Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Let’s Combine the Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

If we learn how to combine “commonly used phrases” with the imperfetto and the passato prossimo, we will be able to speak about events in the recent past, just as we do in our native language!

In our most recent blog, Speaking About the Past: Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo? we discussed in detail adverbs and phrases of frequency used to signal when to use the imperfetto and when to use the passato prossimo. At the end of the previous blog is a short summary of how to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in a two phrase sentence using the adverbs mentre and quando. This blog will build on the previous information we have learned about the imperfetto and the passato prossimo and demonstrate a step-by-step process that can be used to create compound sentences with two or more phrases that contain both past tenses.  

This post is the 60th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

signal the intent of the speaker to use both

the imperfetto and the  passato prossimo.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*The imperfetto is not only used with the passato prossimo. In fact, the imperfetto is the only past tense form that can be used in combination with every other Italian past tense — whether speaking about the recent past or the remote past.

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

 

Choosing an Italian Past Tense

Let’s start our blog about how to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo by reviewing some general rules of Italian grammar. We learned in our last blog, on this topic, that the circumstances surrounding the event will determine which Italian past tense to use. Luckily, imbedded in many Italian sentences about past events are certain words and phrases that will  indicate whether the imperfetto or the passato prossimo is needed.  The intent of the speaker will be signaled by these phrases, which will then trigger use of the correct Italian past tense. 

To describe a past event in a complex way — in Italian as well as in our native language — we must create a compound sentence. Compound sentences contain more than one phrase separated by commas or conjunctions, such as: and, while, when, but, or. In Italian, to create a compound sentence about a recent past event, we will have to decide which verb tense to use — the imperfetto or passato prossimo. 

Of course, when speaking about an event of interest that happened in the recent past, a compound sentence can be created using only the imperfetto or only the passato prossimo, as noted in our last blog.  Our focus in this blog will be on the situations that require both the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.

 


 

Combine the Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
with Mentre and Quando

One of the most common reasons to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo is to give background information for an action under discussion.  In this case, the imperfetto is the past tense of choice to describe the setting and the completed action is relayed with the passato prossimo.

 

What Italian words or phrases can I use to introduce the setting for a past event?

 

As every actor knows, the setting is defined as the time and place in which an action occurs. Since the imperfetto is used to describe the setting for a past event in Italian, expressions of time in the past are important triggers for the imperfetto.

Some common expressions of past time are given in the tables below using ieri (yesterday),scorso(a) (last), and the preposition da (for). (Note: There are, of course, other meanings for the preposition da. Also, these expressions can also be used with the passato prossimo, but generally additional, more specific information is required, as discussed in our last blog.)

Expressions of Time in the Past with Ieri

stamattina this morning
ieri yesterday
l’altro ieri the day before yesterday
ieri mattina
ieri pomeriggio
ieri sera
yesterday morning
yesterday afternoon
yesterday evening

Expressions of Time in the Past with Scorso

scorso(a) last
la notte scorsa last night
la settimana scorsa last week
il mese scorso last month
l’anno scorso last year
   
lunedì scorso last Monday
martedì scorso last Tuesday
mercoledì scorso last Wednesday
giovedì scorso last Thursday
venerdì scorso last Friday
sabato scorso last Saturday
domenica scorsa last Sunday

Use of “da…” in Italian

da tempo

for some time

da un’ora
da due ore
ecc.

for one hour
for two hours
etc.

da un mese
da due mesi
ecc.

for one month
for two months
etc.

da un anno
da due anni
ecc.

for one year
for two years
etc.

The description of the place in which an action occurred can include general interior or exterior surroundings, the weather, or even a prior event. Luckily, language students generally learn the vocabulary to describe various locations early on in their studies, which is also an important first step to learn about any culture. The larger cities and regions in Italy are important to commit to memory. Some common local places where events may take place include at home, at school, at work, or in one of the many shops in the piazza! 

 

How else can I start a phrase to talk about the setting of a past event with the imperfetto?

Mentre, which means “while” in Italian, is a specific sign that a setting or background action is to be relayed in a phrase. Mentre is not required in compound sentences that use both the imperfetto and passato prossimo, but when used it is very helpful. This is because mentre is only used with the imperfetto! 

 

How can use of the imperfetto affect the meaning of a descriptive phrase in Italian?

It is also important to remember that the imperfetto can be translated into English in three ways:  the simple past tense,  used to,” or “was/were-ing.” The translation “used to” refers to a habitual action in the the past that is no longer being done. The translation “was/were-ing” is used to describe an action that started in the past but may or may not have been completed. 

Just as the Italian present tense can be translated as “I go” or “I am going,” in the past tense, the imperfetto can be translated as, “I went” or “I was going.” For emphasis, one could use stare in both situations to create a compound verb with sto andando (I am going) or stavo andando (I was going). But it is so much easier and so much more common in Italian to use both the simple present tense or the imperfetto past tense without creating a compound verb!

 

Once I know the setting, about mentre, and about how to relay information using the imperfetto, am I ready to create a compound sentence about the past in Italian? 

With all of this in mind… the easiest way to create a compound sentence about the past in Italian is…

Start the first phrase with mentre and give the setting with a verb in the impefetto. Or, just refer to the general time, the weather, or to an action without giving a specific time frame. Note: the descriptive phrase with the imperfetto is often, but not always, the first phrase.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of introductory phrases one can create. Four examples are given below to get us started, with the imperfetto verb underlined.

  1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamattina…           While I was reading the newspaper this morning…
  2. Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso…            While I was visiting Florence last year…
  3.  Lunedì scorso,  pioveva…                                  Last Monday, it was raining
  4. Da due anni abitavo con mia zia…                    For two years I lived with my aunt…

Now, let’s add a phrase with a completed action to each example above. The passato prossimo is required for this second phrase. See the previous blog on this topic for a short list of Italian verbs that are often used to describe completed actions.

If mentre is not used in the introductory phrase,  use quando (when) with the phrase in the passato prossimo. However, quando is not a specific trigger for the passato prossimo phrase, as quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase. The completed action is often, but not always, the second phrase. 

 

Let’s complete the first two examples that start with mentre. The passato prossimo verb used in the completed phrase is in green.

  • 1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato.
        While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived.
  • 2.  Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso, ho incontrato Maria per caso al Ristorante Paoli.   
         While I was visiting Florence last year, I happened to meet Maria at Ristorante Paoli.

Below is our third example that omits mentre in the imperfetto phrase. Notice how quando is used in the passato prossimo phrase that completes the sentence.

  • 3. Lunedì scorso, pioveva quando sono andato a trovare mia mamma.
        Last Monday, it was raining when I went to visit my mother.

An alternate rendition of the same phrase that uses quando with the imperfetto phrase:

  •    Quando pioveva lunedì scorso, sono andato a trovare mia mamma.
        When it was raining last Monday, I went to visit my mother.

Our final example in a completed sentence:

  • 4. Da due anni, abitavo con mia zia quando ho trovato un appartamento perfecto per me.
        For two years, I was living with my aunt when I found an apartment perfect for me.

This last example implies the speaker has not yet moved into her new apartment. Remember from our last blog on this topic that if those two years had been completed and the speaker was already in the new apartment, we would need to use the preposition per with the passato prossimo! The introductory phrases would read: “Per due anni, ho abitato con mia zia…” In short, the imperfetto was chosen to give the circumstances of the situation, so the speaker does not have to give the details of where he or she is currently living; this extra information is included with the use of the imperfetto!

 

Can I put the imperfetto phrase second and the passato prossimo phrase first in a compound sentence?

All four of the example sentences given above work with the phrases reversed. We have already done this with the third example. The first example sentence is reprinted here. Try the rest on your own if you like!

Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato.
 While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived.

-or-

La cameriera è arrivato mentre leggevo il giornale stamattina.
The maid arrived while I was reading the newspaper this morning.

 

How do I create a compound sentence about the past in Italian using three phrases?

Of course, it is possible in Italian to create a compound sentence in the past tense with more than two phrases, as the case in English (and most every other language).  For Italian, just continue to follow the Italian grammar we have learned for the imperfetto and passato prossimo for each phrase in your sentence!

Remember that the imperfetto is also used to describe a state of being and it is common to describe how one feels about a situation that has occurred in the past. In fact, if the speaker has chosen to use the imperfetto in combination with the passato prossimo, this implies that the past event still affects their emotions or their life in some way. So in some cases, a sentence may start with the imperfetto, the second phrase use the passato prossimo, and the third phrase again use the imperfetto!

 

In short, any combination of phrases that use the imperfetto and passato prossimo is possible,
as long as the verb in each phrase follows the rules for each.

The circumstances surrounding each event and intent of the speaker
will determine which rules apply.

Let’s provide even more detail about the past situation in our original four examples above by adding a second completed or a description of how the speaker felt at the time.

  • 1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato e ha pulito tutta la casa.
    While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived and cleaned the entire house.
  • 2. Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso, ho incontrato Maria per caso al Ristorante Paoli ma non abbiamo avuto tempo per cenare insieme.
    While I was visiting Florence last year, I happened to meet Maria at Ristorante Paoli but we didn’t have time to dine together.
  • 3. Lunedì scorso, pioveva quando sono andato a trovare mia mamma e mi sono bagnata molto!
    Last Monday, it was raining when I went to visit my mother and I got very wet!
  • 4. Da due anni, abitavo con mia zia quando ho trovato un appartamento perfecto per me e dopo ero molto contento.
    For two years, I was living with my aunt when I found an apartment perfect for me and afterwards I felt very happy.

In summary:

Mentre is only used with the imperfetto phrase!

Quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase. 

 

When creating a compound sentence in Italian,
 simply remember the rules for the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.


 

Combine Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
with Perché and Poiché

Another important reason to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo  is to describe the cause behind a past event. In this case, the element mentioned in the imperfetto phrase (the cause) is the reason behind the action/result (the effect) given in the passato prossimo phrase. This makes intrinsic sense, since the imperfetto is used for descriptive purposes and the passato prossimo is used to relate a completed event.

Cause/effect phrases that combine the imperfetto and passato prossimo often start with the effect in the first phrase (with the passato prossimo) and then give the cause behind the past event in the second phrase (with the imperfetto). The two phrases are usually linked with the conjunction perché, In this case, perché means because/since/so that.

However, an Italian sentence can also start with the cause for a completed event (effect) that will be mentioned in a second phrase. In this case the most common conjunction to use is poiché, which is translated as “considering that” or “because/since.” Even when poiché is translated as because/since, the meaning underlying poiché is “considering that” — the issue has been taken into consideration prior to  the response.

Although, to the outsider, this change in conjunctions to describe cause and effect may seem minor, it actually originates with an important rule of Italian grammar that determines how to use perché. Perché is used to start a sentence when one wants to ask the reason why.  Perché also means because when linking phrases. Perhaps to avoid confusion between these two definitions, perché can only be used at the beginning of a sentence with the meaning of because in direct answer to a question that starts with perché (why) or come mai (how come). In this case, the subject of the sentence is understood, and to repeat it would be unnecessary; this understanding effectively “bumps” perché from its usual role as a conjunction between to phrases to the beginning of the sentence!

An example of how perché can change its meaning with simple question/answer sentences:

Perché sei andato a Roma?
Why did you go to Rome?
 
(Sono andato a Roma) Perché avevo un meeting lì.
(I went to Rome) Because I had a meeting there.

 

In short,  other Italian conjunctions besides perché are required to start a sentence with a causation phrase, including when one combines the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. Poiché (considering that/seeing as how/because/since) is the most common conjunction used in conversation. Other options include: “per quale regione” (for that reason/because), and in a more formal situation or writing: siccome (given that/seeing as how/because), dato che (seeing as/since), visto che (given that/considering that/seeing that), dal momento che (seeing as/since). 

Now that we know some basic rules about Italian conjunctions used to describe causation, let’s finally combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo to talk about the past. In the examples below, the cause behind a past event with the imperfetto is given in blue, the conjunction is in red, and the effect/completed event given in the passato prossimo is green. Notice how the imperfetto and the passato prossimo verbs (which are underlined) are linked to the cause and effect phrases.

Example 1:

Sono rimasto a casa ieri perché avevo la febbre alta.
I remained at home yesterday because I had a high fever.

-or-

Poiché avevo la febbre alta, sono rimasto a casa ieri. 
Because I had a high fever, I remained at home yesterday.

 

Example 2:

Maria ha comprato quel vestito nero ieri perché era in saldo.
Maria bought that dress because it was on sale.

-or-

Poiché era in saldo, Maria ha comprato quel vestito nero ieri.
Because it was on sale. Maria bought that dress yesterday.

 

An example in our last blog on this topic also combines the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in a sentence to describe causation, although this fact was not mentioned in the blog. Below is the scenario again, with the second sentence that begins with “subito dopo” serving as the cause/effect example.

Notice in the cause/effect example below that the passato prossimo is used in phrases both before and after the imperfetto phrase. In this example, we have combined three phrases that describe the past in one sentence!

The words “subito dopo” emphasize the short duration of the action in the first phrase. In  the second phrase. the imperfetto sets up the action for the third phrase; the cause is listed first with poiché. Of course, act of opening a door described in the third phrase is normally an event of short duration and so uses the passato prossimo.

Maria si è arrabbiata con Marco ed è andata a casa.
Mary became angry with Mark and Mary went home. 

Subito dopo, Marco è andato a casa di Maria e poiché bussava alla porta
continuamente, Maria ha aperto.
Shortly after, Mark went to Mary’s house and seeing as how he was knocking on the door continuously, Maria opened it.

 

 

Remember how combine imperfetto and the passato prossimo
and I guarantee
you will use these Italian past tenses every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Speaking About the Past: Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo?

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  in the past tense with the  imperfetto and the passato prossimo   in our conversations, we will be able to speak about an event in the past in Italian, just as we do in our native language!

Previous blogs in this series have discussed the basics of how to conjugate and use the imperfetto  and the passato prossimo to speak about the recent past.* As we’ve mentioned before, the conjugation of these verb forms is fairly straightforward; the tricky part is knowing which past tense to choose to describe a particular event.   

To make matters more complex, a compound sentence can be created using only the imperfetto, only the passato prossimo, or a combination of both. And in many situations, the same event can be described in Italian using either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo! Given this complexity, how is a non-native speaker to know how to create Italian sentences to describe what has happened the past?

As a general rule, the circumstances surrounding the event will determine which past tense to use. Luckily, imbedded in many Italian sentences about past events are certain words and phrases that will  indicate whether the imperfetto or the passato prossimo are necessary.  The intent of the speaker will be signaled by these phrases, which will then trigger use of the correct Italian past tense.

This post is the 59th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

signal the intent of the speaker to use

the imperfetto or the  passato prossimo.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*The imperfetto is not used only with the passato prossimo. In fact, the imperfetto is the only past tense form that can be used in combination with every other Italian past tense — whether speaking about the recent past or the remote past.

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

 Imperfetto
Adverbs and Phrases of Frequency

In a previous blog in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Past Tense Imperfetto, we discussed that to make general statements about the past in Italian, or to describe a general state of being, one needs to master the imperfetto past tense. If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the imperfetto past tense, please visit the prior blog.  In this section, we will focus on phrases that trigger the use of the imperfetto past tense.

Italians often use the imperfetto to express an action that was done habitually in the past but is no longer being done.  Can you think of some things that might take place every day? For instance, reading the paper, going to school, going to work, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner?  If you want to talk about how you’ve done these things in the past, use the imperfetto!

Sentences that use the imperfetto in this way are translated either into the simple present tense or as “used to” and often include an adverb of frequency. Several adverbs of frequency are listed in the following table, with examples to follow:

Italian Adverbs of Frequency

di solito usually/often times
spesso very often
quasi sempre almost always
sempre always

 

Di solito, io finivo la lezione all’una il lunedì.
Usually, I used to finish/finished the class at one o’clock on Mondays.

Quando ero piccolo, andavo a casa di mia nonna molto spesso.
When I was small, I went to my grandmother’s house very often.

Quasi sempre mi sentivo male quando viaggiavo in barca.
I almost always felt sick when I traveled by boat.

In short, if an adverb of frequency is part of an introductory phrase, this gives the sense of repetition  about an event in the past.  Therefore, the speaker is preparing the listener for the imperfetto!  Notice that in the last two examples,  the second verb in the sentence follows the intention of the first, and also uses the imperfetto. To sound like a native Italian, incorporate adverbs of frequency into your sentences with the imperfetto!

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Introductory Phrases for Repetitive Actions

There are, of course, many introductory phrases that give the same idea of repetition as the adverbs of frequency, and Italians make good use of these phrases.  Describe any general time of day, month, or year, and use the imperfetto! 

If one had a particular habit during the morning, he or she could say, “Di mattina…” Similarly, if a habitual action was done at night, the phrase, “Di notte…” can be used. Other repetitive actions might happen, “Tutte le mattine…”  or Tutte le notti…” for every morning” and every night.” Or perhaps, according to the season: d’ inverno, in primavera, d’estate, in autunno.

“Negli anni Settanta…” means, “In the seventies…”  or any nonspecific period of time during the years between 1970 and 1979. If one uses introductory phrases of this type, it is his or her intention to state that something was done habitually but during a nonspecific period of time. Of course, the word “habit” is left out of both the Italian sentence and the usual English translation but is be translated using “used to,” as noted above for the adverbs of frequency, to give this idea. The intention of the speaker is understood by his or her use of the imperfetto! 

For example:

Di mattina/Tutte le mattine… aiutavo mia mamma a preparare la prima colazione.
In the mornings/Every morning…   I helped/used to help my mother prepare breakfast.

Di notte/ Tutte le notti… facevo la doccia.
At night/Every night… I took/used to take a shower.

Or, perhaps one previously went to church every week.  Introduce this fact with, “La domenica…” Remember that when Italians place a definite article before any day of the week, it is their way of describing a recurring event on that day. “On Sundays…” means every week on Sunday.  You can even add an adverb of frequency for additional emphasis.

La domenica, andavo in chiesa spesso.
On Sundays, I used to go to church often.

Two often used introductory phrases, “Quando ero piccolo…”  and “C’era una volta…”  serve as a reminder that the imperfetto is the past tense of choice for description and narration.

“Quando ero piccolo…”  “When I was young…” was used in the first group of example sentences in this blog.  This phrase is usually followed by another verb in the imperfetto, as already noted, to follow the circumstances surrounding the event have been set up initially. This phrase also reinforces the idea that the imperfetto is used to describe a general state of being.

“C’era una volta…” translates as the nonspecific, “Once upon a time…” This phrase is a good way to remember the function of the imperfetto to recount imaginary tales, whether codified as a fairy tale or fable, a “tall tale” one has made up to impress others,  or a dream one has had at night. Since they are imaginary, of course these happenings don’t have a specific time frame in which to occur!

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the imperfetto:
use the imperfetto when making generalizations about the past.


 Passato Prossimo
Specific Periods of Time

The passato prossimo is used to describe past events that have been completed  within a specific time frame, including multiple events in succession. For multiple completed actions in succession, the most remote event is listed first, and then the events that follow are stated according to the time line in which they occurred.

Helpful words or phrases that introduce the passato prossimo often emphasize a specific time frame by giving the actual time period using dalle… alle… (from… to…) or implying an action of short duration, such as subito (right away), subito dopo (right after), or al improvviso (suddenly).

Certain verbs that describe actions of short duration, usually with a precise starting and ending point, are more commonly used with the passato prossimo than the imperfetto. Below is a list of several commonly used verbs of this type.

  1. Verbs of movement from one place to another:  andare (to go),  venire (to come), entrare (to enter), partire (to leave), etc.
  2. Verbs of beginning and ending: cominciare/iniziare (to start), finire (to finish), etc.
  3. Verbs that describe actions known to usually be of short duration: bussare (to knock, such as on the door), chiamare (to call), etc.
  4. Verbs of communication: chiedere/domandare (to ask), rispondere (to answer), etc.
  5. Changing emotions from one state to another: arrabbiarsi (to get angry), etc.

Let’s create a compound sentence using these verbs in the passato prossimo to describe a series of completed events in a sequence.

Marco è andato alla festa con Maria, dove loro hanno bevuto birra e mangiato una pizza, e dopo hanno ballato la loro canzone preferita.

Mark went to the party with Maria, where they drank beer and ate a pizza and after danced to their favorite song.

Note, however, that the list of verbs above is a general list and all of the verbs in this list can also be used with the imperfetto, depending on the circumstances and the intention of the speaker!  Take bussare, for instance.  Most times, a person would knock on the door once and wait for the door to be opened. This one time event, started and completed in a short time, would be described with the passato prossimo. For instance, we can imagine what happened in our last example when Mark went to pick up Mary prior to the party: 

Marco ha bussato alla porta e Maria è venuta subito ad aprire.
Mark knocked on the door and Mary came quickly to open (it).

Let’s create different circumstances for our story with Mark and Mary. Perhaps instead of having fun, Mark and Mary had an argument at the party and Mary left early. Mark decided to apologize and comes to Mary’s house and knocks continuously on the door to get her to open it. In this situation, remember the translation of the imperfetto as “was/were-ing” to describe and action that started in the past and continued for a nonspecific amount of time.

Below are example sentences from our hypothetical story that use the imperfetto to emphasize that Mark knocked on the door for an unusually long,  but nonspecific period of time. Note the addition of the adverb continuamente in this example sentence to reinforce the idea that the event took longer than usual.

Also the words “subito dopo” alert one to use the passato prossimo in the first phrase. The actions of becoming angry, going home, and opening a door are normally of short duration.

Maria si è arrabbiata con Marco e Maria è andata a casa.
Mary became angry with Mark and Mary went home. 

Subito dopo, Marco è andato a casa di Maria e poiché bussava alla porta
continuamente, Maria ha aperto.

Shortly after, Mark went to Mary’s house and seeing as how he was knocking on the door continuously, Maria opened it.

Now let’s look at the verb chiamare.  If we called someone once, we can use the passato prossimo. But if we called that person habitually, on a certain day or at a certain time, we need to use the imperfetto! Again, circumstances will determine the use of this verb. And by the use of the past tense, we in turn understand the intent of the speaker!

Ho chiamato mia mamma ieri sera.   I called my mother last night.
                                                     – but –
Chiamavo mia mamma ogni sera.     I used to call my mother every night.

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When Tutto Means “the Whole”

Another important point:  Don’t be confused by the use of tutto!

When used with nouns that refer to the days of the week, such as “tutti i giorni”  the meaning of tutti  is usually “every,” which implies repetition, and the imperfetto is the past tense of choice.

But tutto also means “the whole.” When the intent is to say “the whole” of a particular time period, we have given the time period a beginning and an end and then we need to use the passato prossimo!

Again, the circumstances the speaker is describing will determine the type of Italian past tense to use.  Often specific details about a time or place will be given to signal the intent to use tutto to mean “the whole” with the passato prossimo.

Tutte le mattine d’estate, andava al mare per fare il bagno.
Every morning during the summer, I used to go to the sea to swim.

– but –

Ho passato tutto la mattina, dalle nove a mezzogiorno a fare il bagno al mare.
I spent all morning, from 9 AM until noon, swimming at the seashore.

In fact, if we take any of the introductory phrases for repetitive actions given in the first section and change them to refer to a specific period of time, then we will need to use the passato prossimo! Let’s change “negli anni settanta” to make this phrase more specific:

Negli anni settanta portavo i jeans con il “bel bottoms.”
In the 1970s, I wore jeans with “bell bottoms.”

– but –

Per tutti gli anni settanta, ho portato i jeans con il “bel bottoms.”
For all of the 1970s, I wore jeans with “bell bottoms.”

Durante gli anni settanta, dal 1970 al 1974, sono andato all’Università.
During the 1970s, from 1970 to 1974, I went to college.

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the passato prossimo:
use the passato prossimo for a specific, time-limited activity.


Expressions of Time in the Past


The expressions of time in the past listed below add valuable information to a sentence. For instance, the adverb ieri can be used to modify a verb in the imperfetto to give a general reference about when an event occurred. “Sometime yesterday” is implied when the speaker chooses to pair ieri with the imperfetto.

Ieri can also be used with the passato prossimo, but in this case, a specific time of day is usually included in the sentence, given that the passato prossimo requires events to have taken place within a defined period of time. It is possible to use ieri alone with the passato prossimo, with the understanding that the defined period of time is “the entire day.”

The table below lists some common expressions of past time that use ieri (yesterday). Notice that ieri is invariable (the ending does not change) when modifying different times during the day.

Expressions of Time in the Past with Ieri

stamattina this morning
ieri yesterday
l’altro ieri the day before yesterday
ieri mattina
ieri pomeriggio
ieri sera
yesterday morning
yesterday afternoon
yesterday evening

The next table lists some common expressions of past time that use scorso (last). The ending for scorso changes to match the gender and number of the noun it modifies. Remember that the days of the week are not capitalized in Italian.

Expressions of Time in the Past with Scorso

scorso(a) last
la notte scorsa last night
la settimana scorsa last week
il mese scorso last month
l’anno scorso last year
   
lunedì scorso last Monday
martedì scorso last Tuesday
mercoledì scorso last Wednesday
giovedì scorso last Thursday
venerdì scorso last Friday
sabato scorso last Saturday
domenica scorsa last Sunday

Expressions such as “da tempo,” “da un’ora, “da due mesi,” “da un anno,” etc. are used mainly with the imperfetto to indicate the beginning of an ongoing activity that started in the past. The definition of the imperfetto in this case is was/were-ing. The passato prossimo can also be used with these expressions if the intent is to say that the activity has begun and also concluded during that period of time. However, the preposition per is more commonly used with the passato prossimo for an event that has concluded. See the examples below.

L’insegnante parlava da due ore e gli studenti erano stanchi.
The teacher was speaking for two hours and the students were tired.

