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Lessons for topic Expressions

"I can't wait" in Italian: non vedo l'ora!

We have spoken from time to time about how to say, "I can't wait" in Italian. It's an informal way of saying, "I am very much looking forward to something."  In Italian, it's Non vedo l'ora. For the record, Non vedo l'ora! translates, literally, as "I can't see the hour," (which makes no sense). We can use the expression just as it is, conjugating the verb vedere.

Vuoi assaggiare un poco di... -Certo. -arancello? -Non vedo l'ora.

Do you want to taste a bit of... -Of course. -arancello? -I can't wait.

Caption 51, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Ma se anche lui non vede l'ora!

But if even he can't wait!

Caption 70, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 3

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Although we can use the expression as is, we can also continue it, specifying what it is we can't wait for. Here's where it can get a bit more complex. There are basically 2 ways to continue the phrase.

 

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1) We use di plus the infinitive of the verb in question:

Non vedo l'ora di vederti (I can't wait to see you).

Non vedo l'ora di partire in vacanza (I can't wait to leave on vacation).

 

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 2

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These sentences are all about you, in other words, something you are going to or want to do. It can also be about another person but the structure of the sentence remains the same: 

Pietro non vede l'ora di cominciare il corso di francese (Pietro can't wait to start the French course).

 

Maybe you can come up with some on your own. Try using: 

 

visitare Firenze (to visit Florence)

vederti (to see you)

finire questo libro (to finish this book)

cenare (to have dinner)

 

2) We use the conjunction che (that). With che, we start a new (subordinate) clause and here, we need the subjunctive form of the verb.

 

So let's say you are on the train, traveling from Milan to Venice. It may be fun to look out the window, but you really want to get to Venice!

You can say:

Non vedo l'ora di arrivare a Venezia (I can't wait to arrive  in Venice).

 

You can also refer to the train or to "us.":

 

Non vedo l'ora che questo treno arrivi a Venezia (I can't wait for this train to arrive in Venice).

Non vedo l'ora che arriviamo a Venezia (I can't wait for us to arrive in Venice)

Non vedo l'ora che finisca il viaggio (I can't wait for this trip to end).

 

From a translating standpoint, when you use "for" plus a verb in English in this expression, you will likely need che + the verb in the subjunctive (agreeing with noun, expressed or implied) in Italian.

Noi li amiamo tantissimo e non vediamo l'ora che un giorno possano  anche giocare.

We love them very much and we can't wait for the day when they can also play.

Captions 59-60, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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There are various things we can imagine a couple expecting a baby to say, as they try to wait patiently.

One of them can say:

Non vedo l'ora di veder nascere questo bambino (I can't wait to see this baby be born).

We've used di + the verb vedere

 

Or, one of them can say:

Non vediamo l'ora che nasca questo bambino (we can't wait for  this baby to be born).

 

Here, we have used che + the verb nascere, which refers to the baby (third person), and thus we need the subjunctive. 

 

And if they happen to be expecting twins?

Non vediamo l'ora che nascano questi bambini (we can't wait for these babies to be born).

 

So, as you can see, there are easy ways to use the expression Non vedo l'ora: by itself, or with di + infinitive. There is also the harder way, which entails knowing the subjunctive form of the verb you want to use. But as you become fluent in Italian, you will find that we tend to say the same things over and over again, so maybe you might want to learn the subjunctive forms of certain verbs you might need, such as cominciare (to begin), finire (to finish), chiamare (to call).

 

Tip: You can sidestep the subjunctive by forming 2 different sentences. 

 

Comincierà presto la lezione? Non vedo l'ora (is the lesson going to start soon? I can't wait). 

 

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for this expression in Yabla videos. See how people use it — by itself, with di + infinitive, or with che + subjunctive. 

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Per conto mio: a double meaning

We've talked various times about the noun il conto. It can refer to "the bill" or "the account," but it's also used in expressions such as per conto di..., or to put it in more personal terms, per conto mio/suo.

 

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What's perhaps important to remember is that it has two distinct (but related meanings). It can mean "of one's own."

Nilde, tu c'hai già mille problemi per conto tuo, il ristorante, Enrica fra i piedi, lascia perdere.

Nilde, you already have a ton of problems of your own, the restaurant, Enrica on your back, forget about it.

Captions 10-11, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP4 Lo stagno del ranocchio - Part 5

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Perché la mi' figliola [mia figlia] c'ha già tanti problemi per conto suo.

Because my daughter has enough problems of her own.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 7

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But it also means "on one's own."

Allora, lei è una che fa finta di starsene per conto suo, ma poi te la ritrovi sempre fra i piedi, una grandissima ficcanaso.

So, she is someone who pretends to be on her own, but then you always find her underfoot, hugely nosy.

Captions 45-47, Provaci ancora prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 30

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Poi, se ne andarono ognuno per conto suo [sic: proprio].

Then they went away, each on his own.

Caption 33, Ti racconto una fiaba I tre porcellini - Part 1

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You will have to rely on the context to help decide what per conto means in each case.

 

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Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco

Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco


Let's look at the main, individual words in this expression. 

Ciambella: Una ciambella is often a donut or doughnut. But actually, it can refer to anything that is ring-shaped with a hole in the middle. It can be an "inner tube" you use in the pool, or a life-preserver. Un ciambellone is a large-size coffee cake, usually in the shape of a ring, with a hole in the middle. For more about turning a feminine noun like la ciambella into a big, masculine version such as il ciambellone using the ending -one, see this lesson.

Bona 'sta [buona questa] ciambella.

Good, this doughnut.

Caption 44, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 10

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Escono: This is the third person plural of the verb uscire (to exit, to come/go out). In this case, we are talking about a donut or ring-shaped cake coming out of the oven or deep-frier. Sometimes there's a mistake, and one might not have its hole in the middle, it might be lopsided. 

 

Buco: Un buco is a hole. Just like in the middle of a donut.

