Italienisch-Lektionen

Themen

Lessons for topic Vocabulary

Giardino vs Orto

 

There's a detto (saying) or proverbio (proverb) that reflects the fact that in May and June, plants grow at an amazing rate, and need to be kept under control.

Maggio e giugno, falce in pugno.
May and June, sickle in hand.

 

It's very Italian to have un pezzetto di terra (a little piece of land) on which to plant un orto (vegetable garden), not to be confused with un giardino (garden), which is ornamental, or can refer to the back or front yard. Many kinds of piante (plants) can also grow in vasi (pots) in terrazza (on the terrace).

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L'erba (the grass) is what you mow. You can use a tagliaerba (lawnmower) if you have a pratino (little lawn), or adecespugliatore (brush cutter) when the terreno (terrain) is uneven, or even a falce (scythe) or falcetto (sickle) if you cut it by hand. However, if we use the plural, le erbe, then we're talking about herbs used in cooking. Erbe commestibili (edible greens) are what you gather in fields and woods; erbe medicinali (medicinal herbs) are used by erboristi (herbalists) to make medicines.

 

Quando Natale non è al bar a leggere il giornale o a prendere il caffè, va a fare le erbe selvatiche.

When Natale isn't at the bar reading the newspaper or having coffee, he goes to pick wild greens.

Captions 28-29, La campagna toscana Il contadino - Part 2

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In a Yabla video about composting as a way to recycle, three closely related words having to do with la terra (the earth) are used in three consecutive lines of text.

 

L'humus compost è un terriccio che ha la capacità di trattenere e liberare lentamente gli elementi nutritivi necessari alle piante,

Humus compost is a soil that has the capacity to retain and slowly set free nutritive elements necessary to plants,

e di assicurare la fertilità del terreno.

and to assure the fertility of the soil.

Il rifiuto umido può essere una risorsa per la nostra terra.

Wet garbage can be a resource for our land.

Captions 6-9, Raccolta differenziata - Campagna di sensibilizzazione del Comune di Alliste (LE)

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Here are the three different terms:

Terriccio (soil, potting soil). This usually implies rich soil or loam, suitable for growing plants.
Terra (earth, land, ground). This is a very general term and can refer to our planet, a piece of land, the ground, and more. In caption 7, terra leaves some room for interpretation.
Terreno (plot of land, ground, terrain, soil). This often refers to something you can measure, but is used generically as well.

 

When we talk about raccolta differenziata, as in the title of the above-mentioned video, we're talking about recycling. Raccolta (gathering, collection, picking up, harvest or harvesting) differenziata (differentiated) means that trash gets divided into categories such as carta e cartone (paper and cardboard), vetro e plastica (glass and plastic), umido (organic waste) and rifiuti indifferenziati (general rubbish). Every town has its own rules and collection methods concerning this. There are either big dumpsters for each kind of garbage, or small plastic containers for different material (glass, plastic, paper, organic, general) which each family manages, and puts out on the appropriate day of the week to get raccolto (picked up), door to door.

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More videos on the subject of ecology:

L'unione fa la forza: Cooperativa La Quercia
Inno all'acqua: un bene prezioso da difendere
Enel intervista: Tiziano Ferro - Part 1 
Enel intervista: Tiziano Ferro - Part 2
L'unione fa la forza - Ecovillaggio Habitat 

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Ricordare: Remembering and Reminding

One of Italy’s most beloved singer-songwriters ci ha lasciato (passed away): Pino Daniele. Italian uses the verb ricordare to express remembrance on such occasions.

Lo ricorderemo con affetto.

We’ll remember him with affection.

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In Quando (When), one of his most famous songs, Pino sings about, among other things, ricordi (memories).

 

Fra i ricordi e questa strana pazzia E il paradiso che forse esiste

Among memories and this strange madness And a paradise that might exist

Captions 29-30, Pino Daniele - Quando

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Ricordare has another, closely related meaning—“to remind,” as in the following example.

 

Ah, un'altra cosa, scusami Anna, che volevo ricordare ai nostri amici di Yabla, come usanza, noi italiani a tavola non mangiamo mai pane e pasta insieme.

Ah, another thing, sorry Anna, that I wanted to remind our Yabla friends of, customarily, we Italians at table we don't eat bread and pasta together.

Captions 41-42, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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When using ricordare as “to remind,” it becomes ricordare a and gets used with an indirect object, as in the above example. The preposition a (to)—sometimes connected to an article, as above—goes between ricordare and the person getting reminded. In the above example, the direct object is cosa.

 

But when the indirect object is a personal pronoun, the spelling shifts, as in the following example, where ti stands for a te (to you). See an explanation and chart of Italian indirect object pronouns here.

 

E tra l'altro, ti volevo ricordare, che questa era una palude.

And besides, I wanted to remind you, that this was a swamp.

Caption 18, Marika e Daniela - Il Foro Romano

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In the following example, the personal pronoun as indirect object is attached to the verb itself. See more about this in previous lessons Ci gets around, part one and part two.

 

Hm... Rosmini. -Hm. -Ricordami il nome? -Ginevra.

Hmm... Rosmini. -Uh huh. -Remind me of your [first] name? -Ginevra.

Captions 80-81, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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In English we have two distinct but related words, “to remember” and “to remind,” while in Italian the difference is considered so minimal that the same word is used, but there are some subtle differences.

 

More often than not, when we’re remembering, ricordare is used reflexively: ricordarsi, as in mi ricordo (I remember). (See the lesson: Reflections on the Reflexive.) When using the past tense, as in the following example, essere (to be) is the auxiliary verb.

 

Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Caption 17, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

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If you think of ricordare as meaning “to call to mind,” it may be easier to see how one word can fill two bills. While ricordarsi (to remember) is reflexive, and involves the person who’s remembering, ricordare a (to remind) involves two or more people.

 

Things get a little tricky when personal pronouns are used (which is a lot of the time)! Notice the object pronouns and conjugated verb. When ricordare means “to remember” the conjugation of ricordare matches the object pronoun, such as in ti ricordi? (do you remember?), si ricorda (he/she/it/one remembers), vi ricordate (you remember), ci ricordiamo (we remember). But in ricordare as reminding, there are usually at least two different people involved: ti ricordo (I remind you), ci ha ricordato (he/she/it reminded us), mi poteva ricordare (he could have reminded me).

 

In a nutshell:

Ricordare and its reflexive form ricordarsi (to remember): takes essere (to be) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci siamo ricordati), can be reflexive (same person)

Ricordare a (to remind): takes avere (to have) as an auxiliary (e.g., ci ha ricordato), is two-way (different people)

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Here are a few more examples to help you remember...

Ti ricorderai di comprare il pane, o te lo devo ricordare?

Will you remember to buy bread, or do I have to remind you of it?

Ricordamelo pure, ma forse non mi ricorderò!

Go ahead and remind me of it, but maybe I won’t remember!

Come faccio a ricordarmi di ricordarti?

How can I remember to remind you?

Ti ho già ricordato due volte.

I’ve already reminded you twice.

When we’re una squadra di uno (a team of one), then we need stesso (self) to remind ourselves of something:

Alla fine, sarà più semplice ricordare a me stesso/stessa di comprare il pane, che di ricordarmi di ricordare a qualcun altro.

In the end, it’ll be easier to remind myself to buy bread, than to remember to remind someone else.

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Wishing You the Best, with "Buono"

When Italians want to wish someone luck, or just express their good wishes, one word they use is buono (good):

Buon compleanno! (Happy birthday!)