L’insegnante ha parlato per due ore e finalmente ha permesso agli studenti di andare via.
The teacher spoke for two hours and finally let the students leave.


Era or È Stato?

Students of Italian commonly have difficulty deciding when to use the imperfetto and passato prossimo forms of essere. However, this is really not very complicated; the rule for choosing the correct form of essere is the same as for any other Italian verb! If the state of being described is not qualified with a specific time frame, use the imperfetto; if a specific time frame is referred to in the phrase, use the passato prossimo.

The imperfetto conjugation is: ero, eri, era, eravamo, eravate, erano. 

The passato prossimo conjugation is sono stato(a), sei stato(a), è stato(a), siamo stati(e), siete stati(e) and sono stati(e).

Some examples are below.

In the first example below, it is the intention of the speaker only to describe a state of happiness in the past — not when or for how long. This calls for the imperfetto form of essere. In the second example a time-limited reason is given, which is the speaker’s birthday, and the exact date is even listed. Of course, the specific date requires the speaker to use the passato prossimo.

Ero molto contento.
I was very happy.

– but –

Sono stato molto contento per il mio compleanno il 25 maggio scorso.
I was very happy on my birthday last May 25th.

Let’s look at two more similar situations rendered in two different ways in Italian with the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. In the first example below, the imperfetto is used to mean that generally, sometime during the day, the weather was nice. Perhaps the speaker was just trying to relay some general information. Or possibly,  the conversation would continue after giving this setting with the imperfetto and the speaker would describe a particular event or how the day made him or her feel. In the second example, it is understood that the speaker is talking about a fixed time that occurred during the day while he or she was attending a party. And, during that period of time, the speaker really enjoyed him/herself, as stated with the passato prossimo!

Era un bel giorno.
It was a beautiful day.

– but –

È stata una bella festa; mi sono molto divertito.
It was a wonderful party; I really enjoyed myself.


 

Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
Combined

In the first two sections of this bog, we discussed phrases that signal when to use the imperfetto and when to use the passato prossimo.  We’ve also learned the rules to create a compound sentence with each past tense individually . Finally, it should also be noted that situations will arise that  require the use of both the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in one sentence. But don’t worry, there are general rules to follow to build these Italian sentences and the phrases themselves will also contain clues as to how to do this!

Below is a summary of this concept,
which will be discussed in more detail in the next blog in this series.

As a general rule, when creating a compound sentence in Italian, use the imperfetto to describe the setting. Start the imperfetto phrase with mentre (while) if you like, or just refer to the general time or the weather, or to an action without giving a specific time frame. This is often, but not always, the first phrase.

Then, describe the completed action with the passato prossimo. See the second section of this blog for a short list of verbs often used to describe completed actions. If mentre is not used in the introductory phrase, use quando (when) with the phrase in the passato prossimo. This is often, but not always, the second phrase.

Important note:

  Mentre is always used with the imperfetto!

Therefore, when you start a phrase with mentre, you must use the imperfetto for the verb in that phrase! 

Quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase.  Quando often introduces the passato prossimo phrase in a compound sentence when mentre is omitted.

Three examples that combine the imperfetto and passato prossimo in one sentence are below.

Mentre io ero in vacanza in Italia,
il mio capo di lavoro mi ha telefonato per parlare di un problema importante.

While I was on vacation in Italy, 
my boss telephoned to talk about an important problem.

Mentre guardavo il mio programma preferito in TV, mia mamma ha finito di prepare la cena.
While I was watching my favorite program on TV, my mother finished preparing dinner.

C’era sole quando Maria è venuta a trovarci a Roma.
It was sunny when Mary came to visit us in Rome.

As a final note: we have already combined the imperfetto and passato prossimo in several examples in the first two sections. Can you find these examples?

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

Remember how to talk about the past using
the
Italian imperfetto and the passato prossimo
and I guarantee
you will use the Italian past tense every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Italian Preposition “A” or “In”?

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to introduce an object, or to describe direction, location or time. We do this naturally in our own language with prepositions — short words like of, to, at/in/from, and by. All languages use prepositions but the choice of preposition in a given situation will differ from one language to another. This is the case for English and Italian; English and Italian often use prepositions in a different way. Also, in some situations Italian sentence structure may require a preposition when English does not!

Let’s continue our series on Italian prepositions with the Italian prepositions “a” and “in.” Both prepositions can be used to describe where someone is going and where a person or thing is located. The Italian “a” can be translated as both “to” or “in” in English.  The Italian “in” is translated the same as in English — “in”! If we learn how to use the Italian prepositions “a” and “in,” we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 58th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the prepositions “a”  and  “in.”

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar * 

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*This material adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar 

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

 Use the Italian “a” or “in”
for a Country, Region, or City

As mentioned in the introduction, both Italian prepositions “a” and “in” can be used to describe where someone is going, as well as their destination when they arrive. The Italian “a” can be translated as both “to” or “in” in English.  The Italian “in” is translated the same as in English — “in”! 

Americans and Italians use the prepositions that mean to and in differently. For instance, when Americans travel, they travel to a place – to Italy, to Tuscany, to Florence. American English speakers always use to as the preposition, whether they mention that they are traveling to a general region or a specific town. Of course, when an American reaches their destination, he or she will be located in that place and then say, “I am in Italy, in Tuscany, or in Rome,” meaning that he or she can be found there.

In Italian, however, the type of place is linked to the preposition used; there is no distinction made in Italian between traveling “to” a place or being “in” the place itself.

Italians travel directly into (in) a country, region, or large island,
but to (a) a city, town, or small island.

Once an Italian has arrived at a certain place, the same preposition that was used to describe traveling to that place applies. Or, if one is living in a place, the prepositions “a” and “in” will be used according to the size of the place, as described in the rule in quotes above. Again, the Italian prepositions “a” and “in” are linked to the place that is being described.

Let’s see how an Italian would answer the polite question, “Dove va per il suo viaggio?” “Where are you going on your trip?” The answer in Italian for someone taking a trip to America, depending on how specific they would like to be, is as follows: “Vado in America, in Illinois, e a Chicago.” “I am going to America, to Illinois, and to Chicago.” Notice that the English prepositions are the same, although the Italian prepositions change, depending on the size of the place that the preposition is linked to.

Also, what we call “states” in America are treated as the same as “regions” in Italy when assigning a preposition in Italian. Simply use the Italian preposition in prior to describing an American state. Notice that  “in Illinois” is given in the example above. 

New York State is the only exception in the United States of America to the Italian rule used to describe regions in other countries. The reason for the exception is that the Italian focus tends to be on New York City, rather than the rural areas that make up most of in New York State. But, as in America, the word “city” is left out of ordinary conversation.  “Vado a New York,” means, “I am going to New York City.”  To emphasize that one is traveling to the state of New York, i.e. somewhere outside of New York City, by convention the phrase would be, “Vado allo stato di New York,” for “I am going to the state of New York.” In this case, the preposition a is combined with the definite article lo to make “allo, according to the usual rule [a+lo = allo].

The polite question, “Dove abita?” forWhere do you live?” when answered uses the same prepositions for each location as described above. Here is an answer someone who lives in Italy might give, with the different options: Abito in Italia, in Toscana, e a Firenze.” “I live in Italy, in Tuscany, and in Florence.” Notice that the Italian prepositions have not changed compared with our example in the last paragraph!

Islands have their own special preposition rules in Italian. One travels “into” the large islands — in Sicilia or in Sardegna — but “to” the smaller islands using “a.” For instance, to go to the small Italian island of Capri one would say, “a Capri.” When traveling to a group of islands, such as Hawaii, the convention is to use [alle + island], leaving out the plural noun isole that alle modifies. Example: “ Vado alle (isole di) Hawaii.” “I am going to Hawaii.” Of course, the same prepositions  apply if one is living on the islands mentioned. Notice again that with alle we have combined our preposition with a definite article. A  detailed explanation of the procedure used for all prepositions is found in the textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers and the reference book of the same series, “Just the Grammar.”  

Check out the table for a summary of the examples above. Of course, where someone is traveling to or is located at during a particular time comes up often in conversation, and there are many variations on these questions! The answers will, of course, follow the rules for Italian prepositions outlined above.

Dove va per il suo viaggio? Where are you going on your trip?
Vado in America. I am going to America.
Vado in Illinois/
allo stato di New York.
I am going to Illinois/
the state of New York.
Vado a Chicago/
a New York.
I am going to Chicago/
New York City.
Dove abita? Where do you live?
Abito in Italia. I live in Italy.
Abito in Toscana. I live in Tuscany.
Abito a Firenze. I live in Florence.
Abito in Sicilia. I live in Sicily.
Abito in Sardegna. I live in Sardinia.
Abito a Capri. I live on Capri.
Abito alle Hawaii. I live on (the islands of) Hawaii.

Italian Definite Article
with Countries

By convention, the definite article (the) (il, la, or l’) is used to refer to countries, except when talking about traveling directly into them!  So if someone should ask politely, “Da dove viene?” “Where are you from?” an Italian would answer, “L’Italia,” and an American would say, “L’America” or “Gli Stati Uniti.” 

Below is a table that lists many of the countries in the world and the Italian definite article that applies to each, along with the Italian names for several capital cities. To remember this important point, gather some friends and sit around a table in front of a map of the world. Take turns asking a question about each country’s location, such as, “Dov’è l’America?” A friend can answer, “Ecco l’America!” while pointing to America on the map. This exercise will also reinforce the idea that the word “ecco” for “here is/here are” is used to point out something in plain site.

Of course, there is no need to memorize this entire table. Just remember the correct definite article for where you and your family and friends are from for easy conversation!

Europe l’Europa Africa l’Africa
Austria l’Austria Asia l’Asia
Belgium il Belgio Central America l’America Centrale
 Brussels  Bruxelles Europe l’Europa
Denmark la Danimarca Middle East il Medio Oriente
England       l’Inghilterra North America l’America del nord
 London  Londra South America l’America del sud
France la Francia Australia l’Australia
 Paris  Parigi
Germany la Germania Argentina l’Argentina
 Berlin  Berlino Brazil il Brasile
Greece la Grecia Canada il Canada*
 Athens  Atene Chile il Cile
Holland l’Olanda China la Cina
 Amsterdam  Amsterdam Egypt l’Egitto
Ireland l’Irlanda Cairo  il Cairo**
 Dublin  Dublino India l’India
Italy l’Italia Indonesia l’Indonesia
 Rome  Roma Japan il Giappone
Norway la Norvegia Korea la Corea
Poland la Polonia Mexico il Messico
Portugal il Portogallo Pakistan il Pakistan
 Lisbon  Lisbona Russia la Russia
Scandanavia la Scandanavia Moscow  Mosca
Spain la Spagna Turkey la Turchia
 Madrid  Madrid United States gli Stati Uniti
Sweden la Svezia Viet Nam il Vietnam
Switzerland la Svizzera

*Il Canada uses the masculine definite article.

**In this case, il Cairo is the name of the city, rather than the noun Cairo alone, by convention.


Use the Italian “a” or “in”
for Places Around Town

As mentioned in the first section, in the Italian language, every place is linked to its own preposition, which describes both going to and being located in the place — either “a” or “in.” Remember, there is no distinction made in Italian between traveling “to” a place or being “in” the place itself. This rule is important when inviting someone to join you for activities around town.  In Italian, you’ll need to ask someone if they want to go to a certain place, with “a,” or in a certain place, with “in.”

When using the Italian preposition “a,” the preposition a must be combined with the Italian definite article (il, lo, la, l’) that precedes the noun for the name of the place. The only exceptions to this rule are the Italian words for theater and house or home, which do not take a definite article. For all other nouns of place, the best way to remember the Italian preposition and definite article is to memorize both when learning the meaning of the noun. 

It is tempting to try to find a pattern for preposition use for Italian stores and other venues around the piazza. But there is no grammatical rule to fall back on in this instance.

It should also be noted that many verbs of going and returning, such as andare and venire, are automatically followed by the Italian preposition a when linked to another verb (see the next section).

Use the common phrases below  to invite a friend out for a good time in order to remember which preposition to use! They have been reprinted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers “Important Phrases” Section of Chapter 11, entitled “Making Friends.”  Included are several helpful introductory lines that can be used prior to the invitation. As you can see, knowing your Italian prepositions can even help to build a closer friendship!

Perché non ci vediamo? Let’s get together.
(lit. Why don’t we get together/see each other?)
Hai tempo domani? Do you have time tomorrow?
Posso rivederti domani? May I see you again tomorrow?
Sei libera(o) domani, Are you free (to female/male) tomorrow,
domani sera, tomorrow night,
la settimana prossima? next week?
Posso invitarla/ti a cena? May I invite you (pol.)/(fam.) to dinner?
al bar? to a (coffee) bar?
al caffé? to a cafe?
in pizzeria? to a pizzeria?
a casa mia? to my house?
Ti piacerebbe/Vuoi… Would you like to/Do you want to…
andare in piazza? go to the piazza?
andare in chiesa? go to church?
andare al cinema?
andare a teatro?
go to the movies?
go to the theater?
andare al concerto? go to the concert?
andare allo spettacolo? go to the show (performance)?
andare alla mostra? go to the show (exhibit)?
andare al museo? go to the museum?
andare a ballare? go dancing?
andare in ufficio? go to the office?
 
Ti piacerebbe/Vuoi … Would you like to/Do you want to…
venire con noi… come with us…
in spiaggia / al mare? to the beach / to the sea?
in montagna? to the mountains?
in campagna? to the countryside?

When to use “a”
to Link Italian Verbs

There are some Italian action verbs that need to be followed by the preposition a before an infinitive verb is added to complete the sentence. This may seem a little redundant to the English speaker, since in English infinitive verbs already include the word “to.”  For instance, the translation of the Italian infinitive verb andare is “to go.” To the Italian speaker, though, it is natural to insert the preposition a between certain conjugated verbs and an infinitive verb — Italian phrases just sound correct this way!

As examples, remember the important phrases “andare a trovare” and “venire a trovare” that mean “to go to visit” and “to come to visit.”  These phrases are used to describe visiting people; to visit a place, use visitare.  Riuscire is also used on a daily basis to describe the effort one has been putting into a specific action. Try to listen for the “a” when you hear the verbs in the list below and soon it will become natural for you, also, to combine these verbs correctly.

aiutare to help
Aiuto mia mamma a.…cucinare la cena.
I help my mother to cook (the) dinner.
 
andare to go
Mamma va a.…fare la spesa ogni mattina.
Mother goes grocery shopping every morning.
cominciare to start
Comincio a.…cucinare la cena.
I start (am starting) to cook (the) dinner.
divertirsi to enjoy onself
Mi diverto a…suonare il violino.
I enjoy playing the violin.
imparare to learn
Tutti imparano a.…parlare italiano.
Everyone learns to speak Italian.
insegnare to teach
Lei insegna a.…scrivere la lingua francese.
She teaches (how to) write French.
invitare to invite
Lui  mi invita a…mangiare al ristorante.
He invites (is inviting) me to eat at the restaurant.
mandare to send
Io mando Pietro a…prendere una pizza.
I send Peter to get a pizza.
prepararsi to get ready
Mi preparo ad…andare in Italia.
I am getting ready to go to Italy.
riuscire to be able to/manage
Non riesco a… trovare le chiavi.
I can’t manage to find the keys.
venire to come
Caterina viene a… trovare i suoi cugini.
Kathy comes to visit her cousins.

Use the Italian “a” or “in”
in Reference to Time

In a previous blog in this series, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed that the preposition di is used to refer to the general time of day with the phrases di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, and di notte.

We also mentioned in the same blog that both di and in are used to refer to the seasons: d’estate, d’inverno, in primavera, in autunno.

The Italian prepositions a and in also have a role to play when describing units of time.

When referring to the month that something is going to happen, either a or in can be used. English always uses in.


Andiamo a Roma a giugno / in giugno.
We will go to Rome in June.

The question, “A che ora succede (qualcosa)?” “At what hour does (something) happen?” is answered with the phrase [alle + number]. In this case, the Italian “a” means “at.” If you need a refresher on how to tell time in both the present and the past, visit the numbers section of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook or the Just the Verbs” and Just the Grammar” reference books. 

Andiamo alle sei e trenta. / Andiamo alle sei e mezzo.
Let’s go at 6:30.


When “a” Means “By”

Sometimes the Italian preposition “a” is translated into “by” in English. For instance, we say that an article of clothing is made “by hand” to refer to human, rather than machine labor. In Italian, the phrase is “a mano.” A similar phrase is “fatto a casa” for “homemade.” 

To learn something “by heart” is to “imparare a memoria.” 

Also use “a” in Italian to describe what type of energy something “runs by/on.”

Quest’orologio funziona a batteria. 
This watch runs by battery.

Other types of combustible energy a machine can run on include: a energia solare, a benzina, a gas, a legno forby… solar energy, benzine, gas, wood.

One can also run on “people energy” when walking by foot (a piedi) or take advantage of an animal’s energy when riding a horse (a cavallo).

Note: electric energy does not require a preposition! L’elettricità = the electricity and una macchina elettrico = an electric machine.


When “in” Means “Made of”

In the previous blog, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed how to use the preposition di to describe what something is composed of, as well as the exception with materials that require “in” as the preposition. To repeat, by convention, for all metals that are not gold (oro) and for the cloth velvet (veluto) use the Italian preposition in prior to mentioning the material.

Questa è una scultura in bronzo.
This is a sculpture made of bronze.

La vecchia poltrona è stata rivestita in velluto.
The old chair was restored with velevet cloth.


Using “a” to Refer to Age

In a previous blog in this series, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed that the preposition di is used to state the age of an acquaintance or even a bottle of wine; Use di as part of a phrase before the number of years as in  una signora di 82 anni.” 

One can also simply say, “at [number of] years,” in Italian, just like in English, by using the preposition “a” for “at.”

Pietro si è laureato all’Università a ventidue anni.
Peter graduated from college at 22 years.

Mi sono sposata a venticinque anni.
I got married at 25 years old.

Remember when saying the specific phrase, “at your age” that Italian requires the “a” for “at” to be combined with the definite article to make the possessive “your.”

Per favore, nonna, alla tua età, non lavorare più!
Please, grandma, at your age, don’t work any more!


Getting  “in” and “out”
of Transportation

Note that different prepositions are used for cars vs. other forms of transportation when using the Italian verb salire to describe getting in. Salire has an irregular conjugation, with two forms given below. Note also and how the preposition su (on) is combined with the different forms of the (il, la, l’).

Salgo in macchina.                               I get into the car.
Sali in macchina                                 Get into the car! (fam. command)

Salgo su                                            I get on/I board/I go aboard…

Salgo… sull’autobus, sul treno, sulla motocicletta, sulla bicicletta, sull’areo.

I get onto… the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane. 

Remember how to make comparisons with
the Italian preposition “di” in conversation
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “di” every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s talk about… Making reservations in Italian

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

I hope you are on your way to meet this goal! I will try to help you by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I describe how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing  help you to “think in Italian.” 

As of this writing, it is easier to travel to Europe than it has been for the last two years. But of course, even if travel becomes restricted again, it is never to early to start to learn Italian travel phrases. In fact, the earlier the better! So for this blog I focus on Italian phrases for making reservations at a restaurant or hotel in Italy.

Prior to beginning the lesson for this blog, I acknowledge that in the larger cities of Italy it is not usually necessary to make reservations completely in Italian; the Italian staff usually speak basic English and often the languages of their European neighbors, French, Spanish or German.  Also, of course, most times reservations can now be made over the internet on one’s computer or smart phone, without any human interaction at all! But I’ve found that a few phrases in Italian are always warmly welcomed by Italian servers and hotel receptionists, even in the larger cities, and can serve to put the traveler at ease in their new surroundings. In the smaller  Italian towns, basic Italian expressions can still be essential when relating one’s needs in family-run restaurants and hotels.

In short, if we learn the few phrases needed when making reservations in Italian, we will feel more comfortable during our stay in the “bel paese.” 

This post is the 57th  in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE.

Many “commonly used phrases”
describe

  making reservations in Italian

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

Let’s Talk About… Making Reservations in Italian

La prenotazione means “the reservation.” The Italian verbs prenotare and riservare translate into English as: “to make/book a reservation.”  The use of these Italian verbs varies with the situation.

Most commonly, when asking to make a reservation at a restaurant or a hotel, Italians use the noun prenotazione with the verb fare and “make a reservation,” which is “fare una prenotazione.”

It is customary to start a request with either vorrei (I would like) or desidero (I desire/want/wish). Notice that vorrei is the conditional form of volere (to want). It is also possible to use the first person present tense form volgio (I want) but vorrei is considered more polite and is the preferred conjugation to use. The phrase “ho bisogno di” for “I need” is yet another way to introduce any request made in Italian.

Some example sentences to get us started making a reservation:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Desidero fare una prenotazione. I desire/want/wish to make a reservation.
Ho bisogno di fare una prenotazione. I need to make a reservation.

Once we have stated our desire to make a reservation, three important pieces of information will need to be relayed to the receptionist: the number of people, the date and the time.

Generally, the receptionist will ask: “Per quante persone?” “For how many people?” 

For a restaurant reservation, it will be important to state how many adults (adulti) as well as how many children (bambini) will be dining. A simple answer for a family of two adults and two children would be: “Due adulti e due bambini.” The receptionist may ask if a child seat (una sedia speciale) is needed. A table will be chosen next to other families dining in the restaurant; this ensures that adults who are without children and want a more intimate dinner will not be disturbed.  

An interesting note about children and Italian culture: a child is considered a bambino or bambina (baby/ child) in Italy until about 14, when he or she can then be called a ragazzo or ragazza (young man/young woman). The appellation ragazzo(a) lasts into the 20s. The usual Italian masculine and feminine  endings need to be applied to these nouns; the “o” ending signifies a male child and the “a” ending a female child. For the plural, the usual “i” ending is used for a group of all males or a mixed group and “e” for an all female group.

Remember also that the Italian number “one” changes when modifying a noun. So a family may have un bambino or una bambina. 

To make a reservation in an Italian restaurant, it is not necessary to differentiate the bambini from the ragazzi. But Italian hotels do differentiate between children of different ages when booking a room. Most Italian hotels have a room rate that will vary depending on the number of adults who occupy the room. Families traveling with children between the ages of 12-14 (and even up to16 years of age) may be able to receive a family discount (uno sconto famiglia). 

In short, it is helpful to memorize the correct Italian for the children in your family when making reservations at a restaurant and hotel to be comfortable and to be sure you are not overpaying for accommodations!

Some variations on the simple conversation we have created so far:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Per quante persone? For how many people?
Un‘adulto/Due adulti  One adult/Two adults 
Un bambino/Una bambina
Un ragazzo/ Una ragazza
One baby or young child (male/female)
One young man/ One young woman
Due bambini/ Due bambine Two children (group of males or males+females/
group of all females)
Due ragazzi/ Due ragazze Two boys or [1 boy + 1 girl]/ Two girls

By the way, if you need to cancel a reservation, use the same sentence structure as when you have made the reservation. However, use the verb annullare, and say, “Vorrei annullare una prenotazione,” for “I would like to cancel a reservation.”

Or, if a reservation needs to be changed, use the verb cambiare, as in, “Vorrei cambiare una prenotazione.”


Stating the date in Italian:

To state the date and time of a reservation, we will need to know how to say numbers in Italian up to 31 (assuming reservation is in the present year). If you still need to learn how to count in Italian, purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook or download the PDF for tips on how to remember Italian numbers into the billions.

Below is the sentence structure needed to state the date.

definite article + number + di +month

This is actually a lot easier than it may look! Below are a few examples. You will notice that in English we say, “January second,” for “January 2,” while in Italian the phrasing and word order reads: “the two of January.”

The exception to the above rule is the first day of the month. In this case, the word primo, which means first, must always be used, instead of uno (one).

When writing the date, remember the order of the day and the month are reversed in Italy (as in Europe): dd/mm/yyyy. The days of the week and the months of the year are not capitalized in Italian.

Oggi è il due di gennaio. Today is January 2.
Domani è il tre di gennaio. Tomorrow is January 3.
Dopodomani è il quattro di gennaio. The day after tomorrow is January 4.
Oggi è il primo di agosto. Today is August 1.

Finally, in everyday conversation, to say, “On Mondays…” referring to something that happens every Monday, just use the definite article il (the) at the beginning of the sentence for all the masculine weekdays ending in ì and la for the feminine Sunday (domenica).

Il lunedì vado al lavoro. / La domenica vado in chiesa.
On Mondays, I go to work. / On Sundays, I go to church.


Stating the time when making a reservation in Italian:

Expressions used to tell time in Italian are given below up to 12 o’clock. For a more detailed explanation of the Italian sentence structure used when telling time, purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers  textbook or download the PDF.  Note: there is no “o’clock” in Italian. Simply state the hour “it is” for one o’clock or the  number of hours “there are” from two o’clock onward. You will need to learn Italian numbers up to 24 to understand the time tables for Italian trains, buses and airlines, which are given in “military time” with the 24 hour clock. Italian museums and theaters also operate based on the 24 hour clock.

È l’una.                                    (It is)              one. (1 o’clock)

Sono le due.                           (They are)      two. (2 o’clock)

Sono le tre.                            (They are)      three. (3 o’clock)

Sono le quattro.                    (They are)      four. (4 o’clock)

Sono le cinque.                      (They are)      five. (5 o’clock)

Sono le sei.                             (They are)      six. (6 o’clock)

Sono le sette.                         (They are)      seven. (7 o’clock)

Sono le otto.                          (They are)      eight. (8 o’clock)

Sono le nove.                         (They are)      nine. (9 o’clock)

Sono le dieci.                         (They are)      ten. (10 o’clock)

Sono le undici.                       (They are)      eleven. (11 o’clock)

Sono le dodici.                       (They are)      twelve. (12 o’clock)

One can emphasize the time of day, such as morning, afternoon, evening, or night, by adding the following expressions after the numerical time: di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, or di notte, as below.

