Your Italian Travel Tips – It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

Ferragosto on the beach from "Take Me Home Italy" blog
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For August I would like to share a blog from “Take Me Home Italy,” written by Marilyn Ricci, a friend who has recently moved to Italy and has been sharing her experiences with us through her writing.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

And, what better way to explore Italy and provide travel tips than to live there?  Marilyn has been able to experience first hand the important August celebration of Ferragosto.  To Italians, Ferragosto is a very important family and religious celebration, with roots that date back to Roman times.  Over the years,  the meaning  of Ferragosto has changed, but its importance has not diminished, and to Italians, it is still a very special holiday family get-together and summer fun, which brings the same excitement as the Christmas season later in the winter months.

Maryiln writes:

Have you heard of Ferragosto? Ferragosto is officially a holiday on 15 August. Yet, for Italians, it is typically more than one day of celebration.

What IS Ferragosto? Where did it come from and why is it such a huge national holiday?

Back when Augustus was the Roman Emperor, in the year 18 B.C.E., he instituted the Feriai Augusti, a day of rest for the Emperor and his people. The day was dedicated to the Roman god of fertility and of the harvest. It was a time to celebrate and be fruitful as only the Romans could do.

Click on this link to read the full blog: It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

 

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

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 by the end of 2019? Well, now more than half the year has passed, and I’m sure you have made a few Italian friends and would like to talk about your relationships with “each other.”

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 say “each other” in Italian, a “commonly used phrase” in English that is expressed with  Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs, we will be able to talk about common feelings and experiences — just as we do in our native language!

With a little Italian reciprocal reflexive verb  practice, soon we will be able to say “each other” in Italian in order to fully interact with our friends and describe what is happening around us.

This post is the 25th 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”
that describe our interactions with “each other”
use

  Italian reciprocal 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.

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How to Say “Each Other”

Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

 

Reciprocal reflexive verbs are used in the special situation when two or more people perform the same action together; this will make all people involved the subject of the action.

To express this type of situation in English we simply add the phrase “each other” after the verb that describes the action. Italians employ the -si ending, as with regular reflexive verbs that describe actions that revert back to the speaker.

Listed below are verbs that commonly use the reciprocal reflexive form:

abbracciarsi to hug each other
aiutarsi to help each other
amarsi to love each other
baciarsi to kiss each other
chiamarsi to call each other
conoscersi to get to know each other
fidanzarsi to become engaged
guardarsi to look at each other
incontrarsi to meet each other
(planned meeting)
odiarsi to hate each other
parlarsi to speak to each other
salutarsi to greet each other
scriversi to write each other
sposarsi to marry each other
telefonarsi to call each other
trovarsi to meet each other
vedersi to see each other

A quick glance at this list reveals two things: (1) many of these reflexive verbs have non-reflexive forms with similar meanings, such as amare (to love), parlare (to talk), scrivere (to write), and vedere (to see); (2) many of these reflexive verbs are also used as simple reflexive verbs, such as fidanzarsi (to get married), and sposarsi (to get married).

The verb chiamare and its reflexive form chiamarsi are also interesting. Chiamare alone means “to call,” as in to yell over to someone (or to make a telephone call, now that technology allows us to do this) but chiamarsi in its simple reflexive form has a different meaning: “to call oneself a name.” Of course, every Italian student quickly learns the first conjugation of the verb chiamarsi as part of their initiation into the Italian language with the phrase,Mi chiamo…” for the English phrase “My name is…”  So chiamarsi does  “double duty” as a simple and a reciprocal reflexive verb, with different meanings depending on the context.

In short, reflexive verbs add shades of meaning to the Italian language in a simple, yet brilliant way.

 

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How do we actually use Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs in conversation?

Let’s give this a try with the two most commonly used persons in spoken Italian, the first person plural noi and the third person plural loro forms.

If the speaker is involved in the action with someone else—we are doing the action—conjugate the verb in the sentence using the first person plural noi form and put its reflexive pronoun ci before the  conjugated verb.

If the speaker is talking about a group of other people—they are doing the action—conjugate the verb in the sentence using the third person plural loro form and put its reflexive pronoun si before the conjugated verb.

As we have learned in our previous blogs, the subject pronouns are almost always omitted  when conversing in Italian, and this “rule” applies to sentences that use reciprocal reflexive verbs.  But the subject pronouns have been included in parentheses in our Italian examples in the table below, just to make it immediately clear who is the subject. With time, we should not need this hint, at least for the noi form, with its easily recognizable -iamo verb ending, which is the same for all verbs in the present tense!

Also, notice that in Italian the immediate future is expressed by the present tense, while in English, we tend to use the future tense for every future activity.  It is easy in English to speak in the future tense, since all we have to do is place the word “will” in front of the verb. Since the word “will” is not actually included in the Italian sentences given as examples, and we are not conjugating in the Italian future tense, the word “will” is given in parentheses in our English translations in the table below.

 

If we try to think a little bit in Italian, and translate the Italian ideas into the English we would ordinarily use, we will find that it is really not that difficult to understand Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs!

 

Io e Francesca ci vogliamo bene. Frances and I care for each other very much.
   
(Noi) Ci sposiamo oggi. We (will) marry each other today.
(Noi) Ci scriviamo ogni giorno. We write each other every day.
(Noi) Ci vediamo al teatro. We (will) see each other at the theater.
(Noi) Ci vogliamo bene. We love each other very much.

 

Caterina e zia Rosa si salutano. Kathy and Aunt Rose greet each other.
Michele e Francesca si vogliono bene. Michael and Frances care for each other very much.
   
(Loro) Si vogliono bene. They care for each other very much.
(Loro) Si incontrano. They meet each other.
(Loro) Si chiamano ogni giorno. They call (telephone) each other every day.

