’s used in the Yabla videos and be aware of why it’s there: to make connections.
When visiting a foreign country like Italy, there can be challenges to something as simple as asking for a un bicchiere d’acqua (a glass of water)! In fact, as Anna and Marika mention while enjoying a meal in a famous Roman restaurant, one of the first things the cameriere (waiter) will ask you is what you want to drink.
Il cameriere è venuto e ci ha portato dell'acqua naturale.
The waiter came and he brought us still water.
Ci ha prima chiesto se volevamo acqua gassata o naturale e noi abbiamo scelto naturale.
First he asked us if we wanted fizzy water or still and we chose still.
Captions 12-13, Anna e Marika: Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere - Part 1 of 3
Water is not served automatically, nor is it free unless you specifically ask for acqua del rubinetto (tap water). Italians commonly drink acqua minerale (mineral water, or sometimes simply bottled water) al ristorante (at a restaurant), and will choose either acqua gassata (fizzy water), or acqua naturale (plain or still mineral water). If you ask for ghiaccio (ice), they may give you funny look, but you can ask for your acqua fredda (cold) or a temperatura ambiente (at room temperature).
One of the last things you’ll do after a meal in a restaurant is ask for il conto (the bill). Sometimes, as might be the case with Marika and Anna, you decide to pay alla romana (Roman style) where the bill is divided equally among the number of people dining, regardless of what each person had to eat. But if you do want to pay, you can tell the friend who's taking his wallet out to leave it where it is. Stai buono/a. You’re saying, “be good” but you mean “stay as you are!”
Learning suggestion: Keep on the lookout for the verb stare (to be situated, to stay, to be) as you watch Yabla videos. It’s closely related to essere (to be) but implies a position or condition. Do a Yabla video search of both stare and stai to get a feel for when and how it’s used.
We saw in the last lesson how the verb sentire takes care of several of our senses. Not to leave out the sense of sight (la vista), let’s look at how it‘s used in some common expressions.
If we translate the English expression “I can’t wait” literally, it becomes non posso aspettare, and while this can be useful if someone is late, and you really can’t wait for him, we sometimes mean we are looking forward to something with anticipation. As we see in the following example, Italian uses the verb vedere (to see) to express this.
Francesca had been going back and forth about learning to drive. But now, she’s really looking forward to getting started, so much so that she “can’t see the hour.”
Ma invece adesso sono convintissima, motivata e non vedo l'ora di cominciare.
But now however I'm totally convinced, motivated and I can't wait to start.
Caption 4, Francesca alla guida - Part 2Play Caption
If there’s someone you don’t like very much, it’s probably someone you don’t want to see. In fact, if you say, non lo posso vedere (I can’t see him), you’re really saying you can’t bear seeing him. Note: If you do want to say that you can’t see something or someone, just say, non lo vedo (I don’t see it/him) or non riesco a vederlo (I don’t succeed in seeing it/him).
You might be so hungry you can’t see straight. It so happens that an expression made famous in an Italian TV commercial for a candy bar says just that. Non ci vedo più dalla fame! (I can’t see straight from hunger [I’m famished]!)
Many expressions using vedere (to see) and occhio (eye) do indeed coincide with the English use of the sense of sight. For example, visto che translates easily as “seeing that,” although we would usually sooner use “since.” It’s a good expression to have handy when you are explaining something, like the woman telling us about her day at the lake.
E visto che siamo solo ad un chilometro, penso che andrò e tenterò di rilassarmi tutto il giorno.
And since we are just one kilometer away, I think that I will go and try to relax all day.
Captions 12-13, Una gita al lago - Part 1Play Caption
When you want to talk to someone privately, you want to see the expression in their eyes as they speak, so parlare a quattr’occhi (to speak with four eyes) is to have a conversation face to face.
If something is super expensive, you might describe it as costing un occhio della testa (an eye of the head), which isn’t that different from paying “through the nose,” or something costing “an arm and a leg!"
When something is too obvious to question, you might hear this: Vorrei anche vedere (I’d also like to see that), meaning something like, “I should think so/not!” “Yeah, right,” or “No way.”
Putting it all together just for fun:
Stamattina sono andata a parlare a quattr’occhi con la mia professoressa anche se non la posso vedere. Ora non vedo l’ora di arrivare a casa perché non ci vedo più dalla fame. Visto che I panini al bar costavano un occhio della testa, vorrei anche vedere se ne compravo uno.