1,00 (AM)                           È l’una di mattina.                 It is one in the morning.

1,00 (PM)                            È l’una di pomeriggio.          It is one in the afternoon.

6,00 (PM)                           Sono le sei di sera.                It is six in the evening.

10,00 (PM)                          Sono le dieci di notte.          It is ten at night.

When the receptionist at a restaurant asks what hour you wish to dine, the question will usually be phrased as such:
A che ora…?                                       (At) what time…?

The response to the question will also use the word at, which will be attached to the definite article (the).  Use (l’) for one o’clock and (le) for all other hours to agree with the number of hours in the answer.

A mezzogiorno                                  At noon

A mezzanotte                                    At midnight

All’una.                                               At one o’clock.

Alle sette.                                           At seven o’clock.

All’una e cinque.                               At 1:05 AM.

Alle sette e mezzo.                            At 7:30 AM.


Making a Reservation in Italian: Restaurants and Hotels

Now that we know an introductory sentence and how to tell the receptionist at a restaurant or hotel the date and time of our appointment, we can summarize this information in the short conversation below:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Per quante persone? For how many people?
Quattro.
Due adulti e due bambini.
Four.
Two adults and two children.
Data e ora/orario? Date and time?
Ristorante:
Il cinque di giugno alle otto di sera.
Restaurant:
July 5th at 8 PM.
Hotel:
Dal cinque al sette di giugno.
Hotel:
From the 5th through the 7th of June. 

Restaurants in Italy normally open for dinner at 7 PM and most Italians go out to eat at 8 PM or later. After making a reservation, when one enters the restaurant, all the information the receptionist needs to know can be conveyed in two easy lines:

Buona sera.
Good evening.

Abbiamo una prenotazione per quattro persone alle otto di sera. 
We have a reservation for four people for 8 PM.

In colloquial Italian, it is also considered correct to say:
Abbiamo una prenotazione per quattro persone per le otto di sera. 
We have a reservation for four people for 8 PM.

For just one person, the following is fine:
Ho una prenotazione alle otto/ per le otto.
I have a reservation for 8 PM

Additional requests may need to be made for hotel reservations.  When asking a question of the receptionist, use the “you all” form of avere, which is avete, since you are asking the representative of the hotel if they have what you need. The receptionist will answer in the noi form, and mention “we have” or “we don’t have” what you are requesting.

Example:

Avete una camera singola?
Do you all have a room with a single bed?

Mi dispiace, non abbiamo una camera singola disponibile. 
I’m sorry, we don’t have a room with a single bed available. 

Siamo al completo/ tutti prenotati stasera.
We are full/completely booked tonight.

Below is a list of vocabulary that includes the type of Italian hotel (l’albergo) you may want to choose and the type of room (la stanza) you may need. A few hotel amenities one might ask about when making a reservation are also included.

Almost all hotels in Italy provide breakfast for their guests gratis (free), so it is not usually necessary to ask if la prima colazione (breakfast) is included in the fee for the room. However, it can be helpful to check the internet for images of the dining room and the food served (along with the types of rooms available) prior to making reservations at a hotel. Italian hotels offer a wide range of morning meals — from a simple continental breakfast of coffee, juice and a pastry, to a large buffet with specialty breads and pastries, eggs, cereal, yogurt, lunch meat and cheeses to choose from.

And just in case things are not quite what you expected during your stay at an Italian hotel, you can always ask for l’albergatore or l’albergatrice (hotel manager, masculine and feminine). If you need help choosing where to make dinner reservations, call la reception (reception/front desk) or visit il concierge (the concierge).

l’albergo hotel
la pensione
il bed and breakfast
boarding house
bed and breakfast
l’ostello (della gioventù) youth hostel
il pernottamento overnight stay
la pensione completa room and board (includes three meals a day)
la mezza pensione room, breakfast, and one meal (half board)
la camera/la stanza room
la camera singola room with a single bed
la camera matrimoniale room with a double bed
le camere adiacenti adjacent rooms
il letto bed
il letto supplementare additional bed
la culla crib
servizio in camera room service
la piscina swimming pool
la sauna sauna
la vasca idromassaggio Jacuzzi*
il campo da golf golf course
il campo da tennis tennis court

*Italian-American history: Jacuzzi Brothers was a company founded in 1915 by seven Italian-American brothers with the surname Jacuzzi, whose family origins were in Casarsa della Delizia in Northern Italy. They initially developed propellers for the military and experimented with the manufacture of aircraft. In 1956, the company developed a pump that could be submerged under water to provide hydrotherapy.  Candido Jacuzzi, third generation in the family, invented the whirlpool bath using the company’s hydrotherapy pump to treat his young son’s rheumatoid arthritis. The Jacuzzi tubs we know today were trademarked in 1968.


Making a Reservation in Italian: Train or Theater

Remember that reservations for the train or theater in Italy are made using the military, or 24 hour clock. Once  you have made a reservation, here are a few tips on how to proceed when arriving at your destination:

When boarding a train or entering a theater with a ticket that has a reserved seat, one would have “un biglietto con la prenotazione” or “a ticket with the reservation.”

To say you are checking your seat, use the phrase, “Controllo il biglietto con la prenotazione,” for “I am checking the ticket with the reservation.”

However, the actual seat on a train or theater is referred to as “reserved” as in, “Il posto è riservato.” The seat or room has been booked, and no one else can use it. If someone else has made a prenotazione before you, your request might be denied due to un posto riservato.

Remember to use the verbs cambiare and annullare to change or cancel a reservation, as mentioned in the very first section!

Remember that making reservations in Italian
can enhance your experience every day while visiting Italy!

For “All the Italian you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy,” click on the links below to purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers books – Kathryn Occhipinti

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Make Comparisons in Italian with “Di”

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” In these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

In a prior blog  in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian,we learned that the Italian preposition di can mean “of, from, or by.” Now, we will put di to use in another way — to replace the English word than when making comparisons! 

Let’s continue our new series on Italian prepositions with another blog about the essential Italian preposition “di.” If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “di” to make comparisons, we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 56th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the preposition “di”
to make comparisons

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar*  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*The material in this blog has been adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and  the reference book “Just the Grammar.”

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 Use “Di” to Compare
Italian Nouns and Verbs

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. In this blog, we will explore several ways to make comparisons that use the Italian preposition di.  The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

To compare two different nouns — people, places, or things — where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, use the following Italian phrases below. Note that the Italian preposition di will combine with the definite article the (il, la, lo, l’, etc.) according to the usual rules, if a definite article is needed in the sentence.

In this case, the Italian preposition di is translated into English with than. Notice that “the” is often used in Italian but is not needed in English, due to the different way the two languages express possession (see the first example below). If you need a refresher on the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”

Also, the translation into English will not match the Italian word for word when making comparisons. English uses the irregular “larger” and “smaller” and therefore the Italian “more large” and “more small” cannot be translated directly into English.

Comparison of Two Different Nouns

 

più… di more… than
meno… di less… than

Comparison sentences with two different nouns (person, place, or thing) are given below. The nouns that are being compared are red.

Pietro ha più soldi
di Caterina.
Peter has more money
than Kathy.
Caterina ha meno soldi di Pietro. Kathy has less money than Peter.
   
La casa di Pietro è più grande
del
la casa di Caterina.
Peter’s house is larger
than Kathy’s house.
Firenze è più piccola di Roma. Florence is smaller than Rome.

This Italian sentence structure using di also works
when making comparisons with verbs, adverbs, and adjectives
that have different characteristics.

Let’s look into how to make comparisons with the verb piacere.  Piacere is how Italians say they like something. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb piacere, visit our blog, “Piacere — How Italians Say, ‘I like it!'”)  

Piacere often comes into play to describe how much we like doing something compared to something else. For instance, in a prior blog, “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.” we discussed how to state a preference for one film over another. The two lines below give the correct Italian sentence structure and again use più di and meno di. 

Mi piace… (film)  più di + definite article… (film).
Mi piace…
(film) meno di + definite article…
(film).

Mi piace La Vita è Bella più del Commissario Montalbano.
I like Life is Beautiful more than Detective Montalbano.
 
Mi piace Pane e Tulipani meno di La Vita è Bella.
I like Bread and Tulips less than Life is Beautiful.

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Use “Di” with
Irregular Adverbs

Comparative sentences that use adverbs are common, since people often discuss how well (bene) — or how badly (male) — something is going. To compare how one action is better or worse compared to another, use the irregular comparative adverbs meglio and peggio with the preposition di and the same sentence structure described in the last section of this blog.

In the examples below, the adverb that is used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Caterina parla italiano bene.        Kathy speaks Italian well.    
Caterina parla italiano meglio di Francesca. Kathy speaks Italian better than Frances.
   
Francesca parla italiano male.    Frances speaks Italian badly.    
Francesca parla italiano peggio di Caterina.  Frances speaks Italian worse than Kathy.

                           

To express the relative superlative “the best” or “the worst” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “meglio di tutti” or peggio di tutti.”

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.  
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.

Meglio is used in the same way when talking about a thing, rather than a person. For instance, to compare a recent film with a well-known TV series, see the example below from our blog “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.”

This film is better than…

Questo film è meglio di + definite article…

Questo film è meglio del Commissario Montalbano, sono sicuro!
This film is better than Detective Montalbano, I am sure.

                

Equally important are comparisons made with the adverbs very (molto) or little (poco). People have a tendency to make comparisons between doing something more (più) or doing something less (meno). We have seen the Italian adverbs piu and meno in action in the first section as part of the sentence structure for making a comparison. When used with the meaning of “more” or “less,” piu and meno are considered irregular adverbs. 

However, when making a comparison in Italian using più or meno with the meanings of more or less, speakers often don’t mention the second term.  This is common in every day conversation when both speakers already know the topic under discussion. When the second term in the comparison is omitted, the preposition di is added before più or meno to complete the sentence.

Use di più or di meno, rather than simply più or meno
when the second term of the comparison is not stated.

In the examples below, the adverb used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Pietro ha mangiato molta pizza. Peter ate a lot of pizza.
Pietro ha mangiato più pizza di Michele. Peter ate more pizza than Michael.
Pietro ha mangiato di più.    Peter ate more.
   
Michele ha mangiato poca pizza.  Michael ate a little pizza.
Michele ha mangiato meno pizza di Pietro. Michael ate less pizza than Peter.
Michele ha mangiato di meno.  Michael ate less.

To express “the most” or “the least” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “più di tutti” or meno di tutti.”

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti. Peter ate more than  everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Peter ate the most.
   
Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti. Michael ate less than everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Michael ate the least.

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Use “Di” with
Irregular Adjectives

See the irregular comparative adverbs we have just discussed in the previous section in the table below, along with their relative superlative adjectives and phrases.

Adverb   Comparative
Adverb
  Relative Superlative Adjective/Phrases  
bene well meglio better
il migliore
the best
male badly peggio   il peggiore the worst
molto very più

 

di più

more più
la maggior parte di
il maggior numero di
the most
poco a little meno

 

di meno

less meno
il minimo di
la minima parte di
the least

  

Now let’s talk about the relative superlative adjectives in the third column of our table above.

The Best and the Worst in Italian:

Earlier in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the best” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “meglio di tutti” to state “better than everyone.” 

However, when we use the irregular adjective “il migliore” to state someone or something is “the best,” a different sentence structure is required. One might say Italian is more precise than English since Italian expresses the difference between Frances the person and Frances’ knowledge of Italian. In English, this difference is simply understood. (If you need a refresher on how to state possession with the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”) 

In short, an Italian sentence that uses the adjective migliore must start with the noun that migliore modifies. Once again, we encounter differences in the English and Italian way of thinking — in this case about how to be the best!

Below are examples from the prior section again, with the addition of a sentence with “il migliore” for comparison. The last example also includes “the worst,” or “il peggiore,” which follows the same sentence structure. The adverb that is being compared is in brown and its verb in green. The noun described as “the best” or “the worst” is in red.

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.
L’italiano di Caterina è il migliore. Meaning: Kathy’s Italian is the best.
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.
L’italiano di Francesca è il peggiore Meaning: Frances’ Italian is the worst.

 

The Most in Italian:

Previously in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the most” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “più di tutti” to state “more than everyone.”  

We can also use più in a sentence that starts with a noun followed by quello(a,i,e) to express the idea of “the most.” Use this Italian way of speaking to refer to the greatest quantity of something, measure of something (tangible or intangible), or number of something. The Italian sentence structure is similar to the examples given for how to use migliore and peggiore. English speakers tend to express the same idea in a different way, as noted by the translations below. 

Il bicchiere di Marco è quello che ha più vino.    Mark has the most wine in his glass.
Anna è quella della famiglia che è più bella.  Ann is the most beautiful of all of us in the family.
Quest’albero è quello che ha più mele.    This tree is the one with the most apples. 

 

Two other phrases, la maggior parte di” and “il maggior numero di” can also mean “the most,” regarding “the greatest quantity” and “the greatest number” of something.

Also, “Per la maggiore parte…” is commonly used to say, “For the most part…”

Our original examples are listed below again, with additional ways to say “the most.” Notice how the meaning changes with the use of the last two phrases. Also that “fetta di” is itself a separate phrase, so that di is not combined with the definite article.

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti.
Peter ate more than  everyone/the most.

Pietro ha mangiato la maggior parte della pizza.
Peter ate most (the most part of) of the pizza.

Pietro ha mangiato il magior numero di fette di piazza.
Peter ate most (the most number of) of the pieces of the pizza.

 

The Least in Italian:

Finally, to say “the least,” one can use “meno” with quello(a) and the same sentence structure as described above for più.

Michele è quello della famiglia che ha mangiato meno pizza.
Michael has eaten the least pizza of all of us in the family.

 

“Il minimo di” and “la minima parte di” can also be used to describe “the least.” See examples below. Remember to change the ending of minimo(a) to match the gender of the noun that is modified.

Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti.
Michael ate less than everyone/the least pizza.

 

Michele ha mangiato la minima parte della pizza.     Michael ate the least (amount of) pizza.

Michele ha mangiato il minimo del pane.                  Michael ate the least (amount of) bread.

 


Remember how to make comparisons with
the Italian preposition “di” in conversation 
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “di” every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – The many uses of the Italian verb “Mettere”

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

 Have you set a goal to learn Italian? I will try to help you by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” In these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

For instance, many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. However, often the meaning of an Italian verb will vary  from the usual English connotation.  And in many situations, the same verb can have several different meanings in both languages, depending on the context. Mettere (along with its reflexive form mettersi) is one of those verbs that is used in many ways in Italian and is important to “put to” good use if you want to speak like an Italian.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb mettere, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 55th  in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian
use the verb

  Mettere 

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Let’s Talk About…

The Many Uses of the  Italian Verb

Mettere

The Italian verb mettere and its reflexive counterpart mettersi are used in many colloquial expressions in Italy today.  It is important to “put in” the time to learn how to use mettere, both literally and figuratively, if one wants to speak Italian like a native!

The Italian verb mettere is most often translated into English as “to put” or “to place.”  It can be used in a simple way, to describe moving an object from one place to another.

Mettere is commonly used with the prepositions a, da, in and su  in many Italian expressions that have the connotation of “putting” or “placing” something or someone in a place or situation. One commonly heard expression is, “Metti su l’acqua!” for “Put on the water!” which, of course refers to boiling a pot of water in preparation for making pasta! The Internet also provides another  opportunity to use mettere su.

Mettersi a and mettere in are used to relay that an individual is “going to” initiate an action  such as starting to cook dinner or starting a car. Mettersi a can also be used in the impersonal third person to describe an act of nature starting up on its own. Finally, use mettere in to describe the emotional state or situations you have been “put into.”

Italian uses mettersi to describe the act of getting dressed. In English, we combine the verb “put” with the preposition “on” to make “put on” with reference to clothing. The preposition “on” does not have any other purpose than to change the meaning of the verb “put,” in the same way that the reflexive form of an Italian verb is used to modify or even change that verb’s original meaning. Messo, the past participle of mettere, is important to describe what one was wearing in the past. Several examples of how to use mettere and mettersi to describe getting dressed will be given in the next section.  For additional information on this topic, visit a previous blog in this series: How We Dress in Italian.

Mettere can be used in the figurative sense, meaning, “I suppose” or “I presume.” Mettere can also be used figuratively to ask how something “looks.” If you are more sure of yourself, use ammetere and admit/confirm whatever is under discussion at the moment.

Use the pronominal verb phrase “mettercela tutta” as an informal way to describe that you’ve “put in” the most effort you can/are doing your best, or to encourage another to “give it their all.”

Finally, many Italian sayings incorporate mettere.  Some of the most popular have been listed at the end of this blog.

 

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Let’s talk about how to conjugate mettere in the present, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences. Luckily, mettere is regular in all tenses except for the passato prossimo, due to its irregular past participle, which is messo.

Present tense: Mettere is a regular -ere verb in the present tense. The present tense conjugation is below.

io metto
tu metti
Lei/lei/lui mette
noi mettiamo
voi  mettete
loro mettono

Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, avere is the helping verb and the past participle is messo.

Mettere has a regular conjugation in the imperfetto past tense (mettevo, mettevi, metteve, mettevamo, mettevate, mettevano).

Future tense: mettere is regular in the future tense (metterò, metterai, metterà, metteremo, metterete, metteranno). 


 

1. Use mettere to describe the simple act of moving an object from one place and “putting” or “placing” it in another place.

  • Mettere is commonly followed by a noun and then a preposition to describe the act of  “putting”  or “placing” an object somewhere in one’s household.
  • The singular familiar command form of mettere, which is metti is also important to remember when directing family or friends where to put an object.
  • The past participle messo is important when one has remembered (or is trying to remember) where they have put an object.
  • The direct object pronouns “them”(le) and “it”(lo) are red, so as not to confuse them with a verb ending. 
Ho messo i piatti sulla tavola per la cena.
I put the plates on the table for dinner.
 
Brava! Ora, pian piano, metti i bicchieri di cristalleria vicino a i piatti!
Great! Now, carefully place the crystal wine glasses next to the plates!
Ho messo le chiavi nella mia borsa, ma ora non riesco a trovarle!
I put the keys in my purse, but now I can’t find them!
 
Mettilo di là, in stanza mia. 
Put it over there, in my room.  

 

2. Use mettere su to describe “putting” food “on” the stove, to “put on” something in figurative sense, or to “put up a post on” the Internet

  • Mettere with the preposition su is a commonly used expression in home cooking. For instance, when a family is ready for dinner, one can direct another to “put” a pot of water “on” the stove to boil.  No other details are necessary, for every Italian knows that  boiling, salted water is essential for making pasta! Specific foods one would like to encourage another to cook can also follow mettere su, and one can be asked more directly simply to make la pasta. Of note: with expressions of this type, the preposition su is not combined with the definite article. 
  • Mettere su is used in common expressions to mean “to put on weight” or “to put (someone) on a pedestal,” just like in English.
  • Use mettere su in the figurative sense, as in to “put on a show” of something, or to “organize” or “create” an event.
  • To sound like a native Italian when speaking about the internet, use mettere su or mettere in rete instead of postare for “putting up” with the meaning of “posting” or “publishing on line. Along these lines, “mettere in coppia” means “to copy someone” on an email.
Sono arrivato! Metti su l’acqua! 
I’m home! Put on the (pot of) water (to boil to make the pasta)!
 
Metti su la pasta! / Metti su la carne! 
Start cooking the pasta! / Start cooking the meat!
Lui ha meso su pancia quest’anno.
He has put on belly fat this year!
 
Anna mette su un piedistallo il suo fidanzato Marco.
Ann puts her fiancé Mark on a pedastal.
Lui ha meso su uno spettacolo per tutti ieri sera con i suoi scherzi.
He put on a show for everyone last night with his jokes.
 
Marco ha messo su un bel viaggio per tutti.
Mark has organized a nice trip for everyone.

 

Metti su internet una foto del tuo viaggio!
Put up a photo of your trip on the Internet!
Post a photo of your trip on the Internet!
 
Lei ha messo su un blog su internet questa settimana.
She has put up/posted a blog on the internet this week.

 

3. Use mettersi a, mettersi in the third person, or mettere in moto to describe initiating an action

  • Mettersi a is used to tell someone you are “about to/starting to” do something, such as starting to cook dinner. The Italian phrase is [mettersi a + infinitive verb]. The English translation is  [to be + going to] when mettersi is used in this way.
  • Mettersi a followed by an infinitive verb can also be used in the third person to describe an inanimate object or an act of nature starting up something by itself.  There is a popular Italian saying, “Da Santa Lucia, il freddo si mette in via,” which means, “From Saint Lucia’s Day, the cold is on its way.” The two verbs that mean “to start,” cominciare and iniziare cannot be used in the third person this way.  For a more detailed discussion on the topic of how to use impersonal reflexive verbs, visit a previous blog in this series Impersonal Statements and Reflexive Verbs.: “Come si dice?”
  • Mettere in moto is a commonly used expression to describe starting a car but can also be used figuratively with the meaning of “to embark on” or “set off on” a journey.
Sono arrivato! Ora mi metto a cucinare la cena.
I’m home! Now I am going to cook dinner.
 
Finalmente lui si mette a lavorare con noi stamattina.
Finally he is going to work with us this morning.
L’eruzione del vulcano si mette a fare la terza eruzione oggi.
The volcano starts the third eruption today.
 
L’acqua si mette ad alzarsi a Venezia a febbraio.
The water starts to rise in Venice in February.
Michele mette in moto la macchina.
Michael starts the car.
 
Dopo aver lasciato Anna, Michele mette in moto una vita nuova.
After leaving Ann, Michael sets off on a new life.

 

4. Use mettere in and mettere a/di to describe negative or positive emotional states or figurative positions you have been “put into.”

  • Mettere is often used figuratively. There are many expressions that describe the negative emotions and situations one can be “put into” by completing the phrase “mettere in…” An Italian can be put into a difficult position, doubt, embarrassment, ridicule, risk, danger, or even “to their knees” or  “on the run”! On the other hand, to be saved is to be “mettere in salvo.” The phrase that means “to be quarantined” is “mettere in quarantena.”
  • Mettere a or mettere di, conversely, are used in many expressions that describe positive interactions, such as: putting someone at ease, putting things in order, being available to help out, and helping to reach an agreement. Mettere insieme means “to put together” but also “to bring together.” And remember to say, “Sono d’accordo!” for “I agree!” once you have come to an understanding with others!
  • When describing an event,  “mettere in…” can simply mean “to put into play” (gioco) or “to put on a show” (mostra).  “Mettere in vendita” means “to put up for sale.”
  • There are many other common Italian phrases that start with mettere! Listen for how Italians use this versatile verb and you will hear it often!
Mettere in…    
  difficoltà to put in a difficult position
to hinder
  dubbio to doubt
  imbarazzo to embarrass
to make someone uncomfortable
  ridicolo to ridicule
  rischio to put someone at risk
to put in danger
  ginocchio to bring someone to their knees
  fuga
quarantena
to put someone on the run
to put someone in quarantine

 

Mettere a… proprio agio to put somebody at ease
  posto to put in order
to clean up
to put away
  disposizione to make available
  servizio to put at one’s disposition
Mettere d’…
Sono d’…
accordo to help reach an agreement
I agree!

 

5. Use mettersi to describe the act of getting dressed

  • There are several Italian verbs that are used to convey the act of wearing clothing and getting dressed. Mettersi is an important verb to know in this regard. For more information on this topic, visit a previous blog in this series: How We Dress in Italian.

Mettersi can be used to convey three different types of English sentences: I put on my dress,” “I put my dress on,” and “I put on the dress.” In general, Italian uses reflexive verbs to describe daily actions we all must perform to keep up “la bella figura.” English instead uses a [verb + preposition +possessive adjective] sentence structure. Although the last English example is correct, we most often default to using the first two examples, with the possessive “my.”

Although the sentence structure that describes getting dressed differs in Italian and English, in both cases there is a straightforward formula to follow.  For Italian, the reflexive pronoun mi (myself) is placed before the conjugated form of mettersi and the article of clothing to be put on is then placed after the verb. The subject pronoun is omitted, as usual. So the final translation for “I put on my dress” is, “Mi metto il vestito.” 

Just remember the simple phrase “mi metto” and replace il vestito with your chosen article of clothing and you will be able to describe getting dressed!

To describe action in the tu (you) form, just conjugate mettersi normally and then add the article of clothing, as in “ti metti.” For the lei/lui (she/he) form, use “si mette,” and so on.

(Io) Mi metto il vestito. I put on my dress./I put my dress on./I put on the dress.
(Tu) Ti metti l’anello. You put on your ring.
(Lei/Lui) Si mette le scarpe. She/He puts on his shoes.

In order to describe what they have worn in the past, most Italians use mettersi and  its irregular past participle messo

Remember to use the helping verb essere for the passato prossimo with the reflexive verb mettersi.  And, of course the last vowel of the past participle must agree in gender with the person wearing the clothing, since we are using essere as the helping verb (see the red vowels in the examples). The table below shows how this all works:

Marco si è messo un completo oggi.

Mark wore a suit today.
Maria si è messa una gonna oggi. Maria wore a skirt today.

