Using tenses correctly in a new language is usually somewhat of a challenge. Let's talk about two tenses — presente indicativo (present simple) and passato prossimo (present perfect) — that we can use to set the scene in a story, or to establish a timeframe, and the signpost words that can help us figure out which tense to use.
Here's what causes some confusion. Italian commonly uses the passato prossimo (present perfect), that is, the tense using the auxialiary verb "to have" plus the past participle, to refer to things that happened at a particular moment in the past, for which in English we use the simple past tense. This is hard to assimilate, because English uses the present perfect for events that are still going on, or still true. In addition to that, in cases where English does use the present perfect, Italian often uses the present simple. It's easy to get mixed up, but it should become clearer as we go along.
In a new video this week, Erica and Martina speak very simply about their friendship and how it developed. This is an excellent opportunity to zoom in on the passato prossimo, since they use it a lot, and to get a feel for how it’s employed in everyday storytelling. Maybe you can tell a story of your own, using the same outline.
But let's zoom out for a moment. Before telling a story, we often need to set the scene and establish a timeframe. Erica first uses the present simple, and adds da (from, since). This formula takes some getting used to, so it's a good idea to practice. Notice that the translation employs the present perfect.
Siamo amiche da sei anni.
We've been friends for six years.
Caption 3, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
Here's another example of how the present tense is used to establish a timeframe that includes the past.
Questa statua è qui da almeno cinquanta anni.
This statue has been here for at least fifty years.
Caption 21, Antonio - Maratea, Madonna del Porto SalvoPlay Caption
We can use this setup with verbs like conoscere (to be acquainted with), frequentare (to hang out with, to frequent), essere colleghi (to be co-workers), lavorare insieme (to work together),essere sposato (to be married), vivere in un posto (to live in a place).
Ci conosciamo da tre anni (we've known each other for three years).
Sono sposati da sei mesi (they've been married for six months).
Practice: Set the scene for a story. Establish the timeframe including the past up to the present with the simple present tense plus da (from, since), using the above-mentioned verbs, or other verbs you think of. You'll be answering the question: da quanto tempo (for how long)?
Another way to set the scene is to find the starting point in the past. We use the passatoprossimo for that, plus the short adverb fa (ago) that signals the past.
So in the featured video, Erica continues setting the scene, telling us when the two friends met. Here she uses the passato prossimo. In English, we’d use the past simple, of course. Erica is essentially saying the same thing she said in caption 3, but she’s pinpointing the moment, not a period of time. Note: Since the friends are female in this case, the ending of the past participle conosciuto is feminine and plural. If it were two guys, or a guy and a girl, what do you think the ending would be?
Ci siamo conosciute, appunto, sei anni fa.
We met, in fact, six years ago.
Caption 4, Erica e Martina - La nostra amiciziaPlay Caption
When you meet someone for the first time, it’s unique: one instant. So you use the passato prossimo.
Learn more about the verb conoscere (to be acquainted with, to make the acquaintance of) in this lesson.
Il figlio, diciassettenne, ha pubblicato il suo primo articolo su un quotidiano americano pochi giorni fa.
His son, seventeen years old, published his first article in an American newspaper a few days ago.
Captions 16-17, Tiziano Terzani - Cartabianca - Part 1Play Caption
Practice: Experiment establishing a timeframe using the presente plus da (from, since) as you did in the first exercise, and then saying much the same thing in a different way, pinpointing a moment in time with the passato prossimo and fa (ago). You'll be answering the question: quando (when)? or quanto tempo fa (how long ago)?.
Here’s a quick example to get started:
Vivo in Italia da più di venticinque anni (I’ve been living in Italy for over twenty-five years).
Sono venuta in Italia per la prima volta più di trent’anni fa (I came to Italy for the first time, over thirty years ago).
Lavoro in questo posto da otto anni (I’ve been working in this place for eight years).
Ho cominciato otto anni fa a lavorare qui (I started working here eight years ago).
As Erica and Martina continue their story, they use the passato prossimo to describe events in the past. You can do this too!
Hint: Why not use the transcript of this video? Just click on "transcript" underneath the video thumbnail (or in the pop-up menu "more" in the new layout). You can view it in just Italian, just English, or both. You can copy and paste it into a blank document. You can make it printer friendly. In somma (in short), it's pretty handy!
There are other ways to set the scene, and other tenses to use, but we’ll get to those in another lesson.
Ammettere (to admit) is somewhat of a true cognate when used in the indicative.
We can use it when referring to gaining access, say, to a course or school.
Non è facile essere ammesso alla facoltà di medicina.
It’s not easy to get admitted to the pre-med program.
It also refers to acknowledging something, like an opinion or an error. Here, too, ammettere is a true cognate.
Ammetto di aver reagito troppo in fretta.
I admit I reacted too hastily.
But, when we find ammettere with che (that), and it’s often in the past participle ammesso, it calls for the subjunctive, as Daniela mentions in a recent lesson on the subjunctive. But be careful because the meaning changes. Here it means “to assume” or “to suppose.” We are not confirming something, we are assuming. We're talking about something unsure, which is why the subjunctive is used.
Allora, un amico mi dice una cosa,
So, a friend tells me something,
io non sono sicura se è vero o no,
I'm not sure whether it's true or not,
e dico: "Ammesso che sia vero, è interessante".
and I say: “Assuming it's true, it is interesting.”
Captions 39-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivoPlay Caption
Amettiamo che lui l'abbia uccisa.
Let's assume that he killed her.Play Caption
A common expression in Italian uses this form: Ammesso e non concesso (assuming, for the sake of argument).
Ammesso e non concesso che quest’uomo sia innocente, lui non avrà problemi a dire la verità.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this man is innocent, he won't have any trouble telling the truth.
or, more literally:
Assuming, but not granting, that this man is innocent, he won't have any trouble telling the truth.
