We have already talked a bit about the verb anticipare because it is the opposite of posticipare (to postpone). But let's look at some examples to get a feel for the verb and then look at the noun.
Eh, c'è un caso delicato e ho dovuto anticipare il rientro.
Uh, there is a delicate case and I've had to move up my return.Play Caption
We might just say, "I had to go back earlier" or "I had to return ahead of schedule."
Ma no, sulle prime sembrava che fosse quel giorno, poi invece gli scritti li hanno anticipati e li ho dati un mese fa.
But no, at first it seemed like it was that day, but then they moved the written exams up and I did those a month ago.
Captions 5-6, Sposami EP 4 - Part 25Play Caption
If I answer your question before you ask it, you might say:
Mi hai anticipato (you preceded me, you beat me to it).
When I have told you something earlier and refer to it now, I might say something like:
Vediamo un po' in quale altro modo si usa, perché, come ti avevo anticipato, ci sono vari modi.
Let's look a bit into what other way it's used. Because, as I told you earlier, there are various ways.
Captions 2-3, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 2Play Caption
Sometimes, instead of words or information, it's money!
Walter m'aveva chiesto di anticipare i soldi per il viaggio ai Caraibi
Walter had asked me to advance him the money for the trip to the Caribbean,Play Caption
It's also common, when talking about money, to use the noun form we mentioned earlier: un anticipo.
Ma il nostro accordo era un anticipo subito e il resto alla consegna.
But our agreement was an advance payment right away and the rest upon delivery.Play Caption
We could also use "down payment" to mean anticipo here. You might ask your boss for un anticipo (an advance).
And when something or someone is early, or arrives early, ahead of schedule, most of the time we say in anticipo. It functions as an adverb.
Sono in anticipo?
Am I early?Play Caption
We can also say con anticipo when we want to say "in advance." Here anticipo is a noun, and it has an adjective in front of it.
Il problema è che spesso le strutture sono sovraffollate, per cui, eh, devi agire con molto anticipo rispetto agli esami che vuoi fare
The problem is that often, the facilities are overcrowded, so uh, you have to act long in advance with respect to the exams that you want to do
Captions 8-10, Anna presenta La gravidanza - Part 2Play Caption
But we can also say in netto anticipo (well in advance) and here it again functions pretty much like an adverb. It is more important to be able to use this word than to know its part of speech. Sometimes the confines are blurry.
Svolgere is yet another verb starting with S, meaning there is likely a verb without the S, at its roots.
The use of the "prefix" S to give a word the opposite meaning is a common Italian phenomenon. It comes up frequently (see, for example this lesson). There is no fool-proof "rule," but knowing about the S-prefix can often give us a clue about a word. If we try a search of the word without the S, we might gain a deeper understanding of the word. Sometimes the S provides a different slant on a word, and isn't necessarily a negation or an opposite.
So if we look up volgere, we find that it does exist. We just don't use it very often in everyday conversation. Svolgere, on the other hand, is very common, but it's not easy to guess its meaning.
Let's take a closer look.
When the verb is in its non-reflexive form it can be translated as "to carry out," "to conduct," "to do," or "to perform." It's transitive. We use it a lot when the question is, "What does it do?" or "What do you do (as a job)?"
Ha una capacità di memoria elevatissima; può svolgere la stessa funzione di cinquemila calcolatori meccanici messi insieme, ma in un tempo infinitamente più breve.
It has a very high memory capacity; it can perform the same function as five thousand mechanical calculators put together, but in an infinitely shorter time.
Captions 3-5, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19Play Caption
Ci troviamo nel centro tartarughe WWF di Lampedusa, fa parte del progetto italiano del WWF, che svolge attività di conservazione sulle tartarughe marine,
We are at the WWF center in Lampedusa, it's part of the Italian WWF project, which conducts work on conserving sea turtles
Captions 36-38, WWF Italia Progetto tartarughe - Part 1Play Caption
Espressione del lavoro di ricerca che svolgono durante il loro soggiorno romano.
An expression of the research work they carry out during their stay in Rome.
Caption 10, Villa Medici L'arca della bellezza - Part 4Play Caption
When we use the reflexive form of the verb, we often translate it as "to take place." We could also say "to unfold" in certain contexts. The reflexive form is intransitive.
Una parte del film si svolge qua dove sembra veramente che il passato e il futuro siano coesistenti.
One part of the film takes place here where it really seems that the past and the future coexist.
Captions 34-35, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 6Play Caption
The reflexive form svolgersi, is extremely common, but not all that easy to guess at, since it's not a cognate... or is it?
If we look up the etymology of the verb svolgere, we do find volgere, but another, archaic, version of volgere — volvere, no longer in use, is mentioned as well. And if we try hard, we can see the verb "to evolve" as a sort of cognate. If we think of the verb svolgersi as something like, "to evolve," it might help us remember it.
How does this story evolve? Come si svolge questa storia?
If we look at the conjugation chart of the verb svolgere and we look at the conjugation chart of the verb svoltare (to change directions, to turn) there are some similarities, so this can be a bit confusing.
Both the non-reflexive and the reflexive form of the verb svolgere can mean "to unfold." So they intersect in a way. But we should just keep in mind that the non-reflexive form is transitive (it takes a direct object) and the reflexive form is intransitive (you won't find a direct object after it).
If you do a search of svolgere, and svolgersi on the Yabla videos page, you will have an overview of how these verbs are used. If you then go to the transcript for a given video where the word is used and hit command or control F to search the word there, you'll see the larger context, together with the English translation. You will see that the translation isn't consistent. Sometimes it's tricky to find the right word, since there really isn't a good, reliable English cognate.
Certainly, the two forms of svolgere are great verbs to have in your toolbox. If you pay attention, you will start hearing both of them a great deal. And now you know what they mean!
In a previous lesson we talked about the verb seguire (to follow). Here are two other words that have the same root and are related, but mean something else: Proseguire and inseguire.
In Italian, we can use the verb continuare, an easy cognate, but sometimes it's nice to change. Proseguire is a verb you will hear a lot, especially when someone is giving you directions.
Come posso arrivare alla spiaggia più vicina? Guarda, se proseguite sulla strada che fat' [sic] stavate facendo...
How can I reach the closest beach? Look, if you continue on the road you tak [sic] were taking...
Captions 17-18, Una gita al lago - Part 1Play Caption
Il nostro viaggio prosegue in Piemonte,
Our journey continues in Piedmont,
Caption 7, Meraviglie EP. 5 - Part 4Play Caption
You might ask, "Is there a difference between continuare and proseguire?" Well, much of the time they are interchangeable, but sometimes continuare can imply that you keep doing the same thing.
Continuo a non capire (I still don't understand).
But with proseguire, you continue on, you advance, you proceed. Think of an arrow in one direction.
Prosegua pure, prego.
Go ahead and continue, please.
Caption 35, PsicoVip La lavatrice - Ep 23Play Caption
We could also have translated this with the verb "to proceed."
There is a noun form of this word: il proseguo.
...questa è diventata una, una realtà e sicuramente, eh, anche per il proseguo...
...this has become a, a reality and surely, uh, also for the aftermath...
Caption 40, Calcio Intervista con il Prof. CraveroPlay Caption
When you are saying goodbye to someone, instead of saying buona giornata or buona serata, you might say, buon proseguimento if you know that whomever you are saying goodbye to is off to do something else, not just going home.
Buon proseguimento (I wish you well in whatever you do next).
Per il telegiornale oggi è tutto, io vi auguro un buon proseguimento di giornata.
That's all for the newscast for today. I wish you a good rest of the day.
Captions 56-57, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 4Play Caption
Allora, il ragioniere, terrorizzato, scappa verso il salone, ma Menicucci lo insegue e gli spara una seconda volta.
So the accountant, terrified, runs towards the living room, but Menicucci chases him down and shoots him a second time.
Captions 51-52, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP1 - La finestra sulla scuola - Part 23Play Caption
We can also use the word "to follow" as a translation, but the intention changes from seguire.