Cominciamo a piantarne uno. Allora bisogna fare un buco.

Let's start planting one. So we need to make a hole.

Captions 46-47, Gatto Mirò EP 10 Piantiamo un albero

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A word about the other words:

Non is a negating word, like "not."


Tutte means "all." In this case, it refers to the plural feminine noun, le ciambelle, so it has a plural feminine ending. 
We have the conjunction col. This is a combination of con (with) and il (the).

 

A variation on this expression is: Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.

 

The verb changes from uscire to riuscire. While riuscire can mean "to come/go out again," as in when you come home but have to go out again because you forgot to buy milk, it also means "to succeed," "to turn out," "to manage to do something."

Però, non tutti riescono a farlo bene.

However, not everyone succeeds in doing it well.

Caption 10, Anna e Marika Il pane

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So the meaning of the two variants is essentially the same, but with escono, we can visualize the donut coming out of the oven, and with riescono, we can visualize how they turn out.

 

Yet another variation is: Non tutte le ciambelle vengono col buco. Here the verb is venire (to come). "Not all donuts come with holes." The concept doesn't change.

 

Literally, the sentence means: "Not all donuts come out [of the oven] with holes." The figurative meaning of the expression is that not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes things turn out imperfectly, but it's not a huge deal. A nuance is that the donut will still taste good even if it is a bit misshapen or lopsided. 

When you or someone else does a job that didn't come out perfectly, it's also a way of minimizing the error, as if to say, "Oh well..."

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Fare complimenti (being polite)

The noun il complimento sometimes means the same thing as in English: the compliment. It's used a bit differently, and is often synonymous with "congratulations." 

 

When you want to say, "Nice job!" you might say, Complimenti!

Complimenti, mamma, ma qual'è il tuo segreto?

Very nice, Mom, but what's your secret?

Caption 33, Adriano La granita al limone

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But there is another way complimenti  is used, and it's important, especially if someone invites you to their home and you are not sure how to act. In order to put you at ease, they might say, non fare complimenti. It means, "Relax, you don't have to be formal." This is especially true at the dinner table. The host or hostess might say, Serviti, non fare complimenti. So you can go ahead and take seconds...

Sì, però, è che non vorrei... -E non fare complimenti, scusa.

Yes, but it's that I wouldn't want... -And don't say no out of politeness, sorry.

Caption 56, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 11

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Grazie, eh. -No, prego, non fare complimenti, ah.

Thanks, huh. -No, you're welcome, don't stand on ceremony, huh.

Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 13

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Basta!

You might already be familiar with the one-word expression: Basta! It means, "That's enough!"

No, no, ora basta, basta, basta!

No, no, enough now, enough, enough!

Caption 8, Acqua in bocca Tra moglie e marito... - Ep 11

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But you might not be familiar with the verb that expression comes from:  bastare (to be enough, to suffice).

Per oggi potrebbe bastare.

For today, that might suffice.

Caption 71, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 1

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There's an expression where this verb is coupled with another verb: avanzare. We think of the cognate "to advance," but there is another way Italians use avanzare. It means "to be in excess, to be left over." In fact, leftovers are called gli avanzi in Italian.

 

Di Milano o no, però... per colpa sua noi dobbiamo mangiarci gli avanzi.

Whether he's from Milan or not... because of him, we have to eat leftovers.

Caption 39, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3 EP2 - Un nuovo medico in famiglia - Part 13

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So basta e avanza means, "it's more than enough." It often implies that it's too much.

Direi che basta e avanza.

I would say that's enough and is even too much.

Caption 105, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulle Marche

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You'd best... with che

We've talked about the conjunction che in previous lessons, and you have heard it in many different contexts, with varying meanings. It's one of those conjunctions that kicks off the subjunctive, so we have to pay attention to it. It is also a substitute for "what" in many situations. It's one of those all-purpose words, often translated as "that."

Lessons about che

To learn more about this indispensable little word, check out some of our lessons:

 

 

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Che è meglio (colloquial)

There's a construction we come across from time to time in Yabla videos, and very often in conversation. Here's how it goes:

 

You make a statement, usually in the imperative, followed by che è meglio. The translation of this little phrase is, literally: "which is better." Here's an example. Somebody is telling somebody else to shut up. It would be a great idea to shut up. 

Zitto tu, che è meglio.

Best if you be quiet.

Caption 19, Sposami EP 4 - Part 6

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The way this expression is used in Italian results in a different word order from what we might expect, or from what we would say in English. The formula is: Give a command, (which can also be in the first person plural, as in the following example), then tack on che è meglio.

Torniamo domattina che è meglio.

Let's come back tomorrow morning, which would be better.

Caption 45, Dafne Film - Part 22

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Optional exercise: Once you have read the whole lesson, can you put this differently by starting the sentence with è meglio? Hint — the verb is tornare. Check out the conjugation, as you will need the subjunctive. **possible solution below.

 

Our translations can't really do justice to this expression, which is why we feel the need to provide some extra information. It's often expressed with a tone of chastisement, intolerance, disapproval, or warning. It can go hand in hand with a raised eyebrow, a tilting of the head.

 

È meglio che... (proper, with the subjunctive)

The construction we have illustrated above is colloquial, because the grammar is a bit casual. There is also a "correct" way to say the same thing. It might not have the same punch, though. Also, it uses the subjunctive.

"È meglio che tu vada a casa".

“It's best that you go home.”

Caption 16, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il congiuntivo - Part 13

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Can you transform the example above into a colloquial version? Possible solution below.*

Don't worry. Not everyone uses the subjunctive in this case. Here's an example:

 

Forse è meglio che prendi un taxi anche tu.

Maybe it would be better for you to take a taxi, too.

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 13

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*** Maybe you can figure out how to say pretty much the same thing, starting with Prendi  and leaving out the forse  (maybe).

 

We can also go all out with the subjunctive and conditional to say:

Sarebbe meglio se tu andassi a casa (it would be better if you went home).