The verb assumere exists as well in Italian. But that’s another story, which we'll get to in a future lesson.
In the English language, with some exceptions, history is told in the past. The historical present does exist, however. In English grammar, the historical present is the use of a verb phrase in the present tense to refer to an event that took place in the past. In narratives, the historical present may be used to create an effect of immediacy. It’s also called the historic present, dramatic present, and narrative present.
But in Italian and other romance languages the historical present is commonly used to recount events in the past, especially when referring to history.
Context is very important, and translating can present some challenges.
Here’s an example of how Italian uses the historical present for something that clearly happened in the past. In English, it would sound a bit strange in the present tense, and the first phrase would be well nigh impossible to express in the present tense.
Pitrè nasce nel milleottocentoquarantuno a Palermo,
Pitrè was born in eighteen hundred forty-one in Palermo,
in una famiglia di pescatori.
in a family of fishermen.
Il padre, un povero marinaio del rione di Santa Lucia,
The father, a poor sailor from the Santa Lucia district,
è costretto, come tanti, ad emigrare in America,
was forced, like many, to emigrate to America,
dove muore di febbre gialla.
where he died of yellow fever.
Captions 28-32, Dottor Pitrè - e le sue storiePlay Caption
In the documentary about Fascism currently available on Yabla, the historical present is used in several instances. Sometimes it makes sense to use it in English, too, as in the following example. By using the historical present, we set the scene. We seem to observe the events from close up, as they happen.
Sono gli anni delle campagne di stampa contro le parole straniere.
These are the years of the publishing campaigns against foreign words.
Parole straniere e borghesia sono mali da estirpare.
Foreign words and the bourgeoisie are evils to be rooted out.
Captions 5-6, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italianaPlay Caption
La "Gazzetta del Popolo" di Torino
Turin's “Gazzetta del Popolo” [The People's Gazzette]
inaugura la rubrica "Una parola al giorno".
launches the feature “Una Parola Al Giorno” [A Word a Day].
Captions 14-15, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italianaPlay Caption
The use of the historical or narrative present in Italian is just something to be aware of. Deciding whether or not to maintain the same tense in translation is a subjective one, based on the tone to be set, or based on clarity. Much of the time, using the past tense in English will be preferred, but not always.
In English we might imagine a dialogue such as this in a group of housemates:
Who will go to the store to buy milk? -I’ll go.
We have a very brief answer. It includes the person who will carry out the task, and the verb “to go.” Anything else is easily inferred.
But in Italian, it’s common to include the place as well, or some other information, as a pronoun. So, the initial question is the same.
Chi va al supermercato per comprare il latte (who will go to the store to buy milk?)
But the answer will probably be:
Ci vado io (I’ll go there). We would not likely say “I’ll go there” in English, but it’s implied.
So, there’s this extra element in Italian, with respect to English: the place. Ci corresponds to “there,” “to that place,” “to the store.”
Here’s an example from Marika’s video about all these particles.
Cominciamo con "ci" più "mi".
Let's begin with “ci” plus “mi.”
"Devo tornare a casa, mi ci porti?"
"I need to go back home. Will you bring me there?”
Captions 17-19, Marika spiega - I pronomi combinatiPlay Caption
Another example, not about a place but about a situation.
Who will take care of this problem? -I will.
Chi si occuperà di questo problema? -Ci penso io.
Ci corresponds to “of this problem,” or “about this problem.”
Italian has these little pronoun particles that say a lot, and they can often be construed to stand for something in English. But more often than not, they stand for some element of a sentence that generally gets left out in English. This makes learning the little words difficult. They don’t seem to correspond to anything.
If you leave them out, and say, for example, vado io, instead of ci vado io, people will understand you anyway, most likely, but little by little, as you use your Italian in real life, you will get the hang of these particles, and include them more and more often in your speech, and your Italian will become more fluent, more "Italian."
There are two parallel paths to becoming more fluent. The first is to listen and repeat, even if you are merely repeating in your mind as someone is speaking. Speaking, even though you know you will make mistakes, is also important. You can’t very well start out speaking perfectly, and communication certainly comes first. Having someone understand you despite all your mistakes is already a win.
The other path is to study and read. Studying can give you those “ah ha” moments when you figure something out, and it can give you some ground rules so you're not completely lost. But studying won’t help you too much in conversation if you don’t follow the listening path. Once you have a rudimentary knowledge of Italian and can communicate, then studying can help you refine your knowledge and skill.
Marika is offering a video series explaining the different kinds of adverbs used in Italian. In many cases, however, these adverbs can also be used as prepositions, or even as conjunctions in other contexts.
Besides knowing what adverb or preposition to use in a given instance, it can be tricky knowing whether you need an extra preposition or not. In fact, when Italians speak English, they often add prepositions where it isn’t necessary. Instead of saying “behind me” they’ll say “behind of me.” It makes a certain amount of sense because we say “in front of me.” And it makes sense to them because that’s how they often do it in Italian. What's even trickier in learning Italian, is that in some cases you can add a preposition or not, and it will still be correct.
Let’s look at a couple of adverbs/prepositions on Marika’s list that can cause confusion. As you can see in the example below, she uses sotto (under, underneath) and dietro (behind) plus another preposition a (to, at).
"Sotto": conservo il pigiama sempre sotto al cuscino.
"Under." I always keep the pyjamas under the pillow.
"Dietro": la mia [sic. il mio] aspirapolvere non arriva dietro al divano.
"Behind." My vacuum cleaner doesn't reach behind the sofa.
Captions 21-22, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi - Avverbi di luogoPlay Caption
The example below is about putting a halter on a horse.