Buon natale! (Merry Christmas!)

Buon anno! (Happy New Year!)

They often add auguri (best wishes), which comes from the verb augurare (to wish):

 

Buon anno a tutti! Auguri!

Happy New Year everyone! Best wishes!

Caption 31, Orchestra Pit Pot - Buon anno e buona fortuna

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Whatever someone is about to do, buono is a way of hoping it goes well. Note that when the object is masculine, buono gets shortened to buon, and when the object is feminine, it becomes buona.

Buon lavoro. (Good luck on your job.)

Buon viaggio. (Have a good trip.)

Buona dormita. (Have a good sleep.)

Buon appetito. (Have a nice meal.) 

Buon ascolto. (Enjoy the concert/lecture/CD.)

Buona visione. (Enjoy the show/film.)

Buona notte. (Good night.)

Buona giornata. (Have a nice day.)

...and plenty more!

You may be wondering what the difference is between giorno and giornata. They both mean “day” and although there are no hard and fast rules, there are conventions in using one or the other. In deciding whether to use giorno or giornata, think of the calendar. As a general rule, use giorno when talking about the calendar, where a day is a unit in a larger block of time (week, year, month).

For example,

Il giorno di natale i negozi sono chiusi.

On Christmas day the stores are closed.

Sarò via per due giorni.

I’ll be away for two days.

Giorno is used in opposition to notte (night):

 

Di giorno sgobbavo in un cantiere e di notte sui libri.

By day I slogged away at a construction site and by night with my books.

Caption 6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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When you greet someone in the morning, you'll say buongiorno (good morning, hello). After noon, you’ll greet them with buonasera. But when saying goodbye, buona giornata (have a nice day) and buona serata (have a good evening) are commonly used to wish someone well.

Giornata (day) is more subjective and approximate than giorno. It describes the time between morning and night. Think about the quality of your day or someone else’s: the weather, your mood, your health, your workload.

Che giornata!

What a day!

 

Oggi ho deciso di passare una giornata diversa dal solito.

Today I've decided to spend the day differently from usual.

Caption 1, Francesca - sulla spiaggia

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Whatever your level of Italian is, it’s always nice to be able to say something nice, and to understand when someone is saying something nice to you! In a nutshell, giorno and sera are used when you arrive, while giornata and serata are used when you leave. And when you’re wishing someone well in whatever they may be doing next, buono is your friend!

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Further learning:

Do a search of both giorno and giornata in Yabla videos to get a sense of when one or the other is used. Supplement your learning by reading about giorno and giornata in WordReference.

 

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The Italian take on “take” and “make” (prendere and fare)

When speaking a foreign language, the important thing is to make yourself understood. Sometimes, however, unless someone makes a point of correcting you, you might spend years saying something that sounds right to you and gets the appropriate result or response. Then un bel giorno (one fine day) you realize with horror that you’ve been using the wrong word all this time and no one has ever corrected you because they understood anyway.

 

This can easily happen with common words like fare (to make, to do) and prendere (to take, to have), because Italian and English have different conventions about how they get paired with nouns to mean something specific. It’s easy to fare confusione (get mixed up).  

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For example, you or I might make an appointment, but when Francesca gets serious about buying a new car, she “takes” an appointment:

 

Dobbiamo prendere quindi un appuntamento per andare dal notaio.

So we have to make an appointment with a notary.

Caption 34, Francesca - alla guida

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And while most English speakers make decisions, Italians “take” decisions:

 

Siamo preoccupati, perché dobbiamo prendere delle decisioni molto importanti.

We're worried, because we have to make very important decisions.

Caption 45, Marika spiega - Proverbi italiani

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Do you take a nap in the afternoon? Well, the nonno in Medico in Famiglia “makes” a nap.

 

Io ho fatto solo venti minuti di pennichella...

I took a nap for just twenty minutes...

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova

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You want to take a trip to Sicily, but if you call an Italian travel agent, remember that Italians “make” trips.

 

Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.

Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.

Caption 2, Pianificare - un viaggio

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All this talk about fare brings to mind a popular Italian proverb:

Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.

Between saying and doing, there’s an ocean in the middle. [Things are easier said than done.]

 

Learning suggestion:

Bearing this proverb in mind, we could say that repeating a list of which verbs to use when and where is il dire (saying). It will only get you so far. Fare is a catch-all word, a little like “have” or “get,” having so many shades of meaning that you can’t possibly absorb them all in un colpo solo (in one fell swoop). Fare means “to do,” “to make,” “to give” (see the lesson on Gifts and Giving), “to be,” and more (see the lesson on Making It Happen). Prendere is less of a catch-all verb, but also has several meanings like “to get,” “to catch,” “to have,” and “to receive.” So when you are watching Yabla videos and come upon the verb fare or prendere, pay special attention to how the verb gets paired with the noun in the specific context, and then make it your own: Listen for it, repeat it, write it, conjugate it, make up sentences with it. This is il fare (doing). It will gradually start to feel right. 

The following are just a few more examples in which fare and prendere are paired with nouns in ways we might not expect:

  • fare una pausa (to take a break)
  • fare un massaggio (to give a massage) 
  • fare una passeggiata (to take a walk)
  • fare colazione (to have breakfast)
  • prendere un caffè (to have a coffee)
  • prendere un raffreddore (to catch a cold)
  • fare la doccia (to take a shower)
  • fare il bravo (to be good, to behave)
  • fare una foto (to take a picture)

Ce la farai! (You’ll get it!)

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For more on proverbs see:

Marika spiega: Proverbi italiani - Part 1 of 2

Marika spiega: Proverbi italiani - Part 2 of 2

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Getting to Know Conoscere

In a previous lesson we discussed addressing people formally or informally, using Lei or tu. Deciding which is appropriate has to do with the degree of conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, familiarity). Conoscenza comes from the verb conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with). (For the other kind of knowing — sapere — see the previous lessons, Sapere: Part 1 and Sapere: Part 2.)

 

Conoscere is worth a closer look, because although it’s used to mean “to know, to be acquainted with,” Italians also use it to mean “to meet, to get acquainted with, to get to know.” In the following example from one of Daniela’s Italian lessons, it’s clear she means “to know, to be acquainted with.” 

 

Se io per esempio non conosco Alex, Alex è il mio vicino di casa, o una persona che ho incontrato per la strada, voglio sapere come si chiama, io do del Lei.

If, for example, I don't know Alex, Alex is my next door neighbour, or a person I've met on the street, I want to know his name, I give the "Lei."

Captions 18-21, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Tu o Lei?

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In the same lesson, Daniela is talking about meeting someone for the first time, and she uses the same verb, conoscere. The context tells us what she means.

 

Dobbiamo sapere, quando conosciamo una persona, se darle del Tu o del Lei.

We have to know, when we meet a person, whether to give him the "tu" (informal "you") or the "Lei" (formal "you").

Captions 2-3, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Tu o Lei?

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In a previous lesson, Making It Happen, we talked about combining fare (to do, to make) with other verbs to make things happen, or get things done. Fare gets combined with conoscere to make introductions: fare conoscere (to make someone or something known, or to introduce someone or something).

Francesca is going to her first riding lesson at a nearby stable, and she tells us:

 

Ehm, questo ragazzo che mi accoglierà, e che vi farò conoscere...

Uh, this fellow who will receive me, and to whom I'll introduce you...

Caption 8, Francesca - Cavalli - Part 1

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When you talk about when and where you met someone for the first time, use conoscere:

 

Ho conosciuto Alberto solo oggi. Conosce molto bene i suoi cavalli.