Sarebbe meglio se tu prendessi un taxi (it would be better if you took a taxi).

Sarebbe meglio se tu stessi zitto (it would be better if you kept quiet).

***********************

Note: A variation on this is sarà meglio. Just like che è meglio, sarà meglio is used when you're miffed, or when you want someone to do something. See our lesson about this: Being Miffed in Italian

 

* Vai a casa che è meglio.

** È meglio se torniamo domattina.

***  Prendi un taxi anche tu che è meglio.

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Using 4 eyes to talk

There are some expressions that can be figured out if you know all the words, but which we would never come up with on our own. The expression we talk about in this lesson is a fun one. It's all about one-on-one conversations. 

 

Parlare a quattr'occhi

Here's the expression:

E ancora, "quattr'occhi". È meglio se io e te parliamo a quattr'occhi. Questa espressione vuol dire: in privato, tra di noi.

And further, "four eyes." "It's better if you and I talk with four eyes." This expression means "in private," between us.

Captions 45-47, Marika spiega L'elisione - Part 2

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Literally, this expression means, "to talk in the manner of four eyes." But let's unpack it so that it makes sense. 

 

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Unpacking the expression a quattr'occhi

 

Parlare means "to talk, to speak." 


A is a preposition that can mean "at, to, in, by, "in the manner of," and other things too. For more about the preposition a, see these lessons.

 

Quattro means "four."


Occhi is the plural of occhio (eye).

 

This expression is all about talking face to face, in person, privately. This way, two people can look each other in the eye. 

 

Using the expression a quattr'occhi

 

So if you're on the phone with someone, or writing them an email, and you would prefer to have a conversation in person, or privately, you can say:

È meglio se parliamo a quattr'occhi.
It's better if we talk, just you and I.

 

The noun occhio

In the above-mentioned expression, there's no need for an article. But let's take the opportunity to talk about the noun occhio. It's a masculine noun, and since it starts with a vowel, we use L with an apostrophe for the singular: 

l'occhio (the eye).

 

But in the plural, it gets a bit more complicated. We need to use gli  as a plural article with a masculine noun beginning with a vowel.

gli occhi (the eyes).

 

Examples

It's a mouthful, for sure.  Here are some examples to watch and listen to! Listen carefully and try to repeat. If you do a search on the videos page, there will be plenty of other examples to try pronouncing.

 

Tieni gli occhi chiusi adesso, eh.

Keep your eyes closed, now, huh.

Caption 28, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 9

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Dixi alzò gli occhi, guardò in cielo,

Dixi raised his eyes, and looked into the sky,

Caption 13, Dixiland Cometa caduta

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Per ora, posso semplicemente proteggere gli occhi dal sole con dei leggeri e maneggevoli occhiali da sole.

For now, I can simply protect my eyes from the sun with light and manageable sunglasses.

Captions 35-36, Francesca neve - Part 2

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Si fanno dei buchi per gli occhi e la maschera è pronta.

One makes holes for the eyes and the mask is ready.

Caption 36, Gatto Mirò EP3 La festa in maschera

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While we're here, let's note that in the examples above, in English we use a possessive pronoun, "my eyes," "his eyes," and so forth, but in Italian, when it's clear who we're talking about, we just use the article. 

 

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How to talk about frequency regarding time

How do we talk about frequency — how many times in a period of time something happens or should happen? Let's find out.

 

Just as English has "every" and "each," so does Italian. Italian has tutti  (all) and ogni (each). For more about tutti see this lesson

In Italia, come ben sapete, la pasta è un alimento consumato tutti i giorni.

In Italy, as you well know, pasta's a food that's eaten every day.

Caption 1, Anna e Marika La pasta fresca

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Note that with tutti, we use the plural. Both the noun giorni and the adjective tutti are in the plural. Not only that. If we replace giorni (days) with settimane (weeks), we have to change tutti  to tutte, as settimana is a feminine noun. Note also that we have tutto il giorno, which means "all day." Here tutto is singular, so try not to get mixed up (we'll talk about this in a different lesson).

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Usciamo quasi tutte le settimane, il sabato sera,

We go out almost every week, on Saturday night,

Caption 40, Erica e Martina La nostra amicizia

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When we use ogni (each), on the other hand, it's always singular. 

 

Qui in Sicilia, in estate si va ogni giorno al mare e la sera si esce.

Here in Sicily, in the summer we go to the beach every day and in the evenings we go out.

Caption 49, Adriano Le stagioni dell'anno

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What if we want to talk about "every other day?" We can say ogni due giorni (every two days) or we can say un giorno sì e un giorno no (one day yes and one day no).

Ah no, eh? E tu come lo chiami un bambino che vomita un giorno sì e un giorno no?

No? And what do you call a little boy who vomits every other day?

Captions 95-96, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 3

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When it comes to doing something once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a year, we use the noun volta, which we can also use in the plural when appropriate. It is followed by the preposition a (at, to, in)

Allora, amici di Yabla, all'interno del mio negozio, una volta al mese ospito degli artisti...

So, Yabla friends, inside my shop, I host artists once a month...

Captions 56-57, Adriano Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Note that the noun volta has other meanings and connotations, so consider checking out the dictionary entry linked to above. Learn more about the noun volta meaning "time" in this lesson

 

una volta al giorno (once a day)

due volte al giorno (twice a day)

una volta alla settimana (once a week)

due volte alla settimana (twice a week)

una volta al mese (once a month)

due volte al mese (twice a month)

una volta all'anno (once a year)

due volte all'anno (twice a year)

 

There is a lot to talk about regarding time. We've covered one aspect of frequency in this lesson, but in future lessons, we'll talk about ways to say "usually," "sometimes," "always," "never," and so on.

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Using auguri in everyday conversation

We say Auguri! when it's the new year or when someone has a birthday. Tanti auguri a te is how Italians sing, "Happy Birthday to you." But we also have the verb augurare, which is used quite frequently, even on ordinary days.