 

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Let’s try this in the past tense. Remember, of course, that all reflexive verbs take essere in the passato prossimo past tense, and that the past participle ending must change in gender and number when using essere as a helping verb.

 

Io e Francesca ci siamo voluti bene. Frances and I cared for each other very much.
   
(Noi) Ci siamo sposati oggi. We married each other today.
(Noi) Ci siamo scritti ogni giorno. We wrote each other every day.
(Noi) Ci siamo visti al teatro. We saw each other at the theater.
(Noi) Ci siamo voluti bene. We loved each other very much.

 

Caterina e zia Rosa si sono salutate. Kathy and Aunt Rose greeted each other.
Michele e Francesca si sono voluti bene. Michael and Frances cared for each other very much.
(Loro) Si sono voluti bene. They cared for each other very much.
(Loro) Si sono incontrati. They met each other.
(Loro) Si sono chiamati ogni giorno. They  called each other (on the telephone) every day.

 

There are, of course, many more occasions for the use of reciprocal reflexive verbs than those I have just listed.  How many more an you think of?

 

Remember how to the Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs and I guarantee you will use then every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Italian Wine: In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo by Tom Maresca

How the Italians were able to win over the US market for high quality wine. Fascinating article.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo

Earlier this month, Lucio Caputo died at the age of 84. His passing didn’t attract a lot of attention outside the wine world, but within that micro-universe it reverberated enormously.

.
From 1974 to 1982, Caputo was the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York, at that time a position of incredible importance for Italian products in the United States, and most especially for Italian wine. He left the Italian civil service in 1983 (declining a fat government pension) to stay on in New York to found the Italian Wine and Food Institute, an agency he successfully headed for the next 30 years. The IWFI did a tremendous job over that period of promoting the best of Italian wines and food products. Its annual tastings and awards dinners were always highlights of the season for wine professionals.

But for those of us who remember what the situation of…

View original post 553 more words

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Oregano (Origano) and Zucchini (Zucchina)

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! This week I will share about how to grow the herb oregano and it’s perfect Italian companion zucchini for one of my favorite Italian side-dishes, a simple “stew” of zucchini and tomatoes with onions and oregano.  Even children who don’t like summer squash will love this dish! 

As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.” 

For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.

Meanwhile, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen cooking our favorite meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables that my grandfather grew. She passed down the simple but delicious method for stewing zucchini with tomatoes and oregano to our family here in America.  After reading about how to grow oregano and zucchini,  and watch me it in action as I cook the dish by clicking the Instagram link if you want!

Check out my Insatgram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing oregano and zucchini.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about gardening!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Oregano – Origano

 

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Oregano – just getting started growing in my garden

Oregano is a perennial, bush-like plant that is commonly used in tomato salads or combined with zucchini and tomatoes for a vegetable side dish (contorno). In the United States, oregano became popular after World War II, when it was brought back from Italy by American soldiers and became a common addition to tomato sauces in Italian-American households.

Oregano will come up each spring if planted directly in the garden, usually growing a bit larger each year.  Oregano likes sun, but can also grow in partial shade. Trim frequently with kitchen scissors and dry or keep the leaves fresh in the refrigerator on the stalk. Significant amounts of oregano can be harvested early in summer and the plant will regrow. Allow to flower late in the summer.  The plant is cold hardy and can survive a fall or spring frost, but will die back in the winter.  Remove any remaining dead branches in the spring and the plant will grow for another season.

To harvest oregano, cut off the stem with its leaves.  Then, use a small knife or your fingers to run down the length of the stem and remove the small leaves. Discard the stem. To dry,, bundle and hang from the stems upside down.  When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an air-tight container away from heat.

 

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 Italian Summer Squash – Zucchina e Cucuzza

Zucchina is one zucchini in Italian
Two zucchini plants growing side by side in the garden.

Zucchini in English, or zucchina/zucchine in Italian is a summer squash, also known as a marrow.  The immature form of a marrow is called a courgette. The smaller courgettes, which have more flesh and less seeds than the mature summer squash, are used widely in Italian cooking. Zucchini is popular fried, stewed, and even hollowed out and stuffed, and usually served as an appetizer or a side dish.  The zucchini flowers are edible and are often stuffed and fried as an appetizer.

Zucchini can be planted after the last threat of frost is over. Zucchini like well-manured, moist soil and can even grow on a compost heap (from personal experience)! Create a mound of soil and plant 4-6 seeds around the mound so the plants will grow next to one another.  This will encourage pollination by bees, who can easily fly from one flower to the next.

Male zucchini plant
Male zucchini flower on a long stalk from my garden

Zucchini plants come in male and female varieties, although they look identical and have almost identical flowers. However, only the female plant will produce a zucchini, which grows from the base of the female flower itself.  Male flowers will grow on a long, slender stalk.  When the pollen is transferred from the male to the female flower, the zucchini at the base of the female flower will enlarge as the flower slowly becomes smaller and finally dies off.  Some gardeners transfer the pollen from the male to the female flower on the tip of a Q-tip, hoping to ensure a large crop of zucchini fruit, but usually this is not necessary if enough seeds are planted.

For the most flavorful zucchini, harvest when 5-6″ long by cutting them off at the stem. Refrigerate with the short stem intact until ready to use. Be careful to check daily, or a giant zucchini may appear unexpectedly in the garden and most of the flesh will be replaced by seeds! Frequent harvesting will also encourage more female flowers to emerge and in turn this will produce more fruit.