Qui ci andrà il muso.
Here's where the muzzle goes.
Si chiude sotto alla mandibola questo,
You fasten this under the lower jaw,
-OK. -e questo passa dietro alle orecchie.
- OK. -and this goes behind the ears.
Captions 23-26, Francesca - Cavalli - Part 2Play Caption
In the previous examples, there is a preposition added to the adverb/preposition. But you will also hear plenty of Italians leaving the second preposition out. Sotto il cuscino is pretty much as common as sotto al cuscino and both are correct. Al combines the preposition a and the article il.
The examples above could be expressed just as correctly without the addition of a before the object. In this case, the article would be written out: sotto il cuscino, dietro il divano, sotto lamandibola, dietro le orecchie.
Here are some examples where there is no additional preposition.
Ed eravamo un... un mucchio di ragazzini
And we were a... a bunch of kids
e lavoravamo sotto questi camion senza tanta sicurezza.
and we worked underneath these trucks with very few safety measures.
Captions 22-26, Gianni si racconta - Chi sonoPlay Caption
Si nascose dietro uno scoglio per osservare
She hid behind a rock to see
cosa gli stesse accadendo.
what was happening to him.
Captions 50-51, Ti racconto una fiaba - La sirenettaPlay Caption
There is an important exception connected with these adverb/prepositions. If the object is a personal pronoun, then you do need the (second) preposition.
Dietro di me, c’è una finestra.
Behind me, there’s a window.
Vieni dietro a me.
Come on behind me (follow me).
The more you listen, the more often you will catch the short words. They can easily get lost, especially since they are so often combined with the article.
There is more to say about sotto and dietro, as they are used in lots of different contexts. And there are plenty of adverbs to talk about. But we’ll save them for future lessons. Until then, we look forward, as always, to your comments and questions.
We talked about the verbs prendere and riprendere in this lesson.
But in a popular Kimbo commercial for coffee featured on Italian TV, there is a play on words using precisely the verb riprendere, so let’s take a closer look, in order to better appreciate the double meaning.
Ti riprendi? -Sì.
Are you getting a hold of yourself [feeling better]? -Yes.
Me [dialetto romanesco: mi] riprendo un altro caffè.
I'll get a hold of another coffee for myself [I’ll have another coffee].Play Caption
Prendere (to take) is the basic verb. The prefix ri- generally means "again," so it's logical for riprendere to mean "to retake," and it often does.
Gigi Proietti has lost his memory, and the doctor is trying to hypnotize him into remembering something. When we faint, or we feel bad in some way, hopefully, we then "come to," we get a hold of ourselves, we start feeling better. This is another meaning of riprendere, but this time it's the reflexive form, riprendersi. In a reflexive verb, the direct object and the subject are the same. Mi riprendo (I get myself back).
So when Gigi Proietti says, mi riprendo un altro caffè, the direct object in this sentence is caffè (coffee), not Proietti himself. He uses riprendersi, and conjugates it, mi riprendo. On first glance, it looks just like a reflexive verb, but it's not reflexive, because caffè is the direct object. It does, however, use the same attached particles as reflexive and other pronominal verbs, so it's also called un verbo pronominale (pronominal verb). In this case, though, it is specifically un verbo con uso intensivo, o verbo di affetto (an intensified or personalized verb). Apart from its purpose — to personalize or intensify — we can distinguish it from the reflexive verb because, if omitted, the sentence is still complete.
This extra personalization is commonly used in Italian speech, as in "I’ll have for myself another cup of coffee." We could omit "for myself" and simply say "I’ll have another cup of coffee." In Italian too, instead of mi riprendo un altro caffè, Proietti could have said, riprendo un altro caffè, without intensifying it, but of course, then there would have been no play on words.
So, here, mi stands for a me stesso (for myself).
Here's another example. Riprendere, like prendere, is a transitive verb, so we need an object, even if the object is oneself.
Let's say I'm out running. After a sprint...
Riprendo fiato (I catch my breath). Fiato (breath) is the direct object.
If, during a long run, I run out of energy, then maybe I’ll need to rest and drink some water.
Mi prendo una pausa (I take a break for myself). Pausa (break) is the direct object.
Then I start feeling better again and continue the run.
Mi riprendo (I get my energy back). Mi (myself) is the direct object.
Riprendo la corsa (I take up running again). La corsa (running) is the direct object.
In a nutshell:
Verbo transitivo (transitive verb):
Prendere (to take)
Riprendere (to take another, to take again, to continue after an interruption)
Verbo riflessivo (reflexive verb), also verbo pronominale (pronominal verb):
Riprendersi (to start feeling better again)
Verbo intensificato (intensified, personalized verb) also verbo pronominale (pronominal verb):
Prendersi qualcosa (to take something for oneself)
Riprendersi qualcosa (to take something again for oneself)
English doesn’t make the distinction — as far as pronouns go — between familiar and polite forms, but many languages do.
In a recent documentary about how the Italian language was influenced by Italian fascism, we learn that Lei, the polite form of “you” (singular), was actually banned from the language by Mussolini, and that the form Voi was imposed. But what’s this all about?
Let’s clarify, right away, that voi with a lowercase “v” is the second person plural personal pronoun, that is, “you” plural. We use it all the time. What we’re discussing here, however, is the use of Voi — with a capital letter — as a second person singular, polite form. It uses the same conjugation as voi (you plural).
The story is a long, complicated, and fascinating one, but here are the basics.
In ancient Rome, people used only the familiar form, “tu” which later became the Italian tu (you, singular).
At a certain point, around the year 300, the Latin “Vos” ("you" plural used as a singular) began to be used with important figures such as emperors, much the same way as the pluralis majestatis was used.