Non le posso augurare una buona sera perché non è una buona sera.

I can't wish you a good evening, because it isn't a good evening.

Caption 21, La Tempesta film - Part 22

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When you wish for something, you hope it will come true. In English, we either use the imperative of the verb "to have," or we can change the construction and use the verb "to hope."

Ti auguro una buona giornata (have a good day/I hope you have a good day).

 

If you follow Marika's videos, she almost always wishes you a marvelous day at the end.

Io ti auguro una giornata meravigliosa e ci vediamo la prossima volta.

Have a marvelous day and I'll see you next time.

Captions 56-57, Marika commenta -La Ladra Espressioni idiomatiche - Part 1

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We can use augurare with a reflexive ending, too: augurarsi. We use this form when we want to say, "I hope so!" We say:

Me lo auguro (I hope so).

Mi auguro di sì (I hope so).

 

No, scusi, mi auguro che Lei abbia una motivazione plausibile, perché se no io... -Ma un istruttore a che Le serve?

No, excuse me. I hope you have a plausible reason, otherwise, I... -But what do you need an instructor for?

Captions 9-10, Il Commissario Manara S2EP7 - Alta società - Part 13

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Note that after mi auguro comes che, and some of us know what that can mean. It likely means we'll need the subjunctive. In the example above, we do indeed need the subjunctive of the verb avere (to have). For more about cases like this one, see our lessons on this topic. 

 

Using me lo auguro can have a somewhat negative nuance and we might translate it as, "I should hope so!" So it's not really hope, but rather expecting something to be a certain way. It's also quite a mouthful of vowels. Luckily, you can also say:

Lo spero (I hope so)!

 

On the other hand, if we want to say "I hope not," we can simply say mi auguro di no

 

Hai imparato qualcosa (did you learn something)? Mi auguro di sì (I hope so). 

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Kinds of boats in Italian

Let's look at the different names Italians have for vessels that travel on water. 

 

The most basic word, and the first word you'll likely learn, is la barca (the boat). It's general, it starts with B!

A Villa Borghese si possono fare tantissime cose: si può noleggiare una barca... per navigare nel laghetto;

At Villa Borghese, you can do many things: you can rent a boat... to sail on the small lake;

Captions 10-12, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 1

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If we want to specify the kind of boat, such as a sailboat, then we use the preposition a (to, at) to indicate the type: barca a vela (sailboat).

 

E lui fa il cuoco sulle barche a vela, in giro per il mondo.

And he's a cook on sailboats, going around the world.

Caption 28, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 9

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A motorboat would be una barca a motore.

 

A fishing boat can be una barca da pesca, but also, and more commonly, un peschereccio.

E... questa tartaruga è arrivata in... proprio ieri, portata da un peschereccio di Lampedusa.

And... this turtle arrived... just yesterday, brought to us by a Lampedusa fishing boat.

Captions 4-5, WWF Italia Progetto tartarughe - Part 2

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The second word you'll learn will likely be la nave (the ship):

La Campania è collegatissima, quindi ci si può arrivare in treno, in aereo, in macchina o in nave.

Campania is very accessible, meaning you can get there by train, by plane, by car, or by ship.

Captions 82-84, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Campania

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There are the ships we see on the sea, but there are ferryboats, too, especially the ones that take you from Italy's mainland to le isole (the islands): Sicilia (Sicily), Sardegna (Sardinia), Corsica (although not part of Italy — a common destination), and l'Isola d'Elba. This specific kind of boat is called un traghetto. But if you call it la nave, that's perfectly understandable, too. Some of these ferries are huge. In the following example, we're talking about getting to Sardinia.

Ci sono tre aeroporti, se si vuole arrivare in aereo. Oppure con il traghetto da Civitavecchia, da Genova o da Napoli.

There are three airports if one wishes to arrive by plane. Or by ferry from Civitavecchia, from Genoa, or from Naples.

Captions 70-71, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Sardegna

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If you go to Venice, you will undoubtedly take a ferry at some point. Here, the local means of transportation is il vaporetto (the steamship).  The name comes from il vapore (the steam). There are stops you get off at, just like for busses, subways, and trains in mainland cities.

 

When you need speed, you opt for un motoscafo (a motorboat, a speedboat). That's what the police use. 

 

Another boat name used in Venice, but other places, too, is battello

Per arrivare a Murano, basta prendere un battello a Venezia e in pochi minuti si arriva.

To get to Murano, all you have to do is take a passenger boat in Venice, and in just a few minutes, you get there.

Captions 23-25, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 8

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Interestingly, when Italians use the noun la canoa, they often mean "kayak." The noun kayak exists as well. When they want to refer to a canoe, they'll say la canoa canadese (the Canadian canoe). 

Nelle gole dell'Alcantara, si possono praticare sport estremi come l'idrospeed, che consiste nello scendere attraverso le gole, ma anche la più tranquilla canoa.

In the Alcantara gorges one can practice extreme sports like riverboarding, which consists of going down the gorges, but also the calmer kayak.

Captions 19-21, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 10

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To use a canoe or a kayak you need a paddle— la pagaia.  

 

If we want to talk about a rowboat, it's una barca a remi. Un remo is "an oar," so we need 2 of them in una barca a remi. The verb to row is remare

 

In Venice, there are gondolas, and they are rowed or paddled with just one oar. 

Questa asimmetria è voluta per dare più spazio al gondoliere per remare con il suo unico remo.

This asymmetry is needed to give more space to the gondolier to row with his one and only oar.

Captions 18-19, In giro per l'Italia Venezia - Part 5

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A common expression having to do with rowing is:

Tirare i remi in barca (to pull the oars back in the boat). You stop rowing. Figuratively, you stop trying, you give up. Or, you've finished your job so you don't have to "row" any longer. Maybe you've retired! This nuanced expression can tend towards a positive or negative intention and interpretation.

