Christmas-time is still my favorite time of the year. I have to admit that, even as an adult, I still marvel at the sparkle that Christmas lights bring to my neighborhood in the early evening darkness. Excitement builds at my home in the beginning of December with the familiar sounds of decorations being hauled out of storage and fixed to their usual places on the fireplace and the stairway. We listen to our favorite music as we trim the Christmas tree (and try not to argue too much about where each ornament should go).
And, of course, every Sunday from Thanksgiving until the New Year, smells of the traditional Italian cookies that my mother, children, and I prepare as Christmas treats permeate the household.
So, for this month, I asked the Conversational Italian! Facebook group to describe the sounds and scents of the Christmas season in their households. We will use these examples for our last blog on “commonly used phrases” for this year in order to understand how to use the Italian verb “sentire.”
By the way, we are approaching the end of 2017. Did you set a goal to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?
As I’ve stressed this year, 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 9th in a series that originates in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. Our group has had a chance to use these phrases. Now I am posting 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.
Two more of our “commonly used phrases” are
“I hear…” and “I smell…”
We will discuss the Italian expressions for Christmas season experiences,
“What I heard…” and “Scents of Christmas…”
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 was adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar
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 hear… and… What I heard
this Christmas – in Italian
The present tense form for “I hear…” is rendered in Italian with the verb sentire, and is, “Io sento…” But, of course, we always leave out the Italian subject pronoun, so the phrase that Italians use is conversation is just, “Sento…”
(You will notice the similarity of sentire to the verb sentirsi, which means “to feel,” as we’ve discussed in our last two blogs in this series. But remember, Italian verbs and their reflexive counterparts will have different meanings, despite appearing to have the same stem!)
To complete the phrase, just add what you sound you are listening to after the verb! This part of the phrase can be a bit tricky, though, because different Italian words are used to describe the various the sounds that we may hear.
For instance, a telephone ring is often described as “uno squillo” or “lo squillo,” and the verb to use when a telephone is ringing is squillare.
To describe how a doorbell rings, use the same word that describes how a church bell rings, which is “un suono” or “il suono.” The verb to use is suonare. Use suonare to describe the act of “playing” an instrument as well. To sing is cantare.
There are several words to describe the concept of noise, but the most common is “rumore.” A loud noise is, of course, “un gran rumore” and noisy is rumoroso.
If we want to ask someone if they can hear the same thing we do, we can simply say, “Puoi sentire?” for “Can you hear?” More often, though this question is asked and answered in the past tense. Below are some examples of how to form questions and answers with sentire in the present and the past tense.
|(Io) sento…||I hear…|
|(Tu) senti…?||Do you hear…?|
|Puoi sentire?||Can you hear?|
|Hai sentito…?||Have you heard…?|
|Si, ho sentito…||Yes, I have heard…
Yes, I heard…
|No, non ho sentito…||No, I have not heard…
No, I haven’t heard…
Before going on, we should also now revisit an earlier post in this series, Italian Phrases We Use EVERY day! What I saw… and build upon the phrases we learned in that post to make new phrases about what I heard.
Just like a common reply to “What did you see?” is, “I saw him/her/it,” a common reply to “What did you hear?” is, “I heard him/her/it.” So, we can just substitute the past tense ho sentito(a,i,e) for the past tense in our previous examples about what we saw.
We have built upon what we already know and have easily added more phrases we can use in Italian conversation!
(If you need a grammar refresher on how to describe “it” in Italian, please visit our previous blog or, for even more detail, our Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Grammar reference book.)
|Ho sentito…||I heard/I have heard…|
|Hai sentito…?||Did you hear/Have you heard…?|
|L’ho sentito.||I heard him.||I heard it.|
|L’ha sentita.||I heard her.||I heard it.|
|Li ho sentiti.||I heard them. (all male or male+female group)|
|Le ho sentite.||I heard them. (all female group)|
Finally, it is difficult to talk about what we hear without mentioning that we are also listening. After all, it is very important to listen to what we hear! In order to describe that we are listening in Italian, we must use the verb ascoltare.
