Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! The many uses of the Italian verb “Riuscire”

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

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

Many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. However, many times the use of an Italian verb will vary  from the usual English connotation.  And in many situations, the same verb can have many different meanings in both languages, depending on the context. Riuscire, the  Italian verb that is commonly followed by “a” to mean “to be able to do something” is one of those verbs that is used in many ways in Italian and is important to “manage to learn” if one wants to use it correctly.

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb riuscire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 47th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

use the Italian verb
riuscire.

See below for how this works.

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

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

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

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

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

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Let’s Talk About…

The Many Uses of the  Italian Verb

Riuscire

The Italian verb riuscire has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian phrases. It is important to “manage to learn” the nuances of the verb riuscire in order to create sentences as we would in our native language.

The Italian verb riuscire, when linked by the conjunction a to another verb, is translated into English as “to be able to” or “to manage to.”  The meaning is similar to potere, with an important exception: riuscire lends an undertone of personal effort on the speaker’s part. Hence the translation into English as “to manage to.”  In the negative sense, the use of riuscire a  implies that despite maximal work beforehand, it was not possible to make something happen.

In short, the use of  riuscire is in a way more sophisticated than the use of poterePotere is used to make a simple statement about whether something is possible, without stating if the issue is under one’s control or not. There is no reason given or backstory implied with the verb potere. Specifically, with potere, there is no reference as to the ability of a person to make something happen.  Riuscire is commonly used in Italy, even by children, when they want to include a personal emphasis in their statement.

Riuscire a can also mean “to turn out” or “to come out.”  When something has turned out well, the veb riuscire is commonly followed by the phrase “alla perfezione.” 

When riuscire is conjugated and followed by [bene + verb], riuscire takes on the meaning of  “to be good at” something. Riuscire can also be used when describing that one is successful at something.

In two situations, when riuscire is followed by the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile, the meaning changes again, to: “to seem” or “to come across as.” This is a colloquial use of riuscire.

Finally, riuscire can be used to mean “to succeed” and also as [ri + uscire] to mean “to go out again.”


Let’s talk about how to conjugate riuscire in the present, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences. 

Present tense: riuscire is an irregular -isco verb in the present tense. The present tense conjugation is below:

io

riesco

tu

 riesci

Lei,lei,lui

riesce

noi

riusciamo

voi

 riuscite

loro

riescono

Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, essere is the helping verb and the past participle is riuscito. And, of course, remember our usual rule for past participles: if you are female, or your subject is a group of people, make sure to change the past participle riuscito to riuscita, riusciti, or riuscite!

Riuscire is regular in the imperfetto past tense (riuscivo, riuscivi, riusciva, riuscivamo, riuscivate, riuscivano).

Future tense: Riuscire is regular in the future tense (riuscirò, riuscirai, riuscirà, riusciremo, riuscirete, riusciranno).

Finally, an important grammar rule: use indirect object pronouns (le = to her /gli = to him/ gli = to them) with riuscire. 


1. Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “being able to do” something

  • Notice that when linking the verb riuscire with a action verb, the preposition ais required.
  • Common daily phrases link riuscire a with trovare, prendere, or fare to describe if one has been able to find, get, or do something.
  • Note that a substitute verb for riuscire a would be potere, which also means “to be able to,” although riuscire a  is often used to emphasize one’s efforts beforehand (as described above). Potere, on the other hand, is used to make a simple statements regarding whether something is or is not possible, without taking into account if a situation is under one’s control or not.
“Ho guardato in tutta la casa. Ma non riesco a trovare il mio telefonino da nessuna parte!”
“I’ve looked all over the house. But I can’t find my telephone anywhere!” 
 
“Sei riuscito a prendere un appuntamento con il dottore?”
“Have you been able to get an appointment with the doctor?”

     

    2.  Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “managing to do” something

    • Use riuscire a with the meaning of “to manage to do” something, often in the past tense. As in our examples in #1, the use of riuscire emphasizes that the speaker has been struggling beforehand, and is the verb used to communicate that one has or has not “managed to” get something done.
    • Riuscire a can also be used with the future tense to emphasize one’s willingness to “manage to” get something done.
    • Riuscire a can be used in place of farcela, which means, “to make it,” but can also mean “to manage to” or “to succeed.”
    “Sono riuscito a trovare i documenti necessario per la riunione di domani.”
    “I managed to find the necessary documents for the meeting tomorrow.” 
     
    “Sono riuscito a fare la spesa per la cena stasera dopo il lavoro.”
    “I managed to go grocery shopping for dinner tonight after work.”

    “Non sono riuscito a parlare con Maria alla festa ieri; lei era molto occupata.”
    “I didn’t manage to talk with Maria at the party yesterday; she was very busy.”
     
    “Sei riuscito a finire ancora il progetto? È passato già un mese!”
    “You haven’t managed to finish the project yet? It’s been a month already!”

     

    “Ho molto da fare la settimana prossima, ma riuscirò a venire a trovarti!”
    “I have a lot to do next week, but I will manage to visit you!”
     
