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Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog                          Everything you need to know to talk about love… in Italian!

 

Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

Can you speak Italian? By now, many of you have passed the beginning stages of learning how to speak Italian and can read and comprehend quite a bit of the language. Meraviglioso!

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you talk about all the things that are nearest and dearest to your heart in Italian? Can you speak Italian the way you would speak in your native language, with complex and varied sentences? This is more difficult than it may seem at first, and it’s something that I am always working on! This series will focus on the situations that have come up most frequently in my everyday conversations with Italian instructors and friends. The “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on the type of sentence structure and vocabulary we all need to remember to be more fluent when we speak Italian!

To take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian, we must know many things; in this segment, we will discuss how to use possessive adjectives in Italian, phrases for storytelling, reciprocal reflexive verbs, and the special ways to say we love and miss someone using the Italian verbs volere and mancare!

 

Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

In the “Speak Italian” blog series, a short essay or dialogue in Italian will be presented about a commonly used topic of conversation. Then, we will review the Italian grammar that is necessary to talk about the particular topic in detail. And finally, the same material will be presented in Italian and English, with blanks for the reader to fill in with descriptions from his or her own life! Remember these examples about yourself as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian in your next conversation!

Enjoy the third topic in this series, “Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!”
—Kathryn Occhipinti

This material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on www.learntravelitalian.com. Special thanks to Italian language instructor Simona Giuggioli.


Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

In every life,  we experience many types of love—country, family, and of course, one’s own true love. So it is important to learn the special Italian phrases to speak about what we love. I’ve adapted the story of one of my grandmothers, who emigrated from Italy in the 1920s, into a short essay about her struggles in Italy and in America, and the love that she was able to find in her life. Of course, this material has been adapted to be a learning tool, and this essay is not meant to be a complete biography.

While reading about my grandmother’s three great loves—her countries, her family, and her husband—think about yourself and what you truly love. Read the grammar section if you like. Then, use the blank spaces in the form that follows to fill in the Italian for your own life! 

Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

When I was young, when I was about 7 years old, I asked my grandmother to tell me her story. And this is what she said to me:

Da bambina, quando avevo cerca sette anni, ho chiesto a mia nonna di raccontarmi la sua storia.

E questo è quello che mi ha detto:

 

My story is a story of many great loves. When I was young, I lived in Sicily, and I loved my town Ragusa very much. Ragusa is on top of a big mountain but is also near the sea. Every day I could see the sunrise and the sunset over the south of Sicily, and it was very beautiful! I loved Sicily very much!

La mia storia è una storia di tanti grandi amori. Quando ero giovane, ho vissuto in Sicilia e mi piaceva molto il mio paese che si chiama Ragusa. Ragusa è sopra una grande montagna ma  è anche vicino al mare. Ogni giorno potevo vedere l’alba e il tramonto sopra il sud della Sicilia ed era molto bello! Mi piaceva molto la Sicilia!

 

I had five brothers and sisters—two brothers and three sisters. I was the oldest in the family, and when I was 12 years old, I had to leave school. I had to help my mother take care of my sisters and my brothers. Before I went to bed, every night I said to my mother, “Do you love me?” And my mother replied, “I love you very much!”

Avevo cinque fratellidue fratelli e tre sorelle. Ero la più grande nella famiglia e quando avevo dodici anni ho dovuto lasciare la scuola. Ho dovuto aiutare mia mamma a prendersi cura delle mie sorelle e dei miei fratelli. Prima di andare a letto, ogni notte dicevo a mia mamma, “Mi vuoi bene?” E mia madre diceva, “Ti voglio molto bene!”

 

And at Ragusa, there was also a boy named Peter who was 2 years older than me. Peter grew up on the same street as my family. When he became older, Peter was tall and handsome, a good person, and was very nice to me. I loved him. I became his girlfriend, but in secret.

Ed a Ragusa c’era anche un ragazzo che si chiamava Pietro che aveva due anni più di me. Pietro è cresciuto nella stessa strada della mia famiglia. Da grande, Pietro è diventato alto e bello, bravo, ed era molto simpatico con me. L’amavo. Sono diventata la sua ragazza, ma in segreto.

 

Peter’s father, Paul, was also a good person and decided to make a better life for his family and go to America. In 1916, when Peter was 16 years old, Paul brought the family to America. There was a lot of work for Paul, who was a bricklayer and helped to build many buildings that are still well known in New York today. Peter’s father made a lot of money, and the family was very well off.