 

Finally, we have la zattera (the raft). It's often primitive, often made of wood. 

 

Are there kinds of boats for which you would like to know the Italian equivalent? Write to us. newsletter@yabla.com.

 

There are undoubtedly other kinds of seafaring vessels we have missed here. Feel free to volunteer some you might have come across. 

 

And to sum up, we will mention that in general, when talking about vessels that travel on the water, we can use l'imbarcazione. It's good to recognize this word and understand it, but you likely won't need it in everyday conversation. You'll hear it on the news, you'll read it in articles...

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Venire doesn't just mean "to come"

Venire is one of those verbs, like "get" in English, that is used in lots of ways, besides its general meaning of "to come." Let's look at some of the ways.

To cost

When you are shopping at the outdoor market, for example, and want to know the price, you might think of saying:

Quanto costa (how much does it cost)?

It's a fine cognate, easy to remember. But if you want to sound more like a local, you might say:

Quanto viene (how much does it come to)?

or if they are pomodori (tomatoes), for example,

Quanto vengono (how much do they come to)?

 

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To turn out, to come out

When you succeeded (or not) in doing something, such as jumping over a hurdle, making a drawing, making a special dish, you can use venire. You can say, for instance:

Questo dolce mi è venuto bene (I did a good job on this dessert. It came out well).

We can say it in a neutral way, leaving out the indirect personal pronoun:

È venuto bene (it came out nicely)

Or we can say it in a more personal way:

Ti è venuto bene (you had success), mi è venuto bene (I had success).

 

Instead of saying sono stata brava (I did a good job), where the accent is on me, I turn the phrase around a bit, and say mi è venuto bene (it came out well for me). There is a little less ego involved, if we want to look at it that way. We're not taking all the credit. It might have been chance.

A fun expression

In a recent segment of the movie Dafne, the father is thinking of planting a vegetable garden. He's probably never done it before. He says:

Potrei fare l'orto, come viene viene (I could plant a vegetable garden, however it turns out).

 

Literally, it's "It turns out the way it turns out."

 

Venire in place of essere (to be)

We have mentioned this in another lesson. The verb venire, as well as the verb andare, is used to make a kind of passive form. Since that lesson is long and involved, we'll just cite the part about venire here:

Venire (to come) and andare (to go) 

There is a verb pair that Italians use to form the passive voice, more often than you might think: venire (to come) and andare (to go). These have a particular feeling and purpose. We could look at these verbs as more of an active-type passive tense (although perhaps that's an oxymoron). If you think of times when we use "get" instead of "to be" in passive sentences, it might make more sense. We often use venire when we're talking about how things are done, or things that are done on a continuing basis, and we use andare when we're talking about things that have to get done. 

If I am telling you the rules of how candidates are chosen, for example, or how they get chosen, I might use venire (to come). 

 

Active: Il presidente sceglie il vicepresidente. The president chooses the vice-president.

Passive: Il vicepresidente viene scelto dal presidente. The vice-president gets chosen by the president.

 

In Italia il caffè viene servito in tazzine di queste dimensioni.

In Italy, coffee is served in demitasses that are this size.

Caption 15, Adriano Il caffè

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Venire used as "to remember," "to come to mind"

Non mi viene. -Va bene.

It doesn't come to mind. -All right.

Caption 68, Sposami EP 3 - Part 4

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We can also say this as we do in English:

Non mi viene in mente (it doesn't come to mind)

 

But we often leave out the "in mente" part, especially if there is a direct object, like for example il nome "the name."

Non mi viene il nome (I can't remember the name, I can't think of the name). 

 

We hope this lesson has given you some more tools to improve your Italian.  Keep on learning!

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Getting fed up with stufare

The verb stufare means "to stew," so it's a cooking verb. You cook something for a long time. In English we use "to stew" figuratively — "to fret" — but Italians use it a bit differently, to mean "to get fed up." What inspired this lesson was the first line in this week's segment of L'Oriana

Sono stufa di intervistare attori e registi, non ne posso più.

I'm tired of interviewing actors and directors, I can't take it anymore.

Caption 1, L'Oriana film - Part 3

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The adjective stufo

Here we have the adjective form, stufo. It means "fed up," "tired," or "sick and tired."  Here are a couple more examples so you can see the kind of contexts stufo is used in.

Ma se fosse stato... -Se, se, Manara, sono stufo delle sue giustificazioni!

But if that had happened... -If, if, Manara. I'm sick of your justifications!

Caption 7, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 15

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Fabrizio, basta. Basta. Sono stufa delle tue promesse.

Fabrizio, that's enough. Enough. I'm sick of your promises.

Captions 67-68, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 5

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You will often see the expression Basta! (enough) close by stufo, as in the previous example— they go hand in hand. The adjective stufo is used when you have already had it, you are fed up, you are already tired of something. 

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Stufo is an adjective that comes up a lot in arguments. Can you think of some verbs to use with it? 

Sono stufa di lavare i piatti tutte le sere (I'm sick of doing the dishes every night).
Sono stufo di...[pick a verb].

 

Sono stufo di camminare. Prendiamo un taxi (I'm tired of walking. Let's take a taxi).
Sono stufo di discutere con te. Parliamo di altro (I'm tired of arguing with you. Let's talk about something else).
Sei stufo, o vuoi fare un altro giro (are you tired of this, or do you want to do another round)?
 
 
Let's keep in mind that stufo is the kind of adjective that will change its ending according to gender and number. But since it's a very personal way to feel, it's most important to remember it in the first and second person singular. Sono stufo, sono stufa — sei stufo? sei stufa?
 

The verb stufare

The adjective stufo is one way to use the word. The other common way is to use the verb stufare reflexively: stufarsi (to get fed up, to be fed up, to get bored).  
 
