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Ferragosto at Lago Maggiore Lungomare

Ferragosto – Italian Holiday Time in August

Ferragosto – Italian Holiday Time in August

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog  Follow Caterina during Ferragosto -the major holiday that takes place in Italy during  August -in the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books!

The Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook begins each chapter with a dialogue from a story about the character Caterina, an American girl who travels to Italy to visit her relatives. As the story continues from one chapter to the next, we learn Italian, and about Italy, in an engaging way through Caterina’s experiences.

Ferragosto – Italian Holiday Time in August 

Ferragosto – just what is this ancient holiday that still becomes the focus of every Italian during August? While Italy is known as a destination for world travelers seeking to enjoy the Italian landscape, art and food, it is less well-known how Italians enjoy their summertime vacation.

In our story, Caterina, an Italian-American girl,  is a guest in Milan at the house of her Italian cousin Pietro and his wife Francesca.  She arrives in Italy just before the start of the important Italian summer holiday called “Ferragosto”.  The holiday is officially one day – August 15 – and is a holiday celebrated by the Catholic church.  But, most Italians take off at least a week and often two or even three weeks, as people in the cities and even smaller towns escape from the to summer heat to the mountains or beach to enjoy time with their families.

If you want to feel like an insider during the Ferragosto holiday this year, first click on the link from Conversational Italian for Travelers  – Chapter 14 – “On the Beach at Last.”  Listen to the free audio of a the conversation between Caterina and a new friend who meet on the beach during her family’s Ferragosto holiday.

This free audio to learn Italian is provided by www.LearnTravelItalian.com.  The grammar and verb conjugations necessary to understand this dialogue are provided by the same Chapter 14 in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books, Just the Grammar and Just the Verbs.

Then, read the Cultural Note below, adapted from the  same textbook also found on Amazon.com, “Conversational Italian for Travelers,”  which describes the history of Ferragosto – how the holiday came to be during Roman times and the different celebrations that take place  around Italy today.
—Kathryn Occhipinti


 

Ferragosto
Italian Holiday Time in August 

 

Ferragosto in Venice Italy, Lido Beach
Sunbathers in the early morning on Lido Island, Venice during Ferragosto

What is the perfect Ferragosto holiday?  Ask any Italian this question, and the answer will no doubt involve fond memories of past holiday traditions of family and food, and, often a passionate description of their usual family get-away to the sea or mountains.  Ferragosto is known as a holiday for fun and relaxation for the entire family.  As one of the oldest and well-loved holidays in Italy, most Italians have high expectations of the fulfillment that comes with their Ferragosto celebration.

The official beginning of the holiday is August 15, which the Catholic church has adopted as its own with the Feast of the Assumption (a celebration of Mother Mary’s ascension into heaven to join her son, Jesus).

This church tradition is thought to have been started in 580 A.D., by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice, but the holiday traditions practiced today actually date back to the Roman festival of Consuali, which itself is said to have been begun by Romulus, the founder of Rome.  During Consuali, all Roman workers and animals were granted days of rest prior to the hard working days of the fall harvest.

During the Roman empire, in 18 BC, Emperor Augustus expanded the tradition by making ferie Augusti (Augustus’ holidays) special days set aside to pay tribute to the Roman gods, and extended the holiday to involve the entire month of August.  The holiday was considered a special time for all of Roman society, and during these days all classes of Romans were able to mingle and celebrate together.

Over the centuries, many towns have adopted special traditions for this time period, such as the famous horse race, or Palio, in Siena, which takes place on August 16th, and ancient ceremonies of renewal, which involve bonfires or bathing.

The tradition of going in montagne or al mare (to the mountains or to the sea) probably began with this idea of spiritual and physical renewal.  Mussolini made Ferragosto a national holiday, and brought the idea of vacationing for most of the month of August into the 20th century.

Companies today still close in Italy for several days surrounding the official start of the holiday on August 15th, and most Italians will close shop and take at least a week off in August if they are able.  It is customary to pack a picnic lunch with foods that are cool and refreshing during the hot month of August, such as watermelon (cocomero) or other fresh fruit, cold beverages, fresh vegetables and cold pasta or rice dishes.

—Adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers, “Cultural Note – Ferragosto”  by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn 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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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

Ferragosto – Italian Holiday Time in August

Textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers

Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               The Italian subjunctive mood can be used to make Italian hypothetical phrases and talk about love!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

Can you speak Italian? By now, many of you have passed the beginning stages of learning 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? Have you ever wondered about if something were to happen and just how you would express this idea in Italian? 

Well, we can express hypothetical, or “if” ideas, called Italian hypothetical phrases, in several ways in Italian and often with the Italian subjunctive mood that we have been focusing on in this series! 

This is the fourth blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.” This blog and the one to follow (in November 2017) will complete our list of uses for the Italian subjunctive mood. For a complete list, see our last blog, Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian! in this segment, we will discuss how to form Italian hypothetical phrases for probable and improbable “if” situations in Italian in the present. We will also learn how to use the verb chiedersi, which means “to wonder.”

We will learn how to conjugate the Italian imperfetto subjunctive and how to use the Italian conditional tense to construct our improbable Italian hypothetical phrases.  

An example email between two friends talking about hypothetical situations of love will start our discussion! You may remember the characters and the story in the email from our recent Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice blog posts.

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

In the first three blog posts in the “Speak Italian” series about the subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”), we have presented Italian phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood in the present and past tenses.  For a review, see our last blog, Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

In this blog post, we will focus on how to construct Italian hypothetical phrases, as well as the different Italian verb forms needed for probable and improbable situations.

Read our “real-life” dialogue for examples that can be used as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian. Then next time you are wondering about something, start a conversation and use Italian hypothetical phrases!

Enjoy the fourth blog post in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love”! —Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of 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 Maria Vanessa Colapinto.


Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

All phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood have been underlined in this sample email. Try to pick out the Italian hypothetical phrases and then read about how to make your own Italian hypothetical phrases in the next section.

The characters Caterina and Susanna  in our dialogue are cousins who grew up together in Abruzzo and now stay in touch with each other and discuss family happenings through email. Notice the many Italian idiomatic expressions that relate to dating and love, some of which are explained after each section.

Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Una breve email tra due cugine
A brief email between two cousins

Cara Susanna,
Dear Susan,

 

È stato bellissimo vedere te e i tuoi figli quest’estate in Abruzzo. E poi, lo shopping a Roma è stato fantastico!
It was wonderful to see you and your children this summer in Abruzzo. And afterward, the shopping in Rome was fantastic!

 

Se io non fossi occupata all’università, verrei a trovarvi di nuovo a Roma!
If I weren’t so busy at college, I would come to visit you all again in Rome!

 

Forse quando la sessione di gennaio è finita, posso fare un viaggio.
Maybe when the exam session in January is over, I can take a trip.

 

Fammi sapere se tu sei libera per un weekend presto!
Let me know if you are free for a weekend soon!

 

Ma oggi sto scrivendo perché ho una buona notizia.
But today I am writing because I have good news.

 

La nostra cugina Anna ha incontrato  un ragazzo molto simpatico quando è stata in Sicilia l’estate scorsa.
Our cousin Ann met a very nice boy when she was in Sicily last summer.

 

Lui si chiama Giovanni.
His name is John.

 

Anna mi ha mandato una foto. Mamma mia, è un figo da paura!*
Ann texted a photo to me. Wow, he is amazing!

 

Stanno insieme da un mese e frequentano la stessa università.
They have been (Italian: are [still]) together for a month and go to the same college.**

 

Secondo Anna, vanno molto d’accordo e sono gia una coppia.
According to Ann, they get along very well and are already a couple.

 

Se il tempo è bello, andranno al mare per il weekend a casa del papà di Giovanni.
If the weather is nice, they will go to the sea for the weekend to Giovanni’s father’s house.

 

A tutti e due piace molto la spiaggia e fare windsurf.
They both really like the beach and to go windsurfing.

 

Se Anna vuole andare al ristorante o al cinema, lui la porta.
If Ann wants to go to a restaurant or to the movies, he takes her.

 

Se lei vuole restare a casa, loro restano a casa insieme.
If she wants to stay at home, they stay at home together.

 

Mi sembra che siano innamorati.
It seems (to me) like they are in love.

 

Se Anna e il suo ex-fidanzato Paolo si fossero riconciliatilei non sarebbe felice ora.
If Ann and her ex-boyfriend Paul had gotten back togethershe would not be happy now.

 

Tu ricordi bene, sono sicura, come lui l’ha tradita, come le ha spazzato il cuore, e comunque erano gia agli sgoccioli da mesi prima.***
You remember well, I am sure, how he betrayed her, how he broke her heart, and anyway, they were already at the end of their relationship for months before.

 

Finalmente Anna si è resa conto che lui non era quello giusto per lei.
Finally, Anna realized that he was not right for her.

 

L’ha lasciato e ora quella storia (d’amore)**** è finita e un nuovo amore è cominciato per lei.
She left him and now that (love) story is over, and a new one (Italian: a new love) has begun for her.

 

Sono molto contenta per Anna!
I am very happy for Ann!

 

Forse tra un anno si sposano!
Maybe in a year, they (will) get married!

 

Scrivimi quando hai tempo!
Write me when you have time!

 

Tanti baci.
Lots of kisses.

Caterina.

*“Un figo da paura” refers to a young man who is handsome and sexy.  Used alone, “Figo!” means “cool.”

And yes, “Mamma mia!” is still in use in Italy today. Variations include “Madre santa!” or simply “Maria!”

**In this case, Italian uses the present tense for an ongoing action, whereas English uses the past tense.

***The phrase “essere agli sgoccioli” literally means “to be at the last drops” and refers to when the last of the wine in the bottle is left and drips out. This phrase is used to suggest that the relationship is dying out and the couple is only seeing each other infrequently.

**** A romantic relationship between two people is usually described as “una storia,” the shortened form of una storia d’amore,” or “a love story.”

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

Cara Caterina,
Dear Kathy,

 

Anch’io sono molto contenta per nostra cugina Anna!
I am also very happy for our cousin Ann!

 

Lei è molto bella e penso che anche Giovanni sia un bel ragazzo come dicevi.
She is very pretty, and I think he is also good looking from what (Italian: as) you have told me.

 

Lui sembra molto simpatico e mi sembra che lui la tratti molto bene.
He seems very nice, and it seems to me that he treats her very well.

 

Mi sembra che a loro piaccia molto frequentarsi.*
It seems (to me) that they like seeing each other very much.

 

Mi pare che non sia solo una cotta ma si piacciano da vero.
It seems to me that it is not only a crush but they really like each other.

 

Ma si stanno frequentando solamente da un mese!
But they have been seeing each other (English: dating) (for) only one month!**

 

Loro sono molto giovani, come te.
They are very young, like you.

 

Non si sa mai che cosa può succedere!  
(Italian: One never knows) You never know what could happen!

 

Nè uno nè l’altro lavorano. Non hanno vissuto con un’altra persona. Non hanno soldi…
Neither one of them works. They have never lived with another person. They don’t have money…

Spero che loro aspettino almeno un anno prima di cominciare a parlare di matrimonio.
I hope that they wait at least a year before starting to talk about marriage!

 

Sarei molto contenta se tu venissi a trovarmi a febbraio.
I would be very happy if you were to come to see me in February.

 

A presto!
See you soon!

Susanna

*See the next section for comments about frequentarsi
**In this case, Italian uses the present tense for an ongoing action, whereas English uses the past tense.

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

Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Talking about Relationships in Italian

Today in America, we “date,” “go out on a date,” or refer to two people who are “dating,” from the first romantic encounter until they become married. After they are married, they can still have “date nights.” But be careful when translating American romantic experiences into Italian! The English verb “to date” as used in America today to refer to a romantic relationship does not have a literal translation in Italian.

Of course, to “court” a woman was common in past centuries, and Italian language still reflects this. When a man tries to show he is interested in a woman, the phrase “fare la corte a…” is used from the verb corteggiare or “to court.”

If a woman wants to refer to dating a man, the following phrases can be used:

“Mi vedo un ragazzo.” “I’m seeing a boy.”
 “Esco con un ragazzo.” “I’m going out with a boy.”
“Il ragazzo con cui ho/avevo appuntamento.” “The boy with whom I have/had an appointment.”

There is another verb still in use in Italy today that refers to a man seducing, or “winning over,” a woman: “conquistare a… ” If a woman lets herself be “won over” or “captivated” by a man, she can use the phrase  “Mi lascio conquestare a…”

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

If one friend wants to ask the other about his/her new love, they may say,
“Che tipo è lei?” or “Che tipo è lui?” meaning, “What is he/she like?” or, more simply, “Che tipo è?”

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

There are two Italian phrases commonly used to refer to two people who have become romantically involved and are getting together regularly before marriage: “to go out with someone”—“uscire con qualcuno”—or “seeing each other”—“frequentarsi.”

To express a  relationship between two people in Italian, and especially a  close or romantic relationship, we can use the word “rapporto.”

Any relationship in general is considered a “relazione.” But be careful, as an “affair” outside of marriage is also a “relazione,” whereas “affari” refers to more general personal and business “affairs.”