Il padre di Pietro, Paolo, era anche una persona perbene e ha deciso di migliorare la vita della sua famiglia e di andare in America. Nel millenovecentosedici, quando Pietro aveva sedici anni, Paolo ha portato la famiglia in America. C’era molto lavoro per Paolo, chi era un muratore e ha aiutato a costruire tanti palazzi ancora ben conosciuti a New York oggi. Il padre di Pietro ha fatto tanti soldi e la famiglia stava molto bene.

 

Peter also worked every day and learned his father’s trade. But Peter was not happy. He wrote me in many letters that New York was ugly. He missed his beautiful Sicily. He missed me! In Sicily, I missed Peter!

Anche Pietro lavorava ogni giorno e imparava il mestiere da suo padre. Ma, Pietro non era contento. Lui mi ha scritto in tante lettere che New York era brutta. A lui mancava la sua bella Sicilia. Anche, io gli mancavo! Mentre in Sicilia, mi mancava Pietro

 

This continued for many years.

Continuava cosi per tanti anni.

 

Finally, Peter wrote a letter to my father and asked him to take me to America to get married (marry me).

Finalmente, Pietro ha scritto una lettera a mio padre e l’ha chiesto di portarmi in America per sposarmi.

 

At first, my father had said, “Absolutely not!”

Al inizio, mio padre ha detto, “Assolutamente no!”

 

But I wanted to go to America and marry Peter. I loved Peter very much. Every day, I cried. I did not eat anything. My mother said to my father, “How sad Maria is! You must take her to America!”

Ma volevo andare in America e sposarmi con Pietro. L’amavo tanto. Ogni giorno, piangevo. Non mangiavo niente. Mia madre ha detto a mio padre, “Come triste è Maria! Devi portarla in America!”

 

And finally, he did it!

E finalmente, lui l’ho fatto!

 

Peter and I were married, and we had three children: two boys and one girl. We moved to a small town north of New York City, where there are mountains and it is very pretty.

Pietro ed io ci siamo sposati e abbiamo avuto tre figlidue figli maschi e una figla femmina. Abbiamo traslocati a un piccolo paese a nord di New York, dove ci sono le montagne ed è molto bello.

 

Today, I feel very fortunate and happy because I have my three great loves: my new country, my husband, and my family!

Oggi, mi sento molto fortunata e contena perché ho i miei tre grandi amori: il mio paese nuovo, mio marito, e la mia famiglia!

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know…

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Use Italian Possessive Adjectives to Describe Things

  1. The definite article (il, la, i, or le) must be added before the possessive adjective when we describe the things that we possess. In this case, both the definite article and the possessive adjective will match the gender and number of the noun that is being modified. Remember, in Italian, we do not think about who is doing the possessing, but about what is being possessed!
Singular   Plural
il mio/la mia my i miei/le mie
il tuo/la tua your (familiar) singular i tuoi/le tue
il suo*/la sua* your (polite)* singular

his, her, its

i suoi*/le sue*

 

     
il nostro/la nostra our i nostri/le nostre

 

il vostro/la vostra your (familiar) plural i vostri/le vostre
il loro/la loro their i loro*/le loro*

*For “polite your,” simply capitalize, as in, “il Suo amico” or “la Sua amica.”

 

  1. It should be noted that the definite article can be omitted if the speaker wants to emphasize ownership of a particular thing when using the verb essere. If someone wants to stress his ownership of a car, for instance, he would simply say, “È mia” for “(It) is mine,” and omit the definite article la and the word macchina. In English, we use mine instead of my, ours instead of our, and yours instead of your after the verb “to be” in a similar way. This is called the stressed form of the possessive adjective.

 

  1. Also, the expression “a casa mia,” with the possessive adjective placed alone, after the noun, is idiomatic and means “at/to my house.” The other possessive forms can be used as well with this phrase, as in “a casa tua” (at your house) or “a casa sua” (at his/her house). And it can always be “colpa mia,” or “my fault.”                            

 

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Use Italian Possessive Adjectives with Family Members

  1. When speaking of only one family member, do not use the definite article!

        mio cugino = my cousin

  1. When speaking of more than one family member, the definite article must be used.

i miei cugini = my cousins

  1. If using an adjective to describe family members, the definite article must be used.

“Caterina è la mia cara cugina.” = “Kathy is my dear cousin.”