We have a noun associated with this word, too: l'inseguimento (the chase, the pursuit).
Ma i bolidi sfreccianti verso Parma sembrano sfidare il nostro inseguimento celeste.
But the race cars speeding towards Parma seem to defy our airborne pursuit.Play Caption
We have inserted this verb with its reflexive ending, which is actually a reciprocal form, and is used as a noun in our example, something that's quite common.
Ora è il turno della parola: tempo, con la quale indichiamo il susseguirsi dei minuti, delle ore, dei giorni.
Now, it's time for the word "tempo," with which we indicate the passing of minutes, hours, days.
Captions 46-47, Marika spiega Parole con più significati - Part 1Play Caption
We can visualize the seconds following one another on a clock... We can talk about un susseguirsi di eventi (a chain of events or a series of events).
For more on the reflexive versus reciprocal verbs, see this video, presented by Marika.
For a lesson in English that explains the reciprocal form of verbs, see this lesson.
We hope we haven't filled your brain with words that are too similar. Please work on each one separately if you if that works best for you!
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.
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)?
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.
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."
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 caffèPlay Caption
Non mi viene. -Va bene.
It doesn't come to mind. -All right.
Caption 68, Sposami EP 3 - Part 4Play Caption
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!
This is the continuation of the lesson about the basics of reflexive verbs.
With a true reflexive verb, you need the reflexive to make yourself understood properly, but when it's not a direct reflexive, you can also leave it out (usually) and still get your meaning across. Check out the rules for this in the above-mentioned lesson.
Let's say I want to watch a movie on TV tonight. It would be common to say:
Mi guarderò un bel film stasera (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight). It's not directly reflexive, because we have "the film" as a direct object (it's not even a body part!) but the sentence is constructed the same way as a reflexive one, and has that personal feel to it (it's all about me!).
If it were truly reflexive, I would be looking at myself in the mirror instead of the movie: guardarsi (to look at oneself)
Mi guardo allo specchio (I look at myself in the mirror).
I could also just as well say (and it would be correct):
Guarderò un bel film stasera. (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight).
Without the added pronoun, the sentence is more neutral, less personal, and there's less emphasis on it being about me. But it's perfectly fine. And whether a verb is directly or indirectly reflexive is not going to change our lives a whole lot. It's just something you might wonder about. The important thing is to know how to use reflexive verbs and to get used to hearing (and understanding) them.
Here are a few more everyday examples that we think of as being reflexive, but which also contain a direct object. What's important to note is that in English, we use a possessive pronoun (I wash my hands) after a transitive verb. Italian uses a reflexive pronoun to indicate the person, but it goes together with the verb, not the noun. The following examples are typical, and so it would be wise to practice them in different conjugations.
Vado a lavarmi i denti (I'm going to brush my teeth).
Here we have the conjugated verb andare before lavare (with the preposition a [to]), so lavare is in the infinitive with the appropriate reflexive pronoun (mi [to me]) attached to it.
Ci laviamo le mani prima di mangiare (We wash our hands before eating).
Here we used ci as the reflexive pronoun. Let's not forget that ci has a lot of uses, which you can read about in other lessons.
Mi metto una maglia, fa freschino (I'll put a sweater on. It's chilly).
Mettere is an interesting verb (with an interesting reflexive version). Check out what Marika has to say about it.
Mettere vuol dire collocare, posizionare un oggetto in un posto specifico.
"To put" means "to situate," "to position" an object in a specific place.
Captions 7-8, Marika spiega Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1Play Caption
Here is a partial list of some other useful, everyday reflexive verbs:
addormentarsi (to fall asleep)
innamorarsi (to fall in love)
ammalarsi (to fall ill)
muoversi (to move)
spostarsi (to shift, to move)
These verbs are intransitive in English, they don't have anything to do with specific body parts, and they aren't used in a reflexive way in English. So they may be tricky to immediately grasp.
Let's take the example of spostarsi.
Does the verb have a non-reflexive form? Let's see: spostare. I look it up. spostare.
Hint: A dictionary will usually give you the reflexive form of the verb, too, if it exists. Just keep looking down the list of definitions or translations.
OK, so spostare exists in a non-reflexive (transitive) form.
La sposto subito.
I'll move it right away.
Caption 46, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 3Play Caption
The reflexive form means, "I move myself." In English we just say "I move." We just need to remember that we need the reflexive in Italian to say that. But if I visualize it, I can see myself moving myself over a bit, so someone can fit into a space, for instance.
Aside: The person ready to move his car in the previous example could have used the reflexive, especially if he had been in the car at the time. He could have said, Mi sposto subito (I'll move (out of the way) right away).
I can also look up the verb spostarsi on the Yabla videos page:
Basta semplicemente spostarsi di qualche metro.
All one has to do is simply move a few meters.
Caption 57, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 12Play Caption
The cool thing about the search window is that you can use whatever conjugation you want. You may or may not get a hit, but a pop-down menu will give you suggestions as to what's available. Sometimes it's handy to begin with the infinitive, then some conjugations. Most of these hits are real-life usages that help give you an idea of how a verb is used.
So my next move is to conjugate the reflexive verb. Creating a sentence that makes sense might be more fun than a simple conjugation. Go ahead and consult the conjugation chart supplied with verbs in WordReference: spostarsi
Mi sposto (I'll move over).
Ti puoi spostare (Could you move over)?
Lui non si sposta (he won't move over)!
Looking up sposto also reveals the "remote" past tense of spostare: spostò (the third person singular passato remoto):
Eh, tant'è vero che poi, pensa Marika, che il centro politico della città si spostò dai Fori Romani ai Fori Imperiali.
Yeah, so much so, that then, just think, Marika, the political center of the city moved from the Roman Forums to the Imperial Forums.
Captions 38-39, Marika e Daniela Il Foro RomanoPlay Caption
Try to put your daily routine into words, using the dictionary (and the afore-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.
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.
Try using different conjugations to practice them.
*More about what to wear in Marika spiega: L'abbigliamento - Part 1 of 2.
In this lesson, we used simple tenses. When we use the passato prossimo (constructed like the present perfect), we need more information, such as the fact that we need to use essere rather than avere! But we'll save this for another lesson.
You've probably heard about a special kind of verb found in Italian: the reflexive verb — il verbo riflessivo. It's a kind of verb that in its direct or indirect form pervades the Italian language. It's hard to get a sentence out without using one! The basic premise is that with a reflexive verb, the subject and the direct object are the same. See these video lessons about the reflexive. Since English works differently, the Italian reflexive verb can be tricky to understand, translate, and use. Let's look at the components.
Often, a reflexive verb starts out as a transitive verb, such as lavare (to wash).
On my list of things to do, one item might be:
Lavare la macchina (wash the car).
The action is "to wash" and the direct object is la macchina (the car). The car can't wash itself. We need a subject. Who washes the car in the family?
Io lavo la macchina (I wash the car).
Pietro lava la macchina (Pietro washes the car).
But in a reflexive verb, the subject and the object are the same. They coincide. In English we might say something like, I'll go and get washed up. We use "get." In Italian, we use the reflexive form of a verb. In the infinitive, we join the reflexive pronoun si to verb, leaving out the final e , and we use a detached reflexive pronoun when we conjugate the verb.
From the transitive verb lavare, we obtain lavarsi (to wash [oneself]).
One way we can recognize a reflexive verb is by the tell-tale si at the end of the infinitive form,* in this case, lavarsi. The second way to detect a direct reflexive verb, is in being able to replace the reflexive pronoun with sé stesso (oneself).
Let's make a checklist for the reflexive verb lavarsi.
1) It has the reflexive pronoun si at the end in the infinitive. √
2) I can say lavo me stesso/a (I wash myself). √
Here are some other common direct reflexive verbs. Do they pass the test?
lavarsi (to wash [oneself])
alzarsi (to get up)
vestirsi (to get dressed)
preocuparsi (to worry)
chiedersi (to wonder)
spogliarsi (to get undressed)
sedersi (to sit down)
chiamarsi (to be named)
See this lesson about reflexive verbs. It takes you through the conjugations and discusses transitive vs reflexive verbs in terms of meaning. Once you have grasped the basic reflexive verb and how to use it, let's move on to a slightly murkier version.