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Finally, we know that many times romantic love comes to an end.  How do we describe a “break up” in Italian?  The verbs lasciare (to leave) and  lasciarsi (to leave each other) come into play.  From our dialogue:

L’ha lasciato e ora quella storia (d’amore) è finita e un nuovo amore è cominciato per lei.
She left him and now that (love) story is over, and a new one (Italian: a new love) has begun for her.

Below is an example sentence two people might use talk about a couple that has “broken up” or two people who have”left each other”

Loro si sono lasciati.    They have broken up.

If you are one of the two people in the relationship and want to talk about “breaking up”:
Ci lasciamo stasera.                          We (will) break up/are breaking up tonight.
Non ci lasciamo, ma…                     We are not breaking up but…
Ci sono lasciati il mese scorso.    We broke up last month.                     

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know for Italian Hypothetical Phrases

 

How to Make  Italian Hypothetical Phrases
“If” Phrases Refer to the Present:

Periodo Ipotetico con “Se” in Presente

 

To express complex thoughts and feelings, human beings have developed “hypothetical phrases”—phrases that enable us to think or wonder about situations that could occur. For instance, how many times have you said, “If I had…” or  “If I were…”?

When we want to express the idea that something may happen in English, we most often start with a phrase that begins with the conjunction “if.”

The conjunction “if” starts a dependent clause in which we will describe a condition that could cause something else to happen. This dependent clause is then linked to a main clause that will describe the impending result or consequence that we are concerned about.

This sentence structure is the same in Italian, and the hypothetical clause in Italian starts with the word “se.” An Italian hypothetical phrase is called a “periodo ipotetico.”

Hypothetical phrases are composed using several different verb forms in English and Italian. For this blog post, we will talk about which Italian verb forms to use for the probable and improbable situations that may arise in the present and that are useful for every day conversation.

“Hold onto your hat!” as we say in English, because we will now start a “whirlwind tour” of the different types of hypothetical phrases that we can use to give depth to our Italian conversations. In the cases that we will present, knowledge of English will be very helpful. Read the technical information, but then focus on the actual phrases and you will soon see how thinking in English and Italian for this subject is really very similar!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

Hypothetical phrases in the present tense describe situations that are likely to happen, or probable situations.

In probable situations, the stated condition given in the “if” clause is a condition that a person may experience in the present and the consequence that will follow is a situation that will almost certainly happen.

A common example usually given for a probable hypothetical phrase relates to the weather, such as “If it rains, I will get wet when I go out.” We all know that given the condition just described, the resulting situation will happen to some extent!

The “if” phrase does not need to start the sentence, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “I will get wet when I go out if it rains.

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations

 

Italian Hypothetical  Phrases—Probable Situations
The condition described in the “if” clause and the consequence that will follow are  probable;
both will 
almost certainly happen.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

If + Present Verb > Present or Future Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for a probable situation. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:
Probable Situations
  English   Italian
Condition (If) If + Present Se + Present (or Future*)
Consequence
(Probable Result)
  Present or Future   Present or Future

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian both express hypothetical, probable situations in a very similar way!

  1. In both English and Italian, for the condition in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian) and then use the simple present tense.
  2. In both English and Italian, when the dependent if/se clause starts with the present tense, the main clause that follows can use either the present or the future tense.
  3. Italian may use the future tense for the condition, or se clause for situations that are in the more distant future but are really likely to happen (really probable).  (This does not occur in English.)
  4. *If the Italian dependent se clause is in the future tense, then the main clause that follows in Italian must also be in the future tense.

A review of the  Italian future tense and the conjugations of the most commonly used Italian verbs in the future  can be found in Chapters 15 and 16 of our  textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers.

To follow are some examples of the probable hypothetical situation from our dialogue, with our “if” condition and the consequence phrases underlined.

You will notice that we introduced these lines in the dialogue with the idea, or condition, that the characters Anna and Giovanni have become a couple; therefore, the consequence is that in the future, they will do everything together.  And, for this couple, the consequence is almost certain to happen.

 

Se il tempo è bello, andranno al mare per il weekend a casa del papà di Giovanni.
If the weather is nice, they go (will go) to the sea for the weekend to Giovanni’s father’s house.

Se Anna vuole andare al ristorante o al cinema, lui la porta.
If Ann wants to go to a restaurant or to the movies, he takes (will take) her.

Se lei vuole restare a casa, loro restano a casa insieme.
If she wants to stay at home, they stay (will stay) at home together.

 


 

Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

Hypothetical phrases in the present tense can be used to refer to a situation and then give “advice” in the form of a direct command.

Phrases like “If you feel… (this way)” or “If you make/do… (something)” are very common in conversation. The speaker may describe a certain situation two people know to be likely, and then, without waiting for a reply, the speaker may give a command about what should be done in that situation. In the speaker’s mind, perhaps, that command will virtually always solve a perceived problem.

Think about how often parents give advice to their children in this way—without first waiting to hear how the children really feel! Here is a common exchange in my house, parent to child, of course. “Dinner will be ready in a half hour. Don’t eat cookies. If you are hungry, eat some fruit!”

The “if” phrase need not start the sentence in these cases, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “Eat some fruit if you are hungry!

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations with a Command

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases—Probable Situations with a Command
The condition described in the “if” clause is  probable, and the “advice” given in command form will almost certainly solve a problem, and/or result in the consequence that describes the future event.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

If + Present Verb > Imperative Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for a probable situation when giving a command. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Probable Situations
with a Command

  English   Italian
Condition (If) If + Present Se + Present (or Future)
Consequence
(Advice/Probable Result)
  Imperative   Imperative

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian express hypothetical probable situations with a command in a very similar way!

  1. In English and Italian, for our condition in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian), and then most often use the simple present tense.
  2. For situations that are in the more distant future but are likely to happen (probable), Italian may use the future tense for the condition clause.
  3. For the consequence in the main clause, use the command verb form in English and Italian. The English command form is easy, and for the most part, we don’t even realize we are using it! Just remove the “to” from the infinitive form of the English verb. “To eat” is an infinitive in English. “Eat!” is a command.
  4. A review of the Italian command form will not be provided here, but can be found in Chapter 9 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers. (Note: In writing, Italian emphasizes that the command form is in use with an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.)

Below is an example of a probable situation with a command from our dialogue, with our condition and consequence phrases underlined.

 

Fammi sapere se tu sei libera per un weekend presto!
Let me know if you are free for a weekend soon!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 Improbable Situations

Hypothetical phrases in the subjunctive mood with the conditional tense describe situations in the present that are not likely to happen and therefore are  improbable.

These types of phrases are used in order to “wonder” out loud or “suppose” what  could happen in a particular situation if things were “different” from what we know to be true.

In improbable hypothetical situations, the stated condition given in the “if” clause and the consequence that will follow are  situations that could happen (possible), but they are very unlikely to happen and are therefore improbable.

A common example often given for an improbable hypothetical phrase relates to money, such as, “If I were rich, I would travel to Italy.” Here, the condition as stated is unlikely; in general, one is usually either rich or not.  This in turn makes the outcome unlikely to happen. With an improbable hypothetical phrase such as this, there may be a note of wishful thinking or irony in the statement. We are dealing with supposition, rather than a fact.

The “if” phrase does not need to start the sentence, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “I would travel to Italy if I were rich.”

In fact, I always remember this type of Italian sentence with the following rule: If you start an Italian sentence with the present conditional tense, the imperfetto subjunctive mood must follow in the next phrase!

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Nearly Impossible Situations

Sometimes, a situation proposed for the present is so improbable that it is actually impossible, although it may be interesting to bring up in conversation. Think about how we sometimes pretend to be someone or something we know we cannot be.  By wondering about these impossible situations, we are able to reveal a little something about ourselves and the world we actually live in.

For instance, I am someone who loves cats. What comes to my mind when I think of the  cats I have here in America is an “easy” life.  I may convey the complicated idea of how I might enjoy an “easy” life myself by relating my own life to the lives of my cats.

If I were a cat, I would live in a nice house and not have to work.
I would live in a nice house and not have to work if I were a cat.

Or, maybe I am someone who would like to change something about my appearance, which is easier today than in the past, but the condition and consequence are still impossible for me.

If my eyes were green,  I could find work as a model.
I could find work as a model if my eyes were green.

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for  Improbable Situations

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases—Improbable and Impossible Situations
The condition described in the “if” clause is improbable to varying degrees, and therefore is unlikely to result in the consequence that describes the future event one is wondering about.

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Improbable Situations

 If + Imperfetto Subjunctive Verb >
Present Conditional Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for an improbable situation when we want to wonder about something. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Improbable Situations

  English   Italian
Condition
(If: Wonder)
If + Subjunctive Se + Imperfetto Subjunctive
Consequence
(Supposition)
  Conditional   Present Conditional

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian speakers think alike, although this may not be so evident to the English speaker at first.

Use of the subjunctive mood is becoming less common in English conversation,  and even in some widely respected American newspapers and magazines.

Let’s digress for a moment, and give some English examples of the subjunctive mood:

  • For instance, instead of “If I was…,” correct English would be “If I were…” to signal that the phrase to follow is hypothetical and the consequence unlikely.
  • Or, instead of “If I saw…,” correct use of the subjunctive would be “If I had seen…” (It is never grammatically correct to say “I seen…,” despite what one may actually hear in some towns in America today!)
  • To make matters more complicated, the English subjunctive form of many verbs is similar to the regular past tense form.

 

At any rate, let’s summarize how to make probable hypothetical phrases in English and Italian:

  1. In English and Italian, for the condition we are wondering about in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian), and then use the imperfetto subjunctive mood. ( A review of the imperfetto subjunctive mood for avere, essere, and stare, and -are, -ere, -ire infinitive verbs will follow this section.)
  2. For the consequence/supposition in the main clause, use the present conditional tense in English and Italian.

 

Below are some examples of phrases that used possible hypothetical situations from our dialogue, with our condition and consequence phrases underlined.

Se io non fossi occupata all’università, verrei a trovarvi di nuovo a Roma!
If I weren’t so busy at college, I would come to visit you all again in Rome!

Sarei molto contenta se tu fossi venire a trovarmi a febbraio.
I would be very happy if you were to come to see me in February.


 

Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 “Come se”and “Magari” 

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

“Come se…”

Hypothetical phrases can start with the phrase “Come se,”  which translates into the phrase “as if.” This phrase falls into the realm of hypothetical phrases since the comparison is with a characteristic or action that is improbable. It should be noted that, in Italian, the word “se” in this type of comparison phrase is sometimes omitted (see our last example).

Therefore, come se,  is an improbable hypothetical phrase, so it must always take the imperfetto subjunctive verb form in the present tense.  (In the past tense, the phrase come se  takes the trapssato subjunctive form, which will be the subject of the next blog.)

In English, as in Italian, the “as if” improbable hypothetical phrase will also use the subjunctive verb form.

Common phrases that use this come se compare actions and characteristics of individuals in an attempt to make a point in a dramatic way.  These “as if” phrases may be flattering:

Il mio amico inglese non ha practicamente accento quando lui parla in italiano, come se fosse un vero italiano!
My British friend has virtually no accent when he speaks Italian,  as if he were a real Italian!

We often use this type of phrase to talk ironically about a situation, or to show our displeasure about something that has happened.  For instance,  I may be be shopping and a salesperson may try to sell me  a pair of shoes that are way too expensive for my budget. (Isn’t this always a problem, for both women and men?) I might say something like:

Mi mostra le scarpe più costose che ha, come se io fossi ricca!
She shows me the most expensive shoes they have, as if I were rich!”

A line from a novel by Gianrico Carofiglio, Testimone inconsapevole  illustrates how this “as if”  phrase can be used to emphasize an important point.  The line is spoken by the main character, who is the narrator of the book.  He relays the conversation he and his wife had when his wife tells him that she is filing for divorce. One of the reasons his wife gives for the divorce is that she feels humiliated because her husband thinks she has not noticed his many affairs – in effect treating her as if she were stupid. Clearly, she believes she is a smart woman, and notes with irony that he would chose to treat as if she were not. From page 16:

“Quello che l’aveva più umiliata non era la mia infedelità… ma il fatto che le avessi veramente mancato di rispetto trattandola come fosse una stupida.”

“That which had humiliated her the most was not my infidelity… but the fact that I had truly lost respect for her, treating her as if she were an idiot.”

 

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

“Magari…”

“Magari” is a colorful and commonly used Italian word.  Make an Italian friend and you will no doubt hear this word!  Magari can be used as an adverb and in this case means, “even if.”  Magari is most often used as an interjection, with the rough meaning of “if only…” or “I wish…”  when the “I wish” is a statement of something that is unlikely to happen.

Magari is always followed by an imperfetto subjunctive verb in the present tense (and the trapassato subjunctive in the past tense) and takes the subjunctive in English as well.

For instance , let’s say I am talking to someone about my love of Italy.  They may mention that I should spend my summer there.  My response:

Magari, questo fosse possibile!
I wish/If only this were possible!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 “Chiedersi” 

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

Finally, no discussion on Italian hypothetical phrases  would be complete without mention of the verb chiedersi, which is the verb Italians use to describe the idea of “wondering if…” something might happen.

