Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Famous Love Poems in Italian for Valentines Day

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Have you been trying to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2023?

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 express feelings. And what feeling could be more profound and important than romantic love? The love that we feel for that “special someone” in our lives or for someone we hope to play a major part in our life? Sooner or later, we are all touched by that romantic feeling called “love.”  But, when we have fallen in love, or as the Italians would say, ci siamo innamorati, it may not come naturally to express this love, even in our native language.

Over the centuries, writers have pondered the question, “Che cos’è l’amore?” “What is love?” And while exploring this theme,  poets have not only given expression to their own feelings of love, but  have enabled others communicate eloquently about love as well.  Let’s take a brief survey of  famous love poems, or poesie d’amore and create Italian phrases for our own true loves on Valentine’s Day!

This post is the 64nd 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”
about love are from well known 
love poems.
Check them out  i
n
Italian for
Valentines Day.

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 

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

Over the centuries, writers have pondered the question, “Che cos’è l’amore?” “What is love?” And since the Italian poet Petrarch expressed his great love for Laura in the 14th century, love poems have often taken the form of he used — the sonetto, or sonnet. These “little songs” are 14 lines long and follow a specific rhythm and rhyme scheme. When Shakespeare took up the sonnet in the 16th Century, he changed Petrarch’s form and made it his own; Shakespeare used the sonnet to write some of the most famous lines about love in existence today. Shakespeare’s contemporaries and many poets who have followed still write about love using the sonnet form, and those lines that ring true have been translated into many languages.

Let’s take a brief survey of famous poesie d’amore
and create Italian phrases for our own true loves on Valentine’s Day!

William Shakespeare
Sonnet 116

William Shakespeare is a well-known playwright who lived from 1564-1616. His sonnets were his last non-dramatic work to be published in complete form in the early 1600s. Since that time, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and in particular his Sonnet 116,  have become well-known meditations on the meaning of true love. For Shakespeare, true love is the love between “true minds,” that will not be altered by any circumstance. In the first lines he states, “Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds/Or bends with the remover to remove.”

Take a few lines from Shakespeare’s examples of the steadfastness of true love, here translated into Italian, to tell your true love that you will always be there for them. Note: The last line, “ma sarà per sempre” has been substituted for Shakespeare’s final, more dramatic line, “But bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

Il mio amore per te…
è  come un faro sempre fisso, che non vacilla mai.

non è soggetto al Tempo,
non cambia in poche ore o settimane
ma sarà per sempre.

My love for you…
is  like a beacon, always fixed, that never falters.

is not subject to Time,
will not change in a few hours or weeks,
but will be forever.

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

Pablo Neruda
One Hundred Love Sonnets: 17

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and diplomat  (1094-1973) and is famous in Italy and around the world for his poems about love.  Sonnet XVII is one of the most famous of his One Hundred Love Sonnets, and is known by it’s first line, “I don’t love you as if you were rose salt or topaz…”  In this poem, Neruda says most elegantly that love for another cannot be defined or explained but only exist.

Below are a few lines taken from this Sonnet, translated from Spanish into Italian and English. Anyone to whom these lines are spoken is sure to fall in love!

T’amo senza sapere come, né quando, né da dove,
T’amo simplicemente senza problemi né orgoglio:
Così ti amo perché non so amare diversamente.

I love you, without knowing how, nor when, nor from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride.
I love you so because I don’t know how to love any other way.

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

e. e. cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)

The American poet, author and playwright Edward Estlin Cummings published works under the pen name e. e. cummings  and  lived from 1984-1962. He wrote more than 2,500 poems. He favored the use of lower-case letters in his poetry and stretched the bounds of traditional poetic forms.

Cummings’ line, “I carry your heart with me,”  translated into Italian as, “Porto il tuo cuore con me,”  and  is a lovely romantic reference from the first line of his poem. Notice the unusual use of capitalization and punctuation that cummings is known for in this poem, which seems to make one thought rush directly into the next.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

  i fear

no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)…

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

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

Most everyone knows the first lines to this sonnet, one of the 44 poems of  Sonnets from the Portuguese written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).  In the first line, Barrett-Browning asks, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Then she continues to answer the question by expressing her devotion to the love of her life as the poem continues.

Sonnet 43 is a tribute to Elizabeth Barrett’s future husband, who she loves so deeply that it “consumes (her) soul and permeates every moment of every day.”  The last two lines, which talk about how her love fulfills her “most quiet need,” are lovely enough to be translated into Italian for anyone who is in love today.

Ti amo fino al punto del bisogno di ogni giorno più tranquill,
al sole e alla luce della candela.

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

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

John Keats
I Cannot Exist Without You

Perhaps the ode to love that best expresses the Italian sensibility was written by the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) in a letter to Fanny Brawne in 1918.*  The second line of this poetic exhortation is, “Non posso esistere senza di te,” translated  literally as, “I cannot exist without you.” In recent time, this phrase has become part of the refrain for many Italian songs as, “Non posso vivere senza di te,” or “I cannot live without you.” The idea of two lives so intertwined that one person cannot live without the other is a common theme in Italian culture, and maybe that is why these lines translate so easily into Italian.

There are so many lines to choose from in this poem, I have reprinted most of what Keats wrote to his dear love, with the Italian translation for several lines that can be used to express one’s true love on Valentine’s Day.

My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love –…
My Love is selfish – I cannot breathe without you. – John Keats *

Non posso esistere senza di te.
I cannot exist without you

Non posso vivere senza di te.
I cannot live without you

Ora non ho limiti al mio amore.
I have no limit now to my love.

Non posso respirare senza di te.
I can’t breathe without you.

*Hanson, Marilee. “John Keats Love Letter To Fanny Brawne – 13 October 1819” https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/love-letter-to-fanny-brawne-13-october-1819/, February 4, 2015.

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

Buon San Valentino!

Remember a few phrases of love
from the great poets
for your true love on Valentine’s 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

Advertisement

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Make Comparisons in Italian with “Come” and “Tanto…Quanto”

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

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2023?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2023? 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 make comparisons. Every day, we all compare the characteristics of one person, place or thing to another — and many times these characteristics are similar or the same.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific adverbs when making equivalent comparisons, similar to what is done in English.

In a prior blog  in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Make Comparisons in Italian with “Di,” we learned how to make comparisons between two nouns when one thing is liked more or is better or worse than the other. In this blog, we will discuss how to make comparisons nouns with equivalent characteristics. For instance, in Italy there are so many places are beautiful, one may be as beautiful as another! Or one place in Italy may have as many important sites of interest as another. In these cases, to make a comparison we must use the Italian adverbs come and tanto/quanto in the correct sequence to relay the meanings “as,” “as well as,” and “as much as.”

Let’s continue to learn how to make comparisons in Italian using the Italian adverbs come, tanto/quanto  to learn how to express ourlseves like a native Italian!

This post is the 63rd  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 adverbs
come
and
 tanto… quanto
to make comparisons

See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar*  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

*The material in this blog has been adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and  the reference book “Just the Grammar.”

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

 Use “Come” and “Quanto”
to Compare
Italian Nouns

Every day, we all compare the characteristics of one person, place or thing to another — and many times these characteristics are similar or the same. For instance, there are so many places in Italy that are beautiful, and  one may be as beautiful as another! Or one place in Italy may have as many important sites of interest as another. In these cases,  to make a comparison we must use the Italian adverbs come and tanto…quanto to relay the meanings “as,” “as well as,” and “as much as.”

When comparing two different nouns — people, places, or things — using the same adjective or adverb, the effect will be a statement that their description is equivalent. It is as if you are saying one person, place or thing is “just like” the other.

Use the following Italian adverbs in the table below when you want to make a comparative statement of equality:

Comparison of Two Nouns with Equivalent Descriptors
come
così come
as, like, just like
is as 
tanto…. quanto as…as, like, just like,
as well as

It should be noted that the definitions of the adverb come encompass those of many English adverbs and adverbial phrases, such as: “as,” “same as,” “like,” or “just like.” In effect, then, the single adverb come can relay all of these meanings when comparing two nouns. The combination “così come”  is used specifically to say someone or something “is as” expected. And remember that when così is used alone, without making a comparison between one noun and another, the meaning is “so.”

The alternate method of comparing two is  nouns with equivalent adjectives is to use  tanto…. quanto.

In the tables below, we start with an example that uses così to make a general statement. Then, examples of how to use the adverbs come and tanto… quanto  as comparatives of equity are listed.  Two examples using così come are also provided. Notice that the comparisons made are between nouns — two persons, places, or things.

Comparison of two persons with the same adjective (equivalent characteristics):

Francesca è così bella. Frances is so beautiful.
Francesca è bella come Anna. Frances is beautiful, (just) like Ann.
Francesca è tanto bella quanto Anna. Frances is as beautiful as Ann.
Francesca è così come te l’ho descritta. Frances is as I have described to you.
   
Marco è così intelligente. Mark is so smart.
Marco è intelligente come Franco. Mark is smart, (just) like Frank.
Marco è tanto intelligente quanto Franco. Mark is as smart as Frank.
Marco è così come lo immaginavo. Marco is as I had expected.

Comparison of two places with the same adjective (equivalent characteristics):

Milano è così rumorosa. Milan is so noisy.
Milano è rumorosa come Roma. Milan is noisy, (just) like Rome.
Milano è tanto rumorosa quanto Roma. Milan is as noisy as Rome.
Il Colloseo a Roma è così importante.        
The Colosseum in Rome is so important.
Il Colloseo a Roma è importante come il Duomo a Firenze.
The Colosseum in Rome is important, like the Cathedral in Florence.
Il Collosseo a Roma è tanto importante, quanto il Duomo a Firenze.
The Colosseum in Rome is as important as the Cathedral in Florence.

Comparison of two things with the same adjective (equivalent characteristics):

La mia sedia preferita è così comoda.    
My favorite chair is so comfortable.
La mia sedia è comoda come le sedie fatto in America.
My chair is comfortable, (just) like the chairs made in America.
La mia sedia è tanto comoda quanto le sedie fatto in America. 
My chair is as comfortable as the chairs made in America.

Use tanto… quanto to compare nouns with equivalent adverbs. For instance, to say one machine works as well as another similar machine.  In this case, quanto can stand alone to represent the full meaning, “as well as.  

La mia Camaro va tanto bene quanto la tua Ferrari.       

My Camaro runs as well as  your Ferrari.

                            – or-

La mia Camaro va bene quanto la tua Ferrari.


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

Use “Tanto… Quanto”
Equivalent Italian Comparisons

Use tanto… quanto to describe two characteristics of a single individual, in order to say someone is as (much) one way as he/she is another way. As an example, if someone is both smart and handsome, one might want to emphasize the special nature of this individual by putting both characteristics in one statement. In this case, the verb essere is used for the comparison to “link” both characteristics to the subject. This works for places and things as well. Note that tanto cannot be omitted in this situation.

Two Equivalent Characteristics
for a single individual, place, or thing
tanto… quanto as…  as
Marco è tanto intelligente quanto bello. Mark is as smart as handsome.
Il film era tanto lungo quanto noioso. The film was as long as it was boring.
Roma è tanto rumorosa quanto grande. Rome is as noisy as it is large.

When comparing the quantity of things two people have, to state that different individuals have an equivalent quantity, use the adverbs tantoquanto. Note that in this situation tanto must always be used with quanto and tanto must agree in gender and number with the noun that it modifies. 

Comparison of Two Equivalent Quantities
tanto(a,i,e)…. quanto  as many… as
as much…as

    

This adverbial phrase will usually appear with the verb avere to describe in general how much or how many things someone has.   Since we are now speaking of quantities, we need to include the pronoun ne, which means, “of it,” “of this,” or “of that” in this situation, and ne will appear before the conjugated form of avere in the second phrase.

           

Caterina ha tante amiche quanto  ne ha Anna. Kathy has as many friends as Ann.
Pietro ha tanti parenti quanto ne  ha Caterina. Peter has as many relatives as Kathy.
Le persone a Milano hanno tanti soldi
     quanto ne ha la gente a Roma.
The people in Milan have as much money
as the people in Rome.

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

“Come” 
in Italian Sayings

Along with the frequent use of the adverb come to make comparisons daily life, Italians often pepper their conversations with well-known sayings that use come. Many Italian sayings, or figures of speech that describe one thing by comparing it to another, have been passed down for generations and are still in use throughout Italy today. Therefore, learning about the adverb come will help us to understand both the Italian language and Italian culture!

With a figure of speech that describes one thing being “like” or “as” another using come, Italians are able to express their point in a creative and often humorous way. In other cases, a comparison can add emotion or depth to a statement. In grammatical terms, a figure of speech that uses like, or its Italian equivalent come, is called a simile. A short statement that uses a simile is often called a saying. The descriptor “saying” is often used in interchangeably with “proverb,” although proverbs tend to make a more strong association between two points, using a metaphor with the  verb “is” to create a universal statement.