Zucchini leaves are susceptible to fungus, and may turn brownish, but the plant should continue to produce fruit. Slugs and other insects may bore into the stem and cause the leaves to wilt and die. Sprinkling crushed egg shells on the soil may discourage slugs, who don’t like to slide over the shells. Planting zucchini in a different location each year will help to avoid the spread of these diseases to your crop next year.

To cook zucchini, simply cut off the stem and the opposite end and then cut the entire vegetable cross-wise into rounds or lengthwise into sticks or strips.

 

Cucuzza 

Image from www.specialtyproduce.com

A famous long, thin, light green squash that is harvested in the summer from southern Italy and Sicily is known as “cucuzza.”  Cucuzza (pronounced “goo-gooz” in  Sicilian dialect) typically grows from 1 to 3 feet. Unlike a true summer squash, the skin from this squash must be peeled be peeled before cooking.  There is a well-known Sicilian proverb that states, “Cucinala come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è!” meaning, “However you cook it, it’s still just squash!” 

Cucuzza is also used as an endearing term for a young girl in a 1950’s Italian novelty song sung by Louis Prima called, “My Cucuzza.”  He sings about the vegetable, Cucuza grows in Italy down on the farm.  It’s something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm… I call my girl cucuzza because she’s as sweet as can be.”  To hear the song sung by Louis Prima in it’s entirety, click this My Cucuzza link.

 

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Zucchini with Tomatoes and Oregano

Stewed zucchini, tomatoes and oregano
Stewed zucchini and tomatoes with fresh oregano and a slice of crusty Italian bread.

Watch the method in time elapse photography as I cook this dish on my Instagram channel by clicking here:

View this post on Instagram

That’s Italian! Zucchini and with tomatoes and fresh oregano (origano) from your garden – an easy-to-make and delicious vegetable side dish for summer. Even your kids will love this! Just sauté onions (don’t let brown) and zucchini with a pinch of salt a little olive oil. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Delizioso! Delicious! #osnap #chicagogarden #chicagogardener #chicagoland #italyinamerica #italiangardens #italiangardenstyle #oregano #oreganoplant #summersquash ##origano🍃 #origanofresco🌿 #origanofresco #zucchinirecipes #zucchinis #zucchina #zucchiniplant #summersquash #howtocook #howtocookzucchini #italianfood @italynearme #howtocookvegetables #howtocookvegetablestew

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

Ingredients: 

olive oil, 1 onion, 3 medium-size Zucchini, 6 plum tomatoes, fresh oregano, salt

Method: 

  1. Coarsely chop the onion, zucchini and tomatoes. (See the video for the method to chop these vegetables.)
  2. Pour olive oil into a large frying pan with high sides or a pot large enough to accommodate all the vegetables, heat briefly, and then add the onions and a pinch of salt.
  3. When the onions have softened, and turned clear, add the zucchini. Cover and let zucchini cook on medium heat to soften, stirring occasionally. Do not let zucchini or onions brown.
  4. When zucchini ha softened, add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste with a few grinds of pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat. If needed, add a little water.
  5. When the tomatoes have softened, add the oregano and cook until the herb has softened.
  6. When all vegetables have softened, but are not mushy, they are done!  The finished vegetable dish should have a little bit of “juice” and can be served in a separate small bowl if wanted.
  7. Serve with Italian bread to “sop up” the juices.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How We Dress in Italian

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 by the end of 2019? Well, now more than half the year has passed, and I’m sure you are trying to talk about your every day activities with family and friends!  One of the most common topics of conversation in any language is about clothes and how we dress.

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to tell others how we dress and make “small talk” about how well others are dressed — part of “fare la bella figura” (looking fabulous) in Italian — just as we do in our native language!

In Italian we need to learn how to use three important verbs and we are all set to talk about what we are wearing—vestirsi, mettersi, and indossare. 

This post is the 24th 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” that describe what we are doing

are about
  “Putting on clothing…” or  “What we are wearing…”

 If I want to describe what we are wearing in Italian,

we must learn how to use the Italian verbs
Vestirsi, Mettersi, and Indossare

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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What We Are Wearing in Italian


Vestirsi, Mettersi, Portare and Indossare

In Italian we need to learn how to use three important verbs and we are all set to talk about what we are wearing—vestirsi, mettersi, and indossare.  If we learn how to use these verbs properly, we will be able to tell others how we dress and make “small talk” about how well others are dressed — part of “fare la bella figura” ( looking good or making a good impression) in Italian — just as we do in our native language!

Vestirsi

Let’s start with the Italian verb “vestirsi,” which carries the general meaning of “to get dressed.” To use this verb, just conjugate it as you would any other reflexive verb to make a simple sentence.

We need to remember that for reflexive verbs, the subject pronoun of the sentence, (io, tu, Lei/lei/lui, noi, voi, loro), must be in the same person as the reflexive pronouns (mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si).

This sounds simple enough.  But, we also have to remember that the sentence structure in conversational Italian does not generally include the subject pronoun; the subject pronoun is understood from the verb ending, which will be unique for each speaker in the present tense.  So, for conversational Italian—even for reflexive verbs— the subject pronoun is left out of the sentence.  In our example table using reflexive verbs, the Italian subject pronoun will be given in parentheses for teaching purposes only.

In English, we do not convey this idea with a reflexive pronoun.  So the reflexive pronoun included in the Italian sentence will be given in parentheses in the English translation.

 

(Io) Mi vesto. I get (myself) dressed.
(Tu) Ti vesti. You get (yourself) dressed.
(Lei/Lui) Si veste. You (polite) get (yourself)…
She/He gets (herself, himself)… dressed.

 

(Noi) Ci vestiamo. We get (ourselves) dressed.
(Voi) Vi vestite. You all get (yourselves) dressed.
(Loro) Si vestono. They get (themselves) dressed.