 

Singular and Plural Possessive Adjectives for Family

 

mio/mia my i miei/le mie
tuo/tua your (familiar) singular i tuoi/le tue
suo/sua your (polite) singular/his/her/its i suoi/le sue
     
nostro/nostra our i nostri/le nostre
vostro/vostra your (familiar) plural i vostri/le vostre
il loro/la loro their i loro/le loro

 

La Mia Famiglia Femminile/Female Members of My Family

 

mia madre my mother  
(la) mia mamma my mom  
mia sorella my sister(s) le mie sorelle
mia nonna my grandmother(s) le mie nonne
mia zia my aunt(s) le mie zie
mia figlia my daughter(s) le mie figlie
mia cugina my female cousin(s) le mie cugine

 

La Mia Famiglia Maschile/Male Members of My Family

 

mio padre my father  
(il) mio papà my dad  
mio fratello my brother(s) i miei fratelli
mio nonno my grandfather(s) i miei nonni
mio zio my uncle(s) i miei zii
mio figlio my son(s) i miei figli
mio cugino my cousin(s) i miei cugini

 

  1. Always use il mio fidanzato or la mia fidanzata for a boyfriend/fiancé or girlfriend/fiancée who are not yet part of the family! This also applies to la mia ex moglie and il mio ex marito, my ex-wife and my ex-husband.

 

  1. If a pet, or animale domestico, such as a cat or a dog, is a part of your family, use the definite article when referring to them. So, my cat or my dog would be il mio gato or il mio cane. The endings of the nouns that refer to animals do not need to be changed to match their gender. But, if it is important to emphasize that you have a male or a female animal, see below:

 

il gato il mio gato the cat my cat (any gender or a male cat)
il gato maschio il mio gato maschio the male cat my male cat
la mia gata la mia gata femmina the female cat my female cat

 

il cane il mio cane the dog my dog (any gender or a male dog)
il cane maschio il mio cane maschio the male dog my male dog
la mia cagna la mia cagna femmina the female dog my female dog

 

  1. When speaking in Italian of two family members or objects of the same gender and number, link them with the word “and,” which is “e” in Italian. The possessive pronoun does not need to be repeated. That said, the tendency in Italian is to repeat the possessive pronoun anyway.

The possessive pronoun must be used for each person/thing linked with the word “and” when the gender or number of the person/thing differs.

Note that in English, it is not necessary to repeat the word “my,” although “my” can be repeated to emphasize that one is speaking of two different types of groups.

mio fratello e cugino or mio fratello e mio cugino my brother and cousin
   
mio fratello e mia sorella my brother and sister
mio fratello e i miei cugini my brother and my cousins

 

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Talk about Siblings and Children

  1. When talking about siblings in Italian, the idea is expressed with the Italian plural word fratelli. This masculine plural noun refers to a group of all male siblings and to a group of both male and female siblings. Therefore, the number of brothers and sisters must be specified in the next sentence—and all endings changed into either masculine or feminine.

Remember to use un fratello for one male sibling and una sorella for one female sibling.

Ho due fratelli. I have two siblings (brothers and sisters or just brothers).
Ho un fratello e una sorella. I have one brother and one sister.

 

Remember to use fratelli for a group of brothers and sorelle for a group of sisters.

Ho cinque fratelli. I have five siblings (brothers and sisters or just brothers).
Ho due fratelli e tre sorelle. I have two brothers and three sisters.

 

  1. When talking about one’s own or someone else’s children in Italian, the idea is expressed with the Italian plural word figli (which otherwise means sons). This masculine word refers to a group of all male children and to a group of both male and female children. It then becomes necessary to use additional nouns to categorize the children as male or female in the next sentence, and all endings must be changed into either masculine or feminine.

Remember to use uno figlio mascio for one male child and una figlia femmina for one female child.

Ho due figli. I have two children./I have two boys and girls.
Ho un figlio maschio e una figlia femmina. I have one boy and one girl.

 

Remember to use figli maschi for a group of male children and figlie femmine for a group of female children.