    “Nostro figlio riuscirà a risparmiare i soldi per una macchina nuova.
    Anzi, dovrà riuscire; non gli diamo una lira!”
    “Our son will manage to save money for a new car.
    Actually, he will have to manage; we will not give him a cent!”

     

    “Marco sta male stamattina. Non ce la farà ad andare a scuola oggi.”
    “Mark is not feeling well this morning. He will not make it to school today.” 
     
    “Marco sta male stamatina. Non riesce ad andare a scuola oggi.
    “Mark does not feel well this morning. He cannot manage to go to school today.”

     

    3. Use riuscire to describe how something has “turned out.”

    “A mia nonna riesce alla perfezione la pasta al forno ogni volta.”
    “My grandmother turns out perfect baked pasta every time.” 
     
    “Molte persone sono riuscite a venire alla la festa ieri sera.”
    “Many people turned out for the party last night.”

     

     

    4. Use [riuscire + bene] to describe if someone is “good at” something

    • The verb riuscire is followed directly by bene when using the verb to describe what someone is “good at.” An alternative method would be to use bravo(a) + a to describe that a person is very talented or knowledgeable in their field.
    • When using riuscire,  the verb that describes exactly what a person’s special talent is can be placed at the end of the sentence in it’s infinitive form.
    • Or, the action verb describing what someone is “good at” can start the sentence and riuscire can be placed at the end. With this sentence structure, “a” should be placed before a name, to signify “to + name.” An indirect object pronoun should be placed before the verb risucire if an individuals’ name is not mentioned.
    “Maria riesce bene a cucinare.  Ma lei non riesce bene a far cuocere il pane.”
    “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”
     
    “Cucinare a Maria riesce bene.  Ma cuocere il pane non le riesce bene.”
    “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”

     

    5. Use riuscire to describe being successful at something.

    “La mia mostra è riuscita. Ho venduto dieci dipinti!”
    “My show was a success. I sold ten paintings!”
     
    “Giovanni è un bravo atleta; lui riesce in ogni sport che prova.”
    “John is a talented athlete; he is successful at every sport he tries.”

     

    6. Use riuscire with the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile colloquially to describe how someone or something “seems” or “comes across.”

     

    “Maria mi è riuscito simpatico.”  / “Giorgio mi è riuscito antipatico.”
    “Mary seems nice to me.”           / “George comes across as nasty to me.”
     
    “Mi riesce facile immaginare di vivere in Italia.”  /  “Mi riesce difficile immaginare di vivere senza te.”
    “It seems easy for me to imagine living in Italy.” / “It seems difficult for me to imagine living without you.”

    7. Use the riuscire to describe “going out” again. 

    • There are many Italian verbs that begin with “ri” to signify repetition of an action. Of note: ripetere  means to repeat
    • Ri + uscire can mean “to go out again.” Therefore, the words “di nuovo” or “ancora” are not necessary.
    • Riuscire is not used in the sense of “going out” on a date, which instead in Italian is simply, “Ho un appuntamento con…” for “I have an appointment/date with…”
    “Devo riuscire di casa per sprigare commissioni.”
    “I have to go out of the house again to run errands.”
     
    “Sono appena tornato da fare la spesa ma ho dimenticato il vino per cena stasera.
    Devo risucire e comprarlo subito!”
    “I just returned from grocery shopping but forgot the wine for dinner tonight.
    I have to go out again and buy it right away!”


    Remember how to use the Italian verb riuscire in conversation 
    and I guarantee you will use this verb every day!

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

       Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

    Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Past Tense Imperfetto

    Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases

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

    Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Let’s continue to learn about the Italian past tense to work toward this resolution!

    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”  in the past tense into our conversations, we will be able to talk about our daily lives just as we do in our native language! For instance, if we want to make general statements about what has happened in the past in Italian, we will need to master the imperfetto past tense. The conjugation of the imperfetto past tense is fairly straightforward.  The tricky part is knowing how to use this verb form.

    This post is the 32nd 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 past tense

    imperfetto

    See below for how this works.

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

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

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

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

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

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    Imperfetto Italian Past Tense

    If we want to make general statements about what has happened in the past in Italian, we will need to master the imperfetto past tense. The conjugation of the imperfetto past tense is fairly straightforward.  The tricky part is knowing how to use this verb form.

    The Italian imperfetto past tense refers to the recent past, and is useful when describing events that happened frequently in the past without a specific time frame.  The imperfetto in Italian translates into the simple past tense in English and also into “used to” or “was/were…ing.”  Let’s learn how to form this tense, which is actually quite easy, as the same endings are added to the stems for the –are, -ere, and ire verbs.

    To change any infinitive verb into the imperfetto past tense, first drop the -re from the   -are, -ere, or -ire endingThis will give stems that will have the last letters as: a, e, and i.  Then, just add the following endings to the stems for all three conjugations: vo, vi, va, vamo, vate, vano. 

    Let’s see how this works by conjugating some familiar verbs in the table below.  The stressed syllables have been underlined for easy pronunciation. Notice how the stress falls on the syllable just prior to the ending we add for the io, tu, Lei/lei/lui and loro forms.  For the noi and voi forms, the stress instead falls on the first syllable of the ending that is added.