Let’s see how Italians use the adverb come with the meaning of “like” or “as” to make a simile and underscore a point that is important to the speaker.

Probably the most common simile used in Italy today is, “Buono come il pane.” The literal meaning is, “Good like the bread.” An outsider may wonder why a person is being compared to bread. What point could this make? Similes, like proverbs, do not always make sense when translated word for word. In this case, bread is alluded to because of the central place bread has had in sustaining life in Italy throughout the ages. An English an equivalent saying might be, “Heart of gold,” or “Good of heart,” to describe someone who is  particularly caring and understanding and supportive of another’s needs.

A few more well-known Italian sayings are listed below. You’ll notice that the similes used in these sayings also compare a particular type of person to a particular type of food. Do you know any other situations in which Italians compare people to food to make a point? If you’d like, leave any I have not included in the comments below so we all can enjoy the Italian sensibility!

Ognun dà pane ma non come mamma.

Translation: Everyone gives bread but none does it like a mother.
Meaning: A mother’s love is special.

Sono pieno come un uovo.

Translation: I’m full like an egg.
Meaning: I am stuffed! I ate a lot and now am as full as can I can be. An egg is a good comparison because the thin shell is completely filled with the yolk and white; no space is left for anything else.

Sei come il prezzemolo!

Translation: You are like parsley!
Meaning: You turn up everywhere! I seem to encounter you everywhere I go! Parsley is a well-known herb in Italy, both for its ability to grow everywhere and also because a little parsley is used here and there in many Italian dishes.

Spuntare come funghi.

Translation: Sprouting up like mushrooms.
English: How did you get here already? To show up or emerge from somewhere quickly. Mushrooms are known for their ability to sprout quickly after a period of rain — so quickly that it seems like one day there is nothing and the next day there are clumps of fully grown mushrooms everywhere.

Remember how to make comparisons with
come and tanto/quanto and I guarantee you will use these
Italian phrases and Italian sayings  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! – What We Like about Christmas in Italy

Small Christmas tree with ornaments and star on top, presents in boxes underneath and the Conversational Italian for Travelers book Just the Grammar standing beside it.
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Have you been trying to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

 I hope that I have helped you this year and you have reached your goal! I have been 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.” 

The end of the year is upon us, bringing with it yet another Christmas season in Italy. No matter if you are a child or an adult, there are so many things to like about how this special season is celebrated in Italy — the lights and decorations, the household preparations that have been passed down for generations, and finally, the much anticipated gathering of family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  What better time is there than Christmas to review how Italians use the verb piacere, which means “to like”? 

While many Italian families celebrate Christmas by following traditions passed down through the generations, other families have adopted festivities from neighboring countries. This leaves us with an important conversational point. It is possible to describe what one person likes as it relates to what someone else likes using piacere and the Italian disjunctive pronouns. There are also many Italian verbs that one needs to be familiar with to talk about current Christmas traditions in Italy, many of which have taken on a new importance now that new traditions have been adopted.

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”  with the Italian verb piacere, both with and without disjunctive pronouns, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language and ask for whatever we need politely!

This post is the 62nd  in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian
use the verb

  Piacere
to describe what one likes and compare this
with what another likes using disjunctive pronouns.
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.

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

How to Use the Italian Verb Piacere to Say…

“Mi Piace Natale!”

In a previous blog on this topic, Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Piacere: How Italians Say, “I like it!,”

we learned:

The Italian verb piacere literally means “to be pleasing.” Italians use this verb when they want to express the idea that they like something. It is how Italians say, “I like it!”

It should first be noted that piacere has an irregular conjugation. Then, it is important to understand that the verb piacere works  differently than most other Italian verbs that have an -ere ending. In effect, the subject of the sentence that uses the verb piacere will be the thing or things that are likedTherefore, to agree with the subject,  the conjugated forms of piacere  will usually be the singular or plural third person. 

The singular third person form of piacere is piace and the plural is piacciono.

Rather than conjugating the verb piacere in its entirety, for now we will focus on the two most important conjugations of piacere listed above — piace if one thing is liked and piacciono if many things are liked.  

Italians then put one of the indirect object pronouns – mi, ti, Le, le, gli, ci, vi, or glibefore the verb, at the beginning of the sentence, to denote to whom the thing is pleasing.

As a refresher, here is the meaning of the indirect object pronouns we will need to use with piacere.  Notice that the context of the conversation will be important to determine if gli refers to him or to them

Italian Indirect Object Pronouns

mi to me
ti to you (familiar)
Le to you (polite)
le   to her (to Maria)
gli  to him (to Mario)
ci to us
vi to you all
gli to them

If someone likes doing something, follow the indirect object and the verb piacere in the third person singular — piace with an infinitive verb! 

In short, just follow the basic formulas below to describe what things you like in Italian:

Indirect object pronoun + piace + object or activity
Indirect object pronoun + piacciono + objects 

Let’s put all this together to describe the things that are pleasing to us — that is, the things that we like — about the Christmas season in Italy. In the examples for the following sections, the Italian way of thinking is given in English in gray, the true English translation is in black, and the noun or verb that is the subject of the Italian sentence has been underlined.

Also, notice from the examples that Italians use “mi piace molto” to refer to things they really like, where Americans tend to say, “I love.” to express a strong liking for both things and people.

(If you need a more detailed explanation of how piacere works, please see the previous blog about piacere.)

A Traditional Christmas in Italy… 

The Catholic religion is the official religion of Italy. The Italian Christmas season (periodo di Natale) begins on December 8th with the Catholic holiday of L’Immacolata (Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary) and ends on January 6th with L’Epifania (the day the “Three Kings” visit the baby Jesus).

During the Christmas season, lights adorn every town in Italy, and many Italian towns are famous for depictions of Christmas scenes in larger than life light displays. The largest nativity scene in the world, for instance, is on the side of a mountain in the town of Manarola in the famous Cinque Terre region along the northwestern coast of Italy.  This display of lighted homes and figures that is used to create a larger-than-life nativity scene is even included in the Guinness book of world records. Music adds to the special feeling of Christmas in Italy, and Christmas songs from around the world have been translated into Italian. Visit a prior Christmas blog for a link to listen to the most famous Italian Christmas carol, “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle.”

The nativity scene, in Italian called the presepe or presepio, is the center of the religious celebration in Italy. The city of Naples is famous for artisans who produce the manger, figures, animals, and even the surrounding countryside that makes up the nativity scene, in life-like detail. Larger nativity scenes can be found in churches and piazzas, while Italian families often set up a smaller nativity scene at home. Many towns also recruit local volunteers to dress in period costumes and sit in a manger specially constructed for the occasion to create a living nativity scene.

The important family celebration in Italy occurs on Christmas Eve (la Vigilia di Natale). There is a well-known Italian saying that describes the importance of being with family during Christmas: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi,” which means, “Christmas with your (family), Easter with whom you want.”

Christmas Eve is celebrated with a large fish dinner (cenone) followed by midnight mass at church. There is another family dinner on Christmas day, and afterwards Italians spend the time between Christmas and the New Year making the rounds to visit family and friends. Presents are exchanged on L’Epifania as a finale to the holiday season. The children are told the story of a friendly witch, La Befana, who long ago missed her chance to greet the baby Jesus with the wise men, and now flies on her broom every year in search of him. While on her journey, she drops presents down the chimney into the homes of the Italian children. 

Let’s talk about how much we all like these Italian Christmas traditions using the Italian verb piacere!

Mi piace il periodo di Natale!
[To me the Christmas season is pleasing.]
I like the Christmas season!

Mi piacciono le decorazioni di Natale, specialmente le luci in piazza.
[To me, the Christmas decorations are pleasing.]
I like the Christmas decorations, especially the lights in the piazza.

Mi piace molto cantare le canzoni di Natale.
[To me, singing Christmas songs is pleasing, very much.]
I love to sing Christmas songs.

Le piace sistemare il presepe in casa.
[To her setting up the nativity scene at home is pleasing.]
She likes setting up the nativity scene at home. 

Gli piace il presepe con persone vere in chiesa.
[To him, the living nativity scene at church is pleasing.]
He likes the living nativity scene at church.

Ci piace il cenone della Vigilia di Natale.
[To us, the big dinner on Christmas Eve is pleasing.]

We like the big dinner on Christmas Eve.

Gli piace l’arrivo della Befana di notte.
[To him / To them the arrival of La Befana at night is pleasing.]
He likes / They like the arrival of La Befana at night.

Gli piacciono molto le feste di Natale in Italia!   
[To him / To them the Christmas holidays in Italy are really pleasing!]
He loves / They love the Christmas holidays!

Christmas in Italy Today…

It is also interesting to note that Christmas celebrations in Italy have become more varied. While many Italian families celebrate Christmas by following traditions passed down through the generations, other families have adopted festivities from neighboring countries. 

This is most evident in the replacement of the household nativity scene with a Christmas tree. Italy boasts the largest lighted Christmas tree display in the world, which is along a mountain that overlooks the town of Gubbio in Umbria. Santa Claus (Babbo Natale) has also been added to or replaced the Italian tradition of La Befana. While some families in Italy favor one type of celebration, others favor another.

This leaves us with an important conversational point.
It is possible to describe what one person likes
as it relates to what someone else likes
using disjunctive pronouns in Italian.

The disjunctive pronouns serve to stress that a person likes something with the “a” for “to”. Notice the similarity of the disjunctive pronouns to the indirect object pronouns and subject pronouns we have already learned.

If you want to be specific and use someone’s name, just put the preposition “a” before their name. This is an especially helpful in the third person; instead of the indirect object pronoun gli, which means both “to him” and “to them,”  one can use the more specific disjunctive pronouns. For general groups, you will need [a + Italian definite article].  

Italian Disjunctive Pronouns and Equivalents

a me to me
a te to you (familiar)
a Lei to you (polite)
a lei / a Maria to her / to Maria
a lui / a Marco to him /to Mario
a noi to us
a voi to you all
a loro
ai bambini
agli italiani
to them
to the children
to the Italians

Three of our examples from the last section are below, changed slightly to reflect some new additions to the Italian Christmas celebration. This time the Italian disjunctive pronouns or a person or group’s name is used to describe to whom the traditions are pleasing. The Italian sentence structure and English translation is the same.

A Maria piace sistemare l’albero d’Natale in casa.
[To Maria setting up the Christmas tree at home is pleasing.]
Mary likes setting up the Christmas tree at home. 

Ai bambini piace l’arrivo di Babbo Natale di notte.
[To the children the arrival of Santa Claus at night is pleasing.]
The children like the arrival of Santa Claus at night.

A tutti gli Italiani piacciono molto le feste di Natale!   
[To all the Italians the Christmas holidays are really pleasing!]
All the Italians love the Christmas holidays!

It is important to realize that piace is most commonly used as given in the first section that describes the traditional Italian Christmas — that is, with indirect object pronouns. The disjunctive pronouns are used mainly when one wants to stress a point — when a person likes something that one wouldn’t expect him or her to like, or when someone likes something that is different than the norm. Disjunctive pronouns are also important when comparing the preference of one person with another.

For instance, maybe I like the traditional Italian nativity scene, but Maria does not. I could say,

A me piace sistimare il presepe, ma a Maria no.  Maria preferisce l’albero di Natale.
[Meaning: I like to set up the nativity scene, but Mary doesn’t.]
(Implied: Even though Mary is Italian, for some
unknown reason, she has taken on the tradition of others and Mary prefers to set up a Christmas tree.)

I like setting up the nativity scene, but Mary doesn’t.  Mary prefers  a Christmas tree.

Or perhaps most of the children in a family like the arrival of Santa Claus, but unexpectedly one child in the family wants to wait for La Befana:

Ai nostri bambini piace l’arrivo di Babbo Natale, ma a Marco no.  Invece, Marco aspetta l’arrivo della Befana.
[Meaning: Our children like when Santa Claus arrives, but Mark doesn’t.]
(Implied: For some strange reason, although Mark is young, he doesn’t mind waiting until after Christmas for La Befana to bring him presents.)
The children like when Santa Claus arrives, but Marco doesn’t. Instead, Mark waits for La Befana to arrive.

More Christmas holiday fun…

Below are example sentences for a few more important activities that both Italians and Americans enjoy —  in Italian of course!

Let’s get the house decorated and deck ourselves out as well!

Mi piace addobbare la casa per Natale.
I like decorating/decking out the house for Christmas.

Mi piace anche molto addobbarsi mia bambina per le feste.
Also I love dressing up my baby for the holidays.

And send Christmas wishes to those we care about by snail mail or email…

Nella prima settimana di dicembre, noi mandiamo i bilglietti Natalizi per posta.
In the first week of December, we mail out the Christmas cards.