Something as basic as washing your face needs some understanding of the reflexive in Italian. We looked at lavarsi. That's a whole-body experience. But if we start looking at body parts, we still use the reflexive, even though it's indirect.
Instead of saying, "I wash my face," using a possessive pronoun as we do in English, Italians use the logic, "Hey, of course, it's my face on my body — I don't need to say whose face it is." So they use the reflexive to refer to the person, but add on "the face."
Mi lavo la faccia (I wash my face).
So there is a direct object in the sentence that doesn't coincide exactly with the subject (you are not your face), but it's still part of you and so we can say it's somewhat reflexive. It's indirectly reflexive. In grammatical terms, it's also pronominal, because we use the (reflexive) pronoun with the verb.
*Caveat: The pronoun si can and does have additional functions, but if the verb is reflexive, this si will be there in the infinitive, and we can look up the reflexive verb in the dictionary.
Try using the above-mentioned reflexive formula (with lavare) for other body parts. Start with yourself, and then go on to other people like your brother, or to keep it simpler, use someone's name.
i capelli (the hair)
i denti (the teeth)
i piedi (the feet)
le mani (the hands)
Giulia si lava i capelli una volta alla settimana (Giulia washes her hair once a week).
Io mi lavo i capelli tutti giorni (I wash my hair every day).
Vado a lavarmi le mani (I'm going to wash my hands).
Let's take the indirect reflexive one step further. Sometimes instead of using a verb form like "to shower," we'll use the noun. Sometimes there isn't an adequate, specific verb to use. In English, we take a shower. Italian uses fare to mean "to make," "to do," and "to take." And since taking a shower is usually a very personal activity, having to do with one's body, we use the reflexive form of fare plus the noun la doccia (the shower) to say this. We could even leave out the reflexive (since there is a direct object - doccia:
Faccio una doccia (I take a shower, I'm going to take a shower).
It is more common, however, to personalize it, to emphasize the person involved. Italians would normally say:
Mi faccio la doccia (I'm going to take a shower).
Mi faccio una doccia (I'm going to take a shower).
Vai a farti la doccia (Go take a shower).
And just as easily, I can ask you if you are going to take a shower.
Ti fai la doccia (are you going to take a shower)?
And if we speak in the third person with a modal verb, we'll see that the infinitive of fare, in this case, has all the trappings of a reflexive verb, that tell-tale si at the end of the infinitive:
Pietro vuole farsi la doccia (Pietro wants to take a shower).
Mi faccio la doccia alle sette e mezza.
I take a shower at half past seven [seven and a half].
Caption 7, Marika spiega - L'orologioPlay Caption
There is another verb we use when talking about our bodies. We have vestirsi (to get dressed) but Italians also use an indirect reflexive to mean "to wear," or, to use the basic translation of mettere — "to put on." The verb is mettersi [qualcosa] (to wear something). This verb is discussed in the lesson about wearing clothes in Italian.
Cosa mi metto stasera per andare alla festa (what am I going to wear tonight to go to the party)?
In the next lesson, we'll look at ways we use the indirect reflexive to be more expressive.
Let's try translating some everyday phrases you might hear or want to say in Italian. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page, but try not to cheat unless you need to. The important thing here is to get the idea, not to necessarily be precise about all the words. Use mancare in your Italian translation, and just get the gist of things when translating from Italian to English.
1) There's no salt!
2) It's ten to eight. (time)
3) Mancano ancora delle persone — the meeting is about to start.
4) Mi manca l'aria.
5) Manco dall'America da quattro anni.
6) I missed my flight [this one might be tricky].
7) Siamo quasi arrivati... we're almost there.
8) Manca solo Paolo. Lo aspettiamo?
In the following example, the same structure we talked about in this lesson presents itself in the sentence about style and groove. Manca il tuo stile. So something is lacking — his groove, something is missing. Manca.
But if we look further on, where it says: Ci manchi, it's basically the same thing, but it's more personal so we add the indirect personal pronoun ci (or any other one). So actually, the Italian is consistent in this. It's English that doesn't match the Italian. When it gets personal, we translate it with the action verb "to miss." Ci manchi could be translated literally as, "You are missing from our lives." You're missing and I feel it. Manchi dalla mia vita. Manchi a me. Mi manchi. I miss you.
La musica ti vuole. Manca il tuo groove, manca il tuo stile. Io ti voglio. -Ci manchi, ci manchi tantissimo. Incredibile. Dove, dove, dove sei finito?
Music wants you. Your groove is missing, your style is missing. I want you. -We miss you, we miss you so much. Incredible. Where, where, where have you gone to?
Captions 66-69, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 23
So let's add a couple more items to our list of sentences to look at:
8) I haven't seen my parents in years. I miss them.
9) Ti manco? (I am away from home on a business trip and wonder if my wife feels my absence, so I ask her this question).
Here are some possible answers. Let us know if this helps in understanding how to talk about things that are missing, absent, or lacking, and also about getting personal and missing someone, feeling someone's absence (in which case we use indirect personal pronouns like mi, ci, ti, etc. Please see this lesson, too, for more explanations and examples.
1) There's no salt! Manca il sale.
2) It's ten to eight. (time) Mancano dieci minuti alle otto.
3) Mancano ancora delle persone. (the meeting is about to start). Some people are still missing.
4) Mi manca l'aria. I can't breathe
5) Manco dall'America da quattro anni. I haven't been back to the States for four years.
6) I missed my flight (this one might be tricky). Ho mancato il volo.
7) Siamo quasi arrivati... we're almost there. Manca poco.
8) I haven't seen my parents in years. I miss them. Mi mancano. Mi mancano i miei genitori.
9) Ti manco? (I am away from home on a business trip and wonder if my wife feels my absence, so I ask this question). Do you miss me?
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...
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.
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 5Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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.
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.Play Caption
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 6Play Caption
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!
In most languages, there are situations in which two different sets of rules can apply. Sometimes it's because there are simply two valid ways of saying something. For instance, in English we can say:
There is none.
There isn't any.
They both mean the same thing and they are both correct. How to choose?
In Italian, a case in point is when we have a modal verb, a verb in the infinitive, and a pronoun. I can attach the pronoun to the verb or I can separate it and change the word order. It's a matter of personal choice.
Vado a cercarlo.
Lo vado a cercare.
Non posso farlo.
No lo posso fare.
Some rules change over time because the rule gets broken so many times that it becomes acceptable to break it. One example of this in English is using "who" instead of "whom" when it's an object. In some cases we still use it, and it is absolutely correct, but in general conversation, people might look at you strangely or think you are a snob. We still use it when we have a preposition before it, as in business letters, for instance: "To whom it may concern."
In a recent episode of Provaci ancora prof!, there's another use that has become less common in everyday speech, but is nevertheless correct. This brand of agreement is what we call facoltativo (optional). The conversation between Renzo and Camilla seems like the perfect opportunity to shine a light on it.
Lo sai? -Lo so, ti ho vista.
You know? -I know. I saw you.
-Mi hai vista? -Sì, ti ho vista.
-You saw me? -Yes, I saw you.
Ero venuto lì per cercarti e ti ho vista.
I went there to look for you, and I saw you.
Captions 5-7, Provaci ancora prof! - S1E4 - La mia compagna di bancoPlay Caption
We're talking about the transitive verb vedere, which takes the auxiliary verb avere. The sentences are in the passato prossimo, thus we use the past participle of vedere. If we look at a conjugation chart, we will see that visto is the past participle, not vista! Vista is nowhere to be seen.
If you click on "play caption," you will hear that Renzo (the husband) is talking to his wife Camilla and then she answers. So what's the story with vista?
There's a rule that if the verb is in the passato prossimo, the past participle can agree in gender and number with the direct object pronoun. Read more about this (in Italian).