“Vos” then became Voi in Italian, and was commonly used from the 1200’s to the 1400’s for addressing artists, nobility, etc. Dante used tu and Voi. Later, in the Renaissance, with the return to studying the Greek and Roman classics, there was a tendency to go back to the “Roman” tu.
Also in the Renaissance, Lei began to be used in offices and courts as a polite form of address. Lei corresponds to the third person feminine singular (she/her). The words used for prominent figures, like Eccellenza (Excellence) and Maestà (Majesty) are feminine nouns, and so, this led to a feminine pronoun: Lei. Lei was used alongside Voi for centuries as a deferential form of address, with tu as a familiar and intimate one. Many consider that the use of Lei came into use following the model of the Spanish, whose presence was felt in Italy during the 16th Century.
So, though not actually foreign (but believed to be, at least, partially), Lei was banned by Mussolini as being a non-Italian word:
Imposizione del Voi ...
The imposition of “Voi” ["you" singular, formal] ...
Parole straniere bandite e sostituite per legge.
Foreign words banned and replaced by law.
Captions 6-9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italianaPlay Caption
Thus, Voi was revived and/or imposed all over Italy. After the fall of fascism, Voi fell into disuse in many parts of Italy, where it had not really had time to be assimilated.
In much of southern Italy, however, Voi, as a deferential form of address, had never gone out of fashion, as it had in the north. So, it simply remained, and to this day it’s still used as a sign of respect, especially in families: a nipotino (grandson) in speaking to his nonno (grandfather), for example.
If you are an adult and go on a trip to Naples, Sicily or other southern Italian destination, you may very well be addressed as Voi. This is a sign of respect.
Lei has entered Italian vocabulary and grammar books as the official personal pronoun for addressing someone formally. But since language is fluid and ever-changing — not by law and imposition, but by common use — this could change. There's a lesson about this!
Thanks for reading, keep up the good work, and feel free to write to us at
firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and questions.
In a new video from Yabla, Adriano tells us about a book he wrote. He uses the verb importare (to matter, to be important) a few times. Importare sounds much like the English adjective “important,” but it’s a verb, and needs to be handled accordingly. If you’re not familiar with importare, take a look at this lesson about it. Adriano adds the indirect object pronoun a me/mi to importare, to mean that something does or doesn't matter to him. It’s a little stronger and more personal than non importa (it doesn’t matter).
Ma questo a me non importa.
But this doesn't matter to me.
Caption 5, Adriano - Indietro non si tornaPlay Caption
He could also have said, ma questo non m'importa.
Another verb he uses is vivere. It means “to live” but also “to experience,” so see this lesson about how Italians use vivere.
Bisogna vivere il presente in maniera intensa.
One needs to experience the present in an intense way.
Caption 47, Adriano - Indietro non si tornaPlay Caption
Let’s talk for a moment about the title of Adriano’s book, Indietro non si torna (One Can’t Go Back). First of all, he turns the phrase around to put the emphasis on indietro (back, backwards). He could have entitled it Non si torna indietro and it would mean the same thing, but it would have less impact. The emphasis would have been on non (not).
He uses the impersonal form of the verb tornare (to return, to go back). The impersonal form is peculiar to Latin-based languages and is used quite a bit in Italian, but can be difficult for learners to grasp. See these lessons about the impersonale. To express the same idea in English we often use the passive voice, or, especially in the negative, a general “you” that means anyone and everyone. Although not used much in conversation, English also employs the neutral "one" in the third person singular for the same purpose. In the negative impersonal, the implication is that you shouldn’t or can’t do something. So, we might freely translate Adriano's title as "You can't go back," or "There's no going back."
"A me mi" non si dice.
"To me I" isn't said [you shouldn’t say, you can’t say, you don’t say, one doesn't say].Play Caption
Note how Italians change the word order where in English, it's less common. If we turn the Italian sentence around, it's clearer.
Non si dice "a me mi".
One doesn't say "to me, I."
In an impersonal positive statement, we often use “they” or the passive voice in English.
Si dice che qui il sole spacca le pietre.
It's said [They say] that here, the sun splits rocks.
Caption 41, Adriano - Le stagioni dell'annoPlay Caption
Hopefully, these words about Adriano's video have helped you understand some of the contents a bit better, or have reinforced what you already knew. Keep up the good work, and thanks for reading.
To watch other videos featuring Adriano, just do a search with his name. His videos are generally easy to understand, by way of his clearly articulated and well-paced way of speaking.
As Daniela finishes up talking about the conditional, she sneaks in a word in the subjunctive, which she hasn’t covered in her lessons yet.
"Io, fossi in te, partirei domani".
"If I were you, I would leave tomorrow."Play Caption
And in the previous segment of the lessons on the conditional, she also uses it.
Il condizionale in italiano si usa per esprimere la possibilità
The conditional is used in Italian to express the possibility
che possa succedere qualcosa.
that something could happen.
Captions 21-22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il condizionale - Part 6Play Caption
The conditional often goes hand in hand with the subjunctive, so it's not easy to avoid using the subjunctive sometimes.
For those who are curious, there have been some written lessons about the subjunctive, called the congiuntivo in Italian, and we provide some links here so that you can peruse them.
The subjunctive is necessary in several different kinds of scenarios, and they need to be treated one by one, but in very general terms, most of the time, the subjunctive has to do with uncertainty in some way, and that is why it goes hand in hand with the conditional, since the conditional also deals in uncertainty. Be on the lookout for the conjunction che (that, which) that often necessitates the use of the subjunctive following it.
Another way the subjunctive is used is in polite commands, such as:
mi scusi (excuse me)
It also gets used with impersonal verbs:
Bisogna che vada via entro mezzogiorno (it’s necessary for me to leave by noon), and other impersonal constructions such as:
Sarà difficile che tu vada via entro mezzogiorno (it will be unlikely that you leave by noon).