This morning I went to talk face to face with my teacher even though I can’t stand her. Now I can’t wait to get home because I’m starving. Seeing that the sandwiches at the bar cost an arm and a leg, there was no way I was buying one.
And to really conclude, chi s’è visto s’è visto (literally, “we’ve seen whomever we’ve seen” meaning, “that’s the end of it”).
Practice using the expressions in this lesson until they feel comfortable. (Think about all the the things you are looking forward to!) Then visit WordReference to see all the modi di dire connected with vedere, and add one or two more to your repertory.
Italians have a great word that encompasses four of our five senses (all but sight), and covers general sensory perception as well: sentire (to perceive). Marika and Daniela explain and conjugate sentire here. We’re going to talk about taste and smell, because these have to do with the real subject of this newsletter, the verb sapere (to know, or to give an impression, odor, or taste).
To talk about something tasting or smelling good (or bad) in Italian, we have to throw literal translations out the window (because no word really does the trick) and opt for a noun that can be either neutral—odore (odor), sapore (taste), gusto (flavor)—or specific—profumo (fragrance, scent), puzza stink). The verb we’ll use will be one of two. The first, avere (to have), we use when talking about what tastes or smells good or bad, certainly of utmost importance when choosing a truffle, for example:
ll tartufo deve avere un buon profumo.
The truffle should have a good smell.
Our second option is the all-encompassing sense word, sentire (to perceive), used when talking about our perception of a taste or a smell. Francesca had a smelly encounter with a dog and it came naturally to her to use sentire. It’s clear she’s talking about smell, not taste! She’s afraid she might be giving off a not-so-wonderful odor. Marika and Francesca assure each other:
Però la puzza non si sente. -Non si sente. Meno male.
But you can't smell the bad smell. -You can't smell it. Less bad [Good thing].
Caption 59, Francesca e Marika: Gestualità
We’ve been talking about the good or bad quality of a taste or smell. But if we want to describe the taste or smell in even more detail, then we turn to sapere, which, as we discussed in I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1, doesn’t always have to do with knowledge.
In this case the subject of the sentence is the food itself, or the situation if we’re speaking figuratively. These scenarios should help you get the idea:
You look in the fridge and open a jar of jam. Ugh!
Questa marmellata sa di muffa.
This jam smells like mold.
You made soup, but something’s not right.
Non sa di niente questa minestra. Ecco perché: Ho dimenticato il sale.
This soup doesn’t have any flavor. Here’s why: I forgot the salt.
You think someone is trying to give you a bum deal on a used car. You say to yourself:
Quest’affare sa di fregatura.
This deal smacks of a ripoff.
Later, when you’ve verified it was a bad deal, you can use the modo di dire from I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1 and say:
Mi sa che avevo ragione!
I guess I was right!
To sum up, remember that when sapere means “to know,” there will be a subject that’s a person (or animal), and what it is that the person knows, as a direct object.
Il gatto sa quando è ora di mangiare.
The cat knows when it’s time to eat.
But when sapere has to do with what something tastes or smells like, even figuratively, the subject will be the food or situation, and it will be followed by the preposition di like in the scenarios above.
And let’s not forget the modo di dire, “mi sa che/mi sa di si/no,” discussed in the I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1.
Now that you have some new insights on the world of tastes and smells, get a feel for how Italians talk about food by watching or re-watching Yabla videos on the subject. Truffles, wine, risotto, desserts: here’s the list. And if you’re planning on any wine-tasting, you’ll want to visit this quick WordReference thread.
And se te la senti (if you feel up to it)...
This example employs the different meanings of sapere. Can you tell them apart?
Lo sai che ho assaggiato la pomarola, ma sa di acido, quindi mi sa che non la mangerò anche se lo so che non mi amazzerebbe. -Sai che ti dico? Mi sa che fai bene a non mangiarla! Si sa che il cibo avariato fa male. Tutti sanno che la pomarola non deve sapere di acido, dovrebbe avere un buon sapore.
You know I tasted the tomato sauce, but it tasted sour, and so I guess I’m not going to eat it, even though I know it wouldn’t kill me. -You know what I say? I think you’re doing the right thing by not eating it! It’s well known that food gone bad is bad for you. Everyone knows that tomato sauce should not taste sour; it should taste good.
It’s always nice to have a variety of words that mean pretty much the same thing, so that, appunto (indeed), you don’t have to say the same thing all the time.