So Renzo says Ti ho vista. Camilla is the direct object of vedere. If the roles were reversed, Camilla would say: T'ho visto because the pronoun would correspond to a male, her husband. This doesn't apply only to people. The pronoun might refer to a thing, but all nouns have gender in Italian.
A few more examples:
Ho visto le ragazze – Le ho viste = I have seen the girls – I have seen them
Ho sentito gli spari – Li ho sentiti = I have heard the shots – I have heard them
We should mention that Camilla is a professoressa of Italian and often plays sophisticated word games with her husband, so it makes sense for them to use correct Italian, and in fact, they sometimes get competitive about it. But normal people in everyday life often do not always make this choice and it's optional, so don't worry about it too much, but you might hear it. Still, it's nice to recognize it, right? And when you use it, you will feel proud and in the know.
In the same conversation, Renzo talks about seeing Camilla with Gaetano, the chief of police.
Non negare, vi ho visti.
Don't deny it, I saw you.Play Caption
He could have said Vi ho visto, just as he could have said T'ho visto in the previous example.
As you watch Yabla videos, you will undoubtedly come across more examples of this construction. Feel free to point them out in the comments section.
Devo dire la verità, che io adoro la panzanella
I have to tell you the truth. I love panzanella
e sono una toscana DOC [di origine controllata],
and I'm a DOC [true] Tuscan,
ma non l'ho mai fatta!
but I have never made it.
Captions 12-14, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanellaPlay Caption
And another example, with another verb, from the same cooking video with Arianna:
L'ho sempre mangiata molto volentieri,
I have always really enjoyed eating it [I have always eaten it willingly]...
Caption 15, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanellaPlay Caption
There are some verbs that are hard to use in Italian because they work differently from in English in terms of subjects and objects (who does what to whom?).
We have talked about piacere (to like) where things are really turned around. See the lesson: I like it - Mi piace. Another verb that can cause a whole lot of confusion in a similar way is mancare. There is already a lesson about this verb, a verb that is used in various ways. But right now, let's look at the verb when we use it to say something like "I miss you," or "Do you miss me?" It is very tricky because it often involves pronouns, and we all know that distinguishing between subject and object pronouns isn't always so easy.
In an episode of La Ladra, Lorenzo and Dante are talking about the fact that Dante misses Eva and Eva misses Dante.
Nel senso che anche [a] te manca mia madre?
Because you miss my mother, as well?
Mi sa che manchi anche a lei, eh.
I think she misses you, too, huh.
Captions 10-11, La Ladra - Ep.12 - Come ai vecchi tempiPlay Caption
In English "to miss" is a transitive verb, and the definition we are talking about here is not even the first one. In WordReference, it is number 6!
to regret the absence or loss of:
[~ + object] I miss you all dreadfully.
[~ + verb-ing] He missed watching the African sunsets.
In Italian, we have to think of things a bit differently. The definition of mancare is "to be lacking in" or "to be missing." So we're close.
But in Italian, the verb mancare has to agree with the person who is being missed. Weird, right?
So if I am feeling your absence, I miss you. You are missing from my life.
Expressed in Italian,
Sento la tua mancanza. Mi manchi. (I feel your absence. You are missing from my life right now!)
Let's look at some practical examples. Keep in mind that in this context, mancare is intransitive, so we need a preposition before the person who is feeling the absence. When we use the name of a person, we need to add the preposition a (to), but the tricky thing is that when we're using pronouns, the preposition is often included in the indirect pronoun. Mi = a me (to me), Ti = a te (to you).
Giovanni sente molto la mancanza di Anna. Lei sta studiando all'estero (Giovanni feels the absence of Anna. She is studying abroad). (She is missing from his life.)
A Giovanni manca Anna. Gli manca (Giovanni misses Anna. He misses her [he feels her absence]).
Gli stands for a lui (to him).
Non ti vedo da una vita. Mi manchi. (I haven't seen you in a long time. I miss you). (You are missing from my life)
Mi manca andare in ufficio tutti it giorni (I miss going to the office every day). (It's missing from my life.)
Now here, in the next example, who is being missed is in the plural: Parents. So the verb mancare is in the plural, too.
I miei genitori stanno a Roma. Io sto a Bologna. Mi mancano i miei genitori (My parents live in Rome. I live in Bologna. I miss my parents). (They are missing from my life.)
Ti mancano i tuoi genitori? So che stanno a New York (Do you miss your parents? I know they live in New York). (Are they missng from your life?)
You have to turn your mind around a bit to nail this, but with time and practice, you'll get it. And it's not something you want to get wrong.
Here are some Yabla video examples of people using mancare when they miss someone or something.
In this example, a woman is talking to her ex-husband about her new partner. She still misses her ex-husband and is telling him so.
A volte con Carlo è difficile,
Sometimes, Carlo is difficult,
ma non riesco a lasciarlo.
but I can't manage to leave him.
Anche se a volte mi manchi da morire.
Even if sometimes I miss you to death [like crazy].
Captions 6-8, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1Play Caption
To be clearer, she could have said, Anche se a volte tu mi manchi da morire.
In this example, Manara is trying to get used to living in Tuscany, as opposed to Milan.
Qui da Lei sto benissimo, eh. -Ah, ah.
At your place, I'm really fine, you know. -Ah, ah.
-Però mi manca la città, il traffico, il rumore, capisci?
-But I miss the city, the traffic, the noise, you understand?
Captions 38-39, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Here's an example where someone is being interviewed. The question is formal, but the answer is very colloquial.
Capisco. Quindi adesso il suo amico Le manca?
I understand. So, now you miss your friend?
-E cazzo se mi manca, sì, sì.
-Sure as shit, I miss him, yes, yes.
Captions 39-40, Chi m'ha visto - filmPlay Caption
Here's an example where you really need to turn your mind around. Gli manco. I am missing from his (Luca's) life. He misses me.
Con Luca tutto bene?
Everything all right with Luca?
-Non vede l'ora di tornare. Gli manco.
-He can't wait to come back. He misses me.
Captions 33-34, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giustoPlay Caption
When we go into the passato prossimo (present perfect tense structure), it's important to remember that in this context, we need the auxiliary verb essere (to be), not avere (to have).
Amore, quanto mi sei mancato!
Love, I've missed you so much!
-Sono tornato, ma non è cambiato niente.
-I'm back, but nothing has changed.
Captions 49-50, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giustoPlay Caption
1) In this case, Eva is talking to her son, but what if she had been talking to her daughter?
2/3) Can you turn the first part into a question? You are asking the person if they missed you. Are you a male or a female? The ending of the past participle will change accordingly.
Think about all the people you miss, the people you can't get together with. A single person? An animal? A city? A country? Mancare will be in the third person singular. If it's parents, friends, animals, then it will be in the third person plural.
If you are writing to a couple, your parents, then you will want to conjugate mancare in the second person plural (mancate).
If someone misses you, then you are the one who gets conjugated. You are missing from someone's life.
There are other ways to use the verb mancare, as you'll see if you look it up or do a Yabla search, but in this lesson, we wanted to isolate a particular situation. It's the trickiest one.
If you have trouble, let us know and we'll help. You'll want to get this right.
1) Amore, quanto mi sei mancata! -Sono tornata, ma non è cambiato niente.
2) Amore, [quanto] ti sono mancato?
3) Amore, [quanto] ti sono mancata?
When someone is having a hard time, we often try to be supportive. Or we can give someone some support. That's how we say it in English, but Italians say it a bit differently. They use more words.
In Italian, we are supportive by staying close to someone, we are by their side. We're there for them.
So in the following exchange between Ugo and Nora, he is actually accusing her of not having been there for him, not having been supportive.
Non mi sei stata molto vicina in quel periodo, lo sai?
You weren't really by my side in that period, you know that?
Caption 19, Sposami - EP 2Play Caption
A less literal translation would be:
You weren't very supportive [of me] during that period, you know that?
You didn't give me much support during that period, you know that?
You weren't really there for me during that period, you know that?