Ho cinque figli. I have five children./I have five boys and girls.
Ho due figli maschi e tre figlie femmine. I have two brothers and three sisters.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

When to use “Che” to Connect Phrases in Italian

“Che” has many meanings in Italian,and is used in many ways.  This little word will come up often in spoken and written Italian.  The first and probably most important meaning found in most every dictionary, though, is the conjunctive “that.”  While in English many times we leave out the word “that” when linking two phrases together to make a complex sentence, in Italian this word can almost never be omitted.

 A couple of important examples were underlined in are dialogue to make this point and are reprinted here.  Learning how and when to incorporate “che”  into an Italian sentence will take one a long way to becoming fluent in Italian, so listen closely for this word!

  1. To link the phrase “this is what” to a second phrase.

E questo è quello che mi ha detto:
And this is what (that) she said to me:

        2. To mention something or someone and then give its actual name.

Mi piaceva molto il mio paese che si chiama Ragusa.
( Italian: I loved my town very much that is called Ragusa.)
I loved my town Ragusa very much.


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

When to use “Che” to Connect Phrases in Italian

“Che” has many meanings in Italian,and is used in many ways. Below are two more uses for the Italian word che, with two different meanings.

  1. Che is also commonly used as an interrogative expression meaning, “What?” “Che?” “Che cosa?” and “Cosa?” all mean “What?” in Italian, and are used interchangeably. Two of the most commonly spoken phrases where che is used this way are below:

 

Che succede? What’shappening?
Che è successo? “What happened?

 

  1. And by now you have no doubt heard the exclamation, “Che bello!” which means, “How beautiful!” or “How wonderful!” from anyone who has seen the rolling hills of the Italian countryside or a famous work of Italian art or architecture.  Additional examples are listed below.  In short, che when used in an exclamation of this type takes on the meaning of how.  Of course, “Com’è bello?” means “How beautiful is it?” since the word come is the most often used to mean how in most other situations.
Che bello! How beautiful! How wonderful!
Che brutta (figura)! How ugly! How terrible!
Che fortuna! How lucky! What good fortune!

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Say “I Love You” in Italian

“Ti voglio bene” is an idiomatic expression in Italian, which translates roughly as, “I wish you well,” or better, “I care for you.”  It originates from the verb volersi, which takes on a different meaning than the verb volere.  The meaning of this verb is not easily translated into English, but is used often in Italy for many different situations.

“Ti voglio bene” is an old expression that is still used for platonic forms of caring and loving among family members and close friends in Italy today. The expression can be used between a boyfriend and a girlfriend and is also used between a husband and a wife. Watch some older Italian movies, and you will hear this expression often!

Mi voui bene? Do you care for/about me?
Ti voglio bene. I care for/about you.

 

The verb amare, which means “to love,” is reserved for romantic love—that one true love held between fiancée and fiancé, wife and husband.

Mi ami? Do you love me?
Ti amo. I love you.
Ti amo per sempre. I will always love you.

 

Finally, some phrases for when you have fallen out of love:

Non ti voglio più bene. I don’t like/care for you anymore.
Non ti amo più. I don’t love you anymore.


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Common Phrases to Begin a Story Paragraph

Da giovane… When I was young…
Da grande… When I grew up…
Quando ero più vecchio(a)… When I was older…

 

Nel 1928… In 1928…
C’era una volta…
Una volta c’era…
Once upon a time…
In the past there was… / Once there was…
Allora…
In those days…

 

 

Per prima cosa… For the first thing…
Dapprima… Initially…
Prima…/Poi… First…/Then…
Prima o poi… Sooner or later…

 

Fin dall’inizio… From the beginning…
Da ora in poi… From now on…
Da allora in poi… From then on…
From that moment on…


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Verbs That Take the Preposition “A”

 Some Italian verbs need to be followed by the Italian word “a,” which in this case means “to,” before the addition of an infinitive verb to make a complete sentence. This may seem a little redundant at first, because in English, a verb in its infinitive form already includes the word “to.” To the Italian speaker, though, it is natural to insert the word a after the verbs on the list that follows—the phrases just sound correct this way.

Two important phrases to remember that use this rule are “andare a trovare” (“to go to visit”) and “venire a trovare” (“to come to visit”), which are used when visiting a person. The noun visitare can be used when you want to speak about a place you are visiting.

