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Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Verbs

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog                          Everything you need to know
to talk over the phone about your Italian beach vacation… in Italian!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

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 what you did on your Italian beach vacation using the past tense correctly—over the phone?   

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 how to use the present and the past tense easily; in this segment, we will focus on the pronomial verb esserci and the past tense in Italian. We will discuss how to use the helping verbs avere and essere with the passato prossimo past tense, the trapassato past tense, the verb passare in the past tense, and the past progressive tense. At the end will be an introduction to the future tense as well!

If you need to refresh your memory on when to use the passato prossimo form of the past tense versus when to use the imperfetto, please visit the third blog post in this series, Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

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 or to practice verb conjugation! Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian in your next conversation!

Enjoy the fourth topic in this series, “Speak Italian: Italian Vacation Revisited by Phone”
—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: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

In the dialogue to follow,  we listen in on a conversation between an Italian mother and her daughter after the two have been separated for a few weeks. It turns out that the daughter has been enjoying a vacation on the beaches of Sicily. While reading their conversation, try  to pick out the past tense verbs and notice which helping verb—avere or essere—is used for each.

And… by the way, the southern coast of Sicily has beautiful beaches and really is a destination for windsurfing!

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited
by Phone

Una mattina, mentre Francesca stava preparando la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due hanno sentito lo squillo del cellulare.

One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.

 

Carlo ha detto, “Rispondo io” e si è diretto verso al soggiorno. Ha preso il cellulare dal tavolino e ha risposto.

Carl said, “I’ll get it (I’ll answer it),” and headed over to the living room. He took the cell phone from the end table and answered (it).

 

“Pronto,” ha detto lui. “Chi è? Chi parla?” E dopo: “Anna! Come stai? Ti passo mamma.”

“Hello,” he said. “Who is it? Who’s calling (lit. speaking)?” And after, “Anna! How are you? I’ll get (pass the phone to) mom for you.”

 

Era Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che era appena tornata dalla vacanza in Sicilia!

It was Anna, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!

 

Francesca aveva ricevuto qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non si erano parlate a telefono per tre settimane.

Frances had received some texts from Anna on the cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.

 

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Francesca ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato il cellulare. “Sono molto contenta di sentirti!”

“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

“Mamma! Sono solo tre settimane!” ha detto Anna a Francesca.

“Mom! (Up until now it) is only three weeks!”(English: has been only) said Anna to Frances.

 

“Lo so. Dimmi! Dove sei? Perché non sei tornata a casa? Sei ancora alla stazione? Passerò a prenderti prima del lavoro.”

“I know. Tell me! Where are you? Why haven’t you come home? Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

 

“Stai calma, mamma!” ha detto Anna. “Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”

“Calm down, mom!” Anna said. “We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

Anna ha continuato a parlare: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quattordici. Chi può venire a prendermi alla stazione, tu or Carlo?”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m.  Who can come to pick me up at the station, you or Carl?”

 

“Questo pomeriggio sarà in ufficio, ma Carlo può portarti a casa in macchina sua.”

“This afternoon I will be at the office, but Carl can take you home in his car.”

 

“Ci sarò,” ha detto Carlo, che ha sentito la conversazione. “Non preoccuparti!”

“I will be there,” said Carl, who had heard the conversation. “Don’t worry!”

 

“È papà?” ha chiesto Anna. “Non c’è?”

“And dad?” asked Anna. “Is he (not) there?”

 

“No. Non c’è a casa questa settimana. È dovuto andare a Milano.”

“No. He’s not at home this week. He had to go to Milan.”

 

“Dimmi un po’ della tua vacanza. C’era bel tempo? Era bella la spiaggia in Sicilia? E come era l’appartamento della famiglia di Giulia?”

“Tell me a little bit about your vacation. Was the weather nice? Was the beach nice in Sicily? And how was Julia’s family’s apartment?”

 

“C’era molto sole, naturalmente! Eravamo in Sicilia! La spiaggia era molto bella. Mi piace molto la zona di Ragusa, lo sai. Ti ho mandato molte foto via SMS. Non le hai ricevute?”

“It was very sunny, naturally! We were in Sicily! The beach was very beautiful. I love the area around Ragusa, you know. I texted a lot of photos to you. Didn’t you receive them?”

 

“Si, le ho ricivute. Ma che hai fatto per tutti quei giorni sulla spiaggia?”

“Yes, I received them. But what did you do for all those days on the beach?”

 

“Ho preso il sole. Mi sono rilassata molto. Ho nuotato con Giulia e qualche amica che abbiamo incontrato là.”

“I sunbathed. I relaxed a lot. I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.”

 

“Li conosco, questi amici?”

“Do I know these friends?”

 

“Ne conosci solamento uno. Ricordi Giovanni che ho incontrato all’università di Roma?”

“You know only one of them. Do you remember John whom I met at college in Rome?”

 

“No. Non me lo recordo affatto.”

“No. I really don’t remember him.”

 

“È un tipo corto ma magro… con i capelli neri. In ogni caso, l’ho incontrato per caso sulla spiaggia. C’erano tre ragazzi vicino a me. Ma Giovanni è passato davanti a me e l’ho riconosciuto.”

“He is the short type but thin… with black hair. In any case, I met him by chance on the beach. There were three guys near me. But John passed by in front of me and I recognized him.”

 

“L’ho riconosciuto subito, perché lui mi piaceva molto quando eravamo a scuola insieme.”

“I recognized him right away, because I really liked him when we were at school together.”

 

“Veramente? Non mi hai mai parlato di lui prima.”

“Really? You never talked to me about him before.”

 

“Allora, ci siamo passati i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto d’ora in poi.”  

“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 

“Va bene! Qual cos’altro è successo?”

“Very well!  What else happened?”

 

“Ho anche camminato molto sulla spiaggia e qualche volta ho corso un po’ sul lungomare dietro dell’appartamento. Una mattina sono corsa al porto di Ragusa per incontrari i miei amici.”

“I also walked a lot on the beach, and several times I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 

“Che hai fatto al porto?”

“What did you do at the port?”

 

“Vicino al porto c’è la spiaggia pubblica. Abbiamo fatto windsurf.”

“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

“Meraviglioso! Lo so che ti piace molto fare windsurf.”

“Great! I know that you really like windsurfing.”