A little further on in the dialogue, there is a play on words because Nora goes on to accuse Ugo of having had the American woman (the one he was having an affair with) literally by his side — in bed!
E invece l'americana ti è stata vicina?
But the American was by your side?
Caption 25, Sposami - EP 2Play Caption
Sometimes the meaning is literal, so we need to be aware of the context. It can also be a mix of being physically nearby and being there for someone, being supportive.
Now that we have looked at the meaning, we can look at how to use the expression. The formula is stare (to be, to stay) + vicino (close) + a (to) + qualcuno (someone). When we use pronouns, they can get attached to the verb, as in the following example.
Here are a few more examples:
Adriano sta male e io voglio stargli vicino.
Adriano is ill and I want to be near him.Play Caption
The translation is pretty clear, but, depending on the intention of the speaker, it could also be:
Adriano is ill and I want to be there for him.
Note that since there is a modal verb, in this case, volere (to want to), the verb stare will be in the infinitive and volere will be conjugated.
1) What about a version where the verb stare is separated from the pronoun?
2) What if it were Adriana, not Adriano?
3) What if you were talking directly to the person who is ill?
In the following example, the staying close is more physical, since Paola asks Adriano to hold her close, but she is also asking Adriano to be there for her, to give her some support because the entire conversation is about her problems and the fact that she feels alone. She uses the second person informal imperative of stare with the personal (indirect object) pronoun attached to it.
Senti, facciamo così, dormiamoci sopra.
Listen. Let's do this. We'll sleep on it.
Poi domani mattina sarai più lucida.
Then tomorrow morning, you will be more clear-headed.
-Tu stammi vicino, però. Stringimi.
-You stay close to me, though. Hold me tight.
Captions 32-35, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 14Play Caption
4) As an exercise, what if Paola were using the polite form of address?
Attenzione: Let's avoid the temptation to use the suspiciously similar sopportare in this case, because it means "to bear," "to tolerate."
Ma non ce la facevo più a sopportare i suoi deliri.
But I couldn't bear to tolerate her ravings anymore.Play Caption
We hope this little lesson will help you understand the discussion Nora and Ugo have about their past in Sposami. And let's hope they can make up and move on!
1) Adriano sta male e gli voglio stare vicino.
2) Adriana sta male e io voglio starle vicino.
3) Tu stai male e io voglio starti vicino.
3b) Tu stai male e ti voglio stare vicino.
4) Mi stia vicino, però. Mi stringa.
Rispondere, with its English cognate "to respond" seems like it would be a very easy verb to use, and sometimes it is, indeed, easy. The verb rispondere translates as both "to respond" (its cognate) and "to answer" (a verb English inherited from the Old Norse "andsvar").
As with many verbs, by using a modal verb, we can keep the main verb in the infinitive, thereby avoiding the need to remember how to conjugate it.
Senti... Posso parlare con Luca?
Listen... Can I speak with Luca?
No, Luca non può rispondere, ha avuto un problema.
No, Luca can't answer, he had a problem.
Captions 49-50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di VetroPlay Caption
If we don't include an object in the sentence, there are no complications. In the following example, we could also have translated rispondere with "to respond."
Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura
All right, then I will also follow normal procedure
e prima di rispondere chiamo il mio avvocato.
and before I answer, I'll call my lawyer.
Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP8 - Fuori servizioPlay Caption
1) What if the speaker used the conjunction che (after prima) as an alternate way to say the same thing?
Once we start involving an object in our sentence (such as "the question"), we have to keep in mind that rispondere is an intransitive verb (meaning it doesn't take a direct object), so if I want to say, "I answer the question" in Italian, I have to use a preposition after the verb followed by an indirect object (in this case, la domanda (the question). Think: "I respond to the question."
Rispondo alla domanda (I answer the question/I respond to the question).
Se la sente di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.
Do you feel you can answer a few questions? -Yes.Play Caption
2) Can you ask this same question to someone you are on familiar terms with?
Non ha risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuole?
You haven't answered my question. What do you want?
Caption 40, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1Play Caption
3) Can you say the same thing informally?
In English, "to respond" is intransitive and "to answer" is transitive, so we use them two different ways and we rarely have to think about it. We might think of using "to respond" in more formal situations.
I can respond to your letter or I can answer your letter.
But when we are translating from English to Italian, we have to remember that we need a preposition after rispondere.
We can also use rispondere where the indirect object is a person, perhaps expressed with a personal pronoun, as in the following example. In this case, we use "to answer" in our translation. "To respond" wouldn't work.
Toscani, per favore rispondimi. È importante, dai.
Toscani, please answer me. It's important. Come on.Play Caption
Memorizing rispondimi is a good idea. You never know when someone is going to faint and it's also handy to have when arguing with someone. Above all, remember that mi stands for a me (to me) so we do have a preposition (in this case a [to]).
4) How would you say the same thing to a person you don't know very well? And for the record, you wouldn't say dai. Can you think of an alternative?
In the following clip, we have an indirect object pronoun in the Italian, but none in the English. These days, we might say "I didn't pick up," "I didn't answer the phone," I didn't answer your call," "I didn't return your call." But we probably wouldn't say "I didn't answer you" unless it were an email or a letter. In this context, we think of answering the phone, not the person.
Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ti ho risposto
Yes, I know, you called me a hundred times, but I didn't answer
perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.
because I had a bunch of things to do, Teresa.
Captions 23-24, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppoPlay Caption
5) The above clip is very informal, between brother and sister, but he could have said he hadn't answered the phone. How could he have phrased it?
There are plenty of instances in which Italians insert an indirect object pronoun, where in English, none is called for. It's just something to be aware of.
We hope this lesson has provided some clarity about using the verb rispondere. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to write to us at email@example.com
1) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda, chiamo il mio avvocato.
1b) Va bene, allora seguo anch'io la normale procedura e prima che risponda io, chiamo il mio avvocato.
2) Te la senti di rispondere a qualche domanda? -Sì.
3) Non hai risposto alla mia domanda. Che cosa vuoi?
4) Agente Toscani, mi risponda, per favore. È importante, la prego.
5) Sì, lo so, mi hai chiamato cento volte, però io non ho risposto al telefono/alla tua chiamata perché ho avuto un sacco di cose da fare, Teresa.
We talked about the important verb sapere (to know) in a previous lesson. You might have also figured out that even though sapere means "to know," in English, "to know" isn't always translated into Italian with sapere. It can also be translated as conoscere (to know, to be familiar with, to meet for the first time). We have a lesson about that, too.
Another nuance of the verb sapere is that it often means "to know how." In this case, just as "to know how," in English, is followed by a verb in the infinitive (such as in "to know how to do something"), sapere, when it means "to know how" is also followed by a verb in the infinitive. We can see an example of this in the following clip.
Ma come, l'hai inventata tu la Lettera Ventidue
But how come? You invented the Lettera Twenty-two
e non la sai usare?
and you don't know how to use it?
Caption 38, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1Play Caption
But there is another similar way to translate this sense of sapere. And that is with "can" or "to be able to." Just as with "can," sometimes it's about being capable of doing something (as in the previous example), and sometimes it is about being able to or kind enough to do something (as in this next example).
Mi scusi, buon uomo.
Pardon me, my good man.
Mi sa dire l'ora, per favore?
Can you tell me the time, please?
-Le cinque e trentacinque.
-Ma è sicuro?
-But are you sure?
E trentasei mo, eh!
-[And] thirty-six now, huh!
Grazie, eh! -Prego.
Thanks, huh! -You're welcome.
Captions 1-7, Barzellette - L'asino che dà l'oraPlay Caption
Literally, this might have been translated as: "Do you know how to tell me the time?" But that's not really what he means. Of course, the guy on the scooter could have said something else, such as:
Sa che ore sono (Do you know what time it is)?
but that isn't actually asking for the person to share the information. He also could have said:
Mi può dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?
Mi può dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?
Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?
Può dirmi che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?
