Learn Italian Expressions: Allora?

Italy, Stresa Promenade on Lago Maggiore

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com

Many of my friends in our Conversational Italian! group on Facebook have been lucky enough to travel to Italy already this summer, and I am know more will soon follow.  Some have also moved to Italy this year and it is so nice to see their lovely photos hear all about their experiences.

The news from Italy made me think about my past trips to Italy, and the fun my children and I had learning the many Italian expressions we encountered for the first time.  I distinctly remember my daughter, who knows only a little bit of Italian, asking me in an exasperated way one day, “So, Mom, what is this “allora” I keep hearing all the time?!!! “

I’ve put together a quick list of some common, short Italian expressions that have meanings which seem to defy explanation to the English speaker at first.  Many of these expressions also change their meaning depending on the context, which also makes them confusing!  But just watch the expressions on peoples’ faces, and of course, the hand gestures that are an important part of the Italian language, and before you know it you will be using these expressions yourself.  Ma dai!

How many more Italian expressions can you think of that were difficult or funny to understand when you encountered them?  Please reply. I’d love to hear! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

If you need a travel companion to Italy, remember my Conversational Italian for Travelers pocket phrase book, “Just the Important Phrases,” 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.


(A few) Italian Expressions for Fun and Travel 

Allora… Well, Well then, So, In that case…
Ebbene… So, well
Figurati! (in response to thanks recieved for performing a favor):
  No problem, you’re welcome, It was my pleasure
Magari! If only!  I wish!
Magari fosse vero! If only it were true!
Ma dai! (persuading tone)  Come on!
  (encouraging tone)  Come on!
  (exasperated tone) Come on!
Ma quando mai? When did I ever?  Since when?  
(meaning: I never!)
Ma va! But really?  You don’t say?
Ma và! (incredulous) Go away!  Go on!




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

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

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the fifth in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.

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

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

 See below for how this works.

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

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

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference book Just the Grammar on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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


What I Saw… What I See… What I Am Looking At…

in Italian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some expressions to get you started.

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

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

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3): Important Phrases to Remember

Conversational Italian for Travelers Books, 2015

This blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, or il congiuntivo, is the third in a series on this topic that I’ve created for advanced students and teachers of Italian. Each blog post focuses on real-life situations and gives examples of when the subjunctive mode should be used.

Reprinted from the original blog post below is an explanation of why the subjunctive mode is important in Italian, as well as a list of Italian words and phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mode. This is the full list of phrases that were discussed in the series. I hope you find this list useful!

Visit the Learn Italian! blog post from July 17, 2016, to read the entire article and get started learning how to express yourself more naturally and fluently in Italian!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mode that is used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

The subjunctive mode is said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mode, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mode in the phrase to follow.

In our first blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Group 1  through Group 5.

In our second blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, we discussed Groups 6 and 7.

These groups are again listed for review.

  1. Phrases that use the verbs credere (to believe), pensare (to think), and sperare (to hope). These verbs use the pattern: [verb  di + infinitive verb to describe the beliefs, thoughts, or hopes that one has. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to [verb + che + subjunctive verb].*
  2. Impersonal constructions that begin with “It is…” such as “È possibile che…”
  3. Phrases that express a doubt, such as “I don’t know…” or “Non so che…”
  4. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…”
  5. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…”
  6. Phrases that use the verbs volere and desiderare when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  7. Phrases that use the verbs piacere and dispiacere when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  8. Phrases that express feelings and use the pattern: [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb  +  di + infinitive verb]. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb + che + subjunctive verb].
  9. Sentences that begin with words that end in –ché, or complex conjunctions that end with che: affinché, perché (so as, so that, in order that), purché (as long as, provided that), a meno che (unless), può darsi che (it may be possible that, possibly, maybe), prima che (before that). Also the many words that mean although/though, one of which ends in -che: benché  (also sebenne, malgrado, nonostante).
  10. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of any in a description of a person, place, or thing: qualsiasi, qualunque (any), chiunque (whoever), dovunque (anywhere).
  11. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of nothing or only  in a description of a person, place, or thing: niente che, nulla che (nothing that), nessuno che (nobody that), l’unico, il solo, a che (the only one that).
  12. Phrases that begin with se (if) or come se (as if) in certain situations.

Click on the link to the original Learn Italian! blog post (Part 3) about the Italian subjunctive mode for an explanation of Groups 8 through 11. Group 12 will be the topic of a later series of blog posts on hypothetical phrases but is included here for completeness.

—Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of this material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on www.learntravelitalian.com. Special thanks to Italian instructors Simona Giuggioli and Maria Vanessa Colapinto.

Five Special Wineries from “Timeless Italy”

Mastroberadino wines in Campania Italy

Among my very favorite things to do while in bella Italia is to visit the wineries. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, some of the very best come from Italy. Italy supplies nearly one-third of the global wine production. In fact, Italy is now the world’s largest wine producer by volume, closely followed by France. […]

via My 5 Favorite Italian Wineries — Timeless Italy