Everyday Italian Phrases: What I Saw, What I See, What I Am Looking At…

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 2017?

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 speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the fifth in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!  just click HERE.

Another of our “commonly used phrases” that will help us talk more easily is
“What I saw…”
 which reminds us of phrases that describe

“What I see…” and “What I am looking at…”

 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.

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference book Just the Grammar 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 I Saw… What I See… What I Am Looking At…

in Italian

First, to review from our last blog post,“What I Saw…” in Italian.

The past tense for “I saw,” a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo past tense form, which is “ho visto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English form “I have seen.”  

A very common question/answer situation arises around “who” we “have seen.” How many times in a family situation does one ask, Did you see/Have you seen…?” The subject in the question is now the familiar “you,” so the Italian phrase will change to “Hai visto…?”

Let’s summarize the phrases used most often to describe what or who I saw… 

I’m also sneaking in a phrase here to describe what or who we have never seen. We start the negative phrase with “non” as usual, then insert the word “mai,” for “never,” between the two past tense verbs.

Ho visto… I saw…
I have seen…
Hai visto…? Did you see…?
Have you seen…?
Non ho mai visto…  I have never seen…  
L’ho visto. I saw him. I saw it.
(masculine thing)
L’ha vista. I saw her. I saw it.
(feminine thing)
Li ho visti. I saw them. (all male or male+female group)  
Le ho viste. I saw them. (all female group)

Of course, we can also discuss “seeing” things or people in the present or future, not just the past. In fact, the following expressions come up so often that it is helpful to commit them to memory.

Vado vedere. I’ll go see.
Faccio vedere… I’ll show you…
(literally: I’ll make you see…)
Vedrai… You’ll see…
Vedremo… We’ll see…

Now, let’s get to some important expressions that use the verb vedere, which of course means “to see.” The first two can be translated literally, but the others cannot and are what we can call “idiomatic.” This means that we must think of the expression in its entirety to understand the meaning, rather than string together a word-by-word translation.

A prima vista At first glance
Mai visto prima Never seen before
Non vedo l’ora di… I can’t wait to…
Non vedo l’ora di vederti! I can’t wait to see you!
Che piacere di vederti! What a pleasure to see you!
Mi ha fatto piacere vederti! It has been a pleasure to see you!
Mi ha fatto piacere conoscerti! It has been a pleasure to meet you!

Sometimes in America when we are recounting a story or an event, we may end with the phrase, “…and that was that!” There is an idiomatic expression in Italian for this phrase that also uses visto:  “…chi s’è visto s’è visto!”  

Finally, if we want to say we are “looking at” something, we can use the verb guardare, which means “to look at” or “to watch.” Notice that the preposition “at” is included with this verb!

Remember, we can “look,” or use our eyes, but not really “see” or understand! Italians use these two verbs the same way that we use them in English!

Use guardare to point out something to someone else, usually when it is in plain sight. In this case, we will often use the command form of the verb, which is signaled by an exclamation point when we write. The direct object pronouns that mean him, her, and it have been written in red and are attached directly to the verb for the command forms used as follows.

Here are some expressions to get you started.

Guarda! Look!
Guardalo!  Look at him! Look at it!
(masculine thing)
Guardala! Look at her! Look at it!
(feminine thing)
Guardo il televisione. I am looking at/watching the television. 

Remember these phrases, and I guarantee that you will use at least one of them every day!

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

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

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