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 “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 

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

 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.

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… lavorare con attenzione agli dettagli.

   

I decide to pay attention to every detail while working.

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

Ordino di… prendere la mia prima colazione alle sei di mattina.

   

I order to take my breakfast at six AM.

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 in tutto il mondo.

   

I write about traveling all over the world.

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.”

 

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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!

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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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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.

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!

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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.

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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!

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      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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      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…

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