Don’t memorize this list, but instead try to listen for the “a” when these phrases come up in conversation, and soon it will become natural for you, also, to say these phrases correctly.

aiutare to help Aiuto mia mamma a … cucinare la cena.
andare to go Vado a … trovare mio cugino Pietro in Italia.
cominciare to start Comincio a … cucinare la cena.
divertirsi to enjoy oneself Mi divertito a … suonare il violino.
imparare to learn Tutti imparano a … parlare italiano.
insegnare to teach Lei insegna a … parlare la lingua francese.
invitare to invite Lui l’invita a … mangiare al ristorante.
mandare to send Io mando Pietro a … prendere una pizza.
prepararsi to get ready Mi preparo a … viaggiare in Italia.
venire to come Caterina viene a … trovare i suoi cugini.


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs, Including Sposarsi

Reciprocal reflexive verbs are used in the special situation when two people perform the same action together; this will make both people the subject of the action. Therefore, the reciprocal reflexive verbs are conjugated in their plural form, using the plural subject and reflexive pronouns: (noi) ci, (voi) vi, or (loro) si. For conversation, the noi and loro forms will be the most important to remember. To express this type of situation in English, we simply add the phrase “each other,” after the verb.

Here is how this verb form works: for instance, everyone knows that “Ci vediamo” means “We (will) see each other.” So if the speaker is involved in the action with someone else—we are doing the action—use the noi verb conjugation and put ci in front of the verb.

Another common phrase is “Si abbracciano e si baciano,” which means “They hug and kiss each other.” If two people are being talked about—they are doing the action—use the loro verb conjugation and put si in front of the verb.

A quick word about sposarsi. It is one of those reflexive verbs that translates as “to get” married. We talked about these “to get” verbs in the last blog in this series. So if a person wants to say, “I want to get married” in Italian, this would be “(Io) voglio sposarmi.”

As we know, the subject pronouns are almost always omitted in conversation, and this applies to reciprocal reflexive verbs as well—hence the parentheses in the examples that follow!

 

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

 

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


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

 

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


 

 Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Passato Prossimo Verbs That Take Essere

Here is a list of the most common action verbs that take essere when forming the passato prossimo, which is the verb form used to describe going from one place to another or “passing through” life—growing/living/dying. The infinitive form is in the first column, and the corresponding past participle is listed in the third column; notice that some past participles will be regular and others irregular.

It should also be noted that all reflexive verbs, as well as piacere, take essere.

 

accadere to happen accaduto(a)(i,e) happened
andare to go andato(a)(i,e) went
arrivare to arrive arrivato(a)(i,e) arrived
cadere to fall caduto(a)(i,e) fell
cambiare to change cambiato(a)(i,e) changed
cominciare+ to begin cominciato(a)(i,e) began
diventare to become diventato(a)(i,e) became
entrare to enter entrato(a)(i,e) entered
finire+ to finish finito(a)(i,e) finished
iniziare+ to begin iniziato(a)(i,e) began
morire to die morto(a)(i,e) dead
nascere to be born nato(a)(i,e) born
partire to leave partito(a)(i,e) left
passare* to pass through passato(a)(i,e) past
piacere to be pleasing to piaciuto(a)(i,e) pleased
restare to remain restato(a)(i,e) remained
rompere to break rotto(a)(i,e) broken
salire* to go up salito(a)(i,e) went up
scendere* to do down sceso(a)(i,e) went down
succedere to happen successo(a)(i,e) happened
uscire to go out uscito(a)(i,e) went out
venire to come venuto(a)(i,e) came

 

+Some verbs, such as cominciare, finire, and iniziare, take avere except when the subject is a thing, rather than a person. So as we have learned in Chapter 11 of Conversational Italian for Travelers, “Io ho finito il libro,” “Tu hai finito il libro,” and “Lei/lui ha finito il libro,” but “Il film è finito,” for “The film is finished.” Notice that in the last example, the verb itself completes the sentence and refers back to the subject. (Finire is categorized as transitive in all of the examples except the last, when it is intransitive, but don’t worry about these terms!)

*Some verbs, such as passare, scendere, and salire take avere when used with a direct object, as in “Io ho sceso le scale” for “I have gone down the stairs.” Otherwise, they use essere: “Lui è sceso” for “He has gotten off.”               

Grammar Point: Reflexive Verbs with the Passato Prossimo

All reflexive verbs form the passato prossimo with essere. Simply put the reflexive pronoun before essere and follow essere with the past participle as usual. Remember to change the ending of the past participle to reflect the gender of the person doing the action. See the example below with divertirsi (to enjoy oneself). With all the good times a visitor to Italy can expect, divertirsi is an essential verb to know in several different tenses!