 

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Mettersi 

When talking about putting on a particular article of clothing, such as a dress or suit (vestito)* for instance,  we must learn to use yet another Italian reflexive verb— mettersi, which means to put on oneself. 

Here is how it works:

Mettersi can be used to convey three different types of English sentences: I put on the dress,” “I put on my dress,” and “I put my dress on.” The reflexive pronoun mi (myself) is placed before the conjugated form of mettersi, as usual, 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 the/my dress” is, “Mi metto il vestito.” 

If this all sounds complicated, just remember the simple phrase “mi metto” and replace il vestito with the article of clothing of your choice and you will be able to describe getting dressed with any article of clothing!

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 the dress./I put the dress on./I put on my dress.
(Tu) Ti metti l’anello. You put on the ring.
(Lei/lui) Si mette le scarpe. She/he puts on shoes.

*A note: Don’t confuse the verb vestire with the noun vestito, which means dress and also suit (pants and jacket or skirt and jacket).  These words are similar but have different meanings!  Also,  it should be mentioned that the plural noun, vestiti, means clothing.(Other words for suit that can be used for both sexes are abito and completo.)

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Portare

In order to say I am wearing…”  or I take the size…”  the verb portare, which is not reflexive, is usually used in the  simple present tense. You no doubt remember that portare is also commonly used to mean to bring”  or to carry.” 

Porto il mio vestito preferito. I am wearing my favorite dress.
Porto la (taglia) quarantotto. I take size 48.

 

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Past Tense Verb Choices

When speaking in the past tense, portare can also be used to say, I wore…” But perhaps because portare is used so commonly with its other meaning of to bring”  in the present tense, in order to describe what they have worn in the past, most Italians prefer to revert to mettersi and use its (irregular) past participle messo

Remember to use the helping verb essere for the passato prossimo past tense form 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 (see the red vowels), since we are using essere as the helping verb. The table below shows how this all works:

(Io) Mi sono messo un completo.
(Io) Mi sono messa una gonna.
I wore a suit. (masculine)
I wore a skirt. (feminine)
Ho portato una gonna. I wore a skirt.

 

 

Another way to describe how someone was dressed is to use the imperfetto past tense of essere  with the descriptive past participle vestito(a,i,e).   This type of phrase can be used to make generalizations, as well as to refer to a specific article of clothing.  When being specific, the preposition con (with) is used in these phrases, as in the examples below.

Era vestito con un abito grigio. He was dressed in a gray suit.
Era vestita con una gonna blu. She was dressed in a blue skirt.
Eravamo vestiti tutti in rosso per la festa. We were dressed all in red for the party.

 

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Indossare

The verb indossare also means “to wear” and “to put on.”  This verb is used in exactly the same way as portare or mettersi.  To the Italian ear, however, the verb indossare is said to have a more elegant sound than portare or mettersi, and perhaps this is why indossare is more common in written Italian than in conversation.

Just like the other two verbs that have the same meaning, indossare must always be followed by the article of clothing that the person is wearing.

Caterina indossa un abito rosso. Kathryn is wearing a red dress.
La signora indossava un cappotto molto elegante. The lady was wearing a very elegant coat.

 

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Finally, when something fits perfectly on you or another, to really fit into Italian society, use the common expression calzare a pennello.”  Calzature refers to the art of making shoes, or “footwear,” so this Italian saying is the equivalent of  the English saying, It fits you like a glove” or It fits you to a T.”

 

Mi calza a pennello! It fits me perfectly!
Ti calza a pennello! It fits you perfectly!
Gli/Le calza a pennello! It fits (on) him/her perfectly!

 

Remember how to the Italian verbs vestirsi, mettersi, portare and indossare when talking about clothing and I guarantee you will use the every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – Matera: European Capital of Culture 2019

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

Ciao a tutti! Once again, here is a blog with unique travel tips that I would like to share.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

The post for June 2019 was written by Orna O’Reilly, in her blog “Travelling Italy.”  O’Reilly is a former interior designer from Ireland, who also worked for many years in South Africa and Mozambique. Now living in Puglia in the south of Italy, Orna is writing full time and her award winning blog covers all things Italian.  Orna regularly writes for popular Italy Magazine and for glossy Irish magazine Anthology. Word on the street is that Orna will have a new novel out soon, set in modern day Venice and Dublin… Hope to be able to share more about this novel soon!

Orna writes this about Matera:

Dating back over 7000 years, the Sassi are said to be the oldest human habitation in Italy. After the inhabitants were rehoused in the 1950s, many of the caves were restored and, since the 1980s, many of them are now used as hotels, restaurants and homes for those original Sassi dwellers who wished to return.

Having an ancient biblical appearance, in most people’s imagination, over the years Matera has been the setting for at least twenty major movies. These include the obvious candidates, Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’, though other less likely movies have been filmed there, such as last year’s ‘Wonder Woman.’

In the blog to follow, Orna tells us in detail not only about the history of Matera, but what it is like to visit the city today.  After reading her blog, I felt like visiting myself, and hope to do so one day soon.  All of the highlights of the town are mentioned, with beautiful photos so that one feels they are actually waking down the city streets of Matera with a friend. And, of course, it is important to read to the end of the blog to come to the recommendations for hotels and dining!

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Orna O'Reilly: Travelling Italy

Four hundred metres above sea level, among the rolling hills of Basilicata in southern Italy, lies the haunting city of Matera.

It is bisected by a deep ravine through which the River Gravina flows.

The sides of this deep gorge are studded by ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi, where families lived from Palaeolithic times, right up to the 1950s when the inhabitants were rehoused by the Italian government with the aid of UNESCO.

In 1993, the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was on the basis that it is the ‘most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem.’ The UNESCO website goes on to say that the ‘first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history.’