For the most part, the subjunctive has become a rarity in English but we still do use it, especially when we are speaking formally, or just correctly. And we especially find it in proximity to the conditional.
If I were you I would go right now.
It is incorrect to say “if I was you,” even though lots of people do say it.
A good rule of thumb is to learn the subjunctive conjugation for the verbs you will be using often, like essere (to be), avere (to have), and andare (to go) and even more importantly, to learn some frasi fatte (set phrases), like:
Cosa vuoi che faccia (what do you want me to do)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how serious could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where do you want me to go)?
The verb volere (to want) is used idiomatically here, as a somewhat rhetorical question.
Let's look at some alternative translations of these phrases to get the idea.
Cosa vuoi che faccia (what can I do about it)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how big a deal could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where could I possibly go? — I'll be right here).
Little by little you'll put all the pieces together and know when to use it and when not to use it.
Let’s talk about some other common Italian words containing written accents. In case you missed the lesson in which we started talking about accents, read it here.
The accent on the u at the end of più (more) tells us that the accent of the word doesn’t fall on the i, which is where it would naturally fall.
Più gli ingredienti sono freschi e più è buono.
The fresher the ingredients are, the better it is.
Caption 16, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelatoPlay Caption
A similar-looking word is pio (pious) where the accent does fall on the i, and indeed there is no accent on any letter.
È pio, eh di, di nome e di fatto.
He's Pio [pious], uh in, in name and in fact.Play Caption
In the same manner, ciò (that, what) has an accent on the o to tell us the accent is not on the i where it would normally fall.
È uno che di fronte a una bella donna
He's someone who, faced with a beautiful woman,
si dimentica di ciò che è giusto e ciò che è sbagliato.
forgets what's right and what's wrong.
Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
All the days of the week except il sabato (Saturday) and la domenica (Sunday) have an accent on the i at the end: lunedì (Monday), martedì (Tuesday), mercoledì (Wednesday), giovedì (Thursday), venerdì (Friday). In fact, dì is another word for "day" (normally giorno).
Un bel dì vedremo.
One beautiful day we'll see.Play Caption
Without the accent on the i, it's di (of).
Eppure io non ho mai smesso né di aspettarlo né di amarlo.
Nonetheless I never ceased to wait for him or to love him.Play Caption
Similarly, da (of, from, to, at) has no accent, but when we conjugate the third person singular of the verb dare (to give), we use an accent to distinguish it from da: dà.
Invito Sigrid, una mia studentessa a farvelo sentire,
I invite Sigrid, a student of mine, to let you hear
in modo da mettere in evidenza appunto ogni sillaba
it in order to highlight, precisely each syllable
che dà il nome alle note.
that gives its name to the notes.
Captions 37-39, A scuola di musica - con AlessioPlay Caption
Remember that except for e, where the accent may be either grave (è) or acute (é) to distinguish between an open (è) or closed (é) e, all the accents will be “grave,” that is, going down from left to right (à, ì, ò, ù).
Try learning these words one by one, making the accent part of the word as you learn it. Needless to say, taking advantage of the Yabla games, from multiple choice to Scribe, will help you nail it.
Even though Marika has talked about the particles ne and ci in her video lessons, actually using them in conversation takes some practice. Let’s have a quick look at a few examples in this week’s episode of Commissario Manara.
We often don’t even hear these particles, because we aren’t looking for them. In English, equivalents for them are often superfluous.
This one little word ne represents a preposition plus an indirect object. In the following example, Lara could have said much the same thing leaving out the ne, but using it is more precise. It’s the difference between “I’m sure” and “I’m sure of it.” But in Italian, the particle goes before the verb, as if it were “of it I’m sure.”
Comunque ne sono sicura, non si è uccisa.
Anyway, I'm sure of it. She didn't kill herself.Play Caption
In the following example, we have ci in the first part, which represents "on the furniture" and then, ce ne. Ce represents “there (on the furniture)” and ne represents “of them” (the prints). Remember that when we have a direct object together with the indirect object ci, the ci changes to ce!
Se lei ci fosse salita sopra, sarebbero rimaste le impronte
If she had climbed up on it, the prints would have remained,
e invece non ce ne sono.
but there aren't any [of them].
Captions 8-9, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascostePlay Caption
In the following example, ci represents a noi (to us).
Senti, prima ho trovato il diario di Iolanda.
Listen, earlier I found Iolanda's diary.
Forse può esserci utile.
Maybe it could be useful to us.
Captions 17-18, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascostePlay Caption
Ci is complicated. It means different things in different contexts. So we will keep on talking about ci.
The new Yabla feature, Scribe, is not just a game, even though you'll find it in the "Games" tab (orange button) in the lower right-hand corner of the Player video window. Playing Scribe can be a big help in getting accustomed to particles like ne and ci/ce, because in Scribe we have to try to write down what we hear. And once we start hearing these particles, it will be easier to start using them and putting them in the right place. Stay on the lookout for further information about how to make the most of Scribe to boost your Italian comprehension and spelling skills. Meanwhile, perché non farci un giro (why not give it a whirl)?
Daniela’s lesson this week explains how to form the conditional with verbs ending in “-are.” But endings notwithstanding, the first person plural of verbs will always have a single “m” in the future, and a double “m” in the conditional. So, aside from learning the conjugations, it’s important, as Daniela mentions, to be able to distinguish between -emo, and -emmo. Let’s focus for a moment on the first person plural of the future and the conditional. It’s a good chance to practice double “m’s.”
Here’s the future tense of potere (to be able to) and riuscire (to manage to), with one “m.” The narrator is about to show us some film clips, so it’s a sure thing.