It's very common to use stufarsi in the passato prossimo tense: mi sono stufato (I'm fed up). Using the verb form implies something that was already happening, already in the works. It's more about the process. Note that when we use a reflexive verb in a tense with a participle, such as the passato prossimo (that's formed like the present perfect), the auxiliary verb is essere (to be) not avere (to have).
 

Sì. -Ma io mi sono stufato.

Yes. -But I've had enough.

Caption 18, Sposami EP 2 - Part 21

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As you can see, it's common for the verb form, used reflexively, to stand alone, but we can also use it as we did the adjective form, with a verb. 

Mi sono stufata di camminare (I'm tired of walking).

Let's keep in mind that we have to pay attention to who is speaking. The ending of the participle will change according to gender and number.

Two girls are hiking but are offered a ride:

Menomale. Ci eravamo stufate di camminare (Good thing, We had gotten tired of walking).

 

But stufarsi can also be used in the present tense. For example, a guy with bad knees loves to run but can't, so he has to walk. He might say:

Meglio camminare, ma mi stufo subito (It's better to walk but I get bored right away). Preferisco correre (I like running better).

 

And finally, we can use the verb non-reflexively when someone is making someone else tire of something or someone. 

A me m'hai stufato con sta storia, hai capito? Eh.

You've tired me out/bored me with this story, you understand? Huh.

Caption 35, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 12

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Let's also remember that la stufa is a heater. In earlier times and even now in some places, it was also the stove or oven, used both for heating and cooking food and for heating the living space. The double meaning is essential to understanding the lame joke someone makes in Medico in Famiglia.

In una casa dove vive l'anziano non servono i riscaldamenti perché l'anziano stufa!

In a house where an elderly person lives there's no need for heating because the elderly person makes others tired of him.

Captions 91-92, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 6

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Practice: We don't want to promote feeling negative about things, but as you go about your day, you can pretend to be tired of something, and practice saying Sono stufo/a di... or quite simply, Basta, mi sono stufata/a. For "extra credit," try following it up with what you would like to do as an alternative.

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Making do with arrangiarsi

Here's another expression you will want in your toolbox: arrangiarsi (to make do). 

 

Oriana Fallaci uses this expression to express her exasperation at how things get done in Italy. 

Vorrà dire che si farà l'unica cosa che si può fare qui in Italia, la cosa che più detesto, quella che m'ha fatto fuggire da questo paese: arrangiarsi.

That means that we'll do the only thing that one can do here in Italy, the thing that I hate most, the thing that made me flee this country: make do.

Captions 42-43, L'Oriana film - Part 1

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Art form?

Italians joke about "making do" as almost an art form: L'arte di arrangiarsi (the art of making do). In fact, that's the title of a 1955 film with Alberto Sordi. L'arte di arrangiarsi (Getting Along) — possibily available on YouTube in your zone.

 

T'ho già detto che nun [romanesco : non] è un problema mio. Arangiate [romanesco: arrangiati].

I already said that that's not my problem. Figure it out.

Captions 55-56, La Ladra EP. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 1

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False friend alert!

We just have to be a bit careful because the verb arrangiare looks so much like the English verb "to arrange." They are close cousins, but not perfect cognates, except in some specific circumstances like arranging a piece of music. There, we use the noun arrangiamento (arrangement) most of the time.

 

In the example above, someone is telling someone to "figure it out." So that's a great expression to know. Of course, it's used when you know someone very well.

 

But arrangiarsi is perhaps most commonly used in the first person singular or plural to accept less than ideal conditions: You don't have the right equipment or tool for doing something, but you're going to try to make do with what you have. You can stay the night, but all we have is a sofabed... There are hundreds of situations that present themselves every day where one has to make do, so this expression is a great one to know and practice in the conjugations you might need. 

Mi arrangio [or m'arrangio] (I'll make do).

Ci arrangiamo (we'll make do).

Mi arrangerò (I'll figure it out somehow).

Mi devo arrangiare (I have to make do).

 

Marika and Anna didn't find the kind of bread they needed for the recipe, but they made do with something similar. 

Noi, purtroppo, non lo abbiamo trovato e quindi ci arrangiamo, si fa per dire, con questo pane che comunque è molto gustoso.

We, unfortunately, couldn't find that, and so we are making do, so to speak, with this bread, which is very tasty in any case.

Captions 27-29, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Real life situations for using this expression

When you are cooking, how many times have you had to make do with a different ingredient from the one the recipe called for? Ti devi arrangiare (you have to make do).

 

If you are the host you might have to ask your guest to accept less than ideal accomodations...

Vi arrangiate (can you make do)?

Se vi arrangiate (if you can make do)...

 

We can talk about someone else:

Si arrangia con qualche furto, qualche partita di coca, ma non credo che c'entri qualcosa con questa storia.

He gets by on the odd theft, a batch of coke now and then, but I don't think he is involved in this thing.

Captions 71-72, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Here, arrangiarsi is translated with "to get by." It can also mean "to make ends meet." 

 

A related word

A related reflexive verb is accontentarsi, which we have talked about in another lesson. It can also be translated with "to make do," but "to settle" and "to be content" work well, too.

"gli uomini, fino a che saranno sulla terra, dovranno accontentarsi del riso giallo di zafferano, poi, quando saranno in paradiso, mangeranno riso con l'oro".

"Men, for as long as they're on the earth, will have to settle for saffron yellow rice; later, when they're in paradise, they'll eat rice with gold."

Captions 7-10, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

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Arrangiarsi is more about doing something, where as accontentarsi is more about how you feel about something. (we can detect the word contento (happy, content) within the word. 

 

Which preposition to use

One last thing to remember is that with arrangiarsi, we use the preposition con (with). With accontentarsi we use the preposition di.

 

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Talking about the weather in Italian

When traveling in Italy, like it or not, weather conditions can be a concern. We like to imagine Italy being sunny and beautiful all the time, but purtroppo (unfortunately), especially these days, the weather can be capriccioso (mischievous) and imprevidibile (unpredictable). As a result, knowing how to talk about the weather like an Italian can be not only useful for obtaining information, but provides a great topic for small talk.