 

“E uno dei nostri amici ha una barca. Alcune sere siamo restati in barca fino alle nove di sera e abbiamo visti il tramonto sul mare.”

“And one of our friends has a boat. Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m. and watched the sunset from the sea.”

 

“Molto bello!”

“Very nice!”

 

“Un altra sera io e Giulia siamo andate al ristorante a Scicli. Giovanni e un ragazzo che si chiama Paolo ci hanno portato lì. Il ristorante era sottoterra, in una grotta, con le candele accesse sulle tavole. Era molto romantico.”

“Another night Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli. John and a guy called Paul took us there. The restaurant was underground, in a grotto, with candles on the tables. It was very romantic.”

 

“Dopo siamo andati a ballare in un piccolo discoteca vicino. Abbiamo ballato fino alle due di mattina. È stato molto divertente!”

“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 

“Mi sembra di si!”

“It seems like it was!”

 

“C’è altro della storia di Giovanni e me. Ma ora ho appena finito un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa. Ci parliamo più tardi.”

“There’s more to the story about John and me. But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out. We’ll talk more later.”

 

“Va bene. Ma ci vediamo presto!”

“OK. But we will see each other soon!”

 

“Si, mamma! La storia dell’estate è finita ma un altra storia sta per comminciare!”

“Yes, Mom! The summertime story is over, but another story is about to begin!”

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know to Speak on the Phone…

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Use the Pronomial Verb Esserci

The verb esserci means “to be there,” or “to be around.” Notice that the adverb “ci,” which takes on the meaning of “there,” is an integral part of this verb.

Anyone who has been speaking Italian for even a short time has probably heard the expressions “c’è” for “there is” and “ci sono” for “there are.” These phrases are mentioned in Chapter 6 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers. Now we know the infinitive verb that the above expressions originate from!

There are many, many expressions that use esserci. Below is a list of the most common expressions. “Ci sarò” for “I will be there!” comes up often in conversation. “Sarò là,” or “Sara lì,” are two equivalent phrases that may be heard today that use the verb essere instead of esserci.

A common idiomatic expression that answers the question of personal well-being, “Come stai?” is “Non c’è male,” with the meaning, “Not so bad.”

Many negative expressions use esserci as well.

Finally, esserci is used in the many idiomatic expressions about the weather. A few common weather expressions are listed below.

 

c’è there is
C’è una cosa…
C’è una cosa…?
There is something…
Is there something?
Non c’è problema. There is no problem.
Non c’è dubbio. There’s no doubt.
Non c’è bisogno. There’s no need.
Non c’è più. There is no more.
Non c’è internet. The Internet doesn’t work. There’s no Internet there/here.
Non c’è WIFI. There is no WiFi.
Non c’è male. Not so bad.
Non c’è verso di… There’s no way to…/It’s not possible to…
Non c’è da farsi illusioni… It’s no wonder that…
   
ci sono there are
Ci sono tanti turisti a Firenze. There are many tourists in Florence.
Ce ne sono tanti./Ce ne sono un miliardo. There are many (of them)./There are a billion (of them). (Any number greater than 1 can be used.)
Non ci sono con la testa. I am not thinking straight; I am exhausted.
   
c’era there was
C’era una volta. Once upon a time.
Una volta c’era… In the past there was…/Once there was…
   
c’erano there were
C’erano tanti turisti a Firenze. There were many tourists in Florence.
Ce n’erano tanti. / Ce n’erano un miliardo. There were many (of them)./There were a billion (of them). (Any number greater than 1 can be used.)
   
Ci sarò. I will be there.
Chi c’è con te? Who is there with you?
Tu avresti dovuto esserci. You should have been there.
Lei/lui avrebbe dovuto esserci. He/she should have been there.
   
Deve esserci una… festa. There must be a… party there.
   
Pronto. Chi è? Chi parla? Hello? Who is it? (telephone greeting uses essere)
C’è al telefono la signora Massa. Mrs. Massa is on the phone.
Non c’è (lui)? He/she is not around./He’s not there/here.
Non c’è (nessuno)? Is anybody around?/Is anybody there?
(Nobody is around/there/here?)
Non ci sono per nessuno per la prossima ora. (lit.) I’m not here for anyone for the next hour. (idiomatic: pretend I’m not here; don’t bother me; leave me alone)
   
C’è il sole. There is sun./It is sunny.
C’è bel tempo./Fa bel tempo. There is nice weather./It is nice out.
C’è brutto tempo./Fa brutto tempo. It is bad weather./It is bad out.
C’era sole. There was sun./It was sunny.
C’era bel tempo./Faceva bel tempo. There was nice weather./It was nice out.
C’era brutto tempo./Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad weather./It was bad out.

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo 
Verbs That Take Essere

 

Here is a list of the most common action verbs that take essere when forming the passato prossimo form of the past tense in Italian. Most of these verbs describe the act of going from one place to another, although not all of them do. We will break them down into their respective groups in the next sections and then give examples from our dialogue.

The infinitive form is in the first column, and the corresponding past participle is listed in the third column; the irregular past participles are given in red. Remember that when essere is the helping verb, the endings of the past participles will change to reflect the gender and number of the subject. The various endings are given in parentheses.

It should be noted again that all reflexive verbs, and the verb piacere, take essere.

 

Infinitive                                                           Past Participle

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
correre# to run corso              (a)(i,e) ran
crescere to grow cresciuto         (a)(i,e) grown
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/put through passato           (a)(i,e) passed through; passed

put through

piacere to be pleasing to piaciuto          (a)(i,e) pleased
restare to remain restato            (a)(i,e) remained
rimanere to remain rimasto           (a)(i,e) remained
ritornare to return ritornato         (a)(i,e) returned
salire* to go up salito              (a)(i,e) went up
scendere* to do down sceso              (a)(i,e) went down
stare to stay/(to be) stato               (a)(i,e) stayed/been
succedere to happen successo         (a)(i,e) happened
uscire to go out uscito             (a)(i,e) went out
tornare to return tornato           (a)(i,e) returned
venire to come venuto            (a)(i,e) came

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Direction

ALWAYS Take Essere

Let’s break down the long list of action verbs that take essere into separate categories to make them easier to remember.

The most important rule governing these verbs is that they describe movement from one place to another specific place. The action has a beginning and a specific end point. Some obvious verbs in the category, like andare (to go) and venire (to come), are listed in the following table.