Notice that the translation in English uses the verb to have, while Italian uses to be. So remember to think in Italian in this case!

 

Essersi divertito/To Have Enjoyed Oneself
io mi sono divertito(a) I have enjoyed myself.

I enjoyed myself.

tu ti sei divertito(a) You (familiar) have enjoyed yourself.

You (familiar) enjoyed yourself.

Lei/lei/lui si è divertito(a) You (polite)/she/he have/has enjoyed herself/himself.

You (polite)/she/he enjoyed herself/himself.

       
noi ci siamo divertiti(e) We have enjoyed ourselves.

We enjoyed ourselves.

voi vi siete divertiti(e) You all have enjoyed yourselves.

You all enjoyed yourselves.

loro si sono divertiti(e) They have enjoyed themselves.

They enjoyed themselves.

 

Grammar Point: Modal Verbs with Essere and the Passato Prossimo

We have seen how to use the modal verbs dovere, potere, and volere if the passato prossimo is formed with avere. The sequence to use is the same with essere; essere is conjugated to reflect the speaker, the past participle of the modal verb is added, and then the infinitive of the verb finishes the verb phrase.

There is one catch, though. Remember that we must change the past participle of the verbs that follow essere to reflect the gender of the speaker. In this case, the past participle is formed from the modal verb, so the ending of the modal verb must change!

 

Pietro è voluto partire alle sei stasera.
Peter wanted to leave at 6 tonight.
 
Caterina è dovuta andare a fare la spesa ieri.
Kathy had to go grocery shopping yesterday.


 

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

When to Use the Passato Prossimo versus the Imperfetto

Here is a table to clarify the differences of the uses of the passato prossimo and the imperfetto past tense verb forms. Both will describe actions or events that have taken place in the past. The circumstances that surround each event determine the form to use. When narrating a story, use the imperfetto.

 

Passato Prossimo                                                                  Imperfetto                      
Past action that took place once. Past action that was habitual; done several times.
Stamattina ho telefonato a mia mamma.
This morning I called my mother.
Telefonavo a mia mamma ogni mattina.
I used to call my mother every day.
Past action that was performed a specific number of times. Past action that took place over an extended period of time.
Sono andata dal medico per tre giorni di fila.
I went to the doctor for 3 days in a row.
Andavo dal medico raramente quando ero giovane.
I went to the doctor rarely when I was young.
Past action that was performed within a definite time period. Past action that was performed within an indefinite time period, without a specific beginning and ending mentioned.
L’anno scorso è andato a scuola.
Last year he went to school.
Da giovane, andava volentieri a scuola.
When he was young, he used to go to school gladly.
Past states of being/having of a person or a thing in a specific time frame. Past states of being/having of a person or a thing
(essere or avere used alone).
Ieri ho avuto fame tutto il giorno.

Yesterday I had hunger all day long.
(English: I was hungry.)

Caterina è stata molto felice il giorno del suo compleanno.

Kathy was very happy on her birthday.

Io avevo fame.
I used to have/had hunger.
(English: I used to be/was hungry.)
Caterina era felice.
Kathy used to be/was happy.

 

 In a compound sentence that involves two actions performed in the past, the completed action (usually given second) uses the passato prossimo. In a compound sentence that involves two actions performed in the past, the setting, or the ongoing situation (usually given first), uses the imperfetto.

Mentre nostro figlio dormiva, abbiamo guidato per molte ore.

While our son was sleeping, we drove for many hours.

 

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Conjugate and Use Mancare

The verb mancare has many meanings: to miss/to lose/to lack/to be lacking/to omit/to failMancare is used to convey the idea of “to miss someone” very commonly in conversational Italian, so it is important to learn the conjugation and sentence structure for this verb.

To start off, you should know that the sentence structure for mancare is the same as the verb piacere (see the second blog in this series). In English, we say the subject of the sentence misses someone using the direct object (example: I miss John), whereas in Italian, this phrase is turned around and the subject is the person who is being missed.

The sentence structure in Italian can use the disjunctive pronoun.

example “I miss John”: John is missing to me= Giovanni manca a me.

But more often, the Italian sentence uses the indirect object pronoun placed before the verb.

example “I miss John”: (John) to me is missing. =  (Giovanni) Mi manca.

