Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Italian Preposition “A” or “In”?

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 when English does not!

Let’s continue our series on Italian prepositions with the Italian prepositions “a” and “in.” Both prepositions can be used to describe where someone is going and where a person or thing is located. The Italian “a” can be translated as both “to” or “in” in English.  The Italian “in” is translated the same as in English — “in”! If we learn how to use the Italian prepositions “a” and “in,” we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 58th 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 prepositions “a”  and  “in.”

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 

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 Use the Italian “a” or “in”
for a Country, Region, or City

As mentioned in the introduction, both Italian prepositions “a” and “in” can be used to describe where someone is going, as well as their destination when they arrive. The Italian “a” can be translated as both “to” or “in” in English.  The Italian “in” is translated the same as in English — “in”! 

Americans and Italians use the prepositions that mean to and in differently. For instance, when Americans travel, they travel to a place – to Italy, to Tuscany, to Florence. American English speakers always use to as the preposition, whether they mention that they are traveling to a general region or a specific town. Of course, when an American reaches their destination, he or she will be located in that place and then say, “I am in Italy, in Tuscany, or in Rome,” meaning that he or she can be found there.

In Italian, however, the type of place is linked to the preposition used; there is no distinction made in Italian between traveling “to” a place or being “in” the place itself.

Italians travel directly into (in) a country, region, or large island,
but to (a) a city, town, or small island.

Once an Italian has arrived at a certain place, the same preposition that was used to describe traveling to that place applies. Or, if one is living in a place, the prepositions “a” and “in” will be used according to the size of the place, as described in the rule in quotes above. Again, the Italian prepositions “a” and “in” are linked to the place that is being described.

Let’s see how an Italian would answer the polite question, “Dove va per il suo viaggio?” “Where are you going on your trip?” The answer in Italian for someone taking a trip to America, depending on how specific they would like to be, is as follows: “Vado in America, in Illinois, e a Chicago.” “I am going to America, to Illinois, and to Chicago.” Notice that the English prepositions are the same, although the Italian prepositions change, depending on the size of the place that the preposition is linked to.

Also, what we call “states” in America are treated as the same as “regions” in Italy when assigning a preposition in Italian. Simply use the Italian preposition in prior to describing an American state. Notice that  “in Illinois” is given in the example above. 

New York State is the only exception in the United States of America to the Italian rule used to describe regions in other countries. The reason for the exception is that the Italian focus tends to be on New York City, rather than the rural areas that make up most of in New York State. But, as in America, the word “city” is left out of ordinary conversation.  “Vado a New York,” means, “I am going to New York City.”  To emphasize that one is traveling to the state of New York, i.e. somewhere outside of New York City, by convention the phrase would be, “Vado allo stato di New York,” for “I am going to the state of New York.” In this case, the preposition a is combined with the definite article lo to make “allo, according to the usual rule [a+lo = allo].

The polite question, “Dove abita?” forWhere do you live?” when answered uses the same prepositions for each location as described above. Here is an answer someone who lives in Italy might give, with the different options: Abito in Italia, in Toscana, e a Firenze.” “I live in Italy, in Tuscany, and in Florence.” Notice that the Italian prepositions have not changed compared with our example in the last paragraph!

Islands have their own special preposition rules in Italian. One travels “into” the large islands — in Sicilia or in Sardegna — but “to” the smaller islands using “a.” For instance, to go to the small Italian island of Capri one would say, “a Capri.” When traveling to a group of islands, such as Hawaii, the convention is to use [alle + island], leaving out the plural noun isole that alle modifies. Example: “ Vado alle (isole di) Hawaii.” “I am going to Hawaii.” Of course, the same prepositions  apply if one is living on the islands mentioned. Notice again that with alle we have combined our preposition with a definite article. A  detailed explanation of the procedure used for all prepositions is found in the textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers and the reference book of the same series, “Just the Grammar.”  

Check out the table for a summary of the examples above. Of course, where someone is traveling to or is located at during a particular time comes up often in conversation, and there are many variations on these questions! The answers will, of course, follow the rules for Italian prepositions outlined above.

Dove va per il suo viaggio? Where are you going on your trip?
Vado in America. I am going to America.
Vado in Illinois/
allo stato di New York.
I am going to Illinois/
the state of New York.
Vado a Chicago/
a New York.
I am going to Chicago/
New York City.
Dove abita? Where do you live?
Abito in Italia. I live in Italy.
Abito in Toscana. I live in Tuscany.
Abito a Firenze. I live in Florence.
Abito in Sicilia. I live in Sicily.
Abito in Sardegna. I live in Sardinia.
Abito a Capri. I live on Capri.
Abito alle Hawaii. I live on (the islands of) Hawaii.

Italian Definite Article
with Countries

By convention, the definite article (the) (il, la, or l’) is used to refer to countries, except when talking about traveling directly into them!  So if someone should ask politely, “Da dove viene?” “Where are you from?” an Italian would answer, “L’Italia,” and an American would say, “L’America” or “Gli Stati Uniti.” 

Below is a table that lists many of the countries in the world and the Italian definite article that applies to each, along with the Italian names for several capital cities. To remember this important point, gather some friends and sit around a table in front of a map of the world. Take turns asking a question about each country’s location, such as, “Dov’è l’America?” A friend can answer, “Ecco l’America!” while pointing to America on the map. This exercise will also reinforce the idea that the word “ecco” for “here is/here are” is used to point out something in plain site.

Of course, there is no need to memorize this entire table. Just remember the correct definite article for where you and your family and friends are from for easy conversation!

Europe l’Europa Africa l’Africa
Austria l’Austria Asia l’Asia
Belgium il Belgio Central America l’America Centrale
 Brussels  Bruxelles Europe l’Europa
Denmark la Danimarca Middle East il Medio Oriente
England       l’Inghilterra North America l’America del nord
 London  Londra South America l’America del sud
France la Francia Australia l’Australia
 Paris  Parigi
Germany la Germania Argentina l’Argentina
 Berlin  Berlino Brazil il Brasile
Greece la Grecia Canada il Canada*
 Athens  Atene Chile il Cile
Holland l’Olanda China la Cina
 Amsterdam  Amsterdam Egypt l’Egitto
Ireland l’Irlanda Cairo  il Cairo**
 Dublin  Dublino India l’India
Italy l’Italia Indonesia l’Indonesia
 Rome  Roma Japan il Giappone
Norway la Norvegia Korea la Corea
Poland la Polonia Mexico il Messico
Portugal il Portogallo Pakistan il Pakistan
 Lisbon  Lisbona Russia la Russia
Scandanavia la Scandanavia Moscow  Mosca
Spain la Spagna Turkey la Turchia
 Madrid  Madrid United States gli Stati Uniti
Sweden la Svezia Viet Nam il Vietnam
Switzerland la Svizzera

*Il Canada uses the masculine definite article.

**In this case, il Cairo is the name of the city, rather than the noun Cairo alone, by convention.


Use the Italian “a” or “in”
for Places Around Town

As mentioned in the first section, in the Italian language, every place is linked to its own preposition, which describes both going to and being located in the place — either “a” or “in.” Remember, there is no distinction made in Italian between traveling “to” a place or being “in” the place itself. This rule is important when inviting someone to join you for activities around town.  In Italian, you’ll need to ask someone if they want to go to a certain place, with “a,” or in a certain place, with “in.”

When using the Italian preposition “a,” the preposition a must be combined with the Italian definite article (il, lo, la, l’) that precedes the noun for the name of the place. The only exceptions to this rule are the Italian words for theater and house or home, which do not take a definite article. For all other nouns of place, the best way to remember the Italian preposition and definite article is to memorize both when learning the meaning of the noun. 

It is tempting to try to find a pattern for preposition use for Italian stores and other venues around the piazza. But there is no grammatical rule to fall back on in this instance.

It should also be noted that many verbs of going and returning, such as andare and venire, are automatically followed by the Italian preposition a when linked to another verb (see the next section).

Use the common phrases below  to invite a friend out for a good time in order to remember which preposition to use! They have been reprinted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers “Important Phrases” Section of Chapter 11, entitled “Making Friends.”  Included are several helpful introductory lines that can be used prior to the invitation. As you can see, knowing your Italian prepositions can even help to build a closer friendship!

Perché non ci vediamo? Let’s get together.
(lit. Why don’t we get together/see each other?)
Hai tempo domani? Do you have time tomorrow?
Posso rivederti domani? May I see you again tomorrow?
Sei libera(o) domani, Are you free (to female/male) tomorrow,
domani sera, tomorrow night,
la settimana prossima? next week?
Posso invitarla/ti a cena? May I invite you (pol.)/(fam.) to dinner?
al bar? to a (coffee) bar?
al caffé? to a cafe?
in pizzeria? to a pizzeria?
a casa mia? to my house?
Ti piacerebbe/Vuoi… Would you like to/Do you want to…
andare in piazza? go to the piazza?
andare in chiesa? go to church?
andare al cinema?
andare a teatro?
go to the movies?
go to the theater?
andare al concerto? go to the concert?
andare allo spettacolo? go to the show (performance)?
andare alla mostra? go to the show (exhibit)?
andare al museo? go to the museum?
andare a ballare? go dancing?
andare in ufficio? go to the office?
 