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Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Basil (Basilico) and Parsley (Prezzemolo)

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Summer to the Italian-Americans I know means a garden of herbs and vegetables —of  fragrant basil, parsley and pungent tomatoes allowed to ripen in the sun—at the very least!

This summer, I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.” 

For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.  As a small child, I knew that my fondest memories of summer would begin as I opened the large, decorative, black iron gate to enter what to me was a miraculous place – my grandparent’s a two story attached brick building that had my grandfather’s grape vines growing happily along the only free side.  Out back, there was a small cement landing where the family gathered amid large decorative clay pots of herbs, with a pergola for the ripened grapes to hang from and provide shade, of course!

The rest of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of  vegetables, perfectly staked  in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land.  I loved picking the fragrant basil, perfectly red, vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh, soft  purple figs to take home. Yes, my grandfather even managed to keep fig trees alive during the cold NYC winters by bundling the branches up a pail and covering them with blankets, just so we could enjoy baskets of fresh figs for the summer.  And enjoy them we did!

Check out my Insatgram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing Basil and Parsley.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about growing or using these herbs!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Basil – Basilico

 

Basilico Basil
Ornamental basil with leaves of different sizes and colors

Basil is an annual plant whose leaves are valued for their use in flavoring Italian tomato sauces and in appetizers with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.

Two of the most famous Italian appetizers are Capresi Salad, from the island of Capri (tomato, mozzarella, basil) and Panzanella Salad (bread, tomato, basil). Fresh basil from the region of Liguria (nearby Genoa) is ground slowly with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese with a marble mortar and pestle to make the famous Pesto Genovese.  To read more about this basil sauce, click on my blog Pesto Genovese Meets American Aquaponic Farming in Chicago

There are many types of basil that can be found growing in Italy and other countries. Italian flat leaf “sweet” basil is most often used in Italian cooking, and the basil from Liguria is said to be the most aromatic and have the most complex flavor.

Basil must be grown from seed each year. Do not sow outdoors, as basil plants are very sensitive to frost. Sow indoors and plant outdoors only when the last threat of frost is over for your region. Basil grows well in containers, but will need bright sunshine, at least in the morning, and almost daily watering; if exposed to sunlight all day, the leaves may wilt, but additional water the plant will quickly recover.

 

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Italian “sweet” basil with a broad leaf for cooking

When small, white flowers appears in mid to late summer, pinch back the stem, removing all the flowers, and harvest of the leaves can continue. Otherwise, the plant will go to seed and die.

If a basil stem with a few leaves is cut from the plant and placed in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill, roots will soon develop. When a good root ball has formed, the basil stem can be planted in a small pot of soil and will develop into a larger plant. This is a good way to keep fresh basil available during the winter months.

To harvest basil, pinch off several leaves or pinch off the stem from the top of the plant. Wash the leaves, pat dry, and shred by hand to add to tomato sauces or salads. Southern Italians love the cool flavor of fresh basil, and will top a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce with freshly torn basil as summertime treat.

To dry basil, harvest the entire plant and either hand upside down from the stem or place in a paper bag. When the leaves have dried, they can be removed. Store leaves whole for best flavor, or crumble. Place in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

 

Caprese Salad

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see the method for the easy-to-make and delicious Caprese salad, which is said to originate from the island of Capri. The ingredients are the key to this “salad”:  fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes,  soft buffalo mozzarella (from the water buffalo raised in the countryside near Capri, in the Campagna region) and fresh basil leaves.  A touch of sea-salt to bring the juices out of the tomatoes that provide the acid for the “vinaigrette” and a drizzle of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil makes an exquisite summertime treat!

View this post on Instagram

Caprese Salad: Let’s use our fresh basil (basilico), heirloom tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil to make this flavorful salad from the Italian island of Capri. The secret is very ripe tomatoes and a little sea salt to allow the tomato juices to escape and blend with the olive oil. Buon appetito! #osnap #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #basil #basilico #basilico🌱 #basilsalad #tomatoandbasil #tomatobasil #basilandtomato #basilandtomatoes #freshbasilandtomatoes #buffalomozzarella #buffalomozzarellacheese #buffalomozzarellasalad @chicagolanditalians @niafitalianamerican @sons_of_italy #freshsummersalad #freshsummertomoatoes #italianfood #italiangardens #italianfood

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Italian Herb Parsley – Prezzemolo

 

Prezzemolo Italian parsley
Italian flat leaf parsley growing in an Italian clay pot

Parsley is a biennial plant whose leaves are valued for their use in flavoring sauces, stews, and salads. Finely chopped parsley is also used in combination with basil and lemon zest in the south of Italy, and is called “gremolata,” which is used in sauces and to top meat dishes. Italian flat leaf parsley is used for cooing; curly leaf parsley is used as a garnish.

Parsley is a hardy plant that will survive into the winter months. If planted in the spring, the plant will grow through the summer and even into the fall and winter, when the temperature falls. Since parsley is a biennial, it will bloom again the next spring, but the second year it will go to seed and die at the end of the season. Replant the third year and the cycle starts again! Parsley needs frequent watering. Pinch off flowers if the plant starts to go to seed too early in the summer.

To harvest parsley, cut the stem with kitchen scissors. Save the fresh stems to bundle with kitchen twine and put in sauces and stews for flavoring. The stems can be saved in the refrigerator for a week, frozen, or dried.

 

Prezzemolo Italian flat leaf parsley
Italian flat leaf parsley

 

Remove the leaves from the stem by running the side of a large knife along the stem. Then lay the leaves out on a chopping board and chop coarsely with a large kitchen knife. Or, for finer chopped parsley bundle together before chopping.