So we can use the verb potere (to be able to), but using sapere to mean "can" in certain contexts, especially with verbs such as dire (to say) indicare (to indicate), consigliare (to recommend), is a very typical way to ask if someone can do something. It is ever so slightly round-about and gives an impression of informal politeness. We might say it's a cross between "Can you?" and "Do you know how?"
1) Can you ask the above questions using the informal form of address?
2) How about transforming these sentences by replacing potere with sapere?
-2a) Mi puoi dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?
-2b) Non poteva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva l'orologio (she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).
-2c) Non ti posso consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).
Sai dirmi l'ora (can you tell me the time)?
Sai che ore sono (do you know what time it is)?
Mi puoi dire che ore sono (can you tell me what time it is)?
Mi puoi dire l'ora per favore (can you tell me the time, please)?
Che ore sono, per favore (what time is it, please)?
Puoi dirmi che ora sono (can you tell me what time it is)?
2a) Mi sai dire come raggiungere la stazione (can you tell me how to get to the station)?
2b) Non sapeva dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).
2bb) Non ha saputo dirmi l'ora perché non aveva con se l'orologio (he/she couldn't tell me what time it was because she didn't have her watch on).
2c) Non ti so consigliare una buona pizzeria perché non sono di questa zona (I can't recommend a good pizzeria because I am not from around here).
Let us know if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org), and thanks for reading!
Here's a great expression Italians use all the time. We can figure out the meaning easily, but finding a specific English equivalent is not all that straightforward. The important thing is to understand what Italians are trying to get across when they say it, and to be able to use it ourselves in Italian when the situation calls for it.
When you know who you are dealing with and can predict an outcome based on how well you know that person or type of person, that's when you say:
Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens).
E gli ha detto di farsi operare nella sua clinica privata.
And he told him to have the operation in his private clinic.
-E tu come lo sai?
-And how do you know?
-Perché conosco i miei polli.
-Because I know my chickens [I know who I'm dealing with].
Captions 24-25, La Ladra - EP.11 - Un esame importantePlay Caption
Some attribute this expression to Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a great lover of animals and nature, so it seems it goes way back to the 13th century as well as being alive and well today.
Italians are known for setting up orti (vegetable gardens) and pollai (chicken coops or henhouses) whenever and wherever they have the opportunity. So chickens, in many cases, are part of everyday life. These days, this is a less frequent phenomenon, but in the past, during the war, for example, raising chickens and having a little vegetable garden was a question of survival.
Let's just mention that conoscere can have a few different nuances of meaning. Check out this lesson all about the verb conoscere. In the present case we are talking about knowing a person well, being familiar with their habits. It may be a friend who is always late, so you won't be surprised when they arrive with a 15 minute delay... It may be someone who never offers to pay, or always offers to pay. It may mean making an extra amount of pasta because you know your dinner guest is a good eater. It can be positive or negative, and can be said before someone does something, or as a justification afterwards.
Ci butto un etto di pasta in più perché
I'll throw in one hundred grams more pasta because
conosco i miei polli.
I know my chickens.
Gianni è una buona forchetta.
Gianni is a big eater.
1) If you were to say this after the fact, to explain why you made so much pasta, what could you say?
Even if we are talking about one person, as in the video clip included above, the plural is generally used — it's a fixed expression.
And this might be a good time to remember that we need the article before the possessive pronoun in Italian, but not in English. I miei polli. The singular would be il mio pollo.
You can also use the expression in reference to someone else knowing their chickens.
Conosci i tuoi polli, eh? (you know who you're dealing with, I guess).
2) Let's say someone is telling you that they would always make more pasta than usual for this particular guest. How would you modify the question?
As you go about your day, think of people you know and try predicting what they will say or do. As they prove you right, with a little chuckle, you can say to yourself, "Conosco i miei polli."
One more word about chickens. A chicken is young, and a hen is old. In English we can say "henhouse" or "chicken coop." In Italian, it's usually pollaio but naturally, the pollaio is full of both polli (chickens) and galline (hens).
Another expression using galline describes people who go to bed early:
Alle otto se ne vanno a casa e non escono più, come le galline.
At eight o'clock they go home and don't go out again, like hens.
Caption 40, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
3) What if the person were talking about one other person, not a group of people? What might he say?
The translation we have provided here is literal, and therefore "hens," but in English we would sooner say "chickens" when we want to be generic. The only time you really need to know the difference between galline and polli is when buying them to eat. We want pollo for most dishes, but Italians love broth and it's common to use certain cuts of beef plus a piece of gallina or fowl to make il brodo (the broth).
There's another famous expression in Italian, often referring to a woman of a certain age who might be feeling old. It's a compliment of sorts.
Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo ([An] old hen makes good broth).
More about brodo (broth) in this lesson.
And let's not forget the male member of this group of animali da cortile (barnyard animals) : il gallo (the rooster).
Ho provato ad immaginare il classico finale
I tried to imagine the classic ending
dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna,
where she leaves everything and moves to the country,
perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi
because she discovered how wonderful it is to be
svegliare dal gallo.
woken up by the rooster.
Captions 5-7, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - filmPlay Caption
1) C'ho buttato un etto di pasta in più perché conosco i miei polli. Gianni è una buona forchetta.
2) Conoscevi i tuoi polli, eh?
3) Alle otto se ne va a casa e non esce più, come le galline.
4) Sto provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.
Provavo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.
Proverò ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.
Stavo provando ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.
Provo ad immaginare il classico finale dove lei lascia tutto e si trasferisce in campagna, perché ha scoperto quanto è bello farsi svegliare dal gallo.
In this week's segment of Sposami, there is talk of modeling wedding gowns. The verb used at one point is indossare. If we look closely, we might recognize the root word dosso, which in Dante's time, was a variant of the noun dorso, meaning "spine," or "back."
We can make the clothing connection with the English hyperbolic idiom "giving someone the shirt off one's back," referring to generosity. The noun dosso is no longer used to mean "back," exactly, but it means "bump," such as a bump in the road or a speed bump.
In a previous lesson we talked about the adverb addosso or di dosso (which bring images of someone on your back). So even though we don't use dosso to mean "back" anymore, it has been incorporated into other words and phrases that have become crystalised as standard.
In this lesson, we will look at the verb indossare and other verbs that have to do with putting clothes on. We talked about taking clothes off in this lesson!
Practice: At the end of some video examples, there's a little grammar question, giving you the chance to expand on the example itself. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page. Don't worry if they give you trouble, as they are aimed at more advanced learners. It may be an opportunity to find out what you don't know and to ask us questions! We'll be glad to give you some answers. Make sure to read the full lesson before answering the questions, as they might refer to examples further down the page.
If we have to model an outfit, we have to wear it, but in this case, it's wearing something with the specific purpose of displaying it. Indossare is the best choice if we are looking for a verb.
E poi, se proprio servisse di indossare un abito,
And besides, if it were really necessary to model a dress,
posso farlo io. -No, tu no.
I can do it. -No, you can't.
Captions 32-33, Sposami - EP 2 - Part 3Play Caption
1) Nora starts her sentence in the subjunctive but finishes it in the indicative rather than the conditional (not really correct). What if she were to finish it in the conditional? What would she have said?
Regarding the video clip, the translation of indossare could also have been "to put on," or "to wear," but we thought it was important to make the distinction regarding the purpose: not putting something on to go and buy milk, but to put it on display. And let's remember that "to model" in this context can't be translated into Italian with modellare. That doesn't quite work (false friend).
When we talk about modeling a dress or outfit, it's sometimes done by a professional model. Although the term modella (usually in the feminine version) is used to mean "fashion model," the more "Italian" term is indossatrice. During the period of Italian fascism, foreign words were rooted out, including the commonly used French noun mannequin. By law, it had to be replaced by indossatrice.
If you haven't seen the documentary about the Italian Language and Italian Fascism (on Yabla), check it out. Ne vale la pena (it's worth the effort). There is mention of removing words like modella or the French "mannequin" from the language and using a more Italian word.
Parole straniere e borghesia sono mali da estirpare.
Foreign words and the bourgeoisie are evils to be rooted out.