Negli anni recenti, ho spedito tanti auguri di buon Natale per email.
I recent years, I have sent many Christmas wishes by email.

Wrap presents for Santa or La Befana to deliver for the children…

Ci vuole molto tempo a impacchettare tutti i regali di Natale.
It takes a lot of time to wrap all the Christmas presents.

Lego un fiocco regalo su ogni scatola.
I tie a ribbon around every box.

Exchange and finally unwrap presents!

Alla nostra famiglia piace scambiarsi i regali di Natale dal Natale all’Epifania.
Our family likes to exchange presents with each other from Christmas Day through to the Epiphany.

Ai bambini piace molto scartare i regali!
The children love unwrapping the presents!

When the Christmas holiday is over…

Italians have a saying — “L’epifania tutte le feste porta via!” This means that the arrival of Epiphany signals the end of the holiday season, or, in the Italian way of thinking, “Epiphany takes away the holiday season.” 

The end of the Christmas holidays is, of course, a disappointment. How would we say that we do not like when the holiday season ends in Italian? Just use non as follows: when using the more common sentence structure with indirect object pronouns,  simply place non at the beginning of the sentence. Otherwise, to if you want to use a disjunctive pronoun to emphasize how much you do not when the holidays end, be sure to put non after the disjunctive pronoun, right before piacere.

Non gli piace quando finiscono le feste di Natale!   
[To them, it is not pleasing when the Christmas holidays end!]
They don’t like when the Christmas holidays end!

Agli italiani non piace quando finiscono le feste di Natale!   
[To the Italians, it is not pleasing when the Christmas holidays end!]
The Italians don’t like when the Christmas holidays end!

Buone Feste a tutti e Buon Anno Nuovo!

Happy Holidays to all and Happy New Year! 

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! How to Use the Preposition “Da” in Italian

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Have you been trying to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” With these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to introduce an object, or to describe direction, location or time. We do this naturally in our own language with prepositions — short words like of, to, at/in/from, and by. All languages use prepositions but the choice of preposition in a given situation will differ from one language to another. This is the case for English and Italian; English and Italian often use prepositions in a different way. Also, in some situations Italian sentence structure may require a preposition where English does not!

Let’s continue our series about Italian prepositions with the essential Italian preposition “da.” The Italian preposition “da” can be translated into the English prepositions from” and “by.Da serves as an essential link between Italian nouns, is used in Italian phrases that describe time in a complex way, and is also integral to many common expressions. If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “da,” we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 62nd in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the preposition “da”

See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar * 

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

*This material adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar 

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

 Use “Da” to Say
Where You are From

Let’s continue our series about Italian prepositions with the essential Italian preposition “da.” The Italian preposition “da” can be translated into the English prepositions from” and “by.Da serves as an essential link between Italian nouns, is used in Italian phrases that describe time in a complex way, and is also integral to many common expressions. If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “da,” we will truly sound like a native Italian!

One of the most frequent questions asked during polite conversation is, “Where are you from?” We learned how to use the preposition di to ask and answer this question in an earlier blog in this series, “How to Express ‘Di’ in Italian.”   You will remember that phrases with the preposition di are used to inquire about one’s place of birth, with the understanding that this place is often the same town the person is still living in. The examples from our previous blog:

Di dov’è Lei? Where are you (polite) from?
Di dove sei? Where are you (familiar) from?
Sono di Chicago. (I) am from Chicago.

The second way to ask, “Where are you from?” in Italian uses the preposition da and the formula below:

Da + dove + venire from + where + to come

The phrase created with the preposition da uses the action verb venire and may come up in conversation when someone is visiting or has moved to a new place. The reply will most often use the io form of venire, which is vengo (I come) and da (from), followed by a city, town, region/state, or country.  Once again, the question may be asked politely or in a familiar way.

Da dove viene? Where are you (polite) from?
Da dove vieni? Where are you (familiar) from?
Vengo da Chicago. (I) am from Chicago.

Remember that when speaking of a region, state, or country, the Italian definite article (il, lo, la, l’, gli. le) must be used. The preposition da is then combined with the definite article to make dal, dallo, dalla, dall’, dagli or dalle, which all mean “from the.” (Note: not all definite articles and combinations have been listed here, and the rules for combining the Italian definite articles are beyond the scope of this blog, but can be found in Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammnar” book.) For now, just look up and remember the correct way to describe the region, state, or country in which you are living.

If you are from the United States of America, the most common reply when conversing in Italian is even easier — “Sono americano!” for males. Of course, following the usual gender rules, females will have to say, “Sono americana.” Another possible reply, Vengo dall’America,” is grammatically correct but probably sounds a bit awkward to the Italian ear. Vengo dagli Stati Uniti,” would be considered a better choice if one wants to precisely state their origin in North America rather than South America. 

Those of Italian descent may want to mention their family’s origin in Italy and therefore that they are “italo-americano(a).”  This comment can be prefaced with the sentence, “La mia famiglia viene dall’Italia,” in this case conjugating venire according to the third person singular used for the collective noun famiglia.

Some examples:

Sono americano.
Sono americana.
(I) am American. (male speaker)
(I) am American. (female speaker)
Sono italo-americano.
Sono italo-americana.
La mia famiglia viene dall’Italia.
(I) am Italian-American. (male speaker)
(I) am Italian-American. (female speaker)
My family comes from (originates in) Italy. 
Vengo dagli Stati Uniti. (I) come from the United States.
Vengo dall’Illinois. (I) come from Illinois.
Vengo dalla California. (I) come from California.
Vengo dal New Jersey. (I) come from New Jersey.

Vengo dalle (isole dell’) Hawaii. 

(I) come from (the islands of) Hawaii.

By the way, have you noticed that nationalities are not capitalized in Italian, although the names of countries are?

 


 

Use “Da” or “A” to Describe
Visiting an Office or Home

We have just seen that the verb venire requires the preposition da to describe where an individual “comes from,” or lives, in the first section of this blog. This idea can be expanded to include people one visits during daily life.

Da is also used to describe going to visit a person if that person is associated with a particular place. For instance, the dentist, doctor, and lawyer are professionals who hold consultations in an office. Therefore, the verb andare is followed by [da + definite article + professional].

Odio andare dal dentista!
I hate going to the dentist!

Domani devo andare dal dottore.
Tomorrow I have to go to the doctor.

Vado dall’avvocato spesso per discutere sui problemi del mio divorzio.
I go to the lawyer often to discuss the problems of my divorce.

 

Two examples regarding one’s home:

To work from home is “lavorare da casa.”
To “drop in for a minute/few minutes” is “passare un attimo da casa.”

A causa di COVID, io devo lavorare da casa questa settimana.
Due to COVID, I have to work from home this morning.

Domani, passo un attmo da casa.
Tomorrow, I (will) drop in for a few minutes.

 

However, when someone is to be visited in their home, use a casa. This construction also works for family, friends or acquaintances you plan to visit at their home. Remember that “to go to visit a person” is “andare a trovare una persona” and “to come to visit a person” is “venire a trovare una persona.” Visitare is only used when one visits a place.  See below for how this works:

Oggi, vado a trovare mia mamma a casa sua.
Today, I will go to visit my mother at her house.

Pietro, posso andare a trovarti a casa tua?
Peter, can I visit you at your house?

Certo! Puoi venire a trovarmi a casa mia Domenica!
Certainly! You can come to visit me at my house Sunday.

 

 


 

Expressing Purpose with “Da”

In Italian, unlike in English, two nouns cannot be linked together in a phrase without a preposition to clarify their relationship.  Take the English word “sunglasses,” for instance.  The noun “sun” in this case acts as an adjective that modifies the noun “glasses.” In English, we think nothing of stringing nouns together to create new words that give a descriptive name to a particular entity. But in Italian, this is never the case.  When one noun is used as an adjective to describe the purpose of another, the two nouns must be linked by the preposition da.  It makes sense, then, that the Italian translation of the English sunglasses is occhiali da sole! 

Listed below are a few Italian noun combinations that are used to give a descriptive name to things like common household items, rooms in a home, clothing, and clocks. This construction is also used frequently in Italian to describe different types of tickets or cards, beach items, and items that have to do with sports. Most of the items listed below, but not all, use da to connect two nouns, as will be discussed below. The original noun has been listed along with its modifications for some of the items.  Some of these descriptive names are written as one word in English, while others are written as two separate words. How many more examples can you think of? 

 

spazzolino da denti toothbrush
crema da barbara shaving cream
   
piatto plate
piattino da dessert dessert plate
   
bicchiere glass for drinking
bicchiere da vino wine glass
bicciere per l’acqua water glass
   
cucchiaio spoon
cucchiaio da minestra soup spoon
cucchiaio da caffè coffee spoon
   
fork forchetta
forchetta da tavola dinner fork
forchettone per insalata salad fork
forchetta da dolce dessert fork
   
coltello knife
coltello da tavola dinner knife
coltello da scalco carving knife

camera da letto

bedroom

sala da pranzo

dining room

vestito

dress

vestito da sera

evening dress

vestito da sposa

wedding dress

   

camicia

shirt

camicia da notte

nightgown

camicia da uomo

man’s shirt

   

orologio

watch

orologio da polso

wrist watch

orologio a pendolo

grandfather clock
scarpe shoes
scarpe da ginnastica sneakers
scarpa da neve snow shoes
scarponi da trekking hiking boots
scarponi da sci ski boots

tuta da sci

ski suit

biglietto

ticket/note/paper money

biglietto da visita

business card

biglietto di auguri
di compleanno

birthday card

   

carta d’imbarco

boarding pass (plane)

carta d’identità

identification card

carta di credtio/debito

credit/debit card

carte da gioco

playing cards

occhiali da sole

sunglasses

costume da bagno

bathing suit

telo da spiaggia

beach towel

ombrellone da spiaggia

beach umbrella

   

barca a vela

sail boat

   

giacca da sci

ski jacket

pantaloni da sci

ski pants

bastoncini da sci

ski poles

campo

field

campo da calcio/
tennis/golf/basket

soccer field/
tennis/golf
basketball field

pallone da calcio

soccer ball

pallone da rugby

soccer/rugby ball

racchetta da tennis

tennis racket

mazza da golf

golf club

mazza da baseball

baseball bat

Did you notice the use of prepositions other than da to link nouns in the list above? The Italian name for a dessert fork is forchettone per insalata and for a water glass is a bicchiere per l’acqua. In these two cases, the Italian preposition per, which means for, is used to create a name that describes the purpose of these items.

In the previous blog, “How to Express ‘Di’ in Italian,”  we discussed briefly how to use di with camicia di seta and castello di sabbia.  It was noted that some of Italian noun combinations must be linked with di if the descriptive term represents what the main item is made of. We have several additional  examples for when di is used to link a descriptive noun with another noun in the lists above.

The Italian name for grandfather clock, orologio a pendolo, is a name that describes the means by which the clock functions. The pendulum swings in order to keep time. Therefore, the preposition a is used to link pendolo to orologio, since Italian uses the preposition a to describe what makes something run.  And a sailboat is a “boat that runs on the wind” — barca a vela. Remember from our blog in this series “Italian Preposition ‘A’ or ‘In’? that the preposition a is used to describe how other, more common items function, such as by battery, by solar energy, etc.

To summarize…

Italian is a very precise language,
and the Italian use of prepositions
is a paramount example of this precision!

 


 

Use the Italian “Da” 
in Reference to Time 

When Italians reference a point in time, several prepositions may be used, including da, which in this case means “from” or “since.”  

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, which was discussed in another blog in this series, Italian Preposition ‘A’ or ‘In’?” .  When referring to the month a particular event takes place, either a or in can be used. The Italian a or in replaces te English in. Also, the prepositionis used to refer to a precise time with the formula  [alle + time] which corresponds to the English [at +time].

 

In contrast to the prepositions di and a,
which are linked to a distinct period of time,

da is used to make generalizations about time
as it relates to one’s life experiences.

Da is a more difficult Italian preposition for the English speaker to learn how to use than di or a because its meaning of “from” or “since” makes reference to a period of time that started in the past and continues in the present. Although the idea behind these phrases is “from or “since,” the English translation most commonly uses the preposition “for” to start these phrases. But the real difficulty comes in the choice of verbs; the Italian choice is to link da with present tense verbs for a period of time that refers back to the past and does not translate directly into English!

 

Let’s go through this Italian way of thinking step by step…

Phrases that use da in reference to a period of time can be non-specific, such as, “da anni” (for years), da molti anni” (for many years), or mention an exact period of time, such as “da uno, due, tre… settimane, mese, anni… etc.” These phrases translate into English as “for many years,” or “for one, two, three weeks months, years, etc.,” although in Italian they really mean, “Since/From many years ago and continuing into the present…”

[Da + period of time] can begin an Italian sentence, or be placed in the middle or the end, along with the phrase that describes what has been happening during this time.  Since the action linked to these phrases is considered ongoing, Italian uses the present tense for all phrases in the sentence. English, instead uses the continuous past tense for the phrase that describes the beginning of the action that extends into the present and the present tense for the main action.