“Mi chiedo…” literally means, “I ask myself,” which translates into “I wonder.”  At first glance, it may seem like this verb should fall into the category of improbable hypothetical phrases – especially when this verb is followed by se,  such as in the phrase “I wonder if…”  But, cheidersi takes the present and past tense (passato) subjunctive forms,  just as the other verbs in Rule 4 that we learned about in our very first blog on the subjunctive mode.

So, you already know how to use this verb if you have read the first blog in this series!

Here are some examples for when one is wondering in the present tense about something that happened in either the present or the past.  Notice the use of either the present subjunctive mood or the passato subjunctive mood.

Mi chiedo se lui sia un attore bravo in quel film.
I wonder if he is a great actor in that film.

Mi chiedo se lui sia stato un attore bravo in quel film.
I wonder if he was a great actor in that film.

 



Speak Italian: Italian Verb Tenses You Will Need to Know for

Improbable Italian Hypothetical Phrases

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Auxiliary Verbs – “Essere, Avere, Stare”

The most commonly used improbable hypothetical phrases begin with the words, “If I were…” or “If I had…”

So in Italian, the two most important phrases using the imperfetto subjunctive to remember are, “Se io fossi…” and “Se io avessi…” using the imperfetto subjunctive conjugations for essere and avere.

Below are the imperfetto subjunctive conjugations for the auxiliary verbs in Italian. You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation, whereas essere and stare have irregular conjugations. The stressed syllables are underlined.

In hypothetical clauses, because the imperfetto subjunctive mood is introduced by se, (se) is included in the subject pronoun column as a reminder. When conjugating these verbs, say “se” before the subject pronoun and each verb form to reinforce this way of thinking!

 

Avere—to have—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

(se) io avessi I had
(se) tu avessi you (familiar) had
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

avesse you (polite) had

she/he had

     
(se) noi avessimo we had
(se) voi aveste you all had
(se) loro avessero they had

 

Essere—to be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

(se) io fossi I were
(se) tu fossi you (familiar) were
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

fosse you (polite) were

she/he were

     
(se) noi fossimo we were
(se) voi foste you all were
(se) loro fossero they were

 

Stare—to stay/be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

(se) io stessi I stayed/were
(se) tu stessi you (familiar) stayed/were
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

stesse you (polite) stayed/were

she/he stayed/were

     
(se) noi stessimo we stayed/were
(se) voi steste you all stayed/were
(se) loro stessero they stayed/were

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Regular “-are, -ere, -ire” Conjugations

Improbable hypothetical phrases always take the imperfetto subjunctive mood in Italian, and as we have seen in the last sections.

But, the imperfetto subjunctive mood has other uses.  Specifically, it is necessary with all of our many clauses that trigger the  Italian subjunctive mood when we are speaking in the past tense.  We will go over these rules in detail in later blogs.

For now, we will simply discuss the complete conjugation of the imperfetto subjunctive mood, which is actually quite easy.  So, keep the knowledge of how to conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mood handy for when we discuss its many uses!

Luckily, there are only a few irregular stem forms to learn for the imperfetto subjunctive mood, making it an easier tense to learn than the present, future, and conditional tenses.

Finally, the imperfetto subjunctive mood endings are always regular and will be the same for all three conjugations!

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

To conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mood…

As usual, we must first make our stem from the infinitive –are, -ere, and –ire verbs.  The method used to form the stems for the imperfetto subjunctive mood is easy – just drop the –re from the infinitive verb!

 

This will create stems that end in the letters –a for the –are verbs, -e for the –ere verbs, and –i for the –ire verbs. Then, add the following endings below to the stems for all three conjugations:

Subjunctive Mood – Imperfetto Endings

io ssi
tu ssi
Lei/lei/lui sse
   
noi ssimo
voi ste
loro ssero

 

The following table will put together our stems with our imperfetto subjunctive mood endings.  A few notes about this:

When pronouncing the imperfetto subjunctive mood verbs, the stress will always be on the syllable that begins with the last two letters of the stem and will incorporate one –s letter from the ending. (Remember the rule for Italian double consonants: one consonant will go with the syllable before and the second with the syllable after, in effect also stressing the double consonant itself.) The stressed syllables are underlined in our example table below.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively,“were + infinitive form or gerund.” Examples in English: “If I were to live…” or “If I were living…” Also, “had + past participle,” such as, “If I had seen…”

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood – Example Verb Conjugations

  Abitare

(to live)

(lived/were living)

Vedere

(to see)

(saw/had seen)

Finire

(to finish)

(finished/were finishing)

io abitassi vedessi finissi
tu abitassi vedessi finissi
Lei/lei/lui abitasse vedesse finisse
       
noi abitassimo vedessimo finissimo
voi abitaste vedeste finiste
loro abitassero vedessero finissero

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Regular Verbs

Luckily, most verbs are regular in the imperfetto subjunctive mood.  So, there are many, many more regular than irregular verbs! Below are some commonly used regular verbs. Practice saying them out loud and listen to how each conjugated verb sounds.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively, were + infinitive form or gerund. ” English examples:  “If I were to go…” or “If I were going…” Also, “had + past participle,” such as, “If I had seen…”

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood Conjugations – Commonly Used Regular Verbs

Andare

(to go)

(went/were going)

Sapere
(to know)(knew/had known)
Venire

(to come)

(came/had come)

Vivere

(to live)

(lived/were living)

io andassi sapessi venissi vivessi
tu andassi sapessi venissi vivessi
Lei/lei/lui andasse sapesse venisse vivesse
         
noi andassimo sapessimo venissimo vivessimo
voi andaste sapeste veniste viveste
loro andassero sapessero venissero vivessero

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

There are a few important irregular verbs to know in the imperfetto subjunctive mood.  You will find them in the tables below. Practice saying them out loud and listen to how each conjugated verb sounds.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively, “were + infinitive form or gerund, ” such as, “If I were to make…” or “If I were making…” Also, “had + past participle,” such as, “If I had seen…”

 

Fare – to do/make Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io facessi I did/ made
tu facessi you (familiar) did/made
Lei

lei/lui

facesse you (polite) did/made

she/he did/made

     
noi facessimo we did/made
voi faceste you all did/made
loro facessero they did/made

 

 

Dare – to give – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dessi I gave
tu dessi you (familiar) gave
Lei

lei/lui

desse you (polite) gave

she/he gave

     
noi dessimo we gave
voi deste you all gave
loro dessero they gave

 

 

Dire – to say/tell – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dicessi I said/told
tu dicessi you (familiar) said/told
Lei

lei/lui

dicesse you (polite) said/told

she/he said/told

     
noi dicessimo we said/told
voi diceste you all said/told
loro dicessero they said/told


Grammar Note: The Italian Conditional Tense

The conditional tense is used to make a polite request, as we learned way back in Chapter 4 of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, when we discussed how to use the word vorrei, which means “I would like” or  “I wish.” In the “Important Phrases” section of Chapter 16, we also learned how to use the word vorremmo, which means, “we would like,” which comes in handy at a restaurant when ordering for the table.

Notice that the meaning of a conditional verb is rendered in English with the combination of “would + infinitive verb.” The conditional tense, in summary, expresses a want or wish, an intention, a duty, or a preference.

The method used to form the stems for the Italian conditional tense is exactly the same as the method to form the Italian future tense. Also, the irregular stems for the conditional tense are identical to those for the future tense. The Italian conditional endings are always regular and will be the same for all three conjugations!

Please see Chapters 17 and 18 of the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook for a review of how to conjugate the conditional tense in Italian.

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

Grammar Note: Present versus Conditional Tense

The Meaning of  the Modal Verbs
“Dovere, Potere, Volere”

Throughout our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, we have emphasized the polite forms of volere (vorrei, vorremmo) in the conditional tense and recommended using this form to make requests for oneself or for a group. The English translation for the conditional verbs in general is that of “would + infinitive verb,” which describes a request or a wish, rather than a demand or an order.

Here are two examples below of the same request that might be made in a restaurant to a waiter, first in the present tense, and then in the conditional tense. The first, in the present tense, sounds more demanding and insistent. The second, in the conditional tense, sounds less forceful, as it describes a preference or wish rather than a definite need.

Voglio un tavolo vicino alla finestra.       I want a table by the window.

Vorrei un tavolo vicino alla finestra.        I would like/wish to have a table by the window.

Let’s take a look at the other modal, or helping, verbs and see what connotation the conditional tense lends to them. For dovere, the idea relayed in the present tense is a forceful must. With devo (I must), we are led to understand that the action that follows has to be completed, no matter what else may come to pass. The conditional dovrei translates into “I should” or “I ought to,” which gives a feeling of necessity but also implies a bit of indecisiveness and an uncertainty as to whether the speaker believes the action described will be completed. Here are two examples using each tense:

Devo visitare mia nonna domenica.        I must visit my grandmother Sunday.

Dovrei visitare mia nonna domenica.      I should visit my grandmother Sunday.

For the verb potere, the present tense “posso” translates as “I can” and can be used to ask “May I?” “Può,” the present tense “polite you” form, is also used to make a polite request and in these situations means, “Could you?” The conditional form we have just learned also translates as “could” and may be heard while traveling in Italy. Here are some commonly used phrases:

 Mi può auitare?                 Could you(polite) help me?

Potrebbe aiutarmi?         Could you (polite) help me?

Ti posso aiutare?               May I help you (familiar)?      

Potrei aiutarla?                   May I help you (polite)?


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood
Modal Verbs – “Dovere, Potere, Volere”

The imperfetto subjunctive forms of the modal, or helping verbs, are used frequently in conversation.  All have regular stems, and of course, regular endings – as all imperfetto subjunctive mood verbs have regular endings! Here is a summary of the imperfetto subjunctive mood conjugations for all three modal verbs together, for easy reference.

Notice that the English translation for these verbs is in the conditional tense.

 

Dovere – to have to – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io      dovessi I should
tu dovessi you (familiar) should
Lei/lei/lui dovesse you (polite) she/he should
     
noi dovessimo we should
voi doveste you all should
loro dovessero they should

 

Potere – to can – Imperfetto Subjunctive  Mood

io potessi I could
tu potessi you (familiar) could
Lei/lei/lui potesse you (polite) she/he could
     
noi potessimo we could
voi poteste you all could
loro potessero they could

 

Volere – to want – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io volessi I would like
tu volessi you (familiar) would like
Lei/lei/lui volesse you (polite) she/he would like
     
noi volessimo we would like
voi voleste you all would like
loro volessero they would like

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!
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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

Italian Subjunctive (Part 4) : Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Italian dialogue about shopping - at the Galleria Mall in Milan!

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               Use our Italian practice tips to go shopping in Italy! Listen to our Italian dialogue about two cousins in an Italian shop!

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

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 communicate in Italian fluently? Are you familiar with the vocabulary to use when shopping in Italy?

Our third Italian Practice blog includes an audio dialogue recorded with native Italian speakers! We will continue with the story of Caterina and Francesca, two Italian cousins who are living in different cities and trying to reconnect. In the dialogue that follows, Caterina visits Francesca in Rome, and they go shopping to buy Caterina some new clothes.

Click on the “PLAY” button below and listen to the Italian dialogue from Conversational Italian for Travelers, “Chapter 10 – Shopping in Milan,” right on this blog. Read along on the printed page that follows the dialogue button. Afterward, click on the website link www.LearnTravelItalian.com and interact with the same recorded audio on our website. Listen to individual lines over and over again—as many times as needed!

After the dialogue, we will present information about how to use Italian reflexive verbs to refer to dressing oneself and trying on clothes. We will also describe how to use questo and quello to point out to the shopkeeper which of those wonderful Italian items will make the perfect souvenir to remember a trip to Italy!

This material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on www.learntravelitalian.com


Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

Italian Dialogue: Chapter 10: Shopping in Milan

 

Francesca Caterina, abbiamo

molto da fare oggi.

Kathy, (we) have

a lot to do today.

  È giovedì, e il giovedì

io vado a fare la spesa.

(It) is Thursday, and on Thursdays

I go to do the grocery shopping.

  E poi, la mia amica Anna

ci invita a prendere un caffé

in un bar.

And then my friend Ann

invites us to (take) have coffee

in a bar.

  Ti piace fare la spesa? (Do) you like to do the grocery shopping?

(lit. Is it pleasing to you…?)

Caterina Si, mi piace fare la spesa

al supermercato.

 

Yes, I like to do the grocery shopping at the supermarket.

 

  Ma, mi piace di più

andare a comprare vestiti.

But, I like more

to go to buy clothes.

(lit. It is pleasing to me more…)

  Ho bisogno di

un vestito nuovo e

vorrei comprare anche

qualcosa per mia sorella

in America.

(I) need

a new dress and

also (I) would like to buy

something for my sister

in America.

 
Francesca Molto bene.

Andiamo a fare shopping!

Very well.

Let’s go shopping (for clothes)!

  Ci sono molti bei negozi a Milano. There are many nice shops in

Milan.

 
Francesca (Dopo un po’…

Francesca e Caterina entrano

in un negozio di vestiti e

incontrano la commessa Laura.)

(After awhile…

Frances and Kathy enter

a dress shop and

meet the salesgirl

Laura.)

 

 

Laura

(a Caterina):

Buon giorno.

Posso aiutarla?

Good day.

May (I) help you?

(polite greeting to a customer)

 
Caterina Cerco un vestito da sera,

carino ma elegante.