 

6. More figurative uses for mettersi and mettere

  • Mettersi can be used figuratively to ask how something “looks,” such as the weather or an interpersonal situation.
  • Mettere can be used in the figurative sense, meaning, “I suppose,” or “I presume” in a compound sentence with a subjunctive mood verb.  In the examples below, abbia is the subjunctive for avere and sappia is the subjunctive for sapere (singular first, second, and third persons). These are two helpful verbs to remember, even if one is not versed in the subjunctive mood. If you are more sure of yourself, use ammetere and admit/confirm whatever is under discussion at the moment, also with the subjunctive mood.
  • Remember that the noi conjugation of a verb is also used in the imperative to mean “let’s.” (See the last example.)
Come si mette il tempo oggi? 
How does the weather look today?
 
Come si mette la situazione con Clara?
How does the situation with Clara look?
Tu sai la situazione meglio di me.  Quindi, ammetto che tu abbia ragione.
You know the situation better than me. Therefore, I admit/confirm that you are right.
 
Mettiamo che Marco sappia più di noi.
Let’s presume that Mark knows more than us. 

 

7. Use the pronominal verb phrase mettercela tutta” as an informal way to describe that you have “put in your best effort.”

  • Mettercela is a pronominal verb, recognized by the ce and la tacked on to the end of metter, which is just mettere without the last “e.” Conjugate this verb exactly as you would mettere, then add the pronominal particles ce and la, following the usual rules for pronouns. 
  • The pronominal particles ce and la change the meaning of mettere.  “Mettercela tutta” means “to put in your absolute best effort” or “to give it your all,” as in strength and determination, in order to achieve a goal. 
  • The speaker can use the phrase “mettercerla tutta” in the present tense to describe an ongoing effort. “Ce la messo tutta…” means, “I am putting in my best effort.”  This phrase is also commonly used in the past tense when the speaker wants to emphasize that the outcome wasn’t for lack of trying. In this case, the passato prossimo conjugation for this completed event is, “Ce l’ho messa…”
  • Mettercela tutta can be preceded by devo, which means “I must” for an even more forceful statement. In this case, there is no need to conjugate mettercela. Just leave it in the infinitive form, as usual for verbs that follow dovere. 
  • Or, the speaker can encourage another to try as hard as they can and keep making their best effort.  Use the familiar command form of mettere, which is metti, and attach ce and la to the end of the verb for “Metticerla tutta!” To stress the importance of the effort needed, precede metticela tutta with, “Dai!” for “C’mon!”  
  • Notice another pronominal verb in our examples, farcela, which in this case means “to succeed.”
  • Follow these simple formulas for using mettercela to really speak like a native Italian!
Ce la metto tutta. Spero di farcela!
I putting in everything I have! I hope to succeed!
 
Devo mettercerla tutta questa settimana per trovare un cliente nuovo.
I must focus all my effort this week into finding a new client.
Ce l’ho messa tutta, ma non ho superato l’esame lo stesso!
I gave it my all but I failed (didn’t pass) the exam anyway!
 
Dai! Dobbiamo vincere questa partita. Metticela tutta!
C’mon! We have to win this match. Give it all you’ve got!

*To make sense of the construction “Ce l’ho messa,” we must remember that the l’ stands in for ” la”  and therefore is feminine. La drops its “a” in the passato prossimo before ho, to make l’ho, which is easier to say. Then, this dropped “a” reappears as the new ending for the past participle! These rules are explained in detail in our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs” book.

 

8. Common Italian sayings that use mettere

Mettere i soldi in cassa = to make money (literally to put money in the cash register)

Mettere a pane e acqua = a harsh punishment (literally to give someone only bread and water)

Mettere i piedi in testa a = walk over/trample over somebody

Mettere il carro davanti ai buoi = put the cart in front of the horse

Mettere in piazza qualcosa = to be open about something/lay your cards on the table

Mettere in primo piano = make a priority of something/ emphasize/focus on

Mettere il becco in = to stick your nose in/interfere

Mettere bocca su tutto = always commenting on/have an opinion on everything

Mettere i puntini sulle “i” = dot your i’s/ be nitpicky

 

There are even more ways to use the Italian verb mettere than space in this blog! 
Practice listening for the Italian phrases that use mettere and
try them out in your own Italian conversations!

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Use the Preposition “Di” in Italian

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to introduce an object, or to describe direction, location or time. We do this naturally in our own language with prepositions — short words like of, to, at/in/from, and by. All languages use prepositions but the choice of preposition in a given situation will differ from one language to another. This is the case for English and Italian; English and Italian often use prepositions in a different way. Also, in some situations Italian sentence structure may require a preposition where English does not!

Let’s start our new series on Italian prepositions with the essential Italian preposition “di.” If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “di,” which can be translated into the English prepositions “of, from,” and “by,” we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 54th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the preposition “di”

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar * 

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*This material adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar 

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 Use “Di” to Say
Where You are From

One of the most frequent questions asked during polite conversation is, “Where are you from?” This is expressed in Italian with the verb to be (essere) and di, which is translated in English to the preposition from in this situation. The Italian sentence structure is, “From where are you?”

di + dove + essere from + where + to be

In proper English, of course, we would say, “Where are you from?” Although the Italian sentence sounds awkward in English, the rule in Italian is never to end a sentence with a preposition; in effect, the English sentence likely sounds awkward to Italians!  The answer in Italian will also use di and is followed by the town of one’s birth. Notice that the subject pronoun io (I) is usually left out of the answer, as it is understood from the ending of the verb. For instance:

Di dov’è Lei?

Where are you (polite) from?

Di dove sei?

Where are you (familiar) from?

Sono di Chicago.

(I) am from Chicago.

Note: there is another way of asking where someone is from in Italian — the phrase, “Da dove viene?” This phrase uses the conjunction da with the verb venire, and is a more general reference to where one has been living in prior years. The answer is “Vengo da…” for “I am from…” This phrase will be discussed in more detail in a future blog about the preposition da.


 

Expressing Possession with “Di”

In Italian, the word di is used to expresses possession, and in this situation, di means of. To describe ownership of a car in Italian, for instance, one would use di to create the sentence: “Questa è la macchina di Pietro.”

We can translate the Italian way of thinking into English with the following sentence: “This is the car of Peter.”  To the American ear, though, this sounds formal and too wordy. We have the option of expressing this thought with [apostrophe + the letter s] (‘s) tacked onto the name of the person doing the possessing. The English version of our example above would be, “This is Peter’s car.”  In Italian, though, if we want to use someone’s name to describe possession, we have only the very first sentence structure: “Questa è la macchina di Pietro.” 


 

General Uses for “Di”

1. In order to express authorship of a work, Italians use di, which in this case corresponds to the English word by.  Also use di with the verb conoscere to describe “knowing someone by” their appearance or their name. Notice we may render these ideas a bit differently in English.

8 ½ è un film di Frederico Fellini.

8 ½ is a film by Fredrico Fellini.

Conosco Marco di vista, ma non ci siamo mai incontrati.

I know what Mark looks like, but we have not (ever) met.

Conosco Marco di nome, ma non ci siamo mai incontrati.

I know Mark’s name, but we have not (ever) met.

2. In order to express what something is composed of, Italians use di. In English, we say “made of,” and in Italian the past particle fatto can be used as an adjective to make the corresponding phrase fatto(a,i,e) di.” However, in Italian the adjective fatto is optional and the entire meaning of the phrase is usually conveyed just with the preposition di.  This is why it is so important to learn how to use Italian prepositions correctly. A short, simple preposition can change the meaning of an entire sentence! 

Note: for all metals that are not gold (oro) and for the cloth velvet (vellutouse the preposition in instead of di. These exceptions are simply by convention.

Questa sedia fatta di legno è dura.

This chair made of wood is tough.

Ho comprato un camicia di seta oggi.

I bought a silk blouse today.

Mio marito mi ha regolato un’anello d’oro.

My husband bought me a ring made of gold.

—–but-—-

Questa è una scultura in bronzo.

This sculpture is made of bronze.

La vecchia poltrona è stata rivestita in velluto.

The old chair was restored with velvet cloth.

There are also many descriptive nouns in English that are composed of two nouns, one of which acts as an adjective to describe the other. Some of these descriptive noun/adjectives must be linked with di in Italian if the descriptive term represents what the main item is made of. For instance the two English words that represent one item from the example silk blouse given above is translated  into Italian as camicia di seta. The single English word sandcastle is il castello di sabbia in Italian, or “the castle made of sand.”  Descriptive nouns will be covered in more detail in a future blog about da.

3. In order to relate that a topic is being talked about, or discussed/argued about, Italians use di to link certain verbs with the subject matter under discussion. The most common verbs used in this way are: parlare (to talk), discutere (to discuss) and trattarsi, (concerning or regarding).   

For the verb parlare, the Italian preposition di is translated as “about” in English. When a verb follows parlare di or discutere di to complete the sentence, Italian simply adds an infinitive verb after di. English uses [about + gerund of the verb]. You remember, of course, that the gerund is the commonly used “-ing” form of a verb in English. Below are two examples using parlare and discutere. 

Caterina parla di viaggiare, non di politica.

Kathy talks about traveling, not about politics.

Marco discute di politica troppo!

Mark discusses/talks about politics too much!

Trattarsi di is generally used in the third person as “Si tratta di…” to ask and answer the question “What is this regarding?” Parlare often starts a conversation of this type, when one person asks to speak to another about something, someone, or an action. Two example conversations are below; the first could take place between a boss and a worker, the second perhaps between two family members. To add a feeling of urgency or importance to the conversation, the examples start with “devo” for “I have to.”  Notice again how  the Italian preposition di is always placed at the beginning of a question, just like in the first section examples that ask where someone is from.

Devo parlarti.

I have to talk to you.

Di cosa si tratta?

What is this regarding?

Si tratta del tuo stipendio.

It is regarding your salary.

Devo parlarti di una cosa importante;

I must speak to you about something important;

…si tratta di Paolo.

…it’s concerning Paul.

…si tratta della mia macchina vecchia.

…it’s regarding my old car.

…si tratta di viaggiare in Italia insieme.

…it’s regarding traveling in Italy together.

To complete our discussion, note a change in use of the preposition di required in Italian that is not evident in English: when talking about a person or something by name, the Italian preposition su is used in the following construction: [su + definite article + noun]. The English translation “about” is the same.

Sto leggendo un bel libro su DaVinci.
Ho guardato un bel film su DaVinci.

I am reading a good book about DaVinci.
I watched a good film about Da Vinci.

Ho imparato molto sul Rinascimento all’Università.

I’ve learned a lot about the Renaissance at college.

4. The verb pensare has a special relationship with the preposition di.  When saying, “I think so,” to agree with someone, or “I don’t think so,” to disagree, one might say pensare is being used as a verb of discussion, as in #3 above. In this situation, the conjugated form of pensare is followed by “di si” or “di no.”

Also use [pensare di+ infinitive verb] when thinking about an action you may want to carry out.  But, use [pensare a +noun] when thinking about a person, place, or thing. 

For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that [pensare che + subjunctive mood verb] is used to link to phrases with different subjects in a single sentence. However, use of the subjunctive mood is beyond the scope of this blog!

Penso di si.

I think so.

Penso di no.

I don’t think so.

Penso di viaggiare in Italia l’anno prossimo.

I am thinking about traveling to Italy next year.

                                                                  —–but-—-

Penso a te, a Rosa, e alla vostra famiglia.

I am thinking about you, Rose, and your family.

Penso a Roma ogni giorno.

I think about Rome every day.

Penso a tutti i bei vestiti fatti a Roma.

I am thinking about all the beautiful dresses made in Rome.

5. To mention an acquaintance’s age in conversation, use di as part of a descriptive phrase about the individual before giving their age in years. The phrases “all’età di (at the age of) or “a girl/woman, boy/man, etc. of precede the age type of sentence. This sentence structure also works for the age of an inanimate object, such as a bottle of wine!

Lei è una signora di ottantadue anni.

She is a lady of 82 years.

Ho una bottaglia di vino rosso di 10 anni.

I have a ten-year-old bottle of red wine.

6.  To say something happened “in” or “at” a particular time of day, use di before the Italian words for morning (mattina), afternoon (pomeriggio), evening (sera), or night (notte)

Ci vendiamo di mattina.

We’ll see each other in the morning.

Di pomeriggio, vado al lavoro.

In the afternoon, I go to work.

Io e mio marito ceniamo alle sei di sera.

My husband and I eat dinner at 6 in the evening.

“Buona notte!” dice mia figlia preciso alle undici  di notte.  

“Good night,” my daughter says at precisely 11 o’clock at night.

7. To say something happened “in” the summertime or wintertime, use di before the Italian words for summer (estate) and winter (inverno). Use the Italian preposition in for spring (primavera) and autumn (autunno).  This is by convention.

D’estate, andiamo spesso alla spiaggia.

In the summer, we go to the beach often.

Andiamo in montagne a fare sci d’inverno.

We go to the mountains to ski in the winter.

In primavera, tutti i fiori fioriscono.

In springtime, all the flowers are in bloom.

In autunno, le foglie cadono dagli alberi.

In autumn, the leaves fall from the trees.


 

Common Expressions with “Di”
Avere and Essere 

There are several Italian phrases used to express one’s feelings that require the preposition di to link the conjugated form of the verb avere with the infinitive form of the verb of action that will complete the sentence. In English, replacing the Italian preposition di with the translation of is variable. In some cases, the English infinitive verb will be used alone or the English expression may use a gerund instead of an infinitive verb. You must really learn to think in Italian to use these expressions! Some examples of how to use these phrases are given in the last column. How many more can you think of?

avere bisogno di

 to have need of

Ho bisogno di… riposare.

   

I need to rest.

avere paura di

to be afraid/have fear of

Ho paura di… guidare.

   

I am afraid of driving/to drive.

avere voglia di

to feel like

Ho voglia di… mangiare una pizza.

   

I feel like eating a pizza.

There are several expressions of feeling that use the verb essere and take the preposition di prior to adding an infinitive verb to complete a sentence. Again, in English, we do not always use an additional preposition for these phrases, aside from the word to that is already a part of the infinitive verb.  

essere certo di

to be certain of

Sono certo di… ricordare il tuo nome.

   

I am sure to remember your name.

essere sicuro di

to be certain of

Sono sicuro di… ricordare questo posto.

   

I am sure to remember this place.

essere contento di

to be happy to

Sono conteno di… stare qui.

   

I am happy to be here.

essere felice di

to be happy to

Sono felice di… incontrare mio cugino oggi.

   

I am happy to meet my cousin today.

essere fortunato di

to be lucky to

Sono fortunato di… mangiare questa cena.

   

I am so lucky to be eating this dinner.

essere libero di

to be free to

Sono libero di… viaggiare.

   

I am free to travel.

essere stanco di

to be tired of

Sono stanco di… volare.

   

I am tired of flying.


 

When to Use “Di”
to Link Italian Verbs

When we link two Italian verbs together in the present tense, the first verb, or helping verb, is conjugated and the second verb, or action verb, is left in the infinitive form. For instance, “Tomorrow, I have to go to work,” is a simple statement that can be translated as, “Domani, devo andare al lavoro.” “I have to” meaning, “I must,”  is the first person present tense of dovere, which is devo. Andare means “to go.”

Other helping verbs, such as potere and volere work the same way in the present tense. In fact, using the polite first person of potere, which is può, followed by an infinitive verb, is a simple way to ask for what you need while traveling in Italy. Once you remember “Mi può…” no further conjugation is necessary using this method Just tack on the infinitive verb for what you need and finish the sentence!

Some examples that use [può + infinitive verb] useful for traveling are given below:

Mi può portare a Piazza Navona?

Could you take me to Piazza Navona?

Mi può parlare in englese?

Could you speak to me in English?

Mi può chiamare un tassì?

Could you call a taxi for me?

Although the traveler to Italy can get by with simple phrases, it is important to understand how to create a more complex sentence if one truly wants to be fluent in Italian. This is where the preposition di becomes important. There are some action verbs that need to be followed by the Italian preposition di before an infinitive verb is added to complete the sentence.

Most of the verbs that must use di prior to an infinitive verb describe speaking, thinking, or an activity that needs to be completed. We have already discussed parlare and pensare. Other actions, such as  trying to (cercare di), finishing (finire di), and waiting (aspettare di) need the preposition di to join them to an additional verb of activity. 

In the case of cercare, the meaning will change when di is used to link this verb to another. By itself, cercare means to look for, but cercare di means to try to. For the Italian speaker, it is natural to insert the preposition di after certain verbs; it just sounds correct when one has grown up with the Italian language.  For the Italian student, listening to Italian will also be important. Listen for the word di when these phrases come up in Italian movies and songs and soon it will become natural to say these phrases correctly!

Accettare

to accept

Accetto di… lavorare duro perché è necessario.

   

I accept working hard because it is necessary.

Aspettare

to wait

Aspetto di… ricevere un regalo dal mio fidanzato.

   

I am waiting to receive a present from my fiancée.

Cercare di

to try to

Cerco di… studiare bene.

   

I am trying to study well.

Credere

to believe

Credo di… avere ragione.

   

I believe I am correct.

Decidere

to decide

Decido di… andare a visitare la mia amica mentre in giro.

   

I decide to visit my friend while I am out and about.

Dimenticare

to forget

Non dimenticare di… prendere la medicina! (command)

   

Don’t forget to take the medicine!

Dire

to say/tell

Dico di… no. Non sono d’accordo.

   

I say no. I don’t agree.

Finire

to finish

Finisco di… lavorare per oggi alle sei di sera.

   

I finish working every day at 6 PM.

Occuparsi di

to work at

Mi occupo di… medicina.

   

I work as a doctor/nurse/in the medical field.

Ordinare

to order

La mamma ordina ai bambini di… studiare.

   

The mother orders the children to study.

Pensare

to think

Penso di… si. 

   

I think so.

Pregare

to pray/beg

Prego di… andare in Italia l’anno prossimo.

   

I pray to go to Italy next year.

Ricordare
Ricordarsi

 to remember

Ricordati di… prendere la medicina! (command)

   

Remember to take the medicine!

Scegliere

to choose

Sceglo di... prendere un caffé con un biscotto ogni mattina.

   

I choose to take coffee with an Italian cookie every day.

Scrivere

to write

Scrivo di… viaggiare.

   

I write about traveling.

Smettere

to stop

Smetti di… bere il vino! (command)

   

Stop drinking the wine!

Sperare

to hope

Spero di… trovare la strada giusta.

   

I hope to find the right road.


Remember how to use the Italian preposition “di” in conversation 
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “di” every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Let’s Talk About… Dating in Italian

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I describe how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing  help you to “think in Italian.” 

February is the month we in America celebrate Valentines Day, a holiday that originated in Italy and is still popular there today, as described in last years’ February blog “How to Say… ‘I feel’ on Valentines Day with Sentirsi.” Since the Italian phrases that describe a romantic relationship are not usually listed in textbooks, I’ve focused on Italian novels and movies to learn how Italians talk about falling in love. Once I discover a phrase about dating or romance, I check with my native Italian friends and instructors for authenticity and to verify how the phrase is used today.

I’ve managed to piece together the following information about how Italians talk about dating and romantic relationships in this blog, some of which is reprinted from my blog for advanced students of Italian: Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love.   After reading this introductory blog, you may want to check out the dialogue I have created in Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love, where these phrases are put to use!

If we learn a few phrases to describe dating in Italian, we will be able to talk to others about the person who has become the “special someone” in our life!

This post is the 53rd  in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE.

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian describe

  Dating in Italian

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

Let’s Talk About… Dating in Italian

Today in America, we “date,” “go out on a date,” or refer to two people who are “dating,” from the first romantic encounter until they become married. After marriage, a couple can still go out on “date nights.” But be careful when translating American romantic experiences into Italian! The English verb “to date” as used in America today to refer to a romantic relationship does not have a literal translation in Italian.

Of course, “to court” a woman was common in past centuries, and the Italian language still reflects this. When a man tries to show he is interested in a woman, the phrase “fare la corte a…” is used from the verb corteggiare or “to court.” For instance, “Marco fa la corte a Maria,” is translated literally as “Mark is courting Maria,” with the connotation that he is “pursuing” her or trying to “win” her love.

The verb corteggiare can also be used figuratively, between any two adults, to describe when one is trying to cajole, flatter, or entice another, usually to “convince” them to do something. “Marco corteggia il proprietario alla festa perché vuole un aumento di stipendio.” “Mark flattered the owner at the party because he wanted an increase in his salary.”

There is a verb still in use in Italy today that refers to a man seducing, or “winning over,” a woman: “conquistare… ” such as, “Marco ha conquistato Maria.” If Maria lets herself be “won over” or “captivated” by Marco, she can use the phrase, “Mi lascio conquestare da Marco.”

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

In today’s vernacular, if one wants to allude to the fact that they are dating, or “seeing” someone special in the Italian language, the following phrases can be used:

“Mi vedo con un ragazzo.”
“Mi vedo con una ragazza.”
“I’m seeing a boy.”
“I am seeing a girl.”
“Esco con un ragazzo.”
“Esco con una ragazza.”
“I’m going out with a boy.”
“I’m going out with a girl.”
“Il ragazzo con cui ho/avevo appuntamento/date.”
“La ragazza con cui ho/avevo appuntamento/date.”
“The boy with whom I have/had an appointment/date.”
“The boy with whom I have/had an appointment/date.”

It should be noted that ragazzo and ragazza also translate into boyfriend and girlfriend. To let another know you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, simply say, “Ho un ragazzo,” or “Ho una ragazza.” 

Also, you’ll notice that from the above translations that the Italian noun appuntamento does double duty, since it  corresponds to both appointment and date. In English, the word appointment is generally used to refer to a business meeting or a formal meeting in general, often between people who do not know each other well. The noun “date” can be used to describe a general meeting between friends, and is always used when one wants to imply a romantic interest.

Italian can be used to refer to regular romantic “get togethers” before marriage with the phrase “to go out with someone”“uscire con qualcuno.”  “Io esco con Marco ogni sabato sera,” means, “I go out with Mark every Saturday night,” and implies, “I go out on a (romantic) date with Mark every Friday night.” 

The Italian verb “frequentarsi,” which means “to spend time with each other” can also be used to describe a special relationship. Frequentarsi can also be translated as “to see each other” or “to date each other” in the romantic sense or simply to “to hang out with” friends. The non reflexive form, frequentare, means “to frequent” or “to visit” a certain place.

Some examples of how to use the Italian verbs that describe a special relationship are listed in the table below. Remember that ci and si in these examples stand for “each other.” For a refresher on how to use reciprocal reflexive verbs, visit our blog in this series called Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs.

Marco e io ci frenquentiamo. Mark and I are spending time with each other. (romantically)
Mark and I are seeing each other (romantically)
Mark and I are dating each other.
Noi ci frequentiamo il sabato sera. We are seeing each other/dating every Saturday night.
   
Marco e Maria si fequentano. Mark and Maria are dating each other.
Loro si frequentano ogni venderdì sera. Mark and Maria see each other/
going out on a date every Friday night.
Marco frequenta il Ristorante Paolo il sabato. Mark frequents/goes to Ristorante Paolo on Saturday nights.
Marco si frequenta con i suoi amici in piazza quando non ha niente da fare. Mark hangs out with his friends in the piazza when he doesn’t have anything to do.
Marco si fequenta con Maria spesso. Mark often hangs out with Maria. (as friends)
   
Marco e i suoi amici frequentano il Ristorante Paolo. Mark and his friends hang out at Ristorante Paolo.
Loro si frequentano ogni vender sera. They see each other every Friday night. (as friends)

Finally, to express a close romantic relationship in Italian, we can use the word “rapporto.” Any relationship in general is considered a “relazione.” But be careful, as an “affair” outside of marriage is also a “relazione,” whereas “affari” refers to more general personal and business “affairs.”

 

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

 

Now that we have learned the Italian needed to talk about dating, let’s review how to say, “I love you” to that special someone on Valentines Day.

“Ti voglio bene” is an old Italian expression that is still used for both platonic and romantic love. The meaning of this phrase is not easily translated into English, but it is used often in Italy to express one’s feeling of  closeness to another. This expression has its origin in the Italian phrasal verb “volere bene (a qualcuno).” “Ti voglio bene” can been translated as, “I care for you” or,”I wish you well,” but really, it is the way Italians tell others that they love them.

The expression “ti voglio bene” can be used between family members and friends, as well as a boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and a wife. Watch some older Italian movies, and you will hear this expression often!

Mi voui bene? Do you care for/about me?
Ti voglio bene. I care for/about you.

 

The verb amare, which means “to love” is reserved for romantic love — that one true love held between a couple who are dating, fiancée and fiancé, or wife and husband. Remember the simple expressions with amare in the table below to use with someone special this Valentines Day!

Mi ami? Do you love me?
Ti amo. I love you.
Ti amo per sempre. I will always love you.

If you learn to talk about dating in Italian
and how to use the verb amare 
you will really have learned to think in Italian!

 

Buona Festa del San Valentino!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Impersonal Statements and Reflexive Verbs: “Come si dice…?”

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Now that 2022 is upon us, why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting blogs that describe how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing  help you to “think in Italian.” 

For instance, did you know that Italians still use impersonal constructions? By “impersonal constructions” I mean sentences that describe what “one” is doing, in order to make a general statement.

A common example of an Italian impersonal construction is the phrase, “Come si dice…” This simple Italian phrase is used by every Italian student at one point or another when asking for help with their vocabulary.  The literal translation of “Come si dice…?” is, “How does one say…”  In spoken English, this construction is only rarely used today, and usually in formal situations. Instead, to generalize, English speakers often use the collective “you” — directed both at no one in particular and at everyone at the same time! Especially in an informal conversation, “Come si dice…” would be translated as, “How do you say…?” But in Italian, when one generalizes, he or she cannot replace the “si” for “one” with “tu” for “you” the way we do in English.

If we learn how to use impersonal phrases in Italian, with  Italian reflexive verbs, we will be able to ask general questions, give directions, and even express how mechanical objects work!