Ti piacerebbe/Vuoi … Would you like to/Do you want to…
venire con noi… come with us…
in spiaggia / al mare? to the beach / to the sea?
in montagna? to the mountains?
in campagna? to the countryside?

When to use “a”
to Link Italian Verbs

There are some Italian action verbs that need to be followed by the preposition a before an infinitive verb is added to complete the sentence. This may seem a little redundant to the English speaker, since in English infinitive verbs already include the word “to.”  For instance, the translation of the Italian infinitive verb andare is “to go.” To the Italian speaker, though, it is natural to insert the preposition a between certain conjugated verbs and an infinitive verb — Italian phrases just sound correct this way!

As examples, remember the important phrases “andare a trovare” and “venire a trovare” that mean “to go to visit” and “to come to visit.”  These phrases are used to describe visiting people; to visit a place, use visitare.  Riuscire is also used on a daily basis to describe the effort one has been putting into a specific action. Try to listen for the “a” when you hear the verbs in the list below and soon it will become natural for you, also, to combine these verbs correctly.

aiutare to help
Aiuto mia mamma a.…cucinare la cena.
I help my mother to cook (the) dinner.
 
andare to go
Mamma va a.…fare la spesa ogni mattina.
Mother goes grocery shopping every morning.
cominciare to start
Comincio a.…cucinare la cena.
I start (am starting) to cook (the) dinner.
divertirsi to enjoy onself
Mi diverto a…suonare il violino.
I enjoy playing the violin.
imparare to learn
Tutti imparano a.…parlare italiano.
Everyone learns to speak Italian.
insegnare to teach
Lei insegna a.…scrivere la lingua francese.
She teaches (how to) write French.
invitare to invite
Lui  mi invita a…mangiare al ristorante.
He invites (is inviting) me to eat at the restaurant.
mandare to send
Io mando Pietro a…prendere una pizza.
I send Peter to get a pizza.
prepararsi to get ready
Mi preparo ad…andare in Italia.
I am getting ready to go to Italy.
riuscire to be able to/manage
Non riesco a… trovare le chiavi.
I can’t manage to find the keys.
venire to come
Caterina viene a… trovare i suoi cugini.
Kathy comes to visit her cousins.

Use the Italian “a” or “in”
in Reference to Time

In a previous blog in this series, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed that the preposition di is used to refer to the general time of day with the phrases di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, and di notte.

We also mentioned in the same blog that both di and in are used to refer to the seasons: d’estate, d’inverno, in primavera, in autunno.

The Italian prepositions a and in also have a role to play when describing units of time.

When referring to the month that something is going to happen, either a or in can be used. English always uses in.


Andiamo a Roma a giugno / in giugno.
We will go to Rome in June.

The question, “A che ora succede (qualcosa)?” “At what hour does (something) happen?” is answered with the phrase [alle + number]. In this case, the Italian “a” means “at.” If you need a refresher on how to tell time in both the present and the past, visit the numbers section of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook or the Just the Verbs” and Just the Grammar” reference books. 

Andiamo alle sei e trenta. / Andiamo alle sei e mezzo.
Let’s go at 6:30.


When “a” Means “By”

Sometimes the Italian preposition “a” is translated into “by” in English. For instance, we say that an article of clothing is made “by hand” to refer to human, rather than machine labor. In Italian, the phrase is “a mano.” A similar phrase is “fatto a casa” for “homemade.” 

To learn something “by heart” is to “imparare a memoria.” 

Also use “a” in Italian to describe what type of energy something “runs by/on.”

Quest’orologio funziona a batteria. 
This watch runs by battery.

Other types of combustible energy a machine can run on include: a energia solare, a benzina, a gas, a legno forby… solar energy, benzine, gas, wood.

One can also run on “people energy” when walking by foot (a piedi) or take advantage of an animal’s energy when riding a horse (a cavallo).

Note: electric energy does not require a preposition! L’elettricità = the electricity and una macchina elettrico = an electric machine.


When “in” Means “Made of”

In the previous blog, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed how to use the preposition di to describe what something is composed of, as well as the exception with materials that require “in” as the preposition. To repeat, by convention, for all metals that are not gold (oro) and for the cloth velvet (veluto) use the Italian preposition in prior to mentioning the material.

Questa è una scultura in bronzo.
This is a sculpture made of bronze.

La vecchia poltrona è stata rivestita in velluto.
The old chair was restored with velevet cloth.


Using “a” to Refer to Age

In a previous blog in this series, “How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian, we discussed that the preposition di is used to state the age of an acquaintance or even a bottle of wine; Use di as part of a phrase before the number of years as in  una signora di 82 anni.” 

One can also simply say, “at [number of] years,” in Italian, just like in English, by using the preposition “a” for “at.”

Pietro si è laureato all’Università a ventidue anni.
Peter graduated from college at 22 years.

Mi sono sposata a venticinque anni.
I got married at 25 years old.

Remember when saying the specific phrase, “at your age” that Italian requires the “a” for “at” to be combined with the definite article to make the possessive “your.”

Per favore, nonna, alla tua età, non lavorare più!
Please, grandma, at your age, don’t work any more!


Getting  “in” and “out”
of Transportation

Note that different prepositions are used for cars vs. other forms of transportation when using the Italian verb salire to describe getting in. Salire has an irregular conjugation, with two forms given below. Note also and how the preposition su (on) is combined with the different forms of the (il, la, l’).

Salgo in macchina.                               I get into the car.
Sali in macchina                                 Get into the car! (fam. command)

Salgo su                                            I get on/I board/I go aboard…

Salgo… sull’autobus, sul treno, sulla motocicletta, sulla bicicletta, sull’areo.

I get onto… the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane. 

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
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Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s talk about… Making reservations in Italian

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

I hope you are on your way to meet this goal! I will try to help you 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.” 

As of this writing, it is easier to travel to Europe than it has been for the last two years. But of course, even if travel becomes restricted again, it is never to early to start to learn Italian travel phrases. In fact, the earlier the better! So for this blog I focus on Italian phrases for making reservations at a restaurant or hotel in Italy.

Prior to beginning the lesson for this blog, I acknowledge that in the larger cities of Italy it is not usually necessary to make reservations completely in Italian; the Italian staff usually speak basic English and often the languages of their European neighbors, French, Spanish or German.  Also, of course, most times reservations can now be made over the internet on one’s computer or smart phone, without any human interaction at all! But I’ve found that a few phrases in Italian are always warmly welcomed by Italian servers and hotel receptionists, even in the larger cities, and can serve to put the traveler at ease in their new surroundings. In the smaller  Italian towns, basic Italian expressions can still be essential when relating one’s needs in family-run restaurants and hotels.

In short, if we learn the few phrases needed when making reservations in Italian, we will feel more comfortable during our stay in the “bel paese.” 

This post is the 57th  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”
describe

  making reservations 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.

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Let’s Talk About… Making Reservations in Italian

La prenotazione means “the reservation.” The Italian verbs prenotare and riservare translate into English as: “to make/book a reservation.”  The use of these Italian verbs varies with the situation.

Most commonly, when asking to make a reservation at a restaurant or a hotel, Italians use the noun prenotazione with the verb fare and “make a reservation,” which is “fare una prenotazione.”

It is customary to start a request with either vorrei (I would like) or desidero (I desire/want/wish). Notice that vorrei is the conditional form of volere (to want). It is also possible to use the first person present tense form volgio (I want) but vorrei is considered more polite and is the preferred conjugation to use. The phrase “ho bisogno di” for “I need” is yet another way to introduce any request made in Italian.

Some example sentences to get us started making a reservation:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Desidero fare una prenotazione. I desire/want/wish to make a reservation.
Ho bisogno di fare una prenotazione. I need to make a reservation.

Once we have stated our desire to make a reservation, three important pieces of information will need to be relayed to the receptionist: the number of people, the date and the time.

Generally, the receptionist will ask: “Per quante persone?” “For how many people?” 

For a restaurant reservation, it will be important to state how many adults (adulti) as well as how many children (bambini) will be dining. A simple answer for a family of two adults and two children would be: “Due adulti e due bambini.” The receptionist may ask if a child seat (una sedia speciale) is needed. A table will be chosen next to other families dining in the restaurant; this ensures that adults who are without children and want a more intimate dinner will not be disturbed.  