In the examples below, the phrase with da has been underlined, the present tense verbs are green, and the past tense verbs are brown. Notice how sperare is linked to another verb with di and riuscire with a, as discussed in previous blogs.

Studio l’italiano da tanti anni  , ma non riesco  a capire i film italiani molto bene.
I have been studying Italian for many years, but I can’t understand Italian films very well.
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

Da tre settimane non fumo e spero di riuscire a smettere completamente.
I haven’t been smoking for three weeks and I hope to be able to stop completely.
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

 

 If you need a refresher on how to use any of these prepositions in reference to time, you can also review our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook or the Just the Verbs” and Just the Grammar” reference books. 

 


 

Use the Italian “da quanto” 
in Reference to Time

The  adjective “quanto,” which means “how much” or “how many” is commonly used to refer to a period of time, and is always preceded by da, as in the formula;

Da + quanto + tempo for + how much + time

The formula [da + quanto + tempo] can be used to ask a question about “how much time” an activity has been taking. Or, the noun tempo (time) can be replaced with a unit of time, such as days, months, or years. As in the preceding section, use of da in this formula implies that the action has started in the past and is still going on in the present. Therefore, whenever a question is asked regarding “how much time” with “da quanto tempo,” Italian uses a present tense verb for all phrases in the sentence.  English, instead, uses the continuous past tense. 

See examples below from a dialogue taken from the Conversational Italian for Travelers story, “Caterina Travels to Italy” and note the different ways Italian and English express this idea of time.

Elena asks:
Da quanto tempo
stai viaggiando in Italia?

For how much time (how long) have you been traveling in Italy?
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

Caterina replies:
Sto viaggiando in Italia da un mese.
I have been traveling in Italy for a month.
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

 

The same rules described above for “da quanto tempo” apply to the phrase “da quando,” which means, “since when.” To answer the question “Since when?” for “Since… ” use [da + the specific date] and remember to combine da with the definite article il when stating the date.

Example: In order to say the date in Italian, one must say, “Il sedici agosto.” Therefore, the translation for, “since the 16th of August” is “dal sedici agosto.”  Again, from the dialogue from “Caterina Travels to Italy”:

Elena asks:
Da quando sei a Stresa?

Since when have you been staying in Stresa?
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

Caterina replies:
Sono a Stresa dal sedici agosto
I have been staying in Stresa since August 16th.
[Note: Verb tenses in Italian and English differ.]

 


 

Use the Italian preposition “Per” 
for a Completed Action

In contrast to the use of the preposition da in reference to time, the use of the preposition per is straightforward. Per means for and is used with the passato prossimo form of the past tense to describe a past action that has been completed. The description of time may be general, such as “for many years,” or specific, the same as with da. The past tense verbs are again brown in the examples below.

Ho vissuto per molti anni a Roma.
I lived for many years in Rome.

Ieri ho lavorato in casa per tre ore.
Yesterday, I worked at home for three hours.

 


 

Use the Italian Prepositions “Per, Fra, Tra”
for Future Events

Per can replace the English preposition by when describing a task that must be completed in the future.

Marco, dobbiamo finire questo progetto per domani!
Mark, we must finish this project by tomorrow!

 

To describe other actions that will take place in the future, Italian uses either fra or tra. These two prepositions are interchangeable, although native Italian speakers may intuitively favor one preposition over the other to keep the language flowing smoothly. The English translation will be the preposition in. Remember that the present tense often substitutes for the near future in Italian, so the future tense is not a requirement when using fra or tra.

Il treno parte fra cinque minuti.
The train will leave/leaves in 5 minutes.

Andrò in Italia fra un mese.
I will go to Italy in one month.

 


 

General Uses for “Da”

1. Use the preposition da to express an attribute of a person, to say he or she is acting in a certain way or like a character. 

In some cases, the preposition da substitutes for a longer introductory phrase.  For instance, the common phrase “da giovane” means, “as a child,” and it is understood to mean that general period of time “when I was young.” This also works for other Italian descriptors of the phrases of life, such as da bambino(a), da ragazzo(a), da piccolo(a) or da adulto(a), da grande (grown up).

To say someone is “acting like…” use da.  A common characteristic combined with da is stupido, as in “da stupido” for when one is “acting like a stupid person.” 

If a man is living well, he is living as “da gran signore,” or like royalty or like God or da re, like a king.

If one dresses like a particular character in a fable, book or movie, or is pretending to be a professional, they can be referred to with da, such as da Pinocchio, da Cenerentola (Cinderella), da cowboy, or da dottore.

 Another personal attribute connected with da is matti, for crazy, as in the exclamation, “Roba da matti!” which loosely translated means, “Stuff for crazy people!” and refers to a crazy or unbelievable situation. 

“Da morire” when used alone or in a sentence describing someone or something is an expression that describes a feeling of extreme liking, similar to the English expression, “It’s to die for!”  Or, this expression can be used to take a negative feeling to the extreme, as in, “Sono annioato(a) da morire!” for “I am bored to death!”

 

Some examples:

Da giovane, ho vissuto in campagna.
When I was young, I lived in the countryside.

Non comportarti da stupido!
Don’t act like an idiot!

Per lo spettacolo, Maria si veste da Cenerentola.
For the show, Mary is dressed as Cinderella.

Ti è piaciuto quel film? Si, da morire!
Did you like that film? Yes, It was to die for!

 

2. To describe the cause of an action or feeling. Some common examples might include why you are tired, hot, cold, or nervous. Da translates into from and [da + definite article] translates into “from the.”

 

Sono stanco morto dal lavoro.
I am dead tired from work.

Ho sudato dal caldo inferno durante tutto agosto.
I sweated from the infernal heat during all of August.

Sono nervosa dal pensiero che forse tu non tornerai mai.
I am nervous from the thought that maybe you will not ever return.

 

But be careful to use the preposition di to connect one verb to another to express feelings that are related to an action — not da!  The many phrases that take di as the connecting preposition were discussed in the first blog in this series.  The idea in the first example above can also be stated as follows:

Sono stanco morto di lavorare questa settimana.
I am dead tired from working this week.

 

3. To describe the distance from one place to another, use da, which translates as from.
To describe distance in general or numerical terms, or when giving the directions from a compass, use the preposition a.  The preposition a is used in English when describing distance in general terms, but not before a number or for directions from a compass (north, south, east, west, etc.)

L’ufficio postatale è a pochi isolati da casa mia.
The post office is a few blocks from my house.

La scuola si trova a cinque chilometri da Roma centrale.
The school is five kilometers from central Rome.

Canada è a nord degli Stati Uniti.
Canada is north of the United States.

 


Common Expressions with “Da”

  1. Other important phrases that refer to time:

da allora

since then

da allora in poi

from then on
from that time
thenceforth

da ora in poi

from now on

da quel momento

da quel momento in poi

since that moment

from that moment on

 

da qui in poi

from here on
henceforth

da domani

starting tomorrow

da subito

starting now
immediately

da sempre

always

da un pezzo

since a while ago
for a while now

2. Phrases that begin with “C’è… da” for “There is…”

C’è poco da dire.

There’s not much to say about it.

C’è poco da fare.

There’s not much one can do about it.

C’è poco da stare allegri.

 There’s little to rejoice about.

3. Miscellaneous phrases with da:

 

da niente

of little or no importance

da quattro soldi

cheap

da zero

from scratch

da favola

like a fairy tale

da sogno

like a dream/very nice/wonderful 

vacanza da sogno

dream vacation

da incubo

nightmarish/very unpleasant

dare da mangiare

to feed

dare da mangiare al cane

to feed the dog

tempo da ladri

bad weather

tempo da lupi

bad weather

da solo/ da sola

to be all alone, by yourself

va da sé

it goes without saying

vita da cane

a dog’s life

Remember how to use
the Italian preposition “da” in conversation
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “da” 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! – Italian Travelers: Use “Può” to ask for what you need!

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Have you been trying to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

 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 discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

Many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. This blog will focus on the Italian verb potere, which means “to can” or “to be able to.” I like to call this verb the “Italian verb of politeness” since it is used to make polite requests, and therefore it is especially useful to know when traveling in Italy.

For instance, different present tense forms of potere can be used to ask a question politely. Potere can be used alone in the first conjugation in the singular and plural to ask the questions, “Posso?” or “Possiamo?” which mean, “May I?” or “May we?” Combine the third person, “polite you” Lei conjugation of potere, which is “può,” with an action verb to create a polite question in Italian that asks, “Can/Could you…?” Italian travelers: just remember how to use può and you can ask for whatever you need while in Italy!

With the simple examples above, one can easily imagine how the present tense conjugation of potere, and especially the verb può, is essential knowledge for one traveling in Italy. Read on for a simple method that will ensure the Italian traveler “can” create a polite sentence in Italian and “will be able to” relay what they need using the verbs posso, possiamo, and especially può. 

This method is an integral part of our Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books. After reading this blog, try our pocket travel book, “Just the Important Phrases,” which summarizes this method and provides essential Italian phrases using può.  Many of these phrases have been reprinted here. Use this method to create your own phrases in Italian!

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  with the Italian verb può, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language and ask for whatever we need politely!

This post is the 61st  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 verbs

  Posso, Possiamo,
and especially Può

in order to ask politely
for what one needs.
See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

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

The Italian Verb Potere 

Potere means “to can” or “to be able to,” and is classified as a modal, or helping verb. This means that potere provides information about the ability of the speaker to “be able to” complete the  main action described in a sentence. When used in this way, potere is conjugated to reflect the speaker and the action verb follows directly after in its infinitive form — that is, the action verb is not conjugated! (Remember that Italian verbs are categorized into three infinitive forms by the following endings: -are, -ere, and -ire, and that English infinitive verbs are preceded by “to,” as in, “to go” “to stay,” etc.)

One can imagine the infinite number of uses for a helping verb with the meanings of potere. This blog will focus the use of  potere as a verb of politeness, with emphasis on how to use the third person, or Lei (polite you) conjugation, which is può.  Può translates literally as “he/she can” and “you (polite) can.” For purposes of this blog, in order to demonstrate the use of può to mean “polite you” in a question, the translation will be given as the softer English “could.” 

One simple way to use potere while traveling in Italy is to connect the “polite you” conjugation of potere, which is “può” with an action verb in the infinitive.

This will enable travelers to ask for whatever they need with the polite phrase, “Could you…?”

Of course, polite communication is essential to show respect for others in any language and it is especially important when traveling in Italy to make a good impression, or fare una bella figura!

The beauty of this method, which uses [può + infinitive verb] to pose a question, is that it is easy to ask for assistance during the course of a typical day. For instance, one were to direct another to act in a specific manner with a statement in Italian (instead of using a question formulated with può) the polite Italian command form would be required. And the polite command form in Italian is relayed with a verb conjugated in the subjunctive mood — a complex form covered in advanced Italian. However, when the request is made with a question that starts with può, the subjunctive conjugation is no longer necessary!  Even knowledge of the complete conjugation of potere is not required! 

The traveler only needs to  remember the helping verb può and the meaning of the action verb for what they need.
There is essentially no need to conjugate using this method!

Italian travelers can ask for help understanding fluent Italian, with the many simple transactions of daily life, with directions and transportation needs, and while dining at a restaurant simply by using [può + infinitive verb]. Further discussion of how to use può as a traveler is given below for several different situations, after the present tense conjuration.

Finally, we will also discuss how to use the first person singular and plural conjugations of potere, which are posso and possiamo to ask for what one needs at an Italian restaurant.

Of course, the phrases given will serve as examples and this method can be extrapolated to many different situations!


How to Conjugate Potere 

Potere is an irregular -ere verb in the present tense. As noted above, for many reasons, and especially to be polite in Italian, this verb is essential to commit to memory!

The complete present tense conjugation of potere is below, with the important conjugations of politeness that are the focus of this blog in green: io (I), “Lei” (polite you) and noi (we).

io posso
tu puoi
Lei/lei/lui può
noi possiamo
voi  potete
loro possono

Use Può to Ask for What You Need!