I met Alberto today [for the first time]. He knows his horses very well.

 

Now that Francesca has heard all about these horses from Alberto, she’s ready for a closer look.

 

E quindi va bene, ne andiamo a conoscere qualcuno. -Andiamo a conoscerne un bel po'. -OK.

And so all right, let's go to meet some of them. -We're going to meet a lot of them. -OK.

Caption 63, Francesca - Cavalli - Part 1

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In case you’re wondering why ne is attached to the end of conoscere the second time it appears, it’s because it means “of them.” Like ci, as we’ve already seen in Ci Gets Around, ne is a particle that can either be separate, as in the first sentence, or can become part of the verb, as in the second. You’ll find more information on ne here

 

To sum up, here’s a list of variations of conoscere, including a few new ones:

conoscere (to know, to be acquainted with, to be familiar with)

conoscere (to get acquainted with, to meet for the first time)

fare conoscere (to introduce, to make known)

conosciuto (well known)

conoscenza (knowledge, acquaintance, awareness, consciousness)

a conoscenza (aware)

delle conoscenze (knowledge, influential people, connections)

fare la conoscenza (to get acquainted)

riconoscere (to recognize)

un conoscente (an acquaintance)

• the reflexive form: conoscersi (to know oneself, to know each other/one another)

riconoscente (appreciative, grateful) 

uno sconosciuto (a stranger)

sconosciuto (unknown, little known)

 

And putting them all together, just for fun, here’s what we get: 

 

Se finora non eri a conoscenza del sistema Yabla, probabilmente non conoscevi questo trucco: clicchi su qualsiasi parola sconosciuta, o su una parola che non riconosci, e puoi subito conoscerne il significato nella tua lingua, perché si apre il dizionario. O forse te l’aveva detto un conoscente, e sei stato riconoscente. Tu ti conosci meglio di chiunque altro, e quindi saprai tu se vuoi vedere i sottotitoli o no. Tutti gli utenti Yabla conoscono questo trucco. E a proposito, come hai conosciuto Yabla? C’è qualcuno che te l’ha fatto conoscere, o l’hai conosciuto per caso? A che livello è la tua conoscenza o a che livello sono le tue conoscenze dell’italiano? È vero che noi non ci conosciamo, ma per convenzione, ci diamo del tu.

 

Before sneaking a peek at the English translation, see how much you understand of the Italian!

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If, up until now, you were not aware of the Yabla system, you probably weren’t familiar with this trick: click on any unknown word, or on a word you don’t recognize, and you can immediately find out (get acquainted with) the meaning of it in your language because a dictionary opens up. Or maybe an acquaintance had already told you that and you were grateful. You know yourself better than anyone, so you must know if you want to see the captions or not. All Yabla users know this trick. And by the way, how did you learn about Yabla? Was there someone who introduced you to it, or did you know about it already? What’s your level of knowledge in Italian? It’s true that we don’t know each other, but by convention we use the familiar form of address.

 

E se non basta (and if that’s not enough), here are two more links for you: sapere and conoscere and How to Use the Italian Verbs Sapere and Conoscere

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Prendere and Riprendere

In a previous lesson we talked about beccare which in colloquial speech is often used in place of prendere (to take, to catch, to get, to have): For instances of prendere see previous lessons as well as Yabla videos. But let’s focus on a variation of prendereriprendere (to take up again, to retake, to take back, to film). The same word, meaning two very different things, appears at a distance of just a few lines in the same video.

 

Ti dispiace se oggi riprendo la nostra seduta? -No, mi va bene. -Allora, sei a tuo agio? -Sì. Riprendiamo da dove eravamo rimasti l'ultima volta.

Do you mind if I film our session today? -No, it's OK with me. -So, are you at ease? -Yes. -Let's take up where we left off last time.

Captions 1-5, Fabri Fibra - In Italia ft. Gianna Nannini

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In the first instance we’re talking about filming or shooting: riprendere. It’s also common to use the noun form of riprendereripresaFare una ripresa is “to make a video/film recording” or “to shoot.” So una ripresa is “a shot.” And you might easily jump to the conclusion that “to take a picture” in Italian would be prendere una foto. But no! Sbagliato (wrong)! We have to say fare una foto (to make a picture). 

In card playing, prendere is “to draw,” so riprendere in this context means “to draw again!” or “to take again.”

 

Ora riprendiamo le carte. -Esatto, la riprendo io, perché sono stata l'ultima, -Bene. -che ha preso.

Now we draw cards again. -Exactly, I draw another, because I was the last one, -Good. -who took [the cards].

Captions 32-33, Briscola - Regole del gioco

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If you’re having a second helping, you might say:

Riprendo un po’ di pasta.

I’ll have a second helping of pasta.

 

To end on a melancholy note, here’s Alice singing to her (ex) boyfriend, who is quite preso da (taken by) another woman, Elisa.

 

Lei ti lascia e ti riprende come e quando vuole lei

She leaves you and takes you back however and whenever she wants

Caption 13, Alice - Per Elisa

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The simple, clear, and easy-to-relate-to lyrics may not be exactly uplifting, but this ripresa video of a live performance vi prenderà (will get to you).

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In fondo in fondo

When you arrive in a new country, one of the first challenges is to find your way around. Asking directions is one thing. Understanding them is another!

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A destra (to the right) and a sinistra (to the left) are pretty basic, but when someone starts saying in fondo (at the end, in the end, at the bottom), there may be some confusion as to exactly what’s meant. 

 

Fondo has to do with distance and depth. Let’s first look at its literal, physical meaning.

 

Ha bisogno di qualcosa? Sì, sì, un bagno. È in fondo a destra. -Scusi.

Do you need anything? Yes, yes, a bathroom. It's at the end of the hall, to the right. -Excuse me.

Captions 40-42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

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The above is a very typical answer to the question, “Where is the restroom?”

In fondo may indicate the furthest point (at the end) or the lowest point, as in in fondo alle scale (at the bottom of the stairs). If you’re late for a movie, you will probably sit in fondo (at the back).

 

Fondo often has to do with long distance, as in sci di fondo (cross-country skiing). A long-distance bicycle race will be il gran fondo. Note that the word profondo (deep) contains the root fondo! A very low bass singer will be a basso profondo

 

Ed ecco davanti a noi, nel blu profondo, una forma scura come quella di un grosso pesce adagiato sul fondo.

And here, in front of us, in the deep blue, a dark form shaped like a big fish lying on the bottom.

Captions 38-39, Linea Blu - Sicilia

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Italians often use piatti fondi (soup plates) for eating pasta or brodo (broth). They’re deep enough to hold liquids. 

 

Note that fondo is used both as a noun and as an adjective! Un fondo can be a fund, it can be a storage area, it can be a backdrop or background. It can be a piece of land. In makeup, fondotinta is your makeup base or foundation. 

 

Turning now to concepts rather than physical things, fondo, preceded by the preposition a (to, at, in), takes on the idea of “in depth,” or “thorough.”

 

In bagno, è molto importante pulire a fondo.

In the bathroom it's very important to clean thoroughly.

Caption 34, Marika spiega - Le pulizie di primavera

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If you think about getting “to the bottom” of things, a fondo makes sense.

If you want to go all the way, vai fino in fondo (you go all the way), both literally and figuratively.

In fondo is used to mean “in the end,” or “after all is said and done,” or “deep down.”

 

Per questo preferisco i gatti. E poi, i gatti in fondo hanno sempre sette vite.

That's why I prefer cats. And then, after all, they always have seven lives.