In una serie di filmati, eh, nella... [sic] nel tempo di una pausa caffè,
In a series of film segments, uh, in the... in the time of a coffee break,
potremo vedere alcuni eh castelli, alcuni anfiteatri,
we'll be able to see some uh castles, some amphitheaters,
alcuni templi, della regione della Campania.
some temples, of the region of Campania.
In questo modo appunto riusciremo a parlare di tutte [sic] questi siti archeologici.
That way, we'll be able to talk about all of these archaeological sites.
Captions 9-12, Escursioni Campane - Castello NormannoPlay Caption
In the following example, we find the conditional, so in this case there are two “m’s.” Can you hear them? Try practicing the difference between potremo and potremmo!
Se ti invito a cena questa sera potremmo leggerli tutti.
If I invite you for supper tonight we could read all of them.Play Caption
Let’s look at some more examples. Try rolling them around on your tongue, making sure that the double “m” sits there a moment before pronouncing the “o.”
In the next examples, the meaning is clear. The autopsy is going to take place, so they will find out what they need to know. They use the future.
Se ci sono altre cose lo scopriremo dopo l'autopsia.
If there are other things, we'll find out after the autopsy.
-Qualcosa la sappiamo già adesso.
-We already know something right now.
Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di LeopardiPlay Caption
In the following example, chef Gualtiero Marchesi uses se (if) plus the subjunctive in one clause, and the conditional in the other. This is a classic combination.
Noi finiamo sempre con l'aggiungere delle cose che saranno anche buone,
We always end up adding things that may well be good,
ma se provassimo a [sic] approcciare il prodotto per il prodotto,
but if we tried approaching a product for the product itself,
credo che scopriremmo un mondo nuovo.
I think we'd discover a new world.
Captions 21-23, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'AcquaPlay Caption
For more about the conditional and subjunctive together see this lesson.
To hear more words in the future and conditional, look them up on a conjugation chart, at WordReference, for example, and then do a Yabla search of the conjugation you want to examine, so you can hear the verbs in context pronounced by Italians.
To form a sentence, we need a subject and a verb. For the moment, let’s stick to the most normal kinds of subjects: nouns and pronouns.
At the beginning of the following example, it’s fairly easy to find the subject and verb:
Dixi uscì di casa leggero più di una piuma leggera,
Dixi left the house, lighter than a light feather
perché non aveva ancora fatto merenda.
because he had not yet had a snack.
Captions 3-4, Dixieland - Il singhiozzoPlay Caption
If we look at the second part of the sentence, however, we see the verb avere (to have) in its simple past tense aveva (had). But where is the equivalent of the pronoun “he” that we see in the English translation?
That’s one of the tricky things about learning Italian. The pronoun is included in the verb.
It can be hard to find the subject if we can't see it! How can we tell what the pronoun would be if we can’t see it? Conjugation tables help in finding out what person the verb is expressed in but we also have to get used to the fact that we "get" more than we "see."
Here are a few examples of how this works:
Ho (I have)
Hai (you have)
Ha (he, she, it has)
Abbiamo (we have)
Avete (you [plural] have)
Hanno (they have)
We can’t always know if the implied pronoun is masculine or feminine, because “he” and “she” have the same conjugation. We have to rely on previous information in the sentence or paragraph to know more precisely which it is. In the example above, the subject is Dixi, the flying elephant, who, for our purposes, is a male. Since we’ve already mentioned him by name at the beginning of the sentence, we don’t need to repeat it. Aveva means “he had.” But we could also say:
Dixi non aveva ancora fatto merenda (Dixi had not yet had a snack).
So, the verb is identical whether the noun is present or not. The noun will only be repeated if we want to emphasize that it’s Dixi, and not someone else.
By the same token, if we wanted to include a pronoun, we could. If we needed to stress “he,” we could say:
Lui non aveva ancora fatto merenda (he had not yet had a snack).
If Dixi were a female, we’d say:
Lei non aveva ancora fatto merenda (she had not yet had a snack).
So aveva could mean “he had,” “she had,” “it had,” or just “had.”
In the present tense, it can be tricky to perceive or use the verb avere (to have) or essere (to be) in the third person singular because they’re both such short words, and not only that: Ha (has, he has, she has, it has) is written with an H but that H is silent! So what are we left with? A lonely “Ah” sound. È (is, he is, she is, it is) is short, too, and you need to be careful to use an open “E.” Otherwise, without the grave accent, it means “and.”
So not only do these two verbs go by quickly, but the pronoun “he,” “she,” or “it” may also be hidden within it!
In the following example, we see that the subject of the paragraph is Villa Borghese. Once it has been mentioned by name, we don’t need to repeat it, as long as no other word gets in the way to cause confusion. We use a pronoun, just as we would in English, but it’s important to remember that in Italian, the pronoun is included in the verb itself, so we don’t see it. The second sentence uses the verb essere in the third person singular, and the third sentence uses avere in the third person singular.
Villa Borghese è un grandissimo parco.
Villa Borghese is a very large park.
È il più grande di Roma dopo
It's the biggest park of Rome after
Villa Doria Pamphilj e dopo Villa Ada.
Villa Doria Pamphilj and after Villa Ada.
Ha nove ingressi. Tutti diversi naturalmente.
It has nine entrances. All different obviously.
Captions 3-6, Anna presenta - Villa BorghesePlay Caption
Daniela has taken us through different kinds of verbs and how they interact with verbs in the infinitive.
Here’s a quick overview so you can get up to speed.
She started out by explaining modal verbs and other verbs that work like modal verbs. These verbs don’t need any preposition between the conjugated (modal) verb and the verb in the infinitive. See: Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito and following. Here’s an example.