To dry parsley, harvest the entire plant, bundle the stems together, and hand upside down. Or place in a paper bag. When the leaves have dried, they can be removed, crumbled, and stored in an air-tight container.

 

Summer Squash with Parsley

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see the method for this easy-to-make side dish that combines fresh parsley with zucchini and yellow summer squash.  A quick saute in a bit of olive oil and the addition of  finely chopped fresh parsley and garlic at the end (called a persillade in French cooking) makes a colorful and delectable side dish for any summertime meal.

 

View this post on Instagram

Great summer squash dish using your garden fresh French persil, Italian prezzemolo or parsley! Make a persillade from Provence region of France and add to a vegetable saute. Your kids will love eating their vegetables! Method: Chop parsley and then garlic finely. Mix together and chop again. Saute yellow squash and zucchini in olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add persillade mixture. Violà! #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #franceinamerica #franceinamerica🇫🇷🇺🇸 #osnap @niafitalianamerican @chicagolanditalians @sons_of_italy #herbgarden #herbs #herb #parsley #parsleypants #parsleyhealth #prezzemolo #prezzemoloevitale #persil #persillade #frenchcooking #frenchcookingathome #frenchcookingclass #frenchcountrycooking #cookingfresh #frenchprovincialcooking #cookingfrench #frenchherbs #italianherbs

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Catnip and gray cat
My cat Gracie protecting her favorite herb!

Fathers Day Saying from Dante – Father of the Italian Language

Dante Alighieri Duomo in Florence

Fathers Day Saying from Dante

Il 16 di Giugno

Buona Festa della Papà!

Happy Father’s Day!

Auguri! = Best Wishes

a tutti i padri, nonni, e bisnonni del mondo!

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

Fathers Day saying from Dante? Why? Well, I have to confess that the famous Italian poet of old, so famous that we all have come to know him by just one name – Dante –  has crept unexpectedly into my life.

I have recently been reading  Dianne Hales book La Bella Lingua, a little bit each night.  The subtitle to this book is, “My love affair with Italian, the world’s most enchanting language,” and I would encourage every serious student of Italian to read this book to discover just how the Italian language we love so much came about.

In this book, we relive the “story” of the adoption of Italian by Italians as told through Dianne’s experiences in Italy; she discovers the facts of history, bit by bit, directly from scholars she interviews as well as from the  families that she meets every day during the many months of the year she spends in Italy.

The third chapter is dedicated to Dante, who was born into an educated family for Florence as Durante degli Alighieri in 1265.  At the beginning of Dante’s life, Latin was the language of scholars. Diane explains Dante’s genius as a poet in the Italian language that had been developing for hundreds of years before his time.  Dante’s three volume Commedia (The Divine Comedy) was the longest serious work written in Italian up to that point, and earned him the title  “Father of Italian.” The Renaissance developed in Florence as Dante was writing this book in the early 1300’s.  Italians still study Dante in school today; his rhyming story-line of one man’s journey from hell to paradise, and the different characters he meets along the way,  still  permeate the culture in many ways.

After I discovered Dante’s history and place in Italian life, I decided I had to learn more. So, I went to an Italian website, and found several of Dante’s most famous phrases. I’ve reprinted his verse that includes a phrase about true love for everyone to enjoy this Fathers Day.

When I first read this verse written so long ago, it made me think of the type of love that can be shared by families even today.  The type of love that parents show their children to let them know that they believe in them. The type of love that my father showered on his two daughters when he was alive, and for which I will always be grateful.

Do Dante’s words remind you of a loved one?
Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy American Fathers Day!

I

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle:

«Alla mia grande capacità di immaginazione mancarono le forze;

ma Dio, l’amore che fa muovere il sole e le altre stelle,

faceva già girare il mio desiderio e la mia volontà,

come una ruota che gira con moto uniforme».

The love that moves the sun and other stars is verse 145 of the XXXIII canto Paradise of Dante Alighieri and the conclusion of the entire Comedy .  Paraphrase:
This verse at the conclusion of the work is dedicated to God, and today used to refer not only to the greatness of divine love, but also to the love that all of humanity is capable of.

 

If you would like to read more famous phrases by Dante, here is the link:

https://www.albanesi.it/frasi-celebri-modi-dire/frasi-di-dante.htm

Venice, Dad's favorite city
My father enjoying a gondola ride in Venice, his favorite Italian city, with me and my children in 2013.

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Say “Get” in Italian

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 by the end of 2019? Well, now half the year has passed and  I know you will have to get ready for even more complex Italian in the future!

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to form descriptive sentences about what we have to get done, or what we have got to do during the course of a regular day — just as we do in our native language!

The concept of  little verb “get” is rendered differently in Italian than in English, and this is a bit tricky to get used to at first.  Instead of inserting a verb that is the equivalent of “get” into a sentence, Italians instead use the precise verb that describes exactly what it is they must “get” to do. The chosen Italian verb is often in the reflexive form, as we often refer to ourselves when we use the verb “get.”  So, we must “get ourselves ready” for this concept by remembering our Italian reflexive verbs!

Luckily, Italian reflexive verb conjugation is not difficult and once the concept is mastered that Italian renders the concept of “get” with a reflexive verb when we describe our own actions, telling others  that we “get” this idea should come easily!

This post is the 23rd 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” that describe what we are doing

during the course of an ordinary day

use the words
  “Get…” or  “Got…”

 If I want to describe our day in Italian we must learn to use
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.

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How to Say “Get” in Italian

with

Italian Reflexive Verbs

At first glance, it seems easy to say “to get” in Italian.  The verb prendere translates as “to get.”  But, the verb prendere actually has the specific meaning of “to procure something.” 