Captions 30-31, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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Then there’s a popular expression in fondo in fondo (deep down) used primarily in talking about people:

 

Insomma, sai che ti dico, zia? Che come commissario, in fondo in fondo, non è poi così male...

All in all, you know what I have to say, Aunt? That as a commissioner, deep down, he's not really so bad...

Captions 11-12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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It wouldn’t hurt to approfondire (to go into things more thoroughly, more deeply) a bit regarding the word fondo. There are plenty of examples in Yabla videos, and there are plenty of examples on WordReference.com. Remember that context is key! In fondo in fondo, è una parola molto utile! (All in all, it’s a very useful word!)

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I like it - Mi piace

It's very important to be able to say what you like and what you don't like. In English, “to like” is an active verb, as in “I like strawberries.” Italians use the verb piacere (to be pleasing, to delight) to say they like something. But attenzione! In Italian it gets turned around like this:

I like snow. (To me snow is pleasing.)

Mi  piace  la neve.

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"Snow" is singular, so piace is singular. If what we like is in the plural, like "strawberries," piacere will get conjugated in the plural (in this case, third person plural). 

Mi piacciono  queste fragole.

To me these strawberries are pleasing [I like these strawberries.]

This can all be very confusing for new Italian speakers, but if you think about the fact that when you like something, it’s pleasing to you, it will make more sense.

So "I like" becomes mi piace. In her lesson on mi piace Daniela explains that mi (to me) is really just a contraction of a me (to me). A me is used when we want to emphasize the person, as opposed to the object the person likes, as in this hit song by Nina Zilli, "Cinquantamila lacrime" ("Fifty Thousand Tears").

 

A me piace così -A me piace così

I like it like that. -I like it like that

Caption 7, Nina Zilli - 50 mila

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Remember that mi is an indirect object meaning "to me." Whatever or whoever is doing the pleasing (for example, strawberries) on the other hand, becomes the subject of the sentence (and governs the conjugation of piacere). 

 

You may hear Italians say: a me mi piace. Now that you know that mi is short for a me, you may sense that it's wrong because it's a repetition. In fact, it's bad grammar. Still, people say it because it emphasizes just about everything in the sentence. It's sort of like saying, "Me, I like it."

 

So, what if I want to tell a person I like him or her?

Mi piaci.

You please me. [I like you.]

 

Although mi piaci or mi piace can just refer to liking someone in general, more often than not, it’s about finding the other person attractive. To say that someone is generally likable or agreeable without alluding to their attractiveness, Italian uses a word that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent: simpatico (agreeable, likable).

 

If you say mi sei simpatico or, as is more common in the south, mi stai simpatico (you're agreeable to me, you’re likable to me), you’re essentially telling the person you like him! It’s safer than mi piaci in many situations. 

 

Let’s take an example from our favorite commissioner, Manara. He’s convinced his new colleagues don’t like him, but there’s a job to do.

 

Sentite, che io non vi sto simpatico l'ho capito perfettamente.

Listen, I understand perfectly that you don't like me.

Però abbiamo un caso molto complicato da risolvere,

However, we've got a very complicated case to solve,

Captions 43-44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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In a nutshell: 

In English, the person doing the liking is the subject, and the thing or person one likes is the object. In Italian, the person or thing that pleases is the subject, and the person who does the liking, or who’s pleased, is the object! 

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Learning suggestion: 

Look around you and see what you like and what you don’t like. Saying it out out loud in Italian will give you practice conjugating the verb piacere. Remember that when you don’t like something, just put non in front of mi: Non mi piace questo vino (I don’t like this wine).

Online Resources:

-This article will help you get the grammatical lay of the land regarding liking things in Italian.

-This article provides some extra input on using piacere.

Tune in to more lessons with Daniela on the subject: Ti piace and Piacere.

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Summer Offerings

During the summer, one nice thing to do on a hot afternoon is prendere un gelato (go for ice cream), especially if you’re with friends and you happen to pass una gelateria. You might want to be the one to treat everyone. If so, then the verb you need here is offrire (to offer).

 

Allora, sai che facciamo? Per festeggiare, ti offro un gelato.

So, you know what we'll do? To celebrate, I'll treat you to an ice cream.

Captions 35-36, Francesca - alla guida

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When somebody looks ready to pull out his wallet, that’s the time to say, offro io! (I’m buying!)

 

In a gelateria, there are various prices relating to how many scoops, or palline (little balls), of gelato you get on your cono (cone) or in your coppetta (little cup), and the good news is that each scoop can be a different gusto (flavor). 

 

As far as gusti go, rarely will you find vaniglia (vanilla), but you will find fior di latte or fior di panna (or even panna fredda in the Bologna area).

 

Why these names? Fiore (flower) can be used as an adjective, fior, to describe something as being special, of the best quality, in this case, latte (milk) or panna (cream). Think of something flourishing or blossoming. In fact, fior fiore is an expression used outside the realm of gelato to mean “the cream of the crop” (la crème de la crème). So we’re talking about the best quality milk, the best quality cream.

 

Theoretically, that’s what goes into this kind of gelato, which, whatever the gelataio chooses to call it (fior di latte, fior di panna, or panna fredda), refers to gelato with no added flavoring, just the taste of the milk, cream, and sugar. It’s white in color, and naturally, this “neutral” flavor goes well with all the other gusti.

Gelato alla crema, on the other hand, is made with the above ingredients, plus eggs, and because of this, is rich, yellow, and more custardy. It’s probably the closest you’ll get to “vanilla.” It’s the kind of gelato that ends up on top of fragole (strawberries) or macedonia (fruit salad).

 

Una macedonia con il gelato alla crema. OK, alla crema, perfetto.

A fruit salad with vanilla ice cream. OK, vanilla, perfect.

Captions 39-40, Una gita - al lago

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Apart from the ever popular cioccolato, other well-loved flavors are: 

nocciola (hazelnut)

stracciatella (shredded chocolate laced through fior di latte, from stracciare [to shred])

gianduia (chocolate and hazelnut)

amarena (fior di latte laced with amarene [sour cherries] in their syrup)

 


...and many more! Italians like to combine the flavors on the same cone or in the same little dish. They may even use a little spoon to eat the ice cream off the cone! 

 

If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner in the summertime, it’s rarely a mistake to bring, as a gift, a vaschetta (little tub) of gelato. Pick a variety of gusti so there’s something for everyone. The gelataio will give you a polistirolo (styrofoam) container so it stays cold.

 

For more about gelato, see: Andromeda: in - Storia del gelato - Part 1 of 2 and Andromeda: in - Storia del gelato - Part 2 of 2.

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Summer can be a great time to reinforce a foreign language experience. If you’ve already seen the Yabla offerings of Italian TV episodes like Medico in Famiglia or Commissario Manara, try watching an entire puntata (episode) from start to finish without the captions. You might be surprised at how much you understand! 

 

For a greater challenge, watch some classic Italian movies with (or without) subtitles, such as:

 

Fellini films like La Strada or La Dolce Vita, which are mentioned in the interviews with Fellini on Yabla, and Lina Wertmüller’s Pasqualino Sette Bellezze from which Yabla featured the ironic and humoristic opening song from the soundtrack. See also the interview with Lina Wertmüller.

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Don't Worry!

When you worry about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. With this in mind, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that the Italian word for worrying sounds a lot like the verb “to preoccupy.” The infinitive is preoccupare (to worry), usually used reflexively—preoccuparsi (to worry about)—the adjective/participle is preoccupato (worried), and the noun is preoccupazione (cause for worry) with its plural, preoccupazioni (worries, troubles). We all do our share of worrying, so it’s a good word to be familiar with!