1. Use può if  you are having difficulty understanding fluent Italian.

  • Può is an important conjugation of potere for the beginning student of Italian to remember for when he or she needs help conversing with a fluent speaker.
  • [Può + parlare + adverb] is a polite way to direct someone to speak Italian in way that is helpful to you. Start a sentence with può and then add the infinitive verb parlare and an adverb requesting another to speak more slowly or loudly, for instance. To be even more polite, start your request with, “Per favore…” or “Per piacere…” for “Please…” 
  • Notice from the examples below how the Italian adverb “più,” which means “more,” is also helpful in this situation.
  • [Può + ripetere] can be used in a simple phrase to ask someone to repeat what they’ve just said. You can also start a sentence with [può + ripetere] and build your Italian sentence one phrase at a time to describe what you’d like in more detail, as with the last examples in the table below.
Per favore,
Può…
Please,
Could you…
…parlare più lentamente? …speak more slowly?
…parlare più piano? …speak more slowly?
…parlare più forte? …speak more loudly?
…parlare in inglese? …speak in English?
Può ripetere? Could you repeat (that)?
Può ripetere… Could you repeat…
…che ha detto lui?* …what he said?
…che ha detto lei?* …what she said?
…che hanno detto loro?* …what they said?
…le direzioni?
…le direzioni per il duomo?
…the directions?
…the directions to the cathedral?
…l’informazione?
…l’informazione sullo spettacolo?
…the information?
…the information about the show?
(one piece of information)
…le informazioni?
…le informazioni per la riunione di domani?
…the information?
…the information for the meeting tomorrow?
(more than one piece of information)

*When a sentence or question starts with che, the subject pronoun is given at the end if one wants to emphasize or clarify who the subject is. Otherwise, the verb ending corresponds to the speaker, as usual.

2. Use può at the service station to ask for assistance with your car

  • For those brave enough to rent a car in Italy, assistance from a service station may be necessary. Some useful infinitive verbs to remember that can be used after the polite request is made with può are given below.
  • In some places in Italy, it may still be possible to ask for assistance filling a car with gasoline with the phrase “fare il pieno.” Or, at least, one may still see the gas station attendant conversing with a customer in Italian movies from the 1950s and 60s. Although a polite sentence can be made with può in this case, “Può fare il pieno?” “Can you fill it up?” a shortened phrase is usually used, such as, “Il pieno, per favore!” for “Fill it up, please!”
Può… Could you…
…caricare la batteria? …charge the battery?
…controllare l’olio? …check the oil?
…controllare l’acqua? …check the water?
…controllare le gomme? …check the tires?
…cambiare la gomma? …change the tire?
…aggiustare la gomma che è a terra?    fix the flat tire?
…riparare la gomma che è a terra? …fix the flat tire?

3. UseMi può… ” for every day, simple interactions

  • A simple question to ask if you are paying in cash and need change uses [mi può + portare] for “Can you bring me…?” Remember that in Italian the pronoun “mi” for “me” comes before the conjugated verb, while in English the pronoun is placed after the verb.
  • The Italian pronoun Lei, for “polite you” is left out of the sentence, which, along with the word order can complicate things a bit. But, just remember that in this case we are using a method that specifies può means “polite you.” And, with this method, we don’t have to worry about the conjugating an Italian verb! With this method we can ask for change s follows:
    Mi può portare il resto, per favore?      Could you bring me the change, please? 
  • Of course, the verb portare can also be used to refer to a person, such as when a taxi is needed to transfer someone from one location to another. In this case, just give the address after the phrase “Mi puo portare…” For a proper Italian sentence, remember to use the correct preposition and to put the street number for the address after the street name!
    Mi può portare in via Verde?               Could you bring me to Green Street?
    Mi può portare a via Melzo 10?           Could you bring me 10 Melzo Street?
  • To ask the concierge at a hotel to call you a taxi, use [mi può + chiamare] for “Can/Could you call me…” In this case, the Italian “mi” serves as the indirect object pronoun “for me.”
    Mi può chiamare un taxi?                      Can you call a taxi for me?
  • To ask a shopkeeper to show you an article of clothing or other item of interest, use [mi può + mostrare] for “Can/Could you show me…” 
    Mi può mostrare una camicia bianca?           Can you show me a white shirt?

4. Use [Mi può + dire…] to ask for assistance with directions

  • When visiting an unfamiliar city, it may be necessary to ask a stranger for help.  In Italy, it is customary to begin this type of conversation with “mi scusi” for “excuse me” (polite command).
  • Then, an easy way to politely phrase any question you may have is to use the phrase, “Mi può,” which means, “Could you (polite)… me.”  To complete the sentence, add the infinitive verb for what you need after this Italian phrase –  once again, there is no need to conjugate with this method!  If we add dire to the phrase, for instance, we get, “Mi può dire…” for “Could you (polite) tell me…” 
  • Examples below use Dov’è…?” for “Where is…?” and allow one to ask for directions to place of interest. If the answer to any of these questions involves a particular street, you will hear the phrase in… via, for the English on… street. 
    La banca è in via Verde.          The bank is on Green Street.  
  • Of course, with this method, one has to be ready to hear the directions in Italian! Examples of useful phrases one might hear in reply are given in the Conversational Italian for Travelers books.
Mi scusi, Excuse me,
mi può dire could (you pol.) tell me
dov’è… where is…
…l’albergo? …the hotel?
…il ristorante? …the restaurant?
…la metro/metropolitana? …the subway?
…la fermata dell’autobus? …the bus stop?
…la stazione dei treni? …the train station?
…la banca? …the bank?
…l’ufficio postale? …the post office?
…il museo? …the museum?

5. Use [Mi può + dire…] to ask about Italian schedules

  • Use “Mi puo…” to ask about a schedule for public transportation or when a place of interest opens or closes.
  • Quando means when and can be added after the phrase, “Mi può dire…” to find out when transportation will arrive (arriva) or depart (parte).
  • Use quando to ask when a museum, shop, restaurant or other place of interest will open (apre) or will close (chiude).  Notice from the literal translation in the table below, which follows the abbreviation “lit.” that the word order to ask these questions is slightly different in Italian and English.
Mi può dire Could you (pol.) tell me
quando… when…
…arriva il treno? …the train arrives?
(lit. arrives the train)
…arriva l’autobus? …the bus arrives?
(lit. arrives the bus)
…parte il treno? …the train leaves?
(lit. leaves the train)
…parte l’autobus? …the bus leaves?
(lit. leaves the bus)
…apre il museo? …the museum opens?
(lit. opens the museum)
…chiude il museo? …the museum closes?
(lit. closes the museum)

6. Use  [Mi può + portare] or [Ci può + portare] at the restaurant

  • While dining at a restaurant, it is often necessary to ask the waiter to bring something to your table. Perhaps you need additional silverware or another napkin. Or maybe another drink or cup of espresso. Just ask the waiter to bring these things to you with the phrase [mi può + portare]. Of course, it will be necessary to remember the Italian for which part of the table setting or which drink you need, as in the examples below. (If you need a refresher on how to use the Italian indefinite article (a, an) or how to create the word “some” in Italian, check out Conversational Italian for Travlers “Just the Grammar.
  • Cultural note: Italian restaurants do not usually serve water or soft drinks with ice (ghiaccio). The reason is often simple — there usually is no ice maker on the premises. Also, many Italians still believe that a very cold drink is not good for one’s health. In short, if you’d like to ask for ice while traveling in Italy, it is possible to do so by asking, “Mi può portare del ghiaccio,” for “Can you bring me some ice?” but don’t be disappointed if there is none available!
  • An additional bottle of water or wine, or perhaps an additional basket of bread might be needed for all the guests dining at a table. In this case, one can make a request for the entire table simply by changing the “mi” for “me” in the original phrase to “ci” for “us.” 
Mi può portare… Could you bring me…
Ci può portare… Could you bring us…
…dell’acqua naturale? …some still water (natural water)?
…dell’acqua con gas/frizzante? …some sparkling water?
…del pane/più pane? …some bread/more bread?
…del sale e pepe? …some salt and pepper?
…un cucchiaio, un coltello, una forchetta? …a spoon, a knife, a fork?
…un tovagliolo? …a napkin?
  • Cultural note: remember that there is a charge in Italy for any bread served, whether it is brought to you by request or not!  This charge is listed on the bill as the “pane e coperto” or “bread and cover charge,” and, as the name suggests, also serves to reserve the table for as long as the guests would like to stay. An additional charge will be added for any additional bread requested, so don’t be surprised to see this charge on the bill as well. Luckily, the pane e coperto at the time of this writing is usually only 1-3 euros, although more may be charged in an upscale restaurant. It is best to check the notice that should be listed in the menu if you are on a budget.
  • A simple question to use if you’d like a receipt at a restaurant replaces portare with dare (to give) in the formula;  [mi può + dare] means, “Can you give me…?” Remember to ask for the receipt when dining in Italy, as there is no limit for the amount of time one can linger and enjoy food and friends  and the waiter will not want to interrupt your time together! Use, Mi può dare la ricevuta, per favore?” for “Could you give me a receipt, please?

7. Use  [Posso + infinitive verb] or [Possiamo + infinitive verb] at the restaurant

  • In the table below are some expressions commonly used when dining in a restaurant.  The io (I) and noi (we) forms of the verb potere are important to know in this situation, since requests are usually made for oneself or for the entire table.
  • We expand the polite use of potere with, “Posso?” for “May I…?” and “Possiamo?” for “May we…?” 
  • Use the reflexive pronoun mi (myself) with [posso + sedersi] when asking to be seated in Italian. Use the reflexive pronoun ci (ourselves) with [possiamo + sedersi] when requesting a group be seated. You will notice from the phrases below that the reflexive pronouns  mi and ci are attached to the infinitive action verb sedersi after removing the -si ending. This is the rule for all [helping verb + reflexive verb] combinations.
  • Sitting is not reflexive in English, so you will not find a reflexive pronoun in the translations in the table below. Instead, English simply uses the verb “sit” alone or sometimes adds the adverb “down” to personalize the meaning of the verb sit.
  • Cultural note: It is not usually necessary to ask for the menu in an Italian restaurant; the waiter will generally bring menus to the table once everyone is seated.  But, if for some reason you need to see the menu again,  it is customary to make this request in Italian with the verb avere (to have) rather than the American verb “to see.”
  • Language note: In Italian, the word for table has both masculine and feminine endings. The masculine, “il tavolo” refers to any type of table — a table one will be eating on or working on, for instance.  When the table is full of food, it becomes feminine, as in “la tavola.” Therefore, if one is simply asking for a table at a certain place in a restaurant (before the food has arrived), the masculine ending applies.
Posso… May I…
…sedermi vicino alla finestra?
…sedermi fuori?
… sedermi a un tavolo fuori?
…sit by the window?
…sit outside?
…sit at an outside table?
…sedermi a un’altro tavolo? …sit at another table?
…avere il menù? …see (have) the menu?
Possiamo… May we…
…sederci vicino alla finestra?
…sederci fuori?
…sederci a un tavolo fuori?
…sit by the window?
…sit outside?
…sederci a una tavola fuori?
…sederci a un’altro tavolo? …sit at another table?
…avere il menù? …see (have) the menu?
  • Finally, if you have food allergies or special requests, use posso to describe what you can… or cannot do!
Non posso mangiare niente… I cannot eat anything…
…fatto con noci/arachidi. …made with nuts/peanuts.
…molto piccante. …very spicy.

Simply follow the method detailed in this blog
to use potere to ask for what you need politely
and “fare una bella figura” while in Italy!

I guarantee you will use può 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 are where to find “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!”

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

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Let’s Combine the Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo

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.” 

If we learn how to combine “commonly used phrases” with the imperfetto and the passato prossimo, we will be able to speak about events in the recent past, just as we do in our native language!

In our most recent blog, Speaking About the Past: Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo? we discussed in detail adverbs and phrases of frequency used to signal when to use the imperfetto and when to use the passato prossimo. At the end of the previous blog is a short summary of how to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in a two phrase sentence using the adverbs mentre and quando. This blog will build on the previous information we have learned about the imperfetto and the passato prossimo and demonstrate a step-by-step process that can be used to create compound sentences with two or more phrases that contain both past tenses.  

This post is the 60th 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

signal the intent of the speaker to use both

the imperfetto and the  passato prossimo.

See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

*The imperfetto is not only used with the passato prossimo. In fact, the imperfetto is the only past tense form that can be used in combination with every other Italian past tense — whether speaking about the recent past or the remote past.

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

 

Choosing an Italian Past Tense

Let’s start our blog about how to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo by reviewing some general rules of Italian grammar. We learned in our last blog, on this topic, that the circumstances surrounding the event will determine which Italian past tense to use. Luckily, imbedded in many Italian sentences about past events are certain words and phrases that will  indicate whether the imperfetto or the passato prossimo is needed.  The intent of the speaker will be signaled by these phrases, which will then trigger use of the correct Italian past tense. 

To describe a past event in a complex way — in Italian as well as in our native language — we must create a compound sentence. Compound sentences contain more than one phrase separated by commas or conjunctions, such as: and, while, when, but, or. In Italian, to create a compound sentence about a recent past event, we will have to decide which verb tense to use — the imperfetto or passato prossimo. 