[Mannequin - Indossatrice]
[Mannequin – indossatrice] (fashion model)
Captions 6-7, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italianaPlay Caption
That said, the verb indossare is used all the time by Italians. It's transitive, so we can use the question word "what."
Al momento della scomparsa,
When she went missing,
indossava un paio di jeans chiari,
she was wearing a pair of light colored jeans,
delle scarpe da ginnastica anonime...
Captions 37-38, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 7Play Caption
2) How would you say this using the adjective vestito?
The basic verb for getting dressed is vestire (to dress), used in the reflexive, vestirsi.
Eh, scusate, commissario, ma come ci dobbiamo vestire? -Eh, infatti.
Uh, sorry Commissioner, but how should we dress? -Yeah, exactly.
Il tema della festa è anni ottanta, quindi regolatevi.
The theme of the party is the eighties, so act accordingly.
Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss MaremmaPlay Caption
The question word in our example is come (how), which we commonly answer with an adverb or adverbial phrase. We can't follow it with a noun, as with indossare. Sometimes we choose one word over the other depending on how we want to construct the phrase, or what we want to include or exclude.
3). But what if he had used the question word "what?" How could he have posed the question?
The verb vestire is often transformed into the adjective vestito. In this case, the person is already dressed.
Mamma è morta sei mesi fa
Mom died six months ago
e papà aveva organizzato una messa in suffragio.
and Dad had organized an intercession mass.
Ecco perché era vestito così elegante.
That's why he was dressed so elegantly.
Captions 20-22, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP2 - L'addio di LaraPlay Caption
4) Maybe we could modify the second sentence in the example above — to say something similar — using the verb indossare. You will have to come up with a direct object noun to make it work.
Let's keep in mind that vestito is also a noun meaning "dress" or, for a man, "suit."
Just as in English, Italian uses the verb mettere (to put). But whereas in English, we say "to put on," Italian uses the reflexive form mettersi (to put on).
Tu che cosa ti metti? Io avevo pensato di mettermi il vestito rosso.
What are you going to wear? I thought of wearing my red dress.
Caption 34, Anna e Marika - Il verbo pensarePlay Caption
In this last example, the question is che cosa (what [thing]?). So we will need a noun as an answer. The formula is reflexive verb mettersi + noun.
5) We can do 2 exercises with this example.
a) Use the transitive verb indossare in the question and in the answer. In this case it is a learning exercise, but an unlikely real-life option!
b) Ask the question with come. You can still use mettersi or indossare in the answer, or you can come up with something using the same verb as in the question. In this case you'll need to be creative.
We'll often hear someone giving this order to someone else.
Dai, forza, vestiti.
Come on, get dressed.Play Caption
6) If you were giving this command to a bunch of kids, what would you say? Tip: Don't worry that dai is singular. it's an expression that stays in the singular.
But attenzione. As you can hear in the example, in the previous example in the imperative, the stress is on the first syllable. It looks exactly like the plural of the noun vestito, (dress, suit) as in the following example, but sounds different. When used in the plural, i vestiti means "clothes."
Eh, andate a cercare i vestiti per la festa. Forza, via, via.
Yeah, go find some clothes for the party. Go on, get going, get going.
Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss MaremmaPlay Caption
Once you have dressed, you are wearing something. We can use indossare, of course, but we can also use the verb portare (to carry).
7) Let's say you are asking this question, not to a friend, but to your boss, or to your Italian mother in law, with whom you are on formal terms. What would you say?
Secondo me dovresti portare la gonna più spesso
In my opinion, you should wear a skirt more often.
perché ti sta molto bene.
It looks very good on you.
Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio VerdePlay Caption
8) What's another way to say the same thing? There's more than one!
We've talked about different verbs we can use to talk about getting dressed and wearing clothes: vestire (used reflexively) indossare (transitive), mettersi un vestito (reflexive with a direct object), portare (transitive). Find out more about clothing in this video from Marika. Adriano also talks about clothes to wear in the different seasons.
Now to some solutions for the quiz questions scattered throughout the lesson:
1) E poi, se proprio servisse di indossare un abito, potrei farlo io. -No, tu no.
2) Al momento della scomparsa, era vestita con un paio di jeans chiari, delle scarpe da ginnastica anonime...
3) Eh, scusate, commissario, ma cosa ci dobbiamo mettere?
4) Ecco perché indossava un vestito così elegante.
5a) Tu che cosa indossi/indosserai? Io avevo pensato di indossare il vestito rosso.
5b) Come ti vesti? Io avevo pensato di vestirmi di rosso.
Io avevo pensato di vestirmi con il vestito rosso.
Io avevo pensato di mettermi il vestito rosso.
6) Dai, forza, vestitevi!
7) Secondo me dovrebbe portare la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.
8) Secondo me dovrebbe indossare la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.
Secondo me dovrebbe mettersi la gonna più spesso perché le sta molto bene.
Afterword: When we use the reflexive verb vestirsi, it's tricky because we can't use a direct object after it as we can with mettersi. We need the conjuction con (with) after it, or an adverbial phrase, which answers the question come (how).
One such phrase that comes to mind is: Vestirsi a cipolla (to dress in layers).
Quando vado in montagna, mi vesto sempre a cipolla (I always dress in layers [literally, "onion-style") when I go mountain climbing).
Send your questions or comments to email@example.com and thanks for reading!
In a previous lesson, we talked about the popular pronominal verb cavarsela (to get by), and the verb it comes from, cavare (to extract, to get something out of something). Consider the noun il cavatappi. It's a corkscrew for extracting the cork from a bottle.
We also have scavare (to excavate, to dig, to dig up). The s- prefix often gives an opposite meaning to a word. In this case, we are extracting the soil or rock by digging.
Il primo passo consiste nel scavare una cavità nella pietra, nella roccia.
The first step consists of digging a cavity in the stone, in the rock.
Caption 6, Meraviglie - EP. 2 - Part 13Play Caption
Naturally, there are other words related to cavare that can be easily understood:
una cavità (a cavity)
la cava (the mine, the quarry)
You might be asking yourself: What about the English word "cave?" There are a few choices.
Allora, questa casa, questo ambiente, in realtà è per il settanta percento
So, actually, seventy percent of this house, this space,
costituito da una grotta.
consists of a cave.
Captions 8-9, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 12Play Caption
la caverna (the cave, the cavern)
la grotta (the cave, the grotto)
la spelonca (the cave)
Have any of you ever gone spelunking?
But we also have ricavare as a common verb. Sometimes this ri- prefix means "again," just as "re-" in English can mean that, as in rifare (to re-do).
Sometimes this prefix does double duty and may or may not mean "to do something again," if we consider verbs like tornare - ritornare (to return), suonare - risuonare (to sound, to resound), chiedere - richiedere (to ask - to request). There are subtleties.
Ricavare can mean a couple of things. It might be helpful to think of "carving out," as in making a cave. Often ricavare is used when you are carving out material to make something new, especially if we think of the second meaning of ricavare: "to obtain." The following example gives us an image of what ricavare can mean in a concrete sense. Surely a lot of rocky material was extracted (cavato, scavato) to build the amphitheater.
Fra gli edifici per lo spettacolo,
Among the buildings for events,
l'anfiteatro ricavato nelle pendici est della Collina di San Pietro
the amphitheater built into the eastern slopes of the Hill of Saint Peter,
occupava un'area a sud della città.
occupied an area south of the city.
Captions 41-43, Itinerari Della Bellezza - AbruzzoPlay Caption
One meaning of ricavare is "to obtain," as in making a profit: The past participle is often used as a noun: il ricavato.
L'avrei costretto a dividere il ricavato con me.
I would have forced him to share the proceeds with me.
It's easy to envision a situation in which you have to work from home. But you might have to carve out a space in your small apartment. Ricavare is a great verb for this, and it can be used figuratively, too, as you can see in the final example.
Devo ricavare uno spazio in questo apartamento per lavorare tranquillo (I need to carve out some space in this apartment to work in peace).