An interesting note about children and Italian culture: a child is considered a bambino or bambina (baby/ child) in Italy until about 14, when he or she can then be called a ragazzo or ragazza (young man/young woman). The appellation ragazzo(a) lasts into the 20s. The usual Italian masculine and feminine  endings need to be applied to these nouns; the “o” ending signifies a male child and the “a” ending a female child. For the plural, the usual “i” ending is used for a group of all males or a mixed group and “e” for an all female group.

Remember also that the Italian number “one” changes when modifying a noun. So a family may have un bambino or una bambina. 

To make a reservation in an Italian restaurant, it is not necessary to differentiate the bambini from the ragazzi. But Italian hotels do differentiate between children of different ages when booking a room. Most Italian hotels have a room rate that will vary depending on the number of adults who occupy the room. Families traveling with children between the ages of 12-14 (and even up to16 years of age) may be able to receive a family discount (uno sconto famiglia). 

In short, it is helpful to memorize the correct Italian for the children in your family when making reservations at a restaurant and hotel to be comfortable and to be sure you are not overpaying for accommodations!

Some variations on the simple conversation we have created so far:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Per quante persone? For how many people?
Un‘adulto/Due adulti  One adult/Two adults 
Un bambino/Una bambina
Un ragazzo/ Una ragazza
One baby or young child (male/female)
One young man/ One young woman
Due bambini/ Due bambine Two children (group of males or males+females/
group of all females)
Due ragazzi/ Due ragazze Two boys or [1 boy + 1 girl]/ Two girls

By the way, if you need to cancel a reservation, use the same sentence structure as when you have made the reservation. However, use the verb annullare, and say, “Vorrei annullare una prenotazione,” for “I would like to cancel a reservation.”

Or, if a reservation needs to be changed, use the verb cambiare, as in, “Vorrei cambiare una prenotazione.”


Stating the date in Italian:

To state the date and time of a reservation, we will need to know how to say numbers in Italian up to 31 (assuming reservation is in the present year). If you still need to learn how to count in Italian, purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook or download the PDF for tips on how to remember Italian numbers into the billions.

Below is the sentence structure needed to state the date.

definite article + number + di +month

This is actually a lot easier than it may look! Below are a few examples. You will notice that in English we say, “January second,” for “January 2,” while in Italian the phrasing and word order reads: “the two of January.”

The exception to the above rule is the first day of the month. In this case, the word primo, which means first, must always be used, instead of uno (one).

When writing the date, remember the order of the day and the month are reversed in Italy (as in Europe): dd/mm/yyyy. The days of the week and the months of the year are not capitalized in Italian.

Oggi è il due di gennaio. Today is January 2.
Domani è il tre di gennaio. Tomorrow is January 3.
Dopodomani è il quattro di gennaio. The day after tomorrow is January 4.
Oggi è il primo di agosto. Today is August 1.

Finally, in everyday conversation, to say, “On Mondays…” referring to something that happens every Monday, just use the definite article il (the) at the beginning of the sentence for all the masculine weekdays ending in ì and la for the feminine Sunday (domenica).

Il lunedì vado al lavoro. / La domenica vado in chiesa.
On Mondays, I go to work. / On Sundays, I go to church.


Stating the time when making a reservation in Italian:

Expressions used to tell time in Italian are given below up to 12 o’clock. For a more detailed explanation of the Italian sentence structure used when telling time, purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers  textbook or download the PDF.  Note: there is no “o’clock” in Italian. Simply state the hour “it is” for one o’clock or the  number of hours “there are” from two o’clock onward. You will need to learn Italian numbers up to 24 to understand the time tables for Italian trains, buses and airlines, which are given in “military time” with the 24 hour clock. Italian museums and theaters also operate based on the 24 hour clock.

È l’una.                                    (It is)              one. (1 o’clock)

Sono le due.                           (They are)      two. (2 o’clock)

Sono le tre.                            (They are)      three. (3 o’clock)

Sono le quattro.                    (They are)      four. (4 o’clock)

Sono le cinque.                      (They are)      five. (5 o’clock)

Sono le sei.                             (They are)      six. (6 o’clock)

Sono le sette.                         (They are)      seven. (7 o’clock)

Sono le otto.                          (They are)      eight. (8 o’clock)

Sono le nove.                         (They are)      nine. (9 o’clock)

Sono le dieci.                         (They are)      ten. (10 o’clock)

Sono le undici.                       (They are)      eleven. (11 o’clock)

Sono le dodici.                       (They are)      twelve. (12 o’clock)

One can emphasize the time of day, such as morning, afternoon, evening, or night, by adding the following expressions after the numerical time: di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, or di notte, as below.

1,00 (AM)                           È l’una di mattina.                 It is one in the morning.

1,00 (PM)                            È l’una di pomeriggio.          It is one in the afternoon.

6,00 (PM)                           Sono le sei di sera.                It is six in the evening.

10,00 (PM)                          Sono le dieci di notte.          It is ten at night.

When the receptionist at a restaurant asks what hour you wish to dine, the question will usually be phrased as such:
A che ora…?                                       (At) what time…?

The response to the question will also use the word at, which will be attached to the definite article (the).  Use (l’) for one o’clock and (le) for all other hours to agree with the number of hours in the answer.

A mezzogiorno                                  At noon

A mezzanotte                                    At midnight

All’una.                                               At one o’clock.

Alle sette.                                           At seven o’clock.

All’una e cinque.                               At 1:05 AM.

Alle sette e mezzo.                            At 7:30 AM.


Making a Reservation in Italian: Restaurants and Hotels

Now that we know an introductory sentence and how to tell the receptionist at a restaurant or hotel the date and time of our appointment, we can summarize this information in the short conversation below:

Vorrei fare una prenotazione. I would like to make a reservation.
Per quante persone? For how many people?
Quattro.
Due adulti e due bambini.
Four.
Two adults and two children.
Data e ora/orario? Date and time?
Ristorante:
Il cinque di giugno alle otto di sera.
Restaurant:
July 5th at 8 PM.
Hotel:
Dal cinque al sette di giugno.
Hotel:
From the 5th through the 7th of June. 

Restaurants in Italy normally open for dinner at 7 PM and most Italians go out to eat at 8 PM or later. After making a reservation, when one enters the restaurant, all the information the receptionist needs to know can be conveyed in two easy lines:

Buona sera.
Good evening.

Abbiamo una prenotazione per quattro persone alle otto di sera. 
We have a reservation for four people for 8 PM.

In colloquial Italian, it is also considered correct to say:
Abbiamo una prenotazione per quattro persone per le otto di sera. 
We have a reservation for four people for 8 PM.

For just one person, the following is fine:
Ho una prenotazione alle otto/ per le otto.
I have a reservation for 8 PM

Additional requests may need to be made for hotel reservations.  When asking a question of the receptionist, use the “you all” form of avere, which is avete, since you are asking the representative of the hotel if they have what you need. The receptionist will answer in the noi form, and mention “we have” or “we don’t have” what you are requesting.

Example:

Avete una camera singola?
Do you all have a room with a single bed?

Mi dispiace, non abbiamo una camera singola disponibile. 
I’m sorry, we don’t have a room with a single bed available. 

Siamo al completo/ tutti prenotati stasera.
We are full/completely booked tonight.

Below is a list of vocabulary that includes the type of Italian hotel (l’albergo) you may want to choose and the type of room (la stanza) you may need. A few hotel amenities one might ask about when making a reservation are also included.

Almost all hotels in Italy provide breakfast for their guests gratis (free), so it is not usually necessary to ask if la prima colazione (breakfast) is included in the fee for the room. However, it can be helpful to check the internet for images of the dining room and the food served (along with the types of rooms available) prior to making reservations at a hotel. Italian hotels offer a wide range of morning meals — from a simple continental breakfast of coffee, juice and a pastry, to a large buffet with specialty breads and pastries, eggs, cereal, yogurt, lunch meat and cheeses to choose from.

And just in case things are not quite what you expected during your stay at an Italian hotel, you can always ask for l’albergatore or l’albergatrice (hotel manager, masculine and feminine). If you need help choosing where to make dinner reservations, call la reception (reception/front desk) or visit il concierge (the concierge).

l’albergo hotel
la pensione
il bed and breakfast
boarding house
bed and breakfast
l’ostello (della gioventù) youth hostel
il pernottamento overnight stay
la pensione completa room and board (includes three meals a day)
la mezza pensione room, breakfast, and one meal (half board)
la camera/la stanza room
la camera singola room with a single bed
la camera matrimoniale room with a double bed
le camere adiacenti adjacent rooms
il letto bed
il letto supplementare additional bed
la culla crib
servizio in camera room service
la piscina swimming pool
la sauna sauna
la vasca idromassaggio Jacuzzi*
il campo da golf golf course
il campo da tennis tennis court

*Italian-American history: Jacuzzi Brothers was a company founded in 1915 by seven Italian-American brothers with the surname Jacuzzi, whose family origins were in Casarsa della Delizia in Northern Italy. They initially developed propellers for the military and experimented with the manufacture of aircraft. In 1956, the company developed a pump that could be submerged under water to provide hydrotherapy.  Candido Jacuzzi, third generation in the family, invented the whirlpool bath using the company’s hydrotherapy pump to treat his young son’s rheumatoid arthritis. The Jacuzzi tubs we know today were trademarked in 1968.