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In the story of La Bohème, Rodolfo is worried about Mimì because she has tuberculosis.

 

l'ho sentito che si confidava con Marcello, il suo amico pittore, e gli diceva che era preoccupato per via della mia malattia.

I heard him confiding to his friend Marcello, his painter friend, and he told him that he was worried because of my illness.

Captions 30-31, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

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Andiamo a casa, va'! Se no zia si preoccupa.

Let's go home, come on! Otherwise Auntie will worry.

Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Sometimes people worry for no reason, so we want to reassure them. In other words, we’re giving the negative command, “Don’t worry.” Negative commands in Italian are easy when you’re talking to friends and family: non + the infinitive of a verb.

So, if a friend or familiar person is preoccupato and they shouldn’t be, take after Adriano, who’s reassuring his grandmother. She’s family, so he speaks informally to her. As he sings her praises, she notices something off-camera and points to it. He doesn’t want her to worry about it, or even to pay attention to it:

 

Non ti preoccupare, nonna.

Don't worry Grandma.

Caption 26, Adriano - Nonna

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Remember that preoccupare is generally used reflexively (preoccuparsi), so just like with other reflexive verbs, the personal pronoun can go in two different positions (both are equally grammatical): before the verb, as Adriano says it, or attached to the end of the verb as below. See this previous lesson, and this one, too, for more on reflexive verbs.

 

Scusa, eh, per le foto così brutte, ma le ha fatte mio marito, quindi... No, ma non preoccuparti.

Sorry, uh, for such bad photos, but my husband took them, so... No, but don't worry about it.

Captions 34-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7

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If, on the other hand, you need to tell someone you don’t know very well not to worry, use the polite form of the imperative (more on doing so here): Non si preoccupi. Without delving into a lot of grammar, just memorizing the phrase (with a nice accent on the “o”) will be helpful when you’re addressing someone like a salesperson, someone’s parent, a teacher, or a doctor, as in the following example. 

 

Dottore non si preoccupi, ci occuperemo noi di lui.

Doctor don't worry, we'll take care of him.

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 12

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Gualtiero Marchesi forgets his troubles by going back to his childhood haunts. Pensieri (thoughts, worries) go hand in hand with preoccupazioni (worries, troubles):

 

Sono sempre tornato nei luoghi della mia infanzia, a volte, all'improvviso, lasciandomi alle spalle pensieri e preoccupazioni.

I've always returned to the places of my childhood, sometimes, suddenly, leaving my thoughts and worries behind.

Captions 16-17, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua

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As an aside, the antidote to worrying is frequently to take care of something, and the verb for that is occuparsi (to take care of, to deal with), not to be confused with preoccuparsi.

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Learning suggestion:

When you meet people or pass them on the street, consider whether you would speak to them informally or formally, and tell them, in your mind, not to worry. Would you say non ti preoccupare or non si preoccupi

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Elegant and Not So Elegant Turns of Phrase

Francesca is showing Daniela how to play one of the most popular Italian card games, Briscola. Two little words stand out, and merit some attention. They’re both in the category of “but,” yet they are more specific and allow for a more elegant turn of phrase. The first is the conjunction bensì (but rather).

 

La briscola, eh... come molti non sanno, non è un gioco nato in Italia, bensì in Olanda, nei Paesi Bassi.

Briscola, uh... as a lot of people don't know, is not a game originating in Italy, but rather in Holland, in the Netherlands.

Captions 5-6, Briscola - Regole del gioco

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The other one, ovvero (or rather), is used by Francesca who’s trying make things crystal clear, so she’s using language that’s a little more formal than usual. Ovvero is somewhat archaic, and is often a fancy way of saying o (“or,” “that is,” or “otherwise”).

 

Nella briscola ci sono delle carte che sono più importanti delle altre, ovvero, te le vado subito a mostrare.

In Briscola there are some cards that are more important than others, or rather, I'm going to show them to you right away.

Captions 33-34, Briscola - Regole del gioco

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In more informal speech, you’ll hear words like ma (but), invece (but, instead, rather), nel senso (I mean, in the sense), to express similar sentiments.

Speaking of informal speech, it’s definitely the norm in Lele’s family. One of the words that creeps into casual speech is mica (“not,” or “at all”). Think of when you say, “Not bad! Not bad at all!” That’s one time you’ll want to say, mica male! It’s a form of negation equivalent to non. Therefore, non male is just about equivalent to mica male, but think, “exclamation point” at the end. The fun thing about this word is that you can use it by itself, like Ciccio does, in justifying the shoes he bought with money taken from Grandpa’s pocket:

 

Ma guarda, Giacinto, che eran per le scarpe, mica per un gioco!

But look, Giacinto, it was for shoes, not for a game!

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 9

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But you can also use it together with a negative (it’s no crime to use a double negative in Italian) like Ciccio's Grandpa (before finding out who took his money) to emphasize the “no”:

 

Io sono un pensionato, Cetinka, non sono mica un bancomat!

I'm a retiree, Cetinka, I'm not an ATM machine!

Caption 91, Un medico in famiglia - s.1. e.2 - Il mistero di Cetinka - Part 7

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The character of Alessio in Ma Che Ci Faccio Qui! is older than Ciccio, but just out of high school. His speech is certainly very rich in modi di dire (if you do a Yabla search with mica, you’ll find Alessio and many others!), but in one episode there’s an expression whose translation is not very intuitive—con comodo (in a leisurely way). If you remember that comodo  means “comfortable” it will make more sense. Depending on the tone (like in English), it can express patience or impatience!

 

Vabbè,  fate con comodo.

OK, take your time [literally, "do with leisure"].

Caption 46, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato

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Watch the video to see which it is in this case!

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Learning suggestion: Enrich your vocabulary by using the Yabla search as well as WordReference to get more examples of bensì, ovvero, and mica. There’s no hurry: fate con comodo!

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Making Connections with Appunto (Indeed)

Appunto is a word Italians use all the time in speech. It officially translates as “indeed,” or “exactly,” but often means, “like I was saying,” “more precisely,” or “as already stated.” The important thing to remember is that its function is to refer back to something that's already been mentioned. We could say it points to a word or an idea in order to call your attention to the fact that we’re already on the subject. It confirms a connection. 

For starters, let’s see how appunto is used by itself, to mean something like, “that’s exactly what I’m talking about!”: 

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Lara’s aunt, in an episode of Commissario Manara, is helping out with the investigation in her own neighborly way. She suspects an acquaintance of hiding something, so she sets a trap for him to tell her more. If, as he says, “these things are difficult to forget,” then he can’t say he doesn’t recall! Appunto! One word says it all!

 

Se lo ricorda, vero? Altro che! Sono cose queste che si fa fatica a scordare.

-Ehm, appunto.

You remember, right? Do I ever! These are things that are difficult to forget.

-Um, precisely.

Captions 50-53, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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Many Italians use appunto liberally, often making it difficult to find an English equivalent, and appunto (indeed), sometimes there is no equivalent without using many more words.

In the following video, Anna is explaining the Jewish Ghetto of Rome, so her use of appunto is a means of linking the Jewish Ghetto to the Jews being confined there.

 

Qui siamo a Roma, nel quartiere del Ghetto Ebraico, che è appunto la zona di Roma dove durante la seconda guerra mondiale venivano confinate le persone appunto ebree.