Restare and rimanere have been included in this list under the theory that one has come from one place and arrived at another place where he or she will “remain” for a bit.

 

Infinitive                                                                  Past Participle

andare to go andato            (a)(i,e) went
arrivare to arrive arrivato           (a)(i,e) arrived
cadere to fall caduto            (a)(i,e) fell
entrare to enter entrato           (a)(i,e) entered
partire to leave partito            (a)(i,e) left
restare to remain restato            (a)(i,e) remained
rimanere to remain rimasto           (a)(i,e) remained
ritornare to return ritornato         (a)(i,e) returned
uscire to go out uscito             (a)(i,e) went out
tornare to return tornato           (a)(i,e) returned
venire to come venuto            (a)(i,e) came

 

Un altra sera io e Giulia siamo andate al ristorante a Scicli.”
“Another night, Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli.”

“Perché non sei tornata a casa?”
“Why haven’t you come home?”

“Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”
“We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

“Alcune sere siamo restati in barca fino alle nove di sera e abbiamo visti il tramonto sul mare.”
“Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m., and we watched the sunset from the sea.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Being/Living

ALWAYS Take Essere

 

If we think of the verbs that describe “living” as taking us from birth to death; that is, from our beginning to our end point as human beings, it makes sense that essere is needed as the helping verb. Other commonly used verbs that describe how we all change in life, ingrassare, dimagrire, and invecchiare, have also been included.

As part of this way of thinking, we have included the verbs cambiare and diventare in this list as well. Because something or someone will change from one thing into another, there is a beginning and end point implied in these verbs as well. For a similar reason, accadere and succedere are included—the endpoint of a change is that something has happened. Below is a list of these verbs.

 

Infinitive                                                          Past Participle

accadere to happen accaduto        (a)(i,e) happened
cambiare to change cambiato        (a)(i.e) changed
crescere to grow cresciuto         (a)(i,e) grown
dimagrire to lose weight/to become or make one look thin dimagrito        (a)(i,e) lost weight/became or made one look thin
diventare to become diventato        (a)(i,e) became
ingrassare to gain weight/to become or make one look fat ingrassato       (a)(i,e) gained weight/became or made one look fat
invecchiare to age/get old/to become or appear older

to mature

invecchiato     (a)(i,e) to have aged

to have gotten old

to have become or appear older

to mature

morire to die morto             (a)(i,e) dead
nascere to be born nato                (a)(i,e) born
stare to stay/(to be) stato               (a)(i,e) stayed/been
succedere to happen successo         (a)(i,e) happened

 

“Che succede?”/“Che sta succedendo?”
What is happening?”

“Che cosa è successo?”/“Che è successo?”/“Cosa è successo?”
“What happened?”

“Cosa stava succedendo quando siete arrivate alla spiaggia.”
“What was happening when we arrived at the beach?”

“Cosa altro è successo?”
“What else happened?”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Non-Directional Action Verbs

ALWAYS Take Avere

 

Camminare and ballare are two verbs of movement that take the helping verb avere, rather than essere.

I’ve always thought this a bit curious, although one could say that dancing is movement without any set direction; spinning and turning are common, of course, and there is no set beginning or end to a dance, except in a performance.

Why does camminare take avere, and not essere? Maybe because it is sometimes used with the meaning of “to stroll,” which implies a leisurely walk without any set direction? Or maybe that is just the way it is, and there is no real explanation!

 

Infinitive                                                                    Past Participle

camminare to walk/to proceed/to function camminato walked/proceeded/functioned
ballare to dance ballato danced
passeggiare to stroll/to walk passseggiato strolled/walked
nuotare to swim nuotato swam
sciare to ski sciato skiied
pattinare (sul ghiaccio) to ice skate pattinato (sul ghiaccio) ice skated
pattinare (a rotelle) to roller skate pattinato (a rotelle) roller skated
fare windsurf to windsurf fatto windsurf windsurfed

 

“Ho nuotato con Giulia e qualche amica che abbiamo incontrato là.”
I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.

 

“Ho anche camminato molto sulla spiaggia…”
“I also walked a lot on the beach…”

 

“Vicino al porto c’è la spiaggia pubblica. Abbiamo fatto windsurf.”
“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

“Dopo siamo andati a ballare in una piccola discoteca vicino. Abbiamo ballato fino alle due di mattina.”
“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verb Correre

Takes Either Essere or Avere

 

Correre will take essere if one is running toward a destination. If one is running without a destination, correre will take avere.

“Lui è corso a casa sua.” for “He ran to his house.” vs. “Lui ha corso.” for “He ran.”

Infinitive                                   Past Participle

correre to run corso              (a)(i,e) ran

 

…e qualche volta ho corso un po’ sul lungomare dietro l’appartamento. Una mattina sono corsa al porto di Ragusa per incontrare i miei amici.”

…and several times, I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning, I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Starting/Finishing
Take Either Essere or Avere

 

The following two verbs, cominciare and iniziare, which both mean “to begin,” and finire, which means “to finish,” can use either essere or avere as their helping verb with the passato prossimo past tense.

Which helping verb to use? This will depend on the situation. In linguistic terms, these verbs are considered transitive and intransitive.* But who can remember this?

Use this trick to help you to remember whether to use avere or essere. When the subject is a person or group of people that has started or finished something, and the “something” is mentioned after the verb (as a direct object), use avere. Otherwise, use essere.

 

So, “Io ho finito il libro,” “Tu hai finito il libro,” and “Lei/lui ha finito il libro,” means I, you, he/she has finished the book. 

 But “Il film è finito” means “The film is finished.”

Notice that in the last example, the verb itself completes the sentence and refers back to the subject.* ++

 

 

Infinitive                                                                          Past Participle

cominciare to start cominciato     (a)(i,e) began
finire+ to finish finito               (a)(i,e) finished
iniziare+ to begin iniziato           (a)(i,e) began

 

“Ma ora ho appena finito un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa.”
”But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out.”

 

“La storia dell’estate è finita ma un altra storia sta per comminciare!”
“The summertime story is over, but another story is about to begin!”

 

*Finire is categorized as transitive in all of the examples except the last, and it is considered intransitive in the last example, but don’t worry about these terms!