This post is the 52nd  in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian are Impersonal Statements
that describe general interactions
and use

  Italian Reflexive Verbs 

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

Italian Reflexive Verbs

Knowing how to use Italian reflexive verbs is extremely important for conversation, since Italian reflexive verbs often describe activities and emotions that are encountered every day. Reflexive verbs are recognized by the –si ending of their infinitive form. Let’s review a bit about reflexive verbs before going on to discuss how they are used to make impersonal statements.

Direct reflexive verbs, as their name suggests, are used when an action refers back directly to the speaker in the subject of the sentence. For example, if one wants to describe the everyday act of falling asleep in Italian, they must use the reflexive verb addormentarsi. Italian reflexive verbs are also used to express the English concept of “to get,” as we’ve seen in a prior Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day blog. When one “gets mad,” they must express this concept in Italian with the verb arrabbiarsi. Consider also the every day activity of “getting dressed,” with mettersi, which was the focus of another blog in this series, How We Dress in Italian.

All Italian students are introduced  to a direct reflexive verb of the –arsi type at the very beginning of their studies, when they learn how to introduce themselves with the reflexive verb that means “to be named,” which is chiamarsi.  There are, of course, also reflexive verbs of the –ersi and –irsi types as well, such as mettersi (to put on clothes/to get dressed) and divertirsi (to enjoy oneself).

The necessary component of all reflexive verbs is the reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself,  himself, etc.), which is what actually  corresponds to and refers directly back to the subject.

To review, the reflexive pronouns are:

mimyself
ti – yourself (familiar)
si – yourself (pol.)/ herself, himself, itself, oneself

ciourselves
 vi – yourselves (familiar)
si – themselves

 

To conjugate a reflexive verb, start with the subject pronoun and follow with the corresponding reflexive pronoun. However, remember that for conversational Italian the subject pronoun is usually left out of the sentence and is only sometimes included for emphasis.

Our first table below starts us on our way to the complete conjugation of a reflexive verb by pairing each subject pronoun with its corresponding reflexive pronoun:

io mi I myself
tu ti you (familiar) yourself
Lei

lei/lui

si you (polite)

she/he

yourself

herself, himself,
itself, oneself

       
noi ci we ourselves
voi vi you all yourselves
loro si they yourselves (polite)
themselves

All we need to do now is to add our verb to create the action!  Notice that the English translation adds the reflexive pronoun after the verb, while in Italian the reflexive pronoun comes before the verb (except for familiar commands). This may take a little time to get used to!

Let’s conjugate divertirsito have fun / enjoy oneself — as an example:

io mi diverto I enjoy myself
tu ti diverti you (familiar) enjoy yourself
Lei

lei/lui

si diverte you (polite) enjoy yourself

she/he enjoys herself, himself

       
noi ci divertiamo we enjoy ourselves
voi vi divertite you all enjoy yourselves
loro si divertono they enjoy themselves

How to Make  Impersonal Statements
Italian Reflexive Pronouns

Generalizations in the third person, called impersonal statements, are used sparingly in English but are common in Italian. An Italian impersonal statement is created by using the reflexive pronoun si, along with a verb in the singular or plural third person (either the lei/lui or the loro form).

As noted from the conjugation tables from the first section…

  • when the reflexive pronoun si is used in the singular third person, the reference is to a single, unnamed person, and the subject can be translated as one.”
  • when the reflexive pronoun si is used in the plural third person, the reference is to a group of unnamed people and the subject can be translated as they.”

In both situations, the speaker is referring in general to someone,
without a individual or group of people in mind.
It makes sense, then, that these statements are called  “impersonal statements.”

A common example of an Italian impersonal statement is the phrase, “Come si dice…” This simple Italian phrase is used by every Italian student at one point or another when asking for help with their vocabulary.  The literal translation of “Come si dice…?” is, “How does one say…”  This construction is only rarely used in spoken English today, and usually in formal situations. Instead, when an English speaker wants to generalize, he or she often uses the collective “you” — directed both at no one in particular and at everyone at the same time! Especially in an informal conversation, “Come si dice…” would be translated into English as, “How do you say…?” But in Italian, when one generalizes, he or she cannot replace the “si” for “one” with “tu” for “you” the way we do in English.

Some generalizations that come up frequently in Italian conversation are listed below. The direct Italian translation is given first, with the English phrase more commonly used to express the same idea in the following translation. You may want to remember the first example when asking for help with your Italian!

Come si dice…? How (does) one say…?
How do you say…?
Come si dicono…? How (do) they say…
How (do) you all say...
In Italia, si parla italiano. In Italy, one speaks Italian.
In Italy, Italian is spoken.
In America, si parlano molte lingue. In America, they speak many languages.
In America, many languages
are spoken.
Si può fare? Can one do it?
Can it be done?
Can you do it?
Si sa che… One knows that…
You know that…
Non si sa mai! One never knows!
You never know!

Impersonal statements can also be used to describe a rule and are often found in Italian sayings or proverbs.

Si deve obbedire alla legge. One must obey the law.
You have to obey the law.
Non si paga per parcheggiare la domenica. One doesn’t pay for parking on Sundays.
You don’t pay for parking on Sundays.
Qualche volta, uno si trova a un bivio della propria vita. Sometimes, one finds himself at a crossroads of his life.
Vivendo s’impara. One learns by living.

Use Italian impersonal statements when giving directions, such as when talking a friend through a recipe for a favorite dish. For instance, to describe how to make your family’s Italian tomato sauce, use the common verbs aggiungere (to add) and mettere (to put) in the third person singular with the reflexive pronoun “si” to describe how “one” cooks. For examples, see the first table below. In English, of course, we default to “you” when giving directions to someone in conversation, and this is reflected in the translation. To follow are a few pointers about how to cook pasta to go with that delicious pot of tomato sauce!

Prima, si taglia a pezzi una cipolla e uno spicchio d’aglio. First, one chops an onion and a clove of garlic into small pieces.
First, you chop…
Poi, si mette la verdura in pentola  con l’olio di oliva. Then, one puts the vegetables in a pot with olive oil.
Then, you put…
Li si cuoce, si mescola bene, fino a quando tutti e due sono morbidi. One cooks them, sautéing well, until both are soft.
You cook them…
Si aggiunge la passata di pomodoro, l’acqua, e il basilico. One adds tomato puree, water, and basil.
You add…
Si agguinge un po’ di sale e pepe. One adds a little bit of salt and pepper.
You add…
Si cuoce la salsa per almeno un’ora, e si mescola bene. One cooks the sauce for at least one hour, stirring well.
You cook the sauce… and you mix…
Per la pasta perfetta, si deve seguire questo metodo: For the perfect pasta, one must follow this method:
For the perfect pasta, you must…
Si mette una pentola grande con tanta acqua sui fornelli. One puts a large pot with lots of water on the stovetop.
You put…
Si copre e si riscalda l’aqua fino a bollire. One covers it and heats up the water until it is boiling.
You cover it… you bring the water to boil…
Si aggiunge una manciata di sale, si ricopre la pentola, e si riscalda l’aqua fino a fare bollire di nuovo.  One adds a handful (lots) of salt, one covers the pot, and brings the water to boil again.
You add… you recover the pot… and you bring the water to boil…
Quando l’acqua sta bollendo, scoperchiare la pentola e aggiungere la pasta.
Si deve mescolare bene a questo punto.
When the water is boiling, uncover the pot and add the pasta.
One must mix well at this point.
You must mix well…
Si fa bollire la pasta secondo le istruzioni nella scatola della pasta. One must boil the pasta according to the directions on the pasta box.
You must boil the pasta…
Quando la pasta è al dente, scolare l’acqua e aggiungere la salsa! When the pasta is “al dente,” drain the water and add the sauce!

How to Describe Movement with
Italian Reflexive Verbs

When an inanimate object does something automatically, this idea is rendered in Italian using the third person of a reflexive verb. In many situations, Italian uses a reflexive verb to describe movement when English relays the same idea by combining the verb with a preposition, such as “on” or “up.” Note that in English, the preposition is added only to change the meaning of the verb. In the same way, Italian uses a reflexive verb, with its reflexive pronoun, to change the meaning of a verb.

Let’s take a simple, everyday situation at home for our first example: “Ann turns on the light.”  The verb that means “turn on” in Italian is accendere and the Italian translation is, “Anna accende la luce.” However, electric lights can be programmed to turn on automatically. In English, I can say, “The automatic light turns itself on when I enter the room.” Although the preposition “on” is required in English, the reflexive pronoun “itself” is optional. To convey the same idea, it is mandatory in Italian to use the reflexive verb accendersi: “La luce automatica si accende quando entro la stanza.” 

In short, English sometimes uses a third person reflexive verb to describe an automatic action but often does not, instead relying on the addition of a preposition.  Italian is more consistent, with a reflexive counterpart to most verbs of action that refer to mechanical movement.

Another simple action that requires a reflexive verb in Italian and a verb + preposition combination in English is that of  “rising up” or “going up.” The verb alzare means “to raise” or “to lift” something. “I lifted the box onto the table,” is a simple sentence that translates as, Ho alzato la scatola sul tavolo.” But if a person “gets up” in the morning, the action becomes reflexive and the verb alzarsi is needed. Similarly, a bird or an inanimate object such as a kite can “rise up” or “go up” into the sky and the verb alzarsi once again comes into play.

Below are some examples of how Italians use reflexive verbs to describe movement of inanimate objects. Notice exceptions to what we have just discussed: the verb cominciare (to start) and cadere (to fall) are not reflexive when speaking about an inanimate object. However, mettersi a followed by an infinitive verb can be used in the third person to describe an inanimate object or an act of nature starting to do something by itself. Also, the verb smettere (to stop) is not used in a reflexive way, although fermare, which also means to stop, does have a reflexive counterpart: the verb fermarsi.

La luce automatica si accende quando entro la stanza. The automatic light turns (itself) on when I enter the room.
Le luci della casa si accendono ogni sera. The house lights turn (themselves) on every night.
Le luci della casa si spengono ogni sera. The house lights turn (themselves) off every morning.
L’acensore si apre. The elevator opens.
L’acensore si chiude. The elevator shuts.
Il treno comincia l’itinerario.

Il treno si mette ad andare velocemente.

The train starts its route.

The train starts to go fast.

Il treno si ferma automaticamente. The train stops automatically.
Il gabbiano si alza e vola via. The sea gull rises up and flies away.
L’aquilone si alza nelle nuvole. The kite rises into the clouds.
Le foglie cadono per terra ogni autunno. The leaves fall to the ground every autumn.

How to Describe Nature and Life with
Italian Reflexive Verbs

We all know the forces of nature well, as they act every day to create the environment in which we live. Since nature is an inanimate being, the actions of the weather are often given with reflexive verbs in Italian. Listen closely to the Italian news and you will hear about how a volcano in Sicily finally stopped erupting, or  how the sea has begun to rise in the Venetian lagoon — all described in the third person with Italian reflexive verbs!

For the common phrases that describe what weather “it” is making, such as, “Fa caldo oggi” (“It is hot today”) or “Fa freddo oggi” (“It is cold today”), Italians use fare in the third person without an indirect object pronoun. But to say, “It is getting late,” or “It is getting dark,” we use the reflexive farsi for the phrases, “Si fa tarde” or “Si fa buio.” (For more of these common phrases, visit our blog in this series, “Lets talk about… the weather in Italian!”)

In the same way, it is often necessary to use Italian reflexive verbs when speaking about abstract forces that can “act” on our lives.  Life itself is often spoken of as “moving” slowly or quickly. However, there is no reflexive verb for passare, so time can be seen as “passing by” without the addition of a reflexive pronoun.  (For more ways to use passare, visit our blog in this series, “The Many Uses of Passare.” )

In short, to understand the nuances of how to use reflexive verbs to describe actions of the weather or make generalizations about life, it is helpful to listen to native Italians as much as possible. In this way, it will eventually become natural to use Italian verbs the way Italians do!

The examples discussed above are listed below.

L’eruzione del vulcano in Sicilia si è fermato. The eruption of the volcano in Sicily has stopped.
L’acqua a Venezia si è alzata due metri
e si sta alzando ancora! 
The water in Venice has risen 2 meters and is still rising!
Fa caldo oggi. / Fa freddo oggi. It is warm today. / It is cold today
Si fa tarde. / Si fa buio. It’s getting late. / It is getting dark.
Nella campagna, la vita si muove lentamente. In the country, life moves slowly.
Il tempo passa lentamente quando si aspetta. Time passes slowly for one who waits (when one is waiting for something.)

Listen carefully to Italians when they speak
and I guarantee you will hear
Italian impersonal statements and  Italian reflexive verbs
every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s Talk About… An Italian Christmas Celebration

Photo of two Conversational Italian for Travelers books downloaded on smart phones with smiling snow man next to the books.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Buon Natale a tutti voi!

Christmastime is a magical time in Italy. The colorful decorations and holiday lights that adorn every Italian town bring with them a feeling of celebration that inspires children and adults alike. Italians of Jewish faith celebrate Chanukah in December as well, with glowing candles that bring their own special beauty to the December evenings. Chanukah was celebrated earlier this month, and if you’d like to learn more about how Chanukah is celebrated in Italy, please visit the blog “Our Italy — Celebrating Chanukah in Italy. 

 

But what really makes the December holidays special,
both in Italy and around the world? For most, it is the gathering of family and friends. 

For 2021, my hope is that all people who celebrate the Christmas holiday (le vacanze di Natale) or another holiday of their faith this December, can gather with their loved ones. As of this writing, there is a good possibility that the new normal will continue to expand to include Christmas parties (le feste di Natale) and gatherings for Chanukah dinners, instead of online meetings where people are together, yet distant. Extended families and friends should be able to celebrate the joy of being in each others’ presence and even have the opportunity to introduce new friends to old ones during the holidays  for 2021.

This post is the 51st in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE.

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

are used during the 
Christmas  Holiday Season

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

 

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Christmas in Italy

There are several important holidays that Italians celebrate during the Christmas season (periodo di Natale), which begins on December 8th with L’Immacolata and ends on January 6th with L’Epifania. The feast of Santa Lucia on December 13th is also an important holiday in northern Italy and this saint day is celebrated with candles, special pastries, and presents for children who have been good during the year.

 

Young girl with ring of candles on her head celebrating Santa Lucia Day
Young girl celebrating Santa Lucia Day

See the table below for a list of the important celebrations that take place in Italy during the Christmas season and some common phrases that Italians use to wish each other “happy holidays.” We first encountered these phrases in our blog What I wish… for the holidays! 

L’Immacolata Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Catholic holiday that celebrates mother Mary. 
Vigilia di Natale
Natale
Christmas Eve
Christmas
Buon Natale!
Buone Feste!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
Auguri di buon Natale! Best wishes for a merry Christmas!
Tanti Auguri! / Auguri! Best wishes!
Il biglietto di auguri Natalizi
Regalo di Natale

 

 

Christmas greeting card
Christmas gift

 

 

L’ultimo dell’anno New Year’s Eve
La notte di San Silvestro December 31st is the feast day of San Silvestro for the Catholic church.
Capodanno New Year’s Day
Buon anno nuovo!
Buon anno!
Happy New Year! (used most often)
Felice anno nuovo! Happy New Year!
L’Epifania Epiphany: Catholic holiday that celebrates when “Wise Men” visited the baby Jesus. In Italy, gifts are exchanged on this day.   Italian tradition holds that a friendly witch, La Befana, brings gifts to children on this day, although Santa Claus is also celebrated.

 

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 An Italian Holiday Party Conversation

 

When at a holiday party where Italian is spoken,
one will surely encounter the introductory phrases and  polite responses below.

Introductions:

The most common Italian introduction at a gathering is a familiar phrase — a phrase used when a person introduces one of their friends to another. For example, let’s assume Pietro and Caterina are friends. Pietro wants to introduce Caterina to another of his friends, Paolo. He will do this with the simple sentence, “Caterina, ti presento il mio amico Paolo.” Pietro uses the informal “ti” since he is already friends with Caterina, the person to whom he is speaking. 

In a more formal situation, Pietro may want to introduce someone he does not know well to one of his friends. In this case, if Pietro is addressing either a woman or a man, he will need to use “Le” (“polite you” indirect object pronoun). To stay in the polite mode of conversation, Pietro will likely introduce one guest to another using their last names with a polite title, such as il Signor (Mr.), la Signora (Mrs.), or la Signorina (Miss).

Keep in mind that in English we do not use the same sentence structure as in Italian, so the English translation of these phrases will not follow the Italian word for word. We may start out with “Let me” or “I would like to” and then add “introduce you to…” Also, in an informal situation, English speakers in America tend to omit the “Let me introduce you to” altogether! Instead, an English speaker might just say something like, “Kathy, meet my friend Paul.”

Several options to use when making an introduction are listed below. Remember to use the direct article before the title for a formal introduction!

Caterina, ti presento il mio amico Paolo.

Kathy, let me introduce you to my friend Paul.
Kathy, meet my friend Paul.

 

Signor Rossi, Le presento il Signor Manzini.

Mr. Rossi, let me introduce you to Mr. Manzini.

Signora Rossi, Le presento il Signor Manzini.

Mrs. Rossi, let me introduce you to Mr. Manzini.

Signorina Rossi, Le presento il Signor Manzini.

Miss Rossi, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Manzini.

 

Responses:

At first glance at the table below, the responses to an Italian introduction may seem a bit complicated, because they have several variations. The most important key to understanding which of these variations to choose is the formality of the situation. 

In the initial phrases in this table, “Piacere di conoscerla and “Piacere di conoscerti, the difference between the two phrases will depend on whether one is speaking in the polite (pol.) or the familiar (fam.). The polite phrases are given first in our example list, as it is the norm in Italy to use the polite form with a new acquaintance. The familiar form of this phrase is often be used between younger people, who tend to be less formal, and may also be appropriate among older adults of the same age or social status. If you need a refresher on when to use polite and formal Italian phrases, please refer to our blog Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Getting from polite to familiar with “Dare del tu.”

The other reason there are so many variations to learn when introductions are made is the Italian use of masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives.  Every Italian student learns early on that nouns and adjectives must agree in gender and number.*  At first, it may not be obvious that one is using an adjective at the beginning of the sentence, Lieto(a) di conoscerla/ti,” since these phrases are used so often in Italy that the subject and verb of the sentence, “I am…” have been left out! The full sentence, “I am delighted to meet you,” though, makes it clear that the verb essere (to be) is in use, and of course the ending for the adjective lieto(a) for delighted must reflect back to the gender of the speaker to make sense. 

The easiest thing for the Italian student to do, of course, is to pick out the phrase that corresponds to their own situation and memorize the endings. But these phrases provide a good opportunity to learn how to change Italian endings quickly and easily and can provide a pattern for more complicated sentences. For the examples below, the nouns, adverbs, and prepositions are black, the verbs are green, the polite/familiar pronouns red, masculine adjectives blue, and feminine adjectives brown.

Piacere di conoscerla.
Piacere di conoscerti.

Pleased to meet you (pol.).
Please to meet you (fam.).

Piacere mio.

The pleasure is mine.

Lieto di conoscerla.
Lieta di conoscerla.
Lieto di conoscerti.
Lieta di conoscerti.

Delighted (masc. speaker) to meet you (pol.).
Delighted (fem. speaker) to meet you (pol.).
Delighted (masc. speaker) to meet you (fam.).
Delighted (fem. speaker) to meet you (fam.).

Molto lieto!
Molto lieta!

Delighted! (masc. speaker)
Delighted! (fem. speaker)

Sono molto contento di vederla.
Sono molto contenta di vederla.
Sono molto contento di vederti.
Sono molto contenta di vederti.

(I) am very happy (masc. speaker) to see you (pol.).
(I) am very happy (fem. speaker) to see you (pol.).
(I) am very happy (masc. speaker) to see you (fam.).
(I) am very happy (fem. speaker) to see you (pol.).

Sono felice di rivederla.
Sono felice di rivederti.

(I) am happy to see you (pol.) again.
(I) am happy to see you (fam.) again.

*Italian nouns are assigned a gender, either masculine or feminine. Italian adjectives, which modify nouns, will change their endings to match the noun modified. In general, Italian nouns will end in -o if masculine and -a if feminine. A noun that ends in -e can be either masculine or feminine. There are, of course, many exceptions to these rules!

 

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Below is an excerpt from the Conversational Italian for Travelers story found on the website www.learntravelitalian.com.  This short dialogue will allow us to put together all we have discussed about what to say when introducing and meeting others at an Italian holiday party. In this dialogue, Pietro introduces his cousin Caterina to his friends Luigi and Paolo. This simple conversation uses phrases that are repeated over and over again at Italian gatherings of every type.

At the end of the dialogue printed here is a common transition phrase that takes Caterina into the familiar form with Pietro’s friends, “Diamoci del tu, per favore!” We have discussed this phrase and others used to make the transition from a polite to a formal situation in a previous blog, “Getting from Polite to Familiar in Italian with ‘Dare del tu!'”  With this simple line, a friendly conversation can truly begin! To listen to the remainder this conversation in its entirety, just click on the link It’s a Party! 

 

Pietro:

Caterina, ti presento il mio amico Paolo.

 

Kathy, (I) introduce to you (fam.) my friend Paul.

   

Caterina:

Piacere di conoscerla.

 

(It is a) pleasure to meet you (fam.).

 

(Caterina uses the polite form for a person she has just met,
even though Paolo is Pietro’s friend.)

   

Pietro:

E questo è il mio amico Luigi.

 

And this is my friend Louis.

   

Caterina:

Piacere.

 

(It is) a pleasure.

 

 

Luigi:

Piacere mio. Io sono professore dell’italiano, come Pietro.

 

Paolo è un medico.

 

(The) pleasure is mine. I am (an) Italian professor, like Peter.

 

Paul is a physician.

 

 

Caterina:

Molto interessante.

 

Very interesting.

   

Paolo:

Io sono di Novara, una città vicino a Milano.

 

Diamoci del tu, per favore!

 

I am from Novara, a town near to Milan.

 

Let’s use the familiar form of you with each other, please!

 

(Paolo officially asks if he can use the familiar,
or “tu” form with Caterina.)

 

 

Caterina:

Va bene. Volentieri!

 

O.K. Gladly!

Warm wishes for a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year
filled with treasured time
together with family and friends!

Auguri a tutti voi!

Photo of two Conversational Italian for Travelers books downloaded on smart phones with smiling snow man next to the books.
Make it a “Conversational Italian” Christmas! “Just the Phrases” makes a great stocking stuffer. Or Just download the Conversational Italian for Travelers books on your phone for easy reference anywhere you go! Download at www.learntravelitalian.com. Purchase books at Amazon.com

Our Italy — Celebrating Chanukah in Italy

Images of all the things for a traditional Chanukah celebration are presented with "Happy Hanukkah" in the center of the image.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Since 2020, I have been posting the series of blogs called, “Our Italy.” In this series, I share bloggers’ experiences of Italy, a country whose culture has captivated the world for thousands of years. I think now is the time to share these memories, especially since now some of us have started to return, inspired anew by the Italian people and their land.

Today I am happy to share a blog of my own about how Italians celebrate Chanukah. Read on for a bit of history about how the Jewish community was established in Rome and the special way they celebrate Chanukah today.

Afterwards, please enjoy a recipe for how to make fried chicken courtesy of the Italian Jewish community in Rome, Pollo Fritto alla Giudia, a delicious main dish that is traditional for Chanukah and can be enjoyed any time of the year.  Watch me make this special fried chicken on a short Instagram video if you like at Conversationalitalian.french!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Chanukah in Italy

The Jewish holiday Chanukah, also known as the festival of lights (le feste delle luci), is celebrated for a period of 8 days, and on today’s calendar falls sometime in the month of December. On the Hebrew calendar, (based on the phases of the moon), Chanukah begins on the evening of the 25th day of the ninth month, which is the month of Kislev.  This holiday is also commonly spelled Hanukkah when translated into English from the Hebrew (l’ebraico) characters.  During Chanukkah, those of Jewish faith set aside eight days to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. It is said that a miracle occurred at that time, when only a small amount of Holy oil found in the temple, enough for only one day, burned for instead for eight days.

The date of the Chanukah celebration will change each year on the Gregorian calendar we use today (which is based on the sun).  In 2021, Chanukah will begin the evening of November 28 and end on the evening of December 6. It should be no surprise that Chanukah is celebrated in Italy, since the first Jewish settlers arrived in Rome from their homeland in Israel as far back as 160 BCE, after fleeing from the rule of the Syrian King Antiochus. The Jewish settlement in Rome is probably the oldest outside of the Middle East in the world. In 1555, by decree of Pope Paul IV, the Jewish people of Rome (gli ebrei) were enclosed within the walls of  a portion of Rome situated across the Tiber River. This area (quartiere ebraico) came to be called the Jewish ghetto (ghetto) in reference to the poor living conditions at the time, but it was, and still is, the center of Jewish life in Rome today. Other ancient Jewish settlements can be found in Venice, Milan, Florence,  Palermo and in many other cities in Sicily.

 

Images of all the things for a traditional Chanukah celebration are presented with "Happy Hanukkah" in the center of the image.
The Hanukkah or Chanukah celebration includes a religious ceremony with the lighting of Menorah each night, traditional fried foods for dinner and sweet foods for dessert, games played with a dreidel (spinning top) and presents. 