Che tempo fa?

In Italian, the verb of choice when talking about the weather is fare (to make). Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? Keep in mind that tempo means both “time” and “weather” so be prepared to get confused sometimes. If you want to talk about today’s weather, then just add oggi (today):

Che tempo fa oggi? (What’s the weather like today?)

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An answer might be:

Oggi c'è un bel tempo, un bel sole.

Today there's nice weather, nice sun.

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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And when talking about tomorrow, we use the future tense of the verb fare:


Che tempo farà domani? (What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?)

 

So our basic question is Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? That's good to know, and an important question to be able to ask, but when we're making conversation, we might start with a statement, to share the joy, or to commiserate.

Condividere (sharing)

We can start out generally, talking about the quality of the day itself.

Che bella giornata (what a beautiful day). 

Che brutta giornata (what a horrible day).

 

Specifics

After that, we can get into specifics.

Tip: In English, we use adjectives such as: sunny, rainy, muggy, and foggy, but in Italian, in many cases, it’s common to use noun forms, rather than adjectives, as you will see.

Fa freddo (it’s cold)! Note that we (mostly) use the verb fare (to make) here, not essere (to be)
Fa caldo (it’s hot)!
Piove (it’s raining). Italians also use the present progressive tense as we do in English, (sta piovendo) but not necessarily!
Nevica (it’s snowing).
C’è il sole (it’s sunny).
È coperto (it’s cloudy, the skies are grey).
È nuvoloso (it’s cloudy).
C’è la nebbia (it’s foggy).
C’è l’afa (it’s muggy).

 

Piove. T'accompagno a casa?

It's raining. Shall I take you home?

Caption 3, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 14

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Il clima, eh... essendo la Lombardia quasi tutta pianura, abbiamo estati molto afose e inverni molto rigidi. Ma la caratteristica principale è la presenza costante della nebbia.

The climate, uh... as Lombardy is almost all flatlands, we have very muggy summers and very severe winters. But the main characteristic is the constant presence of fog.

Captions 70-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Lombardia

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Who knew?

We have the adjective chiaro that means "clear" and so when we want to clear something up we can use the verb chiarire (to clear up). We are speaking figuratively in this case. 

 

Incominciamo col chiarire una cosa: è per te, o è per tua madre?

Let's start by clearing up one thing. Is it for you, or is it for your mother?

Caption 8, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 5

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But chiaro also means "light in color."

Ci sono di tutti i tipi: maschi, femmine, occhi chiari, occhi scuri.

There are all kinds: males, females, blue [pale] eyed, dark eyed.

Caption 63, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 17

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When the sky is clearing up, we don't use the verb chiarire. We use the prefix s and chiarire becomes schiarire (to make lighter or brighter [with more light] in color). It can refer not only to color but also sound. It's often expressed in its reflexive form.

Il cielo si sta schiarendo (the sky is clearing up).

 

Al centro invece, abbiamo nebbia anche qui dappertutto, con qualche schiarita, ma nebbia a tutte le ore.

Towards the center on the other hand, we have fog all over, here as well, with some clearing, but fog at all hours.

Captions 58-59, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

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There's more to say about the weather and how to talk about it in Italian, but that will be for another lesson.

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What's the problem?

In English, it's common to say, "No problem." Some of us even use it in place of "You're welcome." But when we want to say this in Italian, it's slightly more complex.

Non c'è problema

Stai tranquilla, non c'è problema.

Take it easy, no problem.

Caption 80, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 14

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Non c'è problema (the Italian equivalent of "no problem") might be easy to memorize, but some might want to know what each word means, and why it is there, so let's take a quick look.

Actually, the only problematic word in non c'è problema is c'è. This contraction is made up of the particle ci (a particle meaning too many things to list here*), which in this case means "in that place" or "there,"  and è (the third person singular of the irregular verb essere — to be).

Otherwise, we understand non c'è problema pretty well, and it's fairly easy to repeat.

Non c'è problema is a negative sentence, and we cover this particular aspect of it in a lesson about everyday negatives. (Let's remember that double negatives are, in many cases, totally OK in Italian!).

But there's another way to say the same thing, and pose it as a question.

Che problema c'è?

Eh, che problema c'è? Dai.

Huh, what's the problem? Come on.

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 12

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Che problema c'è? — "What's the problem?" or, literally, "What problem is there?"

This is a very common thing to say, but it is nuanced. Sometimes it just states the obvious in question form and is a rhetorical question. It's clear there is no problem at all. But sometimes, it has a touch of irony and implies there's more to it.

In a recent episode of Provaci ancora Prof, the segment ends with this question: Che problema c'è? All the members of the family keep repeating it so we can guess there's more to it.

 

E certo! Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Che problema c'è? -Duecento euro di multa, ecco che problema c'è.

Of course! What's the problem? -What's the problem? -What's the problem? -A two hundred euro ticket, that's what the problem is.

Captions 97-100, Provaci Ancora Prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 1

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The last response to the question, Che problema c'è? is that there's going to be an expensive parking ticket to pay. That's the problem. There might be other problems down the line, too. 

 

Che problema c'è, uttered with the right inflection, can also be a mild version of "What could possibly go wrong?".  

 

Variations on a theme

It's also common to use the plural of problema. Let's just remind ourselves that problema ends in a but is a masculine noun and gets a masculine plural with i.

Non ci sono problemi (there are no problems).

or, as a question:

Ci sono problemi (are there problems)?

 

When we want to zero in on what the problem is, specifically, we can ask (although it can also be intended as general):

 

Qual è il problema (what's the problem)?

C'è qualche problema (is there some problem)?

 

Have you heard  other ways to say, "What's the problem?" in Italian? Let us know!