  ++Not to complicate things too much but... One can say, “Io sono finito,” or “Lei è finita,” but unfortunately, the meaning will be that this person’s life has finished or something important in his or her life has “finished them” “for good.”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Going Up/Down
Take Either Essere or Avere

Some verbs of movement that involve going up or down, such as scendere, salire, or saltare, take avere when used with a direct object (a thing or place that follows the verb), as in the following examples:

“Io ho sceso le scale.”
“I went down the stairs.”/“I have gone down the stairs.”

“Io ho salito le scale.” 
“I went up the stairs.”/“I have gone up the stairs.”

“Oggi ho saltato il pranzo.”
“Today I skipped lunch.”/“Today I have skipped lunch.”

 

 Otherwise, if these verbs are followed by a preposition, they use essere:

Lui è sceso dall’autobus.
He has gotten off the bus.

Lui è salito sull’autobus.
He has gotten on the bus.

La ragazza è saltata in aria dalla gioa.
The girl jumped in the air for joy.

Notice that in the last examples, the verb itself completes the sentence and refers back to the subject.*

 

Infinitive                                                                  Past Participle    

salire* to go up salito  (a)(i,e) went up
saltare to jump
to hop, to skip, and to go out/off (electronics)
saltato  (a)(i,e) jumped, hopped, skipped, went out/off

(electronics)

scendere* to do down sceso  (a)(i,e) went down

 

*Scendere, salire, and saltare are categorized as transitive in the first list of examples, and they are categorized as intransitive in the second, but don’t worry about these terms!


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

The Many Uses for the Verb Passare

The verb passare means “to pass,” as in “to pass through,” “pass by,” “to pass time,” or “to spend time.” This simple verb is used in many ways in English and Italian!

lasciar passare (time) let (something) pass
  allow (something) to pass
lasciar passare (ignore) let (something) go by
passare alla storia to go down in history
   
passare una telephonata pass the telephone call over to someone
passare una serata insieme to spend a night together
passare un ordine… to send instructions (to somebody) to do (something)
passare la palla to pass the responsibility over (to someone) (lit. to pass the ball)
passare per la testa (something) comes to mind/to one’s mind/in one’s mind
   
passare a prendere (qualcuno) (pass by and) pick (someone) up
passare a far visita pass by to see (somebody)
  drop in to see (somebody)
passare a trovare (qualcuno) pass by to visit (somebody)
  pop in to see (somebody)
passare in ufficio to drop by the office
passare un attimo da casa to drop by one’s house for a bit
passare col rosso go through a red light

 

  1. Passare is used in the important everyday expression “passare a prendere,” which means “to pick up.” Venire is used with prendere as well, with a slightly different meaning.

Sei ancora alla stazione? Passerò a prenderti prima del lavoro.”
“Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

 

“Può venire alla stazione a prendermi?”
“Can you (polite) come to the station and get me?”

 

  1. We can “pass” something to someone else, such as the telephone or cell phone (il telefono, il cellulare, il telefonino) or the telephone call (la telefonata). If speaking Italian in the past tense, we must use avere as our helping verb.

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato il cellulare.
“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone.

 

  1. If we are doing something “to pass the time,” we must use avere as our past tense helping verb.

“Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”
“We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

  1. Time can “pass by” all by itself, so we must use essere as our past tense helping verb.

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato
il cellulare.
“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

  1. If a person “passes by/passes through,” we must use essere as our past tense helping verb.

Ma Giovanni è passato davanti a me e l’ho riconosciuto.”
“But John passed by in front of me, and I recognized him.”

 

  1. Finally, the reflexive verb passarsi is used to mean “to exchange” something between people and is interchangeable with scambiarsi. Both verbs take essere in the past tense, of course, because they are reflexive!

“Allora, ci siamo passati i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto d’ora in poi.”
“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Past Tense – Past Progressive Tense
Verbs That Take Stare

Occasionally, we may want to emphasize that a particular action is going on at the exact same time as the conversation that is taking place. In this case, we would use the present progressive tense, or “-ing” tense, as we do so often in English.

In Italian, this tense is expressed with the verb stare and the gerund of the action verb. This is easier than it may seem at first because the gerunds are almost all regular for all three conjugations. Also, the second and third conjugations are identical!

To form the gerund, just drop the –are, –ere, or –ire infinitive ending and add the following endings:

Forming the Gerund

Verbs that end in are stem + ando
Verbs that end in –ere or –ire stem + endo

 

Conjugate stare to reflect the speaker, add the gerund, and you have made the present progressive tense of the verb!

For the past tense progressive form, simply conjugate stare in the imperfetto past tense and follow with the gerund. Luckily, stare is regular in the imperfetto form!

Here are all the forms of the present progressive and past progressive tenses using the verb preparare. Notice that the accent falls on the second to last syllable of the gerund, which is underlined.

Stare preparare – to be preparing

 

io sto stavo preparando I am/was                                       preparing
tu stai stavi preparando you (familiar) are/were         preparing
Lei

lei/lui

sta stava preparando you (polite) are/were             preparing

she/he is/was                            preparing

         
noi stiamo stavamo preparando we are/were                              preparing
voi state stavate preparando you all are/were                      preparing
loro stanno stavano preparando they are/were                           preparing

 

“Una mattina, mentre Francescca stava preparando la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due hanno sentito lo squillo del cellulare.”

“One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Trapassato Prossimo

When talking about something in the past, we may at times refer to another event that has taken place even further in the past. In this case, the verb form used is the trapassato prossimo. So there is another Italian past tense to learn! But don’t despair! The use and verb structure is the same as for the passato prossimo!

Hint for use:  Whenever we say “had” in English, use the trapassato prossimo in Italian.

To form the compound verb for the trapassato prossimo, instead of using present tense avere or essere for the helping verb, simply substitute the imperfetto past tense form of these verbs. Then add the past participle. That’s all there is to it! Here are some examples from our dialogue:

 

“Era Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che era appena tornata dalla vacanza in Sicilia!”
“It was Ann, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!”

 

“Francesca aveva ricevuto qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non si erano parlate a telefono per tre settimane.”
“Frances had received some texts from Anna on the (her) cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Prepositions for Riding in/Getting in/Getting out of Vehicles

When one is riding in a train or another vehicle, the simple use of the preposition “in” will suffice for English and Italian. Travelers sometimes describe going or coming somewhere “by” train in English, but the preposition in Italian will not deviate from the usual “in.”