To make matters more confusing to the English speaker, the subject of the sentence—which can be somebody’s name, a subject pronoun, a place, or even an object—can be left out entirely as long as it is known from the context, as we see above.

But, in most cases the subject is then added to the end of the sentence for clarification.

example: “I miss John”: To me is missing John. = Mi manca Giovanni.

 

Think about this a bit and then read the present tense conjugation below. Notice that the tu and noi forms are irregular. These are marked with an asterisk.

Mancare/To Be Missing (To)

io manco I am missing (to…)
tu manchi* you (fam.) are missing (to…)
Lei

lei/lui

manca you (polite) are missing (to…)

she/he/it is missing (to…)

     
noi manchiamo* we are missing (to…)
voi mancate you all are missing (to…)
loro mancano they are missing (to…)

 

The past tense of mancare is regular in the passato prossimo and takes essere. This is the most commonly used conversational past tense form for mancare; the phrase “I missed you!” for instance, implies that a definite period of absence has passed, and now the individuals are able to finally talk about their feelings.

See below for the passato prossimmo conjugation of mancare:

sono sei, è, with mancato(a)
siamo, siete sono with mancati(e)

 

The imperfetto form of mancare is regular as well, and is used for narration, as in our example story. In this case, the reference is to a nonspecific amount of time that people missed each other in the past.

See below for the imperfetto conjugation of mancare:

mancavo, mancavi, mancava
mancavamo, mancavate, mancavano

 

The sentences below give some common examples of how to use the verb mancare, first in present tense and then in past tense, with the passato prossimo. For easier understanding, the subject pronouns are included in parentheses, but remember that they are most often left out of the sentence, unless needed for clarification.

(Tu) Mi manchi. You are missing to me. I miss you.
(Lei/Lui) Mi manca. She/he is missing to me. I miss her/him.

 

(Io) Ti manco? (Am I) missing to you? (Do you) miss me?
(Lei/Lui) Ti manca? (Is she/he) missing to you? (Do you) miss her/him?

 

(Io) Gli manco. I am missing to him. He misses me.
(Io) Le manco. I am missing to her. She misses me.
(Tu) Gli manchi. You are missing to him. He misses you.
(Tu) Le manchi. You are missing to her. She misses you.
Gli manca (Maria) . Maria is missing to him. He misses Maria.
 Le manca (Maria) . Maria is missing to her. She misses Maria.
Gli manca (Paolo). Paul is missing to him. He misses Paul.
Le manca (Paolo). Paul is missing to her. She misses Paul.

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

(Tu) Mi sei mancato(a). You were missed to me. I missed you.
(Lei/Lui) Mi è mancato(a). She/he was missed to me. I missed her/him.

 

(Io) Ti sono mancto(a)? (Was I) missed to you? (Did you) miss me?
(Lei/Lui) Ti è mancato(a)? (Was she/he) missed to her/him? (Did you) miss her/him?

 

(Io) Gli sono mancato(a). I was missed to him. He missed me.
(Io) Le sono mancato(a). I was missed to her. She missed me.
(Tu) Gli sei mancato(a). You were missed to him. He missed you.
(Tu) Le sei mancato(a). You were missed to her. She missed you.
Gli è mancata (Maria) . Maria was missed to him. He missed Maria.
Le è mancata (Maria) . Maria was missed to her. She missed Maria.
Gli è mancato (Paolo). Paul was missed to him. He missed Paul.
Le è mancato (Paolo) . Paul was missed to her. She missed Paul.


 


 

Speak Italian: A Story about… YOUR Great Loves!

Everyone has a story to tell about themselves. What would you like others to know about what you find important in life? What are your great loves? Fill in the blanks in the Italian sentences in the exercise below, using examples from your own life.

Speak Italian: A Story about… Your Great Loves!

When I was young, when I was about 7 years old, I asked my grandmother to tell me her story. And this is what she said to me:

Da bambina, quando avevo ___________________ anni, ho chiesto                             di raccontarmi la sua storia.

E questo è quello che mi ha detto:

 

My story is a story of many great loves. When I was young, I lived in Sicily, and I loved my town of Ragusa very much. Ragusa is on top of a big mountain but is also near the sea. Every day I could see the sunrise and the sunset over the south of Sicily, and it was very beautiful! I loved Sicily very much!