Making a Reservation in Italian: Train or Theater

Remember that reservations for the train or theater in Italy are made using the military, or 24 hour clock. Once  you have made a reservation, here are a few tips on how to proceed when arriving at your destination:

When boarding a train or entering a theater with a ticket that has a reserved seat, one would have “un biglietto con la prenotazione” or “a ticket with the reservation.”

To say you are checking your seat, use the phrase, “Controllo il biglietto con la prenotazione,” for “I am checking the ticket with the reservation.”

However, the actual seat on a train or theater is referred to as “reserved” as in, “Il posto è riservato.” The seat or room has been booked, and no one else can use it. If someone else has made a prenotazione before you, your request might be denied due to un posto riservato.

Remember to use the verbs cambiare and annullare to change or cancel a reservation, as mentioned in the very first section!

Remember that making reservations in Italian
can enhance your experience every day while visiting Italy!

For “All the Italian you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy,” click on the links below to purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers books – Kathryn Occhipinti

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.”

 

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

 

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! – “He Said/She Said” and Object Pronouns

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? 

Two of the most popular every day phrases are, “He said to me… ” or  “She said to me…” In fact, the equivalent phrase in Italian, “Mi ha detto.”  is used so often that it usually comes out in quickly, in one breath! 

In this blog, we will discuss the popular phrase “Mi ha detto,” and use it as a springboard into a discussion of indirect object pronouns that can be used with the verb dire and many other Italian verbs as well.

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 dire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 47th 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 past tense verb + indirect object pronoun
Mi ha detto…

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.

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

What He Said… What She Said…

in Italian with Object Pronouns

Let’s begin by looking at the verb dire — to say — in our important phrases “he said” and “she said” for discussion in this blog. The past tense for “he said” and “she said” in Italian, a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo, and is “ lui/lei ha detto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English past tense, “he has said” and “she has said.” 

Since the subject pronoun is generally left out of an Italian sentence, we are left with “ha detto” to describe both what he said and what she said. The subject pronouns lui (he) or lei (she) may be added before the verb for emphasis in this case, but generally those having a conversation know who they are talking about.

Because the phrases “he said” and “she said” are used frequently in everyday conversation, we should commit the Italian passato prossimo verb “ha detto” to memory. 

To make a complete sentence using the verb dire to describe what was said, use either “di” or “che  to link the subject  and verb to the topic that was discussed. Di is used as the conjunction in the examples in the table below to answer a question in the affirmative or negative. Of course, even though our focus in this blog is on how to use the verb ha detto, it should be noted that one usually answers “yes,” or “no,” for themselves with ho detto, although they can also relay someone else’s answer using a different conjugation of dire, such as ha detto, abbiamo detto, etc. In all situations, when answering “yes” or “no” in Italian, the conjunction di is required.  

Ho detto di si.

I said yes.

Ho detto di no.

I said no.

   

Ha detto di si.

He/She said no.

Ha detto di no.

He/She said no.

 

 

Abbiamo detto di si.

He/She said yes.

Abbiamo detto di no.

He/She said no.

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

Adding an indirect object pronoun before the verbs ho detto, abbiamo detto, or ha detto will allow the speaker to describe to whom something was said.  For this section, though, our discussion will focus only on “ha detto” and  Italian indefinite articles.

Why focus on “ha detto? One of the most popular every day phrases is, “He/She said to me,” which is, “Mi ha detto”  in Italian. In fact, the phrase “mi ha detto” is  used so often that it usually said in one breath! We can build on this simple, easy to remember phrase to describe more complex situations.  For instance, we can substitute other indirect object pronouns for mi (to me), such as ti (to you), gli (to him), or le (to her).  

In English, when we use the indirect object pronouns “to me,” “to you,” “to him/her,” they are placed after the verb, while in Italian, they are placed before the verb.  This may take some time to get used to. In the summary table below, the indirect object pronouns are in red.

Ha detto

He said / She said

Mi ha detto

He said / She said to me

Ti ha detto

He said/ She said to you

Gli ha detto

He said / she said to him

Le ha detto

He said / She said to her

The next table uses our verb ha detto and indirect object pronouns in example sentences.  For these examples (and for  all other instances in Italian except those given in the table in the previous section regarding a “yes” or “no” answer), “che is used as the conjunction.

The subject pronoun is included in some of the examples in the table below for clarity. Again, the Italian and English indirect object pronouns are in red. In all cases except the first, when the subject is directly quoting what someone else has said to them, English uses a direct object pronoun, and this is given in green. Notice how many permutations of the same sentence are possible with only the singular indirect object pronouns! 

Lui ha detto che il film era bello.
Lei ha detto che il film era bello.

Mi ha detto: “Il film era bello.”   

He said that the film was good.
She said that the film was good.

He/She said to me: “The film was good.”

Mi ha detto che il film era bello.

He/She told me that the film was good.

Ti ha detto che il film era bello?

Has he/she told you that the film was good?

 

 

Giovanni gli ha detto che il film era bello.

John told him that the film was good.

Anna gli ha detto che il flim era bello.

Ann told him that the film was good.

 

 

Giovanni le ha detto che il film era bello.

John told her that the film was good.

Anna le ha detto che il film era bello.

Ann told her that the film was good.

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

Our example sentence, Mi ha detto che il film era bello,” and its translation, “He/She told me that the film was good,” brings up an important difference between Italian and English verbs and object pronouns; not all Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns do so in English!

We have just seen the the Italian verb dire takes an indirect object pronoun that goes before the verb, whereas its English counterpart “to say,” in general conversation usually takes a direct object pronoun that goes after the verb. We would not say, “He told to me that the film was good,” although this is correct in Italian!

This adds to the difficulty in choosing when to use an Italian indirect object pronoun, since the correct English translation will not always reflect the indirect object pronoun choice in Italian. 

The difference in the Italian and English [object pronoun-verb] combination may not be immediately apparent in the phrase “mi ha detto,” since the Italian pronoun mi plays double duty as both an indirect and direct object pronoun! The Italian pronoun mi can be translated as both “me” (direct object pronoun) and “to/for me” (indirect object pronoun).*

The same goes for the Italian pronoun ti, which is translated as “you”(direct object pronoun) as well as “to you (indirect object pronoun).

Choosing between an indirect and direct Italian object pronoun when conversing about others in Italian becomes important in the masculine third person, as one must decide between lo (him) and gli (to him). For females, the choice is between la (her) and le (to her).

So how does an English speaker know when to choose an indirect object pronoun in Italian?

 Italian verbs of communication and giving
take indirect object pronouns
when referring to a person.

The table below is a short list of the verbs of communication that take Italian indirect object pronouns when referring to other people in conversation. You will recognize the example verb in this blog, dire, at the top of the list.

Note that if one of these verbs is followed by a person’s name, the Italian pattern to follow is [verb + a + name].  The Italian indirect object pronoun can be though of as substituting for the a placed before a person’s name. 

In some cases, both Italian and English verbs take an indirect object pronoun but in other cases the English translation uses a direct object pronoun, as we’ve already mentioned. Unfortunately, there is no rule that connects the Italian way of speaking to the English way, so the Italian verbs that take [a + name] or indirect object pronouns just need to be memorized. In short, in order to speak Italian, we must think in Italian!

*And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

Some Italian verbs of communication that take indirect object pronouns:

Dire

to say

Parlare

to talk

Telefonare

to call

Scrivere

to write

   

Domandare

to ask

Chiedere

to ask

   

Insegnare

to teach

Spiegare

to explain

Consigliare

to give advice

Examples that use Italian verbs of communication with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

Ho detto a Maria che…                  I told Maria that…
Le ho detto che…                           I told her that…

Ho domandato a Franco se…            I asked Frank if…
Gli ho domandato se…                      I asked him if…

La Signora Rossi ha spiegato a me che…   Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…
La Signora Rossi mi ha spiegato che…       Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…

Some Italian verbs of giving that take indirect object pronouns:

Dare

to give

Offrire

to offer

Regalare

to gift

Mandare

to send

Portare

to bring/deliver

Examples that use Italian verbs of giving with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

Ho dato a Maria il vino.                 I gave Maria the wine.
Le ho dato il vino.                          I gave her the wine.

Ho offerto a Franco un lavoro.      I offered Frank a job.
Gli ho offerto un lavoro.                I offered him a job.