Of course, when speaking about an event of interest that happened in the recent past, a compound sentence can be created using only the imperfetto or only the passato prossimo, as noted in our last blog.  Our focus in this blog will be on the situations that require both the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.

 


 

Combine the Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
with Mentre and Quando

One of the most common reasons to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo is to give background information for an action under discussion.  In this case, the imperfetto is the past tense of choice to describe the setting and the completed action is relayed with the passato prossimo.

 

What Italian words or phrases can I use to introduce the setting for a past event?

 

As every actor knows, the setting is defined as the time and place in which an action occurs. Since the imperfetto is used to describe the setting for a past event in Italian, expressions of time in the past are important triggers for the imperfetto.

Some common expressions of past time are given in the tables below using ieri (yesterday),scorso(a) (last), and the preposition da (for). (Note: There are, of course, other meanings for the preposition da. Also, these expressions can also be used with the passato prossimo, but generally additional, more specific information is required, as discussed in our last blog.)

Expressions of Time in the Past with Ieri

stamattina this morning
ieri yesterday
l’altro ieri the day before yesterday
ieri mattina
ieri pomeriggio
ieri sera
yesterday morning
yesterday afternoon
yesterday evening

Expressions of Time in the Past with Scorso

scorso(a) last
la notte scorsa last night
la settimana scorsa last week
il mese scorso last month
l’anno scorso last year
   
lunedì scorso last Monday
martedì scorso last Tuesday
mercoledì scorso last Wednesday
giovedì scorso last Thursday
venerdì scorso last Friday
sabato scorso last Saturday
domenica scorsa last Sunday

Use of “da…” in Italian

da tempo

for some time

da un’ora
da due ore
ecc.

for one hour
for two hours
etc.

da un mese
da due mesi
ecc.

for one month
for two months
etc.

da un anno
da due anni
ecc.

for one year
for two years
etc.

The description of the place in which an action occurred can include general interior or exterior surroundings, the weather, or even a prior event. Luckily, language students generally learn the vocabulary to describe various locations early on in their studies, which is also an important first step to learn about any culture. The larger cities and regions in Italy are important to commit to memory. Some common local places where events may take place include at home, at school, at work, or in one of the many shops in the piazza! 

 

How else can I start a phrase to talk about the setting of a past event with the imperfetto?

Mentre, which means “while” in Italian, is a specific sign that a setting or background action is to be relayed in a phrase. Mentre is not required in compound sentences that use both the imperfetto and passato prossimo, but when used it is very helpful. This is because mentre is only used with the imperfetto! 

 

How can use of the imperfetto affect the meaning of a descriptive phrase in Italian?

It is also important to remember that the imperfetto can be translated into English in three ways:  the simple past tense,  used to,” or “was/were-ing.” The translation “used to” refers to a habitual action in the the past that is no longer being done. The translation “was/were-ing” is used to describe an action that started in the past but may or may not have been completed. 

Just as the Italian present tense can be translated as “I go” or “I am going,” in the past tense, the imperfetto can be translated as, “I went” or “I was going.” For emphasis, one could use stare in both situations to create a compound verb with sto andando (I am going) or stavo andando (I was going). But it is so much easier and so much more common in Italian to use both the simple present tense or the imperfetto past tense without creating a compound verb!

 

Once I know the setting, about mentre, and about how to relay information using the imperfetto, am I ready to create a compound sentence about the past in Italian? 

With all of this in mind… the easiest way to create a compound sentence about the past in Italian is…

Start the first phrase with mentre and give the setting with a verb in the impefetto. Or, just refer to the general time, the weather, or to an action without giving a specific time frame. Note: the descriptive phrase with the imperfetto is often, but not always, the first phrase.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of introductory phrases one can create. Four examples are given below to get us started, with the imperfetto verb underlined.

  1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamattina…           While I was reading the newspaper this morning…
  2. Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso…            While I was visiting Florence last year…
  3.  Lunedì scorso,  pioveva…                                  Last Monday, it was raining
  4. Da due anni abitavo con mia zia…                    For two years I lived with my aunt…

Now, let’s add a phrase with a completed action to each example above. The passato prossimo is required for this second phrase. See the previous blog on this topic for a short list of Italian verbs that are often used to describe completed actions.

If mentre is not used in the introductory phrase,  use quando (when) with the phrase in the passato prossimo. However, quando is not a specific trigger for the passato prossimo phrase, as quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase. The completed action is often, but not always, the second phrase. 

 

Let’s complete the first two examples that start with mentre. The passato prossimo verb used in the completed phrase is in green.

  • 1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato.
        While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived.
  • 2.  Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso, ho incontrato Maria per caso al Ristorante Paoli.   
         While I was visiting Florence last year, I happened to meet Maria at Ristorante Paoli.

Below is our third example that omits mentre in the imperfetto phrase. Notice how quando is used in the passato prossimo phrase that completes the sentence.

  • 3. Lunedì scorso, pioveva quando sono andato a trovare mia mamma.
        Last Monday, it was raining when I went to visit my mother.

An alternate rendition of the same phrase that uses quando with the imperfetto phrase:

  •    Quando pioveva lunedì scorso, sono andato a trovare mia mamma.
        When it was raining last Monday, I went to visit my mother.

Our final example in a completed sentence:

  • 4. Da due anni, abitavo con mia zia quando ho trovato un appartamento perfecto per me.
        For two years, I was living with my aunt when I found an apartment perfect for me.

This last example implies the speaker has not yet moved into her new apartment. Remember from our last blog on this topic that if those two years had been completed and the speaker was already in the new apartment, we would need to use the preposition per with the passato prossimo! The introductory phrases would read: “Per due anni, ho abitato con mia zia…” In short, the imperfetto was chosen to give the circumstances of the situation, so the speaker does not have to give the details of where he or she is currently living; this extra information is included with the use of the imperfetto!

 

Can I put the imperfetto phrase second and the passato prossimo phrase first in a compound sentence?

All four of the example sentences given above work with the phrases reversed. We have already done this with the third example. The first example sentence is reprinted here. Try the rest on your own if you like!

Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato.
 While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived.

-or-

La cameriera è arrivato mentre leggevo il giornale stamattina.
The maid arrived while I was reading the newspaper this morning.

 

How do I create a compound sentence about the past in Italian using three phrases?

Of course, it is possible in Italian to create a compound sentence in the past tense with more than two phrases, as the case in English (and most every other language).  For Italian, just continue to follow the Italian grammar we have learned for the imperfetto and passato prossimo for each phrase in your sentence!

Remember that the imperfetto is also used to describe a state of being and it is common to describe how one feels about a situation that has occurred in the past. In fact, if the speaker has chosen to use the imperfetto in combination with the passato prossimo, this implies that the past event still affects their emotions or their life in some way. So in some cases, a sentence may start with the imperfetto, the second phrase use the passato prossimo, and the third phrase again use the imperfetto!

 

In short, any combination of phrases that use the imperfetto and passato prossimo is possible,
as long as the verb in each phrase follows the rules for each.

The circumstances surrounding each event and intent of the speaker
will determine which rules apply.

Let’s provide even more detail about the past situation in our original four examples above by adding a second completed or a description of how the speaker felt at the time.

  • 1. Mentre leggevo il giornale stamatina, la cameriera è arrivato e ha pulito tutta la casa.
    While I was reading the newspaper this morning, the maid arrived and cleaned the entire house.
  • 2. Mentre visitavo Firenze l’anno scorso, ho incontrato Maria per caso al Ristorante Paoli ma non abbiamo avuto tempo per cenare insieme.
    While I was visiting Florence last year, I happened to meet Maria at Ristorante Paoli but we didn’t have time to dine together.
  • 3. Lunedì scorso, pioveva quando sono andato a trovare mia mamma e mi sono bagnata molto!
    Last Monday, it was raining when I went to visit my mother and I got very wet!
  • 4. Da due anni, abitavo con mia zia quando ho trovato un appartamento perfecto per me e dopo ero molto contento.
    For two years, I was living with my aunt when I found an apartment perfect for me and afterwards I felt very happy.

In summary:

Mentre is only used with the imperfetto phrase!

Quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase. 

 

When creating a compound sentence in Italian,
 simply remember the rules for the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.


 

Combine Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
with Perché and Poiché

Another important reason to combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo  is to describe the cause behind a past event. In this case, the element mentioned in the imperfetto phrase (the cause) is the reason behind the action/result (the effect) given in the passato prossimo phrase. This makes intrinsic sense, since the imperfetto is used for descriptive purposes and the passato prossimo is used to relate a completed event.

Cause/effect phrases that combine the imperfetto and passato prossimo often start with the effect in the first phrase (with the passato prossimo) and then give the cause behind the past event in the second phrase (with the imperfetto). The two phrases are usually linked with the conjunction perché, In this case, perché means because/since/so that.

However, an Italian sentence can also start with the cause for a completed event (effect) that will be mentioned in a second phrase. In this case the most common conjunction to use is poiché, which is translated as “considering that” or “because/since.” Even when poiché is translated as because/since, the meaning underlying poiché is “considering that” — the issue has been taken into consideration prior to  the response.

Although, to the outsider, this change in conjunctions to describe cause and effect may seem minor, it actually originates with an important rule of Italian grammar that determines how to use perché. Perché is used to start a sentence when one wants to ask the reason why.  Perché also means because when linking phrases. Perhaps to avoid confusion between these two definitions, perché can only be used at the beginning of a sentence with the meaning of because in direct answer to a question that starts with perché (why) or come mai (how come). In this case, the subject of the sentence is understood, and to repeat it would be unnecessary; this understanding effectively “bumps” perché from its usual role as a conjunction between to phrases to the beginning of the sentence!

An example of how perché can change its meaning with simple question/answer sentences:

Perché sei andato a Roma?
Why did you go to Rome?
 
(Sono andato a Roma) Perché avevo un meeting lì.
(I went to Rome) Because I had a meeting there.

 

In short,  other Italian conjunctions besides perché are required to start a sentence with a causation phrase, including when one combines the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. Poiché (considering that/seeing as how/because/since) is the most common conjunction used in conversation. Other options include: “per quale regione” (for that reason/because), and in a more formal situation or writing: siccome (given that/seeing as how/because), dato che (seeing as/since), visto che (given that/considering that/seeing that), dal momento che (seeing as/since). 

Now that we know some basic rules about Italian conjunctions used to describe causation, let’s finally combine the imperfetto and the passato prossimo to talk about the past. In the examples below, the cause behind a past event with the imperfetto is given in blue, the conjunction is in red, and the effect/completed event given in the passato prossimo is green. Notice how the imperfetto and the passato prossimo verbs (which are underlined) are linked to the cause and effect phrases.

Example 1:

Sono rimasto a casa ieri perché avevo la febbre alta.
I remained at home yesterday because I had a high fever.

-or-

Poiché avevo la febbre alta, sono rimasto a casa ieri. 
Because I had a high fever, I remained at home yesterday.

 

Example 2:

Maria ha comprato quel vestito nero ieri perché era in saldo.
Maria bought that dress because it was on sale.

-or-

Poiché era in saldo, Maria ha comprato quel vestito nero ieri.
Because it was on sale. Maria bought that dress yesterday.

 

An example in our last blog on this topic also combines the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in a sentence to describe causation, although this fact was not mentioned in the blog. Below is the scenario again, with the second sentence that begins with “subito dopo” serving as the cause/effect example.

Notice in the cause/effect example below that the passato prossimo is used in phrases both before and after the imperfetto phrase. In this example, we have combined three phrases that describe the past in one sentence!

The words “subito dopo” emphasize the short duration of the action in the first phrase. In  the second phrase. the imperfetto sets up the action for the third phrase; the cause is listed first with poiché. Of course, act of opening a door described in the third phrase is normally an event of short duration and so uses the passato prossimo.

Maria si è arrabbiata con Marco ed è andata a casa.
Mary became angry with Mark and Mary went home. 

Subito dopo, Marco è andato a casa di Maria e poiché bussava alla porta
continuamente, Maria ha aperto.
Shortly after, Mark went to Mary’s house and seeing as how he was knocking on the door continuously, Maria opened it.

 

 

Remember how combine imperfetto and the passato prossimo
and I guarantee
you will use these Italian past tenses every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Speaking About the Past: Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo?

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.” 

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  in the past tense with the  imperfetto and the passato prossimo   in our conversations, we will be able to speak about an event in the past in Italian, just as we do in our native language!

Previous blogs in this series have discussed the basics of how to conjugate and use the imperfetto  and the passato prossimo to speak about the recent past.* As we’ve mentioned before, the conjugation of these verb forms is fairly straightforward; the tricky part is knowing which past tense to choose to describe a particular event.   

To make matters more complex, a compound sentence can be created using only the imperfetto, only the passato prossimo, or a combination of both. And in many situations, the same event can be described in Italian using either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo! Given this complexity, how is a non-native speaker to know how to create Italian sentences to describe what has happened the past?