In English conversation, which is typically less formal than written English,  the verb to get is used in many more ways and conveys many more meanings than the verb prendere does in Italian.  We English speakers rely on our basic understanding of what is going on in any given conversation to come up with the meaning of the verb to get. Instead, in both written and conversational Italian, the use of the verb to get is more specific than it is in English.

Many Italian verbs are used to translate the different meanings behind the English verb to get. Here are a few Italian verbs lifted from the Italian — English dictionary Word Reference (www.wordreference.com) as examples: ricevere (to receive/get something), portare (bring/get something), arrivare (arrive/get somewhere), capire and comprendere (understand something).

Just to make things a little more complicated… in an ordinary conversation, we all often  describe what we have “got” to do.  And, when we refer to activities of daily living in Italian, this means that the verb refers back to ourselves.  And therefore… the Italian verb that we use must be reflexive.

I’ll try to get you  to see how this works by first listing some common Italian reflexive verbs that translate as “to get” in Italian.  Take a look at the table below:

alzarsi to get up
annoiarsi to get bored
arrabbiarsi to get angry
bagnarsi to get wet
to take a bath
laurearsi to get a university degree
to graduate
mettersi
mettersi qualcuno nei guai
to put on clothing
to get (oneself) in trouble
preoccuparsi to get worried
to worry
prepararsi (per) to get ready (for)
riprendersi to get better
 to recover
spogliarsi to get undressed
sposarsi to get married
vestirsi
svestirsi
to get dressed
to get undressed

 

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Below are some example sentences taken from what we all do in a normal day, many of which use the reflexive verbs from the previous table. The Italian subject pronoun “io,” meaning “I” is included in the Italian examples, although io is almost always omitted with reflexive verbs (as in most general conversation). Parentheses have been used in the Italian sentences as a reminder of this fact.

In the same way, parentheses are used in the English translation to indicate Italian reflexive pronouns that are not necessary in English. But, hopefully it will be useful to learn to think in Italian before translating into correct English.

Also remember that the simple present tense in Italian can have several different meanings in English.  The simple phrase“Io vado,” for instance, can be translated as: “I go,” “I am going” or “I do go.”

Now, I think we understand enough about how Italian works that we are ready to get going with our examples!

 

Getting up in the morning:

(Io) Mi sveglio. I wake up. (lit. I wake myself up.)
(Io) Mi alzo. I get up. (lit. I get myself up.)
(Io) Mi alzo presto. I get (myself) up early.
(Io) Mi alzo alle sei. I get (myself) up at 6 AM.
(Io) Mi alzo tardi domani. I am going to get (myself) up
late tomorrow.

 

Getting ready to go out for the day:

(Io) Mi faccio il bagno.
(Io) Mi faccio una doccia.
I take a bath. (lit. I make myself the bath.)
I take a shower. (lit. I make myself a shower)
(Io) Mi lavo. I wash myself.
(Io) Mi asciugo. I dry myself off.
(Io) Mi pettino. I comb (myself) my hair.
(Io) Mi preparo per il lavoro. I get (myself) ready for (the) work.
(Io) Mi vesto. I get (myself) dressed.
(Io) Mi metto i vestiti. I put on (myself) the clothes.
(Io) Mi trucco. I put on (myself) makeup.
(Io) Mi metto la giacca e le scarpe. I put on (myself) the jacket and the shoes.
(Io) Mi sento molto bene! I feel very well!
Vado al lavoro./ Vado a lavorare. I go to work.

 

At the end of the day:   

Torno a casa. I return home.
(Io) Mi tolgo la giacca. I take off (myself) the jacket.
Preparo la cena per la famiglia. I make the dinner for the family.
Alle nove (io) mi svesto. At nine I get (myself) undressed.
(Io) Mi tolgo le scarpe. I take off (myself) my shoes.
(Io) Mi metto il pigiama e le ciabatte. I put on (myself) (the) pajamas and slippers.
(Io) Mi rilasso. I relax (myself).
(Io) Mi riposo. I rest (myself).
(Io) Mi addormento. I fall (myself) asleep.

 

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Three more important examples are listed below.  The first example is interesting because one might be tempted to translate the phrase — incorrectly of course — “I have decided to marry myself!” But, now that we know that an important function of Italian reflexive verbs is to render the idea “to get,” the sentence structure in Italian for “Ho deciso di sposarmi,” makes perfect sense.  Notice that the reflexive pronoun mi is attached to the end of the infinitive verb sposarsi.

The second examples are about “getting in trouble.”  These are phrases that are good to know but hopefully they will not have to be used on a daily basis!

Ho deciso di sposarmi. I have decided to get married.
   
Non metterti nei guai! Don’t get (put) yourself in trouble!
Mi sono messo nei guai. I got (put) myself in trouble.

 

Remember how to use Italian reflexive verbs when talking about things you have ” to get”  and I guarantee you will use the every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! You Make Me… “Fare Causativo”

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 by the end of 2019? Well, now almost half the year has passed and  I hope my blogs have made you reach your goal so far this year!

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to form descriptive sentences about what other people make us do  or how other people make us feel – just as we do in our native language!

Check out some popular American songs to see how often this concept comes up in language.  Catchy tunes like, “You Make Me Feel Brand New,”  sung by the Stylistics, or “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Women,” sung by Aretha Franklin are two examples that come to mind, although there are many more.  Read below and you will see what I mean.

This post is the 22nd 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” start with the words
  “You make me…” or  “I make you…”

 If I want to use the English causative verb “make,”
in Italian I must use
the
 Fare Causativo

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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Expressing the  English  Causative Verb

“Make”
with the Italian “Fare Causativo”

The verb “make” is called a “causative verb,” and is one of the three true causative verbs in English, which are: let, have, and make.