La Signora Rossi ha mandato a me…  Mrs. Rossi gave me…
La Signora Rossi mi ha mandato…      Mrs. Rossi gave me…

*And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

Remember how to use the phrase
“mi ha detto” in Italian and I guarantee
you will use this phrase 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

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Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Getting from polite to familiar in Italian with “Dare del tu!”

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! We are on our way to speaking Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021!

When visiting another country, it is important to understand how to be polite. If one wants to “fare una bella figura” in Italy, that is, “make a good impression,” it is important to know a few polite words in Italian. For those staying in Italy for an extended visit or settling in Italy permanently, it is equally as important to know how to express one’s feelings friendship.

Italian has a special way to bridge the gap linguistically from between two people who start out as acquaintances and become friends. A simple phrase is relayed from one person to the other: “Dare del tu.” If accepted, is a true sign of friendship!

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 build on the “commonly used phrase”  “Dare del tu,” which is Italian for, “Let’s be friends and use the familiar form with each other,” we will be able to communicate the closeness we feel with a friend, just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 45th 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

The “commonly used phrase” in Italian

Dare del tu?
is used to ask,
Let’s be friends and use the familiar form with each other!

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…

Getting from Polite to Familiar in Italian with
Dare del Tu

Italian has three subject pronouns with three different verb conjugations in the present tense for conversing with  acquaintances and friends.  Reflexive verbs include a reflexive pronoun as well. This is less complicated than it may seem at first.

Let’s look at the conjugation table for chiamarsi, the reflexive verb that means “to be named,” or “to call oneself.” This verb is one of the first verbs an Italian student learns to conjugate and contains all the elements to understand polite and familiar verb tenses. A refresher, from our Conversational Italian for Travelers book, “Just the Important Phrases” is given in the section below. 

 

How do we conjugate an Italian verb into the polite or familiar form?

First, let’s conjugate chiamarsi the way we would any other –are  verb. Chiamarsi (to call oneself/to be named) will have the same stem and endings as chiamare (to call someone — directly, or on the phone).  The stem for both chiamare and chiamarsi is chiam. Add the -are endings to the stem chiam to form the new verbs below.  The stress will fall on the second syllable for our first three forms and the loro form. The stressed syllable has been underlined in the table.

Chiamare – to call someone

io

chiamo

I call

tu

chiami

you (familiar) call

Lei

lei/lui

chiama

you (polite) call

she/he calls

 

 

 

noi

chiamiamo

we call

voi

chiamate

you all call

loro

chiamano

they call

To complete the conjugation of chiamarsi, add a reflexive pronoun before each conjugated verb.  Notice that in English the reflexive pronoun goes after the verb, so this may take a little getting used to.

 

Chiamarsi to be called, as in a name/to name oneself 

io

mi

chiamo

I call myself

tu

ti

chiami

you (familiar) call yourself

Lei/lei/lui

si

chiama

you (polite)/she/he calls
yourself, herself, himself, itself

 

 

 

 

noi

ci

chiamiamo

we call ourselves

voi

vi

chiamate

you all call yourselves

loro

si

chiamano

they call themselves


 

How do we use an Italian verb in the polite form?

From the translations in both tables in the last section, we see the the “Lei” form is called the polite form of the verb; this means one addresses someone they have not met before as “you” with “Lei” and the polite verb conjugation. In the case of chiamarsi, one would ask, “Come si chiama?” “What is your name?” in a polite way during introductions.

As with all social conventions, there are rules to follow regarding when one should be polite to another.

 

The polite form Lei is used between adults when they first meet
and to show respect for others.

Using the Lei form of Italian shows that one is a educated person who follows proper social norms.

Lei is especially important to show respect when addressing someone who is older than the speaker or who is in an important  social position, such as a boss at work, a professional such as a teacher, doctor, or lawyer, or a government official. When professionals and government officials who are not friends speak with each other, Lei is also required. 

The easiest way to train your ear to listen to the polite form is to watch an Italian TV series where the characters are shown in their place of work. In the popular series “Commissario Montalbano” or  “Detective Montalbano” the detective always replies to his superior, the “Questore,” or “Chief of Police,” with the Lei form and usually speaks calmly, with a measured tone. But when the same detective is talking to the policemen that work for him, he uses the tu form and colors his sentences with any number of colloquial exclamations.

An important note about being polite in Italy: remember that children are never addressed with Lei! Even a child that you meet for the first time.

The question comes up, then, when one is “adult” enough to be addressed with the Lei form. This, of course, will vary, but the other person should have attained at least the age of the speaker. Also, keep in mind that in Italy children are called bambini, which we translate into English as “babies” until about 12 years of age and then are ragazzi, or “girls and boys,” until long after the teenage years! 

If both speakers have reached the age of 21, is probably safe to start using the Lei, although, in this case the situation should also be considered.

Younger people tend to be informal with each other in social gatherings, and sometimes even at work! While I was visiting Italy, my older Italian friend once politely reprimanded a 20-something shopkeeper for using the tu form with customers by asking the shopkeeper to revert back to using Lei. (See the last section of this blog for how this is done.)

Keeping all of the above in mind, when entering a shop, it is polite to say, “Buon giorno,” and most shopkeepers will politely greet those entering with a “Buon giorno,” in return and continue the conversation by speaking to the customer with the Lei form. Therefore, it is useful for the Italian student to recognize the polite verb endings for the present tense -are, -ere, and -ire verbs that will be used, which are: (-a, -e, -e).

It will be appreciated if the traveler also speaks to the shopkeeper in the Lei form, but understood if the traveler replies in the tu, or familiar form, given the difficulty of this concept for the non-native speaker. The tu form for all present tense verbs has a single ending, of course, which is “-i.”

A common polite line the shopkeeper may ask the customer after the usual greeting is, “Posso aiutarla?” for “How may I help you?” If you as a customer don’t need anything in particular, but would like to “just look around,” you can answer politely with “No, grazie, Sto solo dando un’occhiata.”

To learn more about shopping in Italy, visit our blog “Quanto costa?” For more phrases you need to know when conversing at an Italian shop, check out our pocket travel book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” or download Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” into your phone at www.learntravelitalian.com.

 


 

How do we use an Italian verb in the familiar form?

From the translations in both tables in the first section, we see the the “tu” form is called the familiar form of the verb; this means that one addresses people they know well, such as family members or friends with the tu form. As we mentioned in the last section, children are always addressed with tu.

Someone the speaker has just met, who is the same age as the speaker and they feel a friendly connection with can also be addressed as  “you” with “tu” and the familiar verb conjugation.  In the case of chiamarsi, one would ask, “Come ti chiami?” “What is your name?” in a familiar way during introductions.

As with all social conventions, there are rules as to when one should be familiar with another.

 

The familiar form tu is used between family members, friends,
and anyone the speaker has met who is their same age or younger
to whom they feel a friendly connection.

Using the tu form of Italian shows a warmth for an individual the speaker feels close to.

So, in what situation would someone use chiamarsi to ask another’s name in the tu form? This statement seems like a contradiction; if I am using the tu form, I must already know this person, right? So, then why would I be asking their name? As  mentioned before, the tu form is always used with children, even if you’ve just met a child. So to ask a child’s name, use, “Come ti chiami?” If you ask the child’s name with the formal Lei, you will seem overly polite and may elicit a chuckle from the parent or even the child themself! 

The expression “Come ti chiami?” is also helpful between adults. In the adult world, we may meet someone superficially as part of a group on a routine basis, such as in a required business meeting or in the classroom. So when two people know each other superficially, but have not been formally introduced, one may ask another directly, “Come ti chiami?” This assumes, of course, that the two individuals have the same position in the group and are of similar age and feel a connection due to their shared experience.

According to Italian convention, to use the familiar tu with someone you have not officially met is a sign that you feel yourself better than them or that you simply don’t care about being polite. The movie, “The Nights of Caibiria,” by Federico Fellini, is a study in this type of personality. In the beginning of the film, a “famous movie star” character consistently addresses others with the tu form when he is out for the evening visiting night clubs in Rome. After he uses the tu form, others respond with the Lei.  When interacting on a personal level with a women he meets that night, he uses the familiar tu form from their first conversation; she knows that he is famous and does not reprimand him. The self-centered, “famous actor” drives this woman to another night club in Rome before he brings her to his home, and, after several hours finally asks her, “Come ti chiami?” 

However, the traveler who is not Italian and has limited knowledge of the Italian language, any attempt to speak Italian is usually appreciated. It is not normally taken as a sign of disrespect if the traveler replies in the more easily remembered tu familiar form.

 


 

Are there other ways to be polite and familiar in Italian?

Also important to remember are the polite and familiar ways to say “hello” and ” good bye” in Italian. For instance, the Italian word “Ciao!” is now commonly used in America with acquaintances. But Italians only use this expression among close friends, and it is good to remember this social convention when one is a visitor to Italy.