Image by kristyna_pixel from Pixabay

 

To celebrate Chanukah, those of the Jewish faith gather with the family each evening before dinner to say prayers and light a special candelabra with nine arms, called a Menorah (candelabro ebraico a nove bracci).  The ninth candle, from the tallest arm in the center of the Menorah, is lit first and then used to light the other eight. One additional candle is lit each night, until the entire Menorah is glowing on the last night. In Rome, there is a grand, 20 foot tall Menorah in the Jewish section at Piazza Barberini that is lit every year and followed by a street party with dancing. At home, children are typically given one present (un regalo) each evening and play with a Driedel, which is a type of spinning top (una trottola) with Hebrew letters on each side. To wish someone a Happy Chanukah in Italian simply say, “Auguri!” (Best wishes!), “Buon Chanukah!” or Felice Chanukah!” 

 

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The Italian Chanukah Dinner 

As with all holidays celebrated in Italy, there are traditional Italian foods served at  Chanukah dinners each night, with an emphasis on fried foods, including Italian fried chicken (Pollo Fritto). This fried chicken is first marinated in olive oil with garlic and lemon,  then rolled in flour and dipped in beaten egg to create a light coating before  frying. See below for the recipe and a link to conversationalitalian.french to watch a video as I fry up this simple but delicious way to make fried chicken. 

Brisket (la punta di petto) is also popular. Simple accompaniments include applesauce, bread, and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and sour cream.

Special Italian side dishes (contorni) popular for Chanukah have existed for centuries in the Roman Jewish culinary history and include artichokes and eggplants fried in olive oil and garlic (Carciofi alla Giudia and Melanzane alla Giudia). Unfortunately for those of us who live outside of Italy, the variety of Italian artichoke that is necessary to make Carciofi alla Giudia is not usually available. This particular variety of artichoke is small, and all leaves are tender, so it can be flattened and then fried whole.  

Traditional dishes served throughout the world for Chanukah are also served in Italy, and include latkes, or potato fritters (Frittelle di Patate) and blintzes, or fried crepes filled with cheese. (Crepes al Formaggio Fritte).

A typically Italian Chanukah dessert is a pie with ricotta and cherry or chocolate chip filling (Torta di Rocotta). Other popular Italian desserts include fried donuts, poppy seed cookies shaped like stars, or fried bread shaped like a diamond and flavored with anise and raisins (Fritelle de Chanuka)

 

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Pollo Fritto alla Giudia

(Roman Style Fried Chicken)

Bowl of crispy, golden brown fried chicken made Roman style.
Fried Chicken Roman Style for Chanukah — crispy, golden brown and ready to serve.

Ingredients
(Serves 4)

One frying chicken, cut into serving pieces
Olive oil for frying

For the marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

For the coating:

flour to coat the chicken
2  large eggs

 

Method

Rinse the frying chicken and pat dry. (Note: make sure to use a frying chicken, which will have a breast that is small enough to finish cooking at the same time as the rest of the chicken pieces.)

Cut the frying chicken into serving pieces as follows: (1) separate the legs from the thighs, (2) Cut each breast along the breast bone lengthwise and then in half crosswise to make 4 pieces of breast meat total, (3) cut the tips off the wings and discard the tips. 

Make the marinade by combining all ingredients and pour over the chicken pieces. Roll each piece of chicken so it is coated with the marinade and then let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken, rinse off the marinade and pat dry.

Set two shallow dishes next to each other, one with flour and the second with 2 eggs. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork. 

Heat oil halfway up a large (10-12″), deep frying pan. (A deep fryer works as well, of course, if you have one.) Check that the oil is hot enough for frying by sprinkling with a tiny drop of water. When the water fizzles, the oil is ready. Do not over heat the oil or it will start to smoke.

Salt and pepper the chicken lightly. Then dredge in flour. Shake off excess flour and then roll in egg mixture.

Immediately put into the hot oil and fry, turning every 5 – 10 minutes to make sure the chicken cooks evenly. 

Cooking time will vary between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature of the oil and piece of meat. Generally, wings will cook the most quickly, then drumsticks, thighs, and breasts. I always pierce thicker pieces with a thin knife to make sure juices run clear and are safe to eat. 

Cook until chicken coating is a dark, golden brown. 

Remove from heat, pat with  paper towels and then  drain on more paper towels or on a baking rack if you have one.

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt if desired.

Serve your fried chicken while hot with applesauce and potatoes of your choice!

 

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Thanksgiving Appetizers for an Italian-American Dinner

Still life with pumpkins and a basket and Black Eyed Susans in a vase
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Thanksgiving appetizers — a few bites to nibble on while the main meal is being prepared — are great for guests and keep up a cook’s energy in the kitchen as well!

The Italian method of topping a slice of crusty Italian bread with a savory treat works well for Thanksgiving. Below are two recipes for crostini toppings that can be prepared ahead of time. The first is a white bean puree and prosciutto with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The second crostini topping is my version of a liver appetizer that I had once during lunch at a farmhouse in Tuscany, using turkey liver and caramelized onions.

If you have a chance during this busy time, leave a note and let me know what your Italian-American Thanksgiving will be like this year. Does your family make pasta along with the turkey? Or even skip the turkey entirely?

          Please reply. I’d love to hear from you!
Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

Buona Festa del Ringraziamento!
Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Appetizers


Crostini with turkey liver and caramelized onions

 

Bake the crostini:

Slice the bread thinly and brush with olive oil.
Rub a piece of garlic on the bread or brush a very little bit of garlic in the jar on the bread.
Bake in the oven at 400° until the edges brown.

Caramelize the onions:

For 1 medium onion: Cut the onion into thin, small crescents as follows:
Cut the onion crosswise. Put cut side down and cut in half lengthwise. Continue to cut slivers of onion lengthwise to form small, thin crescents of onion.
Put the onion slices into a frying pan with 1 Tb butter, 1 Tb olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
Cook on low heat, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes, until onions have completely softened and lightly browned.

Cook the turkey liver:

Rinse the turkey liver and put it into a small frying pan with 1 Tb butter and 1 Tb olive oil.
Add a small clove of garlic that has been crushed.
Heat the liver and garlic over medium high heat, turning to brown the liver and then reduce heat to medium/medium low in order to cook through.
Remove garlic.
When the liver is just cooked through (cut in half to check), add 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or Marsala wine and turn the liver in the vinegar.
Let cool. Break up the liver with a fork into small crumbles.

Assemble the crostini:

For each piece of garlic toast: Put onions and then cover with liver crumbles.

Crostini with turkey liver and caramelized onions

Bake the crostini as in the first recipe

Prepare the beans:

Put the following into a small saucepan:
1 (15 oz.) can of white beans, 4 fresh sage leaves, 1 clove of garlic, smashed (skin off)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt/white pepper
A little water, and more water as needed for cooking.
Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.
Cook about 30 minutes or more so flavors can blend.
Cook off most of water by the end so puree won’t be too thin.
Off heat, remove garlic. Puree beans.
Adjust salt/pepper and swirl in 1 Tb extra virgin olive oil.

Assemble the crostini:

For each piece of garlic toast:
Put white bean puree on bottom of toast and then top with prosciutto curled up.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

 

Buona Festa del Ringraziamento!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

 

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! — The many uses of the Italian verb “Tenere”

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

Many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. However, many times the meaning of an Italian verb will vary  from the usual English connotation.  And in many situations, the same verb can have several different meanings in both languages, depending on the context. Tenere (along with its reflexive form tenersi, and the pronominal verb tenerci) is one of those verbs that is used in many ways in Italian and is important to “keep in mind” if one wants to use it correctly.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb tenere, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 50th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

use the Italian verb
tenere.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

Let’s Talk About…

The Many Uses of the  Italian Verb

Tenere

The Italian verb tenere has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian. It is important to “keep in mind” the nuances of the verb tenere to create sentences as we would in our native language.

The Italian verb tenere is most often translated into English as “to hold” or “to keep.”  It can be used in a simple way, to describe holding an object or holding another’s hand. As in English, the verb tenere can also mean “to hold,” with reference to capacity, as in how many objects or people can occupy or be contained in a certain space or place. The word “hold” in English can also take on the connotation of “to support” something (as a column holds up a roof) or someone (as a fan supports his team). So it is with tenere, which can mean “to support.”

Tenere is an important verb to use when dining at an Italian restaurant to tell someone to “keep the change.” 

When the verb tenere is combined with the phrase “conto di,”  it takes on different shades of meaning. [Tenere + conto di] is used to describe the concepts of keeping something in mind, keeping track of something, or being aware of something. The phrase can also have the connotation of considering or taking to heart important issues.

Combining the verb tenere with conto che,as in [tenere + conto che],  adds yet another nuance to the original ideas of “to keep” or “to hold,” and is used to convey the idea of to consider. [Tenere in conto + noun] means to consider something.

Tenersi, the reflexive form of tenere, is also often used in the important everyday phrase “keep/stay in contact” and is a nice way to end a conversation or an email with a friend. Tenersi is often used when giving another instructions to hang/hold onto something or abide by/follow certain rules and regulations. If your emotions get the best of you and you can’t keep from laughing or crying, then use [tenersi + da] to get this point across!

There are many common Italian expressions that combine tenere with the preposition “a.” A few of these expressions will be listed in example sentences below.

When the verb tenere is combined with the preposition “a” and an adverb or adjective, as in [tenere +a +molto] the meaning changes once again. [Tenere + a] means to care about someone or something. You might think of using tenere in this way as being similar to the English phrase “to hold someone dear.” Consider also that the adjective tenero(a) is used to describe the following characteristics: tender, sensitive, or warm. For full emphasis, the pronominal verb tenerci followed by “a” [tenerci + a] can be used to stress the importance of something. A description of pronominal verbs and their uses is beyond the scope of this blog, but rest assured, if you add the pronoun “ci” before “tengo a,” you are telling someone that something is important to you!

Finally, in some important Italian phrases, tenere can be used interchangeably with the verb avere, and take on the meaning of “to have.”* Using tenere in this manner is a subtle way to emphasize that you are “keeping” or “holding close” the thing that you have.


Let’s talk about how to conjugate tenere in the present, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences. 

Present tense: tenere is an irregular -ere verb in the present tense, since it has an irregular stem in all forms but the noi and voi forms. The present tense conjugation is below. The irregular stem is in brown:

io

tengo

tu

tieni

Lei,lei,lui

tiene

noi

teniamo

voi

 tenete

loro

tengono

Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, avere is the helping verb and the past participle is tenuto

Tenere is regular in the imperfetto past tense (tenevo, tenevi, teneva, tenevamo, tenevate, tenevano).

Future tense: Tenere is irregular in the future tense due to it’s irregular stem. 

io

terrò

tu

terrai

Lei,lei,lui

terrà

noi

terremo

voi

 terrete

loro

terranno


 

1. Use tenere to describe the simple act of holding something or holding someone’s hand.

  • Tenere can also be used to refer to the capacity of something, or “how much” a certain thing or a place can hold.
  • Tenere can mean “to support” something or somebody.
Tieni stretto questo biglietto; tienilo in mano; non lasciarlo!
Hold this ticket tightly; hold it in your hand; don’t lose it!
 
Mi piace tenere la mano del mio fidanzato quando camminiamo in piazza.
I like to hold my fiance’s hand when we take a walk in the piazza.

    L’Allianz Stadium a Torino tiene 41,507 spettatori.*
    The Allianz Stadium in Turin holds 41,507 spectators.
     
    Ho raccolto tutti i fiori che posso tenere in una mano!
    I have collected all the flowers that I can hold in one hand!

    Vengo da Turino. Tengo per la Juve / Tifo per la Juve. **
    I am from Turin. I support/root for the Juventus soccer team.
     
    Le mure sono molto vecchie. Grazie di Dio le colanne tiene il tetto!
    The walls are very old. Thank goodness the columns support the roof!

    * Regarding the use of tenere with  the meaning of “to have/to own/to possess”: the verb tenere is used mostly in the south of Italy, while in the north they would simply use the verb avere (example: Lo stadio ha 41,507 spettatori.).

    **Regarding the use of tenere to describe support for a sports team: “tengo per” is used in the south of Italy. “Tifo per” is used in the north.

    2. Use tenere to mean “to keep” — the simple act of keeping something in a place. 

    • In a restaurant, a common phrase spoken by the customer to the waiter in both English and Italian is, “Keep the change!” In Italian, the polite command (subjunctive) form of tenere is used for this phrase, often with the addition of the Italian word pure which serves to encourage the server to keep the tip. Use of the subjunctive is beyond the scope of this blog. Just memorize this simple phrase, which should come up often!
      Tengo gli attrezzi per cucinare di là.
      I keep the cooking utensils over there.
       
      Tenga pure il resto!
      Keep the change, please!

      3. Use [tenere + conto di] with the figurative meanings listed below. 

      • to keep something in mind
        • [tenere a mente] also means “to keep something in mind”
      • to keep track of something
      • to consider (See also #4, listed below)
        • [tenere in conto + noun] and [tenere conto che] also mean “to consider”
        • “non tenere in sufficiente considerazione a…”  means
          not to give sufficient consideration to…
      • to take to heart
      Ho dovuto tenere conto di tutte le regole che tu mi hai detto al lavoro.
      I have to keep in mind all the rules you told me at work. 
       
      Tieni conto dei clienti e dagli quello che vogliono!
      Keep track of the clients and give them what they want!

       

      Terrò conto del fatto che il gruppo ha lavorato molto quando gli darò gli incentivi.

       I will consider that the group has worked hard when I give them the bonuses.

      Mi raccomando, tieni conto di quello che io ho detto!
      I insist/demand/ (that you) take to heart what I have said!
       
      Ho tenuto conto di tutto che tu hai detto. E sono d’accordo!
      I’ve considered all that you have said. And I agree!

       

      4. Use [tenere + conto che] or  [tenere in conto + noun]

      for “to consider.”

      • “non tenere in sufficiente considerazione a…”  means
        not to give sufficient consideration to
      • [tenere conto di] can also mean “to consider” (See #3).
      Devo tenere conto che ci sono molte opinioni in questo gruppo prima di prendere una decisione.
      I have to consider that there are many opinions in this group before making a decision.
       
      Devo tenere in conto anche le altre regole.
      I must also consider the other rules.

       

      5. Use the reflexive verb tenersi to ask someone to “keep/stay” in touch or give a command to “follow/abide by” a rule.

      •  Other translations of tenersi include “hang onto” and “hold onto”.
      • [Tenersi + da] can also be used to express the phrase “to keep from…” doing something, such as laughing or crying. In this case, tenere is often combined with the verb riuscire, which means “to manage to,” and further emphasizes the effort one has put into trying to “keep from” doing something.  To learn more about how to use the verb riuscire, visit another blog in this series: “The Many Uses of the Italian Verb “Ruscire.”
      Teniamoci in contatto!
      Let’s keep in touch (with each other)!
       
      Ragazzi, tenetevi al regolamento o non vincerete la partita!
      Boys, follow the rules or you all will not win the game!

       

      Tieniti il tuo cappello; è molto ventoso oggi!
      Hang onto your hat; it’s very windy today!
       
      Tieniti alla ringhiera bambini!
      Hold onto the handrail, children!

       

      Questo film è molto triste. Non riesco a tenermi dal piangere.
      This film is very sad. I can’t manage to keep from crying.
       
      Quello attore era molto divertente. Non riuscivo a tenermi dal ridere.
      That actor was very funny. I couldn’t keep from laughing.

       

      6. Common Italian phrases with [tenere + a] 

      Tenere a bada              =  Tieni a bada i tuoi animali domestici.
      To keep under control =  Keep your pets under control.
       
      Tenere a cavezza                                  = Marco tiene a cavezza i suoi figli.      
      To keep someone under one’s thumb =Mark keeps his children under his thumb.

       

       

      Tenere a freno              =  La famiglia di Anna tiene a freno tutte le ragazze.
      To keep a tight rein on = Ann’s family keeps a tight rein on all the girls.
      To hold back          
       
      Tenere a battesimo                       = Anna teneva a battesimo la sua nipote.
                                                                                                                                
      To sponsor a child at baptism       = Ann sponsored her niece at the baptism.                                               
      To be a godfather or godmother     Ann became her niece’s godmother.

       

       

      Tenere a distanza       =  Maria tiene a distanza da Marco perché non le piace.
      To keep at a distance =  Maria stays away from Mark because she doesn’t like him.
      Tenere a balia                           = Marco teneva a balia questo lavoro
                                                            perché lui è pagato a ore.                                                                      
      To drag out                               = Mark dragged out this job                                              
      To take longer than necessary     because he was paid by the hour.

       

       

      Tenere a pane e acqua                =Marco tiene a pane e acqua Maria oggi.
      To punish somebody                   =Marco punished Maria today.
      (lit. to keep somebody on bread and water)
       
      Tenere a pigione          = Caterina tiene a pigione la sua casa in campagna ai suoi cugini.      
      To have as tenants       =Kathy is renting her house in the country to her cousins.
      To rent 

       

       

      Tenere aggiornata                         = Marco tiene aggiornato Maria sulle notizie ogni giorno.
      To keep somebody updated         =Marco keeps Maria updated on the news every day.
      To keep somebody posted/in the loop about something
       
      Tenere all’oscuro di                                                 = Marco teneva all’oscuro Anna dalla notizia.   
      To keep somebody in the dark about something  =Mark kept Ann in the dark about the news.

       

      Tenere alto il morale                                      = Marco ha tenuto alto il morale della sua squadra anche
                                                                                 se stavano perdendo
      To lift up someone’s spirits                            = Mark lifted up the spirits of his team even when they were losing.
       
      Tenere alta la bandiera                                  = Teniamo alta la bandiera della nostra città.
      To honor your homeland or city              =      We honor/bring honor to our city.
      (lit. to hang the flag high)            

       

       

      7. Use [tenere + a + adverb/adjective] or [tenerci + a] to describe caring about something very much 

      • Remember another way to talk about platonic love and caring among family members and friends is to use the verb volerci, with the phrase, “Ti voglio bene.” For a review of the many ways to express one’s feelings of love, visit our blog in this series: “How to Talk About Relationships and Love in Italian.”
      • [Tenerci + a] can also be used in an introductory phrase when the speaker wants to emphasize the importance of what they will talk about or what they have done. Therefore, this phrase is often followed by the verb dire or fare.
      La mamma tiene molto ai suoi bambini.
      The mother cares very much for her children.
       
      La mamma ci tiene a loro.
      The mother cares very much for them.

       

       

      Ci tieni a me?
      Do you care about me?
       
      Si! Ci tengo a te! 
      Yes! I care about you! 

       

      Ci tengo a dire che studiare la cultura è l’unico modo di capire un altra lingua.
      It’s important to me to say that studying the culture is the only way to understand another language.
       
      Ci tengo a fare la cosa giusta. 
      It’s important to me to do the right thing.

       

       

      8. Use the tenere in place of avere for certain expressions. 

      Avere famiglia / tenere famiglia    = Ho/Tengo una famiglia con tre figli a Roma.
      To have a family                              =I have a family with three children in Rome.
       
      Avere sotto il braccio / tenere sotto il bracchio  =Ho/Tengo il pane sotto il braccio e cammino a casa.
      To carry underarm                                                 =I carry the bread underarm and walk home.

      Avere in serbo / tenere in serbo    =Ho/Tengo una speciale bottiglia di vino per te.
      To set something aside                  =I have set aside a special bottle of wine for you.
       
      Avere in serbo / Tenere in serbo                                 =Ho/Tengo una sorpresa per te!
      To have something in store for someone (figurative) =I have a surpise for you!


      Remember how to use the Italian verbs tenere, tenersi, and tenerci in conversation 
      and I guarantee you will use these verbs every day!

      Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
      The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

      Our Italy – How to Celebrate “The Day of the Dead” in Sicily, by Ettore Grillo

      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

      Ciao a tutti! Since 2020, I have been posting the series of blogs, “Our Italy.” In this series, I share bloggers’ experiences of Italy, a country whose culture has captivated the world for thousands of years. I think now is the time to share these memories, especially since now some of us have started to return, inspired anew by the Italian people and their land.

      Today I am happy to share a guest blog entitled: Bones of the Dead, Typical Sicilian Cookies by Ettore Grillo. Learn a bit about how “The Day of the Dead” is celebrated in Sicily on November 2 in his blog and about how bakeries make the special holiday cookies that are shared when remembering loved ones. Grillo even explains this holiday in more detail in his book, which you can find on Amazon.                       

      Ettore Grillo's Blog

      November 2 is drawing near and in all bakeries in Sicily it is possible to buy the typical cookies for this day, “the bones of the dead.” They look like human bones, are hollow and hard to eat.

      Today, after buying some, I asked the baker to tell me the secret to making them so hard and hollow. He said that he leavens dough for two days on a canvas to make it lose its moisture, and then he bakes them at a low temperature, about 140 degrees. During the process, they lose sugar and become hollow.

      On November 2, children receive gifts from the dead. Obviously, this is a fiction, for parents actually buy the gifts and pretend that the dead brought them. This way, children are taught to respect and love the souls of those who are no longer with us.

      November 2nd is a day of celebration…

      View original post 71 more words

      Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s talk about… Soccer in Italian!

      Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
      Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

      Why not try to learn a few words about a sport that is an integral part of Italian society?  Of course I am referring to soccer, or calcio as the Italians call the popular sport, derived from the verb calciare, which means “to kick.”

      After Italy’s thrilling victory at the UEFA EURO 2020 this past July, I decided to revisit a couple of blogs I’ve written about Italians and their passion for soccer.  I’ll expand on these blogs today to give a brief history of the sport, talk about Italy’s most popular soccer team and the Italian victories at the FIFA and UEFA competitions, all while focusing on basic Italian words and phrases about the game. 

      As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

      If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when we talk about soccer in Italian, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

      Were you able to watch EURO 2020 this past summer? Was it your first introduction to Italian soccer or were you already a lifelong fan? If you are in a soccer league here in the United States or just like to watch soccer at home, knowing a few Italian words and phrases will certainly add to the excitement of being involved in this truly Italian sport!

      This post is the 49th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

      Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

      are used to talk about
      Italian Football, or Calcio.

      See below for how this works.

      As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

      Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

      The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                             found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

      The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

      Let’s Talk About…

      Soccer in Italian

      Italy’s thrilling victory over England at the UEFA EURO 2020 soccer championship this past July sparked a week-long, country-wide celebration.  Why not try to learn a few words about a sport that is an Italian passion? Calcio, as the Italians call this popular sport, is derived from the verb calciare, which means “to kick.” If you are in a soccer league here in the US or just like to watch soccer at home, knowing a few Italian words and phrases will certainly add to the excitement of being involved in this Italian passion!

       

      Soccer — a brief history of the game 

      The basic idea behind soccer — a game of skill that involves kicking a ball — is said to date back as far as 2500 B.C., as a form of the game we know today was played by the Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese. The Roman game of Harpastum and the ancient Greek game of Episkyros were ball games that involved two teams kicking a ball but also allowed the use of hands or sticks, similar to today’s rugby. 

      According to the blog “The Origin, History, and Invention of Soccer”:

      “The most relevant of these ancient games to our modern day “Association Football” is the Chinese game of Tsu’Chu (Tsu-Chu or Cuju, meaning “kicking the ball”). Records of the game began during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) and it may have been a training exercise for soldiers. 

      Tsu’Chu involved kicking a small leather ball into a net strung between two bamboo poles. The use of hands was not permitted, but a player could use his feet and other parts of his body. The main difference between Tsu’Chu and soccer was the height of the goal, which hung about 30 feet from the ground.

      From the introduction of Tsu’Chu onwards, soccer-like games spread throughout the world. Many cultures had activities that centered on the use of their feet, including Japan’s Kemari, which is still played today. The Native Americans had Pahsaherman, the Indigenous Australians played Marn Grook, and the Moari’s had Ki-o-rahi, to name a few.”           

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

       

      “Soccer began to evolve in modern Europe from the medieval period onwards. Various forms of what is now known as “folk football” were played (in England). The codification of soccer began in the public schools of Britain at the beginning of the 19th century. The word soccer was derived from an abbreviation from the word association. The -er suffix was popular slang at the Rugby School and Oxford University and used for all sorts of nouns the young men shortened. The association came from the formation of the Football Association (FA) on October 26, 1863.

      Over the years, more clubs joined the FA until the number reached 128 by 1887. (England) finally had a nearly uniform rule structure in place.

       

      Italian Soccer Victories

      The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) was formed in Paris in 1904 with seven members. This included Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Germany announced its intention to join the same day. 

      In 1930, the first-ever FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay. There were 41 members of FIFA at the time and it has remained the pinnacle of the soccer world ever since. The championship has been awarded every four years since the first tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946, due to World War II.”

       

      Statistics about Italian Soccer Victories from “Wikipedia: Italy at the FIFA World Cup”

      Italy is one of the most successful national teams in the history of the FIFA World Cup,
      having won four titles (1934193819822006), just one fewer than Brazil. 

      The UEFA, or the Union of European Football Associations dates back to 1927, when the French Football Federation’s administrator Henri Delaunay first proposed a pan-European football tournament. The UEFA Champions League is an annual club football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations and holds annual competitions. 

       

      Statistics about Italian Soccer Victories from “Sports Adda”:

      Prior to their championship win of the EURO 200  in 2021,
      the Italy national football team had reached the European Championship final in 1968, 2000 and 2012.
      And Italy’s (last) title win in the UEFA Euros came in 1968,
      when the Blues had beaten Yugoslavia over two matches (in Rome).

       

       

      What do Italians call the different games of foot ball played around the world?

       

      Football (UK)

      il calcio

      Soccer (US)

      il calcio

      To play soccer

      giocare a calcio

      To enjoy playing soccer

      divertirsi  giocando a calcio

      Football (AU)    

      football australiano

      Football (US)

      il football americano

      College football ( US)

      il football universiatrio

      Rugby

      la palla ovale

       

       

      Juventus – the most well-known soccer team in Italy

      Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
      Allianz Arena in Turin, Italy. Home of the Juventus soccer team.