Here we're in Rome, in the quarter of the Jewish Ghetto that is, to be precise an area of Rome where during World War II the Jewish people, as the name implies, were confined.

Captions 1-3, Anna presenta - il ghetto ebraico e piazza mattei

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Although there is no quick translation for the second appunto in this sentence, the important thing to know is that Anna is using it to make sure we get the connection.

Sometimes you have to search out the “missing” link. Gualtiero Marchesi is musing about his career, and starts out talking about developing a passion for his work:

 

Quando ho incominciato ad appassionarmi veramente a quello che facevo...

When I started becoming really passionate about what I did...

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 10

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A bit later he’s still referring to the passione mentioned a few lines back, so he uses appunto to remind us.

 

Poi quando, appunto, è subentrata la passione, ero curioso, come sempre...

Then when, like I was saying, passion entered in, I was curious, as always...

Caption 47, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua - Part 10

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Francesca takes us with her to a ski lodge in the mountains. Since her subject is “going to the mountains,” she uses appunto when telling us where chalets can be found, as if to imply that it’s clearly obvious, but she’ll say it anyway.

 

Eccoci arrivati alla baita. La baita è un luogo che si trova, appunto, in montagna dove ci si va per rifugiarsi dal freddo.

Here we are, we've arrived at the chalet. The chalet is a place you find, logically, in the mountains, where you go to seek refuge from the cold.

Captions 25-27, Francesca neve - Part 1

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If you do a search in Yabla, you’ll see just how often and in how many ways appunto is used. You may be baffled in many cases. Pinning down a precise meaning is tricky business, but with time, you’ll see it’s actually quite a useful way to make connections with just one word, when in English, you’d need many. The WordReference forum can give you more examples and explanations.

Attenzione! The adverb, appunto is not to be confused with the noun appunto (note, criticism).

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Learning suggestion: Don’t worry too much about actually trying to use appunto, especially if you’re a beginner. For now, just check out how it’s used in the Yabla videos and be aware of why it’s there: to make connections.

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Taste and Smell - Sapere Part 2

Sapere - Part 1

Italians have a great word that encompasses four of our five senses (all but sight), and covers general sensory perception as well: sentire (to perceive). Marika and Daniela explain and conjugate sentire here. We’re going to talk about taste and smell, because these have to do with the real subject of this newsletter, the verb sapere (to know, or to give an impression, odor, or taste).

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To talk about something tasting or smelling good (or bad) in Italian, we have to throw literal translations out the window (because no word really does the trick) and opt for a noun that can be either neutral—odore (odor), sapore (taste), gusto (flavor)—or specific—profumo (fragrance, scent), puzza (stink). The verb we’ll use will be one of two. The first, avere (to have), we use when talking about what tastes or smells good or bad, certainly of utmost importance when choosing a truffle, for example:

 

Il tartufo deve avere un buon profumo.

The truffle needs to have a good smell.

Caption 76, Tartufo bianco d'Alba - Come sceglierlo e come gustarlo

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Our second option is the all-encompassing sense word, sentire (to perceive), used when talking about our perception of a taste or a smell. Francesca had a smelly encounter with a dog and it came naturally to her to use sentire. It’s clear she’s talking about smell, not taste! She’s afraid she might be giving off a not-so-wonderful odor. Marika and Francesca assure each other:

 

Però la puzza non si sente. -Non si sente. Meno male.

But you can't smell the bad smell. -You can't smell it. Just as well [Good thing].

Captions 84-85, Francesca e Marika - Gestualità

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We’ve been talking about the good or bad quality of a taste or smell. But if we want to describe the taste or smell in even more detail, then we turn to sapere, which, as we discussed in I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1, doesn’t always have to do with knowledge. 

In this case the subject of the sentence is the food itself, or the situation if we’re speaking figuratively. These scenarios should help you get the idea:

You look in the fridge and open a jar of jam. Ugh!

Questa marmellata sa di muffa.

This jam smells like mold.

You made soup, but something’s not right.

Non sa di niente questa minestra. Ecco perché: Ho dimenticato il sale.

This soup doesn’t have any flavor. Here’s why: I forgot the salt.

You think someone is trying to give you a bum deal on a used car. You say to yourself:

Quest’affare sa di fregatura.

This deal smacks of a ripoff.

Later, when you’ve verified it was a bad deal, you can use the modo di dire from I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1 and say:

Mi sa che avevo ragione!

I guess I was right!

To sum up, remember that when sapere means “to know,” there will be a subject that’s a person (or animal), and what it is that the person knows, as a direct object. 

Il gatto sa quando è ora di mangiare.

The cat knows when it’s time to eat.

But when sapere has to do with what something tastes or smells like, even figuratively, the subject will be the food or situation, and it will be followed by the preposition di like in the scenarios above.

And let’s not forget the modo di dire, “mi sa che/mi sa di si/no,” discussed in the I Have This Feeling... Sapere Part 1.

 

Learning suggestion:

Now that you have some new insights on the world of tastes and smells, get a feel for how Italians talk about food by watching or re-watching Yabla videos on the subject. Truffles, wine, risotto, desserts: here’s the list. And if you’re planning on any wine-tasting, you’ll want to visit this quick WordReference thread

And se te la senti (if you feel up to it)...

This example employs the different meanings of sapere. Can you tell them apart? 

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Lo sai che ho assaggiato la pomarola, ma sa di acido, quindi mi sa che non la mangerò anche se lo so che non mi amazzerebbe. -Sai che ti dico? Mi sa che fai bene a non mangiarla! Si sa che il cibo avariato fa male. Tutti sanno che la pomarola non deve sapere di acido, dovrebbe avere un buon sapore. 

You know I tasted the tomato sauce, but it tasted sour, and so I guess I’m not going to eat it, even though I know it wouldn’t kill me. -You know what I say? I think you’re doing the right thing by not eating it! It’s well known that food gone bad is bad for you. Everyone knows that tomato sauce should not taste sour; it should taste good

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I Have This Feeling... - Sapere Part 1

Sapere - Part 2

It’s always nice to have a variety of words that mean pretty much the same thing, so that, appunto (indeed), you don’t have to say the same thing all the time.

 

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Sapere (to know) is normally about sure things. When you’re not quite sure about something, you use verbs like pensare (to think), credere (to believe), supporre (to suppose), or sembrare (to seem), among others. Right now, though, we’re going to talk about a very popular modo di dire (way of saying) that Italians use in everyday conversation when they don’t know for sure but they have a pretty good idea: mi sa che... (to me it gives the impression that...). But wait! If we don’t know for sure, why are we using the verb sapere? Good question! We’ll get to that, but first, let’s have a look at some real-life examples.

On its most practical level, mi sa che is used, for example, when someone is thinking out loud.

Anna is deciding which of the tantalizing Roman pasta dishes to order.

 

Guardi, mi sa che andrò sulle, ehm, linguine cacio e pepe?

Look, I think I'll go with the, uh, linguini with cheese and pepper?

Caption 11, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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Another way to translate what she said would be, “I guess I’ll go with the linguini...” 

In the next example, however, it’s more about “I have a feeling” or “I sense.” Inspector Lara Rubino and another policewoman are looking at the telephone records from a murder victim’s phone and they see a very long list of women’s names. Lara comments dryly:

 

E da quanto vedo, mi sa che io e te siamo le uniche due sceme che non l'hanno conosciuto.

And from what I see, I have the impression that you and me are the only morons who didn't know him.