The correct translation of “ciao” is “hi” or “bye,” and not “hello” or “good bye.” This translation shows how informal this Italian expression really is! So when entering a shop keeper’s store, it is proper to say a polite, “Buon giorno!” for “Good day!” and when leaving, “Arrivederci!”  for “Good bye!” and not simply, “Ciao!” When Detective Montalbano speaks with the chief of police on the telephone, and the conversation ends, he uses the ultra formal, “Arrivederla.”

Below is a table reproduced from the book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases,” with the many (but not all) expressions of meeting and greeting that are used in Italy today. 

Buon giorno.*             Good morning.  (lit. Good day.)         used all day into evening

Buona sera.*               Good evening.                                     early night–time greeting

Buona notte.*             Good night.                                         used when leaving/bedtime

Buona giornata.          (Have a) good day.                             to wish someone a nice (entire) day

Ciao!                          Hi!/Bye!                                                 informal greeting family/friends

Salve.                         Hello._________________________________both familiar and polite

Ci vediamo!                (Until) we see each other (again)!      for family or for a friend you

                                                                                               hope to see again soon

Arrivederci.                 Good bye.                                           familiar polite

Arriverla.                     Good bye.                                           polite, with respect

ArrivederLa.                Good bye.                                           formal written form

 

Come va?                    How (is it) go(ing)?                             a slang greeting used often

Ciao bella!/Ciao bello! Hey, beautiful girl!/Hey handsome!   for someone you know (well)

A dopo!                       (See you) later!                                   good-bye between friends

A più tardi!                 (See you) later!                                   good-bye between friends

A presto!                    (See you) soon!                                   good-bye between friends

 

*Can be written as one word: buongiorno, buonasera, buonanotte.


 

How do I change from the polite to the familiar in Italian?

Since Italian has created a situation where two people can be polite (to show respect for each other) or familiar (to show caring between family and friends), there is also a need for phrases that will take people from a polite relationship to a familiar one.

The verb dare, which means “to give,” is used in important expressions that allow the change to be made from a formal conversation, using the polite verb form for “you” (the Lei form), to a familiar conversation, using the familiar verb form of “you” (the tu form).

Imagine, for instance, that a conversation starts up at a gathering between two people who are of the same age and have just met.  At some point in the conversation, one will say to the other, “Diamoci del tu,” which does not have a good literal translation, but roughly means, “Let’s use the familiar form of you (the tu form) with each other and address each other familiarly.” The reflexive pronoun ci is added to the end of the verb diamo in order to refer to each other.  This is a familiar way to ask the question, and assumes a level of comfort that the feeling of familiarity will be reciprocated. 

An even more familiar way to ask the same question is to use the command familiar form of this phrase, which is, “Dammi del tu!” for “Give me the tu!”  The use of this phrase emphasizes the closeness that the speaker already feels toward the other individual just in the way the question is asked, as familiar command phrases are normally only used between family and close friends.

There are other ways to make this request.  If the person making the request wants to continue in the polite way of speaking when the request is being made, and switch only after consent is given, he or she could use the verb potere and the very useful phrase of politeness we have come across many times before in the Conversational Italian for Travelers books: “Mi può…”  In this case, the phrase would be, “Mi può dare del tu,” for You can use the familiar form of “you” with me.”

Or, perhaps one is speaking to an older individual and is not sure the feeling of familiarity will be reciprocated.  They can use the same phrase in a question form, as in, “Le posso dare del tu?” which means, “Can I use the familiar form of ‘you’ with you?” Or, alternatively, “Possiamo darci del tu?” for “Can we use the familiar form with each other?”

Finally, as noted earlier in this blog, Italians use the polite form of “you” in conversation as a way of showing respect to older individuals, professionals, or those in government.  Between Italians, then, a situation may arise where someone of importance might feel another individual is not showing proper respect or has become too familiar with them by their use of the familiar tu in conversation.  In this case, a conversation may start in the familiar, but revert to the polite at the request of a superior with the polite command, “Mi dia del Lei!” which means, “Use the polite form of “you” with me!

The many ways to ask someone to have a friendly conversation with you are summarized below.

“Diamoci del tu.” ___________________________________________ informal request 

“Dammi del tu!”____________________________________________ informal command

“Mi può dare del tu.” _______________________________________ polite request

“Le posso dare del tu?” ____________________________________ polite question

“Possiamo darci del tu?” ___________________________________polite question

 

If you feel that someone is being too friendly or acting familiar in a formal situation, you can say:

“Mi dia del Lei!” ____________________________________________ polite command

 

If you’ve tried to switch from polite to familiar with friends you’ve made
in Italy, leave a comment describing your
method and let us know how it worked! 


Remember how ask, “Can we speak in the familiar with each other?” in Italian with 
“Dare del tu?” and I guarantee
you will use this phrase 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… How Much Does it Cost? “Quanto Costa?”

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

Ciao a tutti! We are on our way to speaking Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021!

When visiting another country (and I am sure travelers will one day be able to visit Italy again), it is important to understand the ins and outs of making a purchase. Whether you are dining at a restaurant, visiting an important historical site, or purchasing a souvenir of your trip, knowing a few  words in Italian is always helpful to understand the cost. And if you like to barter, you can pepper your English with a few friendly Italian phrases to help the deal go through!

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 build on the “commonly used phrase”  “Quanto costa,” which is Italian for “How much does it cost?” we will be able to communicate what we want to purchase, just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 43rd 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 to ask
Quanto costa?
How much does it cost?

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…

How Much Does it Cost?
Quanto Costa?

When visiting another country (and I am sure travelers will one day be able to visit Italy again), it is important to understand the ins and outs of making a purchase. Whether you are dining at a restaurant, visiting an important historical site, or purchasing a souvenir of your trip, knowing a few  words in Italian is always helpful to understand the cost. And if you like to barter, you can pepper your English with a few friendly Italian phrases to help the deal go through!

How do I use the verb costare?

In order to ask how much something costs in Italian, we will first need to conjugate the verb costare, which sounds very much like its English counterpart “to cost.” Costare is a regular -are verb, so the verb conjugation  should be easy to remember. When making purchases, the third person singular “it costs,” which is “costa,” and the third person plural “they cost,” which is “costano,” are the two forms of this verb necessary to know.

Since we leave out the word “it” in conversational Italian, we simply need to put the word for “how much,” which is “quanto,” before costa or costano. This gives us the short sentences, “Quanto costa?” and “Quanto costano?” Remember that there is no need to insert the words “do” or “does” into your phrase when asking a question in Italian, although these words are necessary in English.

Let’s see how this works.

First off, it is polite to say, “Buon giorno!” to the shopkeeper when entering a shop in Italy. The shopkeeper will most likely be standing behind a counter near the doorway, and you will receive a polite “Buon giorno!” in return. Also, most shops in Italy have an unspoken rule — or sometimes an actual sign by the merchandise that says, “Non toccare, per favore” — requesting that customers do not handle fragile items themselves.

If you would like to have a closer look at an item, you can start by asking the shopkeeper, “Posso?” for “May I…” and point to the item you would like to pick up.

If you are in a shop in Florence, and see a lovely handmade wallet in a display case, if want to know the price, you can simply say, “Quanto costa?” for “How much does it cost?” 

And if you want to purchase several silk scarves to bring home to your friends, you can ask,  “Quanto costano?” for “How much do they cost?”  

Quanto costa?

How much (does) (it) cost?

Quanto costano?

How much (do) (they) cost?

When asking a shopkeeper in Italy how much something costs, the easiest thing to do is to point to the item or items and use the simple sentences above. Most Italian shops are small and the salespeople are usually helpful and accommodating, regardless of one’s knowledge of Italian. But it is also easy to add the Italian word for the item you are interested in at the end of these sentences. Notice the verbs costa and costano are highlighted in green to emphasize how the verb costare will change depending on the  number of items under consideration.

Quanto costa il portafoglio?

How much (does) the wallet cost?

Quanto costano le sciarpe?

How much (do) the scarves cost?

As a substitute for the name of the item, you can also point and use the adjective “this” for one item near you or “that” for another item further away. The adjectives “these/those” are used for more than one item. Remember to change the endings of “questo” (this) and quello” (that) to reflect the gender of the item you want to purchase!

In the table below that the adjectives questo and quello are in blue, with their endings highlighted in red to match the endings of the nouns each corresponds to. If you need a more in-depth explanation of how to use the adjectives questo and quello, you will find this in the Conversational Italian for Travelers book “Just the Grammar.”

Quanto costa questo? (portafoglio)

How much (does) this cost?

Quanto costa questa? (sciarpa)

How much does this cost?

Quanto costano questi? (portafogli)

How much do these (wallets) cost?