(I) am look(ing) for an evening dress,

cute, but elegant.

Mi piace molto ballare.

Avete vestiti neri?

I like dancing very much.

(lit. Dancing to me is pleasing…)

(Do) you all have black dresses?

(plural (voi) form of “you” used to address salespeople politely)

Laura Certamente.

Che taglia porta?

Certainly.

What size (do) you take?

(polite question)

 
Caterina Porto la (taglia) quarantasei. (I) take (the) size 46 (Italian).
Laura Questo vestito è alla moda. This dress is in style.
 
Caterina Francesca, ti piace? Frances, (do) you like (it)?

(lit. Is it pleasing to you…?)

Francesca Si, ma anche questo (vestito) e bello.  Provali tutti e due. Yes, but also this (dress)

is nice. Try them both on.

Caterina

(a Laura):

Avete taglie più grande? (Do) you all have larger sizes?

(plural (voi) form of “you” used to address salespeople politely)

  Mia sorella porta la (taglia) quarantotto. My sister takes (the) size

48 (Italian).

 
Laura Si, questo, o forse quel vestito. Yes, this, or maybe that dress.
 

 

Francesca Caterina, ti piace questa gonna per tua sorella? Kathy, (do) you like this

skirt for your sister?

(lit. Is this skirt pleasing to you…?)

 
Caterina È bella, ma

a mia sorella non piace

il colore marrone.

(It) is nice, but

my sister doesn’t like

the color brown.

(lit. To my sister, the color brown

is not pleasing…)

 
Francesca E quella (gonna)? And that one (skirt)?
 
Caterina Oh, quella (gonna) è perfetta.

Le piace di più il rosso del marrone.

Oh, that (skirt) is perfect.

She likes red more than

brown.

(lit. To her, red is more pleasing than brown.)

  La prendo! I’ll take it!
 
Caterina

(a Laura):

Dov’è posso trovare

il camerino?

Where can (I) find

the fitting room?

 
Laura Eccolo. Here it is.
 
Francesca (Dopo pochi minuti…) (After a few minutes…)
     
Caterina Allora, Francesca.

Mi metto il vestito.

Now, Frances.

I put on (myself) the dress.

  Che pensi?

Mi sta bene?

What (do you) think?

(Does it) look good on me?

(lit. Does it stay well on me?)

 
Francesca Ti sta benissimo!

Ma com’è l’altro?

(It) looks wonderful on you!

But how (about) the other?

 

 

Caterina L’altro non mi va bene.

È troppo stretto.

The other did not fit me well.

(idiomatic expression)

(It) is too tight.

 
Laura

(a Caterina):

Desidera altro? (Do) (you) want anything else?
 
Caterina No, mi piacciono questi (vestiti). No, I like these (clothes).

(lit. These clothes are pleasing to me.)

  Quanto costano questo vestito e questa gonna? How much is (costs) this dress and this skirt?
 
Laura Sono cinquantadue euro per il vestito e ventitre euro per la gonna. (They are) 52 euros for the dress and 23 euros for the skirt.
 
Caterina Non c’è male. That’s not too bad.
 
Laura Ecco la cassa.

Come vuole pagare?

Here is the cashier’s counter.

How (do) (you) want to pay?

 
Caterina Posso pagare con un assegno? Can (I) pay with a check?
 
Laura Mi dispiace.

Non accettiamo assegni.

I’m sorry.

(We) don’t accept checks.

  Accettiamo la carta di credito o il bancomat. (We) accept (a) credit card or (a) debit card.
 
Caterina Va bene.  Pago in contanti. Very well. (I will) pay in cash.
  Mi può dare la ricevuta, per favore? Can you give me the receipt, please?
 
Laura Ma, certo!  Grazie mille! But certainly! Thank you very much!

 


 

 


Italian Dialogue Practice: What You Will Need to Know…

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

For Italian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…
Expressions That Describe Shopping

Many important expressions describe the act of shopping in Italian. Notice from the tables below how the phrases differ depending on the type of shopping to be done. Examples follow.

Grocery Shopping 

fare la spesa to do the grocery shopping

to do some grocery shopping

General Shopping

fare spese to do the shopping (clothes, shoes, or other personal items)
fare compere to do the shopping (any purchase) (la compera = purchase)
fare acquisti to do the shopping (any purchase) (l’acquisto = purchase)
fare shopping to do the shopping

 

We have seen in the dialogue for this chapter that although Americans use the simple phrase “go shopping” for any shopping that they do, Italians often “go to do the shopping,” with the expression “andare a fare la spesa.” This interesting expression refers only to grocery shopping. A phrase denoting the location of the shopping, such as “al supermercato” (“at the supermarket”) can be used to complete the sentence. In most cases, both speakers know the place to obtain groceries, so the actual place is omitted.

If one is going to shop for non-grocery items, several phrases can be used. “Fare spese” is similar to the phrase we have just learned for grocery shopping, but it instead means “to go shopping for clothes, shoes, or other personal items,” usually in the piazza or shopping district in town known to the speakers. Two phrases can be used for shopping in general, for any purchase: “fare compere” and “fare acquisti.” A very popular phrase in Italy today that can be used for any type of shopping is simply “fare shopping!”

Otherwise, to shop for a specific item, use “andare a comprare” and mention what you are going to buy; for instance, complete this phrase with the word vestiti for clothes, like Caterina did in our dialogue.

 

Faccio la spesa. (I) do the (grocery) shopping.
Vado a fare la spesa. (I) go to do the (grocery) shopping.
Vado a comprare… (I) go to buy… (any item).
Faccio shopping. (I) go (lit. do/make) shopping (general).
Faccio shopping di vestiti. (I) go (lit. do/make) shopping for clothes.
Faccio compere. (I) go (lit. do/make) shopping (general).
Faccio acquisti. (I) make purchases (usually for non-grocery items).
Mi può mostrare… Could you (pol.) show me…
Mi fa vedere… Could you (pol.) show me…
Posso? May I?
Che taglia porta? What size do you (pol.) wear?
Porto la taglia…/Porto la… (I) take the size…/(I) take the (size)…
Qual’è la taglia italiana per What is the Italian size for
la taglia dieci americana?  (the) size 10 American?
alla moda/di moda in style
di marca designer/brand name
Mi provo…/Ti provi (I) try on (myself)…/(You fam.) try on (yourself)…
Mi metto…/Ti metti… (I) put on (myself)…/(You fam.) put on (yourself)…
Mi metto… (I) am trying on (myself)…/(I) am going to try on (myself)…
Mi sta bene. (It) looks good (lit. stays well) on me.
Ti sta bene. (It) looks good (lit. stays well) on you.
Mi va bene. (It) fits me well.
La/Lo prendo! I’ll take it! (fem./masc. direct object)
Le/Li prendo! I’ll take them! (fem./masc. plural direct object)


Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

 For Itlaian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…
Reflexive Verbs of Dressing Oneself

Italian uses the reflexive verb mettersi (to put on oneself) to convey the ideas of “I put on the dress,” “I put on my dress,” and “I put my dress on.” The reflexive pronoun mi (myself) is placed before the conjugated form of mettersi, as usual, and the article of clothing to be put on is then placed after the verb. The subject pronoun is omitted.

So when Caterina goes to try on her dress in our dialogue, she says, “Mi metto il vestito.” Just remember the simple phrase “mi metto,” and replace vestito with the article of clothing of your choice to describe your own action! To describe action in the tu (you) form, use “ti metti.”

 

(Io) Mi metto il vestito. I put on the dress./I put the dress on./I put on my dress.
(Tu) Ti metti l’anello. You put on the ring.

Also, remember that stare is used to describe how someone feels? Well, to tell someone “It looks good on you!” follow this simple method: Conjugate stare into the third person, or “it” form, sta, then place an indirect object pronoun before the verb.

This is easier than it sounds, because for routine conversational use of the io and tu forms, Italian words we already know—mi and ti—are again used. (Mi means both me and to me, and ti means both you and to you; the same Italian words are used for both direct and indirect object pronouns for the io and tu forms.)

 So when Francesca told Caterina in our dialogue, “Ti sta bene,” she was saying, literally, “To you, it stays well,” with the meaning, “It looks good on you.” 

To ask someone if an article of clothing you are wearing looks good, use, “Mi sta bene?” If clothing looks really wonderful on someone, reply, “Ti sta benissimo!”

Mi sta bene? Does it (article of clothing) look good on me?
Ti sta bene. It looks good on you.
Ti sta benissimo! It looks wonderful on you!

Finally, the expression “va bene” that we have come to know so well by now is also used to describe how an article of clothing fits on a person. If it fits well, say, “Va bene.” If not, use “Non va bene,” as Caterina does in our dialogue to describe a dress that did not fit her properly.


Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

 For Italian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe Wearing Clothes
 with the Verbs Portare, Mettersi, and Vestire

In order to say I am wearing…”  or I take the size…”  the verb portare, which is not reflexive, is usually used in the present tense. You no doubt remember that portare is commonly used to mean to bring”  or to carry.” 

Porto il mio vestito preferito. I am wearing my favorite dress.
Porto la (taglia) quarantotto. I take size 48.

Portare can also be used to say I wore”  in the past tense. But perhaps because portare is used so commonly with its other meaning of to bring”  in the past tense, to describe what they wore, most Italians prefer to revert to mettersi and use its past participle messo. Here is how it works:

(Io) Mi sono messo una gonna. I wore a skirt.
Ho portato una gonna. I wore a skirt.

Another way to describe how someone was dressed, is to use the past tense verb “essere vestito(a,i,e).”  This verb can be used to make generalizations, as well as to refer to a specific article of clothing.  When being specific, the preposition “con” is used in these phrases, as in the examples below.

Era vestito con un abito grigio. He was dressed in a suit.
Era vestita con una gonna blu. She was dressed in a blue skirt.
Eravamo vestiti tutto in rosso per la festa. We were dressed all in red for the party.

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

For Italian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe Wearing Clothes
 with the Verb Indossare

The verb indossare also means “to wear” and “to put on.”  This verb can is used in exactly the same way as portare or mettersi.  To the Italian ear, the verb indossare is said to have a more elegant sound than portare or mettersi, and perhaps this is why indossare is more common in written Italian than in conversation.

Just like the other two verbs that have the same meaning, indossare must always be followed by the article of clothing that the person is wearing.

Caterina indossa un abito rosso. Kathryn is wearing a red dress.
La signora indossava un cappotto molto elegantamente. The lady was wearing a very elegant coat.

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

Finally, when something fits perfectly on you or another, to really fit into Italian society, use the idiomatic expression calzare a pennello.”  Calzature refers to shoes, or “footwear,” so this Italian saying is the equivalent of  the English saying, It fits you like a glove” or It fits you to a T.”

Mi calza a pennello! It fits me perfectly!
Ti calza a pennello! It fits you perfectly!
Lo/la calza a pennello! It fits him/her perfectly!

Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

 For Italian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…
Questa and Quella

The feminine demonstrative adjectives questa (this) and quella (that) have endings that follow our usual gender rules. Both have the usual –a ending for the feminine singular that changes to an –e ending in the plural, to make queste (these) and quelle (those).

It should be noted that if the singular feminine noun modified begins with a vowel, the usual –a ending of questa or quella can be dropped. The adjective and noun are then combined with an apostrophe to make conversation flow more smoothly.

Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule for when to drop the –a ending and when to keep it. As usual, listening to the language as it is spoken by a native is the best and most natural way to pick up these phrases. Here are a few examples:

Questa – This (Feminine)
Singular to Plural 

questa casa this house goes to these houses queste case
questa amica this girlfriend goes to these girlfriends queste amiche
quest’altra* this other goes to these other queste altre

 

 Quella – This (Feminine)
Singular to Plural 

quella casa that house goes to those houses quelle case
quella amica that girlfriend goes to those girlfriends quelle amiche
quell’altra* that other goes to those other quelle altre

*In these last phrases, questo and quello are not followed by a noun, and so they are technically pronouns rather than adjectives… don’t worry about these different labels now, though.

 


Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

 For Italian Dialogue You Will Need to Know…
Questo and Quello

The masculine demonstrative adjective questo (this) uses the usual –o ending for the masculine singular, which changes to an –i ending for the masculine plural and becomes questi (these).

Notice that if the singular masculine noun to be modified begins with a vowel, the usual –o ending of questo will be dropped and the words combined with an apostrophe to make conversation flow more smoothly.

Questo – This (Masculine)
Singular to Plural 

questo giorno this day goes to these days questi giorni
quest’amico this friend (male) goes to these friends (male) questi amici

 

 Quello – This (Masculine)
Singular to Plural 

The masculine demonstrative adjective quello (that) does not follow our usual gender rules but instead follows the rules for the masculine definite article “the” when it precedes a noun.

The word quello itself follows the rule for the definite article lo and is only used before the singular form of Italian masculine nouns that begin with s + consonant, z, ps, gn, or pn. This is similar to another adjective that ends in -lo, bello.

Quel (that) is used to modify all singular masculine nouns that begin with a consonant, except for those noted in the last paragraph.

An apostrophe and an additional letter –l are added, to make quell’ (that) for singular masculine nouns that begin with a vowel.