The present tense endings in the first and second person that we are focusing on will be the same as for sentire, and the past tense will also use either ho or hai with the past participle ascoltato. See the summary chart below for how this works.
|(Io) ascolto…||I listen…|
|(Tu) ascolti…?||Do you listen…?|
|Puoi ascoltare?||Can you listen?|
|Hai ascoltato…?||Have you listened…?|
|Si, ho ascoltato…||Yes, I have listened…
Yes, I listened…
|No, non ho ascoltato…||No, I have not ascoltato…
No, I haven’t listened…
Now, let’s put together all of our knowledge of the Italian verbs and phrases that it takes to experience the sounds in our world. We had fun in our Conversational Italian! group describing some of the sounds of Christmas. Below are some examples. I’ve included both present and past tense phrases. How many more can you think of?
|Sento lo squillo del telefono. È nonnna, che vuole invitarci a casa sua.
I hear the telephone ring. It is Grandma, who wants to invite us to her house.
I hear it.
|Sento il suono della campanella d’ingresso quando gli ospiti arrivano.
I hear the doorbell ring when the guests arrive.
I hear it.
|Sento il suono delle campanelle della chiesa.
I hear the church bells ring.
I hear them.
|Sento le canzoni di Natale.
I hear the songs of Christmas.
I hear them.
|Hai sentito il rumore in piazza dal presipe vivente?
Have you heard the noise in the piazza from the living nativity scene?
Ho sentito il rumore.
I heard the noise.
I heard it.
|Ho ascoltato mio fratello suonare il violino per la festa di Natale.
I listened to my brother play the violin for the Christmas party.
I listened to him.
|Ho ascoltato la mia sorella cantare le canzoni natalizie per la vigilia di Natale.
I listened to my sister sing Christmas carols for Christmas Eve.
I listened to her.
What I smell… and… The scents of
this Christmas – in Italian
The present tense form for “I smell…” is rendered in Italian with the phrase sentire l’odore di, and is, “Io sento l’odore di…” But, of course, we always leave out the Italian subject pronoun, so the phrase that Italians use is conversation is just, “Sento l’odore di…”
If food cooking on the stove smells good, we can say it has, “Un bel profumo,” or “A good smell/aroma.” The word profumo also means scent and the fragrance, and can refer to the scent of a freshly cut Christmas tree or the perfume someone is wearing.
If we want to talk about a lovely scent that we smell, we can use the phrase, “Sento il profumo di…” for “I smell the scent of…”
To complete the phrases above, just add what it is you smell after the phrase! Remember to combine di with one of the definite articles that is used to describe the thing you smell. You will remember that il, lo, i, gli, l’ are our masculine definite articles and la, le, l’ are our feminine definite articles, and all of these Italian words mean “the.”
(If you need a grammar refresher on how to di is combined with the definite articles in Italian, please visit our Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Grammar reference book.)
If we want to ask someone if they can smell the same thing we do, we can simply say, “Puoi sentire l’odore di…?” for “Can you smell…?” More often, though this question is asked and answered in the past tense. Below are some examples of how to form questions and answers with sentire odore di in the present and the past tense.
|(Io) sento l’odore di…
(Io) sento il profumo di…
|(Tu) senti l’odore di…?||Do you smell…?|
|Puoi sentire l’odore di?||Can you smell?|
|Hai sentito l’odore di…?||Have you smelled…?|
|Si, ho sentito l’odore di…||Yes, I have smelled…
Yes, I smelled…
|No, non ho sentito l’odore di…||No, I have not smelled…
No, I haven’t smelled…
Now, let’s put all our knowledge of the phrase it takes to describe what we can smell together! We had fun in our Conversational Italian! group describing some of the scents of Christmas. Below are some examples. How many more can you think of?
|I biscotti fatti in casa hanno un bel profumo. Fa molto Natale!
The homemade cookies have a wonderful smell. It is very Christmassy!
|Sento il profumo dell’albero di Natale.
I smell the fragrance of the Christmas tree.
|Ho sentito il profumo meraviglioso della cena di Natale a casa di mia nonna.
I have smelled the wonderful scent of Christmas dinner at my Grandmother’s house.
I’ve smelled it!
Remember these phrases, and have fun using them during Christmastime!
Auguri di buon Natale!
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”