Quanto costano queste? (sciarpe)

How much (do) these (scarves) cost?

 

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

How do I spot a sale in Italy?

Leather goods Florence

If you visit Italy at the end of June, and certainly in July and August, shops that sell clothing and accessories will be preparing for the fall season by putting their current items on sale. Large signs appear in shop windows, that say, “In Saldo” or “Saldi” and often list the percentage reduction, such as 25%, 50% or even 75%.  Some additional words and phrases you may see in shop windows are given in the table below. 

in vendita/ in saldo, saldi on sale/ on sale for a reduced price
in svendita  in a closeout sale
sconto/ scontato  discount/ discounted
a prezzo basso at low/ lowered price

 

Italian dresses for sale
Shop window in Rome with Italian dresses for sale up to 50% off.

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

How do I barter in Italian?

The price of most smaller purchases in Italian shops is not negotiable, especially when the owner is not on site. But, many of the owners of the leather and jewelry shops in Florence actually expect you to barter with them! Bartering is also expected by many artisans that sell their work in the piazzas of Italy.  Learn some of the phrases below. It may be fun to try out your bartering skills when Italy opens its doors to the world again!

Start a conversation with a shopkeeper by asking:

Quanto costa… How much is…
(literally: How much costs…)

Of course, the listed price will be:

troppo caro too expensive
costoso expensive, costly
proprio costoso really expensive
Costa un occhio della testa! Costs an arm and a leg!
(lit. Costs an eye out of the head!)

And here we go with bartering… 

Quanto costa? How much (does it) cost?
Venti euro. (It costs) 20 euro.
Troppo caro! Facciamo quindici euro! (That is) too expensive! Let’s make it 15 euros!
Non è in saldo… ma, diciannove va bene. (It) is not on sale… but 19 is good.
No, è costoso! Può andar bene diciassette? No, (it) is expensive! Perhaps 17?
Diciotto. Non posso fare più sconto! 18. (I) can’t discount it any more! (lit. I can’t make it (any) more discounted!)
Va bene! Very well!/Agreed.

If you’ve tried bartering in Italy, leave a comment describing your method and let us know how it worked! 


Remember how ask, How much does it cost?” in Italian with 
“Quanto costa?” and I guarantee
you will use this phrase 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

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s Talk About… TV and the Movies 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 2020? 

One of the most common topics people discuss is what they have watched lately on their TV. But whether the discussion is about a made-for-TV series or a classic movie, the conversation usually revolves around the same topics: our likes and dislikes, intriguing points in the plot, and, of course, those fabulous actors. These common topics lead to common phrases we can learn in Italian to talk to our Italian friends!

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 talk about the weather in Italian we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

What TV series have you watched lately?  On what site? were you thrilled, bored, or was it just an OK experience?  Or maybe you have just streamed (or put in your own DVD for the umpteenth time) a favorite classic movie.  Why is this movie your favorite?  What about the characters attracts you to this movie time and time again?

This post is the 38th 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 to talk about
TV and movies 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…

TV and the Movies in Italian

How do I say, “TV show” and “movies” in Italian?

The programs we watch on a television set (il televisore) or on a screen (lo schermo) are referred to most commonly in both English and Italian as “TV.” The pronunciation, of course, is different in each language. In Italian, the abbreviation “TV” is pronounced as an Italian would pronounce the letters “t” and “v,” which sounds like “tee-vooh.” Notice from the table below that there is an Italian word for TV programs in general (la televisione), and therefore the Italian abbreviation TV is feminine as well, and takes the feminine definite article la, as in la TV.

TV La TV / La televisione
Cable TV La TV via cavo
Satellite TV La TV sattelitare
RAI-TV Italian state television
(Radio-Televisione Italiana)
Television set Il televisore
TV or computer screen Lo schermo
TV show Un programma 
Un programma televisivo
TV series Una serie TV/Due Serie
Un telefilm
Episode Una puntata
Situation Comedy Una serie TV sitcom
Una commedia
Comedy show Un programma comico

Back in the day, Italians used to refer to a movie as “una pellicola,” but that word is no longer in common usage. Nowadays, Italians most often refer to a movie with the American word “film.” For instance, Voleva la pena il film?” means, “Was it worth it to watch the movie?”

Movies in general are either “i film,” with the borrowed English word preceded by the plural masculine definite article “i” in Italian, or “il cinema,” which is a collective masculine noun. 

The usual Italian verbs for to watch (guardare) and to see (vedere) describe the act of watching a screen to see a TV show or movie.

Movie theater  Il cinema
Film studio Lo studio cinematografico
Movie Il film (La pellicola)
Movies I film / Il cinema
to capture an image for a film filmare / riprendere / girare
to be recorded essere filmato
to watch a movie guardare un film
to watch a movie vedere un film

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Using piacere to say we like a TV show or movie

In Italian, a few simple sentences will suffice to say if we liked what we saw — or not.  You may recall that Italians use the irregular verb piacere to convey the idea that they like something. For a refresher on how this verb works, please refer to past blogs, “Piacere — How Italians Say, ‘I like it!”  and “Piacere: How Italians Say, ‘I liked it!’

The most important thing to remember is that the conjugation of piacere
will have to agree with the number of things that are being liked. 

So, when speaking in the present tense, if one thing is liked, simply use the third person singular conjugation piace.

If many things are liked in the present, use the plural third person, which is piacciono.

For the past tense, we can use the passato prossimo third person singular forms è piacuto and è piaciuta for the one-time event when we liked something.

If many things are liked, the third person plural forms sono piaciuti for the masculine plural and sono piaciute for the feminine plural are used.

Then put the indirect object pronoun mi before the verb to make the simple sentence: “To me, this is pleasing!” Or, as we would say in English, “I like/liked this!”  

To ask a friend if they like or liked something, put ti before the verb, for: “Is/was this pleasing to you?” Or, as we would say in English, “Do/Did you like this?”

If, for some reason, you do NOT like what you have watched, just start your Italian sentence with the word non.

What we might say about our favorite TV show or movie that we like:

Mi piace questo film. I like this movie.
Mi è piaciuto questo film. I liked this movie.
Mi piace molto questo film. I really like this movie.
Mi è piaciuto molto questo film. I really liked this movie.
Ti piace questo film? Do you like this movie?
Ti è piaciuto questo film? Did you like this movie?

What we might say about our favorite TV show or movie that we did NOT like: 

Non mi piace questo film. I don’t like this movie.
Non mi è piaciuto questo film. I didn’t like this movie.
Mi piace molto questo film. I really don’t like this movie.
Mi è piaciuto molto questo film. I really didn’t like this movie.
Ti piace questo film? Don’t you like this movie?
Ti è piaciuto questo film? Didn’t you like this movie?

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

Using common expressions to say we like a TV show or movie

Of course, there are many common expressions that go beyond the simple, “I like it,” or “I don’t like it.” In English, for instance, we might say, “It was cool,” or “It was out of this world.” It seems like new English expressions are invented almost every day for how we feel about things! So, it should come as no surprise that Italians have also created expressions for feelings that go deeper than simply liking.  Let’s discuss a few that you may hear when carrying on a conversation with your Italian friends.

To get a conversation started, you can use the phrases, “Vale la pena?” for “Is it worth it?”  “Voleva la pena il film?” means, “Was the film worth it?” as mentioned earlier.

In the table below are some answers that you might hear from a native Italian who has enjoyed a film. Try them out and surprise your Italian friends!

Mi piace un sacco! I like it a lot! (lit. a sack full)
Mi è piaciuto un sacco! I liked it a lot!
È  stato bello! It was great!
È / È stato meraviglioso! It is / was wonderful!
È / È stato stupendo! It is / was amazing / cool!
È / È stato  fantastico! It is / was fantastic / cool!
È / È stato fico / figo! It is / was cool!
È /  È stato fichissimo / fighissimo! It is / was the coolest!
È / È stato da paura! It is / was cool!
È / È stato  il meglio! It is / was the best!
È il migliore film che io abbia mai visto. It is the best film that I have ever seen.

Some common movie genres

Action Film d’azione
Adventure story Storia d’avventura
Costume drama (historical TV show with costumes) Sceneggiato in costume
Costume drama (historical film with costumes) Film in costume
Comedy Film comico / commedia
Comedy drama Commedia drammatica
Dark comedy Commedia nera
High comedy Commedia sofisticata / da intenditori
Low comedy (bawdy) Commedia popolare
Slapstick comedy Farsa / Pagliacciata*
Musical comedy Commedia musicale
Romantic comedy Commedia romantica
Documentary Un documentario
Drama Storia drammatica
Drama movie Film drammatico / Dramma
Detective movie Un poliziesco / Un giallo**
Film noir (thriller genre) Film noir
Foreign Film Film straniero
Horror  Film horror / Film dell’orrore
Mystery Un giallo**
Science Fiction / Sci-fi Film di fantascienza
Psychological thriller Thriller psicologico
Thriller (suspense film) Thriller / Giallo
Western Film Western

*Reference to the opera Pagliacci, whose main character is a clown that performs slapstick humor with puppets.