For the plural masculine forms of quello, the usual –i ending is used for plural masculine nouns that begin with a consonant, to make quei (those).

The word quegli (those) is used for plural masculine nouns that begin with s + consonant, z, ps, gn, or pn, and all vowels…

This is not as complicated as it seems, because again, we are following the same rules as for the masculine definite article. The summary table is below:

 

 Quello – This (Masculine)
Singular to Plural 

quel giorno that day goes to those days quei giorni
quell’amico that friend goes to those friends quegli amici
quello zio that uncle goes to those uncles quegli zii

The above material is adapted from “Chapter 10 – Shopping in Milan” of the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, © 2012 by Kathryn Occhipinti, courtesy of Stella Lucente, LLC. 


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
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“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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Italian Dialogue Practice: Shopping in Italy

Italian Book Sale

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Planning Your Italian Vacation

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Planning Your Italian Vacation 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               Planning your Italian vacation?

Use our Italian subjunctive mood practice tips to write your own Italian email!
Revisit the Italian subjunctive mood!

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Planning Your Italian Vacation

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 communicate in Italian fluently? Are you comfortable using email to make plans with your family and friends? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mood and Italian reflexive verbs correctly when making plans?

For our second Italian practice email, we will continue with the story of Caterina and Francesca,  two Italian cousins who are living in different cities and trying to reconnect. First, we will present a review of how to describe visiting someone using the verb trovare. Then we will present information about Italian reflexive verbs of emotion and of self-action, and the different meanings of verbs with reflexive and non-reflexive forms. We will also discuss use of Italian prepositions regarding the different places we go in our daily lives and regarding time. Finally, we will describe how to use Italian verbs as nouns.

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

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Planning Your Italian Vacation 

A note about the Italian subjunctive mood: to express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood  is difficult for English speakers, because we only rarely use this tense in English, and it’s something that I am always working on! This is the second blog post in the “Italian Practice” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo,” when writing an email to your family.

To review how to express one’s feelings using the subjunctive mood and how to conjugate the subjunctive mood in the present tense, see our Speak Italian Subjunctive series.

Enjoy the second blog post in this series, “Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Planning Your Italian Family Vacation.”
—Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of 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.


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice Email: Planning Your Italian Vacation 

How many phrases that use the subjunctive mood can you pick out of the following emails? Hint: these phrases usually include the word “che.” Look for the underlined phrases for help! Notice that the future tense does NOT have a subjunctive mood! Also, look for reflexive verbs of emotion and self-action and special phrases of visiting that have been italicized for easier comprehension.

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you try to speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Italian  Subjunctive Mood Practice Email:
Planning Your Italian Vacation
An Email to Francesca

Cara cugina Francesca,
Dear Cousin Frances,

Leggere la tua ultima email mi rende* molto contenta!
Reading your last email makes me very happy!

Sono molto contenta che tu e i tuoi figli possiate venire a trovarmi in Abruzzo.
I am very happy that you and your children can come to visit me in Abruzzo.

Mi dispiace che tuo marito non possa venire con voi.
I am sorry that your husband cannot come with you all.

Di solito, ti prendi cura di lui molto bene ogni giorno!
Usually, you take care of him very well every day!

Ed ora, dobbiamo fare il programma!
And now, we must make up the itinerary!

Spero che tu possa arrivare la domenica prima di Ferragosto.
I hope that you can arrive the Sunday before the Ferragosto holiday.

Per prima cosa, io vorrei portarti a trovare i nostri zii.
First, I want to take you to visit our aunt and uncle.

Sono anziani e io dovrei andare a trovarli ogni domenica.
They are elderly and I should go to visit them every Sunday.

Dopo che andiamo in chiesa di mattina, dobbiamo andare a casa loro.
After we go to church in the morning, we should go to their house.

Sono sicura che nostra zia preparerà una buona cena per noi.
I am sure that our aunt will make a wonderful dinner for us.

Lunedì, vorrei andare in montagna a fare un picnic.
On Monday, I would like to go to the mountains to have a picnic.

Per me, restare in montagne dovrebbe essere molto bello con l’aria fresca e gli alberi verdi.
For me, a stay in the mountains would be very beautiful with the fresh air and the green trees.

Dovremmo avere una buona giornata, no?
We should have a good day, no?

Possiamo prendere un buon apertivo come un Aperol Spritz e chiacchierare un po.’
We can have a nice apertif like an Aperol Spritz and chat a bit.

I ragazzi saranno anche molto contenti di giocare insieme fuori.
The kids will also be very happy to play together outdoors.

Mi piacerebbe molto restare in montagna due or tre giorni.
I would really like to stay in the mountains for two or three days.

Possiamo restare all’Albergo Grande vicino a Capistrello per due o tre giorni.
We could stay at the Albergo Grande Hotel near Capistrello for two or three days.

Tu ricordi che il padrone è anche mio cugino.
You remember that the owner is also my cousin.

Prima che tu ritorni, dobbiamo fare la spesa.
Before you return, we could go grocery shopping.

Puoi comprare il cibo tipico del nostro paese.
You can buy food typical of our town.

Puoi dirmi la verità—il pane a Roma non è buono come il nostro in Abruzzo!
You can tell me the truth—the bread in Rome is not good like ours in Abruzzo!

Pensaci.  Fammi sapere che pensi di questo programma!
Let me know what you think of this itinerary!

Non vedo l’ora di vederti!
I can’t wait to see you! (idiomatic expression)

Abbracci e baci,
Hugs and kisses,

Caterina
Kathy

*From the verb rendere,  which can mean “to render,” or “to make,” as in “to become.”


 

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice Email:
Planning Your Italian Vacation
A Reply Email to Caterina

Cara cugina Caterina,
Dear Cousin Kathy,

Mi sembra che il tuo programma sarà meraviglioso!
It seems (to me) that your schedule will be marvelous!

Sarei molto contenta di restare in montagna con te!
I would be very happy to stay in the mountains with you!

Dopo avere letto la tua email mi sono resa conto che mi mancano molto le montagne dell’Abruzzo.
After having read your email, I realized that I really miss the Abruzzo mountains.

Dopo, andiamo a fare la spesa insieme a Capistrello e così posso portare del buon pane a Roma quando torno!
Afterward, let’s go grocery shopping together in Capistrello, so I can bring some good bread to Rome when I return!

Ho anche una buona idea—
I also have a great idea—

Forse tu puoi venire a trovarmi a Roma e possiamo fare shopping di vestiti.
Perhaps you can come to visit me in Rome, and we can go shopping for clothes.

Lo sai ci sono molti bei negozi di moda a Roma!
You know there are many wonderful, fashionable shops in Rome!

Qualche volta mi annoio di vivere a Roma senza te.
Sometimes I get bored living in Rome without you.

Ma, non mi sono arrabiata con mio marito due anni fa quando ci siamo trasferiti a Roma.
But I didn’t get mad with my husband two years ago when we moved to Rome.

Mi piacerebbe molto andare a trovare i nostri zii in Abruzzo.
I would really like to go to see our aunt and uncle in Abruzzo.

Mi ricordo di avere cenato molto bene a casa di zia Rosa!
I remember having eaten very well at Aunt Rose’s house!

Sarà molto divertente!
It will be very entertaining!

Ci vediamo presto!
See you soon! (Literally “We will see each other soon!”)

Francesca
Frances

 


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice Email: What You Will Need to Know…

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
Phrases That Describe Visiting People

Let’s quickly review how to use the verbs trovare and venire to describe visiting someone, which we covered in detail in our last Italian practice blog post, “Emailing Italian Families.” We will also describe how to use the verb portare when bringing someone to visit others. Examples will come from the emails in this blog post. Did you notice these italicized phrases as you were reading?

 Trovare means “to find” something.

  • When trovare is combined with the verb andare in the phrase “andare a trovare,” the meaning changes into “to go to visit” someone.

Sono anziani e io dovrei andare a trovarli ogni domenica.

Mi piacerebbe molto andare a trovare i nostri zii in Abruzzo.

  • Similarly, when trovare is combined with the verb venire  in the phrase “venire a trovare,” the meaning changes into “to come to visit” someone.

Vorrei che tu venga a trovarmi in Abruzzo quest’estate.

Sono molto contenta che tu e i tuoi figli possiate venire a trovarmi in Abruzzo.

Forse tu puoi venire a trovarmi a Roma e possiamo fare shopping di vestiti.

  • Also, when trovare is combined with the verb portare in the phrase, “portare a trovare,” the meaning changes into “to bring (someone) to visit” someone.

Per prima cosa, io vorrei portarti a trovare i nostri zii.


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
Reflexive Verbs of Emotion

Italian reflexive verbs can be tricky for the English speaker because in many situations, reflexive verbs are used in Italian but not in English. In these cases, we must learn to think in Italian! If we think in Italian, using reflexive verbs to refer to changing emotions that one is feeling at the moment does makes sense.

We have already talked about the most common reflexive verbs in the second blog post in the Speak Italian! series, Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing! This blog post describes activities of daily living, which are the most common activities that use the Italian reflexive verbs.

Other activities that involve the changing of one’s emotions during the course of daily life are also reflexive, as in the current blog post, when one cousin talks to the other about her feelings about Rome and taking care of her children. Remember that verbs that translate as “to get” in English are reflexive in Italian!

So, if I “get”/ “am getting” angry, bored, embarrassed, offended, or worried, the verbs used to describe this happening within myself will be reflexive in Italian: arrabbiarsi, annoiarsi, imbarrazzarsi, offendersi, and preoccuparsi. 

Verbs of  “forgetting” and “remembering” that use the word “about” after the infinitive form in English are also reflexive in Italian.  These verbs are followed by the preposition di: dimenticarsi di, scordarsi di (colloquial expression), ricordarsi di.  

The following list includes the above verbs, and “a few” more!

 

accorgersi di/che to notice or realize (about self/someone or something else)
annoiarsi to get bored
arrabiarsi to get angry/mad
aspettarsi to expect/ to anticipate
confondersi to get confused
concentrarsi to concentrate (on something)
dimenticarsi di to forget about (something)
distrarsi to be distracted
focalizzarsi to focus (on something)
imbarrazzarsi to get embarrassed
interessarsi a to take an interest in/ to show an interest in
interessarsi di to take care of/ to be in charge of
offendersi to get offended
preoccuparsi to get worried/worry
rendersi conto di/che to realize (about self/someone or something else)
ricordarsi di to remember to do
sbronzarsi to get drunk
scordarsi di to forget about (something)(colloquial expression)
scusarsi to excuse oneself
seccarsi to get annoyed
sentirsi to feel
sorprendersi to get surprised
spaventarsi to get scared
ubriacarsi to get drunk
vergognarsi to be ashamed

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

Notice that the Italian verb that describes getting bored, annoiarsi, sounds very much like the English word “annoyed.” However, don’t get confused (confondersi)! The Italian verb that means “to get annoyed” is seccarsi. And of course, the verb for to feel in Italian is reflexive—sentirsi, not to be confused with the non-reflexive verb that means to hearsentire.

Here is how this works. When I want to talk about these emotions as they are happening to me, I must use the reflexive pronoun mi for myself. If I want to talk about emotions that I know are happening to someone else, then I must use the correct corresponding reflexive pronoun/verb conjugation (ti, si, ci, vi, si). Remember to leave out the subject pronoun (io, tu, Lei/lei/lui, noi, voi, loro) unless it is necessary for clarification.

All this is easier than it sounds once you give it a try!

Mi arrabio.
I am/am getting angry.

Ti annoi?*
Are you getting bored?

Lei si imbarrazza!
She is getting embarrassed!

Lui si imbarrazza!
He is getting embarrassed!

Ci offendiamo!
We are getting offended!

Vi confondete!
You all are getting confused!

Loro si seccano.
They are getting annoyed.

*The tu and noi forms of arrabiarsi and annoiarsi are irregular and have only one “i” at the ending: tu arrabi e tu annoi.

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

You Will Need to Know…
How to Use the Past Tense with Reflexive Verbs 

Distrarsi is often used in the past tense, as below. In this case, remember to change the “o” ending of the masculine past participle distratto to an “a” ending to make the feminine past participle distratta if needed.

Mi sono distratto(a).
I got distracted.

Non ho ascoltato il professore perché mi sono distratto(a).
I didn’t hear the professor because I got distracted.

 

Two other reflexive verbs in our list that are commonly used in the past tense are those of forgetting and remembering: dimenticarsi di and scordarsi di (to forget about something)* and ricordarsi/ricordarsi di (to remember something/to remember to do something).

Mi sono dimenticato(a) di andare alla posta centrale stamattina.
I forgot to go to the post office this morning.

Non mi sono mai scordato(a) di te.
I have never forgotten you.

Mi sono ricordato(a) il nostro aniversario di matrimonio quest’anno!
I remembered our anniversary this year!

Mi sono ricordato(a) di portare il vino per cena stasera.
I remembered to bring the wine for dinner stastera.

*The verb scordare means to make an instrument go out of tune. There is some controversy about the use of scordarsi with the meaning of “to forget,” and in effect giving it the same meaning as dimenticarsi; some linguists consider only dimenticarsi correct Italian. That said, to some Italians scordarsi means to forget something in your heart and dimenticarsi to forget something in your mind (i.e. without involving emotion).  In actual, everyday use, most Italians probably consider the two interchangeable.