    Imperfetto Conjugation

      Abitare

    (lived)
    (used to live)
    (was/were living)

    Vedere

    (saw)
    (used to see)
    (was/were seeing)

    Dormire

    (slept)
    (used to sleep)
    (was/were sleeping)

    io abitavo vedevo dormivo
    tu abitavi vedevi dormivi
    Lei/lei/lui abitava vedeva dormiva
           
    noi abitavamo vedevamo dormivamo
    voi abitavate vedevate dormivate
    loro abitavano vedevano dormivano

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    Below is an excerpt from a conversation between two women, Francesca and Caterina. Caterina is an Italian-American girl who is visiting Francesca and her family in Italy during the Italian holiday of Ferragosto in August.  Francesca meets Caterina on the beach and Francesca mentions that she saw Caterina talking to someone before her arrival. To describe this activity in the recent past, Francesca uses the imperfetto form of the Italian  past tense.

    If you would like to listen to the entire dialogue, recorded with an Italian-American and a native Italian speaker, just click on the link from the website Learntravelitalian.com: On the Beach at Last.

    Francesca:

    Caterina:

    Francesca:

    Caterina:

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    You may have noticed from the previous dialogue that the imperfetto past tense was used in certain situations, sometimes in combination with the passato prossimo past tense.  If you need a refresher on when to use the passato prossimo past tense, please see our previous blog: Past Tense Passato Prossimo: “Avere” vs. “Essere”? 

    So, when to use the imperfetto past tense?  Italians mainly use this tense 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? 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 into the simple present tense and often include an adverb of frequency. Several of these adverbs are listed in the following table:

    Italian Adverbs of Frequency

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

     

    Di solito, io finivo la lezione all’una il lunedì.
    Often times, I used to finish 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.

     

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    The other translation of the imprefetto past tense uses was/were -ing, and refers to an action performed in the past without mention of a particular starting or ending time.  This is especially important if two things have happened in the past, in which case the imperfetto is used for the first action in order to describe the setting at the time of both actions.  In this case, the completed action is given in the passato prossimo.  From our dialogue:

    Caterina:

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    It is also necessary to use the imperfetto past tense with the Italian verbs of thinking, believing, knowing and feeling  pensare, credere, sapere and sentirein order to refer to situations in the past.

    Other phrases that refer to a personal state of being in the past, such as  being hungry or simply existing, use the imperfetto form of the verbs avere and essere.

    The imperfetto conjugation of avere is regular:
    io avevo,  tu avevi, Lei/lei/lui aveva,  noi avevamo, voi avevate, loro avevano.

    The imperfetto conjugation of essere is irregular:
    io ero, tu eri, Lei/lei/lui era, noi eravamo, voi eravate, loro erano.

    To summarize… More uses for the imperfetto Italian past tense are listed below:

    Pensavo che… I thought that…
    Credevo che… I believed that…
    Non sapevo che… I didn’t know that…
    Mi sentivo male. I was feeling badly.
    Io avevo fame. I used to be hungry.
    Caterina era felice. Kathy was happy.

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

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    For a final exercise using the imperfetto past tense, imagine you are a child and visited your Italian grandparents on their farm one summer. Tell a story in Italian about your daily routine.  Use adverbs of frequency and the imperfetto past tense to describe typical daily activities and how you felt living in the countryside. My attempt at this exercise is below.

    Buon divertimento!  Have fun!

    Un giorno in fattoria:                                    A day on the farm:

    Avevo dieci anni l’estate scorso. I was 10 years old last summer.
    Abitavo con mia nonna Maria e mio nonno Giuseppe durante l’estate a e mi piaceva molto la compagna! I was living with my grandmother Maria and my grandfather Joseph during the summer and I loved the country very much!
    Di solito, io e nonna Maria preparavamo la prima colazione per la famiglia. Usually, io e nonna Maria made breakfast for the family.
    Quasi ogni giorno, andavo di fuori per guardare gli animali della fattoria. Almost every day, I went outside to watch the animals on the farm.
    Stavo molto bene in compagna. I felt really good in the country.
    L’aria era fresca e il cielo era sempre blu.  The air was fresh and the sky was always blue.
    Durante i pomeriggi, io e nonno Giuseppe camminavamo con il nostro gregge di pecore in montagne. During the afternoons,  Grandpa Joseph and I walked with our  herd of sheep in the mountains.
    Nelle stasere, avevo molto fame! In the evenings, I was very hungry!
    Ma non avevo fame per molto tempo perché a casa, nonna Maria cucinava una cena meravigliosa! But I was not hungry for very long, because back at home Grandmother Maria was cooking a wonderful dinner!

    Of course, there are many, many more routine activities that can happen in a single day than what we have listed here. You may want to keep a short diary to practice using the imperfetto past tense forms in Italian. Every night before going to bed, write one or two sentences to describe in general how you felt during the day, or a habitual action that you performed. Soon it will be second nature to know when and how to use the Italian  imperfetto past tense!

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

    Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

       Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com