Sapere (to know) is normally about sure things. When you’re not quite sure about something, you use verbs like pensare (to think), credere (to believe), supporre (to suppose), or sembrare (to seem), among others. Right now, though, we’re going to talk about a very popular modo di dire (way of saying) that Italians use in everyday conversation when they don’t know for sure but they have a pretty good idea: mi sa che... (to me it gives the impression that...). But wait! If we don’t know for sure, why are we using the verb sapere? Good question! We’ll get to that, but first, let’s have a look at some real-life examples.
On its most practical level, mi sa che is used, for example, when someone is thinking out loud.
Anna is deciding which of the tantalizing Roman pasta dishes to order.
Guardi, mi sa che andrò sulle, ehm, linguine cacio e pepe.
Look, I think I'll go with the, uh, linguini with cheese and pepper.
Caption 9, Anna e Marika: Un Ristorante a Trastevere
Another way to translate what she said would be, “I guess I’ll go with the linguini...”
In the next example, however, it’s more about “I have a feeling” or “I sense.” Inspector Lara Rubino and another policewoman are looking at the telephone records from a murder victim’s phone and they see a very long list of women’s names. Lara comments dryly:
E da quanto vedo, mi sa che io e te siamo le uniche due sceme che non l'hanno conosciuto.
And from what I see, I have the impression that you and I are the only idiots who didn't get to know him.
As for why we use the verb sapere (to know) when we are really just guessing, well, it comes from the other major definition of sapere which has to do with the senses. In its intransitive form (without a direct object), sapere means “to have an odor or taste” (also in a figurative sense). Its figurative meaning is also “to give the impression of.” (English uses other senses to say the same kind of thing: “it looks like”; “it sounds like.”) If you think about it like this, does it make more sense?
In Italian colloquial speech, mi sa che, which is exclusive to the first person singular, is interchangeable with mi sembra che (it seems to me that) and is really quite user-friendly once you get the hang of it. There’s a whole WordReference page dedicated to it! See the long list of forum threads, too.
When you’re not feeling very chiacchierone (talkative), and a short answer will do, mi sa di sì/no works just like penso di sì (I think so), credo di no (I believe not), suppongo di sì (I suppose so), and gets followed by di rather than che.
Ah bè, perfetto. Allora forse mi conviene quello. -E mi sa di sì.
Oh OK, perfect. So maybe I am better off with that. -Yeah I'd guess so.
Caption 23-24, Passeggiando: per Roma - Part 3 of 5
In Part 2, we’ll talk more about sapere having to do with taste and smell, both literally and figuratively. Stay tuned.
1) To practice this new modo di dire, follow along with the transcript of a given video, selecting one with conversation. When you see a telltale penso che, credo che, mi sembra che, or suppongo che, press “pause.” Mentally insert mi sa che as a substitute and repeat the phrase.
2) Plan your day, thinking out loud about what you’ll probably do. Here’s a head start:
Mi sa che oggi salto la colazione, non c’è tempo. Mi sa che dovrò comprare il pane, perché mi sa che è finito. Ma mi sa che più tardi andrò in centro.
I guess I’ll skip breakfast; there’s no time. I guess I’ll have to buy bread, because I think there’s no more left. But I think later on, I’ll go downtown.
Quella gli faceva un regalino, quell'altra l'invitava a cena...
One would give him a little gift, another would invite him to dinner...
Captions 38-39, Il Commissario Manara: Rapsodia in Blu - Ep 3 - Part 3 of 15
Eh, ma mi sa che questo è l'ultimo anno che ti posso regalare le mie scarpe.
Uh, I guess this is the last year that I can give you my shoes.
Captions 4-5, Un medico in famiglia: 1 - Casa nuova - Part 10 of 16
Regalo is analogous with “present,” and it’s the word you will be using most of the time. However, another way to say “gift,” which often implies a divine or important giver, is dono. You’ll hear it in conjunction with traditions, and indeed, dono is used like regalo in talking about what Santa Claus brings down the chimney.
Ovviamente ai bambini portava doni.
Obviously to children he brought gifts.
Donare is easy to remember, being very similar to “donate.” In fact, as a verb, donare can mean “to donate,” as in money or blood: donare sangue (to give blood). Blood donors are donatori di sangue.
Of course, gifts are not always tangible.
Lavoro con un grande dono prezioso che ognuno di noi ha... Lavoro con la mia voce.
I work with a precious gift that each one of us has... I work with my voice.