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
How to Say, I realized… or I noticed”*

Lastly, we present examples that use the phrases “rendersi conto di/che,” which means “to realize” and “accorgersi di/che,” which can mean both “to realize” and “to notice.” Accorgersi di/che is most often used when something is recognized, but not necessarily understood.

To realize is rendered in Italian with the reflexive verb phrase  rendersi conto.  In order to say, “I realize,” we must conjugate the verb rendersi, which has a regular -ere conjugation in the present tense, and then add the word conto to finish the phrase.  So, “I realize…” is  “Io mi rendo conto…” But, of course, we always leave out the Italian subject pronoun, so the phrase that Italians use is conversation is just, “Mi rendo conto…”  

To complete the sentence, just add what you realize in the phrase that follows! The following phrase will most commonly be in the present or past tense, but of course, there are times when we may need to use the conditional or future tenses, depending on our realization.

  • Link what you realize about yourself with the Italian conjugation “di” before adding an infinitive verb.  Note: you don’t always have to use “di” in this case if you are talking about yourself.  But if you do chose to use “di,” the verb in the next phrase must be in the infinitive form.

—-or—-

  • Link what you realize about yourself, someone or something else with the Italian conjugation“che”before adding a verb conjugated in the appropriate tense. Remember, if the subject is different in the original phrase and the phrase that follows, you MUST use “che” to link the two phrases.

In English, both “di” and “che” are translated as “that.”

Below are example sentences to show how this all works.  These example sentences are true for me.  To think of more examples, and try to describe what you realize about yourself!

Mi rendo conto di avere un’ora per preparare la cena.
I realize that I have an hour to make dinner.

Mi rendo conto che ho un’ora per preparare la cena.
I realize that I have an hour to prepare dinner.

Mi rendo conto che hai un’ora per preparare la cena.
I realize that you have an hour to prepare dinner.

 

Mi rendo conto che desidero sempre imparare di più sulla lingua italiana.
I realize that I will always want to learn more about the Italian language.

 

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

Now, let’s say that we recognize something without really understanding what it is about, or what is going on – that is, we notice something.  In this case, we can use the reflexive verb accorgersi.  This verb also has a regular -ere conjugation and will be followed by either di or che,  for the same reasons as we have just described above.  To say, “I notice that,” then, use the phrase, “Mi accorgo di/che…” 

Again, an example from my life, taking from a time when I was when talking a good friend of mine about a certain movie.  Try to think of some examples from your own life!

Mi accorgo che ti piace molto questo film.  Vuoi andare a vederlo con me?
I notice that you really like this film. Do you want to go to see it with me?

 

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

How to say, “I realize,” or “I notice,” seems simple enough!  But wait… we most commonly use the past tense to talk about something that we have realized or have noticed.  This, of course, involves conjugating our two verbs in the past tense!

We will use the passato prossimo forms of these verbs for the one time events of realizing or noticing something, which you will remember is formed for reflexive verbs with essere + the past participle. (If you need a general refresher on how to form the passato prossimo, please refer to our book Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Verbs ).

  • The past participle for rendersi is the irregular verb reso, and the ending will need to change to reflect the speaker when using the passato prossimo.
  • The past participle for accorgersi is the irregular verb accorto, and the ending will need to change to reflect the speaker when using the passato prossimo.

 

  • So, when I want to talk about what I have realized, I can say, “Mi sono resa conto di/che…” Similarly, a male would say, “Mi sono reso conto di/che…”
  • And, when I want to mention what I have noticed, I can say, “Mi sono accorta di/che…” Similarly, a male would say, “Mi sono accorto di/che…”

To complete the sentence, just add what you have realized in the phrase that follows!  The following phrase will most commonly be in the present or past tense, but of course, there are times when we may need to use the conditional or future tenses, depending on our realization.

Below is a table to summarize these phrases of realizing and noticing. I’ve made the verbs in the phrase green to differentiate them from the other words in the phrase.  Most Italians use these verb  phrases so frequently, though, that they say them quickly, and the words usually run together in real-time conversation.   Listen carefully for these phrases and then try to use them yourself!

Mi rendo conto di/che… I realize that…
Mi sono reso conto di/che… I realized that… (male speaker)
Mi sono resa conto di/che… I realized that… (female speaker)
Mi accorgo di/che… I notice that…
Mi sono accorto di/che… I noticed that… (male speaker)
Mi sono accorta di/che… I noticed that… (female speaker)

 

We  had fun in our Conversational Italian! group  “discussing” what we all realized  during the year 2017 for our talking point this January.  Below are some example sentences that I’ve made up thinking back to New Year’s Eve of 2018.  (Notice that as a female I have to use resa and accorta.)  How many more examples can you think of?

Ieri sera, a Capodanno, mi sono resa conto di essere molto fortunata.
Last night, on New Year’s Eve, I realized that I am very lucky.

Ieri sera, a Capodanno, mi sono resa conto che sono molto fortunata.
Last night, on New Year’s Eve, I realized that I am very lucky.

Mi sono resa conto di avere amici molto cari.
I realized that I have many dear friends.

Mi sono resa conto che ho molti cari amici.
I realized that I have many dear friends.

Mi sono resa conto di avere imparato tante cose importanti dalla mia famiglia.
I realized that I have learned so many important things from my family.

Mi sono resa conto che ho imparato tante cose importanti dalla mia famiglia.
I realized that I have learned so many important things from my family.

Mi sono accorta che era molto freddo a Capodanno.
I noticed that it was very cold on New Year’s Eve.

*The past section is a reprint from the blog: Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I realized… from ConversationalItalian.wordpress.org, to be published on February 7, 2018.

 


 

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
Reflexive Verbs of Self-Action

Italian reflexive verbs can be tricky for the English speaker because in many situations, reflexive verbs are used in Italian but not in English. In these cases, we must learn to think in Italian! If we think in Italian, using reflexive verbs to refer to the things we are doing at the moment makes sense.

We have already talked about the most common reflexive verbs in the second blog post in the Speak Italian! series, Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing! This blog post describes activities of daily living, which are the most common activities that use the Italian reflexive verbs.

Other activities that involve actions relating to the self are reflexive in Italian. They refer to what a person (oneself) is doing. Here is a short list:

divertirsi to  enjoy oneself/to have fun
divertirsi a to enjoy… / to play with
incontrarsi to meet (planned)
informarsi di/su to ask/inquire about something
nascondersi to hide
occuparsi di to work at a job or a task
perdersi to get/be lost
prepararsi (a) to get ready (to)
provarsi to try on clothes
rilassarsi to relax
riposarsi to rest
sbrigarsi to hurry up
sedersi* to sit down
smarrirsi to get/be lost

*Sedersi has an irregular conjugation.  

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

You Will Need to Know…
How to Say You are Having Fun
“Divertirsi, Divertente,  Divertimento”

One of the most important verbs listed in the last section is divertirsi, which is the verb that Italians use to say that they are enjoying themselves or having fun. There is a lot of fun to be had in Italy, so it is worthwhile to learn how to use this verb, as well as the adverb divertente and the noun divertimento.

To tell someone, “Have a good time!”  use the phrase, “Buon divertimento!” To use the verb divertirsi and the adverb divertente see below:

Mi diverto! I am enjoying myself/having fun!
Mi diverto a guardare la TV (televisione). I enjoy watching TV.
Mi sono divertito(a)! I had fun!/I had a good time!
Mi sono proprio divertito(a)! I really had fun/a good time!
   
È divertente! It is fun/entertaining/enjoyable.
È divertente parlare italiano. It is fun to speak Italian.
Era divertente! It was fun/entertaining/enjoyable/a good time.
Era proprio divertente!  It was really a lot of fun/entertaining/enjoyable/a good time!

 


 

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation 

You Will Need to Know…
“Prendersi Cura di…” and “Occuparsi di…”
Reflexive Phrase of Taking Care

When one person is taking care of another person (or living thing), the reflexive phrase “prendersi cura di…” is used in Italian. The reason that this concept is reflexive in Italian may be that the caring originates within an individual person (myself, for instance), although the action of caring/taking care of is directed at another person. The easiest way to remember this concept is by examples (see below).

The preposition “di” at the end of this phrase must be combined with the definite article (il,la,lo, l’, i, gli, le) if one is not referring to a family member.  Also, remember that the subject pronoun is usually left out of the sentence, except for clarification.

Mi prendo cura di mio figlio.
I take care of my son.

Ti prendi cura di tuo nipote?
Do you take care of your nephew?

Lei si prende cura della classe quando l’insegnante non c’è.
She takes care of the class when the teacher is away.

Lui si prende cura della sua famiglia.
He takes care of his family.

Ci prendiamo cura degli ospiti.
We take care of the guests.

Vi prendete cura degli animali nella fattoria.
You all take care of the animals on the farm.

Loro si prendono cura dei loro nipoti.
They take care of their grandchildren.

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

When a person is taking care of something, the reflexive phrase “occuparsi di…” is used in Italian. The reason that this concept is reflexive in Italian may be that the caring originates within an individual person (myself, for instance), although the action of caring/taking care of something is directed at something. Often this involves someone’s occupation, but it could also involve just one task.

Me ne occupo io.
I will take care of this.

Te ne occupi tu.
You will take care of this

Ti vuoi occupare di questo?/ Te ne vuoi occupare?
Do you want to take care of this?

Lui si occupa del ristorante della sua famiglia.
He takes care of his family’s restaurant.

Da decembre mi occuperò di trovare un nuovo impiegato.
From December I will take care/have the task of finding a new worker.

 

 


 

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation 

You Will Need to Know…
Different Meanings of Verbs
with Regular and Reflexive Forms


Many Italian verbs have regular and reflexive forms. If the action is directed back toward the speaker, use the reflexive form. For the verbs ricordare and ricordarsi, in most situations, either form may be used. When speaking of something one needs to remember to do, use ricordare di, as we learned in the last chapter, or ricordarsi di.

Note also that the meaning of a verb may change with use of its reflexive form. Chiamare, for instance, means to call someone, as in to make a call on the telephone or to call out to someone. But chiamarsi means to call oneself by nameSentire refers to the senses, and can mean to hear, to feel (as in to touch something) and also to smell.  But the reflexive verb sentirsi has the very different meaning of to feel an emotion.

aspettare to wait/wait for aspettarsi to expect/anticipate
chiamare to call chiamarsi to call onself/to name
fermare to stop an object fermarsi to stop oneself
incontrare to meet by chance incontrarsi planned meeting
informare to inform/to educate informarsi di/su to ask/to inquire
lavare to wash lavarsi to wash oneself
mettere to put/place mettersi to put on clothing
occupare to be occupied occuparsi di to work at a job or a task
essere occupato con… to be busy with (something)
preparare to get something ready prepararsi to get oneself ready
provare to try/practice/rehearse provarsi to try on clothes
ricordare* to remember ricordarsi to remember something
ricordare di to remember to do… ricordarsi di to remember to do…
sentire to hear/to feel (sense of touch)
to smell
sentirsi to feel (emotions)
spostare to move spostarsi to move oneself


*
Incidentally, Romagnol dialect (from the Emiliano-Romangnolo region) for “I remember,” is “amarcord,” which is also the name of a famous Italian comedic film from the 1970s by the director Federico Fellini.  

 


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
Italian Prepositions “a” and “in” for Places

In English, we go “to” a place or we are “in or “at” a place.  In Italian, two prepositions are used to express both where we are going and where we are“A” and “in” both can mean “to, in, and at.”

Note that in English, the preposition “to” is used to describe the motion of going somewhere, but once a person has arrived where they are going, the prepositions “in” or “at” are used.* So the English preposition changes based on whether one is going to or is in a place.

In Italian, the motion of going to or being in a place does not change preposition use.  The preposition is selected depending on the noun that the preposition modifies.

The Italian prepositions are then often (but not always) linked with the Italian definite article (il, la, l’, lo, i, le, gli).

Try as I may, I cannot find a reason for the difference in Italian preposition use for each individual place, although in some cases the Italian use of prepositions seems to mirror British English, rather than American English (the British go “in hospital,” as do the Italians).  I guess we have simplified things here in America, across the ocean from the land of our mother tongue!

So therefore, these Italian preposition/noun combinations just need to be memorized. Just link them to the actual place one is going to or one is in and this combination will not change!

See the table below:*

Do you want to go… Are you… Vuoi andare…

Sei…

home? at home? a casa?
to a restaurant? at/in the restaurant? al ristorante?
to a (coffee) bar? at/in the (coffee) bar? al bar?
to a cafe? at/in the cafe? al café?
to the museum? at the museum? al museo?
to the movies? at the movies? al cinema?
to the concert? at the concert? al concerto?
to the show (performance)? at the show? allo spettacolo?
to the show (exhibit)? at the exhibit? alla mostra?
 
to a hospital? at the hospital? in ospidale?
to a pizzeria? at/in the pizzeria? in pizzeria?
to the piazza? at/in the piazza? in piazza?
to church? at/in church? in chiesa?
to the beach? at the beach? in spiaggia?
to the sea? at the seaside? al mare?
to the mountains? in the mountains? in montagna?
to the country? in the country? in campagna?