As a general rule, the circumstances surrounding the event will determine which past tense to use. Luckily, imbedded in many Italian sentences about past events are certain words and phrases that will  indicate whether the imperfetto or the passato prossimo are necessary.  The intent of the speaker will be signaled by these phrases, which will then trigger use of the correct Italian past tense.

This post is the 59th 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

signal the intent of the speaker to use

the imperfetto or the  passato prossimo.

See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

*The imperfetto is not used only with the passato prossimo. In fact, the imperfetto is the only past tense form that can be used in combination with every other Italian past tense — whether speaking about the recent past or the remote past.

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

 Imperfetto
Adverbs and Phrases of Frequency

In a previous blog in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Past Tense Imperfetto, we discussed that to make general statements about the past in Italian, or to describe a general state of being, one needs to master the imperfetto past tense. If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the imperfetto past tense, please visit the prior blog.  In this section, we will focus on phrases that trigger the use of the imperfetto past tense.

Italians often use the imperfetto to express an action that was done habitually in the past but is no longer being done.  Can you think of some things that might take place every day? For instance, reading the paper, going to school, going to work, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner?  If you want to talk about how you’ve done these things in the past, use the imperfetto!

Sentences that use the imperfetto in this way are translated either into the simple present tense or as “used to” and often include an adverb of frequency. Several adverbs of frequency are listed in the following table, with examples to follow:

Italian Adverbs of Frequency

di solito usually/often times
spesso very often
quasi sempre almost always
sempre always

 

Di solito, io finivo la lezione all’una il lunedì.
Usually, I used to finish/finished the class at one o’clock on Mondays.

Quando ero piccolo, andavo a casa di mia nonna molto spesso.
When I was small, I went to my grandmother’s house very often.

Quasi sempre mi sentivo male quando viaggiavo in barca.
I almost always felt sick when I traveled by boat.

In short, if an adverb of frequency is part of an introductory phrase, this gives the sense of repetition  about an event in the past.  Therefore, the speaker is preparing the listener for the imperfetto!  Notice that in the last two examples,  the second verb in the sentence follows the intention of the first, and also uses the imperfetto. To sound like a native Italian, incorporate adverbs of frequency into your sentences with the imperfetto!

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

Introductory Phrases for Repetitive Actions

There are, of course, many introductory phrases that give the same idea of repetition as the adverbs of frequency, and Italians make good use of these phrases.  Describe any general time of day, month, or year, and use the imperfetto! 

If one had a particular habit during the morning, he or she could say, “Di mattina…” Similarly, if a habitual action was done at night, the phrase, “Di notte…” can be used. Other repetitive actions might happen, “Tutte le mattine…”  or Tutte le notti…” for every morning” and every night.” Or perhaps, according to the season: d’ inverno, in primavera, d’estate, in autunno.

“Negli anni Settanta…” means, “In the seventies…”  or any nonspecific period of time during the years between 1970 and 1979. If one uses introductory phrases of this type, it is his or her intention to state that something was done habitually but during a nonspecific period of time. Of course, the word “habit” is left out of both the Italian sentence and the usual English translation but is be translated using “used to,” as noted above for the adverbs of frequency, to give this idea. The intention of the speaker is understood by his or her use of the imperfetto! 

For example:

Di mattina/Tutte le mattine… aiutavo mia mamma a preparare la prima colazione.
In the mornings/Every morning…   I helped/used to help my mother prepare breakfast.

Di notte/ Tutte le notti… facevo la doccia.
At night/Every night… I took/used to take a shower.

Or, perhaps one previously went to church every week.  Introduce this fact with, “La domenica…” Remember that when Italians place a definite article before any day of the week, it is their way of describing a recurring event on that day. “On Sundays…” means every week on Sunday.  You can even add an adverb of frequency for additional emphasis.

La domenica, andavo in chiesa spesso.
On Sundays, I used to go to church often.

Two often used introductory phrases, “Quando ero piccolo…”  and “C’era una volta…”  serve as a reminder that the imperfetto is the past tense of choice for description and narration.

“Quando ero piccolo…”  “When I was young…” was used in the first group of example sentences in this blog.  This phrase is usually followed by another verb in the imperfetto, as already noted, to follow the circumstances surrounding the event have been set up initially. This phrase also reinforces the idea that the imperfetto is used to describe a general state of being.

“C’era una volta…” translates as the nonspecific, “Once upon a time…” This phrase is a good way to remember the function of the imperfetto to recount imaginary tales, whether codified as a fairy tale or fable, a “tall tale” one has made up to impress others,  or a dream one has had at night. Since they are imaginary, of course these happenings don’t have a specific time frame in which to occur!

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the imperfetto:
use the imperfetto when making generalizations about the past.


 Passato Prossimo
Specific Periods of Time

The passato prossimo is used to describe past events that have been completed  within a specific time frame, including multiple events in succession. For multiple completed actions in succession, the most remote event is listed first, and then the events that follow are stated according to the time line in which they occurred.

Helpful words or phrases that introduce the passato prossimo often emphasize a specific time frame by giving the actual time period using dalle… alle… (from… to…) or implying an action of short duration, such as subito (right away), subito dopo (right after), or al improvviso (suddenly).

Certain verbs that describe actions of short duration, usually with a precise starting and ending point, are more commonly used with the passato prossimo than the imperfetto. Below is a list of several commonly used verbs of this type.

  1. Verbs of movement from one place to another:  andare (to go),  venire (to come), entrare (to enter), partire (to leave), etc.
  2. Verbs of beginning and ending: cominciare/iniziare (to start), finire (to finish), etc.
  3. Verbs that describe actions known to usually be of short duration: bussare (to knock, such as on the door), chiamare (to call), etc.
  4. Verbs of communication: chiedere/domandare (to ask), rispondere (to answer), etc.
  5. Changing emotions from one state to another: arrabbiarsi (to get angry), etc.

Let’s create a compound sentence using these verbs in the passato prossimo to describe a series of completed events in a sequence.

Marco è andato alla festa con Maria, dove loro hanno bevuto birra e mangiato una pizza, e dopo hanno ballato la loro canzone preferita.

Mark went to the party with Maria, where they drank beer and ate a pizza and after danced to their favorite song.

Note, however, that the list of verbs above is a general list and all of the verbs in this list can also be used with the imperfetto, depending on the circumstances and the intention of the speaker!  Take bussare, for instance.  Most times, a person would knock on the door once and wait for the door to be opened. This one time event, started and completed in a short time, would be described with the passato prossimo. For instance, we can imagine what happened in our last example when Mark went to pick up Mary prior to the party: 

Marco ha bussato alla porta e Maria è venuta subito ad aprire.
Mark knocked on the door and Mary came quickly to open (it).

Let’s create different circumstances for our story with Mark and Mary. Perhaps instead of having fun, Mark and Mary had an argument at the party and Mary left early. Mark decided to apologize and comes to Mary’s house and knocks continuously on the door to get her to open it. In this situation, remember the translation of the imperfetto as “was/were-ing” to describe and action that started in the past and continued for a nonspecific amount of time.

Below are example sentences from our hypothetical story that use the imperfetto to emphasize that Mark knocked on the door for an unusually long,  but nonspecific period of time. Note the addition of the adverb continuamente in this example sentence to reinforce the idea that the event took longer than usual.

Also the words “subito dopo” alert one to use the passato prossimo in the first phrase. The actions of becoming angry, going home, and opening a door are normally of short duration.

Maria si è arrabbiata con Marco e Maria è andata a casa.
Mary became angry with Mark and Mary went home. 

Subito dopo, Marco è andato a casa di Maria e poiché bussava alla porta
continuamente, Maria ha aperto.

Shortly after, Mark went to Mary’s house and seeing as how he was knocking on the door continuously, Maria opened it.

Now let’s look at the verb chiamare.  If we called someone once, we can use the passato prossimo. But if we called that person habitually, on a certain day or at a certain time, we need to use the imperfetto! Again, circumstances will determine the use of this verb. And by the use of the past tense, we in turn understand the intent of the speaker!

Ho chiamato mia mamma ieri sera.   I called my mother last night.
                                                     – but –
Chiamavo mia mamma ogni sera.     I used to call my mother every night.

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

When Tutto Means “the Whole”

Another important point:  Don’t be confused by the use of tutto!

When used with nouns that refer to the days of the week, such as “tutti i giorni”  the meaning of tutti  is usually “every,” which implies repetition, and the imperfetto is the past tense of choice.

But tutto also means “the whole.” When the intent is to say “the whole” of a particular time period, we have given the time period a beginning and an end and then we need to use the passato prossimo!

Again, the circumstances the speaker is describing will determine the type of Italian past tense to use.  Often specific details about a time or place will be given to signal the intent to use tutto to mean “the whole” with the passato prossimo.

Tutte le mattine d’estate, andava al mare per fare il bagno.
Every morning during the summer, I used to go to the sea to swim.

– but –

Ho passato tutto la mattina, dalle nove a mezzogiorno a fare il bagno al mare.
I spent all morning, from 9 AM until noon, swimming at the seashore.

In fact, if we take any of the introductory phrases for repetitive actions given in the first section and change them to refer to a specific period of time, then we will need to use the passato prossimo! Let’s change “negli anni settanta” to make this phrase more specific:

Negli anni settanta portavo i jeans con il “bel bottoms.”
In the 1970s, I wore jeans with “bell bottoms.”

– but –

Per tutti gli anni settanta, ho portato i jeans con il “bel bottoms.”
For all of the 1970s, I wore jeans with “bell bottoms.”

Durante gli anni settanta, dal 1970 al 1974, sono andato all’Università.
During the 1970s, from 1970 to 1974, I went to college.

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the passato prossimo:
use the passato prossimo for a specific, time-limited activity.


Expressions of Time in the Past


The expressions of time in the past listed below add valuable information to a sentence. For instance, the adverb ieri can be used to modify a verb in the imperfetto to give a general reference about when an event occurred. “Sometime yesterday” is implied when the speaker chooses to pair ieri with the imperfetto.

Ieri can also be used with the passato prossimo, but in this case, a specific time of day is usually included in the sentence, given that the passato prossimo requires events to have taken place within a defined period of time. It is possible to use ieri alone with the passato prossimo, with the understanding that the defined period of time is “the entire day.”

The table below lists some common expressions of past time that use ieri (yesterday). Notice that ieri is invariable (the ending does not change) when modifying different times during the day.

Expressions of Time in the Past with Ieri

stamattina this morning
ieri yesterday
l’altro ieri the day before yesterday
ieri mattina
ieri pomeriggio
ieri sera
yesterday morning
yesterday afternoon
yesterday evening

The next table lists some common expressions of past time that use scorso (last). The ending for scorso changes to match the gender and number of the noun it modifies. Remember that the days of the week are not capitalized in Italian.

Expressions of Time in the Past with Scorso

scorso(a) last
la notte scorsa last night
la settimana scorsa last week
il mese scorso last month
l’anno scorso last year
   
lunedì scorso last Monday
martedì scorso last Tuesday
mercoledì scorso last Wednesday
giovedì scorso last Thursday
venerdì scorso last Friday
sabato scorso last Saturday
domenica scorsa last Sunday

Expressions such as “da tempo,” “da un’ora, “da due mesi,” “da un anno,” etc. are used mainly with the imperfetto to indicate the beginning of an ongoing activity that started in the past. The definition of the imperfetto in this case is was/were-ing. The passato prossimo can also be used with these expressions if the intent is to say that the activity has begun and also concluded during that period of time. However, the preposition per is more commonly used with the passato prossimo for an event that has concluded. See the examples below.

L’insegnante parlava da due ore e gli studenti erano stanchi.
The teacher was speaking for two hours and the students were tired.

L’insegnante ha parlato per due ore e finalmente ha permesso agli studenti di andare via.
The teacher spoke for two hours and finally let the students leave.


Era or È Stato?

Students of Italian commonly have difficulty deciding when to use the imperfetto and passato prossimo forms of essere. However, this is really not very complicated; the rule for choosing the correct form of essere is the same as for any other Italian verb! If the state of being described is not qualified with a specific time frame, use the imperfetto; if a specific time frame is referred to in the phrase, use the passato prossimo.

The imperfetto conjugation is: ero, eri, era, eravamo, eravate, erano. 

The passato prossimo conjugation is sono stato(a), sei stato(a), è stato(a), siamo stati(e), siete stati(e) and sono stati(e).

Some examples are below.

In the first example below, it is the intention of the speaker only to describe a state of happiness in the past — not when or for how long. This calls for the imperfetto form of essere. In the second example a time-limited reason is given, which is the speaker’s birthday, and the exact date is even listed. Of course, the specific date requires the speaker to use the passato prossimo.