Caption 5-6, Marika e Daniela: Intervista a Daniela Bruni
And now you need to stretch your mind a bit because the giver is an item of clothing. The shirt in question gives the wearer some positive quality. This particular use of donare is worth remembering because it’s a wonderful way to compliment someone! (Note that the person is using the polite form; to a friend you would say ti dona.)
Ah... ma lo sa che questa camicia le dona? Fa esaltare il colore dei suoi occhi.
Ah... you know that this shirt looks good on you? It brings out the color of your eyes.
Il ragazzo è dotato per la musica e sua sorella invece è dotata per il disegno.
The boy is a gifted musician while his sister is a gifted artist.
Ha una dote per la musica.
He has a gift for music.
We could say that God, or some higher being has “provided” that boy with his gift for music. So don’t be surprised if you go to buy a TV in Italy and the salesman tells you that la TV è dotata di telecommando (the TV is supplied with remote control). Not God-given, but factory-given!
To sum up on a practical level (leaving Christmas, weddings, and TVs aside):
What are your natural talents or gifts? What about those of your family and friends? What did you get for a present on your last birthday? Do you know people who give blood? What are the earth’s natural gifts? Make a list of what comes to mind and then choose the Italian word that is closest in meaning.
To test out any phrases you come up with, just Google them and you will probably get some clues. If you have doubts, use WordReference or other dictionaries to get some more complete input than this lesson can provide.
Let's talk about two different ways to say "some" in Italian. While they can mean the same thing, they are used in different ways, so let's dig in.
Master chef Gualtiero Marchesi is talking about one of the most famous northern Italian recipes, risotto alla milanese, and the symbolic meaning of the saffron that gives it a special color and taste:
Il giallo dello zafferano era, in qualche modo, il giallo dell'oro.
The yellow of saffron was, in some way, the yellow of gold.
Caption 21, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 9Play Caption
In qualche modo (in some way) could also have been translated as “in a way” or “in some ways.” Qualche is purposely ambiguous and implies a small, unspecified quantity that could even be just one.
Despite its often plural meaning, qualche must always be followed by a noun in the singular. Let’s see this word in context as we put the finishing touches on a fancy dish. Goccia (drop) is singular but the meaning is plural, by just a little bit.
Condiremo con un pochino di sale fino, del pepe nero, qualche goccia di succo di limone, dell'olio di oliva extravergine delicato.
We'll season with a little fine salt, some black pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, some delicate extra virgin olive oil.
Captions 12-15, Battuta di Fassone in Insalata ChefPlay Caption
You don’t need to know the plural or even the gender of the word you are modifying. You just need to remember to use a singular noun following it!
Now let’s look at another way to say “some” or “a few”: alcuni and alcune. Unlike qualche, which is quite close to a singular quantity, alcuni and alcune, although not specific, are clearly plural. In fact, the nouns they modify appear in the plural, and, like articles and other adjectives, these modifiers change their endings according to the gender. Alcuni modifies masculine nouns and alcune modifies feminine nouns.
Alessio Berti has a few dishes to show us:
Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione eh de'... della nostra carta.
Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make, um from... from our menu.
Captions 3-4, Ricette dolci Crème brûlée alla bananaPlay Caption
And where can we find the milk for this delicious crème brûlée?
Spesso, in alcune fattorie, puoi trovare dei prodotti caseari.
Often, on some farms, you can find dairy products.
Caption 18, Marika spiega Gli animali della fattoriaPlay Caption
Note that while qualche is always followed by the word it modifies, alcuni/alcune can stand alone as a kind of pronoun, much like its English counterparts (some, a few). To determine which ending to employ, we refer to the gender of the modified noun, even if it's absent. We see this in the following example, where sculptor Claudio Capotondi is talking about his studio full of marble, drawings, models, and whatnot.
Ci sono vari bozzetti, progetti, che sono sedimentati nel tempo, alcuni realizzati, altri...
There are many small-scale models, projects, that have been accumulated over time, some completed, others...
Captions 9-11, Claudio Capotondi Scultore - Part 4Play Caption
Qualche and alcuni/alcune can only be used with countable nouns in Italian. We’ll work with uncountable nouns in a future lesson. For now, follow these rules: To be vague, use qualche, which always goes with a singular noun even when its meaning is plural. To be more clearly plural, use alcuni or alcune alone or with a plural noun whose gender tells us which to use.
To practice using these modifiers, try swapping qualche and alcuni/alcune wherever they occur. There are situations where one is more common than the other, and you’ll gradually get a feel for it. Visit wordreference.com to get some input on phrases with qualche, and don’t forget to have a look at the long list of forum threads about this word. See this blog about alcuni and qualche.