      From a previous Conversational Italian! blog entitled “Italian Soccer, anyone?”

      Juventus was founded in 1897 by a group of male students from an elite school in the city of Turin, the Liceo Classico Massimo d’Azeglio. The Latin word for “youth” is “iuvenis,” and is where the name of this team comes from. For years, I wondered why the letter “J” starts the name of this famous Italian team when “J” doesn’t exist in the Italian language. It turns out that the name was translated from Latin into the dialect spoken in the Piedmont region of northern Italy at the time, which does use the letter “J.”

      Over the years, the Juventus team has been called by many nicknames. Perhaps the most famous is “Vecchia Signora,” which means “Old Lady” in Italian. I’ve heard many explanations for this, but the most plausible seems to be that it is a reference to the history and greatness of the team — the team is like royalty over in Italy, and signora means both “Mrs.” and “royal lady.” Of course, this name can also be taken ironically because the team includes young men.

      Juventus, the most successful Italian soccer team of all time, plays in the top Italian football league, which is the Serie A League. The winner of this league is awarded the Scudetto (“little shield” or “coat of arms” of the Italian tricolors worn on the uniform the next season) and the title Campioni d’Italia (Champions of Italy), along with a trophy called the Coppa Campioni d’Italia. In the 2016–2017 season, Juventus made history with their sixth consecutive Scudetto. They went on to play in the European Champions Cup but did not win a European title that season.

       

       

      The Italian Soccer Team and Soccer Match

      Juventus Soccer players
      Juventus soccer players at Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy

       

      For those who are new to the game of soccer, below is some Italian vocabulary and an explanation of the basic rules.

      A soccer tournament is called un torneo di calcio. A soccer commentator is called un critico di calcio or un/un’ opinionista di calcio.

      A soccer match, or partita di calcio, is played by two teams. Each soccer team, or soccer club, is called una squadra di calcio.

      When playing a soccer game, 11 players can be on the field at any one time, one of whom is a goalkeeper. A soccer match lasts 90 minutes. There is a halftime break, called l’intervallo, after 45 minutes. If the score is tied, the game may go into overtime — as happened just this summer at the exciting conclusion of the EURO 2020.

      The object of soccer is for a player to get the ball into the other team’s goal by using
      any part of the body except the player’s hands and arms — and then only while he is
      located in his own penalty area. 

      The referee, or l’arbitro, is in charge of the soccer game. The calls the referee makes may be a bit confusing to the new soccer fan. Some penalties are more severe than others.  Yellow and red cards are given to players who violate certain basic rules. This will determine the type of penalty imposed for a given infraction. For further explanation of these rules, I suggest the blog “The 17 Basic Rules of Soccer.” 

       

      A typical soccer field, or campo da calcio, from “The 17 Basic Rules of Soccer”: 

      soccer_rules_1 soccer field labeled

       

      The art of the game:

      la palla / il pallone
      calciare
      soccer ball
      to kick

      calcio d’inizio
      calcio d’angolo
      calcio di rigore
      calcio di punizione
      deviare la palla

      kick off
      corner kick
      penalty kick
      free kick
      deflect the ball

       

      la rete

      gol
      fare gol
      segnare
      marcare

      net used for the goal

      the goal
      to make a goal/to score
      to score

      to score

      l’allenatore soccer coach
      il giocatore soccer player
      il calciatore soccer player
      il portiere goal keeper/goalie
      l’arbitro referee/umpire
      la gara competition
      il fallo di mano foul for using one’s hands
      il fallo di reazione retaliatory foul
      il fallo da ultimo uomo last man foul
      il fallo a gamba tesa studs-up tackle
      la scorrettezza foul play/rudeness
      scorretto(a) improper/rude
      l’insulto insult
      il cartellino giallo yellow “caution” card is given for improper play, hand foul, or unsportsmanlike or rude behavior
      l’espulsione expulsion from a soccer game occurs if a player receives two yellow cards
      il cartellino rosso red “expulsion” card occurs for a serious foul using violence, a retaliatory foul, a last man foul, insults, or when two yellow cards have been received

       

       

       

      The Italian Soccer Fan

      The Italian phrases that describe an Italian soccer fan echo the passion that they feel for the sport: appasionato di calcio, fanatico del calcio, and fan del calcio/tifoso di calcio.

      A popular exhortation to encourage a team to score is “Rete!”  “Score!” / “Into the net!”

      When at a Juventus soccer game, the popular chant is Forza Azzuri!, which is a reference to the team’s blue uniforms. The word forza literally means strength but is also used in this case as an exhortation, to mean , “Come on!” The Italians also wear blue uniforms during international competition, so this chant is appropriate at FIFA and European matches as well. (By the way, Italians do not chant “Forza Italia!” as this phrase has been usurped by an Italian political party, which took the name “Forza Italia” when led by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.)

      Another popular chant includes the name of a team player:

      Solo noi, solo noi, (name of player) ce l’abbiamo solo noi!
      Only us, only us, (name of player) only we have him!

       

       

       

       

      Have fun playing soccer!

      For anyone inspired to play soccer by Italy’s recent win at the EURO 2020, below are a few Italian terms to urge on your teammates! 

       

      I’ve got him!

      Mio! Quello è mio!

      One on one

      uno contro uno

         

      I’m marking that man (I have him)

      Ce l’ho!

      Try to avoid the marking of an opponent

       Smarcati! /Liberati!

         

      Go on wing

      Vai sulla fasica! / Allargati!

      Pass the ball to the wingman right/left

      apri a destra/sinestra

         

      From one side of the field to the other

      da porta a porta

      Pass it through the defenders!

      In mezzo!

         

      Corner!

      Calcio d’angolo

      Leave it!

      Lasciala!

       

      If you are a fan of Italian soccer, leave a comment about your favorite Italian team
      or the most exciting game you’ve watched.
      I’d love to hear from you! 

       

       

      Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books
      The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone

      Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

       

      Your Italian-American Gardening Tips – Growing Tomatoes and Making Caprese and Panzanella Salads

      Large bowl of just-picked tomatoes of various sizes and colors in the shade.
      Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      All Italian gardeners I know spend the summer diligently watering and weeding in eager anticipation of their favorite crop — the tomato. For most of us, the tomato is the reason we create a garden at all. Yes, it is wonderful to grow eggplants, zucchini, and peppers so that these vegetables are a short walk from our kitchen when we need them.  But for those who love fresh tomatoes, there is nothing like a warm, juicy tomato pulled fresh from the vine after ripening in the sun. Tomatoes are a fruit, and those left to ripen to their full potential will have a complex balance of acidity and sweetness. Each variety will have its own subtle variation in flavor.  It is impossible to describe the feeling eating such a delicious fruit brings to one who has only eaten commercially grown store-bought tomatoes, except to say that for many of us it is close to heaven.  

      Since I live around the corner from a family-run nursery, I am lucky to find over 20 varieties of tomato plants every spring that are ready to plant. Each of these is listed as determinate (the tomato plant will stop growing after it reaches a certain size) and indeterminate (the tomato plant will not stop growing and will need side stems, a.k.a. “suckers” pruned).  In a previous blog, Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Tomatoes, Zucchini… I discussed how to grow tomatoes and gave several tips about what to do if you should run into difficulties.  In a You-Tube Video, I posted about how to prune suckers from an indeterminate tomato plant. Growing Tomato Plants: Pinching off side stems.

      Let’s talk a bit more about tomatoes for the end of the summer season this year!

       

      “What is the purpose of growing different types of tomatoes?” you may ask. In one of my Instagram posts, I share a picture of the tomatoes I grew this year and list the uses for each.

      Four bowls that contain various types of tomatoes and peppers
      Recent harvest of different varieties of tomatoes, including plum, pear, and cherry tomatoes. Italian peppers also included in the photo.

      In short, we all know that medium to large tomatoes, the largest of which are called “Beefsteak” are great for cutting into slices or wedges and eating on sandwiches, in salads, or just by themselves. Some people like to add a sprinkle of salt or a drizzle of olive oil to their plate of tomato wedges to create the perfect summertime snack. Dried oregano can be added to wedges of tomatoes along with olive oil for a “tomato salad,” with or without red onion.  These tomatoes come in many shades of red, as well as pink, yellow, and even “zebra” yellow and green. The different colored varieties add visual interest to a salad and those other than the bright red tend to have less acidity.

      Plum tomatoes are fleshier than other tomatoes and have less juice. These are the tomatoes that undergo processing to create tomato paste. San Marzano plum tomatoes from the region around Naples are the most sought-after plum tomatoes.

      Cherry tomatoes are a favorite of mine because they ripen early and produce tomatoes all through the summer and into the fall. They are a great snack for eating out of hand and are wonderful to add to lettuce salads as they are already bite-size and will not loose their juices and soften the lettuce. Grape tomatoes are slightly larger than cherry tomatoes.  This year I had cherry tomato plants that produced red, yellow and brown tomatoes. All were delicious!

       

       For tips on how to create an authentic Caprese Salad with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, visit Your Italian-American Gardening Tips with Recipes: Basil (Basilico).  Be creative! 

       

      Caprese salad in a large serving bowl made with alternating red and yellow tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
      Caprese salad in a large serving bowl made with alternating red and yellow sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

       

      Caprese salad made with alternating red and yellow tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
      Caprese salad made with alternating red and yellow cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      What about Panzanella salad?” you may ask.
      Isn’t this another wonderful Italian tomato salad I can create with my fresh tomatoes?

      I have also blogged about making Panzanella salad before, and included tomatoes in this salad, in the blog for my learn Travel Italian website entitled, Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil.   Here is an image from that blog of my initial idea of what this salad should be like:

      Bowl of Panzanella salad with bread, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
      Bowl of Panzanella salad with bread, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

      I recently updated that blog to include a little known fact (at least to me). The original Panzanella salad did not include tomatoes!  Here is a photo I posted on Instagram of the Panzanella salad I made after I learned of a recipe from the great writer of the Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, from the 1300s.

      Plate of cucumbers, red onions, reconstituted bread and basil for Panzanella salad
      Panzanella Salad made in the 1300s according to Giovanni Boccaccio: Stale bread (softened), cucumber, red onion, basil and mixed greens.

      My family did not make Panzanella salad when I was growing up.  As an adult, I had tried this salad in in restaurants and thought it a nice change from the usual Caprese salad, so I added it to my post.  Caprese and Panzanella salads, I thought, were the two important Italian tomato dishes.  Recently, I learned from a blog by Emiko Davies titled  “Bronzino’s Panzanella,” that Panzanella salad is indeed a popular and traditional Italian salad in Tuscany, mentioned by the writer Bronzino himself in a poem, prior to the appearance of tomatoes in Italy. 

      We can assume that Panzanella salad started out as a way to use up old bread, as stale Tuscan bread lends itself well to being softened with a sprinkle of water. A little red onion, perhaps some basil, and olive oil and red wine vinegar might have been all an Italian housewife had available to lend some flavor her bread salad.  According to the recipe provided by Bronzino, cucumbers and even some arugula could be added to magically turn the bounty of summer into a crunchy and refreshing summer treat.

      Serendipitously, I had been growing Armenian cucumbers in my garden for the very first time this year, when I came across Davies’ blog. When I read about Bronzino’s version of Panzanella salad, I made it myself and posted the result on Instagram on Conversationalitalian.french.   

      Panzanella salad made Bronzino’s way, with cucumbers, was truly a revelation. The seeds of the Armenian cucumber were easy to remove from the center of the vegetable, and without the skin this variety of cucumber was light, crunchy, and flavorful. There are no real proportions to this salad; use as much reconstituted bread as you like and as much cucumber and other ingredients as you have on hand.  Now THAT’s Italian!

      Below is my method for making Panzanella salad with cucumbers, originally posted on Instagram on  Conversationalitalian.french.   and the method for making Panzanella salad with tomatoes, originally posted on blog.learntravelitalian.com. 

      Try Panzanella salad both ways.  I ‘m sure you won’t be disappointed!


       

      Today’s Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes

      Tomato and bread Panzanella salad
      Italian Panzanella salad with halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh torn basil and bread

      Ingredients
      (Serves 1-4)

       

      Dry Italian bread, cubed, or large croutons
      Sprinkle the dried Italian bread with water to soften
      (see comments about the proper bread to use below*)

      1-2 large, vine-ripened tomato, cut into small wedges
      or several cherry tomatoes, halved
      sprinkle lightly with sea salt

      1/2 red onion, sliced thinly into crescents

      Extra-virgin Italian olive oil
      Italian red wine vinegar

      Large, freshly picked basil leaves, hand torn

      Mozzarella, preferably soft, cubed or small bocconcini (optional)

      Method

       

      In a large dish, combine small wedges of fresh tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes and dry Italian bread (as pre-processed as above) and red onions.

      Drizzle on extra virgin Italian olive oil and red wine vinegar and combine.  Make sure the bread has softened enough to be edible. If not, you may want to let the ingredients sit for a bit before finishing the salad.

      Then add the optional mozzarella and torn basil leaves.

      Mix gently.

      Taste and drizzle with extra olive oil and vinegar if needed.

      Mix again gently to combine all and enjoy!

      *About the bread for any Panzanella salad: be sure to use a crusty loaf of  good* Italian bread that is at least two days old and has dried out and hardened. Bread that has become stale naturally will need to be sprinkled with water to soften a bit prior to making this salad. Place the bread in a small bowl and sprinkle it with water the morning before you are planning to make the salad. The end result should not leave the bread mushy; the bread should spring back to life after the water is added if you are truly working with real Italian bread. If the crust is still too hard, it can be removed. Remember that the bread will continue to soften when it is combined with the vinegar and tomato juice when you make the salad.

      If you want to make Panzanella salad with fresh Italian bread, you can always cut it into slices and dry it out in the oven just enough to be crunchy, or even add a bit of olive oil and brown it a bit to make croutons.

       

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

       

      Traditional Cucumber Panzanella Salad

       

      Plate of cucumbers, red onions, reconstituted bread and basil for Panzanella salad
      Panzanella Salad made in the 1300s according to Giovanni Boccaccio: Stale bread (softened), cucumber, red onion, basil and mixed greens.

       

       

       

      Visit www.learntravelitalian.com for more of my Italian and Italian-American recipes, cultural notes and  advanced Italian language blog posts updated monthly. Click on the link “our blog” in the upper right hand corner to reach blog.Learn Travel Italian.com.

      Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Say, “I miss you…” with Mancare

      Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
      Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
      1Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

      Then one verb you will need to learn how to use is mancare (to miss). This is the verb Italians use when they have not been able to visit a loved one. Of course it is important to be able to tell those we care about that we miss them!

      In this blog, we will discuss how to use the verb Italian mancare, which part of a group of Italian verbs that always take an indirect object pronoun and therefore “work” differently from your typical Italian verb.  

      Previously, we have spoken about piacere (to like), the prototype for this unique group of Italian verbs in our blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day: Piacere, How Italians Say, “I like it!.” We have also covered another verb of this type, servire (to need) in our blog “How to Say, “I need…” in Italian: Mi serve…”

      After this blog, we can add mancare to our list of important Italian verbs discussed that only take indirect object pronouns. Piacere, servire, and mancare all work in the same way, but we will go over once again how to conjugate and translate a verb of this type.

      Note: in our very last blog, we made a list of verbs of communication and giving that take an indirect object pronoun when referring to a person. These verbs are in a different group than piacere, servire, and mancare, since they take a direct object pronoun when referring to things, but are a very important group to understand as well!

      As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

      If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb mancare, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

      This post is the 48th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

      Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

      use the Italian verb
      Mancare

      See below for how this works.

      As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

      Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

      The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                             found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

      The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

      Overview of Italian Verbs

      that take

      Indirect Object Pronouns

      A short review of Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns:

      In our very last blog, we made a list of verbs of communication and giving that take indirect object pronouns when referring to a person.

      Previously, we have spoken about piacere (to like), the prototype for verbs that always take indirect object pronouns, in our blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day: Piacere, How Italians Say, “I like it!”  We have also talked about another Italian verb that uses only indirect object pronouns, the verb servire (to need), in our blog “How to Say, “I need…” in Italian: Mi serve…”

      After this blog, we can add mancare to our list of important verbs that only take indirect object pronouns. All three of these verbs work in the same way, but we will go over once again how to conjugate and translate a verb of this type with mancare. Full disclosure: there are other Italian verbs that only take indefinite articles, along with the three already mentioned! Below is a short list of the most important Italian verbs that only take indefinite articles.

      Piacere

      to like

      Servire

      to need

      Mancare

      to miss

      Mancare

      to miss

      Mancare

      to miss

      Mancare

      to miss

      A short review of the Italian indirect object pronouns and their meanings:*

      mi

      to me

      ti

      to you (familiar)

      Le

      to you (polite)

      le

      to her

      gli

      to him

         

      ci

      to us

      vi

      to you all

      gli

      to them

      *Of course, mi, ti, ci, and vi do double duty as direct object pronouns. Also, with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself, etc.

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

      How to Say, “I miss you!”

      with Mancare

      The Italian verb mancare has many meanings: to miss/to lose/to lack/to be lacking/to omit/to fail. Perhaps the most common way mancare is used is to convey the idea of “to miss someone,” so it is important to learn the conjugation and sentence structure for this verb for everyday conversation.

      To start off, you should know that the sentence structure used for mancare is the same as for the verb piacere, the prototype for Italian verbs that only take an indirect object pronoun. You should also realize that this group of Italian verbs works differently from its English counterparts. Therefore, the English translation will not match the Italian word for word. The idea will remain the same, however.

      In English, we say the subject of the sentence misses someone using the person who is missed as a direct object. Example: I (subject) miss (verb) John (direct object).

      In Italian,  however, there are two significant differences from the English way of thinking.  Below are English and Italian sentence structures with examples that have identical meanings. We will change the Italian sentences into the most commonly used Italian structure with an indirect object pronoun step by step, in order to aid in understanding how both languages can say the same thing in a different way. For these examples, the English translation is given in the Italian way of thinking, and is in parentheses. Notice the color coding that follows throughout the examples: subject in brown, verb in green, direct object pronoun in blue, and indirect and stressed object pronouns in red.

      First, let’s look at the English way of thinking. The subject is the person talking and the direct object is who they miss:  

      English: [subject: person missing someone+ mancare conjugated to reflect subject + direct object: person missed]

                    I         +     miss      +      John.

      Now, let’s turn this English idea around to make an Italian sentence. To Italians, the person who is being missed is the subject of the sentence.  With this logic in mind, the person missing someone must be expressed by a stressed object pronoun or an indirect object pronoun. The sentence with a stressed object pronoun:

      Italian:  [subject: person missed +  mancare conjugated to reflect subject + stressed object pronoun: person missing someone]

                  Giovanni   +    manca    +    a me.
                  
      (John           is missing          to me.)

      Although our Italian example above is grammatically correct, those conversing in Italian most commonly use an indirect object pronoun instead of the stressed pronoun,* and place the indirect object pronoun pronoun before the verb.

      Italian:  [indirect object pronoun: person missing someone mancare conjugated to reflect subject + subject: person missed]

                  Mi        +         manca      +    Giovanni.
                  
      (To me             is missing           John).

      To make matters more confusing to the English speaker, the subject of the sentence — which in this case is Giovanni — can be left out entirely as long as the person who is being discussed is known from the context. But, in most cases the subject is then added to the end of the sentence for clarification.

      *The stressed pronoun is handy to use for emphasis, as its name suggests.

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

      Below is the present tense conjugation of mancare. Notice that the tu and noi forms have irregular spelling to keep the hard “c” sound that we hear when we pronounce the infinitive verb. These are marked with an asterisk.

      Mancare = To Be Missing (To)

      io

      manco

      I am missing (to…)

      tu

      manchi*

      you (fam.) are missing (to…)

      Lei

      lei/lui

      manca

      you (polite) are missing (to…)

      she/he/it is missing (to…)

       

       

       

      noi

      manchiamo*

      we are missing (to…)

      voi

      mancate

      you all are missing (to…)

      loro

      mancano

      they are missing (to…)

      The sentences below give some common examples of how to use the verb mancare in the present tense. To aid the English speaker in understanding this Italian way of thinking, the Italian subject pronouns are included in parentheses. But remember that Italian subject pronouns are usually left out of a sentence, unless needed for clarification. Also, the word-for-word Italian to English translation is given in parentheses, with the correct English translation in the third column in bold black.

      If the idea behind how to use mancare seems too complicated at first, just memorize the first four examples, as you will likely use these the most!

      Example Sentences with Mancare 

      (Tu) Mi manchi.

      (You are missing to me.)

      I miss you.

      (Lei/Lui) Mi manca.

      (She/he is missing to me.)

      I miss her/him.

       

      (Io) Ti manco?

      (Am I missing to you?)

      (Do you) miss me?

      (Lei/Lui) Ti manca?

      (Is she/he missing to you?)

      (Do you) miss her/him?

       

      (Io) Gli manco.

      (I am missing to him.)

      He misses me.

      (Io) Le manco.

      (I am missing to her.)

      She misses me.

      (Tu) Gli manchi.

      (You are missing to him.)

      He misses you.

      (Tu) Le manchi.

      (You are missing to her.)

      She misses you.

      Gli manca (Maria).

      (Maria is missing to him.)

      He misses Maria.

      Le manca (Maria).

      (Maria is missing to her.)

      She misses Maria.

      Gli manca (Paolo).

      (Paul is missing to him.)

      He misses Paul.

      Le manca (Paolo).

      (Paul is missing to her.)

      She misses Paul.

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

      Mancare is often used in the past tense. Consider the phrase “I missed you!” This implies that a definite period of absence has passed, and now the individuals are finally together and are able to talk about their feelings. The past tense of mancare is regular in the passato prossimo and takes essere. This is the past tense form for mancare that is most commonly used during conversation.

      See below for the passato prossimo conjugation of mancare:

      Singular forms: sono sei, è, + mancato(a)

      Plural forms: siamo, siete sono + mancati(e)

      The imperfetto form of mancare is regular as well, and is used most often for narration. Remember when telling a story about something that has happened without mentioning a specific period of time to use the imperfetto past tense.  If you need a refresher on when to use the passato prossimo and imperfetto, refer to our previous blogs about the Italian past tense.  In the case of mancare, the reference is often to a nonspecific amount of time that people missed each other in the past. 

      See below for the imperfetto conjugation of mancare:

      Singular forms: mancavo, mancavi, mancava

      Plural forms: mancavamo, mancavate, mancavano

      Find four common examples below of how to use the verb mancare, in past tense, with the passato prossimo. As in the examples for the present tense, the subject pronouns are included in parentheses, but remember that they are usually often left out of a sentence unless needed for clarification. Also, the direct Italian to English translation is given in parentheses, with the correct English translation in the third column in bold black. How many more examples can you think of?

       

      (Tu) Mi sei mancato(a).

      (You were missing to me.)

      I missed you.

      (Lei/Lui) Mi è mancato(a).

      (She/he was missing to me.)

      I missed her/him.

       

      (Io) Ti sono mancto(a)?

      (Was I missing to you?)

      (Did you) miss me?

      (Lei/Lui) Ti è mancato(a)?

      (Was she/he missing to her/him?)

      (Did you) miss her/him?

      Remember how to use the Italian verb
      mancare in Italian
      when missing someone dear to you!


      Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
      The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

      Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – “He Said/She Said” and Object Pronouns

      Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

      Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

      Two of the most popular every day phrases are, “He said to me… ” or  “She said to me…” In fact, the equivalent phrase in Italian, “Mi ha detto.”  is used so often that it usually comes out in quickly, in one breath! 

      In this blog, we will discuss the popular phrase “Mi ha detto,” and use it as a springboard into a discussion of indirect object pronouns that can be used with the verb dire and many other Italian verbs as well.

      As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

      If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb dire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

      This post is the 47th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

      Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

      use the Italian past tense verb + indirect object pronoun
      Mi ha detto…

      See below for how this works.

      As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

      Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

      The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                             found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

      The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

      What He Said… What She Said…

      in Italian with Object Pronouns

      Let’s begin by looking at the verb dire — to say — in our important phrases “he said” and “she said” for discussion in this blog. The past tense for “he said” and “she said” in Italian, a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo, and is “ lui/lei ha detto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English past tense, “he has said” and “she has said.” 

      Since the subject pronoun is generally left out of an Italian sentence, we are left with “ha detto” to describe both what he said and what she said. The subject pronouns lui (he) or lei (she) may be added before the verb for emphasis in this case, but generally those having a conversation know who they are talking about.

      Because the phrases “he said” and “she said” are used frequently in everyday conversation, we should commit the Italian passato prossimo verb “ha detto” to memory. 

      To make a complete sentence using the verb dire to describe what was said, use either “di” or “che  to link the subject  and verb to the topic that was discussed. Di is used as the conjunction in the examples in the table below to answer a question in the affirmative or negative. Of course, even though our focus in this blog is on how to use the verb ha detto, it should be noted that one usually answers “yes,” or “no,” for themselves with ho detto, although they can also relay someone else’s answer using a different conjugation of dire, such as ha detto, abbiamo detto, etc. In all situations, when answering “yes” or “no” in Italian, the conjunction di is required.  

      Ho detto di si.

      I said yes.

      Ho detto di no.

      I said no.

         

      Ha detto di si.

      He/She said no.

      Ha detto di no.

      He/She said no.

       

       

      Abbiamo detto di si.

      He/She said yes.

      Abbiamo detto di no.

      He/She said no.

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

      Adding an indirect object pronoun before the verbs ho detto, abbiamo detto, or ha detto will allow the speaker to describe to whom something was said.  For this section, though, our discussion will focus only on “ha detto” and  Italian indefinite articles.