La mia storia è una storia di________________________________________________________________.

Quando ero                                  , ho vissuto                                                   e mi piaceva molto il mio paese che si chiama      ______________________________________________________________________ È_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

 

Ogni giorno potevo vedere ____________________________________________________ed era molto bello! Mi piaceva molto___________________________________________________________________________________!

 

I had five brothers and sisters—two brothers and three sisters. I was the oldest in the family, and when I was 12 years old, I had to leave school. I had to help my mother take care of my sisters and my brothers. Before I went to bed, every night I said to my mother, “Do you love me?” And my mother replied, “I love you very much!”

Avevo __________________________fratelli—_____________________fratelli e ______________________sorelle. Ero ______________________________________________________nella famiglia e quando avevo dodici anni _____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Ho dovuto aiutare ______________________________________________________________________________. Prima di andare a letto, ogni notte dicevo a mia mamma, “Mi vuoli bene?” E mia madre diceva, “Ti voglio molto bene!”

 

And at Ragusa, there was also a boy named Peter who was 2 years older than me. Peter grew up on the same street as my family. When he became older, Peter was tall and handsome, a good person, and was very nice to me. I loved him. I became his girlfriend, but in secret.

Ed a Ragusa c’era anche un ragazzo(a) che si chiamava ______________________________che aveva __________________anni più di me.  ___________________________è cresciuto nella stessa strada della mia famiglia.

Da grande, _________________è diventato(a)_______________________________________________________, ed era molto simpatico con me. L’amavo(a). Sono diventata(o) la sua ragazza(o), ma in segreto.

 

Peter’s father, Paul, was also a good person and decided to make a better life for his family and go to America. In 1916, when Peter was 16 years old, Paul brought the family to America. There was a lot of work for Paul, who was a bricklayer and helped to build many buildings that are still well known in New York today. Peter’s father made a lot of money, and the family was very well off.

Il padre di _______________, Paolo, era anche una persona per bene e ha deciso di migliorare la vita della sua famiglia e di andare in America. Nel _____________________________________________, quando ____________________________aveva __________________anni, Paolo ha portato la famiglia in America. C’era molto lavoro per Paolo, chi era _________________________________e ha aiutato a ____________________________________________________________________________________________________. Il padre di ___________________________ha fatto tanti soldi e la famiglia stava molto bene.

 

Peter also worked every day and learned his father’s trade. But Peter was not happy. He wrote me in many letters that New York was ugly. He missed his beautiful Sicily. He missed me! In Sicily, I missed Peter!

Anche _______________________lavorava ogni giorno e imparava il mestiere da suo padre. Ma, _________________________non era contento. Lui(Lei) mi ha scritto in tante lettere che _________________________era brutta. A lui(lei) mancava la sua bella Sicilia.

Anche, io gli(le) mancavoMentre in ________________________, mi mancava ____________________!

 

This continued for many years.

Continuava cosi per tanti anni.

 

Finally, Peter wrote a letter to my father and asked him to take me to America to get married (marry me).

Finalmente, _____________________ha scritto una lettera a __________________e
l’ha chiesto di portarmi in America per sposarmi.

 

At first, my father had said, “Absolutely not!”

Al inizio, ____________________________________________________________________________________________.

 

But I wanted to go to America and marry Peter. I loved Peter very much. Every day, I cried. I did not eat anything. My mother said to my father, “How sad Maria is! You must take her to America!”

Ma volevo andare in America e sposarmi con _______________________L’amavo tanto

Ogni giorno, ___________________________________________________________________________________.
Mia madre ha detto a mio padre, “Come triste è _____________________!

Devi portarla(lo) in America!”

 

And finally, he did it!

E finalmente, lui l’ho fatto!

 

Peter and I were married, and we had three children—two boys and one girl. We moved to a small town north of New York City, where there are mountains and it is very pretty.

_______________________ed io ci siamo sposati e abbiamo avuto _______________________figli____________________figli maschi e _______________figla femmina. Abbiamo traslocati a _______________________________________________, dove ci sono ____________________________________
ed è molto bello.

 

Today, I feel very fortunate and happy because I have my three great loves: my new country, my husband, and my family!

Oggi, mi sento molto fortunata e contena perché ho i miei tre grandi amori: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books, is a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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Speak Italian – A Story About… Love!