In Italian, as in any language, there’s more than one way to say sì (yes). As we’ll see, there are situations in which it’s more to the point to use words like certo (certainly), va bene (OK), senz’altro (definitely), or come no (of course). Even just changing the number of times we say sì, along with our tone of voice, can change its effect. Said just once, it can be rather dry, or, depending on how it is said, it can leave a little room for doubt. Said twice, sì sì (the first one higher pitched than the second), it indicates that the speaker is sure of his answer. But attenzione, this double sì sì can also imply irony! Three times, repeated rapidly, really emphasizes that there’s no question, no doubt: Of course it’s yes.
Ma posso prendere anche la metropolitana?
But can I also take the subway?
Sì, sì, sì, dura settantacinque minuti e puoi fare una corsa autobus e una corsa metro.
Yes, yes, yes, it’s good for seventy-five minutes and you can take one bus ride and one subway ride.
Captions 17-18, Passeggiando: per Roma - Part 3 of 5
When you want to say "OK" (meaning "yes"), va bene* fits the bill.
Ti va di andare a prendere un caffè? -Ehm, va bene.
You feel like going to get a coffee? -Uh, OK.
Captions 32 and 34, Passeggiando: per Roma - Part 3 of 5
Senz’altro is a strong yes and leaves no room for doubt.
E un'altra cosa, potrebbe trovarmi una sistemazione per stasera?
And another thing; could you find me an accommodation for tonight?
Senz'altro dottore, ci penso io.
Definitely, Doctor; I'll take care of it.
Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 4 of 14
In fact, senz’altro is also used to mean "without a doubt" or "undoubtedly" and can replace sicuramente (surely).
Hanno senz’altro dimenticato l’appuntamento.
They undoubtedly forgot the appointment.
In conversation, sì (or its equivalents) will often be preceded or followed by the non-word eh, which is used to reinforce the word, like in sì eh! (yeah, really!). Other words that can precede these yes words to give them more importance are e (and) and ma (but).
Che peccato! -Eh sì, che peccato.
What a shame! -Oh yes, what a shame.
Caption 19, Francesca: alla guida - Part 4
E certo. Che faccio, riesco, mi metto la cravatta e torno?
Sure. What do I do, go out, put on a tie, and come back?
Me la vuole dare questa stanza? -Ma certo che gliela do questa stanza.
Well, you want to give me this room? -But of course I'll give you this room.
Use d’accordo (agreed) to say yes to an invitation.
Andiamo al cinema insieme? -D’accordo.
Shall we go to the movies together? -Sure.
Sometimes you wouldn’t dream of saying no, so you say the literal equivalent of "how not?":
Posso farmi un panino? -Come no, io ricomincio a suonare.
May I make myself a sandwich? -Of course. I'll start playing again.
Caption 20, Escursione: Un picnic in campagna - Part 4 of 4
Come no is also used to contradict a false negative statement:
La Francia non è in Europa. -Come no!
France is not in Europe. -Yes, it is!
And that’s the story on sì. There are, senz’altro, still more ways to say sì, but this can get you started. As you go about your day, think positive! Say yes! Say it in Italiano and say it in as many ways as you can.
* More about va bene in: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Chiedere "Come va?"
P.S. You can’t always know your mind. So if you’re not sure you want to say yes, or you just don’t know the answer, have Arianna tell you what to say both in Italian and in Italian body language! Arianna spiega: I gesti degli Italiani - Part 2 of 2
We talked a little about reflexive personal pronouns in Ci Gets Around. They are: mi (myself), ti (yourself), ci (ourselves), si (himself/herself/itself/themselves), and vi (yourselves).
The reflexive is necessary in Italian when someone (or something) is both the doer and the receiver of an action. Reflexive pronouns will be found lurking somewhere in the sentence, or attached either to the main verb or helping verb (like fare). The reflexive is worth paying attention to because it’s used a lot more than we might think, and its presence will often change the meaning of the verb it refers to in a subtle but important way. We saw this in the lesson Making It Happen with the verb prestare.
So, for instance, if you hide something, the verb you are looking for is nascondere.
E poi, ho pensato di nascondere il corpo e... l'ho caricato in macchina e... non ri', non ricordo più niente.
And then, I thought of hiding the body and... I loaded it into the car and... I can't re', can't remember anything else.