Ho ricavato una stanza in più, trasformando questo locale di sgombro (I built an additional room by transforming this storeroom).
Mia sorella è riuscita a ricavare un po' di tempo la sera per fare yoga (My sister managed to carve out some time in the evening to do yoga).
Carving out and obtaining something "new."
You may know that we can ask someone how things are going with come va (how's it going)? It's the simplest and least personal way to ask that. More personal is come stai (how are you)?
"Ciao, come va?"
"Hi, how's it going?"
Si può anche dire "come stai?"
You can also say, "how are you?"
How are you?
Captions 5-7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Chiedere "Come va?"Play Caption
Here's yet another way to talk about how things are going for someone. We use it in both questions and answers when the situation or outcome is uncertain, like, for example, the one we are experiencing at the moment all over the world.
And the verb is.... cavarsela. It's a pronominal verb — a verb that has pronouns attached to it — so let's take it apart.
The main verb inside this pronominal verb is cavare (to remove, to extract). If you think of a cavity, something has been removed to create it.
As a matter of fact, Marika has done a video about 2 similar verbs: cavare and togliere, which can both mean to remove.
Cavare vuol dire estrarre,
"Cavare" means to extract,
tirare fuori qualcosa da qualche parte.
to pull something out from somewhere.
Captions 7-8, Marika spiega - I verbi cavare e toglierePlay Caption
As with many pronominal verbs, cavare can also be reflexive, becoming cavarsi. There are two ways to look at this. One is as a typical reflexive verb like levarsi, togliersi, when talking about taking one's shoes off, for example.
Mi tolgo le scarpe... indosso una vestaglia,
I take off my shoes... I put on a robe,
mi distendo sul divano,
I stretch out on the couch,
guardo un po' di televisione.
I watch a little TV.
Captions 40-42, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
If you are familiar with the verbs togliere and levare, you don't need to remember cavarsi in this context, as it is not the most common word people use.
There is, however another context, where we commonly do use the reflexive cavarsi, when it means to get out of a dicey situation, but we add la which in this case means "it." "It" in turn, represents a situation, often a difficult one.
As we mentioned above, the pronominal verb is cavarsela:
cavare + si + la.
When putting the verb into its infinitive form, we remove the "e" ending of the original verb in its infinitive, so cavare becomes cavar. Then, since we are going to have a direct object pronoun in there, too, si (usually an indirect object pronoun meaning "to oneself") becomes se. And then we add, at the end, la, which is a direct object pronoun (meaning a generic "it") — cavarsela.
Cavarsela can mean "getting [oneself] out of a situation," like an exam you hadn't studied for, but you got through anyway.
Me la sono cavata, menomale (I got through it, thank goodness).
But it often means "managing," "getting by."
Insomma, neanche in sogno riesco a cavarmela da solo.
Anyway, not even in a dream can I get by on my own.
Caption 58, Psicovip - I Minivips - Ep 13Play Caption
OK, but how do we use cavarsela when we're talking, and when we need to conjugate the verb rather than using it in the infinitive? Great question! Ottima domanda!
Let's start with how we use cavarsela in a question. A woman who has horses is thinking of hiring some help. She asks:
Come te la cavi con i cavalli?
How do you manage with horses?
How good are you with horses?Play Caption
An answer to this question might be:
Me la cavo (I do all right).
In a different context, you might ask someone how they are getting on in a certain situation, say, during lockdown.
The present tense can work:
Come te la cavi (how are you getting on)?
or you can use the present continuous:
Come te la stai cavando (how are you getting on, how are you managing)?
When lockdown is over, you might ask:
Come te la sei cavato/a (how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?
If you are talking to two or more people:
Come ve la siete cavati? (how did you do, how did you manage, how did you hold up)?
Ce la caviamo bene (we'll manage), we're managing).
Ce la stiamo cavando (we're managing).
Me la sono cavata/o bene (I did fine).
and in the plural:
Ce la siamo cavati così così (We did just OK).
E tu? Come te la stai cavando con l'italiano?
It seems like there's no end to the uses of the little particle ci. We've done several lessons on it, and here we are again.
As we have seen in previous lessons, ci can mean various things and often has to do with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It can also be an indirect pronoun that incorporates its preposition within it, and it can be attached to a verb or detached from it. Whew!
This time, we are talking about a pronominal verb — the kind of verb that has pronouns and particles connected to it that change the meaning of the verb. In this case, the particle is ci.
With the pronominal verb volerci, we're talking about the amount of something that's necessary to carry something out — time, money, courage, ingredients, attitudes, etc. In the following example, pazienza (patience) is the substance and molto (a lot) is how much you need of it. One way we can translate volerci is "to be necessary," "to be needed," "to be required." Of course, in everyday conversation, we often use "it takes" or "you need," in English, to express this idea.
Ci vuole molta pazienza
You need a lot of patience [a lot of patience is necessary].
It takes a lot of patience.
A lot of patience is required.Play Caption
One very important feature of this particular pronominal verb is that it is always in the third person and can be either singular or plural. If we are talking about "patience" as in the previous example, it's singular. If we're talking about ore (hours), as in the following example, it's plural.
Quante ore ci vogliono per andare da Roma a Milano?
How many hours does it take to go from Rome to Milan?
How many hours are necessary to go from Rome to Milan?
Caption 17, Marika spiega - La particella NEPlay Caption
We can use it in the negative:
Non ci vuole l'articolo in singolare. In plurale ritorno a volere l'articolo.
You don't need the article in the singular. In the plural I go back to needing the article.
The article is not necessary in the singular.
Captions 20-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Aggettivi PossessiviPlay Caption
If in translating volerci, we use the passive voice, we can match it up as far as singular and plural go, and it might make better sense to us.
I pinoli, che sono davvero speciali
The pine nuts, which are really special,
e ci vogliono i pinoli italiani, ovviamente.
and Italian pine nuts are required, obvously.
Captions 50-51, L'Italia a tavola - Il pesto genovesePlay Caption
Although volerci is always in the third person, we often translate it into English with the first or second person: "I/we need" or "you need."
Volerci is very popular in the expression:
Non ci voleva (it would have been better if that hadn't happened, I really didn't need that, that's all I needed).
That's what you say when, say, one bad thing happens after another.
Volerci can also be used as an expression of relief when something good happens. It's like saying, "That's just what the doctor ordered."
A Dixieland ci si diverte con poco e nulla
At Dixieland one has fun with next to nothing
e un numero di magica magia
and a number with magical magic
era proprio quel che ci voleva
was exactly what was needed
per chiudere in bellezza la festa.
to conclude the party nicely.
Captions 30-33, Dixieland - La magia di TriboPlay Caption
Another fun way to use volerci is when you want to say, "How hard can it be?"
Che ci vuole (how hard can it be)?
Le mucche muggiscono. -Embè?
The cows are mooing. -So what?
They have to be milked.
Ahi. -Scusa, scusa, scusa, scusa.
Ow! -Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.
Are you sure?
-E sì, che ci vuole?
-Yeah, how hard could it be?
L'avrò visto mille volte su National Geographic.
I must have seen it a thousand times on National Geographic.
Captions 37-42, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - filmPlay Caption
We hope you have a bit more insight into this supremely common and useful pronominal verb (verb+pronoun+preposition all in one).
If you found this lesson helpful, you might very well say, Ci voleva! (that's exactly what I needed!).
We must also mention that not every time you see volerci (conjugated or in the infinitive) will it mean what we have set out to describe in this lesson. Since, at the outset, we mentioned that ci has a way of working its way into so many kinds of verbs and phrases, context is key. Little by little you will start distinguishing, but it will take time and practice. Watching Yabla videos will give you tons of examples so you can start sorting out the meanings. And don't forget: When you have a doubt, write it in the comments. Someone will get back to you within a few days. If you have a question or doubt, chances are, someone else will have the same one!
In a coming lesson, we will discuss a similar but unique pronominal verb metterci. Get a head start by watching Daniela's video lesson about both of these pronominal verbs.