 

Anna ha continuato a parlare: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quatordici.”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m.

 

However, Italian prepositions will change for cars versus other forms of transportation when one describes the act of getting in the vehicle. The same prepositions will be used for getting out of any vehicle, however.

 

To follow are some examples. Notice how the prepositions su (on) and da (from/out of) are combined with the different forms of the (il, l’, or la). 

 

Salgo* in macchina. I get into the car.
Salgo su I get on/I board/I go aboard…

 

“Salgo… sullautobus, sul treno, sulla barca, sulla motocicletta, sulla bicicletta, sullaereo.”

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

 

Scendo dal I go down/I get down/I get off or out of…
Scendo dalla macchina. I get out of the car.

 

“Scendo… dallautobus, dal treno, dalla barca, dalla motocicletta, dalla bicicletta, dallaereo.”

“I get off… the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane.”

 

Some common familiar command forms used to address family or friends riding with you:

Sali in macchina! Get into the car! (fam. command)
Scendi dalla macchina! Get out of the car! (fam. command)

 

 


Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

How well do you know how to use the Italian passato prossimo and past tense? Do you remember when to use the imperfetto past tense? And the  verb esserci? Fill in the blanks for the verbs in the Italian sentences in the exercise below, then check your work with the dialogue in the first section. If you like, write a story about an Italian beach vacation of your own!

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited
by Phone

 

Una mattina, mentre Francescca ________________________ la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due ___________________ lo squillo del cellulare.

One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.

 

 

Carlo ________, “Rispondo io, “e ____________” verso al soggiorno.  _________________________ il cellulare dal tavolino e ___________________________.

Carl said, “I’ll get it (I’ll answer it),” and headed over to the living room. He took the cell phone from the end table and answered (it).

 

 

“Pronto,” ___________. “Chi è? Chi parla?” E dopo: “Anna! Come stai? _____________.”

“Hello,” he said. “Who is it? Who’s calling (lit. speaking)?” And after, “Anna! How are you? I’ll get (pass the phone to) mom for you.”

 

 

____Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che __________________ dalla vacanza in Sicilia!

It was Anna, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!

 

 

Francesca ______________ qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non __________________ a telefono per tre settimane.

Frances had received some texts from Anna on the cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.

 

 

“Quanto tempo ________________________________!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo _____________________ il cellulare. “Sono molto contenta di sentirti!”

“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

 

“Mamma! Sono solo tre settimane!” ___________________________ Anna a Francesca.

“Mom! (Up until now it) is only three weeks!”(English: has been only) said Anna to Frances.

 

 

“Lo so. Dimmi! Dove sei? Perché non ______________ a casa? Sei ancora alla stazione?  ______________________ prima del lavoro.”

“I know. Tell me! Where are you? Why haven’t you come home? Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

“Stai calma, mamma!” _____________________ Anna. “___________________ a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ________________________ la notte a casa di Giulia.”

“Calm down, mom!” Anna said. “We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

Anna _________________________________: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quattordici. Chi _________________________________________ alla stazione, tu or Carlo?”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m. Who can come to pick me up at the station, you or Carl?”

 

“Questo pomeriggio sarà in ufficio, ma Carlo ________________________________ a casa in macchina sua.”

“This afternoon I will be at the office, but Carl can take you home in his car.”

 

 

“________________,” ____________________ Carlo, che __________________ la conversazione. “Non preoccuparti!”

“I will be there,” said Carl, who had heard the conversation. “Don’t worry!”

 

“È papà?” _________________________ Anna. “Non _____________?”

“And dad?” asked Anna. “Is he (not) there?”

 

“No. Non ______________ a casa questa settimana. _________________________ a Milano.”

“No. He’s not at home this week. He had to go to Milan.”

 

 

“Dimmi un po’ della tua vacanza. _____________ bel tempo? _____________ bella la spiaggia in Sicilia? E come ______________ l’appartamento della famiglia di Giulia?”

“Tell me a little bit about your vacation. Was the weather nice? Was the beach nice in Sicily? And how was Julia’s family’s apartment?”

 

 

“______________ molto sole, naturalmente! _______________________ in Sicilia! La spiaggia _________________molto bella. Mi piace molto la zona di Ragusa, lo sai. _______________ molte foto via SMS. Non ____________________________?”

“It was very sunny, naturally! We were in Sicily! The beach was very beautiful. I love the area around Ragusa, you know. I texted a lot of photos to you. Didn’t you receive them?”

 

 

“Si, le ho ricivute. Ma che hai fatto per tutti quei giorni sulla spiaggia?”

“Yes, _____________________. But what ___________________ for all those days on the beach?”

 

 

“_________________________ il sole. _____________________________ molto. _________________ con Giulia e qualche amica che _________________________________ là.”

“I relaxed a lot. I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.”

 

 

“Li conosco, questi amici?”

“Do I know these friends?”

 

 

“Ne conosci solamento uno. Ricordi Giovanni che ________________________ all’università di Roma?”

“You know only one of them. Do you remember John whom I met at college in Rome?”

 

 

“No. Non me lo recordo affatto.”

“No. I really don’t remember him.”

 

 

“È un tipo corto ma magro… con i capelli neri. In ogni caso, ___________________________ per caso sulla spiaggia.  ________________________________ tre ragazzi vicino a me. Ma Giovanni _________________________ davanti a me e  _________________________________.”

“He is the short type but thin… with black hair. In any case, I met him by chance on the beach. There were three guys near me. But John passed by in front of me, and I recognized him.”

 

 

“_____________________________ subito, perché lui ___________________________ quando ______________________________ a scuola insieme.”

“I recognized him right away, because I really liked him when we were at school together.”

 

“Veramente? Non _________________________ di lui prima.”

“Really? You never talked to me about him before.”

 

 

“Allora, _________________________ i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto
d’ora in poi.” 

“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 

 

“Va bene! Qual cos’altro è successo?”
“Very well! What else happened?”

 

 

“_________________________________ molto sulla spiaggia e qualche volta ___________________ un po’ sul lungomare dietro dell’appartamento. Una mattina ___________________ al porto di Ragusa per incontrari i miei amici.”

“I also walked a lot on the beach, and several times I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning, I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 

 

“Che hai fatto al porto?”

“What did you do at the port?”