 

*You will notice from this list that the use of the English prepositions “in” and “at” is also a bit idiomatic.  To my mind, and I am sure this can be debated, when someone is surrounded by 4 walls or are in some way completely surrounded, they are “in” a place. 

An English speaker is always “at home.” If a person has just arrived, or is standing outside the door of a new place, they are “at” this place.  If one then wants to emphasize that they have settled down into this new place, i.e. have a table at a restaurant, the preposition “in” then comes into play. 

Also, if  a person is  involved in what is happening at a particular place, they are “in” it; a viewer is “at” a show, but a performer is “in” the show.  And, of course, we all stand “in”‘ line before the show or another event begins!

These explanations may be a bit more complicated than needed, though, and I am sure these prepositions are thought of as interchangeable in many situations by English speakers.


Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
Italian Preposition “di” for Time of Day

Sometimes it is necessary to emphasize the time of day in Italian, as in morning, afternoon, evening, or night. This is simple in Italian! Just combine the preposition “di” with the time of day: di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, or di notte.

Dopo che andiamo in chiesa di mattina, dobbiamo andare a casa loro.
After we go to church in the morning, we should go to their house.

Here are some examples where the time of day is added after stating the numerical time for clarity or for emphasis. (Notice that the Italian language uses a comma rather than a colon to separate the hours from the minutes.) 

1,00 (AM)                    È l’una di mattina.              

1,00 (PM)                    È l’una di pomeriggio.                

 6,00 (PM)                 Sono le sei di sera.          

10,00 (PM)               Sono le dieci di notte.             


 

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice:
Planning Your Italian Vacation

You Will Need to Know…
How to Use the Italian Infinitive Verb
as a Noun

Every now and then, one needs to use a verb as a noun. In this situation, for the English language, we use the gerund, or “-ing” form, of our verb. For instance, take the sentence, “Reading is fun.” The very first word is the “-ing” form of the verb “to read,” but in this case, the verb is actually the subject of the sentence and is doing the work of a noun!

In the Italian language, the infinitive form of the verb is used when a verb takes the place of a noun. For the present tense, only the infinitive form of the verb is needed. For the past tense, the helping verb will be in the infinitive form before the past participle.

In the email example in this blog post, this occurs in three sentences, which are reprinted below.

Leggere la tua ultima email mi rende molto contenta!
Reading your last email makes me very happy!

Dopo avere letto la tua email mi sono resa conto che mi mancano molto le montagne dell’Abruzzo.
After having read your email, I realized that I really miss the Abruzzo mountains.

Mi ricordo di avere cenato molto bene a casa di zia Rosa!
I remember having eaten very well at Aunt Rose’s house!

-Some of this material is adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers,  © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.                 


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn 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!”

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

 Italian Subjunctive Practice: Planning Your Italian Vacation

Italian Book Sale

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Emailing Italian Families

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Emailing Italian Families 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               Use our Italian practice tips to write your own Italian email! Revisit the Italian subjunctive mood when writing emails!

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

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 communicate in Italian fluently? Do you know the usual Italian greetings and salutations to use in an email? Can you use the subjunctive mood correctly when writing an email? As everyone knows,  email is now an integral part of daily communication all over the world. For Italy, this means that the subjunctive mood is important again in daily life!

For our first Italian practice email using the subjunctive, we will follow the story of Caterina and Francesca,  two Italian cousins who are living in different cities and trying to reconnect. Then we will present information about Italian greetings and salutations used in informal and formal types of written communication in Italy. We will describe how to use the verbs trovare, venire, and visitare to describe visiting people and places, how to use  the Italian adverb “ci,” and how to make command forms with the verb fare.  We will also talk about Italian reflexive verbs of self movement. Finally, we will compare the American and Italian school systems that play such a large part in everyday family life in America and Italy today.

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

Italian Practice: Email and the Italian Subjunctive Mood

A note about the Italian subjunctive mood: to express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, because we only rarely use this tense in English, and it’s something that I am always working on! This is the first blog post in the “Italian Practice” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo,” when writing an email to your family.

To review how to express one’s feelings using the subjunctive mood and how to conjugate the subjunctive mood in the present tense, see our Speak Italian Subjunctive series.

Enjoy the first blog post in this series, “Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families.”
—Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of 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.


Italian Practice Email: All about… Family

How many phrases that use the subjunctive mood can you pick out of the following emails? Hint: these phrases usually include the word “che.” Look for the underlined phrases for help! And beware those phrases that sound like they should take the subjunctive but do not—these can also be found in the emails below!

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you try to speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Italian Practice Email: All about… Family
An Email to Francesca

Cara cugina Francesca,
Dear Cousin Frances,

Quanto tempo è passato da quando ti sei trasferita dall’Abruzzo a Roma!
How much time has passed since you have moved from Abruzzo to Rome!

Spero che tu stia bene.
I hope that you are well.

Spero anche che tuo marito e i tuoi figli stiano bene.
I also hope that your husband and children are well.

È peccato che tu e la tua famiglia vi siate trasferiti cosi lontano da vostra cugina che vi vuole bene.
It is a shame that you and your family have moved so far from your cousin that cares for you all so much.

Come sta la piccola Eleonora?
How is little Eleanor?

Penso che Eleonora debba essere cresciuta molto.
I’m thinking that Eleanor must have grown a lot.

Penso che Eleonora abbia dieci anni, ora, no?
I think that Eleanor is 10 years old, now, no?

Mi sembra che Eleonora debba essere una bella ragazzina ora!
It seems to me that Eleanor must be a beautiful little girl now!

E Giovanni, come sta?
And how is John?

È probabile che Giovanni sia alto e forte e un bravo ragazzo!
I bet that (probably) John is tall and strong and a very good boy!

È incredibile che il tempo passi cosi in fretta!
It’s incredible that the time has passed so quickly!

Si dicono in inglese che “il tempo vola,” e per me è vero!
They say in English that “time flies,” and for me, it is true!

Immagino che tuo marito sia contento con il suo lavoro a Roma.
I imagine that your husband is happy with his job in Rome.

Ma non sono sicura che tu sia felice di vivere là.
But I am not sure that you are happy living there.

Forse tu sei felice di vivere in una città per un po’ di tempo, ma lo so che ti piace molto la campagna. 
Maybe you are happy living for a little bit in the city, but I know that you like the country a lot.

Per me, è molto difficile vivere senza di te, mia cara cugina.
For me, it is very difficult living without you, my dearest cousin.

Mi manchi molto!
I miss you so much!

Vorrei che tu venga a trovarmi in Abruzzo quest’estate.
I would like you to come and visit me in Abruzzo this summer.

Pensaci e fammi sapere. Mandami un’email.
Think about it and let me know. Send me an email.

Spero che tu abbia un buon weekend!
I hope that you have a good weekend!

Scrivimi presto!
Write me soon!

Baci e abbracci,
Kisses and hugs,

Caterina
Kathy

 


 

Italian Practice Email: All about… Family
A Reply Email to Caterina

Cara cugina Caterina,
Dear Cousin Kathy,

Ero molto contenta di sentire le tue notizie.
I was very happy to hear from you.

La mia famiglia sta molto bene, ed Eleonora e Giovanni sono cresciuti molto in questi due anni che siamo stati a Roma.
My family is very well, and Eleanor and John have grown in these last two years that we have been in Rome.

Eleanora fa il quinto anno di scuola elementare e Giovanni fa il primo anno di liceo.
Eleanor is in the 5th grade, and John is in his first year of high school.

Tutti e due sono bravi figli ed io e mio marito Giuseppe siamo molto orgogliosi di loro.
Both are good children, and my husband Joe and I are very proud of them.

Ho una buona notizia!
I have good news!

Sono libera di viaggiare in Abruzzo quest’estate in agosto per Ferragosto!
I am free to travel to Abruzzo this summer in August for the Ferragosto holiday!

Mi auguro che tu abbia tempo disponibile questo Ferragosto.
I hope that you have time free this Ferragosto.

Tu mi manchi molto, mia bella cugina!
I miss you very much, my beautiful cousin!

Noi siamo certi di avere una buona visita.
We are certain to have a wonderful visit!

Restiamo in contatto e spero di vederti presto!
Stay in contact, and I hope to see you soon!

Ti voglio molto bene.
I care for you very much.

Tanti baci!
Lots of kisses!

Francesca
Frances

 


Italian Practice Email: What You Will Need to Know…

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know…
Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mood

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mood that is used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mood, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow. The phrase that follows will then describe what the uncertainty is about. These introductory phrases usually end with the word che, which means that. Che may also be the ending of the last word used in the introductory phrase!

Note that the simple present or past tenses can also be used after the introductory phrases listed below, rather than the subjunctive mood, if you are speaking about a fact or something that you believe to be true. This use will make perfect sense to the Italian listener, although the subjective mood is also commonly used. Notice that when speaking about the past using these phrases, the imperfetto form of the past tense is usually used.

To review how to express one’s feelings using the subjunctive mood and how to conjugate the subjunctive mood in the present tense, see our Speak Italian Subjunctive series.

 


Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know…
Italian Greetings for Family Emails, Texts, and Letters

Now that email has become an essential way to communicate, it is important to know how to address family, friends, and work colleagues in writing. In effect, that old-fashioned way of communicating—the letter—has been resurrected in electronic form! Here are some suggestions for greetings and salutations in Italian, depending on the formality of the situation.

For family and friends, most Italian emails will begin with “Cara,” for females or “Caro” for males, meaning “Dear.” This greeting is, of course, followed by the first name of the person to whom the email is addressed. Because caro is an adjective, the ending can be modified to match the gender and number of the person it refers to, just as other adjectives are. So cara(e) is used before a female singular/plural person(s) and caro(i) before male singular/plural person(s). Carissimo(a,i,e) is a common variation and means “Dearest.” Many times, no greeting at all is used for close family and friends who communicate frequently.

A note about texting, which is even more informal than email, because texts are usually made only to friends: there is much more variation if a greeting is used, and there are many creative ways to greet someone by text in Italian. One of the most common text greetings is probably “ciao” for “hi” or bye.” There are many common variations, such as “ciao bella” for a female, “ciao bello” for a male, or simply “bella” or “bellezza” for a female, all meaning “hello beautiful/handsome.” If texting in the day or evening, “Buon giorno” or “Buona sera” may be used as well, meaning, “Good morning/Good day” or “Good evening.”

A text is still not acceptable in most situations for a first or a formal communication, although email is now often the preferred way of establishing an initial contact in business.


 

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know…
Italian Greetings for  Formal Emails and Letters

Letters are still frequently used in Italy. Several common salutations are used when writing a formal email in Italian. These salutations have been established over many centuries of formal communication.

A formal Italian letter will commonly begin with the Italian word for “Gentle,” which is “Gentile,” followed by a title, such as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, and then a surname. For example: Gentile Signor* Verde or Gentilissima Signora Russo. The Italian word “Egregio,” which used to mean “Esquire,” is still commonly used in very formal business communications, but in these instances, it is translated as “Dear.” “Pregiatissimo” is the most formal type of greeting and is similar to the English phrase “Dear Sir.” This greeting is only rarely used in Italy today.

This all seems simple enough, although a typical formal Italian greeting is often abbreviated and can seem a bit off-putting unless one is fluent in the abbreviations as well. Our salutations above are often written as follows: Gentile Sig. Verde and Gen.ma Sig.na Russo. The table in the next section lists the most commonly used abbreviations.

Also, in Italian, even more than in English, if one holds a professional title, such as “doctor” or “lawyer,” this title is always used as the form of address when speaking and in writing. In fact, those who have attended an Italian university or have an important job title are usually addressed by other Italians as “dottore” or “dottoressa.” A medical doctor is addressed the same way but is known specifically as “un medico” (used for men and women).


Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know…
Commonly Used Italian Abbreviations for Business Greetings

Avv. Avvocato Lawyer
Dott. Dottore Doctor (male or female)
Dott.ssa Dottoressa Female Doctor
Egr. Egregio Dear (Esquire)
  Ingegnere Engineer
Gent.mi Gentilissimi(e) Dear (plural) Very Kind
Gent.mo Gentilissimo(a) Dear (singular) Very Kind
Preg. Pregiatissimo Dear
Sig. Signor Mister (Mr.)
Sig.na Signorina Miss
Sig.ra Signorma Misses (Mrs.)
Sig.ri Signori Mr. and Mrs./Messers
Spett. Spettabile Messers

*When signore is followed by someone’s first or last name, in writing and when addressing someone directly, the “e” from signore is dropped to form signor.


 

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know:
Italian Salutations for Emails, Texts, and Letters

After we’ve written our email, text, or formal letter, how should we sign off? As you can imagine, this is very different depending on how close the two correspondents are. For two friends, the typical spoken salutations, “ciao” and “ci vediamo,” are commonly used for emails and texts, as are the many idiomatic expressions, such as “a presto” or “a dopo.”

For those who are close friends or family, one may send kisses as “baci,” and sometimes hugs, “abbracci,” as we do in English. You can imagine that there are many variations on this theme, such as “un bacione” for “a big kiss.” “Un bacio” or “tanti baci” are other variations and mean “a kiss” and “many kisses.” There is one big difference between salutations in English and Italian, though: Italians normally do not sign off with the word “Love,” as in “Love, Kathy.”