Non posso andare al cinema stasera. Devo studiare.
I can’t go to the movies tonight. I have to study.
She then gave us some examples of verbs that take the preposition di (of) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + Verbo all'infinito +preposizione “di”
Ho deciso di andare al cinema da sola. Ho dimenticato di ritirare dei soldi al bancomat.
I decided to go to the movies alone. I forgot to get some money at the ATM machine.
In her most recent lessons, she has talked about verbs that take the preposition a (to) between the conjugated verb and the verb in the infinitive. See Corso di italiano con Daniela - Verbo + verbo all'infinito + preposizione “a”
Se non ho gli occhiali, non riesco a leggere.
If I don't have glasses I can't manage to read.Play Caption
Daniela talks about several verbs in this context but let’s take a closer look at the verb riuscire because, although commonly used in Italian, it can be tricky to translate and has some important nuances.
Riuscire means “to succeed.” In the following example, it makes sense to us.
Sono riuscito a convincerlo della mia innocenza.
I succeeded in convincing him of my innocence.
But Daniela’s example above would sound a bit stilted with the verb “to succeed”:
If I don't have my glasses on, I don't succeed in reading.
In English, we would likely use the modal verb “to be able” or “to manage.”
I can’t read without my glasses.
I’m unable to read without my glasses.
I can’t manage to read without my glasses.
Remember this saying when thinking about the verb riuscire: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Non riesco (I can’t) implies that I am trying, but I’m not succeeding. Non posso (I can’t) on the other hand, could mean any number of things having to do with permission, ability, money, etc. So riuscire (to succeed) is a bit more specific than potere (to be able to).
Riesci a inquadrarla? -Sì.
Are you able to get a shot of it? -Yes.
Caption 22, Anna e Marika - Hostaria Antica RomaPlay Caption
You could use the verb “to succeed” here, but it would sound a bit odd in conversation.
Are you succeeding in getting a shot of it?
Will you succeed in getting a shot of it?
Here’s another example:
...e poi, quando riuscivamo [ad] avere
...and then, when we succeeded in having
two liras [a couple of dollars],
Caption 13, L'arte della cucina - La Prima IdentitáPlay Caption
We could also say, “when we were able to get a hold of two liras...” or “when we managed to get a hold of two liras...”
In the negative, riuscire can be used for saying “I give up.”
Non ci riesco (I am not succeeding in it/I can’t manage it).
The ci here refers to “in it,” or “at it.”
But using riuscire in the negative implies that you gave something a try. If you say non posso, we don't know anything about why you can't. Your mother won’t let you? You don’t know how? It’s against your religion? Riuscire, on the other hand, implies you are willing, but unable.
Riuscire is one of those verbs you might not use immediately while learning Italian because it’s easier to use potere (to be able to). Understanding how Italians use riuscire is handy, however, and once you are accustomed to hearing and reading it, you will probably start using it, too!
Marika uses riuscire in her presentation of Yabla. Her advice is sound!
Se invece non ci riesci, non ti preoccupare, ti devi solo allenare.
If you don't succeed, don't worry, you just need to practice.
Caption 36, Yabla-Intro - MarikaPlay Caption
Object pronouns can be very tricky to use because there isn’t just one way to construct a phrase. Especially when dealing with modal verbs, which go hand in hand with infinitives, the object pronoun can go either before the conjugated verb or after the infinitive. The trick is that, as we shall see, the pronoun actually gets attached to the infinitive, which loses its final e.
Let's look at an example.
Here, the object pronoun comes just before the conjugated verb volere, which is modal.
Possiamo dire: ho comprato un'auto nuova. La vuoi vedere?
We can say, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"
Captions 58-60, Marika spiega - I pronomi direttiPlay Caption
Here, on the other hand, the object pronoun not only follows the infinitive, it's attached to it. In order to attach it, the final e of the infinitive vedere is omitted.
Oppure: ho comprato un'auto nuova. Vuoi vederla?
Or else, "I bought a new car. Do you want to see it?"
Captions 61-62, Marika spiega - I pronomi direttiPlay Caption
There are several pieces of dialogue in a recent episode of Commisario Manara that lend themselves to having their word order changed as explained above. Why not give it a try, and consult the solutions at the bottom of the page to check your answers. If this is new to you, then go right to the solutions, and see how they differ from the examples.
First, find the elements: the conjugated verb (likely modal), the infinitive verb, and the object pronoun. The next step is to rephrase the sentence, changing the position of the pronoun.
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Uh, you could have told me that at the office tomorrow, couldn't you?Play Caption
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
You said some very beautiful things. Don't forget them. They work.
Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donnePlay Caption
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
However, I don't want, I don't want to lose you.Play Caption
Let me work on it.
Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
As soon as I have the results, I'll come to report them to you.Play Caption
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh.
All right, good night, and sorry for before.
-Non devi scusarti.
-You don't have to apologize.
Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donnePlay Caption
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
And what did you want to talk to me about?
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
I wanted to talk to you about a financial situation.
Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donnePlay Caption
Here are the examples and their solutions, for a quick comparison.
Eh, me lo potevi dire anche domani in ufficio, no?
Eh, potevi dirmelo anche domani in ufficio, no?
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non scordarle. Funzionano.
Hai detto delle cose bellissime. Non le scordare. Funzionano.
Però non voglio, io non voglio perderti.
Però non voglio, io non ti voglio perdere.
Mi lasci lavorare?
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, te li vengo a riferire.
Lasciami lavorare. Appena ho i risultati, vengo a riferirteli.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non devi scusarti.
Va be', buona notte e scusami tanto per prima, eh. -Non ti devi scusare.
E di che cosa mi volevi parlare?
E di che cosa volevi parlarmi?
Ti volevo parlare di una situazione finanziaria.