 

 

“Vicino al porto _____________________ la spiaggia pubblica.  _________________________ windsurf.”

“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

 

“Meraviglioso! Lo so che ti piace molto fare windsurf.”

“Great! I know that you really like windsurfing.”

 

 

“E uno dei nostri amici ha una barca. Alcune sere _____________________________ in barca fino alle nove di sera e ______________________________ il tramonto sul mare.”

“And one of our friends has a boat. Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m. and watched the sunset from the sea.”

 

 

“Molto bello!”

“Very nice!”

 

“Un altra sera io e Giulia ________________________________ al ristorante a Scicli. Giovanni e un ragazzo che si chiama Paolo __________________________ lì. Il ristorante ________________ sottoterra, in una grotta, con le candele accesse sulle tavole. ______________ molto romantico.”

“Another night, Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli. John and a guy called Paul took us there. The restaurant was underground, in a grotto, with candles on the tables. It was very romantic.”

 

 

“Dopo __________________________ in un piccolo discoteca vicino. _______________________ fino alle due di mattina. ____________________ molto divertente!”

“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 

“Mi sembra di si!”

“It seems like it was!”

 

 

“_______________________ altro della storia di Giovanni e me. Ma ora _____________________ un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa. Ci parliamo più tardi.”

“There’s more to the story about John and me. But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out. We’ll talk more later.”

 

 

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!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
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More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on these Stella Lucente Italian sites:
Facebook:
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 Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Speak Italian: All About… Me!

Speak Italian: All About… Me!

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog                          Speak Italian: Everything you need to know to introduce yourself… in Italian!

 

Speak Italian: All About… Me!

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 introduce yourself and talk about yourself in Italian? Can you speak Italian the way you would speak in your native language, with complex and varied sentences? This is more difficult that it may seem at first, and it’s something that I am always working on!

This series will focus on the situations that come 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 the grammar of complex sentences, prepositions, topic-related grammar, and present and past tense verbs!

Speak Italian: All About… Me!

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 first topic in this series, “Speak Italian: All About…Me!”
—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 instructor Simona Giuggioli.


Speak Italian: All About… Me!

Here is a short description of my origins, family, and work. Note some names/places have been changed to protect privacy. The essay is meant to be an example piece for others, rather than a complete biography.

While reading my history, think about yourself and what you would like other people to know about you. 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: All About… Me!

Mi chiamo Caterina Occhipinti.

Io sono italo-americana.

Sono (una) madre e (una) scrittrice.

  1. Dove sono nata e ho vissuto.*
    Where was born and have lived:

La mia famiglia viene dall’Italia.
My family is from (lit. comes from) Italy.

Vengo dalgli Stati Uniti. Abito in America.  Sono di Brooklyn.
I am from the United States.  I live in America.  I am from Brooklyn.

Sono nata a Brooklyn, a Long Island, vicino a New York City. Ora, vivo a Chicago.
I was born in Brooklyn, on Long Island, near to New York City.  Now, I live in Chicago.

Ho anche vissuto* a Boston, in California, e in Florida.
I have also lived in Boston, in California, and in Florida.

*In the past, “ho vissuto” was commonly used in Italy and can still be heard today to describe where one has lived.  It is now felt by some Italian linguists that the helping verb essere should be used to express this idea – that is that “sono vissuto(a)” is more correct.  However, please  keep in mind that language is a “living thing” and often the line between right and wrong depends mostly on what people actually say every day.  Even among linguists which form to use is controversial!

 

  1. La mia educazione:
    My education:

Mi sono trasferita da New York a Boston per l’università.
I moved from New York to Boston for college.

Ero una studentessa all’Università di Boston.
I was a student at Boston University.

Ho frequentato l’Università di Boston per un programma speciale per gli studenti di medicina.
I went to Boston University for a special program for medical students.

Ho ricevuto una laurea in “medical science” ed inglese dall’Università di Boston.
I received a degree in “medical science” and in English from Boston University.

Ho frequentato la scuola di medicina all’Univeristà di Boston per due anni ed anche a Mount Sinai a New York.
I went to medical school at Boston University for two years and also at Mount Sinai in New York.

Ho ricevuto una laurea in medicina dal Mount Sinai a New York nel 1987.
I received a degree in medicine from Mount Sinai in New York in 1987.

 

  1. I miei figli:
    My children:

Sono la madre di due figli, Maria e Giovanni.
I am the mother of two children, Mary and John.

Maria ha diciannove anni e Giovanni ha quattordici anni.
Mary is 19 years old and John is 14 years old.

Maria studia affari all’università di Urbana in Illinois e Giovanni studia alla scuola superiore a Peoria in Illinois.
Mary studies business at the University of Urbana in Illinois and John studies at middle school in Peoria in Illinois.

 

  1. Il mio lavoro—instruttrice e scrittrice:
    My work – instructor and writer

Sono un’istruttrice d’italiano.
I am an Italian language instructor.

Ero l’insegnante d’italiano per l’Italian-American Society of Peoria (la Società Italo-Americana di Peoria). Ed ora insegno anche l’italiano nella zona di Chicago.
I was the Italian teacher for the Italian-American Society of Peoria.  And now I also teach Italian in the Chicago area.

Insegno l’italiano agli americani che vogliono viaggiare in Italia. Offro lezioni di gruppo e lezioni private.
I teach the Italian language to Americans that want to travel to Italy.  I offer group lessons and private lessons.

Ho scritto un libro che si chiama Conversational Italian for Travelers. Questo libro è un libro di testo e ha quattrocentosessantasei pagine!
I have written a book called Conversational Italian for Travelers. This book is a textbook and has 466 pages!

Ho anche scritto un libro di esercizi, intitolato Audio Dialogue Practice Book. Gli esercizi sono per gli studenti principanti (Vol. 1) ed anche per gli studenti intermedi.
I have also written a book of exercises entitled  Audio Dialogue Practice Book. The exercises are for beginning students (Vol. 1) and also for intermediate students (Volume 2).

Gli studenti principanti dovrebbero usare Vol. 1 e gli studenti intermedi dovrebbero usare Vol. 2 dell’Audio Dialogue Practice Book.
The beginning students should use Vol. 1 and the intermediate students should use Vol.2 of the ’Audio Dialogue Practice Books.