      Why focus on “ha detto? One of the most popular every day phrases is, “He/She said to me,” which is, “Mi ha detto”  in Italian. In fact, the phrase “mi ha detto” is  used so often that it usually said in one breath! We can build on this simple, easy to remember phrase to describe more complex situations.  For instance, we can substitute other indirect object pronouns for mi (to me), such as ti (to you), gli (to him), or le (to her).  

      In English, when we use the indirect object pronouns “to me,” “to you,” “to him/her,” they are placed after the verb, while in Italian, they are placed before the verb.  This may take some time to get used to. In the summary table below, the indirect object pronouns are in red.

      Ha detto

      He said / She said

      Mi ha detto

      He said / She said to me

      Ti ha detto

      He said/ She said to you

      Gli ha detto

      He said / she said to him

      Le ha detto

      He said / She said to her

      The next table uses our verb ha detto and indirect object pronouns in example sentences.  For these examples (and for  all other instances in Italian except those given in the table in the previous section regarding a “yes” or “no” answer), “che is used as the conjunction.

      The subject pronoun is included in some of the examples in the table below for clarity. Again, the Italian and English indirect object pronouns are in red. In all cases except the first, when the subject is directly quoting what someone else has said to them, English uses a direct object pronoun, and this is given in green. Notice how many permutations of the same sentence are possible with only the singular indirect object pronouns! 

      Lui ha detto che il film era bello.
      Lei ha detto che il film era bello.

      Mi ha detto: “Il film era bello.”   

      He said that the film was good.
      She said that the film was good.

      He/She said to me: “The film was good.”

      Mi ha detto che il film era bello.

      He/She told me that the film was good.

      Ti ha detto che il film era bello?

      Has he/she told you that the film was good?

       

       

      Giovanni gli ha detto che il film era bello.

      John told him that the film was good.

      Anna gli ha detto che il flim era bello.

      Ann told him that the film was good.

       

       

      Giovanni le ha detto che il film era bello.

      John told her that the film was good.

      Anna le ha detto che il film era bello.

      Ann told her that the film was good.

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

      Our example sentence, Mi ha detto che il film era bello,” and its translation, “He/She told me that the film was good,” brings up an important difference between Italian and English verbs and object pronouns; not all Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns do so in English!

      We have just seen the the Italian verb dire takes an indirect object pronoun that goes before the verb, whereas its English counterpart “to say,” in general conversation usually takes a direct object pronoun that goes after the verb. We would not say, “He told to me that the film was good,” although this is correct in Italian!

      This adds to the difficulty in choosing when to use an Italian indirect object pronoun, since the correct English translation will not always reflect the indirect object pronoun choice in Italian. 

      The difference in the Italian and English [object pronoun-verb] combination may not be immediately apparent in the phrase “mi ha detto,” since the Italian pronoun mi plays double duty as both an indirect and direct object pronoun! The Italian pronoun mi can be translated as both “me” (direct object pronoun) and “to/for me” (indirect object pronoun).*

      The same goes for the Italian pronoun ti, which is translated as “you”(direct object pronoun) as well as “to you (indirect object pronoun).

      Choosing between an indirect and direct Italian object pronoun when conversing about others in Italian becomes important in the masculine third person, as one must decide between lo (him) and gli (to him). For females, the choice is between la (her) and le (to her).

      So how does an English speaker know when to choose an indirect object pronoun in Italian?

       Italian verbs of communication and giving
      take indirect object pronouns
      when referring to a person.

      The table below is a short list of the verbs of communication that take Italian indirect object pronouns when referring to other people in conversation. You will recognize the example verb in this blog, dire, at the top of the list.

      Note that if one of these verbs is followed by a person’s name, the Italian pattern to follow is [verb + a + name].  The Italian indirect object pronoun can be though of as substituting for the a placed before a person’s name. 

      In some cases, both Italian and English verbs take an indirect object pronoun but in other cases the English translation uses a direct object pronoun, as we’ve already mentioned. Unfortunately, there is no rule that connects the Italian way of speaking to the English way, so the Italian verbs that take [a + name] or indirect object pronouns just need to be memorized. In short, in order to speak Italian, we must think in Italian!

      *And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

      Some Italian verbs of communication that take indirect object pronouns:

      Dire

      to say

      Parlare

      to talk

      Telefonare

      to call

      Scrivere

      to write

         

      Domandare

      to ask

      Chiedere

      to ask

         

      Insegnare

      to teach

      Spiegare

      to explain

      Consigliare

      to give advice

      Examples that use Italian verbs of communication with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

      Ho detto a Maria che…                  I told Maria that…
      Le ho detto che…                           I told her that…

      Ho domandato a Franco se…            I asked Frank if…
      Gli ho domandato se…                      I asked him if…

      La Signora Rossi ha spiegato a me che…   Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…
      La Signora Rossi mi ha spiegato che…       Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…

      Some Italian verbs of giving that take indirect object pronouns:

      Dare

      to give

      Offrire

      to offer

      Regalare

      to gift

      Mandare

      to send

      Portare

      to bring/deliver

      Examples that use Italian verbs of giving with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

      Ho dato a Maria il vino.                 I gave Maria the wine.
      Le ho dato il vino.                          I gave her the wine.

      Ho offerto a Franco un lavoro.      I offered Frank a job.
      Gli ho offerto un lavoro.                I offered him a job.

      La Signora Rossi ha mandato a me…  Mrs. Rossi gave me…
      La Signora Rossi mi ha mandato…      Mrs. Rossi gave me…

      *And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

      Remember how to use the phrase
      “mi ha detto” in Italian and I guarantee
      you will use this phrase every day!

      Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

      The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

      Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Author on the Shelves – #Languages – Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) by Kathryn Occhipinti

      The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone

      A great big GRAZIE MILLE to SALLY from the Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore for her review of my Conversational Italian for Travelers series reprinted below!

      Delighted to welcome Kathryn Occipinti to the Cafe and Bookstore with her language books in Italian and French. Very useful now that the world is opening up again.

      About Conversational Italian for Travelers

      Your traveling companion in Italy! Truly different from other phrase books – this book is friendly, humorous, and also provides a method to understand and remember important Italian phrases. There are many tips for the reader on how to create their own phrases and how to ask questions to get around Italy comfortably. Includes sections not found in other phrase books so the traveler can really fit into the culture of Italy. Light weight book of phrases slips easily into a pocket or purse. Keep handy simple phrases of greeting, how to change money, or how to take the train. Learn about how to communicate politely in any situation. And, of course, learn how to read those Italian menus and order at an Italian restaurant! This book is contains excerpts from the larger work, Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook. All the phrases you need to know with tips on how to create your own!

      One of the reviews for the book
      P. Zoro4.0 out of 5 stars Effective learning guide Reviewed in the United Kingdom

      Travelling to a foreign country can be a terrible experience if you don’t know how to communicate. Kathryn thus solved this potential problem for all foreign visitors to Italy with her book picking on just the important phrases.

      To start with, the book is both exciting and humorous. The reader discovers the Italian alphabethas 21 letters and borrows some additions from Latin. There are surprising differences from English, like z becomes zeta and is pronounced zeh-tah. I spent some time translating my name and found the result amusing. Learning to pronounce the words correctly was an enjoyable experiment in which I found myself closer and closer to sounding very foreign and learned.

      I discovered “buongiorno” is all I need to say from morning to early evening, and if I am not yet in my hotel then “buonasera” will do until bedtime. For hi and bye to friends there is just one word to learn – “ciao”, but there are so many ways to say goodbye you really have to take your time to learn them. “Millie Gracie” means thanks a lot (a thousand) though I expected it to be “thanks a million”.

      The writer takes the reader through the basic everyday conversational Italian in an interesting manner. You learn to be polite and formal and at the same time to be friendly and appreciative of any assistance. You also learn how to form important phrases, how to ask for the important things and making friends. The book teaches you to get comfortable at the hotel, at a restaurant and when sightseeing. It is indeed a comprehensive guide I would recommend to anyone travelling to Italy who does not speak Italian.

      As for me if someone says “Parla italiano?” (Do you speak Italian?), I will just say “Si, un po’” (Yes, a little) even though sono di Zimbabwe (I am from Zimbabwe).
      Si, I loved this book.  

      Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And:Amazon UK  – Electronic copies: Learn Travel Italian

      Also by Kathryn Occhipinti

      Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – More reviews: Goodreads – Websites:  French and Italian: StellaLucente.com – Blogs: Beginning Italian: Conversational Italian! – Twitter: StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and @travelfrench1

      About Dr. Kathyrn Occhipinti

      Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist of Italian-American descent who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for about 10 years. During that time, she founded Stella Lucente, LLC, a publishing company focused on instructional language books designed to make learning a second language easy and enjoyable for the adult audience.

      Using her experiences as a teacher and frequent traveler to Italy, she wrote the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books, which follow the character Caterina on her travels through Italy, while at the same time introducing the fundamentals of the Italian language.

      Nada Sneige Fuleihan is a native French speaker and translator who now resides in the Chicago area.

      The two writers have teamed up to create the pocket travel book, “Conversational French for Travelers, Just the Important Phrases,” using the same method and format as found in the Italian pocket book for travelers “Conversational Italian for Travelers,” originally created by Kathryn Occhipinti.

      You can connect to Kathryn on her websites, blogs and social media at these links

      Facebook group: Conversational Italian!
      Facebook pages: Stella Lucente Italian and Stella Lucente French             
      Instagram: Conversationalitalian.French
      YouTube Channel: Learn Conversational Italian
      Pinterest: StellaLucenteItalian and StellaLucenteFrench

      Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share Kathryn’s books on your own network.. thanks Sally.

      Your Italian-American Gardening Tips – Growing Basil and Making Pesto alla Genovese

      Pesto alla Genovese with gnocchi in a bowl lined with prosciutto slices, held by blogger Kathryn Occhipinti, from Conversationalitalian.french Instagram post 2021.
      Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      This summer I have had the usual bumper crop of fresh basil leaves from the basil plants in large pots that I keep in a sunny position in my garden and provide with an abundance of water.  The plants started to go to seed — make the green and white column of flowers at the end of each stalk — by mid June. So, I dutifully cut back my basil: at first just the flowers, then the stalks with the flowers, and then in mid July did a hard cut-back, taking both stalks and leaves, leaving about 50% of each plant. This will enable the basil plants in the pots to keep growing new stalks with new basil leaves, hopefully into August.

      I’ve posted about growing basil before, of course, since basil  is such a wonderful Italian herb to have in the home garden, and is easily grown in pots and harvested throughout the summer. For a post on how to grow basil, visit Planting a lettuce patch and starting tomato and basil from seeds.  For tips on how to grow basil and an authentic Caprese Salad method, visit Your Italian-American Gardening Tips with Recipes: Basil (Basilico).

      I have also blogged about making pesto before, which I love to do at least 2-3 times each summer when I have an abundance of fresh basil leaves.

      There is truly nothing like the fresh aroma of newly crushed basil over a warm bowl of pasta. And best of all, my children love it!

      If you are really curious about what pesto is and how it is made, read the reprinted blog below to learn “everything you always wanted to know” about making pesto from my blog Learn Italian!, where I post tips on how to learn advanced Italian and also share authentic Italian recipes. In this blog Pesto alla Genovese with Gnocchi: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Making Pesto! ,  I give a short history about my experiences trying to make basil,  the best  basil plant to use and the theory behind the method. I have included a video in the original blog about  how to use a marble mortar and wooden pestle — essential equipment — no food processors, please!

      Finally, at the end of this blog I have reprinted the recipe with the proportion of basil, garlic and cheeses that I like. Try my method and modify the ratio of ingredients for your family! 

      If you would like to see me making pesto live, watch this 1 minute video from my Instagram post on Conversationalitalian.french:

       
       
       
       
       
      View this post on Instagram
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

      A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french)

      //www.instagram.com/embed.js


      Pesto alla Genovese with Gnocchi: Everything You Always Wanted to Know!

      Pesto alla Genovese is the famous bright green “pasta sauce” from the northern Italian region of Liguria, whose capital is the city of Genoa. My introduction to pesto, which was not a part of my southern Italian upbringing, was from one of those little glass jars I found in a grocery store in Peoria, Illinois. The jar had been labeled “pesto” by an Italian company. Back then, I was trying to learn to cook true Italian “regional” cooking and specifically to expand my sauce-making techniques beyond the ubiquitous and well-loved southern Italian red tomato sauce.  Read the full post here: Pasta alla Genovese.

       

       

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

      Italian Recipe: Kathryn’s Pesto alla Genovese
      con Gnocchi

      Ingredients and tools needed for making Pesto alla Genovese: Mortar and pestle as it is being used, olive oil, cheese, basil leaves
      Pesto alla Genovese: Ingredients needed are shown as they are slowly ground together in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.

      Ingredients for Italian Recipe
      Kathryn’s Pesto alla Genovese
      (Serves 4)

      Small leaves from 1 small sweet basil plant (Genovese basil is best!)
      (about 3 cups of lightly packed leaves, rinsed, patted dry, stems removed)
      1 to 2 small garlic cloves, peeled, halved lengthwise
      (and bitter green center removed if present)
      2 tablespoons Italian pine nuts
      2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
      1/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
      1/4 tsp salt
      3/4 cups of extra virgin olive oil, from Liguria, if possible

      If desired: Prosciutto to line the bowl of gnocchi and pesto dressing for serving.

      Method for the Pesto 

      Note: Before starting, set a large pot of well-salted water on the stove to boil, and cook your pasta  or gnocchi to “al dente” tenderness (“to the tooth). Time the pasta so it finishes cooking just before the pesto is complete. Keep in mind that fresh pasta and gnocchi will take far less time to cook than dried pasta.

      1. Put the garlic cloves into the mortar with a few grains of salt and begin to crush. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush into a smooth paste.
      2. Remove the garlic/pine nut mixture from the mortar to a small bowl.
      3. Put a few of the basil leaves and a few grains of salt into the mortar and begin to crush, using the method shown in the link to the video in this blog post.
      4. As the basil leaves become crushed and release their essential oils, add a few more. Continue to crush the leaves, adding a few at a time, until all are crushed fairly uniformly.
      5. Add whatever salt is left to the crushed basil leaves, the garlic/pine nut mixture, and then drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Combine.
      6. Add the cheeses and a bit more olive oil. Combine.
      7. Drizzle in the rest of the olive oil while continuously stirring the garlic/pine nut/ crushed basil/cheese mixture until a creamy dressing has formed.
      8. Reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of pasta water and mix into the pesto to warm.
      9. Quickly drain the pasta and put the warm pasta into a large serving bowl.
      10. Dress with your pesto, mix to coat, and serve immediately!

       

      • If desired, as in the Instagram video above, line a large bowl with prosciutto and carefully added your pesto dressed gnocchi. Allow gnocchi to warm the prosciutto a bit, and then serve. This idea from John Coletta’, chef of Quartino Restaurant in Chicago, in his cook book titled: “250 True Italian Pasta Dishes.”

       

      A large bowl lined with prosciutto slices and filled with gnocchi that have been tossed to coat with pesto dressing.
      A large bowl lined with prosciutto slices and filled with gnocchi that have been tossed to coat with pesto dressing. This presentation is courtesy of John Coletta, chef of Quartino Restaurant in Chicago.

       

      • If you would like to preserve your pesto rather than use it right away, it can be frozen in small plastic containers. Top off with a small amount of olive oil. Leave a small amount of room in the container for the liquid to expand and then cover.

       

      Visit www.learntravelitalian.com for more of my Italian and Italian-American recipes, cultural notes and  advanced Italian language blog posts updated monthly. Click on the link “our blog” in the upper right hand corner to reach blog.Learn Travel Italian.com.

      Occhipinti Author Interview, by Dawn Mattera for Modern Italian Network.org

      Collage with photo of Kathryn Occhipinti, author, and images of the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

      As an independently published author, I am always thrilled when asked to give a video interview, since this is such a personal way for me to connect with my readers. And I do I love to talk about my reasons for venturing into the realm of Italian language learning as much as I love to write about the Italian language and culture!

      So I was very excited when Dawn Mattera, a professional speaker and an author herself who writes about Italian culture, interviewed me last week. Dawn and I have become friends through an internet community focused on the Italian culture called The Modern Italian Network (m.i.o).  There is no charge to join the m.i.o online community of Italians and Italophiles and receive daily updates on all things Italian.  From their homepage:

       

      Why mi.o?

      mi.o is a community for people who wish to share their passion for Italy with others, learn about all aspects of Italian culture including the Italian language, and find the best ways to experience Italy and Italian culture both in Italy and around the world.

       

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

       

      I’d also like to include a few words about Dawn Mattera, who kindly took time out of her day to interview me about my Conversational Italian for Travelers books, my tips to learn Italian, and my travels to Italy.

      Dawn Mattera is an author and speaker who has helped people for over 25 years achieve personal success and overcome challenges. She has written articles and newsletters for international organizations, hosted and spoken at packed seminars and virtual events, and starred in monthly TV spots. Dawn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, a Diploma for the Italian Language, and is a Microsoft Office Master (but, would rather be a Jedi master). She is also a Certified Unhackable® Coach, Speaker and Trainer. 

       

      Dawn Mattera’s latest book on Amazon is The Italian Art of Living: Your Passport to Hope, Happiness and Your Personal Renaissance. 

       

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

       

       

      Finally, if you would like to hear me — Kathryn Occhipinti — talk about why I wrote the Conversational Italian for Travelers books, listen to my tips on how to learn Italian, and learn why knowing even a few Italian words will greatly enrich your trip to Italy, just click on the link below! 

      If you are interested in my Conversational Italian for Travelers books and the FREE material to learn Italian that I talk about in the video, click on the link below for my website, www.learntravelitalian.com.

      For the Interactive Audio Dialogues that tell the story of Caterina, the Italian-American girl who travels to Italy and at the same time teach us “everything we need to know to enjoy our trip to Italy, click here.

      To “look inside” my Conversational Italian for Travelers books and to purchase a book for delivery –or– to purchase the right to download a book in PDF format onto two electronic devices, go to the website purchase page at www.learntravelitalian.com.

      Buon divertimento! 

      Above all, enjoy your adventure learning Italian!

      Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
      Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
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      Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!-The many uses of the Italian verb “Riuscire”

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      Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

      Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

      Many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. However, many times the use of an Italian verb will vary  from the usual English connotation.  And in many situations, the same verb can have many different meanings in both languages, depending on the context. Riuscire, the  Italian verb that is commonly followed by “a” to mean “to be able to do something” is one of those verbs that is used in many ways in Italian and is important to “manage to learn” if one wants to use it correctly.

      As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

      If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb riuscire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

      This post is the 46th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

      Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

      use the Italian verb
      riuscire.

      See below for how this works.

      As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

      Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

      The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                             found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

      The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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      Let’s Talk About…

      The Many Uses of the  Italian Verb

      Riuscire

      The Italian verb riuscire has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian phrases. It is important to “manage to learn” the nuances of the verb riuscire in order to create sentences as we would in our native language.

      The Italian verb riuscire, when linked by the conjunction a to another verb, is translated into English as “to be able to” or “to manage to.”  The meaning is similar to potere, with an important exception: riuscire lends an undertone of personal effort on the speaker’s part. Hence the translation into English as “to manage to.”  In the negative sense, the use of riuscire a  implies that despite maximal work beforehand, it was not possible to make something happen.

      In short, the use of  riuscire is in a way more sophisticated than the use of poterePotere is used to make a simple statement about whether something is possible, without stating if the issue is under one’s control or not. There is no reason given or backstory implied with the verb potere. Specifically, with potere, there is no reference as to the ability of a person to make something happen.  Riuscire is commonly used in Italy, even by children, when they want to include a personal emphasis in their statement.

      Riuscire a can also mean “to turn out” or “to come out.”  When something has turned out well, the veb riuscire is commonly followed by the phrase “alla perfezione.” 

      When riuscire is conjugated and followed by [bene + verb], riuscire takes on the meaning of  “to be good at” something. Riuscire can also be used when describing that one is successful at something.

      In two situations, when riuscire is followed by the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile, the meaning changes again, to: “to seem” or “to come across as.” This is a colloquial use of riuscire.

      Finally, riuscire can be used to mean “to succeed” and also as [ri + uscire] to mean “to go out again.”


      Let’s talk about how to conjugate riuscire in the present, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences. 

      Present tense: riuscire is an irregular -isco verb in the present tense. The present tense conjugation is below:

      io

      riesco

      tu

       riesci

      Lei,lei,lui

      riesce

      noi

      riusciamo

      voi

       riuscite

      loro

      riescono

      Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, essere is the helping verb and the past participle is riuscito. And, of course, remember our usual rule for past participles: if you are female, or your subject is a group of people, make sure to change the past participle riuscito to riuscita, riusciti, or riuscite!

      Riuscire is regular in the imperfetto past tense (riuscivo, riuscivi, riusciva, riuscivamo, riuscivate, riuscivano).

      Future tense: Riuscire is regular in the future tense (riuscirò, riuscirai, riuscirà, riusciremo, riuscirete, riusciranno).

      Finally, an important grammar rule: use indirect object pronouns (le = to her /gli = to him/ gli = to them) with riuscire. 


      1. Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “being able to do” something

      • Notice that when linking the verb riuscire with a action verb, the preposition ais required.
      • Common daily phrases link riuscire a with trovare, prendere, or fare to describe if one has been able to find, get, or do something.
      • Note that a substitute verb for riuscire a would be potere, which also means “to be able to,” although riuscire a  is often used to emphasize one’s efforts beforehand (as described above). Potere, on the other hand, is used to make a simple statements regarding whether something is or is not possible, without taking into account if a situation is under one’s control or not.
      “Ho guardato in tutta la casa. Ma non riesco a trovare il mio telefonino da nessuna parte!”
      “I’ve looked all over the house. But I can’t find my telephone anywhere!” 
       
      “Sei riuscito a prendere un appuntamento con il dottore?”
      “Have you been able to get an appointment with the doctor?”

         

        2.  Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “managing to do” something

        • Use riuscire a with the meaning of “to manage to do” something, often in the past tense. As in our examples in #1, the use of riuscire emphasizes that the speaker has been struggling beforehand, and is the verb used to communicate that one has or has not “managed to” get something done.
        • Riuscire a can also be used with the future tense to emphasize one’s willingness to “manage to” get something done.
        • Riuscire a can be used in place of farcela, which means, “to make it,” but can also mean “to manage to” or “to succeed.”
        “Sono riuscito a trovare i documenti necessario per la riunione di domani.”
        “I managed to find the necessary documents for the meeting tomorrow.” 
         
        “Sono riuscito a fare la spesa per la cena stasera dopo il lavoro.”
        “I managed to go grocery shopping for dinner tonight after work.”

        “Non sono riuscito a parlare con Maria alla festa ieri; lei era molto occupata.”
        “I didn’t manage to talk with Maria at the party yesterday; she was very busy.”
         
        “Sei riuscito a finire ancora il progetto? È passato già un mese!”
        “You haven’t managed to finish the project yet? It’s been a month already!”

         

        “Ho molto da fare la settimana prossima, ma riuscirò a venire a trovarti!”
        “I have a lot to do next week, but I will manage to visit you!”
         
        “Nostro figlio riuscirà a risparmiare i soldi per una macchina nuova.
        Anzi, dovrà riuscire; non gli diamo una lira!”
        “Our son will manage to save money for a new car.
        Actually, he will have to manage; we will not give him a cent!”

         

        “Marco sta male stamattina. Non ce la farà ad andare a scuola oggi.”
        “Mark is not feeling well this morning. He will not make it to school today.” 
         
        “Marco sta male stamatina. Non riesce ad andare a scuola oggi.
        “Mark does not feel well this morning. He cannot manage to go to school today.”

         

        3. Use riuscire to describe how something has “turned out.”

        “A mia nonna riesce alla perfezione la pasta al forno ogni volta.”
        “My grandmother turns out perfect baked pasta every time.” 
         
        “Molte persone sono riuscite a venire alla la festa ieri sera.”
        “Many people turned out for the party last night.”

         

         

        4. Use [riuscire + bene] to describe if someone is “good at” something

        • The verb riuscire is followed directly by bene when using the verb to describe what someone is “good at.” An alternative method would be to use bravo(a) + a to describe that a person is very talented or knowledgeable in their field.
        • When using riuscire,  the verb that describes exactly what a person’s special talent is can be placed at the end of the sentence in it’s infinitive form.
        • Or, the action verb describing what someone is “good at” can start the sentence and riuscire can be placed at the end. With this sentence structure, “a” should be placed before a name, to signify “to + name.” An indirect object pronoun should be placed before the verb risucire if an individuals’ name is not mentioned.
        “Maria riesce bene a cucinare.  Ma lei non riesce bene a far cuocere il pane.”
        “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”
         
        “Cucinare a Maria riesce bene.  Ma cuocere il pane non le riesce bene.”
        “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”

         

        5. Use riuscire to describe being successful at something.

        “La mia mostra è riuscita. Ho venduto dieci dipinti!”
        “My show was a success. I sold ten paintings!”
         
        “Giovanni è un bravo atleta; lui riesce in ogni sport che prova.”
        “John is a talented athlete; he is successful at every sport he tries.”

         

        6. Use riuscire with the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile colloquially to describe how someone or something “seems” or “comes across.”

         

        “Maria mi è riuscito simpatico.”  / “Giorgio mi è riuscito antipatico.”
        “Mary seems nice to me.”           / “George comes across as nasty to me.”
         
        “Mi riesce facile immaginare di vivere in Italia.”  /  “Mi riesce difficile immaginare di vivere senza te.”
        “It seems easy for me to imagine living in Italy.” / “It seems difficult for me to imagine living without you.”

        7. Use the riuscire to describe “going out” again. 

        • There are many Italian verbs that begin with “ri” to signify repetition of an action. Of note: ripetere  means to repeat
        • Ri + uscire can mean “to go out again.”&n