Captions 57-58, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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As for why we use the verb sapere (to know) when we are really just guessing, well, it comes from the other major definition of sapere which has to do with the senses. In its intransitive form (without a direct object), sapere means “to have an odor or taste” (also in a figurative sense). Its figurative meaning is also “to give the impression of.” (English uses other senses to say the same kind of thing: “it looks like”; “it sounds like.”) If you think about it like this, does it make more sense?

In Italian colloquial speech, mi sa che, which is exclusive to the first person singular, is interchangeable with mi sembra che (it seems to me that) and is really quite user-friendly once you get the hang of it. There’s a whole WordReference page dedicated to it! See the long list of forum threads, too.

When you’re not feeling very chiacchierone (talkative), and a short answer will do, mi sa di sì/no works just like penso di sì (I think so), credo di no (I believe not), suppongo di sì (I suppose so), and gets followed by di rather than che.

 

Ah bè, perfetto. Allora forse mi conviene quello. -E mi sa di sì.

Oh well, perfect. So maybe I am better off with that. -Yeah I'd guess so.

Captions 26-27, Passeggiando per Roma - per Roma

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In Part 2, we’ll talk more about sapere having to do with taste and smell, both literally and figuratively. Stay tuned.

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Learning suggestion:

1) To practice this new modo di dire, follow along with the transcript of a given video, selecting one with conversation. When you see a telltale penso che, credo che, mi sembra che, or suppongo che, press “pause.” Mentally insert mi sa che as a substitute and repeat the phrase.

2) Plan your day, thinking out loud about what you’ll probably do. Here’s a head start:

Mi sa che oggi salto la colazione, non c’è tempo. Mi sa che dovrò comprare il pane, perché mi sa che è finito. Ma mi sa che più tardi andrò in centro. 

I guess I’ll skip breakfast; there’s no time. I guess I’ll have to buy bread, because I think there’s no more left. But I think later on, I’ll go downtown.

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Gifts and Giving

The Italian verb for “to give” is dare. But if you want to give someone a gift, you need to get used to using the verb fare (to make)—fare un regalo:  

 

Quella gli faceva un regalino, quell'altra l'invitava a cena...

One would give him a little gift, another would invite him to dinner...

Caption 49, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Or you can use the verb form of regalo, regalare:

 

Eh, ma mi sa che questo è l'ultimo anno che ti posso regalare le mie scarpe.

Uh, I guess this is the last year that I can give you my shoes.

Caption 4, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova

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Regalo is analogous with “present,” and it’s the word you will be using most of the time. However, another way to say “gift,” which often implies a divine or important giver, is dono. You’ll hear it in conjunction with traditions, and indeed, dono is used like regalo in talking about what Santa Claus brings down the chimney.

 

Ovviamente ai bambini portava doni.

Obviously to children he brought gifts.

Caption 16, Marika spiega - La vera storia di Babbo Natale

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Donare is easy to remember, being very similar to “donate.” In fact, as a verb, donare can mean “to donate,” as in money or blood: donare sangue (to give blood). Blood donors are donatori di sangue.

Of course, gifts are not always tangible.

 

Perché io lavoro con un grande dono prezioso che ognuno di noi ha... Io lavoro con la mia voce.

Because I work with a precious gift that each one of us has... I work with my voice.

Captions 7-9, Marika e Daniela - Daniela Bruni, voice over

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And now you need to stretch your mind a bit because the giver is an item of clothing. The shirt in question gives the wearer some positive quality. This particular use of donare is worth remembering because it’s a wonderful way to compliment someone! (Note that the person is using the polite form; to a friend you would say ti dona.)

 

Ah... ma lo sa che questa camicia le dona? -Grazie. -Sì. Fa esaltare il colore dei suoi occhi.

Ah... you know that this shirt looks good on you? -Thanks. -Yes. It brings out the color of your eyes.

Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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Finally we have dote (talent, gift, quality) with its verb form, dotare. Except for when it means “endowment” or “dowry,” dote isn’t the kind of gift you can give someone. 

Il ragazzo è dotato per la musica e sua sorella invece è dotata per il disegno.

The boy is a gifted musician while his sister is a gifted artist.

Ha una dote per la musica.

He has a gift for music.  

We could say that God, or some higher being has “provided” that boy with his gift for music. So don’t be surprised if you go to buy a TV in Italy and the salesman tells you that la TV è dotata di telecommando (the TV is supplied with remote control). Not God-given, but factory-given!

To sum up on a practical level (leaving Christmas, weddings, and TVs aside):

  • Il Regalo and regalare have to do with worldly things for the most part, things one person can give another. Regalo can be synonymous with “present.” Remember to use the verb fare with regalo
  • La dote and dotare have more to do with talent, and you can’t give someone this kind of gift.
  • Il dono and donare mostly give the idea of a bigger picture: a gift from God, a donation to a cause, donating blood or organs. But donare can also mean “to enhance,” to bring out positive qualities.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Learning suggestion:

What are your natural talents or gifts? What about those of your family and friends? What did you get for a present on your last birthday? Do you know people who give blood? What are the earth’s natural gifts? Make a list of what comes to mind and then choose the Italian word that is closest in meaning.

To test out any phrases you come up with, just Google them and you will probably get some clues. If you have doubts, use WordReference or other dictionaries to get some more complete input than this lesson can provide.

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A Few Words About “Some” (Qualche and Alcuni)

Let's talk about two different ways to say "some" in Italian. While they can mean the same thing, they are used in different ways, so let's dig in.

 

Qualche

Master chef Gualtiero Marchesi is talking about one of the most famous northern Italian recipes, risotto alla milanese, and the symbolic meaning of the saffron that gives it a special color and taste:

 

Il giallo dello zafferano era, in qualche modo, il giallo dell'oro.

The yellow of saffron was, in some way, the yellow of gold.

Caption 21, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua

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In qualche modo (in some way) could also have been translated as “in a way” or “in some ways.” Qualche is purposely ambiguous and implies a small, unspecified quantity that could even be just one.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Despite its often plural meaning, qualche must always be followed by a noun in the singular. Let’s see this word in context as we put the finishing touches on a fancy dish. Goccia (drop) is singular but the meaning is plural, by just a little bit.

 

Condiremo con un pochino di sale fino, del pepe nero, qualche goccia di succo di limone, dell'olio di oliva extravergine delicato.

We'll season with a little fine salt, some black pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, some delicate extra virgin olive oil.

Captions 12-15, Battuta di Fassone - in Insalata Chef

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Qualche is very user friendly.

You don’t need to know the plural or even the gender of the word you are modifying. You just need to remember to use a singular noun following it!

 

Alcuni/Alcune

Now let’s look at another way to say “some” or “a few”: alcuni and alcune. Unlike qualche, which is quite close to a singular quantity, alcuni and alcune, although not specific, are clearly plural. In fact, the nouns they modify appear in the plural, and, like articles and other adjectives, these modifiers change their endings according to the gender. Alcuni modifies masculine nouns and alcune modifies feminine nouns. 

 

Alessio Berti has a few dishes to show us: 

 

Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione eh de'... della nostra carta.

Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make, um from... from our menu.

Captions 3-4, Ricette dolci - Crème brûlée alla banana

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And where can we find the milk for this delicious crème brûlée? 

 

Spesso, in alcune fattorie, puoi trovare dei prodotti caseari.

Often, on some farms, you can find dairy products.

Caption 18, Marika spiega - Gli animali della fattoria

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Note that while qualche is always followed by the word it modifies, alcuni/alcune can stand alone as a kind of pronoun, much like its English counterparts (some, a few). To determine which ending to employ, we refer to the gender of the modified noun, even if it's absent. We see this in the following example, where sculptor Claudio Capotondi is talking about his studio full of marble, drawings, models, and whatnot.