Ero molto contento.
I was very happy.

– but –

Sono stato molto contento per il mio compleanno il 25 maggio scorso.
I was very happy on my birthday last May 25th.

Let’s look at two more similar situations rendered in two different ways in Italian with the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. In the first example below, the imperfetto is used to mean that generally, sometime during the day, the weather was nice. Perhaps the speaker was just trying to relay some general information. Or possibly,  the conversation would continue after giving this setting with the imperfetto and the speaker would describe a particular event or how the day made him or her feel. In the second example, it is understood that the speaker is talking about a fixed time that occurred during the day while he or she was attending a party. And, during that period of time, the speaker really enjoyed him/herself, as stated with the passato prossimo!

Era un bel giorno.
It was a beautiful day.

– but –

È stata una bella festa; mi sono molto divertito.
It was a wonderful party; I really enjoyed myself.


 

Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo
Combined

In the first two sections of this bog, we discussed phrases that signal when to use the imperfetto and when to use the passato prossimo.  We’ve also learned the rules to create a compound sentence with each past tense individually . Finally, it should also be noted that situations will arise that  require the use of both the imperfetto and the passato prossimo in one sentence. But don’t worry, there are general rules to follow to build these Italian sentences and the phrases themselves will also contain clues as to how to do this!

Below is a summary of this concept,
which will be discussed in more detail in the next blog in this series.

As a general rule, when creating a compound sentence in Italian, use the imperfetto to describe the setting. Start the imperfetto phrase with mentre (while) if you like, or just refer to the general time or the weather, or to an action without giving a specific time frame. This is often, but not always, the first phrase.

Then, describe the completed action with the passato prossimo. See the second section of this blog for a short list of verbs often used to describe completed actions. If mentre is not used in the introductory phrase, use quando (when) with the phrase in the passato prossimo. This is often, but not always, the second phrase.

Important note:

  Mentre is always used with the imperfetto!

Therefore, when you start a phrase with mentre, you must use the imperfetto for the verb in that phrase! 

Quando can be used with either the imperfetto or the passato prossimo phrase.  Quando often introduces the passato prossimo phrase in a compound sentence when mentre is omitted.

Three examples that combine the imperfetto and passato prossimo in one sentence are below.

Mentre io ero in vacanza in Italia,
il mio capo di lavoro mi ha telefonato per parlare di un problema importante.

While I was on vacation in Italy, 
my boss telephoned to talk about an important problem.

Mentre guardavo il mio programma preferito in TV, mia mamma ha finito di prepare la cena.
While I was watching my favorite program on TV, my mother finished preparing dinner.

C’era sole quando Maria è venuta a trovarci a Roma.
It was sunny when Mary came to visit us in Rome.

As a final note: we have already combined the imperfetto and passato prossimo in several examples in the first two sections. Can you find these examples?

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

Remember how to talk about the past using
the
Italian imperfetto and the passato prossimo
and I guarantee
you will use the Italian past tense every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

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 

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

 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 the same as “regions” in Italy when assigning a preposition in Italian. It would seem simple enough to use the Italian preposition in to describe an American state, given that most states in America are fairly large. Notice that “in Illinois” is given in the example above. 

But… of course there are some exceptions, and not all states in the United States take the Italian preposition in when speaking about them in Italian. There are enough exceptions, in fact, that this will be the subject of a future blog! For now, we’ll talk about one important exception: New York State. The reason for the exception for New York State 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. 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

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… 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.

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

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! How to Make Comparisons in Italian with “Di”

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

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

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” In these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

In a prior blog  in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian,we learned that the Italian preposition di can mean “of, from, or by.” Now, we will put di to use in another way — to replace the English word than when making comparisons! 

Let’s continue our new series on Italian prepositions with another blog about the essential Italian preposition “di.” If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “di” to make comparisons, we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 56th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the preposition “di”
to make comparisons

See below for how this works.

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

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

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar*  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

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

*The material in this blog has been adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and  the reference book “Just the Grammar.”

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

 Use “Di” to Compare Italian Nouns 
and for Comparisons with Piacere

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. In this blog, we will explore several ways to make comparisons that use the Italian preposition di.  The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

To compare two different nouns — people, places, or things — where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, use the following Italian phrases below. Note that the Italian preposition di will combine with the definite article the (il, la, lo, l’, etc.) according to the usual rules, if a definite article is needed in the sentence.

In this case, the Italian preposition di is translated into English with than. Notice that “the” is often used in Italian but is not needed in English, due to the different way the two languages express possession (see the first example below). If you need a refresher on the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”

Also, the translation into English will not match the Italian word for word when making comparisons. English uses the irregular “larger” and “smaller” and therefore the Italian “more large” and “more small” cannot be translated directly into English.

Comparison of Two Different Nouns

 

più… di more… than
meno… di less… than

Comparison sentences with two different nouns (person, place, or thing) are given below. The nouns that are being compared are red.

Pietro ha più soldi
di Caterina.
Peter has more money
than Kathy.
Caterina ha meno soldi di Pietro. Kathy has less money than Peter.
   
La casa di Pietro è più grande
del
la casa di Caterina.
Peter’s house is larger
than Kathy’s house.
Firenze è più piccola di Roma. Florence is smaller than Rome.


This Italian sentence structure using
di also works
when making comparisons using piacere between two nouns 
that have different characteristics.

Let’s look into how to make comparisons with the verb piacere.  Piacere is how Italians say they like something. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb piacere, visit our blog, “Piacere — How Italians Say, ‘I like it!'”)  

Piacere often comes into play to describe how much we like doing something compared to something else. For instance, in a prior blog, “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.” we discussed how to state a preference for one film over another. The two lines below give the correct Italian sentence structure and again use più di and meno di. 

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

Mi piace il film La Vita è Bella più delle serie Commissario Montalbano.
I like the film Life is Beautiful more than  the series Detective Montalbano.
 
Mi piace il film Pane e Tulipani meno di La Vita è Bella.
I like Bread and Tulips less than Life is Beautiful.

 

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

Use “Che” to Compare
I
talian Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs 

However, to combine two different verbs, adverbs or adjectives where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, or one  is liked more than another, substitute che for di. The two lines below use più che and meno che with the verbs correre and nuotare in green, and the adjectives giallo and rosso in brown. Notice that the subject is the same in these comparisons — in this case, the subject is what one likes but of course one can substitute “mi piace” with a noun (person, place or thing). 

The English transition when comparing two verbs uses the present progressive tense (-ing verb).

Mi piace correre più che nuotare.
I like running more than swimming. 
 
Mi piace giallo meno che rosso.
I like yellow less than red.

 

Finally, use più che or meno che if making a comparison that uses a preposition.

Rosa è più contenta con te che con me.
Rose is happier (more happy) with you than with me.

 

Or  use che alone to express a preference.
Preferisco partire il 7 che il 5 di mattina.
I prefer to leave at 7 than at 5 in the morning.

 

 

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

Use “Di” with
Irregular Adverbs

Comparative sentences that use adverbs are common, since people often discuss how well (bene) — or how badly (male) — something is going. To compare how one action is better or worse compared to another, use the irregular comparative adverbs meglio and peggio with the preposition di and the same sentence structure described in the last section of this blog.

In the examples below, the adverb that is used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Caterina parla italiano bene.        Kathy speaks Italian well.    
Caterina parla italiano meglio di Francesca. Kathy speaks Italian better than Frances.
   
Francesca parla italiano male.    Frances speaks Italian badly.    
Francesca parla italiano peggio di Caterina.  Frances speaks Italian worse than Kathy.

                           

To express the relative superlative “the best” or “the worst” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “meglio di tutti” or peggio di tutti.”

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.  
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.

Meglio is used in the same way when talking about a thing, rather than a person. For instance, to compare a recent film with a well-known TV series, see the example below from our blog “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.”

This film is better than…

Questo film è meglio di + definite article…

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

                

Equally important are comparisons made with the adverbs very (molto) or little (poco). People have a tendency to make comparisons between doing something more (più) or doing something less (meno). We have seen the Italian adverbs piu and meno in action in the first section as part of the sentence structure for making a comparison. When used with the meaning of “more” or “less,” piu and meno are considered irregular adverbs. 

However, when making a comparison in Italian using più or meno with the meanings of more or less, speakers often don’t mention the second term.  This is common in every day conversation when both speakers already know the topic under discussion. When the second term in the comparison is omitted, the preposition di is added before più or meno to complete the sentence.

Use di più or di meno, rather than simply più or meno
when the second term of the comparison is not stated.

In the examples below, the adverb used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Pietro ha mangiato molta pizza. Peter ate a lot of pizza.
Pietro ha mangiato più pizza di Michele. Peter ate more pizza than Michael.
Pietro ha mangiato di più.    Peter ate more.
   
Michele ha mangiato poca pizza.  Michael ate a little pizza.
Michele ha mangiato meno pizza di Pietro. Michael ate less pizza than Peter.
Michele ha mangiato di meno.  Michael ate less.

To express “the most” or “the least” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “più di tutti” or meno di tutti.”

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti. Peter ate more than  everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Peter ate the most.
   
Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti. Michael ate less than everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Michael ate the least.

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

Use “Di” with
Irregular Adjectives

See the irregular comparative adverbs we have just discussed in the previous section in the table below, along with their relative superlative adjectives and phrases.

Adverb   Comparative
Adverb
  Relative Superlative Adjective/Phrases  
bene well meglio better
il migliore
the best
male badly peggio   il peggiore the worst
molto very più

 

di più

more più
la maggior parte di
il maggior numero di
the most
poco a little meno

 

di meno

less meno
il minimo di
la minima parte di
the least

  

Now let’s talk about the relative superlative adjectives in the third column of our table above.

The Best and the Worst in Italian:

Earlier in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the best” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “meglio di tutti” to state “better than everyone.” 

However, when we use the irregular adjective “il migliore” to state someone or something is “the best,” a different sentence structure is required. One might say Italian is more precise than English since Italian expresses the difference between Frances the person and Frances’ knowledge of Italian. In English, this difference is simply understood. (If you need a refresher on how to state possession with the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”) 

In short, an Italian sentence that uses the adjective migliore must start with the noun that migliore modifies. Once again, we encounter differences in the English and Italian way of thinking — in this case about how to be the best!

Below are examples from the prior section again, with the addition of a sentence with “il migliore” for comparison. The last example also includes “the worst,” or “il peggiore,” which follows the same sentence structure. The adverb that is being compared is in brown and its verb in green. The noun described as “the best” or “the worst” is in red.

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.
L’italiano di Caterina è il migliore. Meaning: Kathy’s Italian is the best.
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.
L’italiano di Francesca è il peggiore Meaning: Frances’ Italian is the worst.

 

The Most in Italian:

Previously in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the most” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “più di tutti” to state “more than everyone.”  

We can also use più in a sentence that starts with a noun followed by quello(a,i,e) to express the idea of “the most.” Use this Italian way of speaking to refer to the greatest quantity of something, measure of something (tangible or intangible), or number of something. The Italian sentence structure is similar to the examples given for how to use migliore and peggiore. English speakers tend to express the same idea in a different way, as noted by the translations below. 

Il bicchiere di Marco è quello che ha più vino.    Mark has the most wine in his glass.
Anna è quella della famiglia che è più bella.  Ann is the most beautiful of all of us in the family.
Quest’albero è quello che ha più mele.    This tree is the one with the most apples. 

 

Two other phrases, la maggior parte di” and “il maggior numero di” can also mean “the most,” regarding “the greatest quantity” and “the greatest number” of something.

Also, “Per la maggiore parte…” is commonly used to say, “For the most part…”

Our original examples are listed below again, with additional ways to say “the most.” Notice how the meaning changes with the use of the last two phrases. Also that “fetta di” is itself a separate phrase, so that di is not combined with the definite article.

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti.
Peter ate more than  everyone/the most.

Pietro ha mangiato la maggior parte della pizza.
Peter ate most (the most part of) of the pizza.

Pietro ha mangiato il magior numero di fette di piazza.
Peter ate most (the most number of) of the pieces of the pizza.

 

The Least in Italian:

Finally, to say “the least,” one can use “meno” with quello(a) and the same sentence structure as described above for più.

Michele è quello della famiglia che ha mangiato meno pizza.
Michael has eaten the least pizza of all of us in the family.

 

“Il minimo di” and “la minima parte di” can also be used to describe “the least.” See examples below. Remember to change the ending of minimo(a) to match the gender of the noun that is modified.

Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti.
Michael ate less than everyone/the least pizza.

 

Michele ha mangiato la minima parte della pizza.     Michael ate the least (amount of) pizza.

Michele ha mangiato il minimo del pane.                  Michael ate the least (amount of) bread.

 


Remember how to make comparisons with
the Italian preposition “di” in conversation 
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “di” every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com