For business, the word “Saluti” is generally used in closing to mean “Regards.” One can also give “Un Saluto” or “Tanti Saluti.” “Cordalimente” means “Yours Truly.” “Cordali saluti” or Distinti Saluti” are particularly polite, meaning “Kind Regards” and “Best Regards.” “Sinceramente” means “Sincerely” but is not as often used in closing an email or letter.

Commonly Used Familiar Italian Salutations

Ciao Bye
Ci vediamo Good bye
(Until we see each other again.)
A presto! See you soon!
A dopo! See you later!
Baci Kisses
Un bacio A kiss
Un bacione A big kiss
Tanti baci Lots of kisses
Baci e Abbracci Kisses and hugs

 

Commonly Used Formal Italian Salutations

Saluti Regards
Un Saluto Regards
Cordalimente Yours truly
Cordali Saluti Kind regards
Distinti Saluti Best regards
Tanti Saluti Many regards
Sinceramente Sincerely

 


 

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know…
How to Use Trovare, Trovarsi and Visitare

Trovare means “to find” something.

When trovare is combined with the verb andare in the phrase “andare a trovare,” the meaning changes into “to go to visit” someone.  An example would be, Vado a trovare mia mamma,” which of course means, “I go to visit my mother.”

Similarly, when trovare is combined with the verb venire  in the phrase “venire a trovare,” the meaning changes into “to come to visit” someone.  In the email we have just read, Caterina writes, “Vorrei che tu venga a trovarmi in Abruzzo quest’estate.”  She adds “mi” to the end of the verb trovare in order to specify the person who is being visited.

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

Visitare means to visit or to see a place.  For example, “Molte persone visitano l’Italia.” “Many people visit Italy.”

In a formal letter, one might use the phrase, “invitare a visitare,” to invite someone, to be a guest as in, “Vi invitiamo a visitare il nostro blog…” for, ” We kindly invite you to visit our blog.”

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

Let’s go back and explore a few more interesting points about the verb trovare.  Trovare can also mean “to meet by chance,” or “to run into” someone, as we would say in English.  Trovare sometimes means “to think/consider” and is also used to mean “to notice” in some expressions.  Trovarsi is a reflexive verb that is used to describe “finding oneself” in certain situations or in a certain place.

andare a trovare to go to visit with/to look in on/to look up
venire a trovare to come to visit with
cercare di trovare to try to find
trovare per caso to happen on/to happen upon/to come across
torvare i mezzi to find means
trovare conforto to take comfort
trovare informazioni su to find information (something) on
trovare la propria strada to make your way/to take the right road
trovare la risposta to find the answer
trovare la soluzione to find the solution
trovare il tempo per fare to get around to doing something
trovare il giusto equilibrio to strike a balance
trovare (qualcosa) divertente to find (something) amusing
trovare qualcosa to consider something
trovare un modo to find a way
Dove si trova? Where is she/he/it located?
Si trova in… (He/she/it) is located in…
Non mi trovo bene con.. I don’t get on well with…
Troviamoci dopo cena. Let’s meet (each other) after dinner.

 

 


Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know:
How to Use the Italian Adverb “Ci”

The phrases c’è and ci sono mean there is and there are respectively.  Ci can also be used to mean here or there when referring to a specific location.  The location is either understood by the speakers or will have already have been mentioned in the conversation, and ci will be used in a reply to make the conversation flow more smoothly.  In these instances, the location will be introduced by a preposition (a, in, su, da) and ci will replace both the preposition and the place when given in the reply.

Ci is placed before the conjugated verb.  With helping verbs dovere, potere, or volere, ci can be placed before the helping verb or attached to the infinitive.

Non ci voglio più stare. (I) don’t want to stay here anymore.
   
Vai in pizzeria stasera? (Are) (you fam.) going to a pizzeria tonight?
No, non ci vado. No, (I’m) not going there.
Ci sarò. I’ll be there.
   
Vuoi venire a casa mia? (Do) (you fam.) want to come to my house?
No, non ci voglio venire. No, (I) don’t want to come there.
No, non voglio venirci. No, (I) don’t want to come there.

Ci is frequently used as an indirect object to reply to certain questions regarding what someone believes in. “Credere a…?” which means, “Do you believe in…?” is one of the most commonly used phrases of this type.  In this case, ci replaces the phrase that is believed in.  The meaning of ci would be, “in it” or “about it.”

 Ci is also used as an indirect object to reply to certain questions regarding what someone thinks about. “Pensare a…?” can mean, “What do you think about…?”  In this case, ci replaces the phrase that is believed in.  The meaning of ci would be, “in it” or “about it.”

In other contexts, the verb pensare can be used to ask if someone is going to care of something.  The subject pronoun tu will come after the verb in these questions to signify intent.  For the response, ci replaces the thing that is being taken care of and the subject pronoun io is placed after the verb to signify intent. The meaning of ci in both cases is, “in it” or “about it.” “Ci penso io,” can always be used when you want to say, “I’ll do it.” or “I’ll take care of it.”

Ci is also used as part of a command in order to ask someone to believe in or think about something that has been stated previously.

Credi alla religione cristiana? (Do)(you fam.) believe in the Christian religion?
Si, ci credo. Yes, (I) believe in it.
   
Pensi di trovare un nuovo lavoro? Are you thinking of finding a new job?
Si, ci penso ancora. Yes, I am still thinking about it.
   
Caterina, ci pensi tu a comprare il latte? Kathy, are you going to take care of buying the milk?
Ci penso io. I’ll take care of it.
   
Credici! Believe in it! (familiar command)
   
Pensaci! Think about it! (familiar command)
   
Ci mancherebbe. Don’t mention it. (idiomatic expression)

 

Finally, if we want to combine ci with a direct object pronoun in a sentence to say ,“I’ve got it,” or “I’ve got them,” referring to something in our possession, the last letter-i of ci is changed to an e.  This is an expression that follows the word order “ce – direct object – verb.” See below for how this works:

 

Do you have the ticket in your purse? Hai il biglietto nella tua borsa?
Yes, I have it in my purse. Si, l’ho nella borsa.
Yes, I’ve got it. Si, ce lho.
   
Do you have the keys to your car? Hai le chiavi alla tua macchina?
Yes, I have them. Si, ce le ho.

 

 


 

 Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

          You will need to know:
Common Italian Command Forms with Fare

The verb fare, which means “to do,” or “to make,” often comes up when one person makes a direct request that another person do something.  To ask for a favor politely, you could use the (by now, well-known) verb può with fare to make the phrase, “Può farmi un favore?” for, “Could you do me a favor?”  But, more often, the familiar command form of this phrase is used; if one is instructing another person to do something, both people often know each other very well. Or, perhaps in the workplace, a superior is making a request of another worker.   In this case, the commonly used phrase used would be, “Fammi un favore!” for, “Do me a favor! Piacere also works interchangeably with favore in this expression, as in, “Fammi un piacere!”

 

Notice that, when attaching a direct object (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi) to the familiar command verb fa, the first letter of the direct object is doubled.  Below are some commonly used expressions which combine the command form of fare with direct object pronouns.

 

Fammi un favore! Do me a favor!
Fammi un piacere! Do me a favor!
Fatti vedere! Come and see me! (lit. Make yourself seen!)
Fatti sentire! Call me! (lit. Make yourself heard!)
Fallo! Do it!

 

Fammi can also be used in an idiomatic way, with the meaning, “let me,” when followed by an infinitive verb, such as, “Fammi vedere,” for, “Let me see,” or, “Fammi chiamare,” for, “Let me call.”

 

Fammi vedere… Let me see…
Fammi chiamare… Let me call…

 

Two additional commonly used familiar commands with direct objects involve the verbs dire and dare:

 

Dimmi! Tell me!
Dammi! Give me!

 


 

Italian Practice: Emailing Italian Families

You Will Need to Know:
Italian Reflexive Verbs for Self-Movement

Italian reflexive verbs can be tricky for the English speaker because there are many situations where reflexive verbs are used in Italian but not in English. In these cases, we must learn to think in Italian! If we think in Italian, using reflexive verbs to refer to where one has moved to or from or to describe a change in one’s feelings does make sense.

We have already talked about the most common reflexive verbs in the second blog post in the Speak Italian! series, Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing! This blog post describes activities of daily living, which are the most common activities that use the Italian reflexive verbs.

Other activities of today’s “modern daily living” include interrupting one’s life at a certain location and starting life again in a different location.  In this blog post, for instance, one cousin moves from Abruzzo to Rome. It makes sense, then, that the verb for the act of moving oneself is reflexive: trasferirsi, which can mean “to move (oneself) from town to another town” and “to transfer (oneself).”

Following this logic, the more general verbs to move” (muoversi) or to stop” (fermarsi) are also reflexive when they refer to an action that is being performed by a person.

Avvicinarsi a (to approach) alontanarsi da (to go away from/distance oneself from) are also included in the table below.

trasferirsi to move (oneself), as in relocate towns; transfer towns or job
muoversi to move (oneself) from one place to another
spostarsi to move (oneself) from one place to another, relocate
dirigersi to go over/head over somewhere
avvicinarsi a to approach
allontarsi da to go away from/distance oneself from
fermarsi to stop (oneself)

Here is the way this works: if I have moved (myself) from one place to another and want to talk about this, I use the reflexive pronoun for myself (mi) with the conjugated verb for the first person, and then I say where I have moved. If someone else has moved (themselves), and I want to talk about this, I use the other corresponding reflexive pronoun (ti, si, ci, vi, si)/verb conjugation and then the location.

A few pointers are useful to remember. 

When talking about a move we have made, we will be speaking in the past tense and will need to use the passato prossimo past tense verb form for this one-time event. All reflexive passato prossimo verbs use essere as the helping verb with the past participle. Females will need to change the passato prossimo ending from an “o” to “a” when referring to themselves.

Also, remember to leave out the subject pronoun (io, tu, Lei/lei/lui, noi, voi, loro) unless it is necessary for clarification.

Finally, remember how to use prepositions when talking about a location—“a” for cities and small islands and “in” for countries, regions, states in the United States, and large islands like Sicily.

All of this is easier than it sounds once you give it a try!

Mi sono trasferito(a) a New York.*
I moved/have moved to New York City.

Ti sei trasferito(a) nello stato di New York due anni fa, corretto?
You moved/have moved to New York State two years ago, correct?

Lui si è trasferito in America la settimana scorsa.
He moved/has moved to America last week.

Lei si è trasferita in America la settimana scorsa.
She moved/has moved to America last week.

Ci siamo trasferiti a Roma per un lavoro molto importante.
We transferred/were transferred to Rome for a very important job.

Vi siete trasferite alla scuola di Marymount Internazionale a Roma.
You all (girls) transferred/have transferred to the Marymount International School in Rome.

Loro si sono trasferiti in Italia per la loro società.
They transferred/have transferred to Italy for their company.

 

Finally, it should be noted that there are other ways of describing a person’s move from one place to another that do not involve reflexive verbs. To emphasize that one has moved from an old house to a new one, the phrase cambiare casa is used. To describe moving furniture from one’s old house to the new house (i.e., to move things), the nonreflexive verb traslocare is used.

 


Italian Practice: The Italian School System 

The Italian school system is similar to the U.S. school system. School years are divided into primary, middle, and secondary, or “high” school years. College is referred to as “university,” and in the past, a “university degree” entailed 6 years of education, similar to a master’s degree in the United States. Some 4-year university degrees are now also available in Italy. Below is a comparative list of the American and Italian school systems with the number of years children spend in each level.

American and Italian School Systems

U.S. School Years Italian School Years
Primary school 6 Scuola Elementare/la prima elementare 5
Middle school 2 Scuola Secondaria/Scuola Media/la prima media 3
High school 4 Liceo/il primo liceo 5

 


 

Italian Practice: Talking about the Italian School System 

 

For elementary school, if a child is in the 1st through 5th years of school:

Anna va alla scuola elementare.
Anna goes to the grade school.

 

Anna è in prima (classe) elementare. (seconda, terza, quarta, quinta classe)
Anna fa il primo anno di scuola elementare.
(secondo, terzo, quarto, quinto anno)
Anna is in the first year/1st grade of elementary school. (second, third, fourth, fifth year/2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th grade)

 

For middle school, if a child is in the 6th through 8th years of school:

Anna va alla scuola secondaria. or Anna va alla scuola media.
Anna goes to junior high schoolor Anna goes to middle school.

 

Anna è in prima (classe) media. (seconda, terza classe)
Anna fa il primo anno di scuola media.
(secondo, terzo anno)
Anna is in the first year/6th grade of middle school. (second, third year/7th, 8th grade)

 

For high school, if a child is in the 9th through 13th years of school, we can use similar phrases. Notice that there is no special title like “freshman, sophomore, junior, senior” for high school.

Anna va alla scuola superiore. or Anna va al liceo.
Anna goes to high school.

Anna è in prima (classe) liceo. (seconda, terza, quarta, quinta classe)
Anna fa il primo anno di liceo.
(secondo, terzo, quarto, quinto anno)
Anna is in the first year/9th grade of high school. (second, third, fourth, fifth year/10th, 11th, 12th, 13th grade)

  

-Some of this material is adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers,  © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.


  Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
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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

Italian Subjunctive Mood Practice: Emailing Italian Families