Dal mio libro di testo, ho scritto tre brevi libri, si chiamano Just the Grammar, Just the Verbs, e Just the Important Phrases.
From my textbook, I have written three short books called Just the Grammar, Just the Verbs, e Just the Important Phrases.

 

  1. Il mio lavoro—medico:
    My work – physician:

Sono (un) medico. Sono (una) radiologa.
I am a physician.  I am a radiologist.

Mi occupo di medicina.  Mi occupo di radiologia.
My work is medicine.  My work is radiology.

Faccio medicina.  Faccio radiologia.
I practice medicine.  I practice radiology.

Inoltre io leggo/interpreto gli esami di MRI (risonanza magnetica) per una società che si trova in California. La società in California mi manda gli esami di MRI da interpretare via computer.
Furthermore, I read/interpret MRI exams for a company from California.  The company in California sends me the MRI exams for interpretation on my computer.

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know…

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Complex Sentences with “and” and “at” in Italian

(1) The English word “and” is the letter “e” in Italian.

When speaking in Italian, and linking one phrase to another using e, if the first word of the second phrase begins with the letter e as well, add the letter d to the Italian “and” to make “ed.”

(2) This rule is also used for the Italian word “a,” which means “to.”

If the word that follows the Italian a also begins with the letter a, add the letter d to the Italian word for “to” make “ad.”

(3) It is optional to use this rule if the Italian words e or a come before Italian words that begin with other vowels (i.e., vowels that are not identical to the Italian words for “and” or “to”).

That said, the letter d is commonly added to e or a before words that begin with any vowel in the next phrase.


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Grammar Rules for Anche, Sempre, and Inoltre

  1. Use of anche (also) and sempre (always):

(1) Present tense: anche and sempre follow the verb.

(2) Past tense imperfetto: anche and sempre follow the imperfetto verb.

 

(3) Past tense passato prossimo: anche and sempre can follow the compound verb of the passato prossimo. 

Example: Ho detto anche che la ragazza era bella.

(4) Option with the passato prossimo or any other compound verb tense:

anche and sempre can go between avere/essere and the past participle.

Example: Ho anche detto che la ragazza era bella.

 

(5) Anche and sempre belong before a person’s name if you are starting a sentence with their name or a pronoun (she = lei, he = lui).

Example: Anche Franco viene al cinema stasera.

 

  1. Use of inoltre (also, furthermore, moreover):

When starting a sentence, begin with inoltre for emphasis.


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Grammar Rules for the Prepositions a (to) and in (in) Regarding Cities, Regions/States, Islands, and Countries

When Americans travel, we travel to a place: to Italy, to Rome, to the northeast. Italians travel directly in (in) a country, region, or large island, but to (a) a city, town, or small island. (In Italian, the word for in is the same as in English… in!) For instance, one may live in America, but a Chicago. By convention, the definite article (the) (il, la, gli, or l’) is used to refer to countries, except when talking about traveling directly into them!

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe where You Are from

There are two ways to ask/tell where someone is from in Italian:

 

di + dove + essere from + where + to be   Da + dove + venire from + where + to come

 

In Italian, when the verb to be (essere) is used, the idea of from is expressed with di, as in, “From where are you?” In proper English, of course, we would say, “Where are you from?” The answer in Italian will also use di and will usually be followed by the town of one’s birth. Notice that the subject pronoun io (I) is usually left out of the answer, as it is understood from the ending of the verb.

 

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

 

The action verb venire is usually used in conversation when someone is visiting or has moved to a new place. When replying to a question that uses this phrase, use the io form of venire, which is vengo and da for from, followed by a city, town, region/state, or country. Also, remember that when speaking of a region, state, or country, the definite article (il, lo, la, l’, gli) must be used. The preposition da is then combined with the definite article to make dal, dallo, dall’, dalla, or dagli, which means “from the.” For now, don’t worry about these rules. Just look up and remember the correct way to say where you are living in case you are asked!

 

Da dove viene?/Da dove vieni? Where do you come from? (pol.)/(fam.)
Vengo dall’America. (I) come from America./I am from America.
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 da Chicago. (I) come from Chicago.


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Your Nationality

To explain where we are from, we must use adjectives that identify our country of origin. For men, adjectives of nationality end in –o and change to an –i in the plural, and for women, these same adjectives end in –a and change to –e in the plural. So, a man from Italy is italiano, but a woman is italiana.

Adjectives of nationality that have only one form for both men and women usually end in –ese.

What to do if the adjective describing nationality ends in an –e? Well, use the same –e ending for both men and women, and for the plural, change the letter –e to an –i. 

Adjectives of nationality always follow the noun and are not capitalized. Or you can just state your nationality directly after the verb sono to make the sentence “I am…”

 

Da dove viene?/Da dove vieni? Where do you come from? (pol.)/(fam.)
Vengo dall’America. (I) come from America./I am from America.
Vengo dagli Stati Uniti. (I) come from the United States.
Sono americano(a). (I) am American.


 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to State Your Age in Italian

Perhaps the most commonly asked question of someone is how old they are. In English, we say, “How old are you?” using the verb to be, as a statement of fact. But Italians look at this question as the number of years accumulated during a lifetime (and maybe the wisdom accumulated during these years?), so they use the verb to have, avere. The question in Italian is, “Quanti anni hai?” or literally, “How many years do you have?” This is not really an idiomatic expression, but just another way of looking at things.

 

Quanti anni hai? How old are you? (lit. How many years do you have?)

After this question is asked of you, the response will also use the verb avere, and you will respond:

 

Io ho        anni. I have        years.

There are a couple of rules that are necessary to make conversation flow more easily in Italian:

 

  1. The tens (20, 30, 40, etc.) drop their last vowel before the word anni. In this case, the expression would be:

 

Io ho vent’anni. I have 20 years.
Io ho trent’anni. I have 30 years.
Io ho quarant’anni. I have 40 years.

 

  1. All numbers that end in uno (21, 31, 41, etc.) drop the final –o before a noun that starts with a vowel. So, if you are 21, 31, or 41 years old, your reply would be as follows:

 

Io ho ventun’anni. I have 21 years.
Io ho trentun’anni. I have 31 years.
Io ho quarantun’anni. I have 41 years.

 

No need to remember all these rules—just look up and commit to memory your age and the ages of your immediate family members for now!