Volevo parlarti di una situazione finanziaria.
Don't forget to read the examples out loud to see how they feel!
As you follow this and other videos, and as you start speaking in Italian, hopefully, you'll start to feel comfortable with these different word order options.You’ll start noticing these constructions in most videos you look at.
Sapere sapere sapere. We keep coming back to the same verbs, but there’s always something more to learn!
We have already covered the verb sapere (to know, to know how to, to have the flavor/smell of) in previous lessons. But this week, Daniela talks about sapere once again. This time she discusses the most common meaning of sapere: to have knowledge of something. She explains how to use sapere in this sense, when followed by a verb in the infinitive rather than by a noun.
She explains about using the preposition di between conjugated sapere and the verb in the infinitive:
Allora diciamo: sappiamo di essere i più forti. I più forti.
So we say, "We know we're the strongest. The strongest."Play Caption
So di essere in ritardo.
I know I am late. (Or, I know that I’m late.)
The preposition di is generally translated as "of," but the trick here is that in English we don’t use the preposition “of” in this kind of situation. We either use “that,” as in “I know that I am late,” or we don’t use any preposition at all, as in “I know I am late.” All in all, sapere plus di plus infinitive is a construction that is difficult to match up in English, so we just have to assimilate it as best we can.
Let’s look at some more examples of sapere plus di, so you can get a feel for it.
Uno stupido non sa di essere stupido (an idiot doesn’t know he’s stupid).
Sappiamo di doverti delle scuse (we know we owe you an apology).
Sai di essere l’unica persona in grado di risolvere il problema (do you know you are the only person able to solve the problem)?
Sapete di camminare in mezzo alla strada (do you know you are walking in the middle of the road)?
Sanno di infrangere la legge, ma non gli importa niente (they know they are breaking the law, but they don’t care).
Leonardo sa di essere stato scorretto con me (Leonardo knows he has not been fair with me).
One of the other ways sapere gets used is to mean “to know how to.” Daniela has explained this in another video lesson:
Per esempio, io posso dire: Luca sa nuotare.
For example, I may say, "Luca knows how to swim."Play Caption
Here are some additional examples of this meaning. It should be mentioned that in this case, sapere acts like a modal verb, such as “can,” “must,” “may,” etc. Remember that with modal verbs, there is no preposition before the infinitive.
Non so parlare spagnolo (I don’t know how to speak Spanish).
Roberto non sa cucinare (Roberto doesn’t know how to cook).
Non sapete leggere fra le righe (you don’t know how to read between the lines).
I miei genitori non sanno ballare (my parents don’t know how to dance).
And let’s not forget that we can also use sapere before a noun.
Sai l’ora (do you know the time)?
So quello che dico (I know what I’m saying).
So l’inglese (I know English).
Di quella canzone, Gianna non sa abbastanza bene le parole (Gianna doesn’t know the words to that song well enough).
Daniela has talked about the fact that ricordare (to remember) takes the preposition di. In a recent episode of Stai lontana da me, there is a scene where the verb ricordare appears a number of times. Let’s take a closer look.
In the following example, Simona is using ricordare reflexively: ricordarsi (to remember), but very generally, in that there is no direct object at all. She’s just saying, “You don’t remember, do you?”
È incredibile, sono passati trent'anni e sei identico.
It's incredible, thirty years have passed and you are the same.
-Identico a chi?
-The same as who?
-Sono Simona, non ti ricordi, eh?
-I'm Simona, you don't remember, do you?
Captions 17-19, Stai lontana da me - Rai CinemaPlay Caption
But then, as they keep talking, we start hearing some direct object pronouns as well.
Ma figurati, ma io manco me la ricordo 'sta maledizione.
But are you kidding? But I don't even remember this curse.
Caption 29, Stai lontana da me - Rai CinemaPlay Caption
Of course in English, we don’t normally include the direct object pronoun together with the direct object noun.
'Sta maledizione (this curse) is the actual direct object of the above example and the one below.
Ma come non te la ricordi?
But how can you not remember?
-Ma non me la ricordo, era alle elementari, Jacopo.
-But I don't remember it, it was elementary school, Jacopo.
Caption 30, Stai lontana da me - Rai CinemaPlay Caption
In the following example, just the indirect object pronoun (mi in this case) is used because what was remembered (the fact of being sweethearts) is then explained in a separate clause.
Eh, mi ricordo che eravamo fidanzatini, poi, non so, è successo qualcosa e...
Uh, I remember we were sweethearts and then something happened and...
Caption 31, Stai lontana da me - Rai CinemaPlay Caption
So when we don’t need to be specific, mi ricordo or non mi ricordo (I remember/I don’t remember) will do.
When there is no direct pronoun, just an indirect pronoun, we can ask the question:
Do you remember?
But when we specify what is being remembered, we either insert a direct object noun:
Ti ricordi quel viaggio...?
Do you remember that trip...?
Or a verbal phrase:
Ti ricordi di aver fatto quel viaggio nel settantanove?
Do you remember having made that trip in seventy-nine?
Attenzione! This is when we need di, as Daniela has explained in a recent video lesson! Ricordare is a verb that takes the preposition di when followed by a verb in the infinitive, whether or not it is reflexive.
We can also insert a direct object pronoun. Attenzione! This causes a shift. In this case, the indirect pronoun changes from an i ending to an e ending. The direct pronoun will be lo (it), la (it), li (them), or le (them): In this particular case the object is viaggio (trip), a masculine noun.
Te lo ricordi?
Do you remember it?
Me lo ricordo
I remember it.
Se lo ricordano.
They remember it.
You can practice forming sentences with only an indirect pronoun. Then add a direct object pronoun corresponding to a noun you are thinking of, and make the shift, as above.