 

Ci sono vari bozzetti, progetti, che sono sedimentati nel tempo, alcuni realizzati, altri...

There are many small-scale models, projects, that have been accumulated over time, some completed, others...

Captions 9-11, Claudio Capotondi - Scultore

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Qualche and alcuni/alcune can only be used with countable nouns in Italian. We’ll work with uncountable nouns in a future lesson. For now, follow these rules: To be vague, use qualche, which always goes with a singular noun even when its meaning is plural. To be more clearly plural, use alcuni or alcune alone or with a plural noun whose gender tells us which to use. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Learning suggestion:

To practice using these modifiers, try swapping qualche and alcuni/alcune wherever they occur. There are situations where one is more common than the other, and you’ll gradually get a feel for it. Visit wordreference.com to get some input on phrases with qualche, and don’t forget to have a look at the long list of forum threads about this word. See this blog about alcuni and qualche.

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Different Shades of

In Italian, as in any language, there’s more than one way to say (yes). As we’ll see, there are situations in which it’s more to the point to use words like certo (certainly), va bene (OK), senz’altro (definitely), or come no (of course). Even just changing the number of times we say , along with our tone of voice, can change its effect. Said just once, it can be rather dry, or, depending on how it is said, it can leave a little room for doubt. Said twice, sì sì (the first one higher pitched than the second), it indicates that the speaker is sure of his answer. But attenzione, this double sì sì can also imply irony! Three times, repeated rapidly, really emphasizes that there’s no question, no doubt: Of course it’s yes.

 

Ma posso prendere anche la metropolitana?

But can I also take the subway?

Sì, sì, sì, dura settantacinque minuti e puoi fare una corsa autobus e una corsa metro.

Yes, yes, yes, it lasts seventy-five minutes and you can take one bus ride and one subway ride.

Captions 18-20, Passeggiando per Roma - per Roma

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

When you want to say "OK" (meaning "yes"), va bene* fits the bill.

 

Ti va di andare a prendere un caffè? ... -Ehm, va bene.

You feel like going to get a coffee? ... -Uh, OK.

Captions 36-39, Passeggiando per Roma - per Roma

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Senz’altro is a strong yes and leaves no room for doubt.

 

E un'altra cosa, potrebbe trovarmi una sistemazione per stasera?

And another thing, could you find me an accommodation for tonight?

-Senz'altro dottore, ci penso io.

-Definitely, Doctor, I'll take care of it.

Captions 42-43, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 4

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In fact, senz’altro is also used to mean "without a doubt" or "undoubtedly" and can replace sicuramente (surely).

Hanno senz’altro dimenticato l’appuntamento.

They undoubtedly forgot the appointment.

In conversation, (or its equivalents) will often be preceded or followed by the non-word eh, which is used to reinforce the word, like in sì eh! (yeah, really!). Other words that can precede these yes words to give them more importance are e (and) and ma (but).

 

Che peccato! -Eh sì, che peccato.

What a shame! -Oh yes, a shame.

Captions 25-26, Francesca - alla guida

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E certo. Che faccio, riesco, mi metto la cravatta e torno?

Sure. What do I do, go out, put on a tie and come back?

Caption 15, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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Me la vuole dare questa stanza? -Ma certo che gliela do questa stanza.

Well, you want to give me this room? -But of course I'll give you this room.

Captions 24-25, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 6

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Use d’accordo (agreed) to say yes to an invitation.

Andiamo al cinema insieme? -D’accordo.

Shall we go to the movies together? -Sure.

Sometimes you wouldn’t dream of saying no, so you say the literal equivalent of "how not?":

 

Posso farmi un panino? -Come no, io ricomincio a suonare.

May I make myself a sandwich? -Of course, I'll start playing again.

Captions 23-24, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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Come no is also used to contradict a false negative statement:

La Francia non è in Europa. -Come no!

France is not in Europe. -Yes, it is!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

And that’s the story on . There are, senz’altro, still more ways to say , but this can get you started. As you go about your day, think positive! Say yes! Say it in Italiano and say it in as many ways as you can. 

* More about va bene in: Corso di italiano con Daniela: Chiedere "Come va?"

P.S. You can’t always know your mind. So if you’re not sure you want to say yes, or you just don’t know the answer, have Arianna tell you what to say both in Italian and in Italian body language! Arianna spiega: I gesti degli Italiani - Part 2 of 2

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Making It Happen

Fare (to make) is a verb for getting things done. It’s about as universal in Italian as “get” (or “have”) is in English and frequently means about the same thing. 

Here, fare really does mean “to make”:

 

Eccolo. Questo è il vino che faccio con mio nonno.

Here it is. This is the wine I make with my grandfather.

Captions 7-8, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna - Part 3

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Fare used simply, as in the above example, indicates you are doing the work. If, instead of doing something yourself, you have it done by someone else, you’ll generally use fare plus the verb in the infinitive:

 

Se vuole, La faccio accompagnare da uno dei miei ragazzi.

If you'd like, I'll have one of my guys accompany you.

Caption 19, Una gita - al lago - Part 3

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When you need to borrow something, fare loans itself to you because there’s no single word in Italian that means “to borrow.” You need to “get something lent to you,” so you use the verb prestare (to lend) but you turn it around using fare, plus, depending on whom you are talking about, the appropriate reflexive personal pronoun.

 

La mia dolce Ninetta riceve anche la visita di Pippo, un altro servitore di Casa Vingradito, e riesce a farsi prestare da Pippo alcune monete.

My sweet Ninetta also gets a visit from Pippo, another servant from the Vingradito home, and is able to borrow a few coins from Pippo.

Captions 11-13, Anna e Marika - in La Gazza Ladra - Part 2

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The same idea holds for showing something to someone: you need to “make them see it.”

 

Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione

Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make

Caption 3, Ricette dolci - Crème brûlée alla banana

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Fare can also be intended as “get,” “have,” or “let,” depending on the context. Here, fare is used in a command:

 

Fammi uscire! Ehi, fammi uscire!

Let me out! Hey, let me out!

Captions 52-53, Acqua in bocca - Mp3 Marino - Ep 2

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There’s lots more to say about fare, but for now, when you tune into Yabla, try to start noticing how people talk about getting things done using this catch-all word. To get more acquainted with fare, have a look here and here.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Learning suggestion:

Think about some things you would like to get done (or have already had done). Here are some ideas to work with. Try turning them into questions or changing the person, tense, subject, object, or verb, or you can make up your own sentences from scratch.

Faccio sempre pulire la casa da professionisti.

I always have the house cleaned by professionals.

Facciamo riparare la nostra macchina dal meccanico in paese.

We get our car repaired by the mechanic in town.

Mi sono fatta fare un tatuaggio.

I got a tattoo. (This is a woman speaking. A man would say, Mi sono fatto fare un tatuaggio.)

Vorrei farmi fare un vestito da una sarta.

I’d like to get a dress made for me by a seamstress.

Non mi lavo i capelli da sola.  Li faccio lavare dalla parrucchiera.

I don’t wash my own hair. I get it washed at the hairdresser’s.

Ti voglio fare conoscere un amico.

I want to introduce you to a friend.

Voglio farti conoscere un amico.

I want to introduce you to a friend.

Mi fai vedere le tue foto?

Will you show me your pictures?

Joining a language forum such as WordReference can be helpful for getting feedback on your attempts.

 

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