Captions 57-59, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 14Play Caption
But if you are the one hiding, you’ll need the reflexive form, nascondersi (literally, to hide oneself). A marine biologist dives down to the bottom of the sea surrounding the Aeolian Islands to show us the beautiful creatures there.
Probabilmente, sta cercando una tana per nascondersi da me.
She's probably looking for a hole in order to hide from me.
Caption 23, Linea Blu Le Eolie - Part 7Play Caption
The same holds here, where avvicinare, by itself, means to move something closer. But if you add the reflexive, it’s something or someone that is getting closer.
Il prossimo che si avvicina all'acquario... m'ingoio voi [sic] e tutta la famiglia, hm.
The next one who comes near the aquarium... I'll swallow you and the whole family, hmm.
Captions 57-58, Acqua in bocca Mp3 Marino - Ep 2Play Caption
When it’s all about you, you’ll use the reflexive with many of the verbs you use to talk about your daily routines.
Di solito, io mi sveglio alle sette in punto.
Usually, I wake up at seven on the dot.
Caption 4, Marika spiega: L'orologio
Sometimes fare (in its reflexive form) gets called in for an assist: instead of docciarsi (to shower), we can say farsi la doccia (to take a shower):
Mi faccio la doccia alle sette e mezza.
I take a shower at half past seven.
Caption 6, Marika spiega: L'orologio
Now you should be ready to reflect on the reflexive! Get the whole picture on reflexive verbs here. For the scoop on reflexive pronouns, you can get help here. For even more on the reflexive, see this online resource.
Try to put your daily routine into words, using the dictionary (and the above-mentioned online resources) if necessary. Maybe your routine goes something like this:
Ti svegli alle 6 di mattina ma ti addormenti di nuovo e quindi ti alzi alle sei e mezza. Ti fai un buon caffè e poi ti fai la doccia, ti lavi i denti, e ti vesti. Se fa freddo ti metti una giacca prima di uscire.* Nascondi la chiave sotto lo zerbino. Ti fai prestare un biglietto per l’autobus.
You wake up at 6 in the morning, but you fall asleep again so you get up at 6:30. You make yourself a nice cup of coffee and then you take a shower, you brush your teeth and you get dressed. If it’s cold, you put on a jacket before going out. You hide the key under the doormat. You borrow a ticket for the bus.
*More about what to wear in Marika spiega: L'abbigliamento - Part 1 of 2.
Tocca a te! (It’s your turn!)
Fare (to make) is a verb for getting things done. It’s about as universal in Italian as “get” (or “have”) is in English and frequently means about the same thing.
Here, fare really does mean “to make”:
Eccolo. Questo è il vino che faccio con mio nonno.
Here it is. This is the wine I make with my grandfather.
Captions 7-8, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 3Play Caption
Fare used simply, as in the above example, indicates you are doing the work. If, instead of doing something yourself, you have it done by someone else, you’ll generally use fare plus the verb in the infinitive:
Se vuole, La faccio accompagnare da uno dei miei ragazzi.
If you'd like, I'll have one of my guys accompany you.
Caption 19, Una gita al lago - Part 3Play Caption
When you need to borrow something, fare loans itself to you because there’s no single word in Italian that means “to borrow.” You need to “get something lent to you,” so you use the verb prestare (to lend) but you turn it around using fare, plus, depending on whom you are talking about, the appropriate reflexive personal pronoun.
La mia dolce Ninetta riceve anche la visita di Pippo, un altro servitore di Casa Vingradito, e riesce a farsi prestare da Pippo alcune monete.
My sweet Ninetta also gets a visit from Pippo, another servant from the Vingradito home, and is able to borrow a few coins from Pippo.
Captions 11-13, Anna e Marika in La Gazza Ladra - Part 2Play Caption
The same idea holds for showing something to someone: you need to “make them see it.”
Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione
Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make
Caption 3, Ricette dolci Crème brûlée alla bananaPlay Caption
Fare can also be intended as “get,” “have,” or “let,” depending on the context. Here, fare is used in a command:
Fammi uscire! Ehi, fammi uscire!
Let me out! Hey, let me out!
Captions 52-53, Acqua in bocca Mp3 Marino - Ep 2Play Caption
There’s lots more to say about fare, but for now, when you tune into Yabla, try to start noticing how people talk about getting things done using this catch-all word. To get more acquainted with fare, have a look here and here.
Think about some things you would like to get done (or have already had done). Here are some ideas to work with. Try turning them into questions or changing the person, tense, subject, object, or verb, or you can make up your own sentences from scratch.