English speakers use the verb “make” to describe how someone has made them do  something or how someone has made them feel.  In other words, in this type of situation, the subject of the sentence is the instigator that will make the stated action take place for someone else.

I’ll try to make you see how this works using some example sentences in English conversation before we move on to Italian.  In English, we can say, “You are making me cry!” or “He makes me feel so special!”  In a less dramatic situation, we can form a question such as, “Are you making me go to school today?” or a statement such as, “She makes me go to school.”

In each case, the subject of the sentence is the instigator of the action that takes place, and therefore the verb “make” must be conjugated to match this person or persons.*

The sentence structure in English is simple:

 Make (conjugated) + Direct Object + Infinitive Verb
(+ optional adverb or indirect object)

The Italian verb fare means “to do” or “to make,” and is the Italian causative verb to use in this situation,  also known as the “fare causativo.” The sentence structure in Italian is the same as for English, except that for Italian (as usual) the direct object should be placed before the conjugated form of the verb fare. 

Direct Object + Fare (conjugated) + Infinitive Verb
(+ optional adverb or indirect object)

This is easy enough in English when we break down the example sentences:

You are making + me + cry.

He makes + me + feel (+ so special)!

She makes + me + go (+ to school).

A few pointers about Italian, and then we will try our example sentences.

First, let’s take a look at how subject pronoun use differs in Italian and English.  Remember that the subject pronoun (I, you, he/she, we, you all, they)  is usually left out of the sentence in Italian.  The verb ending in Italian will signal who the subject is.

So, to say, “You make…” instead of, “Tu fai…” say simply, “Fai…”  

For the Italian third person singular, a simple,“Fa…” may be fine for “He makes…” and “She makes…” since the individuals involved in the conversation usually know who is being referred to. But, if a speaker wants to clarify or to emphasize exactly who is the subject under discussion, the Italian subject pronoun can be used, and the phrase becomes “Lui fa…” or “Lei fa…”  

Second, it is OK to just use the simple Italian present tense to render the same meaning as the English present progressive tense (the “-ing” tense). Some phrases just sound better to the English speaker in the present progressive tense, and we tend to use this tense a lot.  But in Italian, the present progressive tense is used more sparingly, mostly to emphasize that something is happening exactly at the moment of conversation. So instead of the usual English phrase, “You are making…” an equivalent Italian phrase will usually be, “You make…” Just remember that the simple present tense in Italian can have several different meanings in English, such as: “You make…”  You are making…”  and “You do make…”

Finally, the direct object pronouns mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le will go before the Italian verb, as usual.

Now, let’s to render our example sentences in Italian:

You are making + me + cry.
(Tu)  Mifai + piangere.

He makes + me + feel (+ so special).
(Lui)  Mifa + sentire (+ così speciale).

She makes + me + go (+ to school).
(Lei)  Mi + fa + andare (+ a scuola)

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We can keep on going with our first example sentence using the fare causativo if we want to, and use all of the conjugations of fare, depending on who is making us do what!

Let’s see how this works in the table below, with our conjugated verb fare in green and our direct object in red.  If a subject pronoun is used, it is also in green to match the conjugation of fare. Really, once you remember this “Italian formula” it is easy to describe who is making you do something!

      Mi fai piangere. You make me cry.
You are making me cry.
Lui mi fa piangere. He makes me cry.
He is making me cry.
Lei mi fa piangere. She makes me cry.
She is making me cry.
      Mi fate piangere. You all make me cry.
You all are making me cry.
      Mi fanno piangere. They make me cry.
They are making me cry.

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Should we try to use the fare causativo in the past tense?  Why not?  It’s easy!  And our formula works for any Italian tense, by the way!

Check out the table below. Remember the different uses  for the passato prossimo and imperfetto past tenses! For a refresher, check out Chapters 10-14  in our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs” book! 

       Mi hai fatto piangere ieri.
       Mi facevi piangere.
You made me cry yesterday.
You used to make me cry.
Lui mi ha fatto piangere ieri.
Lui mi faceva piangere.
He made me cry yesterday.
He used to make me cry.
Lei mi ha fatto piangere ieri.
Lei mi faceva piangere
She made me cry yesterday.
She used to make me cry.
      Mi  avete fatto piangere ieri.
      Mi  facevate piangere.
You all made me cry yesterday.
You used to make me cry.
      Mi  hanno fatto piangere ieri.
      Mi  facevano piangere.
They made me cry yesterday.
They used to make me cry.

One more important past tense sentence to remember is:

Mi ha fatto piacere vederti                             It’s made me very happy to see you!

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Now let’s try  to describe what we are making someone else do for us using the fare causativo.  Changing our formula to do this is simple! Now “I” will be the instigator of the action, so we must keep the verb fare in the io form, which is faccio, and change the direct object pronoun to describe who we are making do something!

 

      Ti  faccio piangere. I make you cry.
I am making you cry.
       La faccio piangere. I make her cry.
I am making her cry.
      Vi   faccio piangere. I make you all cry.
I am making you all cry.
      Le   faccio piangere. I make them cry. (all female group)
I am making them cry.

*In English, we conjugate present tense verbs so infrequently that we may not even realize what we are doing! The only ending that changes for a regular present tense verb in English is the third person singular. And in the case of “to make” the only change is to add an “s” at the end of the verb.  That is why we English speakers rely so much on our subject pronouns.  Here are the conjugations for the verb “to make” in English, so you will see what I mean:

I make,  You make, She/He makes, We make, You all make, They make.

I, You, She, He, We, You all, They… are making.

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Remember how to use the Fare Causativo and I guarantee you will use this formula every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com