 

* There are several lessons about this particle, so if, once in the "lessons" tab, you do a search of ci, you'll find plenty of information about it, with examples from Yabla videos.

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More about mancare : when something is lacking

We've had some feedback about the tricky verb mancare. And there are likely plenty of learners out there struggling to be able to use it and translate it correctly. It twists the brain a bit.

 

To grasp it better, it may be helpful to separate the contexts. So in this lesson, let's focus on things, not people. Let's think about something being absent, missing, something we are lacking.

Infatti manca la targa, sia davanti che dietro.

In fact, the license plate is missing, both in front and in back.

Caption 37, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 7

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In the next example, we're talking about time. The verb mancare is often used to indicate how much time is left.

Ormai manca poco.

It won't be long now. (Literally, this is: At this point, little time is left)

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 9

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If we're talking about minutes, days, or weeks, we conjugate mancare in the third person plural.

E mancano solo due giorni, eh, alla fine del mese.

And there are only two days left, huh, before the end of the month.

Caption 45, La Ladra Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro - Part 8

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This next example is a typical comment for adult children to make about their parents or parents about how they treat their children. The children are well-provided for. They have everything they needed. Nothing is denied them. So the verb is: fare mancare qualcosa a qualcuno (to cause someone to do without something).

Non ci ha mai fatto mancare nulla.

We never wanted for anything.

We never went without.

Caption 9, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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If you do a search on Yabla, you'll find plenty of examples of this expression. It's a bit convoluted to use, so perhaps by repeating the phrases that come up in the search, or by reading them out loud, you'll get it. Again, it's more important to understand what this means, especially when someone is telling you their life story, than using it yourself.

 

If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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Italian ways to think about things

The Italian verb for "think" is pensare. But there are so many ways, in every language, to talk about thinking. Let's look at a few of them  in Italian.

Pensare (to think)

A quick review of the verb pensare reminds us that it's an  -are verb, and this is good to know for conjugating it, but it's also a verb of uncertainty and some of us already know that that means we often need the subjunctive, especially when it's followed by che, as in the following example. We don't worry about that in English.

Io penso che Vito sia arrabbiato per una cosa molto stupida.

I think that Vito is angry over something very stupid.

Captions 5-6, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il congiuntivo - Part 7

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For more about the verb pensare, here are some lessons and videos to check out:

 

Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 6 This is part of a 17-part series on the subjunctive.

Anna e Marika - Il verbo pensare Marika and Anna use the various conjugations of pensare in conversation.

I Have This Feeling... - Sapere Part 1 This is a lesson about yet another way to say "I think..." And it doesn't need the subjunctive!

 

Riflettere

When someone asks you a question and you need to think about it, one common verb to use in Italian is riflettere (to reflect). We do use this verb in English, but it's much more common in Italian. 

Ci devo riflettere (I need to think about it).

Sto riflettendo... (I'm thinking...)

C'ho riflettuto e... (I've thought about it and...)

Fammi riflettere (let me think).

 

Idea

A word that is closely connected with pensare is idea. It's the same in English as in Italian, except for the pronunciation.

Ho un'idea (I have an idea)

 

Another relevant word is la mente (the mind) where thinking happens and ideas come from.  So when you are thinking about something, often when you are planning something, you have something in mind. Here, the Italian is parallel to English: in mente. As you can see, the response uses the verb pensare

Che cosa ha in mente? -Sto pensando di impiantare una fabbrica lì.

What do you have in mind? -I'm thinking of setting up a factory there.

Captions 24-25, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 8

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The question is being asked by someone who is using the polite form of avere (to have). [Otherwise, it would be: Che cosa  _____ in mente?]*

 

So sometimes when we think of something, it comes to mind. Italians say something similar but they personalize it.

T'è venuto in mente qualcosa? -No!

Did something come to mind? -No!

Caption 14, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 10

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So we use in mente (to mind) with a personal pronoun plus the preposition a (to).

A (negative) response could be:

A me non viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

or, more likely

Non mi viene in mente niente (nothing comes to mind / I can't think of anything).

 

La testa

La mente (the mind) is another word for il cervello (the brain), which is in la testa (the head), so some expressions about thinking use la testa just as they do in English (use your head!) But sometimes the verb is different.

 

In this week's episode of Provaci ancora, Prof! a husband is talking about his wife wanting to divorce him. He says:

Adesso si è messa in testa che vuole anche il divorzio.

Now she has gotten it into her head that she also wants a divorce.

Caption 14, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 27

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In English, we personalize this with a possessive pronoun (her head) and we use the catch-all verb "to get," but in Italian, we use the verb mettere (to put) in its reflexive form (mettersi). This often implies a certain stubbornness.

Sembrare

Let's add the verb sembrare (to seem) because lots of times we use it in Italian, when we just use "to think" in English.

Invece a me sembra proprio una buona idea.

On the contrary, to me it seems like a really good idea.

On the contrary, I think it's a really good idea.

Caption 45, Concorso internazionale di cortometraggio A corto di idee - Part 1

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Ti sembra giusto (do you think it's fair)?

 

Just for fun, here's a dialog:

Mi è venuto in mente di costruire un tavolo (I was thinking of building a table).

-Come pensi di farlo (how are you thinking of doing it)?

-Ci devo riflettere (I have to think about it).

-Che tipo di tavolo hai in mente (what kind of table do you have in mind)?

-Mi sono messo in testa di farlo grande ma mi sa che dovrò chiedere aiuto a mio zio (I got it into my head to make a big one, but I think I will have to ask my uncle to help me).

-Hai avuto qualche idea in più (have you come up with any more ideas)?

-Ho riflettuto, e penso che sarà troppo difficile costruire un tavolo grande, quindi sarà un tavolo piccolo e semplice (I've thought about it and I think it will be too difficult to build a big table, so it's going to be a small, simple table).

Mi sembra saggio (I think that's wise).

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*Answer: Che cosa  _hai_ in mente?

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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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