**Mystery books and films are referred to by the color giallo, which is derived from the yellow cover all mystery books were given in the past.

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

Using common expressions to say what we prefer

The verb preferire means “to prefer,” which is a regular -isc conjugated -ire verb.“I prefer…” is “Io preferisco…” To ask a question of someone else, say, “Tu preferisci…?”

If you want to say you prefer one movie genre over another, just use the adjective preferito. This also works for your favorite movie, TV show, color, etc. Just make sure to change the ending of preferito (a,i,e) to reflect what it is you are describing, whether masculine or feminine, singular or plural.

Here are examples from the dialogue below:

È il tipo di film che io preferisco.
It’s the type of film that I prefer.

Non per me.  Il mio film preferito è un buon giallo.
Not for me. My favorite movie is a good mystery movie.

If you want to say, “I liked (film) better than…” use the sentence construction:

“Mi piace… (film)  più di + definite article… (film).  

Ma mi piace La Vita è Bella più del Commissario Montalbano.
I like La Vita è Bella more than Detective Montalbano.

Another way to make a comparison between films is to say:
“This film is much better than…”

“Questo film è molto meglio di + definite article…”

Questo film è molto meglio del Commissario Montalbano, sono sicuro!
This film is much better than Detective Montalbano, I am sure.

Finally, to mention who has written or directed a movie, use the conjunction “di” to mean “by.”

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

Below is a simple dialogue between two friends, Maria and Anna, talking about their favorite movie and TV show.  There are, of course, many variations.  Think about your favorite movie and create phrases describe your own feelings in Italian!

Maria:  Ieri sera, ho guardato il film, La Vita è Bella, di Roberto Benigni.
Last night, I watched the movie, “Life is Beautiful,” by Roberto Benigni.
Anna: Ne è valsa la pena?
Was it worth it?
Maria: Si, vale la pena.
Mi è piaciuto molto questo film!
Yes, it is worth it.
I really liked this film!
Anna: È una storia drammatica?
Is it a drama?
Maria: Si, è una storia drammatica, ma la prima parte è anche un po’ comica.
Yes, it is a drama, but the first part is also a bit funny.
Anna: Ah, una commedia drammatica.
I see, a comedy drama.
Maria: È il tipo di film che io preferisco.
It’s the type of film that I prefer.
Anna: Non per me.
Il mio film preferito è un buon giallo.
Not for me.
My favorite movie is a good mystery movie.
Commissario Montalbano è figo.
Detective Montalbano is cool.
Maria: Boh. Ho visto molte puntate del Commissario Montalbano sul TV.
Well. I have seen many episodes of Detective Montalbano on TV.
Ma mi piace La Vita è Bella più del Commissario Montalbano.
  I like La Vita è Bella more than Detective Montalbano.
   
  Questo film è molto meglio del Commissario Montalbano, sono sicuro!
This film is much better than Detective Montalbano, I am sure.
Anna: Allora, devo guardare La Vita è Bella un giorno.
Well, then, I will have to watch La Vita è Bella one day.

Remember how to talk about TV and the Movies in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Say, “I want” with “Volere” and “Desiderare”

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 2020? 

One of the most important things for any language student to learn is how to ask politely for what they want. In Italy, of course, there are many social interactions that routinely occur between a customer and service people  — clerks, shopkeepers, waiters — and there several commonly used phrases that make these interactions pleasant and polite.

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 ask for what we want in Italian, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 35th 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

start with “I want” or “I would like”
and use the verbs

volere and desiderare.

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 verbs?

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.

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

How to Say, “I want…”

with Volere and Desiderare in Italian

Volere is an Italian verb that means “to want” or “to need.” Volere ends in -ere, which makes it a second conjugation verb.  However, it is also an irregular verb, and the stem will change for all forms except the voi form.  As you can imagine, volere is a very important verb to know in order to communicate what your needs are while in Italy, and you will find the io and tu forms are very important to commit to memory.

The verb conjugation table below is reprinted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs” book and textbook.  In all Conversational Italian for Travelers books,  material is presented with the visual learner in mind, and this includes color-coding for easy memorization. In the conjugation table below, the irregular verb forms for the present tense of volare are given in brown, and the regular voi conjugation is given in green. Notice also that the stressed syllable for each verb has been underlined.

Volere – to want (present tense)

io voglio I want
tu vuoi you (familiar)want
Lei

lei/lui

vuole you (polite) want

she/he wants

     
noi vogliamo we want
voi volete you all want
loro vogliono they want

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The conditional form of volere is also very useful, since it is a polite way to ask for something from a clerk at a store or a waiter at a restaurant.  The io conditional form of volere is also irregular, and is vorrei, which means, “I would like.”

Use the polite vorrei and say, I would like…” instead of the more demanding “Voglio…” when asking for what you need in Italy; politeness is usually rewarded with the same in return. Conditional verb forms are generally studied at the intermediate level, but “vorrei” is one verb that every student of Italian should learn right from the start!

Volere – to want (conditional tense)

io vorrei I would like

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So, now we know how to tell someone what we want.  Or do we?  After “I want,” we often need to add another verb to express what we want to do – to go, to return, to buy, etc.

To express what you want, first conjugate the verb volere into one of the first conjugation, or io forms: voglio or vorrei.  Then simply add the infinitive form of the action verb directly after the conjugated form of volere.  This is the same as we would do in English!  The verb volere is known as a helping verb for the way that it modifies, or adds to, the meaning of the main verb in the sentence.

See below for Italian example sentences that use the helping verb volere. Both the helping verb and the main verb in the sentence have been underlined.

Notice that the subject pronoun io is left out of the Italian phrases, as usual.  Remember that when going “to” a country, region, or large island in Italy, you must use the Italian preposition “in” (which has the same meaning as the English word “in”). However, when going to a city, town, or a small island in Italy, you must use the preposition “a,” for “to.”

Voglio andare in Italia.

Voglio andare a Roma.

 (I) want to go to Italy.

(I) want to go to Rome.

Vorrei comprare un biglietto. (I) would like to buy a ticket.
Voglio tornare lunedì. (I) want to return Monday.

Of course, the verb volere can also be followed by a noun, the “object of our desire”!  Some examples:

Voglio un’appartamento a Roma. (I) want an apartment in Rome.
Vorrei quella macchina rossa! (I) would like that red car!
Voglio una grande festa quando faccio cinquanta! (I) want a big party when I turn 50!

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After learning how a visitor to Italy should express their needs using the verb volere, it is important to realize how the verb desiderare comes into play in every day life.  When one is out and about shopping in Italy, desiderare is the verb most commonly used by a clerk or shopkeeper to ask a customer what they want. Desiderare is most often used with the meaning “to want” in the business setting, but can also mean “to desire” or can have the more forceful meanings of  “to demand” or “to require” (another person to do something).

Desiderare is a regular -are verb, and the polite “you” form, “Desidera..?” is commonly  by shopkeepers when a customer enters a store. This is a shorthand way to ask, “Can I help you?” Of course, a customer may also hear, “Posso aiutarla?” for the official, polite, “May I help you?”

An example conversation between a traveler, Caterina, and a ticket clerk, Rosa, is given below from Chapter 4: At the Train station, an excerpt from our Conversational Italian for Travelers story with interactive dialogues.

In this example, directly after Rosa, the clerk at the ticket counter says, “Buon giorno,” she asks, “Dove desidera andare?” as a way of inviting Caterina to purchase a ticket.  Desidera is now the helping verb and is conjugated into its “polite you” form, while andare follows in the infinitive.

Caterina answers the initial question in the dialogue with the polite vorrei but then later on uses the io form of desiderare, which is desidero;  desiderare can, of course, be used by the customer as well as a clerk or salesperson!

Read the dialogue below through as an example of how these words might be used. To hear the full dialogue between Caterina and Rosa on your computer or smartphone, just click here: Chapter 4: At the Train station.

Rosa:                          Buon giorno.  Dove desidera andare?
                                    Hello.  Where (do) you (pol.) want to go?
Caterina:                   Vorrei andare a Milano.
                                     (I) would like to go to Milan
Rosa:                          Prima o seconda classe?
                                    First or second class?
Caterina:                   Desidero la prima classe, diretto, per Milano, per favore.
                                    (I) want first class, direct, for Milan, please.

There are, of course, many more situations in which one could ask for what they want using voglio, vorrei, or desiderare.  How many more can you think of?

Remember how to use the verbs volere and desiderare to ask for what you want in Italian and I guarantee you will use these verbs every day!

"Just the Verbs" from Conversational Italian for Travelers books
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com