Faccio sempre pulire la casa da professionisti.
I always have the house cleaned by professionals.
Facciamo riparare la nostra macchina dal meccanico in paese.
We get our car repaired by the mechanic in town.
Mi sono fatta fare un tatuaggio.
I got a tattoo. (This is a woman speaking. A man would say, Mi sono fatto fare un tatuaggio.)
Vorrei farmi fare un vestito da una sarta.
I’d like to get a dress made for me by a seamstress.
Non mi lavo i capelli da sola. Li faccio lavare dalla parrucchiera.
I don’t wash my own hair. I get it washed at the hairdresser’s.
Ti voglio fare conoscere un amico.
I want to introduce you to a friend.
Voglio farti conoscere un amico.
I want to introduce you to a friend.
Mi fai vedere le tue foto?
Will you show me your pictures?
Joining a language forum such as WordReference can be helpful for getting feedback on your attempts.
The instrument we know as the piano is called il pianoforte in Italian. What made it special when it was invented was that it could be played both piano (softly) and forte (loudly). Many of us are familiar with these musical terms, but actually, forte and piano are ordinary words (used as both adjectives and adverbs) and much of the time have nothing to do with music.
We saw in the previous lesson that the short word ci fits into (c’entra in) many situations.
But not only can ci mean “there,” ci can represent an object pronoun like “it,” “this,” or “that” plus a preposition (to, into, of, from, about, etc.) all in one, as we see below.
On the job, Manara finds himself in the wine cellar of an important estate and has questioned Count Lapo’s housekeeper about some rifle shots. She answers evasively:
Colpi di fucile qui se ne sentono spesso, è zona di caccia. Sinceramente non c'ho badato.
We often hear gun shots here, it's a hunting area. Honestly I didn't pay attention to that.
Captions 13-14, Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 5 of 17
And things get more mysterious when Manara discovers Count Lapo’s cryptic parting words about his estate:
Ma ci penserà qualcun altro...
Well, someone else will take care of it...
Ci can even get into the kitchen! Two kids are putting the finishing touches on a recipe they have demonstrated:
La nostra pasta è pronta. Ci aggiungiamo un cucchiaino di parmigiano.
Our pasta is ready. To it we’ll add a teaspoon of Parmesan.
Caption 21, Ricette bimbi: Gli spaghetti con zucchine e uova
But what happens when there are two object pronouns in the same sentence (indirect and direct)? Non c’è problema! Ci transforms itself into ce. The most important question when it’s time to buttare la pasta (throw the pasta in) is:
Ci hai messo il sale? (Did you put the salt in?)
Sì, ce l’ho già messo. (Yes, I already put it in.)
Even when it means “us” (see previous lesson), ci is transformed into ce when a direct object pronoun is also present, like “it” or “that.”
Morto come? -Eh, non ce l'hanno detto.
How did he die? -Uh, they didn’t tell us that.
Captions 33-34, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 1 of 17
Ci (often in the form of ce) can easily sneak into a sentence where there is technically no need for it, just to give it some weight.
Io son contadino mica grullo, ce l'avete il mandato?
I'm a farmer, not an idiot, do you have a warrant?
While it’s nice to know what all these little words mean, it can be frustrating trying to account for all of them or to string them together in a logical order, so learning some common frasi fatte (idiomatic expressions) can get you off to a great start.
Lara’s aunt is being pulled by her little dog:
Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.
I can’t make it [I can't keep up], you'll make me fall.
And the Commissario has no clue why Lara is mad at him:
Lara! Io non l'ho capito perché ce l'hai con me.
Lara! I don't get why you have something against me.
A good way to get a realistic sense of ci and ce in context is to watch Yabla series like Commissionario Manara, Un Medico in Famiglia, or even Pippo e Palla. Listen for these words, and when you hear them, press pause and repeat the sentence out loud. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll discover these little words all over the place, sprouting like wildflowers.
Most of us know what arrivederci means: “goodbye,” or literally, “until we see each other again.” Ci in this case means “us” or “to us” or “each other.” Take a look at how ci works in this evocative hymn to one of our most precious resources, water:
Ci ricorda qualcosa che abbiamo dimenticato.
It reminds us of something that we have forgotten.
Caption 20, Inno all'acqua: Un bene prezioso da difendere
When we like something, it gets "turned around" in Italian:
Ci piace molto questo posto!
We like this place a lot! [Literally: This place pleases us a lot!]