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Present Tense Verbs

Endings for Regular –are, –ere, –ire, and –ire (isco)* Verbs

Drop the –are, -ere, and -ire endings from the Italian infinitive verb and add the endings below for the present tense.  Reflexive verbs drop their –arsi, ersi, and -irsi endings and then are conjugated in the same way. Always add the corresponding reflexive pronoun before each conjugated form of a reflexive verb.

Infinitive
Present
Reflexive

Pronouns

–are –ere –ire ire (isco)

*capire

*finire

*preferire

io mi o o o isco
tu ti i i i isci
Lei/lei/lui si a e e isce
           
noi ci iamo iamo iamo iamo
voi vi ate ete ite ite
loro si ano ono ono iscono

 *Common –ire (isco) verbs are listed—there are many others!

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Present Tense Verbs

Conjugated Forms of Auxiliary Verbs Essere and Avere

Auxiliary

Verbs

Essere

(to be)

Avere

(to have)

io sono I am ho I have
tu sei you (fam.) are hai you (fam.) have
Lei/lei/lui è you (pol.) are

he is/she is

ha you (pol.) have

he has/she has

     
noi siamo we are abbiamo we have
voi siete you all are avete you all have
loro sono they are hanno they have



 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Past Tense: Passato Prossimo

Auxiliary

Verbs

Essere

(to be)

Essere

Passato Prossimo

Avere

(to have)

Avere

Passato

Prossimo

io sono +stato(a) ho +avuto
tu sei +stato(a) hai +avuto
Lei/lei/lui è +stato(a) ha +avuto
         
noi siamo +stati(e) abbiamo +avuto
voi siete +stati(e) avete +avuto
loro sono +stati(e) hanno +avuto

 

Past Tense

Passato Prossimo

Avere

(to have)

–are

past participle

–ere

past

participle

–ire

past

participle

io ho +ato +uto +ito
tu hai +ato +uto +ito
Lei/lei/lui ha +ato +uto +ito
         
noi abbiamo +ato +uto +ito
voi avete +ato +uto +ito
loro hanno +ato +uto +ito

 

Past Tense

Passato Prossimo

Essere

(to be)

–are

past participle

–ere

past

participle

–ire

past

participle

io sono +ato(a) +uto(a) +ito(a)
tu sei +ato(a) +uto(a) +ito(a)
Lei/lei/lui è +ato(a) +uto(a) +ito(a)
         
noi siamo +ati(e) +uti(e) +iti(e)
voi siete +ati(e) +uti(e) +iti(e)
loro sono +ati(e) +uti(e) +iti(e)

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Past Tense: Imperfetto

Drop the –re ending from the Italian infinitive verb and add the endings below for the imperfetto past tense.  Reflexive verbs drop their –rsi, ending and then are conjugated in the same way. Remember to always add the corresponding reflexive pronoun before each conjugated form of a reflexive verb.

Verb

Endings

Past Tense

Imperfetto

io vo
tu vi
Lei/lei/lui va
   
noi vamo
voi vate
loro vano

 

The auxiliary verb avere is regular but essere is irregular in the imperfetto past tense.

Auxiliary Verb

Avere

Past Tense

Imperfetto

(used to have)

io avevo
tu avevi
Lei/lei/lui aveva
   
noi avevamo
voi avevate
loro avevano

 

Auxiliary Verb

Essere

Past Tense

Imperfetto

(used to be)

io ero
tu eri
Lei/lei/lui era
   
noi eravamo
voi eravate
loro erano

 

 


 

Speak Italian: All About… YOU!

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

   Mi chiamo (name) ________________________________.

 Io sono (nationality) _______________________________.

Sono (parent/occupation) __________________________.

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

  1. Dove sono nato(a) e ho vissuto:

La mia famiglia viene da (country of origin with definite article l, ll’, or lla)

_____________________________________________________.

Sono di (town/city of birth) _____________________________________________________.

Vengo da (country of birth with definite article l, ll’, or lla ) _____________________________________________________.

Abito in (country where you live) _____________________________________.

Sono nato(a) a (town/city of birth) ________________________________________________________________.

vicino a (nearest large city) _________________________________________.

Ora, vivo a (city currently living in)____________________________________.

Ho anche vissuto/Sono anche vissuto(a)** a (other town/city you have lived in)_____________________________________________.
in (other state/region you have lived in)_____________________________________________.

**Choose the past tense form you feel most comfortable with, as which form to use is controversial, as mentioned in the first section of this blog.

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

  1. Il mio/La mia educazione:

Ho ricevuto un diploma dalla scuola superiore (name of high school) ________________________________________________________________.

Ho ricevuto la mia certificazione di (name of trade) _______________________________________________.

Mi sono trasferito(a) da (town/city) _____________________ a (town/city) _____________________________
per (college/university/work, marriage, etc.) ____________________________________________________________.

Ero uno studente/una studentessa all’Università di (town/city) _______________________________________________________.

Ho frequentato l’Università di (town/city) ________________________________________________________________

per (major)_______________________________________________________.

Ho ricevuto una laurea in (university degree) ________________________________________________________________

dall’Università di (name of university/town/city)________________________
nel (year)_____________________________.

Ho frequentato la scuola di (higher education/professional school)__________________________________________________________
al (university name)________________________________________________
per (number of years attended)____________________ anni
ed anche a (any other school attended) _______________________________________________________________.

Ho ricevuto una laurea in (profession)_______________________________
dal (professional school)___________________________________________
nel (year)_______________________________.

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

  1. I miei figli:

Sono la madre/il padre di (number of children)________ figli: (names of children):________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

(Name of child)_______________________ ha (age of child) _____anni/mesi
(un anno/ un mese)

e (names and ages of additional children) _________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________.

(Name of child in college) __________________ studia (college major) _______________________________________.

all’università di (name of college)____________________________________
in (U.S. state/region) ______________________.

e (name of child in high school) _______________________________________
studia alla scuola superiore

a (city)__________________________________
in (U.S. state/region)________________________________________________.

(Name of child in grammar school) ____________________ studia alla scuola elementare.

 ******************************

  1. Il mio lavoro

Sono (job description/profession)*_____________________________________.

*Remember that the indefinite article (un, uno, una, un’) is optional when describing a profession/what it is that you do!

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

  1. Tell a little bit about what you have done and what you do in Italian!____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and 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: All About… Me!