Sometimes ci gets attached to a verb, like here, where Commissioner Manara has just arrived at the crime scene and is dispatching his team to question a cyclist:
Perché non vai a sentire cos'ha da dirci? [Another way to say this would be: Perché non vai a sentire cosa ci ha da dire?]
Why don't you go and listen to what he has to say to us?
Ci is often used in reflexive constructions, which are more common in Italian than in English.
Noi ci troviamo in Campania...
We are [we find ourselves] in Campania...
Caption 13, Giovanna spiega: La passata di pomodori
In all the above examples, ci is the plural of mi (me, to me, myself). But the word ci can also mean “there,” expressing place, presence, or existence. It’s frequently hidden in a contraction, thus not alway easy to recognize. On his first day of work, Commissioner Manara checks into a pensione (small, family-run hotel) and asks the receptionist:
Il televisore c'è in camera? -Eh, certo che c'è.
Is there a TV in the room? -Eh, of course there is.
Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 6 of 14
He walks in on his colleagues who are gossiping about him:
Che c'è, assemblea c'è?
What is going on here, is there an assembly?
In the above examples, c’è stands for ci è (there is), just like ci sono means “there are.” But, as we can see, it also means “is there?”—it’s the inflection (or punctuation if it’s written) that tells you whether it’s a question or a statement. (Learn more here and here.)
If I care whether you understand something or not, I will ask:
Do you get it? Are you with me? [Literally: Are you there?]
If I don’t care so much, I might say:
Chi c’è c’è, chi non c’è non c’è.
If you're with me you're with me; if you're not, you’re not. [Literally, “whoever is there is there; whoever isn’t there, isn’t there.”]
There! Ci is pretty easy when you get the hang of it! (Tip: Do a search for ci in the Yabla videos to instantly see lots of different examples in context.) Stay tuned for Part 2 of this lesson, where we’ll find out how ci worms its way into all sorts of other situations!
Make a shopping list, even just mentally, and as you do, ask yourself if you have those items in the fridge or in the cupboard. For singular things, or collective nouns, you will use c’è and for countable items in the plural, you will use ci sono. To get started:
C’è del formaggio? No, non c’è. (Is there any cheese? No, there isn’t.)
Ci sono delle uova? Si, ci sono. (Are there any eggs? Yes, there are.)
For those living in the northern hemisphere, December can be a good time to turn to indoor activities like learning or perfecting a second language. If it’s cold and dark outside, it might be nice to make yourself a nice cup of tea or cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) and view some of the new videos at Yabla!
With all this cold weather, Francesca must be daydreaming about warmer times. She shared with us how wonderful the beach can be in September:
Oggi ho deciso di passare una giornata diversa dal solito e quindi sono venuta al mare.
Today I've decided to spend the day differently from usual and so I've come to the beach.
Captions 1-2, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1 of 3
When talking about the beach in general, il mare (“the sea” or “the seaside”) is the right word to use, but once there, or when talking about the quality of the beach itself (sandy, pebbly, crowded, empty, etc.), use la spiaggia (the beach). Francesca explains that she chose to go to the beach in September to avoid "la calca": the summer crowd.
La calca, in Italia, significa una folla esagerata, molta, molta gente, che si può trovare in queste spiagge.
La calca, in Italy, means an exaggerated crowd, lots and lots of people, that can be found on these beaches.
Captions 24-25, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1 of 3
In Italia much of the coastline consists of private beach clubs that provide bars, restaurants, changing rooms, showers, and restrooms. Bagno is used to indicate a beach club or bathing establishment, for example, "Bagno Italia." Fare il bagno (“to go swimming” or “to go in the water”) is one thing you might do there. But be careful; bagno can also mean lavatory! Public (free) beaches (spiaggie libere) exist but tend to be small and hard to find. Francesca is at a typical Italian beach club where it is customary to rent a beach umbrella (ombrellone) and beach chair (sdraio) or cot (lettino). She has to go and pay first alla cassa (at the counter).
Va bene. Allora vado alla cassa. -Sì, sì, la cassa, sì.
All right. So, I'll go to the counter. -Yes, yes, the counter, yes.
Caption 11, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1 of 3
La cassa is used to indicate the place where you pay for something, whether it’s a cash register, ticket window, or checkout counter.
To inspire your warm weather reverie, and to reinforce your vocabulary on the subject, have a look at these Yabla videos:
Antonio takes us to a beautiful seaside resort at Praia a Mare in Calabria on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Adriano tells us about the splendid beach at Mondello near Palermo in Sicily.